There are beautiful, toned, and fit people everywhere you go in Santa Monica. They are carrying yoga mats, running and cycling along the boardwalk. They’re inescapable.

For those of us who aren’t elite athletes, what are some simple steps we can take to lead a more heart healthy lifestyle? After all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more commonly known as the CDC, the leading cause of death in the United States and here in Los Angeles County is heart disease.

You’ve heard it time and again, but it can’t be emphasized enough — quit smoking if you haven’t already. If you are a longtime smoker quitting can be extremely difficult, even for the most well-intentioned. Most people need help. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation aids, such as the nicotine patch or newer medications like Chantix to help you quit. Not only will quitting smoking stave off heart disease, but less fumes also means decreased risk for many cancers, more energy and in the long run, less wrinkles!

Let’s move! Obviously physical activity and regular exercise are correlated with a healthier lifestyle. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, averaging out to 20-25 minutes a day. This could equate to walking up and back the length of the Third Street Promenade daily. Alternatively, for those Santa Monicans short on time, this could be substituted for 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. Head to Clover Park to play some soccer or basketball, or join the vacationing joggers along the boardwalk.

The next step for a heart healthy lifestyle is to eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight as advised by your doctor. According to the AHA, a healthy diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, contains at least two servings of fish per week, and is rich in nuts, legumes or seeds. Limiting sodium intake, as well as limiting consumption of saturated fats and processed meats, is important as well. Luckily, like quitting smoking, eating healthy meals at home can be a great way to save money as well.

Perhaps the hardest step to take to stave off heart disease is to manage your stress. We all live in this high paced world, and it can certainly affect our health. Find time to relax on a daily basis and make sure to find hobbies that bring you pleasure. Surfing anyone?

Finally, see your doctor regularly to make sure that your blood pressure and cholesterol are well controlled. Additionally, your doctor will check for signs of diabetes, an epidemic in our country and a leading cause of heart disease. And remember, watching “The Doctors” television show is certainly no substitute for physically seeing your own doctor.

Good luck and good health Santa Monica! Lucky for us we live in the ideal place to take the steps to lead a healthy lifestyle and beat heart disease!


Dr. Sion Roy and Dr. Kathleen Ruchalski are a husband and wife physician duo who live in Santa Monica. Roy is a cardiology fellow and Ruchalski is a radiology resident at UCLA. Please e-mail them at with comments and questions. The opinions in this column are not intended as individual medical advice, treatment or diagnosis, as only your doctor knows you well enough to do that.

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