Heart Health: Interview with Cardiologist Dr. Maxood

This month I’ve been focusing on different aspects of I HEART Starbucks with posts about how people share their love for the brand via Pinterest , the wonderful variety of Valentines Day Chocolates  from Starbucks stores and finally we touch on one of the most important matters of the heart, the health aspect of Heart Health month!

I welcome to this heart health post Dr. Sepehr Steven Maxood MD., PhD. FAC.

What is the latest research that you feel is important to share when it comes to heart health but may not be so well publicized? 

Dr. Maxood: First would be the advent of customizing administration of current medications based on an individual’s genetic makeup – also called “personalized medicine“.  This way one can tailor pharmaceuticals to the individual patients and optimize their clinical response while minimizing the adverse effects.

Second I would choose the role of our gut’s bacteria, also referred to as microbiome, and the role it plays in our health, specifically in the genesis of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.  A relevant article in the Economist comes to mind that addresses this topic The human microbiome: Me, myself, us 

Third is the role that dietary modification can play in reducing real life cardiovascular events (heart attack, stroke, death from cardiovascular disease), something we refer to in medical research as “hard endpoints”.  An article in the NY Times summarized a recent study just released in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that around 30 percent of strokes, heart attacks and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in high risk people if they change to a Mediterranean diet full of items like fish, beans, nuts, olive oil, vegetables, fruits and even drinking wine with meals.

That is amazing!  So menu choices really are standing out here for what we can all do to take care of our hearts?  But what are the top warning signs that would prompt you to get your heart checked out?

Dr. Maxood: Perhaps even more important than the specifics of the symptoms, would be the setting in which they occur, specifically if they are associated with exertion or stress.  For instance I would be much more concerned with heartburn that occurs with hiking than chest pain that occurs while resting and persists unchanged for many hours.  Having said that, any type of symptoms, especially in a high risk individual, would merit further attention and work up, and I would never want anyone to be discouraged from seeking medical attention if they become concerned.  And I would like to also add that symptoms of cardiovascular disease are frequently varied and different in women compared with the typically published and disseminated symptoms that had been initially deduced from an older male population.  Cardiovascular disease in the number one cause of death in both men and women, and every year is responsible for more deaths in women than all cancers put together, and six times the deaths caused by breast cancer, which many women mistakenly believe as being the top cause of death.

That is good to know!  The symptoms are usually what one focuses on, but it’s the symptoms matched with the way they come on and subside with activity that really matters.

After doing some research on what food and drinks are recommended for your heart’s health I decided to list an article from Huffington Post titled: Top 20 Foods For Heart Health by Jessica Smith for Shape (magazine).  What do you think about this list?

Dr. Maxood: Some of the diverse foods mentioned as part of the Mediterranean diet are perfect examples and I would like to especially emphasize several factors including maintaining diversity in your diet, avoiding industrially manufactured foods and perhaps most important of all, exercising portion control.  One final tip would be to eat slowly, incorporate the meal into the social aspects of your daily life.  Generally speaking it takes 30 minutes for the brain to since the satiety-the sensation that your stomach is full.  That is why people often quickly go from feeling “starved” to feeling “stuffed”.

Okay, I’ve posted the list of the 20 recommended foods from the Huffington Post article, and where a person can get them at a Starbucks (or Starbucks owned) store (most stores that is, this list is in no way complete and doesn’t include all ingredients, menu items or those from “stealth” stores) but I also highlighted those items discussed in the Mediterranean diet study.

Starbucks Heart Health Food List

Dr. Maxood, what are the heart health rules that you personally live by?

Dr. Maxood:  I try to reach a happy medium between exercising self-discipline and fitness while indulging in habits and activities that come more naturally and make me happy .  This ensures better long-term compliance, and helps with overall stress reduction, which itself contributes to overall cardiovascular health.

We end this month with a big thanks to Dr. Maxood for talking to us about some of the latest research on keeping our hearts healthy!  I will personally add that with all the menu options I’ve been enjoying for two months from Starbucks, I know that many of these items suggested above can be found at a Starbucks owned store and are delicious, convenient and turns out can be beneficial for you in the long run!

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