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Seven Questions for a Cardiologist

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Seven Questions for a Cardiologist

Jan 27, 2021

On this episode of Seven Questions for a Specialist, cardiologist Dr. John Ryan answers what he thinks is the best—and worst—thing you can do for your heart, why he chose to specialize in cardiology and what advancements he's most excited about in the field of cardiology.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: It's time for Seven Questions. It's time, seven questions for a cardiologist. We've got Dr. John Ryan here and I'm going to ask you seven questions. Just want your answers just as they come to you, okay?

Dr. Ryan: Sure thing.

Exercise for Heart Health

Interviewer: Don't think about it too much, as quick as you can. What's the best thing that I can do for my heart to make sure it stays healthy?

Dr. Ryan: Probably exercise 30 minutes every day, something that gets your heart rate up, and just get it into your routine as something that is part of your daily schedule.

Interviewer: All right. What's the worst thing I can do for my heart?

Dr. Ryan: Probably not exercise at all.

Interviewer: Really?

Dr. Ryan: Yes.

Interviewer: Even worse than like smoking or something like that?

Dr. Ryan: It is. Yes. Well, that's fair. I mean, you're going to assume that folks know that they shouldn't smoke, but even when you have people who have a normal weight and who don't exercise, they actually are at a higher risk of having heart disease and a higher rate of mortality than people who are overweight who do exercise. The sedentary lifestyle is really hurting us.

How to Lower Heart Attack Risk

Interviewer: What do you know about the heart that everybody else should know?

Dr. Ryan: You really can make a positive change to your risk of having a heart attack. Really, it is not something that you need to give up on. And even if you've had a historical lifestyle of smoking, not exercising, eating fatty foods, your destiny is not to have a heart attack. You can actually change your destiny and really reduce your risk of having a heart attack by stopping smoking, actively exercising, losing weight, etc. So I think that's really just key to be aware of.

Interviewer: Can you scare somebody to the extent that they have a heart attack?

Dr. Ryan: There's definitely a stress component to having a heart attack. There are people who, at football games have heart attacks, at roller coasters have heart attacks, downhill skiers occasionally have heart attacks.

Interviewer: What about, like a victim of an April Fools joke?

Dr. Ryan: I think that would be really unfortunate and would kind of make you have to rethink the whole tradition of April Fools' Day in general if mortality from cardiovascular disease goes up on April Fools' Day, I think we need to rethink why we have this holiday.

Interviewer: What is your favorite song that has the word "heart" in it?

Dr. Ryan: The favorite, probably "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

Interviewer: Okay.

Dr. Ryan: It's an incredible song.

Cardiologist Specialty

Interviewer: Why did you specialize in cardiology?

Dr. Ryan: I think you can really do a lot in cardiology because you can take care of the individual person across the way from you, but there's also a large public health component to it, in so far as trying to get your community to be more active. And that's just a fascinating part in America because we're so heavily dependent on our cars and we don't walk, we don't cycle around our neighborhoods anymore, stuff like that.

And then there is also the nutritional components. So, as well as having that one-on-one relationship, you also have this public health issue from cardiovascular disease, which I think is really important for cardiologists to be at the forefront of.

And then also the basic science in cardiology is just fascinating and has really made a significant impact in cardiovascular disease over the last 30, 40 years. And when you look at how we have cared for people and the advances we've made in terms of reducing the rate of heart attack, reducing the mortality from heart attack and stroke over the last 40 years, those impacts have been made because we have done significant basic science advancements and because we've also made community awareness about heart disease and how to lower your heart risk.

Wearable Health Monitors

Interviewer: What advancement in your field has you the most excited?

Dr. Ryan: I think we're getting at a point where the technology is becoming really personalized. It is really exciting that people come to us with the data that they've generated, either from their phones, from their smart phones, from what people have collected from wearables, and that their health literally is in their hands, and they are coming to us with what they've found.

Whereas traditionally, we do tests and we would say, "Well this is what we've found." Now they're coming to us with what they've found, and that's a really exciting thing because that really shifts the responsibility of cardiovascular care and risk reduction to where it should be, which is to the individual.

updated: January 27, 2021
originally published: June 14, 2017