A heart-healthy lifestyle can help prevent heart diseases. Being wise, eating healthy, doing physical activities, and staying away from tobacco and alcohol may protect your heart from cardiovascular diseases.

World Heart Day – Its Importance and Significance

Cardiovascular disease is considered the world’s number one killer claiming over 18 million lives each year.

An unhealthy diet, tobacco addiction, and a sedentary lifestyle are some reasons that damage cardiovascular health and put you at risk of getting heart disease and strokes.

World Heart Day is a global campaign celebrated every 29th of September to raise awareness on cardiovascular diseases and prevent CVD with lifestyle changes.

The brainchild of Antoni Bayés de Luna, the president of World Heart Federation (WHF) from 1997–1999, World Heart Day started in 2000.

The annual event engages the global population to fight against CVD burdens, make people aware of heart disease, prevent strokes, and improve heart health across the globe.

Follow These 15 Heart-healthy Habits to Improve Cardiovascular Health Keep Your Heart

Healthy heart diet

1. Switch to a Healthy Diet

Eating healthy is the first crucial step to a healthy heart. A diet rich in vegetables and fresh fruits and devoid of saturated fats, sugars, and salt is beneficial for heart health.

Following the Mediterranean diet would be a good start. The Mediterranean diet includes whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and fish.

You replace butter with olive oil. You limit your red meat consumption to one serving weekly and switch to grilled or baked white meat. The Mediterranean diet also bans processed food loaded with refined carbs, unhealthy fats, and sugar.

This study[1] elaborates on the multiple health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

2. Control Portion Size

Portion sizes play an important role when it comes to healthy eating. Use your hands to determine the ideal portion sizes. Cup together your hands to determine how many vegetables you may want to eat.

For starchy carbs, use a closed fist. The same is applicable for legumes too. Your whole hand would be the perfect size for a fish fillet. To measure meat, red or chicken, use the palm size as the guide.

3. Stop Drinking Sugary Drinks

Drinking sugar-loaded beverages can increase CVD risks. Drinking sugary beverages elevate sugar and insulin levels in the blood and promote weight gain resulting in obesity if it remains unchecked. Furthermore, high sugar levels in the blood may cause insulin resistance, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels, which are bad for heart health.

4. Cut Down on Sodium

You may keep your heart healthy with a low-sodium diet. Many benefits of a low-sodium diet include lowering bad cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and reducing the risk of a heart attack.

When your bloodstream receives more sodium than required, it retains more water, causing blood vessels to swell with additional blood flow. Eliminating excess salt from your diet reduces high blood pressure risks.

Eat Dark Chocolates

5. Eat Dark Chocolates

A heart healthy lifestyle need not be boring and tasteless. You can enjoy dark chocolates that keep your heart happy and healthy. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids – known for their vasodilatory, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. This study[2] indicates moderate intake of dark chocolates may prevent Atrial Fibrillation (AF).

6. Drink Green Tea

Some studies suggest that drinking green tea reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. A study[3] indicates drinking tea reduces the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Catechins in green tea have lipid-lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombogenic, antioxidative, anti-hypertensive, and anti-proliferative effects. Another study confirms the cardioprotective effects of green tea on cardiovascular health.

7. Drink Water

Recent studies suggest drinking water may prevent heart failure. The heart pumps nearly 2,000 gallons of blood per day. Drinking water helps the body stay hydrated and makes the job easier for the heart. Dehydration, on the other hand, thickens the blood, retains sodium, and decreases blood circulation. The Heart Foundation suggests drinking 2.7 liters of water for women and 3.7 liters for men daily.

8. Quit Smoking

If you are addicted to tobacco, you should consider quitting immediately. Cigarette smoke contains harmful chemicals and contaminates the oxygen-rich blood. Your heart and blood vessels get damaged by these harmful chemicals and result in cardiovascular disease.

Cigarette smoke also alters blood chemistry and damages blood cells. Smoking also damages the arteries by narrowing them with a waxy substance called plaque.

This condition limits blood flow to the organs and parts of the body, causing ischemic heart disease. By quitting smoking, you can prevent or minimize developing CVD. More details on the harmful effects of smoking are available here[4].

Keep Checking Your Numbers

9. Keep Checking Your Numbers

To keep your heart healthy, you also need to be aware of the following facts:

Your blood pressure – High blood pressure is bad news for heart health and may cause heart attack and stroke. People suffering from high blood pressure may experience headaches or shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, or nosebleeds. However, some may not have any symptoms at all.

So, checking your blood pressure regularly will help determine if you need medical attention and the necessary steps to control it. By making dietary modifications, increased physical activities, and medication, you may control high blood pressure.

