Over the past three decades, I have helped thousands of heart patients halt their disease and avoid costly and risky heart surgery. The beauty of my approach is that it helps prevent a host of other diseases as well--including many forms of cancer, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer's, and arthritis.

In this amount of space, I can only give you the highlights of my 10-step program. You can find a more comprehensive discussion of each of these steps, along with the latest scientific studies on why they are beneficial, in my forthcoming book, The Great American Heart Hoax. These are research-based, time-tested, tried-and-true steps to promote overall wellness and longevity. They will make you look and feel great, live longer, and have confidence that you are taking charge of your health.

1. Follow a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.
Eat small amounts of lean protein (poultry and seafood), and plenty of whole grains (rice, quinoa, millet, kasha, oats, whole-grain pasta), beans and nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, garlic, olive oil, and red wine. Treat yourself to dark chocolate, olives, and small amounts of feta and parmesan cheese, and enjoy relaxing meals with family and friends.

2. Exercise regularly.
Get your heart rate up for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Brisk walking, swimming, and biking are great.

3. Manage your stress.
Prayer, yoga, deep breathing, meditation, self-hypnosis, napping, laughter, and loving relationships are all good ways to cope with strain and tension.

4. Control your blood pressure.
Decrease your intake of saturated fat and eliminate trans fat; get plenty of exercise; manage your stress; and stop smoking. If these lifestyle changes aren't enough, there are medications you can take to lower blood pressure.

5. Control your cholesterol.
Consume plenty of fiber from whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Oats, cold water fish, red wine, cinnamon, olive oil, and soy protein are particularly good for lowering cholesterol. If diet alone doesn't get you to your cholesterol goal, there are medications, such as statins, that can help.

6. Reduce free radicals and oxidative stress.
Get plenty of antioxidants in your diet by eating fruits and vegetables from every color group each day--orange, yellow, red, blue, purple, and green. Smoking greatly increases free radicals, as do toxins in the form of pollutants and chemicals in processed foods--so avoid these.

7. Avoid chronic inflammation.
Get lots of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, primarily found in fatty fish, but also in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and walnuts.

8. Prevent metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
One in four Americans have metabolic syndrome, characterized by three or more of the following: (1) abdominal obesity (waist size >40" for men and >35" for women); (2) impaired fasting glucose (>100 mg/dl); (3) high blood pressure (>130/85 mmHg); (4) elevated triglycerides (>150 mg/dl); (5) low "good" HDL cholesterol (<40 for men and <50 for women). Diabetes is defined as a fasting blood sugar in excess of 125 mg/dl.

9. Have an annual physical exam with comprehensive lab.
In addition to the head-to-toe examination, ask your doctor for an advanced lipid test--a comprehensive blood test that detects heart disease risk far better than the standard lipid profile.

10. Avoid unnecessary diagnostic tests and procedures.
Some of the most overused and abused tests, which can lead to dangerous radiation exposure or unnecessary cardiac intervention, include 64-slice CAT scan, nuclear stress tests, coronary calcium scans, cardiac catheterizations, and often coronary stent placements and coronary bypass surgery. A more complete discussion of why these may not be beneficial to your health and well-being appears in my book.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Ozner, MD, FACC, FAHA (drozner.com), is medical director for the Center for Prevention and Wellness at Baptist Health South Florida, and medical director for the Cardiovascular Prevention Institute of South Florida. He is the author of The Great American Heart Hoax: Lifesaving Advice Your Doctor Should Tell You About Heart Disease Prevention (But Probably Never Will) and the best-seller, The Miami Mediterranean Diet, both published by BenBella. Dr. Ozner is recipient of the 2008 American Heart Association Humanitarian Award, and has been recognized by the Consumer Council of America as one of the top physicians in America.