A Handsome Heart
Dr. Rishi Kaushal knows what it takes to have a healthy heart. It may be a challenge, even for him, but everyone has to start somewhere.
- Written byKelly Dawson
Dr. Rishi Kaushal is in the midst of a busy day, but he doesn’t show strain. There are a handful of patients in the waiting room a few steps from the handsome doctor’s office. He moves with calm efficiency and takes a seat in front of an array of framed accomplishments, behind a desk where the red shade of a heart graph matches the same shade on a soda can.
“I always drink water, I never drink soda—but today I decided to have a Coke,” he says, laughing.
Cardiology is Dr. Kaushal’s main specialty at Providence Medical Institute in Torrance, and yet he knows that healthy living isn’t always easy. He mentions how the convenience of processed foods can lure those with busy schedules, and how longtime smokers tell him that it may be too late to quit.
Nevertheless, Dr. Kaushal is confident that a healthier life is never out of reach–even one that includes the occasional sugar indulgence. As he works with the owners of hearts who are as young as 18 and as old as 100, he has a guideline for his advice: Education is key.
“You can have moments when you splurge a little bit. I think small changes are easier to make into habits,” the doctor says. “So rather than reinventing the wheel and deciding to go on a crazy diet and exercise plan tomorrow, start implementing small changes.”
Education, as with any doctor, has been an integral part of Dr. Kaushal’s career. He describes himself as being fascinated with the heart and technological advancements while studying at UCLA, and he is now board-certified in three disciplines. But when his parents became sick and he began accompanying them to doctors’ visits, he gained a better understanding of what it feels like to be an unlearned patient.
“In medical school and training, you spend so long essentially learning the language of medicine, and you become accustomed to speaking that language,” he says. “So you really have to take a step back sometimes and speak plainly. That’s what I try to do. I draw pictures … whatever it takes.”
He tells all of his patients that it’s never too late to prevent health issues, and it’s never too early to identify potential risks. He reminds them of the importance of a balanced diet and frequent exercise, such as eating fish a few times a week and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, five days per week. He warns against foods that are high in sodium, trans fat and saturated fat, and he recommends smaller portions.
“I try to practice what I preach. I’ve slipped a couple of times,” he says. “I try to go to the gym three to four times a week.”
When his exercise routine begins to feel like a chore, Dr. Kaushal may play guard in a basketball game. When he eats out, he aims for options like sushi at Yanagi Bistro. And when he eats in, he cooks with olive oil. As difficult as it can be, you need to protect your heart, he says.
“It can be very easy to get overwhelmed by information, especially when it comes to your heart. But you have to take things in small strides and be persistent.”