8 Ways To Maintain Good Heart Health

Heart disease remained the leading cause of death in the United States in 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While genetics may make you more susceptible to heart disease, the best way to avoid cardiac (or heart) issues is to maintain good heart health. According to the American Heart Association, many risk factors can be modified or controlled (AHA).

Holly S. Andersen, MD, an attending cardiologist and associate professor of clinical medicine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical College, told Health, “Lifestyle plays a major role in heart health.” It is more essential than genetics. Dr. Andersen’s statement is right on target. According to the American Heart Association, 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke, can be prevented.

Dr. Jennifer Haythe, associate professor of cardiology at the Center for Advanced Cardiac Care, associate director of the adult pulmonary hypertension program, and director of the cardio-obstetrics program at Columbia University Irving Medical Center concurred. “Many cardiovascular diseases are preventable,” stated Dr. Haythe to Health. If individuals take care of their hearts in their twenties, thirties, and forties, they will not need to see a cardiologist for the majority of their lives.

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So what exactly can you do to obtain a clean cardiology report card? Here are some suggestions for altering your routine to maintain a healthy heart as you age.

7 Ways To Maintain A Healthy Heart

1. Exercise on the majority of weekdays

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous exercise. Can’t pull that off? You can train harder in a shorter amount of time: The American Heart Association also recommends 75 minutes per week of “vigorous aerobic activity” or a combination of moderate and intense exercise.

Keep in mind that the AHA recommends distributing your exercise throughout the week as opposed to attempting to complete it all in one or two days. Dr. Andersen said, “Physical activity is the fountain of youth.” “It improves cardiovascular system efficiency.” If it is difficult to fit in an actual workout every day, Dr. Andersen suggests aiming to do something “to get your heart rate up” every day. (Walking counts as exercise too.)

2. Maintain a Good Blood Pressure Range

Annual physical examinations exist for a reason. According to Dr. Haythe, your healthcare provider can screen you for heart disease symptoms and monitor your blood pressure. Knowing your blood pressure is vitally important. According to the CDC, uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, despite the fact that there are no specific symptoms of hypertension (high blood pressure). If you and your healthcare provider are monitoring your blood pressure, you can take corrective action if it begins to rise.

If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, it is essential to adhere to your doctor’s instructions. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you alter your lifestyle or prescribe you medication. If you have been prescribed medication, take it regularly. You may also wish to equip yourself with a home blood pressure cuff so that you can regularly monitor your blood pressure.

3. Look Into Your Diet

Diet is a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle. While the Mediterranean diet receives extensive media coverage for its emphasis on healthy fats and fresh ingredients, the AHA and MedlinePlus also recommend the DASH diet for heart health.

The DASH diet is an eating plan based on research from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, if you’re unfamiliar with it (NHLBI). Dietary approaches to prevent hypertension (DASH) According to research cited by MedlinePlus, a DASH diet reduces high blood pressure and improves cholesterol, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease. The DASH diet generally adheres to many of the same principles as the Mediterranean diet but allows for greater consumption of dairy and meat.

However, there is a reason why the Mediterranean diet is so popular. This eating pattern has the most evidence supporting its ability to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. A 2018 study involving 7447 participants and published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that individuals at high risk for cardiovascular disease who followed a Mediterranean diet were less likely to experience a major cardiovascular event than those who consumed a reduced-fat diet.

According to the AHA, the Mediterranean diet encourages you to consume and limit the following foods:

  • Consume an abundance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and pulses or legumes.
  • Include a variety of nutritious fats in your diet. Pour on the olive oil extra virgin! Additionally, avocados, seeds, and nuts are healthy fat sources.
  • Moderation is advised when consuming low-fat or fat-free dairy products, eggs, and poultry.
  • Have low to moderate fish quantities. Omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties, are abundant in fish. In addition, you’ll have many mealtime options due to the abundance of seafood. Also, consider fish caught or farmed sustainably.
  • Wine is acceptable in small to moderate quantities, preferably with meals.
  • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets. For instance, choose fruit over sugary desserts.
  • Reduce intake of red meat. Choose seafood or poultry instead.
  • Avoid eating processed foods. Plant-based foods with minimal processing are preferable to highly processed foods such as chips and processed meats.

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4. Consider Your Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight for the heart is comparable to locating the “Goldilocks zone.” A 2017 study published in the journal Medicine suggests that being underweight may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (Baltimore). Underweight was defined in this study as a body mass index (BMI) below 18.5 kg/m2.

The study utilizes Body Mass Index (BMI) to measure the degree of obesity; however, BMI is an outdated and flawed measure. It does not account for body composition, ethnicity, gender, race, or age. Even though it is a biased measure, BMI is still widely used in the medical community because it is a cheap and quick method for assessing a person’s potential health status and outcomes.

Being overweight or obese can also increase the risk of heart disease. The authors of a 2021 Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association published in the journal Circulation wrote that obesity directly contributes to cardiovascular risk factors, including dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and sleep disorders. Independent of other cardiovascular risk factors, obesity also leads to the development of cardiovascular disease and death from cardiovascular disease.

Reducing overall body fat mass may have several heart health benefits for obese individuals. Exercise and dietary modifications (as mentioned previously) are two ways to achieve this. Always consult with your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment options for you.

Take your efforts to reduce stress seriously. According to the AHA, stress can be hard on the heart, but it can also lead to inactivity and overeating, which can cause high blood pressure and cholesterol. And this can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

However, it is difficult to avoid stress. Dr. Haythe stated, “We’re all so anxious right now.” It’s tough. Dr. Annapoorna Kini, interventional director of the structural heart program at Mount Sinai Hospital, suggests incorporating meditation and deep breathing exercises into your daily routine; they only take a few minutes.

5. Don’t Smoke

Most people are now aware that smoking is associated with a variety of serious health problems. According to Medline Plus, cigarette smoking raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Dr. Kini stated, “Smoking is bad for the heart and lungs; it’s bad in every way.” Dr. Haythe described quitting smoking as “the single most important thing you can do” to reduce your risk of heart disease.

6. Consider Reserving Alcohol For Unique Events

There are contradictory messages regarding alcohol and cardiovascular health. A 2017 study published in the AHA journal Circulation suggested that drinking one glass of red wine per day can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease, but the AHA reports that there is no evidence that drinking red wine improves heart health. Dr. Haythe stated, “There’s a lot of hype about red wine being good for the heart, but in general, alcohol is a heart toxin.”

Dr. Haythe recommended that people limit their drinking to special occasions. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women should consume no more than one alcoholic beverage per day, while men should consume no more than two.

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7. Aim For An Appropriate Amount of Sleep

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that most adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. If you consistently fall below that, you could be causing damage to your heart. Dr. Andersen stated, “Poor sleep has been linked to high blood pressure and can make it difficult to lose weight.” It can also reduce your motivation to exercise, which is bad for your heart.

According to Dr. Kini, sleep is also a good time for your heart to recharge. “When you sleep, your heart rate decreases, your hormones stabilize, and you’re not under a great deal of stress,” Dr. Kini explained. It is beneficial to your heart and overall health.

  • Do you know how a healthy weight can positively impact heart health?

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