Your blood sugar – Hyperglycemia or high blood sugar heightens your risk of getting heart attacks or strokes. It is wise to check if you are at risk.

Your cholesterol level – High cholesterol levels damage your arterial health by making fatty deposits in your blood vessels, causing atherosclerosis. Plaque on the artery walls can lead to arterial blockage and cause heart attacks. It is crucial to check your cholesterol level to keep your heart healthy.

Your family health history – Do you have a family history of CVDs? Though the role of genetics is still elusive on this matter, here’s a study[5] that may help you find out. The CDC suggests you collect and share your family health history with your doctor to determine if you are at risk.

10. Get Your Body Moving

Does your job require you to sit for a long time? Do you have a sedentary lifestyle with minimal movement? Your heart is at risk if the answers are affirmative.

So if your job requires you to sit in front of a computer for hours, take regular breaks, move your body, stand, and walk for a while to keep your heart healthy. You may use a fitness tracker to measure if you have a sufficient level of activity.

One review brings out the relationship between sedentary behavior and exercise and how it impacts cardiovascular health.

11. Practice Yoga

Yoga, the ancient Indian form of exercise, can significantly improve heart health. Stress contributes a lot to CVDs. Some studies point out that yoga is an effective stress buster.

Chronic stress can cause high blood pressure. By enhancing your mood, yoga can improve your overall well-being. Different poses of yoga improve cardiovascular health and blood circulation, help fight stress, among others.

Some yoga poses can help improve metabolism and keep your heart healthy by lowering high cholesterol and blood sugar levels. As this scientific review[6] indicates, yoga may be used as a safe weapon to combat CVD.

12. Exercise

Search for healthy heart tips, and exercise will come up as a must for improving and maintaining heart health. Regular exercise keeps the blood pressure in control, controls weight, strengthens your muscles, and helps control blood sugar. Exercise also lowers stress by releasing endorphins and promotes a positive feeling in the body.

Get Enough Sleep

13. Get Enough Sleep

Does sleep impact your heart health? Research suggests so. A heart-healthy lifestyle needs to have adequate sleep. If you sleep less than 7 hours every night, you are at risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, unhealthy weight gain, and heart diseases.

Sleep apnea, one of the common sleep conditions, may block your airways when you sleep and stop the breathing cycle resulting in heart failure. Insomnia is another sleep condition that is connected to high blood pressure.

What can you do to improve these conditions? First, visit a doctor if you have trouble sleeping. Additionally, you may increase physical activities, perform yoga, avoid blue light before bedtime, and follow a regular sleep schedule.

14. Lose Weight

Shedding those extra pounds not only makes you look attractive in a bikini but also improves your heart health considerably. Health experts say excessive fat around midsection increases the risk of heart problems.

One of the healthy heart tips of all time is maintaining a healthy weight. So it is wise to put effort into getting rid of that muffin top you may sport.

Healthy weight is also linked to blood pressure. When you maintain the ideal weight, your blood pressure becomes normal. When you lose weight, it improves the heart’s pumping rate and thickness of heart muscle tissues, enhances relaxation, and thickens carotid artery walls.

Excessive body fat damages the liver and creates metabolic problems. When the production of fat particles increases, it increases triglycerides in the blood, increasing CVD risks. Mindful eating, calorie restriction, and vigorous exercise are three proven ways to lose weight.

15. Banish Stress

Chronic stress has become a part of our lives. Whether professional or personal, the stress starts sneaking into our lives and takes a toll on our overall health and well-being, including heart health.

Under emotional stress, the body’s natural stress response system secretes stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones raise blood pressure and sugar levels. Also, chronic stress doesn’t allow the body to recover from the changes, which may affect artery health.

A heart-healthy lifestyle will benefit from yoga and meditation. Yoga has been an effective way to control stress. Meditation and deep breathing practiced in yoga help relieve stress. There are other methods to destress, including music therapy, taking a stroll in nature, and having friends around for a good laugh.

The Bottom Line – What Else Can You Do to Keep Your Heart Healthy?

Apart from these 15 heart-healthy lifestyle tips, what else can you do to improve your heart health? The American Heart Association suggests smart grocery shopping with heart-check certified foods, including fruits, whole grains, vegetables, nuts, fish, poultry, and lean meats. Buying heart-healthy foods will make sense as the consumers know the nutrition facts in detail from the labels.

Practicing mindful eating is another way to prevent overeating and weight gain. Keeping a food journal can help you stick to your heart-healthy lifestyle.

Finally, though small lifestyle changes may improve your heart health, it is imperative to see a cardiologist if you have a family history of CVD or diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. If your systolic reading varies within 130-139 and your diastolic reading ranges from 80-89, you should consider an appointment with a cardiologist or physician.