Episode 1 | Dr. Kathy Magliato | Ultimate Heart Health Guide for Women


Follow along with the transcript

Kathy Smith: We were just chatting before the show, and I always go here with people because I don’t care what profession you’re in. I’m a believer that your health, your wellness and your fitness should be a big part of that. So, what do you do–before we get started on other things, what do you do to stay in shape and stay fit and keep that heart of yours healthy?

Kathy Magliato: Well, first I have to give you a big thank you. I know that your listeners probably know this, but you have been such a champion of health for so long that I think we need to take a page out of your playbook. You were talking about this before people didn’t even really understand the benefits of exercise. And you mentioned about your dad, he having heart disease at 42 gives you, obviously, a huge respect for heart disease that you really can’t do anything about. Of all the things we can do for our hearts, if we’ve got a family history of heart disease, or as women, if we’re over the age of 55, those are the two risk factors we can do nothing about.

So, I’m not going to tell you which of those two risk factors I have, Kathy. I’m just squeaking by under the second risk factor. But because of that and to answer your question, I’ve really made some changes in my life, and I’m really making exercise one of my core values for what I do every day. So, we were talking about what is it that I do. I’ve gotten really into TRX and resistance training, and I don’t know about you, but I honestly, I don’t think I’m going to ever lift a weight again. I tell you. I love it that much. I really do.

Kathy Smith: Yeah, and for the listeners out there that don’t know about TRX, TRX are suspension bands that you hang them from a ceiling or if you’re traveling, there are some versions you put on a door. But in general, you’re using these bands and your own body weight to go through all kinds of exercises that allow you to do a term called functional training. So, every time you do a move, you’re having to use your core, your balance, plus your muscles. And a lot of it I kind of look at it like Pilates and yoga meets strength training and cardio. Then, you throw in there, and you can even throw in some cardio while you’re doing it.

So, I agree. I am doing TRX at least twice a week now. So, hats off to you for doing that and sticking with it.

Kathy Magliato: Yeah, I’m glad to hear you say that, because again, you’re really, to me, the guru and the expert in health and fitness. So, I love that you’re supporting me on that, because it is not easy, right? TRX is a pretty tough workout. But I love that you can make it as difficult or as easy as whatever suits your needs based on how you move those bands and your distance from the wall.

I have to tell you, out of all the exercising that I have done in the past, I have never seen results like this. I am so much stronger. I am visibly stronger. I feel better especially the core work, which is why I started doing TRX. I found that standing for long periods of time in the operating room, it really does a number on your back, and if you don’t have a good core, your susceptible to back disease, back pain, chronic pain. So, I did it as a way to strengthen my core and, oh my gosh, if you do TRX consistently as you said, twice a week. I do it three times a week. If you do it twice a week, within a few weeks, you can see a noticeable difference in your strength. It’s really profound. And you build muscle.

Kathy Smith:  Well, you also mentioned you’re building–you’re looking so good right now. I interpret that, meaning you’re looking sexier, which I think is interesting since this TV show with Melissa George playing you on the TV show, Heartbeat, again based on your book.

How does it feel to have your life put up on the screen there? And part of your life, which I don’t know if it’s real, imagined or how it came about, but there’s a lot of things that go on outside the operating room that I notice, a lot of sex. So, is that based on your real life? Is that what goes on?

Kathy Magliato: Kathy, it doesn’t help that–I think it was this past week that Jamie Kennedy who plays the surgeon, Callahan, on the show and, who, as you probably know Jamie is a standup comedian. It doesn’t help that Jamie ran all over New York, did the Today Show and several other shows and told everyone that I three lovers because that’s what I have on television. So, I guess tonight, I’ll have to break that gently to my husband when he comes home.

There’s antics in and out of the operating room, but I have to tell you what an honor to be played by the stunning, the beautiful, the intelligent, the articulate and the funny – people don’t know this about her – but the funny Melissa George, who’s getting to really–she so enjoys playing this character.

