Dr. Robert Masci is a cardiologist who practices what he preaches. The Managing Partner of Cardiology Associates of Sussex County — with offices in Newton, Vernon and Milford, Pa. — doesn't just encourage his patients to eat a healthy diet and exercise: he leads by example. He promotes this way of living not only through February which is Heart Healthy Month but all year long.
He's no stranger to the gym, and most Julys he toes the line at an annual triathlon in Sparta. His formula for health is simple, "Avoid simple carbs and get enough moderate exercise. Not to sound cliche, but by doing this you'll probably add years to your life and definitely add life to your years."
Staying fitDr. Masci wasn't always fit. As a kid, he had trouble buttoning his boy scout uniform, but that all changed when he hit the sixth grade and became enamored with sports. He went on to play baseball and football in high school and dabble in wrestling then wrestled for three years at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Masci said that during his medical residency he gained some weight only to recommit himself to exercise by 1988 when he spent time in San Diego.
He moved to Pennsylvania after spending time in the Navy and it was there that he got the running bug, did his first half marathon and then ran a few full marathons.
These days, Dr. Masci does TRX (suspension training that simultaneously develops strength, balance, flexibility and core stability) every Friday and other days either runs, bikes or hits the gym depending on the weather and time of year. He's a huge fan of a machine called the Power Mill which is a stair stepper that is kind of like being on an escalator and will split his gym time between that and the treadmill where he'll mix it up throwing in a combination of hills, speed and recovery.
"There is exercise for recreation and exercise for fitness," he said. "I advise my patients to exercise for 200 minutes a week at a moderate level."
He said "moderate" is defined by sweating and having a little trouble talking while working out. High intensity exercise he said can be gauged when you can't talk while exercising.
"You have to be willing to feel a little uncomfortable to get the benefits out of exercise," he added, "Sure reading a newspaper while you're on a treadmill is doing something, but if you're going slowly enough to focus on that, you're not at a moderate level."
Diet mistakesDr. Masci said the biggest culprit in the American diet is simple carbohydrates. And they're everywhere — especially in beverages. He also said a big misconception is that juice is good. "Once you put fruit into a blender, you change it. The fiber breaks up and it's concentrated into a whole lot of calories. Orange juice is almost as bad as soda but with vitamins."
His guilty pleasure is dark chocolate.
"You can have two squares which are good sized for four to five grams of sugar verses 15 to 16 grams in the same amount of milk chocolate," he said.
Dr. Masci is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Newton Medical Center and Morristown Memorial Medical Center. He received his medical degree from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and has been in practice for more than three decades. Dr. Masci's clinical interests include: Cardiac Arrhythmia, Cardiac Catheterization, Cardiac Diseases, Cardiac Valve Disease, HeartDisease, Heart Disease & Women, and Heart Failure.
Athletically, this year, Dr. Masci plans to compete in several triathlons including the July 25 Pass It Along Tri in his hometown of Sparta.
"Don't completely deprive yourself because that never ends up well," he said, referencing the occasional doughnut he and his wife will split at Dunkin' Donuts. "Just keep the simple carbs on a strict budget."