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Heart health lifestyle guide

Medically reviewed on May 15, 2023 by Morgan Spicer, Medical Communications Manager. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

Your daily habits can have a big impact on your heart health. Lifestyle changes like choosing nutritious foods, being physically active, and not using tobacco offer a wide range of health benefits. Here are a few simple lifestyle changes to help you improve your heart health.

Choose heart healthy foods

Your body makes cholesterol naturally, but you also get it from the food you eat. Animal-based foods like egg yolks, meat, shellfish, and cheeses contain high amounts of cholesterol. [1] When you eat these foods frequently, or in high quantities, your cholesterol levels may rise.

Limit animal-based foods

Cut back on foods that are higher in cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat. Examples include [1]:

  • Cheese and dairy products
  • Fatty meats
  • Shellfish
  • Liver and other organ meats
  • Egg yolks
  • Processed foods (lunch meat and packaged foods)
  • Fried foods
  • Baked goods (donuts, cookies, and crackers)
  • Tropical oils (coconut and palm oil)
  • Stick butter or margarine

Lose the salt shaker

If you have high cholesterol, you may also be at risk for high blood pressure. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is an eating plan that focuses on heart-healthy, nutrient-dense foods that can help lower blood pressure and decrease your risk for heart attacks and strokes. [2]

Focus on fiber

Soluble fiber has been shown to reduce inflammation and cholesterol. [3] High-fiber foods include fruits and vegetables, whole-grain cereals, nuts, seeds, and legumes like black beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas.

Choose healthy fats

Unsaturated fats like canola, olive, and safflower oils can help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. [4] These types of fat are liquid at room temperature, which makes it easier for them to pass through the bloodstream.

Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. [2] Although the exact pathway is unknown, omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce triglyceride levels by reducing their formation in the liver. These types of fat are found in fatty fish and some plant-based foods like flaxseeds.

Self Reflection: What are some ways you could make your diet more heart healthy?

Make movement part of your daily life

Living a physically active lifestyle can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce blood pressure, and improve your heart health. [1]

If you spend a lot of time sitting, you may be at a higher risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon and lung cancers, and early death. [5] One easy way to increase physical activity is to take short walks throughout the day and slowly work up to longer bouts of activity as your fitness level improves.

To get started, aim to get at least 150 minutes of activity each week. Every little bit counts when it comes to moving your body, so it’s okay to start slow. Remember to check with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine.

Self Reflection: What are some new forms of physical activity that you could try?

Measuring your health: how it works

Physical activity and weight loss

Body positivity and weight


  1. Cooking for Cholesterol. American Heart Association. Published November 11, 2020. Accessed May 15, 2023.
  2. Managing Blood Pressure with a Heart-Healthy Diet. American Heart Association. Accessed May 15, 2023.
  3. McRae MP. Dietary Fiber Is Beneficial for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses. J Chiropr Med. 2017;16(4):289-299. doi:10.1016/j.jcm.2017.05.005
  4. Monounsaturated Fat. American Heart Association. Reviewed June 1, 2015. Accessed May 15, 2023.
  5. Know Your Numbers. American Heart Association. Reviewed May 6, 2021. Accessed May 15, 2023.
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