What I love best about Melissa and what I feel so honored is that she got the one thing about me that I think was probably the toughest thing to do in my career and that is to be able to figure out a balance between the toughness and the tenderness and compassion, right? So, we want to see this character in all of her dimensions. We don’t want to see this tough-as-nails, ball-busting type character. We want to also see this soft side of her. We definitely want to see her compassionate side. I think what I always hoped for in Melissa is that she would give us a doctor that we all wished was taking care of us, and that’s what she delivered and she does it so well and so beautifully.

Kathy Smith: Yeah, she does an amazing job. Getting back to you, she’s representing you on this show, and I have to tell you, I just have had this girl crush on you forever. I’ll tell you why. Because there you are, you’re saving lives. Once again, being a cardiothoracic surgeon, you’re breaking through these gender barriers. I know when I read in your book and I’ve heard you talk, you’re in this male dominated where there’s not a lot of you, being a female, around. So, you’re breaking through gender barriers and, then, you’re changing lives. At the same time, you’re balancing this with having a family, having two boys, correct? I think you have two boys.

Kathy Magliato: Yes.

Kathy Smith: Two boys, having an active lifestyle that you’re just giving to the world. So, I know you are the queen of getting a lot of things done. You must be the best multitasker around. How do you balance it all? Because it sounds like a lot.

I remember–just shooting back many, many years ago, I was on the cover of a magazine. They had me with about eight different hands and it was, like, the child in one hand, just going to work, doing this, jetting off, solving problems, but it does take its toll as we know. What do you so you that can try to balance it all out?

Kathy Magliato: That is such a great question. It’s funny that from you, you’re saying about how I’m very busy and a multitasker and involved in health and changing people lives, and I would say the exact same thing about you, Kathy. Honestly, the fact that you have done this and championed this, to me, means so much. It’s hard to talk about balance. I kind of like to talk about juggling. I feel really, really blessed to have such a full life.

One time, I was asked a similar question to what you just asked, but I was asked one time at the end of a lecture, someone said to me, “What do you want your legacy to be when you die?” Without hesitation–usually your legacy is your children or the research or the work or the patients, the things that you’re doing. I said, “I want my legacy to be that when I die, people say that I led a useful life.”

I guess that’s what I get up every day thinking. How can I lead a useful life today? One of our episodes – I think the third or fourth episode, it was called “100,000 Heartbeats” and it’s because your heart beats 100,000 times a day. It was an episode actually about pancreatic cancer. It was about what would you do to get that extra day.

So, I say to people, and maybe this is my mantra is that every day that you get up and you get an extra 100,000 heartbeats, it’s a good day no matter what you’re facing that day. If you get up in the morning and your feet touch the ground, whatever you’re facing that day, it’s a good day, because you’re here and you get those heartbeats.

For me, it is about leading a very useful life starting with the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed. That does take balance if you will. It’s more like juggling. A lot of it is about planning. I’m a big planner. I even get out of bed with a plan – A, B, C, D – and I make it work, because there’s just so many crazy things going on in my life right now. Again, I feel very blessed and I feel like I’m leading a very fulfilled life. It may not be everyone’s life, right? I think we all struggle with that.

Last night when our episode aired, called “The Inverse”, I was really excited about this episode because In it, you see the Melissa George, the cardiac surgeon and Melissa George or Alex, the mom. I remember we were tweeting last night, some of the actors and I, and I tweeted out how blessed I was to be a cardiac surgeon and a mom.

I think one of the things that your listeners need to know or need to understand is we’re all doing this. We’re all juggling and balancing, but at the end of the day, isn’t it a wonderful thing to be a mom, to have a career? My husband, by the way, is another surgeon, so to be in this two-surgeon family. I think I work so hard at it because I’m enjoying it so very, very much, and it’s not easy.

Kathy Smith: Well, I think you said it well and that this idea of being grateful and having gratitude for all your blessings. I do think that one of the things you touch upon a lot in everything I’ve heard you say and write about is this idea of emotions and the heart and the idea that we always think about diet and exercise and I’m out the preaching and lecturing and everything else about – good amount of exercise, the way you should be eating.

