In This Article
In This Article
There’s no secret to a healthy heart—all it takes is healthy living. This includes a eating healthy diet, exercising regularly, and leading a healthier lifestyle overall.
As simple as that sounds, a lot of people don’t know what it means to eat healthy. Many Americans are also unaware of how much exercise they need or what it takes to live healthy.
To make things easier for you, we’ve broken down these important lifestyle changes into a list of things you can do to have a healthier heart.
Our in-house nutritionist and dietitian, Dr. Rizza Mira, also gives additional insights on keeping your heart healthy.
The first step to a healthy heart is to watch what you eat. You need to be mindful of the kinds of food you eat, their ingredients, and how much food and calories you consume.
Here are some tips on taking better care of your heart.
“Overeating can cause short-term and long-term consequences to the body. Shortly after eating, your blood sugar levels may increase suddenly,” explains Dr. Mira.
Excessive blood sugar can cause plaque build-up in the blood vessels. It can decrease blood supply and oxygen to the heart, increasing your risk for heart attacks.1
Over time, the extra calories from overeating are stored as fat. This is reflected in high cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of heart disease.
You can avoid overeating by following these steps:
One way to portion meals is by using a small plate or bowl. This limits your serving size. Foods rich in fiber, proteins, and healthy fats are satiating and can make you less likely to overeat.
Having excess weight can contribute to heart disease and other health conditions. It can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.2
A study of over one million women shows that a higher body mass index increases your risk of developing coronary artery disease.3
The body mass index (BMI) is used to determine if you're obese, overweight, or have a healthy weight. It is calculated using your height and weight.
You should keep your body weight within the normal range (18.5 to 24.9) to lower your risk for heart problems. If you have excess weight, you need to bring it down to a normal level.
Salt or sodium is an essential mineral for maintaining the balance of your body fluids. It also helps with muscle function and sending nerve impulses.4
Too much salt can elevate your blood pressure. Dr. Mira says this strains your heart:
“High blood pressure forces your heart to work extra hard just to pump blood to different organs,” she says. Here are some tips for reducing your salt intake:
Check the nutrition label of any ingredient you use in food. Some examples are condiments, dry rubs, and seasoning. Make sure they have minimal amounts of sodium per serving.
Many fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients that are good for your heart. This is because they contain antioxidants and are usually high in potassium.
Antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene prevent fats and cholesterol from building up inside the walls of your arteries. They can slow down oxidative stress, which can later lead to atherosclerosis.
Potassium helps maintain normal sodium levels. It also lessens the tension in your blood vessels, which can help control high blood pressure.7
Atherosclerosis and high blood pressure (hypertension) increase your risk for heart disease.6,7
Adding more whole and fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet will help lower your risk of developing these conditions.
Whole grains are an excellent source of dietary fiber. Fiber-rich foods have a low-calorie density and can help you manage your weight.8
Studies reveal that a high-fiber diet controls the body's inflammatory reaction. Inflammation is a risk factor for poor heart health.9 Some whole grain products you can add to your diet are:
Unhealthy fats like trans and saturated fats can raise your low-density lipoproteins or LDL levels. LDL is also known as bad cholesterol (You can read about the differences between bad vs. good cholesterol here).
High LDL levels can increase your risk for heart disease.10 It can also cause plaque to build up in your arteries over time, which may lead to heart attacks or stroke.
You can switch to a heart-healthy diet by cutting down on unhealthy fats. Here are some simple ways to do it:
Make sure to check the food labels of the ingredients you want to add to your meals. Avoid food items with high amounts of saturated and trans fats.
A healthy lifestyle can support a healthy diet and help you reach your fitness goals faster. This includes exercising regularly, limiting your alcohol intake, not smoking, and managing your stress.
Regular exercise can reduce your risk factors for heart disease. For example, getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily can help lower your blood pressure.11
According to Dr. Mira, The American Heart Association recommends a total of 150 mins of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity.
Other heart-healthy benefits of exercising include:11
Several studies have also shown that people who work out regularly are less likely to have a heart attack or other life-threatening heart conditions.12,13
Drinking small amounts of alcohol isn’t likely to harm your heart. However, research has linked excessive alcohol consumption to high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.14
A heart condition called alcoholic cardiomyopathy can happen when a person drinks too much alcohol over a long period. The muscles in your heart can become weaker.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting alcohol intake to two drinks or less daily for adult men, and one drink or less daily for women.15
A cigarette has a toxic mix of more than 7,000 chemicals. When you breathe in cigarette smoke, these chemicals get into your blood and go to the rest of your body.
This can harm your heart and blood vessels by causing plaque to build up in the walls of your arteries and veins. It may also affect the transportation of oxygen to your heart and the rest of your body.16
“Heart tissues that are deprived of oxygen are more prone to coronary artery disease,” says Dr. Mira.
Smoking is one of the major causes of cardiovascular disease.17 Your risk for heart disease may also increase if:
If you're a smoker, quitting will help lower your risk and prevent your loved ones from inhaling secondhand smoke.
When you’re stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol. Studies show that long-term stress can lead to elevated cortisol levels. This can increase your triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood pressure.19
Stress management can help you avoid these complications and promote heart health. Here are some things you can do to lower your stress levels:
Identifying what causes your stress can also help you better manage it. You can seek professional help for stress management or relaxation methods.
Heart disease is a serious health condition that can lead to death. Older adults over 45 years are usually at higher risk. However, you can prevent it by living a healthy life.
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Heart disease—also known as coronary artery disease or CAD—happens when one or more blood vessels supplying oxygen to the heart are blocked.
The blocked area loses oxygen. This causes chest pain and the inability of the heart to pump blood throughout the whole body.Dr. Rizza Mira, our in-house medical reviewer.
It is currently the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.20
Anyone can develop heart conditions regardless of gender and age. But women over 45 and men over 55 have a higher risk for heart disease.
Other risk factors of cardiovascular disease include:
Your family history also affects how likely you are to get heart conditions.
The good news is that you can do many things to prevent heart disease. You can avoid having heart disease or heart conditions by making healthy lifestyle choices.
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