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#TMDPresents: The Heart of it All is an original The Man Defined series in partnership with The American Heart Association.  Read the courageous stories of men who have been impacted by heart disease and what they’re now doing to change it’s course and promote healthier lifestyles.  
The Man Defined Presents - The Heart of It All ft. Dr. Babak Navi

Dr. Babak Benjamin Navi


Dr. Babak Navi is a Neurologist at the prestigious Weill Cornell, a clinical researcher, writer and program director. His exuberance for his craft lies in empowerment through educating patients (and possible patients) on living healthier lives and taking preventive measures to avoid heart disease. 

Born and raised in New York, his parents were immigrants from Iran who came to the US in the 1970s in order to establish a better life.  Navi states, “growing up, I was mostly a jock obsessed with sports, particularly basketball, though I was also studious and hard working. I went to public high school in Long Island, followed by college at Emory University, where I was pre-med but also an Economics major – at the time, I wasn’t completely sure that I wanted to go into medicine but I ultimately did and am grateful for having done so.”

Read more about his journey into medicine, what sparked his interest into neurology and his tips for leading a heart healthy life below.



The Man Defined: Tell us about your journey into medicine.

Dr. Babak Navi: After college, I went straight to medical school at NYU, where I graduated with honors. During medical school, I became fascinated with the field of neurology. I was particularly intrigued by the complexity of the brain and its domination over all aspects of human identity, personality, and behavior. I also noticed the many unanswered questions within neurology, which I thought would be great opportunities for research and advancement of science. Therefore, I decided to become a neurologist and completed a neurology residency program at Weill Cornell Medical Center, where I served as the Chief Resident during my final year.


I was intrigued by the complexity of the brain and its domination over all aspects of human identity. -Dr. Navi Click To Tweet


TMD: What sparked your interest in neurology?

BN: In residency, I enjoyed most aspects of practicing neurology but was most drawn to the subspecialty of stroke, which is one of the leading causes of death in the world and the top cause of disability. Stroke is one of the most time-sensitive medical emergencies, and while it does have good treatments, they are generally only effective in the first few hours after onset. I really liked this aspect of the field as I enjoyed its fast pace nature, as well as the opportunity to dramatically improve peoples’ lives through rapid diagnosis and treatment. Therefore, I completed a fellowship in stroke neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. This extra training made me an expert in stroke care and allowed me to return to New York two years later to become the Director of the Stroke Center at NewYork Presbyterian Hospital – Weill Cornell Medical Center, one of the largest stroke centers in the country.

TMD: Tell us about the work that you do now.

BN: I currently lead the stroke program at Weill Cornell but my main focus is clinical research, which is what I devote most of my time to. I am funded by several sources, including the National Institutes of Health, to conduct research aimed to reduce death and disability from stroke through advancements in stroke prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. My main research interest is the association between cancer and stroke. It turns out that cancer and its treatments increase patients’ risk of developing stroke and heart attack through effects on the clotting system and blood vessels. In fact, some cancers, such as lung cancer, are associated with up to a 10% risk of stroke or heart attack in the first year after cancer diagnosis. Furthermore, due to improvements in cancer treatments, patients with cancer are living longer, so preventing cardiovascular events in these patients becomes more important as long-term quality of life becomes the priority. I currently conduct several research studies that are investigating the risks, predictors, mechanisms, and optimal treatments of stroke in patients with cancer. I hope that through these research projects, I can help enhance our understanding of stroke and its relationship with cancer and thereby improve patient care.

TMD:  You do alot of great work with the AHA, how’d you connect with the organization? 

BN: I became involved with the American Heart Association through a few colleagues who champion on their behalf. In 2016, I joined the AHA New York Chapter Young Professional Board and this year the AHA is honoring me with the Young Heart Award for my work and research in stroke. This is a tremendous honor that I am humbled and proud to receive.


Dr. Navi’s Tips for A Healthier Heart

Living a heart healthy lifestyle is paramount for staying fit and something I aspire to, though like most people, I admit that it can be hard to stick to. So what does a heart healthy lifestyle mean?

First, it consists of consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts but low on salt; modest alcohol intake (1-2 glasses of wine daily); and avoiding or minimizing red meat, processed foods, “junk food”, and foods high in saturated fats such as whole milk, cheese, etc. I especially recommend that people eat a Mediterranean diet, which has been shown in several studies to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. This can be difficult if people don’t live in cities where Italian and Greek food are common but cooking for yourself or a small group can make such a diet more feasible and economical. Cooking also allows you to control your ingredients including salt levels, so it’s probably a healthier strategy, if feasible.

Second, and this is an obvious one, don’t smoke. Chronic smoking, including second hand smoking, is associated with a substantially increased risk of stroke, heart attack, cancer, and innumerable other serious medical conditions, so stay away from it. This includes electronic cigarettes, for which there is accumulating evidence regarding its deleterious effects. 

Third, exercise regularly and stay fit. Physical activity is associated with longer lifespans and lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Fourth, watch your weight and avoid obesity. This lifestyle factor is obviously linked to diet and physical activity but it needs to be focused on independently as we are currently living in the “obesity epidemic” which is driving up rates of diabetes, hypertension, and other serious medical conditions.

Fifth, make sure you have a primary medical doctor to get annual medical checkups and to ensure that you are optimizing your medical care. Young people often think they are invincible and that they don’t need a regular doctor but that is far from the truth. Diseases such as hypertension (i.e., high blood pressure), high cholesterol, and diabetes can sneak up on you and don’t always cause symptoms. Hypertension is called the silent killer for a reason as it usually doesn’t cause symptoms until something terrible happens, like a stroke. People of color are particularly at risk for hypertension and therefore they need to be vigilant in monitoring their blood pressure and making sure they have a good doctor to align and work with. When it comes to preventing stroke, if you can control your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels, you will likely be at low risk for developing an attack. Therefore, I stress to my patients to focus on those three measures to stay healthy.

In short – Dr. Navi’s tips for a healthier heart: 

  1. Rich diet of fruits / vegetables , low ( or no):  alcohol , red meat, junk food
  2. Cut out smoking
  3. Exercise regularly
  4. Watch your weight
  5. See a doctor for preventative care

– Dr. Babak Navi


Closing Thoughts


The Man Defined Presents - The Heart of It All ft. Dr. Babak Navi 3

My plans for the future are to continue to advance the stroke program at Weill Cornell – we just launched the first mobile stroke unit in the Eastern seaboard, which will enable stroke neurologist to treat stroke patients in the pre-hospital setting before they reach the hospital thereby saving invaluable time and brain cells – and to continue my investigations linking cancer to stroke. I hope that by the end of my career I’ve made a substantial contribution to science and medicine and that I’ve helped better the lives of stroke patients and the community at large. If anyone is interested in learning more about my work, they can contact my office at 212-746-0225.


#TMDPresents: The Heart of it All is an original The Man Defined series in partnership with The American Heart Association.  Read the courageous stories of men who have been impacted by heart disease and what they’re now doing to change it’s course and promote healthier lifestyles.  
Learn more about the American Heart Association

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