I think we overlook, sometimes, how emotions play into heart health and the positive which we just mentioned. Just like you telling me that story right there gave me kind of a chill inside that made me feel good. I could just feel something come over me when we’re talking about good things, but the opposite happens when we’re talking about bad things, like you break up with somebody, you have a broken heart, somebody dies, you go through an emotional shock, there is a disruption in your life for some reason. How do you believe that impacts your heart health?

Kathy Magliato: I think there is a definite and definable connection between your heart and your emotions. Some of it is manifested physically. We know that people who are depressed, people who lose a loved one, people who sustain a shock often, as a result, develop heart disease.

One of the things I think you were alluding to was a piece that I did about Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, which is also–it’s a big, long name, but it’s also called Broken Heart Syndrome. There is a very tangible connection to that.

So, for me, I think that emotional and intellectual well-being is just as important as exercise. For me, it’s sort of a two-fister. The exercise and my emotional health go hand in hand. So, I don’t know about you, but when I exercise – and maybe it’s just the endorphins and enkephalins – I do feel better. I feel emotionally more healthy, more spiritual, more grounded, less stressed.

So, I think the beauty is that exercise sort of does both those things. You get fitness and great exercise for your heart, but it also helps on the emotional level. To me, those are inextricably connected. There’s a wealth of data showing especially about depression and loss and its relationship with heart disease.

Kathy Smith: Yeah, I know with me with exercise, everything your mentioned and including yoga how it helped open my heart, and it makes me empathetic just to people around me and their situations. So, I noticed that I need my fix on a daily basis just for my own mental well-being, but also how I go out into the world and how I treat other people.

Let me ask you something. Let’s switch gears for a second. I don’t know how many years ago this was. Probably 10, 12 years ago, I did a campaign across the country and it was on heart disease, but it was talking about male pattern of heart disease and the female pattern and the differences between the two. I know that we have heard on the news and we’ve heard in books and everything that female pattern is often written off and that means the symptoms, because females will start to feel maybe a little tired or they’ll go in because they’re feeling some chest pain and they’re told, “Oh, maybe it’s a little gas,” or “Go home. You’re just probably a little too tired or a little overworked. Take a nap.”

But there are major differences in the way the symptoms appear. Do you see that changing now? Are people starting to notice more and more that females have different symptoms than males or is it still this education process that we have to go through to make sure that when females start to notice something in their bodies, they shouldn’t say, “Oh, I shouldn’t be taking care of myself. I need to take care of everybody else,” but get into your doctor and make note of it.

Kathy Magliato: Well, again, you were a champion of this before anybody was really on board with the fact that heart disease is not just a disease of men. It’s a disease of women and not of old women by the way – of all women. So, women at any age can be affected by heart disease. Of course, we see it more prevalent after the age of 55, that sort of perimenopausal time, but you were out there, Kathy, talking about this when heart disease was sort of a dirty little secret for women.

It’s interesting to note that every year since 1984, which is a long time ago, more women have actually died from heart disease than men. So, again, not a disease of men. What we’re finding is that, to get into your question, is we are doing a better job, I think, of building awareness, of doing as you said, informing women that their symptoms are different, to remind them to get their heart checks when they’re thinking about their mammogram, which we do faithfully every year or their pap or pelvic, that they should be thinking about a cardiac check. Because what I see is what I call the bikini approach to women’s health where we take care of our breasts and gynecologic health and we forget about our most important organ in our body and that’s our cardiac health.

So, again, I just think women putting their heart health first has to be a very important punch line for women, because it’s the most common killer of women, not just in the United States but worldwide.

I work very closely, as you know, with the American Heart Association. I’m the immediate past president of the American Heart Association here in LA. I was just promoted to the western states affiliate board, which is their largest affiliate board. The AHA, I think, has done a great job in changing awareness about heart disease in women. Because the American Heart Association is all about building awareness, education and research.

Because of that, I would say to you, then, that we have made a difference in how we view women with heart disease. Honestly, what it comes down to is women knowing their symptoms and seeing a doctor when they have them, because that is why we lose so many women to this disease, which is about 80% preventable. This isn’t cancer. This is heart disease, and with the things we’re talking about, especially exercise, stress reduction, eating right, not smoking, controlling your blood pressure, if you’re diabetic, controlling your blood glucose.

