While some risk factors like genetic or medical conditions play a role in your overall heart health, there are many controllable lifestyle factors you change to help improve your overall well-being and support your heart.
You’ve heard the phrase you are what you eat. It turns out there is some truth to the saying! In fact, by eating well you can change your hormone balance, weight, and of course, improve your heart health. By choosing healthy foods and cutting out high-risk ones, you can help cut down on your risk of heart attack and stroke.
For the most heart-healthy options, choose foods like fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, low-fat diary, whole-grains, and lentils. You’ll also want to eat enough protein, but it’s how you prepare it that’s the most important. While fish and nut are great sources, if you’re making a lean cut of poultry or red meat, try to bake, broil, or roast the meat over frying.
If you still need inspiration for your meals, you can search meals from the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) or Mediterranean diet for more heart-healthy ideas.
A great way to boost your heart strength is by regularly exercising. When you work out, more oxygen gets delivered to your body, your lungs expand their capacity for air, you burn calories, and blood flows more easily throughout your system. In the longer term, you may even notice a decrease in your blood pressure and LDL or “bad” cholesterol, both of which are negative markers for heart health when elevated.
Getting started is easier than you think. Even 30 minutes per day, most days of the week is enough to start showing positive benefits. You can also start new habits like taking the stairs more often, parking farther away to encourage walking, taking a quick walk during your lunch break, or joining a fitness class that you enjoy.
Managing stress has a critical impact on your overall health. When in high-stress situations, many people reach for unhealthy habits to cope, such as smoking, eating junk food, staying in bed, or skipping out on their medications.
As your cortisol and inflammation levels rise, you may begin to experience fatigue, mood swings, headaches, pain, and an overall feeling of malaise, which makes it even harder to keep up with healthy lifestyle choices.
If stress is left unchecked for too long, you may also notice an increase in blood pressure, further increasing your risk for blood clots. By finding ways to remain positive, grateful, and retain a sense of purpose, you can potentially lower your blood pressure and reduce other factors that contribute to heart attacks.
A healthy lifestyle is built upon making good everyday decisions. Enjoy your favorite sweets or alcoholic beverages, but only in moderation. That way you won’t skip out on any of the joy, but you can still stay on track with your health goals. If you’re a smoker, consider talking to a professional about the best way to quit.
Sleep is an often overlooked part of heart wellness. Sleep is vital to proper bodily functioning and repair. If you consistently get less than 7 hours of sleep per night, you might be compromising your health.
Studies have shown that getting less than 7 hours per night may even lead to high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. If you’re struggling to sleep due to a medical condition like insomnia or sleep apnea, make sure to talk to your doctor about the best treatment for you.