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How To Improve Heart Health: 29 Things You Should Do

How To Improve Heart Health: 29 Things You Should Do
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February is the month of love, and it’s time to show some of that love to your heart and cardiovascular system.

Your heart keeps you ticking by beating around 100,000 times every day. That’s equal to over 2,000 gallons of blood being pushed around your body!

Loving your heart means learning how to improve heart health and reduce the risk of a heart attack.

There are dozens of options for you to try that will positively impact your heart over time. From working out more often to reap the benefits of exercise to changing the way you eat to minimize the collection of dangerous LDL cholesterol, you can choose your own adventure as you develop a heart-healthy diet that works for you.

To help you get started in 2024, here is a collection of heart-healthy tips you can implement to begin seeing changes in your cardiovascular health immediately.

29 Things To Do in February To Improve Your Heart’s Health

This February is leap year, and you’ll have 29 days to work toward improving heart health.

Try one of these healthy heart tips daily or incorporate all these changes to make February your healthiest month.

1. Choose healthier oils

Choosing healthier oils is a great way to improve your diet. Opt for oils like canola, avocado, grapeseed, and olive. These are all categorized under the PUFA/MUFA category, which means they are unsaturated fats that help reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.

2. Opt for healthier cooking methods

The way you cook your food can make a difference in how healthy it is. Rather than frying your food, consider sauteing, steaming, baking, or grilling it instead. Just be careful if you’re cooking with oil—it’s important to opt for oils with higher smoke points.

3. Switch to whole grains

While plenty of people enjoy white bread and crackers, switching to whole grains is healthier for your heart. Replace refined grains with whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, and quinoa. Doing so will help control cholesterol and improve your heart-healthy diet.

4. Include leafy greens in your diet

Leafy greens should make an appearance in a heart-healthy diet. Consuming leafy greens, including kale, romaine, and spinach, provides your body with essential nutrients that help reduce the risk of heart disease later in life.

5. Include plant sterols in your diet

Plant sterols, natural compounds found in plants that aid in lowering cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, are excellent for your heart. To get more in your diet, look for them in foods that naturally contain or are fortified with plant sterols.

Some healthy foods you can eat to get additional plant sterols include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Fortified spreads and margarines

You can also get plant sterols in dietary supplements, which can be a good choice if you have other dietary restrictions to keep in mind.

6. Incorporate fatty fish into your meals

You know fatty fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, but did you know that these same nutrients help promote heart health? Add fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel into your diet at least twice weekly to see the greatest benefits. You can try to add these fish to your diet in soup, sushi, or baked dishes paired with healthy vegetables and whole-grain bread.

7. Reduce sodium intake

If you deal with high blood pressure and want to help your heart, you may want to cut back on sodium. The recommended intake is no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. Lowering your sodium intake can help bring your blood pressure down and lessen risk of heart attack.

8. Practice stress management techniques

Stress is rarely good for the body, especially when it’s chronic. That’s why you have to get rid of as much of it as possible as you make heart-healthy lifestyle changes.

You can try several stress-reduction techniques, such as practicing grounding techniques and taking your pulse to understand when your stress levels are rising. You can also start engaging in deep-breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation.

These help calm you down, relax, and feel your best while building a strong heart.

9. Get enough quality sleep

Getting enough sleep is an excellent way to strengthen heart and health. Adults should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night to help shrink the risk of cardiovascular disease.

10. Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water makes a big difference in how you feel, and it prevents dehydration that makes it harder for your body to function properly. Water helps the body regulate its temperature and can influence brain function, too.

As with other systems in the body, good hydration supports overall cardiovascular health, keeping your heart feeling better for longer. Try to get at least 64 ounces of water a day as a woman or 85 as a man.

11. Limit sugary foods

People living heart-healthy lifestyles often have little to no added sugar in their diets. Minimize how many sugary foods you have in your diet to help you balance your weight and improve your heart health.

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12. Incorporate more fruits into your diet

Fruit is an excellent choice when you want an improved diet with less risk for heart disease. When you eat a variety of fruits, you’ll give your body antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, all of which are necessary for a healthy heart.

13. Reduce alcohol consumption

If you regularly drink alcohol, now is a good time to cut back. Limit your alcohol intake to moderate levels of a single drink per day for women or two for men. Doing so will help lower the risk of heart disease.

14. Track your nutrition to make more informed choices

One study found that food journals help people lose weight, improve macronutrient intake, and pinpoint foods that may be linked to health problems.

In fact, even the Center of Disease Control (CDC) recommends keeping a food journal to identify eating patterns and develop better nutritional habits.

