Blood pressure monitor to help keep heart healthy

How to keep your heart healthy: key points

Written on November 23, 2022 by Theresa Vuskovich, DMD. 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.

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Leading a long, happy life requires a healthy heart. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adopting habits to prevent heart disease, which remains the leading cause of death worldwide [1,2]. In 2022, the AHA added a new healthy habit to its guidelines [3]. Learn more about this new recommendation and how to keep your heart healthy.

1. Exercise regularly

It's no secret exercising keeps your heart healthy. Your heart is a muscular organ responsible for pumping blood throughout your body. This blood transports oxygen, nutrients, and waste away from your body.

Exercising improves heart health by strengthening and enhancing the heart muscle's ability to pump. As you exercise, your arteries expand, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to reach your cells. This improves the performance of your whole body [4].

You can also reduce inflammation in your body by exercising. Exercising reduces chronic inflammation, which can contribute to other diseases such as diabetes [4] (Related: hs-CRP test for inflammation). Adding movement and exercise into your day will ultimately benefit your heart.

The AHA recommends engaging in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity weekly [3]. Moderate activities include gardening and dancing. Running and jumping rope are examples of vigorous exercise. Before beginning an exercise program, consult with a healthcare provider.

2. Maintain a balanced diet

Healthy hearts require exercise, but a balanced diet and weight management are equally important. Keeping your heart healthy requires maintaining a healthy body weight throughout your life. Making healthy eating habits a priority is essential for achieving this goal.

The AHA provides evidence-based guidelines to help you maintain a balanced diet and healthy weight. Maintaining a balanced diet begins with understanding how many calories your body needs daily. After doing so, the AHA recommends the following eating habits [5]:

  • Avoid ultra-processed foods.
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains.
  • Drink fewer beverages with added sugars.
  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit the amount of salt.
  • Pick protein sources such as legumes, seafood, low-fat milk products, and lean meat.

These three healthy habits will also make maintaining a balanced diet easier [3]:

  1. Take the time to read nutrition labels: You can make healthier choices by reading and understanding food labels. Make sure you compare nutrition facts whenever possible. Choose products with less sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar.
  2. Make sure you keep track of your calories: Keep your portions reasonable to ensure you consume the right amount of calories.
  3. Preparing your food is a good idea: You can control the nutritional content of your food by learning healthy cooking methods.

Consult a healthcare provider whenever you change your diet or have a medical condition.

3. Manage your cholesterol levels

Cholesterol is a fatty compound in your food and body. Only animal foods contain cholesterol, and it is carried in the body by two types of lipoproteins, high-density lipoproteins (HDL), and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) [3].

HDL is known as good cholesterol because it prevents plasma LDL from adhering to artery walls, resulting in less plaque buildup and a lower risk of heart disease [3]. Follow the AHA's nutritional and exercise guidelines to boost HDL and reduce LDL.

Triglyceride is another type of fat in your blood. A person's body converts triglycerides into fat when they eat. When you consistently consume more calories than you burn, especially from carbohydrates, you may have high triglyceride levels, which can lead to heart disease.

The AHA recommends tracking your cholesterol and triglyceride levels often to keep them within a healthy range [3]. Everlywell provides an at-home cholesterol test to help you learn more about your cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglyceride levels.

4. Keep your blood sugar in check

Understanding what causes high blood sugar levels is the first step toward managing it. Your body converts what you eat into sugar through the digestive system and then releases it into the bloodstream [3]. Glucose from the blood is absorbed by cells through insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas. If you have diabetes, the body develops insulin resistance, preventing the glucose from exiting the blood and resulting in high blood glucose levels.

The presence of high blood glucose levels can cause chronic inflammation throughout the body resulting in heart disease [6]. Tracking your blood glucose is essential, especially if you have Type 2 diabetes, an inability to produce insulin on your own.

Glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) is used to measure blood sugar levels. An A1c test measures your blood sugar over the past 2 to 3 months. Using this test, you can diagnose diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes, all caused by high blood sugar levels. An A1c test can also help determine how well your medication is working.

5. Establish a sleep routine

Sleeping well is the new healthy heart habit recommended by the AHA [3]. Getting a good night's sleep every night is essential to keeping your heart healthy. Sleeping less than 7-9 hours per night or having poor sleep quality can increase the risk of heart disease in adults [3,7].

Sleeping well is associated with the following benefits [3]:

  • Enhancing the healing and repair of cells, tissues, and blood vessels
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Boosting your mood and energy
  • Making your brain function better, including the ability to focus, remember, and solve problems
  • Having a lower risk of chronic diseases

You can learn whether abnormal fluctuations in certain hormones may be related to sleep issues by taking the Everlywell at-home sleep and stress test. This test measures cortisol, melatonin, and creatinine, all of which may fluctuate during or due to sleep.

Have you ever wondered what's happening with your overall heart health? Everlywell offers an at-home heart health test aimed at providing a more comprehensive picture of your heart health. For more information on healthy heart habits, visit the American Heart Association website [3].

Taking a pulse: can fitness trackers help improve heart health?

5 things to do every day to keep your heart healthy

8 equipment-free exercises to support your heart health


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease facts. Published October 14, 2022. Accessed November 17, 2022. URL
  2. Tsao CW, Aday AW, Almarzooq ZI, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics-2022 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2022;145(8):e153-e639. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000001052. URL
  3. The American Heart Association. Life’s Essential 8. Accessed November 17, 2022. URL
  4. Pinckard K, Baskin KK, Stanford KI. Effects of exercise to improve cardiovascular health. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2019;6:69. Published 2019 Jun 4. doi:10.3389/fcvm.2019.00069. URL
  5. Lichtenstein, A.H., Appel, L.J., Vadiveloo, M., Hu, F.B., Kris-Etherton, P.M., Rebholz, C.M., Sacks, F.M., Thorndike, A.N., Van Horn, L., Wylie-Rosett, J. 2021 dietary guidance to improve cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2021;144:e472–e487. doi:10.1161/cir.0000000000001031. URL
  6. Aeschbacher S, Schoen T, Dörig L, et al. Heart rate, heart rate variability and inflammatory biomarkers among young and healthy adults. Ann Med. 2017;49(1):32-41. doi:10.1080/07853890.2016.1226512. URL
  7. Kim TW, Jeong JH, Hong SC. The impact of sleep and circadian disturbance on hormones and metabolism. Int J Endocrinol. 2015;2015:591729. doi:10.1155/2015/591729. URL
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