Healthy Hearts

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JOHN PETROZZI: Hi. Welcome to Living is Easy with John and Josh. I’m John Petrozzi.

JOSHUA HARPER: And I’m Josh Harper.

JOHN PETROZZI: Today’s show is all about having a healthy heart. So, we’ll talk about risk factors, the warning signs, and preventive things you can do to have a healthy heart.

JOSHUA HARPER: So what are the risk factors involved?

JOHN PETROZZI: Well first, the main risk factor is actually smoking. That’s one of the highest risk factors you can have for heart disease

JOSHUA HARPER: Both first-hand and second-hand?

JOHN PETROZZI: Both. Yes. So, whether you’re smoking or whether you’re inhaling second-hand smoke around you.

JOSHUA HARPER: Tell us a bit about that.

JOHN PETROZZI: The heart foundation recommends that nobody smokes. There’s also information out there to quit smoking as well. There’s a Quitline you can find, and later on the show we’ll actually file the phone number for you. But there’s also a website that you can go to and that is the Our telephone number as well is 1-300-362-787. If you want some information about healthy hearts, call on to them and they’ll definitely tell you some information.

JOSHUA HARPER: What else are the risk factors, John?

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, apart from smoking, the next one is high blood cholesterol.

JOSHUA HARPER: What causes that?

JOHN PETROZZI: Fatty foods. That’s one of the main causes of heart cholesterol but we’ll talk about it later on as well. Other things are physical inactivity, so no exercising, diabetes, and high blood pressure is another one, being overweight, and also depression and social isolation is another risk factor for heart disease. I’ve got a really interesting research paper that we can touch on later on that describes the correlation between depression and heart disease.

JOSHUA HARPER: How can these factors affect the function of the heart?

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, what these things do, like smoking, having high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, what these do is actually block the small blood vessels that supply blood to the body particularly the heart and all other parts of the body as well. A blood vessel is basically made up of a thick wall that houses the circulatory system or blood and other things and fluid. Whenever we have cigarettes for instance or high cholesterol, what happens is it starts to get these big blobs that get stuck to the walls of blood vessels.

So, instead of having a beautiful, nice, clean cylinder to just tunnel the blood around the body, what you got now is like a really raggedy, shaggy edge around the blood vessel. What happen is the blood cells red blood cell, white blood cells, all of the cells can’t quite get through the tunnel because there are so many obstacles in the way, so over time, if blood doesn’t actually get to supply the heart, the heart can spasm and go into cardiac arrest.

JOSHUA HARPER: It is because the blood cells carry oxygen?

JOHN PETROZZI: That’s right. Yup. Red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body and they’re actually quite large cells. When you see them under a microscope, they look like a doughnut. They’re quite large as well. So when you get a small little capillary—a capillary is basically a very fine blood vessel that supplies oxygenated blood to the body, so that means that it’s full of oxygen to supply cells with oxygen—but if these blood vessels are blocked, that means that the oxygen and other nutrients can’t quite get to the areas that it need to get to, for instance, muscle cells. So over time, those muscle cells are being deprived of oxygen and they’ll die because they need oxygen to survive and live on.

That’s why smoking, for instance, doesn’t work for you, because smoking basically produces a lining around blood vessels and blocks it. High cholesterol does the same thing cause that clogs up the blood vessels and doesn’t allow the vessels to be nice and open. Physical inactivity falls in that category as well, because every time you exercise, you actually—apart from getting fit—you’re actually blowing out a whole lot of clog out of blood vessels.

JOSHUA HARPER: So, it speeds the blood up and sort of knocks it off the walls?

JOHN PETROZZI: Exactly right – yeah. Spot on. Again you’re hype as a host. Diabetes is a disease that affects blood vessels as well.

JOSHUA HARPER: Is this all types of diabetes?

JOHN PETROZZI: Yes. All types of diabetes. That’s right. So, what it does is it damages the little blood vessels particularly around the feet, hands, even the eyes, and also the heart. The other thing is high blood pressure that can also affect the function of the heart, because when you’re blood pressure is too high, your heart is coping a huge load every single time that it beats. That can tear blood vessels apart and tear the heart wall apart as well.

Being overweight is also another risk factor as well because it means the heart has to work harder to try and get blood out to all parts of the body. Also, depression and social isolation—which we touched on—that’s also a risk factor because your brain doesn’t work as it should and knowing your heart and body.

