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Heart Healthy Tips

by Stacy F. Davis, M.D., Cardiologist, Saint Thomas Heart at Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital

Cardiovascular disease claims the lives of more women than the next five causes of death combined - almost twice as many as all forms of cancer. Fortunately, the risk for cardiovascular disease can be greatly reduced if you start with small, simple actions like these:

  • Celebrate with a checkup. Yearly screenings are extremely important in detecting the early signs of cardiovascular disease. Pick the same date each year - such as a birthday - to remind you that it's time for your annual checkup. if you're older than 40, call 1.800.DOCTORS to schedule an appointment with an internist.
  • Don't be afraid to ask. Talk with your doctor about how you can reduce your risk for heart disease.
  • Exercise. Step, march, or jog in place for at least 30 minutes most days of the week - you can even do it while watching TV.
  • Kick the habit. Can't go "cold turkey?" Cut the number of cigarettes you smoke each day in half; then cut that number in half; cut it in half again; finally, cut down to zero!
  • Strive to lose weight. By cutting just 200 to 300 calories a day - about one candy bar's worth - a woman can lose up to two pounds per week and gradually bring herself closer to a heart-healthy weight.
  • Become a salt detective. Review the nutrition facts panel on packaged foods to see how much sodium (salt) they contain. Aim for a total intake of no more than 2,300 milligrams (about a teaspoon of salt) per day.


Every bit of sodium counts when you're trying to prevent or treat high blood pressure, which contributes to heart attacks and strokes. Experts advise keeping your daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day - about the amount in one teaspoon of table salt.

So forego the salt when cooking or at the table, and spice up your meals with these flavorful, low-sodium choices:

  • Add a little freshly grated ginger to salad dressing or a fish marinade.
  • Use dry mustard for cooking, or mix it with water to serve with cooked meat or fish.
  • Toast seeds and nuts; then sprinkle on salads and main dishes.
  • Add minced garlic and chopped onions before cooking casseroles and stews.
  • Grind fresh herbs with a mortar and pestle; then mix into sauces or casseroles.
  • Just before serving, sprinkle lemon juice on foods such as raw greens, cooked vegetables, and cooked fish.
  • Add fresh or dried hot peppers to meats, casseroles, or soups.
  • Grate fresh horseradish and serve with meat or fish in place of the saltier, prepared horseradishes.

Dr. Stacy F. Davis is a cardiologist with Saint Thomas Heart and sees patients at Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville. She is board certified in cardiovascular disease with specialties in heart failure and echocardiology. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Davis or any other cardiologist with Saint Thomas Heart, call 800.345.5016.