All those things lower your risk and here we are still number one killer of women after all these years. So, I think we’re making progress; I think we’ve got a long way to go. I really do.

Kathy Smith: Yeah, I agree and I feel like in the last few years for me, I have just made this my mission partially because of the heart disease that runs in my family, but also that I talk to so many women and it’s not top of mind. As you said, I love this idea of bikini health but other issues that they’re always talking about.

Yet, I think that when it’s near and dear to my heart, it actually is a type of thing that my numbers. I notice with all my exercise, with all my eating right, I have to be going to the doctor, I have to be getting my tests, I have to getting my checkups, my cardiac checkups, I have to be doing my follow ups and I feel confident now that I’m on top of it.

There was a time where I was sticking my head in the sand about this, thinking that, “Oh, just because I exercise or just because I eat right that I don’t have to even think about this.” That’s another misconception just that I want to put out there, that you can be doing things that appear on the surface to be right, but you still need that professional to jump in and look at the numbers and just see if there needs to be anything else that you add to the mix. So, I’m glad that you’re mentioning this.

Kathy Magliato:    I just want to point out too, because you bring up your family history. I think for you–and I’m so glad to hear you say this, Kathy, because for you especially, given your dad’s history which, again, is one of those risk factors we cannot change, what you’ve decided to do is you’ve attacked all the other risk factors, and that’s the best you can do.

Because what is amazing to me is to see patients who are obese with high blood pressure. They’re on four or five medications to control their blood pressure. You would not believe that just with simple diet and exercise and weight loss–women ask me, what’s the one thing I can do to maintain good cardiac health. It’s weight loss, because everything gets better. Like you’re saying, your numbers were better, your blood pressure comes down. If you’re a diabetic, your blood sugar comes under control. It’s amazing what these things that we always talk about, diet and exercise, can do to really improve your health.

In my book that you mentioned, Heart Matters, I talk about a case, and every story in the book is a real story. I use these actual stories of women that I’ve taken care of over the years who died to really tell the story of heart disease. Then, around that, as you mentioned, it’s a memoir. You read my story, but one chapter in particular–I think it’s a chapter called “Dead on Arrival”. Actually, it’s called “Drop Dead Gorgeous”. We actually brought in a woman off of a treadmill at a local gym – young, fit, beautifully fit woman dead on arrival to the emergency room with a heart attack.

So, just as you said, Kathy, it doesn’t have anything to do necessarily with your appearance. You can look great and think that you’re fit and, yet, still succumb to heart disease as depicted in that chapter. So, yeah, you’ve got to be on top of those numbers.

Kathy Smith: So, speaking of vanity, belly fat. We hear that belly fat, the fat distribution in your body, if you carry it in your belly that you have a greater chance of having heart disease. Is there anything else you can tell us about fat distribution and what we should be looking for on the outside of our bodies?

Kathy Magliato: Belly fat, again, is quite a fascinating topic. A lot of people think that the adipose or fat tissue around the belly is essentially its own organ. In other words, it acts differently than other fat in our body and tends to be areas where we have buildup of not just fat but that stubborn fat that’s sort of resistant. A lot of us have that. There’s some theories about why it is that that particular fat gives you a higher risk level for heart disease and especially there’s an interplay between estrogen and this fat as well.

So, fat levels are important in the belly which is why we recommend that women maintain a waist circumference of less than 35. So, that is probably one of the things as a risk factor we can talk about just completely independent of our other risk factors. So, it is about waist circumference, and it is a risk factor for heart disease in women.

Kathy Smith: So, this idea of going out and getting fit is not just about vanity, which when I started–I have to say one of the things when I started in the business, I had my first product came out in 1978 and that first video in 1982, and so much of it was thinner thighs, tighter tummy, get those arms in shape. But as it’s involved, what’s just been fascinating and I just love the fact because I stepped into because of health reasons and because of what it did to my brain. I would go out for the run and as we said earlier, I would come back from that run and feel like I could conquer the world even though I was going through a bit of a depression after I lost my dad.