So, they haven’t made any direct links yet or produced any hard evidence to link the two but they have produced a lot of factual evidence that links heart disease and depression. So, again if you want to find out more information, you can go to the website,

JOSHUA HARPER: I’ve heard that if you have a family history, John, you are most susceptible to heart disease?

JOHN PETROZZI: That’s right. Yeah. Particularly males, if they have a family history of heart disease and early death, then that’s also a risk factor for developing heart disease. But the positive thing is really if you live a healthy lifestyle and follow some good advice, reduce and remove risk factors, and get in control of those things that you can control, then there’s no reason why you can’t prevent these things from happening. That’s what today’s show is already all about.


JOSHUA HARPER: Welcome back to Living is Easy with John and Josh on 89.7 FM Eastside Radio.

JOHN PETROZZI: Today, we’re talking about healthy hearts.

JOSHUA HARPER: What are the warning signs?

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, the first warning sign of heart attack is you get a pain in the chest; that can be one of them. The symptoms generally last for about 10 minutes and hopefully they go away. So generally, it’s discomfort or a pain in the center part of the chest. Pain can come on either suddenly, or sometimes it does start slowly and it develops several couple of minutes. Sometimes, it feels like a hot poker or tightness or pressure, heaviness or fullness or squeezing sensation in the chest, and the feeling can sometimes be described like a steel band tightening around the chest. Or sometimes, people say, “It’s like an elephant sitting on my chest.” So that’s really one of the first hallmarks of having a heart attack.

But also, bear in mind that sometimes, that same sensation can be confused with having a back complaint, funnily enough. The only reason I mentioned that is because I’ve had a lot of patients in the chiropractic practice, who admitted themselves into the hospital because they were experiencing severe chest pain. They did. They went to emergency and they found that everything was fine. They weren’t having a heart attack, and they were sent back home with just advise to rest and they follow that up with coming in to the office the next day. What we found was they had a misaligned vertebra and a pinched nerve through the mid-part of the back.

Josh, you know the part between your shoulder blades? That middle part of the spine? In females, it’s around the bra strap area. What can often happen is you get a bone that gets misaligned in that area, it pinches the nerve and that can irritate the nerve supply along that rib cage and right into the sternum as well.

JOSHUA HARPER: So, it feels like a heart attack.

JOHN PETROZZI: It feels exactly like a heart attack. Yeah. So, just bear that in mind as well.

JOSHUA HARPER: Can we distinguish between the two?

JOHN PETROZZI: Not really. That’s the thing. Better be safe than sorry, I’d say. Another symptom or warning sign is pain spreading. So, the chest discomfort basically spreads into the neck or jaw or the throat, shoulders, even into the back, and also it can spread down into the arms, and it can be either side—left or right—predominantly the left side.

JOSHUA HARPER: Because that’s the side the heart is on.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. Again, the reason why we actually feel this sensation spreading is because the heart actually doesn’t have a– when you get pain in the heart, so for instance, you’re on a surgery and you’re awake, and someone starts playing over your heart and sort of pricks it with a little pin, you actually won’t feel hot pain as such, but what you’ll feel is referred pain around the chest or arm region, because the brain doesn’t actually have a direct connection with pain senses to the heart. But what it does have is localized areas that–

JOSHUA HARPER: The muscles around the heart.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah.  It’s actually called “sclerotomes.” So, it’s an area around the area that is supplied by the same nerve supply in the brain, and the brain basically can’t differentiate whether it’s the heart or the arms that’s sore, and it’s generally going to tell you that the arm is sore, but actually it is the heart that is playing up. Does it confuse you the way I’m describing it?

Another sign is discomfort in the upper body which we mentioned. Again it can feel like heaviness. It can feel like a choking sensation, as well.

JOSHUA HARPER: Are there any other symptoms, John?

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. Often they may also be some difficulty breathing. You might get some nausea or some vomiting. You might break out in a cold sweat or feeling really dizzy or lightheaded. These are some of the hallmark signs.

But also bear in mind that these symptoms I’ve spoken about are very similar to symptoms that get produced when you get panicky or if you’re having a panic attack. So again, better be safe than sorry. Treat it like it is and front up to a medical center or hospital if you need to, or make a phone call.

JOSHUA HARPER: What can we do?

JOHN PETROZZI: Just right away, stop what you’re doing if you do experience these sorts of things, and rest, because if it is a heart attack, then exertion is going to make the symptoms a lot worse, and obviously the heart would try and work harder. If you put it under too much duress or exertion, then it’s too much stress for the heart.

