Q+A with Dr. Simon: Reducing your risk of heart disease

This story was originally published in the Winter 2021 edition of Providence Health Matters.

Key takeaways:

  • There are simple lifestyle adjustments you can make to reduce your risk of heart disease.

  • Providence heart and vascular physicians can give you suggestions based on your risk factors and health history.

  • Dr. Benjamin Simon offers guidelines to help anyone keep their heart healthy.


What can you do to reduce your risk of heart disease? Plenty, says Benjamin S. Simon, MD, medical director of cardiovascular services at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center.

Can a person reduce the risk of heart disease even if it runs in the family?

Dr. Simon: When I sit with a patient, I review the risk factors, and I say they are all modifiable except genetics. But if you have a genetic risk and don’t manage your risk factors, you’re adding fuel to the fire.

There is a significant increased risk of heart disease with a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, diabetes—these things play a huge role in the risk for heart disease. But they are all factors that you can manage, and it behooves you to do what you can to lower your risk.

Is it ever too late to start exercising?

Dr. Simon: Absolutely not. Especially now in the COVID-19 era, walking and being active is very beneficial for socialization and for good health. By exercising, you have improved blood sugar and improved lipids and you decrease your risk of coronary artery disease. Exercise also tends to lower one’s blood pressure. There are multiple benefits to your entire heart and body. When you’re sedentary, you’re more likely to gain weight, and by gaining weight you likely worsen all of your risk factors—it’s a multifaceted problem. I tell people it’s simple: Use it or you lose it.

It’s been said that the best exercise is the kind that you actually will do. Do you agree with that?

Dr. Simon: It’s so true—it all comes down to do whatever activity you enjoy doing. If the gym’s closed, go for a walk. If your back hurts, try going for a bike ride or use a stationary bike. If it’s too smoggy, stay indoors and use indoor equipment. If available, swimming is among the best exercise, or even just walking in the pool. Just do it!

What dietary guidelines are ideal for preventing heart disease?

Dr. Simon: As with exercise, the best diet is the one you stick to. A person’s diet is very complex and involves who that person is, their background, their spouse and family. It’s very helpful to get professional guidance to formulate a diet, and it should be a family affair.

Any specific suggestions?

Dr. Simon: Most people eat an excessive amount of carbohydrates, so I often suggest focusing on your carbohydrate intake, salt intake and fat intake. Remember that many alcoholic drinks are just carbohydrates. It’s common sense that fried foods and foods with saturated fats are not healthy. Eating more fruits and vegetables is healthy, consuming more seafood than red meat is healthy. But again, you have to tailor your diet to one you are going to eat. Portion size should always be considered. Also, not eating after dinner, which can be considered intermittent fasting, has shown to be helpful.

Read the full Q+A with Dr. Simon here.


Find a doctor

Schedule your appointment with your cardiologist today and to find out how you can reduce your risk of heart disease. You can find a Providence cardiologist using our provider directory. Or you can search for a primary care doctor in your area. 

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.


About the Author

The Providence Heart & Vascular Team is committed to bringing you many years of expertise and experience to help you understand how to prevent, treat and recover from cardiovascular diseases and conditions. From tips to eating better to exercise and everything in between, our clinical experts know how to help you help your heart.

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