The Heart-Healthy Habits of the CardioVascular Institute

CVI clinicians and researchers share their personal tips to prevent heart disease

February is Heart Month, so we asked the physicians and researchers of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s CardioVascular Institute how they keep their own hearts healthy.

Exercise Every Day

Dr. Robert GersztenRobert Gerszten, MD, is Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine. His research focuses on personal genomics and cardiometabolic disease.

“Exercise has a profound effect on how I think and how I feel. I exercise from 6 to 6:30 every morning, seven days a week. I try to never miss a day — even when I hurt my ankle earlier this year and I couldn’t run on the treadmill, I still made sure I did sit-ups and push-ups.”

Everything in Moderation
Maria Kontaridis, PhD, in Greece

Maria Kontaridis, PhD, is Director of the Cardiovascular Medicine Basic Research Program. Her laboratory is working to identify the roots of many types of heart disease.

“My heritage is Greek, and there is an ancient Greek philosophy called ‘pan metron areston,’ which means ‘everything in good measure. ’ Balance is extremely important — you can be healthy and enjoy life. I also think that laughter and maintaining connections with friends and family are underappreciated components of good heart health.”


Allen Hamdan, MD, at his deskAllen Hamdan, MD, is a vascular surgeon in the CVI at BIDMC and Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare-Chelsea.

“I recently began meditating three to five times a week. More and more research is demonstrating that meditation is good for your heart, and I’m finding that it does help to relieve stress, so I plan to try and stick with this meditation routine.”

Work in Your Workout

Robert Yeh, MD, MPH, climbing the stairs with colleagues
Robert Yeh, MD, MPH, is an interventional cardiologist and Director of the Smith Center for Outcomes Research in Cardiology, which analyzes large amounts of patient data to determine which treatments lead to the best patient outcomes.

“I have a standing desk. There is more and more evidence that sitting for too long can be detrimental to our bodies’ metabolism and heart health, so a standing desk helps get me out of my chair and use some muscles that I might not otherwise use. In addition I rarely take the elevator, which can sometimes mean climbing more than 20 floors a day.”

Track Your Numbers

Connie Tsao, MD, kayaking in Alaska Connie Tsao, MD, specializes in cardiovascular imaging and is an investigator in the Framingham Heart Study. She is studying how the heart’s structure and function change over time in response to risk factors like high blood pressure.

“I follow the American Heart Association [AHA] program called My Life Check, which helps you determine your ‘Heart Score.’ For me, and I think for others, just knowing how you rank on these important metrics is good motivation to improve your daily habits and modify your risk factors for heart disease.”

Walk Your Way to Health

Joseph Kannam, MDJoseph Kannam, MD, is a cardiologist in the CVI and Chief of Cardiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham.

“I really like to run, but I can’t always maintain such a vigorous routine. A number of studies have found that walking is as beneficial as running, so what I follow and recommend is 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, four days a week, whether it’s walking, jogging or biking. I also mix in some yoga when I can.”

Take the Stairs

Kamal Khabbaz, MD, outside the ORKamal Khabbaz, MD, is Chief of Cardiac Surgery and past chairman of BIDMC’s Boston Heart Walk campaign.

“I would tell anyone, ‘Take the stairs, not the elevator!’ It’s convenient and it doesn’t cost anything. In fact, I’ve found that I often reach my destination faster when I use the stairs rather than waiting for a crowded elevator.”

Cook at Home

Lorraine Britting, NP, with a patientLorraine Britting, NP, is a Nurse Practitioner in Cardiovascular Medicine.

“I like to cook, and I find that cooking at home enables me to better control portion sizes, to use good fats in my recipes and to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables my family eats. It also makes great leftovers for the next day’s lunch.”

February 2017