Another thing you should do is tell someone around you that you are experiencing these symptoms so that they can look after you. If the symptoms are severe and if they are getting worse about 10 minutes, then get some help and get it fast so dial 000 and get the ambulance service there as soon as you can. What they actually recommend is when you do phone the ambulance is “Don’t hang up.” Keep the operator on the line because they can give you some directions—obviously not you having a heart attack—but giving the helper some directions that may help you through the crisis.

So, these are some signs that may tell you you’re having a heart attack. But again, bear them in mind, and the first thing to do is stop what you’re doing and have a rest. That will often subside after 10 minutes if it’s not a heart attack. And if it is, then do something about it; get some help around you.

But again, this show is positive, so we want to talk about some positive things that you can do to have a healthy heart. Well, Josh, what do you think you would do if you want to have a healthy heart?

JOSHUA HARPER: If I were a smoker, I would stop smoking.

JOHN PETROZZI: Awesome. Yup. Definitely right. So, the first recommendation is, if you are a smoker, you’re at high risk category for heart attack. It’s hard to do, isn’t it? It’s hard to quit smoking. I’ll tell you a story about my granddad. He was born in Italy, in Sicily, and he started smoking from a young age. I think he was about 10 or 12 or something. This is what he did back then; he smoked for all his life. And I think when he hit the age of about 62 or something—I was a little kid and I remember our grand dad always smoked—all of a sudden he stopped smoking. I just thought, “That is a bit strange.” But I always saw him with a pack of cigarettes in his pocket. I thought, “Okay, he stopped smoking but he still carries his cigarettes.”

So, when I got a bit older, I asked him. I said, “I always notice you had these cigarettes in your pocket but you didn’t smoke. What was the story?”  He said, “Well, I always wanted to know they’re close by, just in case I needed them, so I keep them in my top pocket. But I told myself one day, I said, ‘Enough is enough. I don’t want to smoke anymore because I know it’s bad for you.’” Also, my grandmother was at him to try and quit.

But I know it is difficult. There’s a Quitline that you can call, and that number is 131-848. It’s 131-848 and that’s a Quitline phone number. What they recommend you do is don’t do it alone, get some help, so tell people around you so they can provide a bit of support, particularly family and friends.

JOSHUA HARPER: What would you do if you were to get healthy?



JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. What exercise does is basically flushes everything out of your systems, like flushing the toilet. You’ve got cholesterol that builds up in your system, and again the cholesterol is fatty deposits and particles that get stuck, like paper mache stuck to the sides of the blood vessels. What that does is prevent circulation and healthy blood flowing around the body.

JOSHUA HARPER: This goes back to what you were saying before?

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah, exactly. What exercise would do is basically increase your circulation, get blood to bits where it was getting before and flush everything out. So, that’s what exercise does. The sort of exercise that is recommended is daily exercise between 30 and 40 minutes of brisk walking.

JOSHUA HARPER: So, exercise is usually classified as cardio vascular exercise.

JOHN PETROZZI: Exactly right. Spot on. So, exercise is one of the main things. Again, there’s lots of different forms of exercise: High-impact exercise or low-impact.

JOSHUA HARPER: What are they, John?

JOHN PETROZZI: One good form of low impact exercise is walking. Another one is swimming because it still gets your heart right up and your breath right up but it’s not damaging your joints because it’s not high-impact. Things that are more high-impact are things like running, javelin throwing, playing basketball. They’re all high-impact.

JOSHUA HARPER: Straining activities.

JOHN PETROZZI: Straining activities. Yeah. Exactly right.

JOSHUA HARPER: How about different age groups? Do children need to do something to keep the heart healthy?

JOHN PETROZZI: Definitely. Obviously children have lived a short life compared to an older adult and they’ve been exposed to less fats and smoking, all that sorts of things. So, their heart health will be much, much greater and healthier and stronger as a child, compared to as an adult. But kids definitely need exercise. I recommend kids go out for exercise for about 60 minutes a day.

JOSHUA HARPER: How can you help do this?

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, get them out into the playground. A lot of their exercise will be done at the playground at school. But if they don’t exercise very much at schools, then they need to get that after-school exercise, whether it’s soccer or football or ballet dancing. Anything that gets kids out there to exercise is really, really important.

JOSHUA HARPER: How can a busy person integrate exercise into their day, when they don’t really have time to sit down at all?

