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Heart Doctor Is Next Cereal Box Celebrity

New York cardiologist preaches heart-healthy lifestyle

TUESDAY, Oct. 26, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Golf great Tiger Woods has been there. So have hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, cycling champ Lance Armstrong and soccer star Mia Hamm.

Now, cardiologist and women's heart health expert Dr. Nieca Goldberg is poised to become the first doctor ever featured on a cereal box.

In January, food giant General Mills will roll out 2.5 million boxes of Wheat Chex and Multi-Bran Chex, each displaying Goldberg's face on the cover of her book, Women Are Not Small Men: Life Saving Strategies For Preventing and Healing Heart Disease. A list of diet and exercise tips aimed at maintaining cardiovascular health will appear next to Goldberg's book.

"I always associated cereal boxes with having an athlete on the box, so now I think of myself as sort of an 'athlete for health,'" Goldberg said.

Goldberg is chief of the Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention Center at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, and an assistant clinical professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine. She's also a frequent national spokeswoman for the American Heart Association (AHA), although that group played no role in her work with General Mills.

"This is largely an initiative of the company," Goldberg said. "I think they really wanted to get involved with promoting not only healthy eating but also healthy lifestyles. And to also take the initiative in really targeting women and increasing their awareness of heart disease. That's tremendous, because in this country only 13 percent of women think of heart disease as their greatest health threat, even though one in every two women will die of heart disease."

Goldberg said she's happy to appear on Wheat Chex and Multi-Bran Chex, in particular, because they are both heart-healthy whole-grain products. "When you look at something that has a whole grain, it's not just about fiber because whole grains have minerals and antioxidants, also very important for the heart," she said.

One recent study, involving data on the diets of more than 350,000 men and women, found that for every 10 grams of cereal fiber consumed daily, risks for death from heart disease dropped by 25 percent.

AHA President Dr. Alice Jacobs said she supports Goldberg's work with these products. "The AHA is always in favor of educating the public on how to make heart-healthy lifestyle choices," she said, adding that she's "not aware of any clinician appearing on a cereal box before."

Jacobs said the AHA doesn't consider Goldberg's appearance on the cereal boxes "an endorsement" of either product. "The content on the box is basic heart health information," she said.

Goldberg said her appearance is largely unpaid, with General Mills only covering her expenses.

She said she's happy to spread the high-fiber message. "When you think of the millions of people every morning getting up, reading the back of these cereal boxes -- I think something like 80 percent of people read the cereal box twice. So they're going to get tips first thing in the morning on how to start a healthy day," Goldberg said.

More information

The American Heart Association also puts its "heart-check mark" on various food products.

SOURCES: Nieca Goldberg, M.D., chief, Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention Center, Lenox Hill Hospital, and assistant clinical professor, medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York City; Alice Jacobs, M.D., president, American Heart Association
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