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STDWatch
Dr. Patricia Shelton

Jan 03, 20237 min read

How to Improve Heart Health

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. Many people are looking to find ways to improve their heart health, and reduce their risk of suffering from heart disease. Although there are certain genetic factors that you can’t control, the fortunate truth is that the choices that you make can have a huge impact on your heart health. There’s a lot that you can do to keep your heart healthy.

What are the best things to do for heart health? How can you reduce your risk of having a heart attack or another major issue?

Are there natural ways to make your heart stronger?

Many people are looking for natural ways to strengthen the heart. The best way to strengthen your heart is to exercise regularly. Medical organizations generally recommend getting at least 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise. This equates to about 20 minutes per day.

Aerobic exercise, sometimes known as “cardio,” involves raising your heart rate for a period of time. You should be slightly out of breath during the activity, but not too severely – a good rule of thumb is that you should still be able to talk, but not to sing. This could be brisk walking, dancing, hiking, playing a sport, jumping on a trampoline – anything that sounds fun to you, and that gets you moving.

In addition to cardio, strength training is also important. It helps to maintain a healthy body weight, and may also improve your cholesterol levels.

At the same time, it’s important to be aware that there’s such a thing as too much exercise. Even though being sedentary is very damaging to the heart, pushing your body too hard can also lead to heart damage. It’s important to exercise, but equally important to rest and give your heart time to recover. In general, experts recommend that you take a full day off from intense exercise every week. You could still go for a gentle walk on this day, but don’t push yourself.

What are the best ways to improve heart health?

Besides exercise, there are also a variety of other ways to improve your cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of heart disease. Here are a few high-impact actions you can take.

  • Quit smoking. Smoking causes damage to blood vessels throughout your body, and increases the risk of blood clots. These issues can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. People who are significantly overweight have a higher risk of heart disease, especially if the excess weight is primarily found in the abdominal area. Staying at a healthy weight may help to reduce your heart disease risk. At the same time, it’s important to remember that weight is far from a perfect predictor of health, and many overweight people are fit and healthy. If medical testing indicates that your weight is causing health problems, then this is something important to address.

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. These foods contain a huge variety of nutrients, which can help to keep all of your cells functioning well.

  • Eat less saturated fat. Saturated fat is found in red meat, dairy products, and butter. This recommendation has been controversial in recent years, as some studies have actually found that there’s no association between saturated fat and heart disease risk. Major organizations still believe that the balance of the evidence suggests that eating less saturated fat will help to reduce your risk. Saturated fat from red meat appears to be more damaging, while fat from dairy products may be less likely to raise your heart disease risk.

  • Pay attention to your stress levels. People who have higher levels of stress are at a higher risk for a heart attack. If you’re feeling stressed, it’s important to address this. You may be able to remove yourself from a stressful situation (for example, changing to a less stressful job); you may also want to consider activities like meditation and yoga that can help you to manage stress

  • Get enough sleep. People who get less than 7 hours of sleep per night are more likely to have problems like high blood pressure or a heart attack. Prioritize getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.

If you’re looking to increase cardiovascular health, these are some of the most important factors to pay attention to.

One way to determine your risk of a heart attack is through testing your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This is known as a lipid panel. There are different types of cholesterol, with some of these being associated with an increased risk and others with a decreased risk. 

If you’re concerned about your heart attack risk, you may want to consider getting this test. You can have your doctor order it, or you can get a home testing kit. If your results show abnormal levels of cholesterol or triglycerides, then you’ll need to follow up with a medical professional to discuss next steps.

Sources

3 Kinds of Exercise That Boost Heart Health. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/3-kinds-of-exercise-that-boost-heart-health. Accessed 29 Dec 2022.

Powell-Wiley T, Poirier P, et al. Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2021 May 25;143(21):e984-e1010. doi: 10.1161/CIR.000000000000097.

How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Health? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://cdc.gov/bloodpressure/sleep.htm. Accessed 29 Dec 2022.

Chronic stress can cause heart trouble. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/02/04/chronic-stress-can-cause-heart-trouble. Accessed 29 Dec 2022.

Are all saturated fats equally bad for the heart? European Society of Cardiology. https://www.escardio.org/The-ESC/Press-Office/Press-releases/Are-all-saturated-fats-equally-bad-for-the-heart. Accessed 29 Dec 2022.

Are you getting too much exercise? National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000807.htm. Accessed 29 Dec 2022.

Leading Causes of Death. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm. Accessed 29 Dec 2022.


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