Having said that, now we know that it’s not just about looking good in those clothes and getting in that bikini shape but every single aspect, every single organ in your body and especially your heart is impacted by this fitness/food equation.

Kathy Magliato: Yeah, I absolutely agree. So, of course, many of us are motivated. I was too about exercising for appearance. It’s just that, for me, I don’t care what motivates you. Just go out and do it is the recommendation from AHA, and it’s very easy. It’s 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, four to five days a week, which is what I do. Because you can over do as well and you can stress and strain on the body and your musculoskeletal system.

Whatever it is that’s motivating you, whether it’s–I would love it to be your heart health, but if it’s appearance, great. Because guess what? The byproduct of that is you’re going to achieve good heart health as a result. The most important thing is do it for you. When I made this change in my life probably about a good 18 months ago, honestly, Kathy, I wasn’t exercising at all. It was terrible. Practice what you preach, but I was busy. I didn’t put my health ahead of everyone else’s. I did what every woman does.

Finally, I sat down and said, “I’m going to make a change. This is my change. I want one hour, four days a week that’s mine, including on the weekends.” I engaged my family – the kids and my husband – and said, “This Saturday morning is my morning and that’s my time.” So, that great buy-in from not just you but friends and family to support you in this I think is important as well.

So, yeah, it’s ok by me if you’re motivated because of appearance because guess what? The other thing that’s going to happen out of that is you’re going to look great, feel great and have a beautiful heart. Guess what? You only get one heart. It’s not like a lung where you get two and you can shish kabob one and be ok. You only get the one heart.

Kathy Smith: Well, I love your quote. I’m just going to close with this quote that you have. “We’re all given a certain number of heartbeats and I believe we should live those to the fullest.” You’re living that day in and day out. You wear all these hats, and because of that and because of the way you’re helping women across the country and the world, we love you for that.

It’s been such a treat talking to you, and I think we have to just get on the calendar for TRX workout one of these days.

Kathy Magliato has been my girl crush for so many years. She’s smart, shes articulate, she’s beyond gracious and I feel blessed to know this woman. She’s a dynamo, and as I mentioned earlier in the show, this topic today – heart health – is so near and dear to me. It’s honestly one of the main reasons that I started my path in the health and fitness world.

What I’ve been teaching for decades now is that this balance between cardio, strength training and yoga helps keep your heart muscles working at the most optimum level. So, I don’t need to rattle off lots of reasons why you need to exercise. You know all of them. But get this. Studies have shown that belly fat is a predictor of a person’s risk for heart disease.

So, right now, I want you to do me a favor. This week, try the 10 second string trick. All you do is cut a string to the length of your height. So, I’m 5′ 8″. I would cut a length of string to 5′ 8″. I would fold it in half so it would be half of 5′ 8″ and, then, I would take that string and wrap it around my waist. Now, if the ends of the strings overlap, then your waist is less than your half your height and that’s right where you want to be. If the string is snug, well, you’re not alone. Two-thirds of all women are affected by this abdominal obesity.

So, if you’re a woman that falls in this category or if your waistline is more than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, then this abdominal obesity is starting to impact your health. All I can say is it’s really time to start getting out for a walk and just doing simple things throughout the day to get more movement so that you’re not sitting all day long. Simple walking can be the answer.

Remember, as we go through this whole project together of getting healthy, getting healthy for now, getting healthy for life, I love sharing information with you. So, it’s important that I hear from you and what you want me to talk about, ideas that you might have and your thoughts on this particular show.

Give me a review and, of course, I’d appreciate it if you gave me that five stars. That’s always good. But honestly, your written reviews are so important in helping us to grow the show and give you the latest and greatest information on health. Just one review really bumps the show higher on the iTunes chart so more people can find us. If you promise to write a review this week, I promise to read them because I get up every morning and do that. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say. So, see you next week.

Learn more about Dr. Kathy Magliato: www.drkathymagliato.com