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We all want to live a long, healthy life, and part of that comes from taking good care of our heart. Having good cardiovascular health is one way to increase your longevity and ensure your body is able to keep up with your mind for years to come. There are many things that we can do not only to improve our heart’s overall functioning, but minimize the risk of developing heart disease or other dysfunctions later in life. By taking the necessary steps, we can keep our heart strong and healthy.

Engage in Aerobic Activity

A good place to start is to get moving. If you have any heart concerns or other health issues, it is always important to first talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise routines. Once you’re cleared, there are many effective aerobic activities you can try to get the blood pumping and strengthen your heart.

Aerobic exercise involves getting the heart rate up and can vary in intensity. Walking, cycling, swimming, and sports are all great ways to get in this type of exercise. More commonly known as “cardio,” short for “cardiovascular,” this activity requires your body to use more oxygen and deliver it to large muscle groups, meaning the heart has to beat more to pump oxygen-rich blood around the body. 

If you’ve ever been scared, you may not really like the feeling of your heart pounding or beating fast. The good news about doing cardio regularly is your heart doesn’t just beat faster and faster to keep up with the intensity. It actually becomes more efficient at pumping blood and enlarges slightly to pump out more blood with every beat. This means that the more aerobic exercise you do, the more powerful your heart becomes. A strong heart is an important piece of lifelong health, and doing cardio can help you improve your cardiovascular health. 

The key to integrating this into your routine is to find aerobic exercises you enjoy. Many forms of cardio are also low- or no-impact, such as water aerobics, swimming, or cycling. If you are worried about your knees or just want a gentler workout, these are great alternatives to running and walking.

Eat Heart-Healthy Foods

What we eat makes a big difference in our overall functioning and feeling. Certain vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients play an important role in healthy cardiovascular functions. Some of the best foods to add to your diet or increase in your meals are:

  • Leafy green vegetables: Loaded with Vitamin K, foods like spinach and kale can help keep your arteries free and clear from blockages and clogging.
  • Fish: Salmon, tuna, and halibut are all great meat choices because of how lean they are. They also contain healthy fats called omega-3s, which can help lower total cholesterol and blood pressure. 
  • Nuts: Almonds and walnuts are particularly impactful in reducing cardiovascular disease, but all nuts can help support your heart. They contain monounsaturated fat, which plays a role in lowering bad cholesterol. 
  • Berries: Full of antioxidants, berries like blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries can improve vascular function and protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. 
  • Green tea: Not only is tea relaxing and stress-relieving, it also contains polyphenols. These act like antioxidants and can reduce inflammation and prevent cell damage.

Limit Sodium Intake

In addition to adding healthy foods, it is important to limit nutrients that are harmful in excess. Too much salt, for example, can wreak havoc on your heart. When you have excess salt in your blood, more water is pulled into your bloodstream. While more water may sound like a good thing, this effect causes your blood pressure to increase, which can be quite dangerous long-term. 

Salt isn’t the enemy, though. Sodium aids many essential functions in your body, and just needs to be consumed in the right amounts. 2,300mg is the maximum healthy limit for salt in one day, but it is important to note that your body only needs 1,000mg for its regular, daily functions. By consuming sodium somewhere in that range, you can keep your heart happy and healthy.

Sources: American Heart Association, Healthline

  • Stewart, K. J. (n.d.). Exercise and the Heart: How Exercise Helps the Heart. Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  • Colberg, et al. (November 2016). Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association. American Diabetes Association.
  • Hame, S.L. (2016). Sports Tip: Exercising for Bone Health. The American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine.