7 helpful tips to lead a heart healthy lifestyle

February is American Heart Month and with heart disease being the number one cause of death in the U.S.1, it’s the perfect time to talk about heart health! From exercise to sleep and meal prep to portion management, make sure you’re doing all you can to care for one of your body’s most essential organs.


The CDC reports that in the U.S., someone dies from cardiovascular disease every 33 seconds. In addition, around 1 in 5 deaths in the country are as a result of heart disease, with just shy of 700,000 people having died from heart disease in 2021 alone.1 As a whole, heart disease actually consists of many different types of heart conditions, the most common being coronary artery disease.2 Heart diseases often lead to heart malfunctions, either based on an “electrical” problem — such as cardiac arrest — or a circulation problem—like with a heart attack.3


There are several key risk factors for heart disease, a combination of medical conditions — such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity — and lifestyle choices — like eating an unhealthy diet, a lack of activity, and tobacco or excessive alcohol consumption.1 The good news? This means that a few lifestyle changes can help you work towards having a much healthier heart and a lower risk of experiencing heart disease.



We’re sure that you’ve heard the recommendation to do some sort of exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and for good reason. Exercise helps the body in so many ways, from strengthening muscles and bones, to helping with weight management, to decreasing the risk of diseases — heart health included! While different kinds of exercises are good for strengthening different parts of the body, there are a few ideal exercises to do for your heart health. Aerobic exercise, like walking, swimming, or bicycling, helps improve circulation. It can also help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Resistance training, like lifting free weights or using weight machines, can help improve your body composition by reducing fat and increasing muscle mass. This, combined with the aerobic exercise, even helps normalize both good and bad cholesterol levels.4 Make sure to take care of your body throughout your exercise journey so you don’t need to take a pause on working out due to injury. If a minor injury occurs and you need to ice, heat, or compress the injury, make sure you take time to care for it and let it heal properly.


Food & Nutrition

Diet is one of the lifestyle choices that is a risk factor for heart disease. Luckily, focusing on eating heart-healthy foods is one of the decisions you can make daily to help you have a healthier heart. Your choice of what you put into your body every day can either increase or decrease risk factors of heart disease like blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation.5 Here are a few recommendations that help to reduce the risk of heart diseases:

  • Green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are high in vitamin K as well as dietary nitrates.
  • Whole grains like oats, brown rice, and quinoa instead of refined carbs.
  • Healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, and butter contain monounsaturated fats.
  • Fatty fish like tuna and salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Protein-rich foods like eggs, nuts, legumes, and lean meats.


Though eating the right kinds of foods is important, so is eating the right amount of them. Be conscious of portion sizes and work on portion management, especially of the foods to avoid or limit, with the help of a portion control tool, which fits right on your plate and will help you follow USDA serving sizes. Doing a meal prep on a weekly basis is one way to help practice portion management all at once so you don’t have to think about it as much during the week when you’re likely busier with work, kids, or events.



Sleep is important for overall health in many different aspects of your life, and heart health is one of them. A general goal for adults is to get between 7-9 hours per night, but take note of any issues sleeping. If it takes you more than 15 minutes to fall asleep or you wake up multiple times during the night, something might be off. Those who suffer from heart problems, however, may be more prone to sleep issues like fatigue or low energy even after getting the recommended number of hours of sleep.6 On the flip side of heart conditions potentially causing sleep problems, if you’re having trouble sleeping, that can also lead to heart problems. Sleep apnea and insomnia can have an effect on heart health. Sleep apnea affects the oxygen flow throughout your body during sleep while insomnia is connected to high blood pressure and heart disease.7 To support healthy sleep, try to stick to a regular schedule — even on weekends and vacations — and avoid screens and blue light in the evening, and don’t eat or drink too late in the day.


Other Heart Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Take medications or vitamins with consistency. If you’ve been prescribed a medication or take vitamins for heart health, use handy tools like a medication planner, pill crusher, or travel assistance items to help the efficiency and consistency of taking them. Ensuring proper adherence to these things helps you stay on track with your heart health and your overall health.


Limit alcohol intake and stop smoking. Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to heart conditions like cardiomyopathy, heart failure, or high blood pressure. It can also lead to obesity and poor sleep — two other risk factors for an unhealthy heart.8 Tobacco can also raise blood pressure as well as heart rate since your heart has to work overtime to get oxygen through the body due to smoking. In addition, both the heart and blood vessels can be damaged by the chemicals in tobacco products.9


Limit stress. Stress can actually have an indirect effect on the heart as it leads to inflammation in the body. This can lead to higher blood pressure and lower levels of HDL, or the “good” cholesterol.10 In addition to this, stress can lead to other unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking, and overeating. While limiting stress is much easier said than done, practice methods like breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and even creating boundaries for work and personal life, that will work for you when you’re feeling stressed.


While plenty of exercise, proper nutrition, meal prepping, portion management, adequate sleep, limiting stress, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol are all great steps towards a healthy heart, remember that starting small with realistic, attainable goals is a great place to begin. Trying to do all of these things perfectly all at once may lead to spreading yourself too thin and burnout of working towards these goals. Frame these changes as altering your lifestyle to support a healthy heart and overall healthy self, and you’ll be sure to succeed. And as always, if you feel you are experiencing signs or symptoms of a heart disease, contact your doctor right away.




  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Disease Facts. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About Heart Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/about.htm
  3. American Heart Association. February is American Heart Month, National Wear Red Day, Black History Month and more! https://newsroom.heart.org/events/february-is-american-heart-month-national-wear-red-day-black-history-month-and-more
  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. 3 Kinds of Exercise That Boost Heart Health. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/3-kinds-of-exercise-that-boost-heart-health
  5. 17 Incredibly Heart-Healthy Foods. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/heart-healthy-foods
  6. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Do Your Heart a Favor – Get More Sleep. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/do-your-heart-a-favor-get-more-sleep
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Health? https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/sleep.htm
  8. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Alcohol and Heart Health: Separating Fact from Fiction. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/alcohol-and-heart-health-separating-fact-from-fiction
  9. Mayo Clinic. Strategies to prevent heart disease. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-disease-prevention/art-20046502
  10. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Risk Factors for Heart Disease: Don’t Underestimate Stress. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/risk-factors-for-heart-disease-dont-underestimate-stress

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