Your cardiovascular system is at the heart of overall health (pun intended). Healthy lifestyle habits that prioritize your heart health also bring full-body benefits.
Try adding these heart-healthy habits to your daily routine .
Get Your Blood Pumping
Staying active is one of the best ways to help keep your heart healthy and strong. Exercise helps your heart pump blood throughout your body and can contribute to lowered blood pressure, improved blood flow, lowered cholesterol, and more—all help to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise), and add at least two additional sessions of resistance training. And the benefits are amplified when you increase this to 300 minutes per week.
Examples of moderate to vigorous exercises include:
- Walking at a pace of 2.5 miles per hour
- Playing a sport
- Jumping rope
- Body weight resistance training (pushups, squats, etc.)
If you have trouble hitting 150 minutes to begin, that’s OK. Everyone has to start somewhere. The important thing is to get up and move. And if your goal is to lose a few pounds, try to work out early in the day.
Research shows morning exercise is a contributing factor in burning body fat. It’s also shown to suppress your appetite.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
Eating to support a healthy cardiovascular system also has other body system benefits. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains, specifically those that provide a high amount of dietary fiber and healthy fats.
High-fiber foods, both soluble and insoluble fiber, are generally thought to be good for digestive health. But they offer so much more. Fiber-rich foods like kidney beans, oatmeal, oat and wheat bran, apples, and strawberries help to maintain healthy levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by reducing the amount of LDL absorbed into your bloodstream.
Foods high in DHA, EPA, and ALA omega-3 fatty acids have also been found to benefit heart health. Cold-water fish—such as mackerel, herring, tuna, salmon, and trout—is an abundant source of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids, and nuts and seeds are all great sources of ALA. In fact, the AHA recommends eating fatty fish twice a week. A fish oil supplement may help you get the omega-3s you might miss in your diet.
It’s recommended you shoot for a diet full of foods with a low-glycemic index—those that cause a slower, or smaller raise in blood sugar. Many of the foods shown to have the most cardiovascular advantages are found in the Mediterranean diet.
Catch Enough ZZZs
It doesn’t matter your age, diet, fitness level, or unhealthy habits, people who don’t get enough sleep are at an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults who get less than seven hours of sleep each night are more likely to develop certain health problems that contribute to an elevated risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
It’s recommended adults get between 7–9 hours of quality sleep every night. Adding a nap or two of no more than 30 minutes throughout the day can supplement lost sleep at night.
And if you’re losing sleep due to sleep apnea, see a health-care provider to discuss treatment options. This condition has been linked to heart arrhythmias and heart disease.
Everything in your body—down to your cells—needs water to work at its peak. Staying hydrated makes it easier for your heart. Your blood is largely made up of water. Dehydration can stress your heart as it beats to supply your body with blood and affect the amount of oxygen that makes it to your organs.
Water is the best for pure hydration. Caffeinated drinks, specifically coffee and tea, have been shown to have some heart-healthy benefits—if consumed without added sugar or dairy—but listen to your body.
Caffeine may disrupt your sleep patterns. Avoid sweet drinks as much as possible—even those with natural sugars. These drinks can negatively impact your blood sugar, which is tied to negative health impacts, including weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes.
How much water do you need? You may have heard the rule of eight glasses of water a day, but the right amount of water consumption varies depending on the person and activity. A simple rule: if you’re thirsty, drink until you aren’t anymore.
By following a heart-healthy lifestyle and implementing these daily habits, the benefits go beyond keeping your heart healthy (if that weren’t enough). A healthy cardiovascular system is key to your overall heath.
Scott Pack is a health and lifestyle communicator for USANA Health Sciences. He holds bachelor and master’s degrees in English from Weber State University. When he isn’t typing the day away, he can be found on a trail somewhere along the Wasatch Front with his wife, daughter, and labradoodle, Scout.