While this can be done using pen and paper, using a food-tracking app like MyFitnessPal (for free!) makes it even easier.

Even better, Premium members can select the “Heart Health” view on their dashboard to better track fat, sodium, cholesterol, and calories throughout the day.

Try MyFitnessPal Premium for free for 30 days

15. Practice portion control

Overeating is a serious concern in the United States, but there is a simple solution: Portion control. Reducing your portion size by even a quarter could be enough to decrease your calories and encourage healthy weight.

16. Engage in regular physical activity

The importance of physical activity can’t be overstated as you focus on building a strong, healthy heart. It’s best if you can perform at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily (or 150 minutes total per week) to keep a healthy heart. Your exercises could include walking or cycling, for example.

17. Limit caffeine intake

Many people start their day by drinking a cup of coffee or two, but cutting back on caffeine can positively impact your heart. Moderate caffeine intake is usually safe, but exceeding recommended daily limits can contribute to the risk of heart rhythm abnormalities.

18. Practice mindful eating

Being mindful of what you’re eating can help you slow down and appreciate your meal. On top of that, savoring each bite and paying attention to hunger and fullness cues can minimize the risk of eating too much in one sitting.

19. Incorporate dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is less sweet than milk chocolate, and the higher cocoa content (70% or higher) is good for the heart, too. In fact, dark chocolate contains antioxidants that can be part of your heart healthy lifestyle.

20. Laugh more

Laughing does more than just put you in a good mood. Laughter has been shown to take the edge off stress and improve heart health, too. To laugh more often, consider watching a funny movie, joining a laughter yoga class, joking with friends, or seeing a comedian. There are plenty of ways to add laughter to your life, so pick one or two to get started and see a difference in your health.

21. Spice things up with turmeric

Turmeric has heart-healthy anti-inflammatory properties. All you have to do is add a touch of it to your meals to see the benefits. As an added perk, it adds extra seasoning and a touch of vibrant yellow to your meals for an interesting look.

22. Swap sugary drinks for herbal tea

Sugary drinks are best in moderation for several reasons, including the high level of caffeine and added sugar. Swap sugary beverages for herbal tea to see a big change in your health. Whether you choose hibiscus or green tea, its antioxidants can help with heart health.

23. Take the stairs

The elevator next to you might call your name, but a better option is to take the stairs. Not only does taking the stairs increase your exercise level for the day and give you a small cardiovascular workout, but it’s also a great way to boost your heart rate.

24. Practice gratitude

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can make a difference in your health. Reflecting on what you’re grateful for can positively impact your cardiovascular health. To make the most of this heart-healthy choice, set aside some time each morning or night to think about what you’re grateful for.

25. Stay socially connected

While everyone likes their alone time, keeping some social connections is important. Spending time with friends and loved ones, building meaningful relationships, and fostering social connections have all been linked to better heart health.

How can you stay socially connected? Try:

  1. Calling a friend or family member
  2. Joining a new class or community group
  3. Making plans to see a friend

Whatever you do, being social may have a positive impact on your heart health.

26. Practice deep breathing exercises

Deep breathing exercises are an excellent option for those who want to work on cardiovascular health. Different types of deep-breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing, are known to diminish stress and blood pressure.

In 2021, a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association determined that high-resistance inspiratory muscle strength training, or IMST, can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and an average nine-point drop in systolic blood pressure.

Take a few minutes a day to walk through your favorite deep-breathing exercises and give your heart a chance to relax; it will thank you for it.

27. Cut back on added sugars

Sugar isn’t inherently negative, but eating too many added sugars can have unwanted effects on the heart. To minimize how much sugar you get each day, decrease the number of sugary snack foods, desserts, and sweet drinks you eat or drink. Cutting back by even a single soda or cookie a day could have a positive impact on your heart health and may help lessen the risk of heart disease, too.

28. Take a brisk walk after meals as an aerobic exercise

Increasing the number of cardiovascular exercises you do each day can make a difference in your heart health. Taking a brisk walk after you eat (10 minutes is enough) will help with digestion and can encourage the regulation of your blood sugar levels.

29. Add garlic to your meal

As a final tip, add garlic to your meals whenever you can. Studies have shown that increasing the amount of garlic in your diet can contribute to heart health. Garlic can help reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels thanks to a compound called allicin.

Improve Your Cardiovascular Health To Prevent Heart Diseases

Changing your diet will take some time, but getting started is the first step toward reducing bad cholesterol levels and minimizing other risk factors of heart disease and heart attack.

You can work toward a healthier heart by taking simple steps like adding garlic to your diet, laughing more often, or tracking your nutrient intake on MyFitnessPal.

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