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HARLINGEN — Fish and olive oil.
Salads, bicycling and long brisk walks.
These are the letters and the words that spell out the whole recipe for a healthy heart.
February most fittingly is Heart Health Month, and Dr. Kamesh Sivagnanam took a few minutes to emphasize the importance of healthy living for a strong heart.
“I think of course heart health is extremely important,” said Sivagnanam, a cardiologist at Valley Baptist Health System in Harlingen.
“Heart disease is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the world, in the country and especially the Valley,” said Sivagnanam, who goes by Dr. Siv.
“I’ve practiced and seen patients in different places across the country,” said Dr. Siv. “What I’ve noticed here in the Valley is we have a lot of people who get very sick from a cardiac standpoint very early. A lot of places you see a lot of cardiology, but usually we see that in patients that are in their 60s, 70s and 80s. We see that here too, but we also see a lot of people with significant issues earlier in life.”
He pointed out several factors which may contribute to this. One of those factors, he said, is probably genetic. More importantly, however, are local lifestyle habits regarding diet and exercise.
In these modern times with the arrival of COVID, HIV, cancer and any other malady, diet and exercise are the staple of any conversation about good health and the maintenance of that health. Physicians in any medical field advise people to get at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise each day. Cardio exercises include running, walking or riding a bike. Swimming is also a great exercise for heart health.
Exercise is only one part of the equation. A proper diet is also crucial and Siv, like many cardiologists, recommended the Mediterranean Diet.
“It’s a diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and olive oil,” Siv said. “That diet seems to be the best for the reduction of cardiovascular disease.”
Siv made reference now to a local diet rich in red meat and carbs such as sweet bread. He was quick to point out that those local favorites don’t need to be completely eliminated. Rather, meat and carb lovers can simply reduce the amounts of those foods and achieve balance with healthier alternatives such as fish and salad.
Maintaining heart health is a much better alternative to medicines and surgical procedures after a stroke or heart attack, Siv said. Those remedies do work well, but once a heart attack or stroke have occurred, the patient’s health never completely recovers.