JOHN PETROZZI: One easy thing to do is if you do catch a bus to work, just get off 3 or 4  stops earlier and walk the rest of the time and say you’re actually going for a decent 10 or 15-minute walk. That’s one easy way of integrating exercise into daily life. One other thing would be to have your lunch outside the office, so you’ll actually need to walk out of the office, down to the shop if you need to get a sandwich or something, into the park, have a bit of sandwich and walk back into the office. That’s another way of getting exercise.

One thing that I was doing this week was—I actually found that I didn’t have enough time to get time to exercise this week properly and I’ve other sorts of things that just weren’t jelling into my lifestyle—so what I’ve done is just got an excel spreadsheet and broke it up into Monday through the Sunday, worked out where my desk times are when I’m in the office adjusting people, and there are obviously times where I can’t do anything but work. Then there’s lunch time breaks, there are times before work, then there’s time after work, and weekends as well. So, what I’m trying to do now is basically just diarise where my exercise are going to fit into my lifestyle.

Funny, I’ve found it difficult to exercise as the days have gone darker. I get up at—the alarm sort of wakes me up at 5:40 and I’m at work by 6:30. So, there’s no time to actually go for a walk in the morning. So I get to work, and you know, the office is until about 6:30 to 7 o’clock, but the sun’s already gone by then. What I’ve found when daylight savings was on and during summer, is that I had enough time to actually get out of the office at 7, and go for a run for an hour around the bay. But now I’ve lost that time because I don’t like to run at night time because it’s too dark for another couple of too many times. So now, I’ve got actually work out a way to get a good exercise during the day.

JOSHUA HARPER: Do you have any advice?

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. Well, one thing, first thing I’m going to do is basically bring my running gear to work, get out of the office at lunch time and go for a run, get back to the office, have a shower and get back into the day. That’s one thing that I’m doing. But there are heaps of ideas. You just need to sit down and work out if you can get exercise into your working day, and if so, where can you get it into. Because it’s really important; your heart depends on it and so does the health of the rest of your body and mind.

JOSHUA HARPER: In terms of food consumption, what advice can you give to keep high cholesterol and fatty foods out of your diet?

JOHN PETROZZI: Well, eating healthy foods is a number one priority to try and minimize the strain and stress from the heart. They find fish is a food that’s high in omega 3 fatty acids. That’s been known to help reduce the risk of heart disease, so barbecued fish, grilled fish, whatever sorts of fish that you like. Try and avoid deep-fried fish obviously, because that just lays a whole lot of cholesterol on top of it and defeats the purpose. But fish is really an important food to eat to avoid heart disease and cholesterol.

JOSHUA HARPER: What about canned tuna? Is that-?

JOHN PETROZZI: That’s all still good. Yep. Canned Tuna, salmon. Lean meat is another source of good food that doesn’t load you up with cholesterol.


JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. Lamb without the fatty bits on it. Beans and legumes, anything that looks fresh and is grown. If you can buy food that’s been grown locally particularly fruits and vegetables, that means that the produce is probably more full of nutrients compared to the ones that come from overseas. Because often, the ones that come from overseas need to be picked unripe, because they get ripened along the way. Oftentimes, they’re set in cold rooms. They’re chilled down to low temperatures, and they can often lose nutrients that way. They lose the enzymes and those sorts of things. Also, it will help the local growers if you eat the local produce as well. But eating fish is one good food to help increase the state of the heart.

JOSHUA HARPER: How about other foods?

JOHN PETROZZI: Veggies. Try and avoid eating too many things that are loaded up with fats: animal fats, vegetable fats, those sorts of things. So for instance, if you’re having a pizza, try to have a pizza that’s got a thin crust instead of a really big, thick, crunchy crust. Avoid pizza that’s got too much cheese on it. You know it tastes great.

We spoke about foods in an earlier show in regards to kids and their nutrition. So, we spoke about foods before as “sometimes foods.” Sometimes foods are basically foods that are already fatty. Don’t have them all of the time but don’t deprive yourself of them, if you do feel like you need them; have them only sometimes. It can be the “all-time foods” which are things like fruits and veggies. When you’re cooking meat or fish, it’s better to grill the fish, as opposed to frying it. Avoid things like butter in your fish as well.

JOSHUA HARPER: Is that due to the oil?

JOHNR PETROZZI: Exactly right. Yup. Because oil is often high, very, very high in cholesterol. They say use margarine instead of butter, but I’m not a fan of margarine and because of all the stuff they put into it. It’s probably not too good for you. Butter is good for you. Actually, it’s quite a healthy fat. But again, don’t have too much of it. Just use it sparingly or use it only when you need to. When you’re having a salad, choose a salad that’s got a light dressing on it. Try and avoid things like mayonnaise and heavy sort of dressings.

