What Does a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Look Like?

Heart health is smart health at any age. And taking steps to promote heart health is one of the smartest things you can do for yourself both for now and later.

Check out 6 ways you can improve heart health. Try upping your game in these areas to really show your heart some love.

1. Eat Better

What you eat goes a long way to helping your heart be at its healthiest. Get more:

  • Fish. Deep-sea or cold-water fish are best, but just about any fish has important omega-3 fatty acids. These polyunsaturated fatty acids support healthy blood pressure and vascular health. Eat salmon or tuna once or twice a week.
  • Dark colored fruits. Blueberries and red grapes have anthocyanins that help support healthy blood vessels. Many of these fruits – and their juices, or wine – naturally contain resveratrol that can help protect blood vessel walls.
  • Nuts. Many nuts also contain good fats that support heart health. Walnuts and almonds have omega 3s and have been shown to help support cholesterol levels in the normal range. Snack on them once or twice a day to give your heart some love. 
  • Tofu and edamame. Both of these contain soy protein, which can help support healthy cholesterol levels.
  • Whole oats and flax seed. These foods have natural fiber, which helps you feel full. And flax seeds also provide omega-3s and beneficial lignans.

2. Exercise

Regular movement is critical to keeping your heart healthy. Getting 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day five times a week can help lower your risk for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the U.S. Regular exercise also helps reduce blood pressure.

Exercise can also improve cholesterol levels. Physical activity correlates directly with HDL (good) cholesterol numbers. If your HDL is low, get going! Moving your body more causes your heart to beat faster, pumping more blood and working out your heart and circulatory system in addition to your muscles.

3. Sleep

How’s your bed? Is it more like a burrito than something to sleep on? Are you tossing and turning trying to get comfy? 

What about your bedroom? Do you stay awake because of noise, light or because you enjoyed too much screen time before bed? 

You may need to change your habits, your furniture and whatever else to find your sleep zone.

Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons released the results of a sleep study that showed just how much sleep affects the cardiovascular system. 

“The heart likes consistent sleep, according to some of the most recent research on sleep and heart health. In a study that followed older adults for five years, those with the most irregular sleep schedules were nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those with more regular sleep patterns.”

The study also found that:

  • “Sleep inconsistency may disturb the body’s circadian rhythms. Heart rate, blood pressure, and other cardiovascular functions…may become disrupted by inconsistent sleep.”
  • “People who do not get enough sleep are also more likely to develop high blood pressure.”
  • “Lack of sleep also promotes inflammation.”

Take steps to get quality, regular sleep. Try to get 7-9 hours each night. And remember, you might need to change some habits. Consider:

  • Upgrading your mattress, sheets, pillow or other sleep apparatus. 
  • Wearing earplugs or eye mask to knock out noise and light.
  • Don’t keep your phone by your bed. Charge it in the kitchen so it can’t interrupt your vital sleep.
  • Catch up on your sleep whenever you can. Napping is for adults too!

4. Manage Stress

Stress does a number on the circulatory system. But it can be difficult if not impossible to control.

Determine, if you can, the source of your stress. Is it something you can act on? Do what you can about it, and use different tools for help dealing with it. Try:

  • Exercise. Movement releases endorphins in the brain, which can really help with mental health. Don’t know where to start? Take a walk in nature.
  • Self-care. Get a massage. Or spend an hour soaking in the tub.
  • Meditate. Take a 10-minute time out and check out a mindfulness meditation video.
  • Try yoga for centering, calming and to stretch tense muscles.
  • Volunteer. Volunteering is GOOD for your health. It reduces stress and provides a sense of meaning. 
  • Nap. Feeling rested helps you think clearly and is likely to help offset stress.

5. Supplement

If you’re like most people, you aren’t getting enough fish and other heart-healthy nutrients in your diet to make a big difference. So supplements are a fantastic option. Try adding one or two of these to your routine, and your heart will thank you.

  • CoQ10. This nutrient supports energy production and promotes healthy cardio function. It also helps maintain already normal blood pressure levels. 
  • l-arginine. This amino acid is heavily involved in circulatory health. It is actually the precursor to nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels and improves flow. Studies show that higher nitric oxide levels are linked with increased vitality, stamina, recovery, lower blood pressure and with both physical and sexual performance.
  • Fish oil (EPA, DHA). Fish oil provides omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for the heart, blood pressure, brain, eyes, lungs, reproduction, mood, focus and memory.
  • Calcium/Magnesium. The body needs both of these minerals to support muscle health and function. And what is your heart? The most important muscle you have.
  • Hawthorn berries have antioxidants called flavonoids that support the circulatory system. They have been used for centuries to promote circulatory health.
  • Ginkgo. This ancient leaf helps with circulatory function to the brain and the extremities.

6. Other Tips

  • If you smoke or vape, get help quitting. Smoking narrows and thickens your blood vessels. It also reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, forcing your heart to work harder.
  • Limit your intake of salt, sugar, simple carbs, alcohol and both saturated (red meat and dairy) and trans (chips, cookies, fast food) fats.
  • Work toward a healthy weight. Try to have a BMI of 24 or lower. People who carry extra weight around the middle have a higher risk of heart disease. Start with this simple guideline from the Mayo Clinic:

Men’s waistline – 40 inches or less  |  Women’s waistline – 35 inches or less




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