Michelle Rupp: Hi, and welcome into this week’s edition of AFMC TV. I’m your host Michelle Rupp. We’re so glad you’re joining us. We are starting off today with our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Chad Rodgers. Dr. Chad, thanks for joining us on the show today.

Dr. Chad Rodgers: Thanks for having me and happy New Year. Happy New Year. Happy Valentine’s. 

MR: Yeah, of course this is the first time we’ve seen each other this year, but we are just a few days away from Valentine’s. And what is it that we are seeing all over the place? We’re seeing chocolate and red wine. 

CR: I know two of my favorite things. So, we’re happy to talk about these things. So yeah, I guess we’re kind of into the heart season being that it’s Valentine’s day and talking about how to prevent heart disease. I think a very popular conversation around you know, red wine and chocolate is always good. So, a couple of things to think about and you know, certainly we don’t advocate for people, as physicians, just drinking to lower their cholesterol or improve their heart disease. But, if you are going to have a glass of wine, red wine is a really good choice. A lot of the things that go into production of red wine help increase the antioxidants that, sort of, help prevent heart disease. Not only does it help prevent inflammation, but it can also help prevent the bad cholesterol in your blood. But also increase the good cholesterol in your blood. So, we all like to treat ourselves to a glass of wine, so if you’re going to have a glass of wine, red wine is a good choice in moderation. 

MR: I heard a cardiologist say one time if you’re used to drinking red wine then okay, you can have a glass of red wine. If you are not used to drinking, this is not me telling you it’s okay to start. So, there are some benefits, then, to red wine as it relates to our heart. What about chocolate? My most favorite is dark. The darker it can be, the happier my taste buds are. What’s the rule on chocolate, or is there a rule, so to speak, on chocolate? 

CR: No, I’m with you. I mean I love dark chocolate and I love dark chocolate desserts. And if I’m going to have something, that’s really what I want. So, just think about your overall general health and you’re choices and foods and stuff like that. If you’re going to have dessert, then think about dark chocolate. It has a lot of really good benefits. Again, it’s one of those things that kind of helps reduce some of the bad cholesterol. It also has some antioxidants and flavonoids. You’ll hear a lot of that talk that it helps prevent inflammation. So, you know, instead of getting the high fructose corn syrup cookie out of the refrigerator, just consider you know, sort of a small piece of dark chocolate. And the other thing about dark chocolate is it’s very satisfying. You know, it’s not like you have to eat the whole bowl of ice cream. If you just eat like a couple of bites of dark chocolate, especially if you think about doing dark chocolate with some almonds which also have good antioxidant effects. It’s a really good way to number one, control your calorie intake, control your sugar intake, and also give you that kind of satisfying dessert need that we all have. Especially this time of year when it’s cold and dark and we’re looking for comfort food. 

MR: Yeah. You know, you’ve seen those bars of dark chocolate at the grocery stores. And you know, those bars could be $2.50. I mean, you know when I’m not talking about a Hershey bar here, but those dark chocolate bars. And you can break them off and sometimes maybe three little squares is more than enough to satisfy. Particularly if you’re if you are going um real dark. Is there a percentage- you know, sometimes those bars will say it’s 50% dark or 65 or 82. Is there a percentage to stay in or just go as dark as you can handle. 

CR: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point, because milk chocolate, you know, it’s very low in cocoa and that’s really where you get the antioxidant effect. And so, it’s also really popular in our culture for milk chocolate. You know, Hershey’s syrup is really low in cocoa, and white chocolate has really low levels. So, literally looking at those high levels. So, you’re looking for a 75 to 80 percent amount of cocoa. Sometimes that’s not palatable to a lot of people, but you know, adding a little bit of something that’s a little bit sweeter sometimes helps bring that down for people. But yeah, you want to go for those higher percentage of cocoa because that’s really where you get the greatest impact and sort of that anti-inflammatory effect.  

MR: Okay, that’s good. So, what else what else is good for our heart? 