JOSHUA HARPER: For an afternoon snack, I usually have cheese and biscuits. That’s pretty high in cholesterol, isn’t it?

JOHN PETROZZI: It is, yeah. Again, that should probably be a “sometime food.” A healthier alternative if you having a lot of this sort of things every night or every couple of nights, is maybe use some nice low-fat crackers with hummus or maybe a fresh avocado dip served with some vegetables, something like that. At least you’re getting your veggies, and the cheese—you can have it every so often—and you’re still having your dips.

JOSHUA HARPER: The hummus is quite good for you. Is it chickpeas?

JOHN PETROZZI: Chickpeas. Yeah. It’s awesome.


JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. Salt is another thing that we should try and have sparingly as well. Avoid salty foods. So, if you’re going to the shops and buying nuts and those sorts of things, buy nuts without salts. If you’re salting your food, then avoid putting too much salt on it.

JOSHUA HARPER: Are there better types of salt?

JOHN PETROZZI: Healthy salt, like rock salt, is pretty good because it’s not bleached. Oftentimes, the salt you find in just the big containers is often highly bleached to make it nice and white. That bleach can cause problems to your body as well. In terms of salt, my mom used to use a lot of salt when she was cooking foods—with Italian background, we have lots of salt—but what we found is over time, she uses a lot less salt, so when I have a salty meal, or when we cook some food at home with Suzy, we actually don’t use salt anymore. Apart from a little bit right at the end to try and bring the taste out of it. I find that when I have a lot of salty food at the restaurant or something like that, it’s overwhelming for the palate and I don’t like the taste of it anymore. So, you can actually wean yourself off salt if you find that you do have a salty diet.

Someone who would have a diet high in salt would be someone who has a lot of barbecues, eats a lot of meat, and someone who eats a lot of salted nuts as well. So, if you’re one of those people, just have a review of these sorts of food you eat, and try if you can cut down the salt. Your heart will love you for it because it means that the heart has to work a lot less to try and pump blood around your body.

JOSHUA HARPER: I’ve heard that alcoholic drinks can raise your blood pressure. Can you tell us a bit about that?

JOHN PETROZZI: That’s right. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure, so obviously you don’t want to raise your blood pressure too much if you’ve got risk factors of heart attack. So, a salt does the same thing; it raises your blood pressure, too. So it increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. If your blood pressure is high or if you’re taking any medication, what the heart foundation advices is that you limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day for men or one drink per day for women. So, it’s not the end of the world. You can still have alcohol but just drink it in moderation, so that your blood pressure doesn’t rise too high.

Because again, you can imagine your heart is just a pump and what it is doing is beating away to try and circulate blood around your body. If the blood pressure rises too much, the heart has to start to increase its pressure, which means blood, instead of gently spreading out of your heart, it’s actually racing out of the heart and firing out into blood vessels which can damage the walls and over time contribute to long-term damage of the heart and blood vessels and also can contribute to stroke as well. Be careful.

JOSHUA HARPER: Drink in moderation.

JOHN PETROZZI: That’s right. Yeah.

JOSHUA HARPER: If you’re one of these people who eat high-cholesterol foods, smoke, or drink too much, can you turn your life around?

JOHN PETROZZI: I’d say to that question, absolutely.

1.      First of all, get a checkup from your GP and find out what your status is, whether you are at risk of having a heart disease. Check out your cholesterol levels and blood pressure levels and if you are diabetic or not.

2.      Stop smoking. If you do smoke now, stop it. Do what you need to do to try and get rid of that.

3.      Start exercising more.

4.      Lose some weight.

5.      Get social to improve your moods.

6.      Eat less salt. Drink less alcohol. Eat more fish and fresh fruits and vegetables.

And the answer is absolutely.

JOSHUA HARPER: It will improve your life as well.

JOHN PETROZZI: It will make you live longer.

JOSHUA HARPER: And happier.

JOHN PETROZZI: And happier, that’s for sure. If you want some more information about having a healthy heart, visit I’ve got some stuff on my website as well on

JOSHUA HARPER: You spell it P-E-T-R-O-Z-Z-I-H-E-A-L-T-H.

JOHN PETROZZI: That’s right. The other line to call is Quitline, which is 131-848.

JOSHUA HARPER: Well, thanks for tuning in. I’ll see you next week.

JOHN PETROZZI: Thanks for joining us tonight. Join us again next week on Living is Easy with John and Josh. Until then, stay well and stay happy.