Heart-to-Heart: Tips on How to Stay Heart Healthy Throughout Medical Training

February 20, 2023

By: Sabrina Coaxum, MHS- Wellness and Student Life (WSL) Programming Coordinator

As we enter American Heart Month, it’s helpful to reflect on ways that we, as current and future healthcare providers, can stay heart healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. That’s about 1 in every 5 deaths annually. With proper lifestyle modifications, heart disease is preventable. As a pre-medical student, medical student, or resident, it can be difficult to find ways to be heart healthy. We are often faced with long hours at the hospital and social obligations, all while attempting to study and maintain healthy personal relationships. We counsel our patients on the importance of eating healthy and exercising, but often do not take the time to practice what we preach. Here are some tips on how to stay heart healthy while going through medical training: 

  1. Take a few deep breaths before entering a patient’s room. High blood pressure contributes to heart disease. Deep breathing helps increase oxygen exchange and can help lower heart rate and blood pressure. 
  2. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Most residents and students spend 10+ hours in the hospital and are drained by the end of the day. When traveling between floors opt for the stairs. Each step brings you one step closer to being heart healthy. If you have a more flexible schedule, consider working out before a shift; whether it be at your home or at a local gym. Per the CDC, 150 minutes of exercise each week could leave you feeling more alert, reduce stress, and improve decision-making capabilities. 
  3. Be mindful in the cafeteria or meal prep in advance. When entering the hospital cafeteria (if your hospital has one), it can be easy to gravitate towards a quick slice of pizza, a burger, and/or chips. Search for healthy alternatives. If you’re having difficulty identifying healthy meal options, consider asking the cafeteria staff which foods are designated as heart healthy. 

For those of you without access to a cafeteria, meal prepping can be a helpful way to stay on track. Having a set day to cook and having an accountability buddy can help increase long-term success. 

CDC: Heart Disease Facts 

Benefits of Deep Breathing 

CDC: Benefits of Exercise