How to improve heart health: Diet, exercise, and more

Heart disease is a major public health problem in the United States. In addition to taking medications that a doctor prescribes, there are a number of things a person can do to improve their heart health. This includes eating a healthy diet, staying active, and avoiding behaviors like smoking.

According to that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)There are several ways a person can reduce their risk of heart disease and heart attack.

It can help keep blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels within healthy ranges.

In this article, we explain how you can improve heart health.

Many of the recommendations for improving heart health focus on diet.

That American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people consume:

  • a variety of vegetables and fruits
  • full grain
  • lean proteins, like seafood and plant proteins from tofu and other sources
  • liquid, non-tropical oils, such as olive or avocado oil
  • minimally processed foods
  • no added sugar
  • limited salt
  • restricted alcohol

There are some specific diets that exhibit these characteristics, including:

Mediterranean cuisine

The Mediterranean diet focuses on vegetables, grains, lean proteins, and regular consumption of olive oil. It advocates that people rarely eat dairy and red meat, and rarely eat foods with added sugar.

A look back at 2019 circular research found strong and consistent evidence for the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for heart health. The more a person sticks to this eating pattern, the lower their risk of developing heart disease.

DASH diet

The DASH diet includes more protein from low-fat dairy, meat, and poultry.

A Review 2019 Previous research found that the DASH diet is associated with a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease and improved blood pressure, among other heart health benefits.

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Physical activity plays an important supportive role in heart health. It can also help a person maintain a healthy weight, especially when combined with dieting.

A 2019 study in Frontiers in cardiovascular medicine found that moderate and intense exercise improves cardiovascular function in people with heart failure.

Different types and intensities of exercise offer heart health benefits:

heart

Cardio or aerobic exercise is any physical activity intense enough to increase heart rate and cause sweating.

Physical activity of moderate intensity can lower a person’s risk of heart disease by improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A person should aim to get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week if possible.

Examples of moderate-intensity cardio activities include:

  • brisk walking
  • water aerobics
  • Cycling on mostly level ground
  • play doubles tennis
  • cut the lawn

Examples of high-intensity cardio activities include:

  • jogging or running
  • Swimming lengths of a pool
  • fast cycling or on hilly ground
  • play individual tennis
  • play basketball

A person can mix moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity physical activity. This allows people to spend less time exercising because 1 minute of high-intensity activity is equivalent to 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.

weight training

Aerobic exercise isn’t the only type of exercise that benefits heart health.

A systematic review 2021 in Frontiers in cardiovascular medicine concluded that resistance training combined with aerobic exercise is more beneficial for people with coronary artery disease than aerobic exercise alone.

The authors reported that resistance training improves a person’s physical performance and quality of life.

That CDC also recommend weight training in addition to aerobic exercise. A person should aim to do strengthening activities at least 2 days per week.

You can train with your own body weight, for example with push-ups or with weight machines or free weights in the gym. A person should aim to train all major muscle groups, including the:

  • Legs
  • hips
  • the back
  • abdomen
  • chest
  • Shoulders
  • weapons
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flexibility exercises

A study in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Researchsuggests that stretching could be a useful therapy for enhancing the nervous system’s regulatory effect on the heart. Additionally, without flexibility, the body may have difficulty performing some aerobic or strength exercises.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends stretching to the point where slight tightness or discomfort occurs at least two or three times a week or daily for best results.

In addition to diet and exercise, a number of lifestyle changes can also help improve heart health. That AHA recommends:

A person should also make sleep a priority because it is supports general health and well-being, including heart health.

Some people take supplements to improve heart health. However, research supporting the use of many popular supplements for heart health is mixed. In some cases there is no clear evidence that they work.

Heart health supplements include:

Co-enzyme Q10

Co-enzyme Q10 (Co-Q10) supplementation may be beneficial for people with cardiovascular disease.

The authors of A Review 2017 examined data from a mix of human and animal studies to assess the benefits of this nutrient and found some evidence that Co-Q10 may reduce illness and death in people with heart and metabolic diseases.

However, the authors pointed out controversy in the available data and urged future researchers to conduct randomized trials evaluating the impact on survival.

Vitamin D

Low vitamin D levels are associated with some risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and inflammation. For people with a vitamin D deficiency, taking this supplement or getting more exposure to the sun may be beneficial.

A 2018 review of 81 studies concluded that vitamin D supplementation may have a protective effect on cardiovascular health. However, other studies have come to different conclusions.

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For example at one Review 2019scientists analyzed data from 21 randomized clinical trials with 83,000 participants. They found no association between vitamin D supplementation and a reduction in major adverse cardiovascular events, heart attack, stroke, or death from any cause.

More research is needed to confirm that vitamin D supplementation is beneficial for heart health.

niacin

A Review 2017 investigates whether niacin can benefit heart health. Although niacin has links to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, the authors found no evidence that taking it as a dietary supplement reduced deaths, heart attacks, or strokes.

In addition, 18% of people experienced side effects and had to stop taking the supplement.

How quickly measures such as diet and exercise work to improve heart health depends on a person’s situation and goals.

For example, a person who quits smoking will benefit in just a few minutes 2 weeks. At this point, circulation and lung function begin to improve. After 1 year, their risk of coronary artery disease is reduced by 50%.

Cholesterol lowering may be more variable. For people using only diet and lifestyle changes, doctors may allow up to 100% 3 months to see if it works. In people taking statins, cholesterol levels can drop significantly after 6–8 weeks.

Other changes may be more difficult to predict or measure. If a person wants to track heart health markers while making diet or lifestyle changes, they may be able to ask a doctor to help with this.

heart disease is the Main cause deaths in the US, but there’s a lot people can do to reduce their risk. This includes a nutritious and balanced diet that is low in sugar and salt.

Regular exercise and lifestyle changes, such as For example, quitting smoking also supports heart health.

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