1. Eat heart-healthy foods
That old adage is true—food really is medicine! Fueling our bodies with nutrient-dense, heart-healthy foods lays the foundation for cardiovascular wellness. Embrace a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Eat colorful produce, such as berries, leafy greens, and citrus fruits, abundant in antioxidants and vitamins that support heart health. Opt for lean sources of protein like fish, poultry, beans, and legumes, and prioritize unsaturated fats found in olive oil, nuts, and seeds. By providing our bodies with wholesome foods, we fortify our hearts.
2. Stay active with regular exercise
Any exercise is better than none. Try to engage in regular aerobic exercises that elevate heart rate. But if you are new to exercise, start low and slow. Ask your doctor what activities would be safe for you to start.
3. Manage stress
Chronic stress can exact a toll on our heart health. A 2023 study published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that employers who implemented strategies to help employees have better work/life balance saw a reduction in cardiovascular disease equivalent to five to 10 years of age-related heart changes. Take time to learn stress-management techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or mindfulness practices. Prioritize self-care activities such as spending time in nature or learning a new skill.
4. Prioritize quality sleep
Quality sleep helps our mental and physical health. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, prioritizing consistent sleep-wake schedules and welcoming sleep environment. Minimize exposure to electronic devices before bedtime, practice relaxation techniques, and establish bedtime rituals that signal the body to unwind.
5. Maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels are significant risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Don’t wait until there’s a problem to check your blood pressure. Ask your doctor how you can manage healthy levels of blood pressure and cholesterol.
6. Limit alcohol consumption and avoid tobacco
Excessive alcohol consumption and tobacco use pose serious threats to heart health. Limit alcohol intake to moderate levels—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and refrain from smoking or using tobacco products altogether. Your heart will thank you! And the rewards to your health come quickly. A former smoker’s heart rate returns to normal 20 minutes after his last cigarette. Talk to your doctor about a tobacco cessation program.
7. Maintain social connections
Friends are good for your heart! Meaningful interactions with loved ones, friends, and the greater community helps to build a sense of belonging and purpose. Call a friend, write a letter, or sign up to volunteer with the food back. Lean on social networks for encouragement, companionship, and resilience-building amidst life’s challenges.