CR: Yeah so, we hate to hear it- I mean it’s fun to talk about red wine and chocolate, right? But we don’t want to hear I, but we all know it’s true, is that good traditional exercise and good eating are really essential to good heart health. So, you know, around eating- I mean there are a lot of really good evidence around the Mediterranean diet. Where you’re sort of high fish and olive oils, and low sugar, vegetables and fruits to kind of help promote good heart health. And prevent vascular disease, which is what we’re really trying to prevent. But, you know, it’s been hard the last couple of weeks. You know, it’s been cold and dark and the days are short but we all need to get out, get some fresh air, do some walking. Even just walking 10, 20, or 30 minutes a day have really good impacts on heart health and are really essential to sustaining good health. 

MR: I would think too, even in the winter months- when we have a sunny day, sit out in the sun. That has to not only lift your mood, but also have some, you know, you’ve got your vitamin D effects. And it will kind of start to begin to make you feel better. It might not necessarily protect your heart, but it will put you in a little bit better of a mood, I would think. 

CR: Yeah, I think sunlight has a lot of good effects. Of course, wear your sunscreen. You know, getting out and getting some good vitamin D. I think it also is really good for the brain. And helps increase levels of chemicals in your brain that improve mood, that make you feel more awake. Make you feel more attentive. So, finding time to kind of get out when it is sunny, looking ahead of the weather. But even on a cloudy day just getting out and getting some fresh air. And you do get some vitamin D even through the clouds on a cloudy day. But, of course, when it’s cold and rainy it’s hard to get out there. But finding a time, like you said, looking ahead, thinking about your week, finding some time to get out and do that walk. Or run or bike. 

MR: just be outside. 

CR: Yeah. 

MR: So, you know, there’s a lot of advancements, obviously, that have been made, where the heart is concerned. And how early we can detect heart disease. And then if you do have heart disease, the advancements that can kind of help prolong life. But at the end of the day does it really just boils down to- simple as diet and exercise- don’t smoke. To really set yourself up, heart wise, to be in a good place. 

CR: Yeah, and thanks for bringing up smoking because that is so important. You know smoking in such a high-risk activity for vascular disease. But this is where preventive care really comes in strong. I mean, getting into your doctor for that yearly exam, having them listen to your heart, having them check your blood sugar and your cholesterol. Making sure things are normal. And even very young people need to make sure that this is part of their kind of annual routine. And certainly if you have a high risk of heart disease in your family, you need to get in earlier and sooner and maybe more frequently. But that is really where preventive care comes in so early. And there are medicines, you know, that sometimes you need to start in order to help with your blood sugar and help with your cholesterol that will actually, you know, improve your heart disease. Not as much fun as wine and dark chocolate, but it’s very beneficial and very safe. You know, a lot of studies around these medications to help control those things. 

MR: Let me ask you- going back to the smoking. You know, of course we know the impact that smoking can have on the heart. [Are there] any studies yet or information about the effects of vaping and what [effect] that might have on the heart. Vaping is still fairly new to the scene. So, there might not be a lot of information out there about that. But I’m just curious. 

CR: Yeah, there’s certainly a growing body of evidence, especially as more people move from smoking to vaping, thinking that it’s a safe alternative. And it’s really not. It still has a lot of inflammatory effects on the lungs. It still contains nicotine. It could contain other things that cause inflammation in the body. And it’s really that inflammatory process that leads to vascular disease. I mean, cholesterol is certainly part of that, but anything that you do that, sort of, increases inflammation in your body it’s going to increase your risk for not just heart disease but for cancer, for diabetes. So, you know, vaping is not really a safe alternative to smoking. And I think there’s a growing body of knowledge. And actually, sometimes it can be dangerous depending on the person. We’ve seen a lot- my areas pediatrics, and so we’ve seen kids that have had significant lung disease related to vaping. So not a safe alternative. 

MR: Not at all. Not at all. Alright, well Dr. Rogers, thank you for joining us today and talking about that there are some benefits to dark chocolate and red wine as it relates to the heart. Have a happy Valentine’s Day. 

CR: Happy Valentine’s Day to you as well.