5 Ways to Improve Your Heart Health

Your heart has an essential job to do. It works round the clock — without any effort on its owner’s part — to ensure sufficient blood and oxygen reach your organs. 

Heart disease is a threat to the normal functioning of the heart. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women; one person dies every 34 seconds from cardiovascular disease.

Taking care of your heart health should be one of your top priorities. Keep reading for simple tips on how to improve your heart health and maintain overall wellness.

How to Improve Your Heart Health: 5 Tips

How can you make your heart health a part of your daily habits?

1. Exercise Regularly

Daily physical exercise is vital for your heart health. For starters, humans weren’t meant to sit all day. We were designed to move! Studies have shown that sedentary behaviors are highly correlated with cardiovascular diseases. In other words, remembering to get up and challenge your body a little bit every day, even if that means a brisk walk, can help you fight heart disease.

mom and daughter stretching to improve heart health

Furthermore, regular physical activity strengthens your heart muscles, reduces stress hormones, increases blood flow to the heart, raises HDL cholesterol levels, and helps control blood pressure. 

If you have a gym membership, use it! If you find going to the gym hard, you can:

  • Opt for the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Take your pet for a walk.
  • Jog around your neighborhood.

Ensure you move your body for at least 10 minutes a day to keep your heart healthy. Ideally, you get out of breath enough that it’s tougher to carry on a conversation. This means that your heart and lungs are getting a good workout.

2. Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy diet helps manage the risk of cardiovascular disease. The European Society of Cardiology asserts that unhealthy diets are a top factor that leads to heart disease-related deaths.

Eating large amounts of processed foods, sugary foods and snacks, and unhealthy fats increases your risk of heart disease. In addition, they increase your chances of weight gain, diabetes, unhealthy blood pressure, and hypertension — which strains your normal heart function.

Perfection is unrealistic and not necessary! Keep the 80/20 rule in mind. 80% of the time, you want to be eating a healthy, wholesome, nutritious diet. 20% of the time, give yourself more room to indulge. Foods that can improve your heart health include fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, whole grains, beans, and nuts.

man and woman eating lunch

3. Avoid Stress

Stress is a normal part of life. In fact, to a degree, it can be healthy. However, having too much stress for an extended period time is bad for your heart health (not to mention your mental health). Chronic stress increases the risk of high blood pressure, leaving you vulnerable to a heart attack. 

Each time you experience stress, your adrenaline goes up, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Moreover, your level of cortisol (your body’s main stress hormone) goes up. A high cortisol level increases blood sugar, glucose, and triglycerides, which blocks the arteries, increasing the possibility of a heart attack.

Stress also contributes to unhealthy behaviors that increase the risk of heart disease. When stressed, you’re more likely to smoke more, drink alcohol excessively, eat an unhealthy diet, sleep less, and remain more sedentary. 

Having go-to habits and routines for managing your stress can help you improve your heart health. The following are some ways you can manage your stress.

  • Have a good sleeping routine. Aim to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day.
  • Manage your work-life balance. When work is done, unplug from your inbox and other tasks.
  • Reach out to a friend for support when stressed. Isolation can exacerbate your stress. 
  • Stay active. Even if it’s putting on music and dancing around the room for 10 minutes, move your body.
  • Practice relaxation. Mindfulness, meditation, breathwork, and journaling can all help. 
  • If it’s constant stress, talk to a professional. You might need treatment like therapy or medication (and that’s okay!). Also, stay on top of your annual physical exams. This should be part of your preventative healthcare.

4. Quit Smoking

Tobacco smoke has negative effects on your cardiovascular system. According to the CDC, about eight million people in the US have a heart attack yearly, cigarette smoking being one of the main causes.

woman smoking cigarette

Cigarette smoke contains nicotine, a harmful chemical that increases blood pressure and inflames the arteries, therefore blocking blood flow to the other essential organs of your body. Other negative impacts of tobacco on your cardiovascular system are irregular heartbeat, hypertension, and stroke.

Quitting smoke has many benefits for your heart health. The FDA states that your heart rate drops 20 minutes after you quit smoking and the carbon monoxide level drops back to normal after 12 hours, leading to sufficient oxygen reaching the heart.

5. Maintain a Moderate Weight

Excess weight increases your chances of developing heart disease. If you’re overweight, your heart has to work harder to pump blood to your body parts. This extra work by your heart increases blood pressure, thus increasing your chances of heart disease and stroke.

Increased body weight is also linked to a decrease in high-density lipoproteins cholesterol and a spike in low-density lipoproteins cholesterol and triglycerides, which aren’t good for your heart health. An increase in LDL leads to a buildup of fatty plaque inside the cardiovascular system and blocks the blood vessels, which makes it harder for oxygen to reach the heart.

Being overweight is also associated with diabetes, a risk factor for heart disease. The American Heart Association states that approximately 68% of people aged 65 years and older with diabetes die of a heart attack. People with diabetes usually have high sugar levels, which affect the heart muscle, leaving it vulnerable to disease. 

Obesity also causes inflammation in your blood vessels and obstructive sleep apnea, limiting the oxygen flow to your heart.

You can maintain a healthy weight by eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and sitting less.

The heart is an essential organ in your body. Keeping it in great shape ensures it’s strong and can do its job to keep you alive and healthy.

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Author: Jonathan Baktari MD

CEO of e7health and US Drug Test Centers

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Jonathan Baktari MD

Jonathan Baktari, MD brings over 20 years of clinical, administrative and entrepreneurial experience to lead the current e7 Health team. He has been a triple board-certified physician with specialties in internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine. He has been the Medical Director of The Valley Health Systems, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Culinary Health Fund and currently is the CEO of two healthcare companies.
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