Row of icons illustrating key ways to keep your heart healthy

How to keep your heart healthy: key points to know

Medically reviewed on June 27, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. 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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Heart disease kills an estimated 659,000 Americans annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [1]. Symptoms associated with coronary artery disease and other cardiac conditions don't generally come out of nowhere. Lifestyle choices can often affect how our hearts function over time.

Want to learn how to keep your heart healthy?

Employing healthy habits is key to staving off heart disease. In this guide, we’ll walk you through some of the most effective approaches for maintaining optimal cardiovascular health, including changes you can make to your exercise, diet, and daily routines.

Get plenty of exercise

One of the most proactive ways to improve your heart's strength is to exercise. Remember that your heart is a muscle that you need to strengthen and condition just like any other muscle in your body.

Johns Hopkins Medicine contends that three exercises performed at the following intervals are critical to improving your heart health [2]:

  • Stretching –This should occur daily, both prior to and following exercise.
  • Aerobic exercise – You should do this five times per week for 30 minutes each day.
  • Strength training – Weight-bearing exercises, such as push-ups or lunges, using free weights, such as dumbells, weight-plate machines, and resistance bands may all provide cardio benefits

Keep in mind that not all exercise regimens may be equally effective when it comes to combating heart disease.

While most healthcare analysts argue that any exercise is better than none, the American Heart Association (AHA) contends that the quality of our exercise matters. The AHA notes that a good exercise regimen for maintaining heart health is [3]:

  • Starting your exercise regimen by performing at least 2.5 hours of aerobic exercises at a moderately intense level
  • Performing only 75 minutes in weekly aerobic activity if it's at a high-level intensity
  • Combining a mixture of moderate and high-level intensity exercises whenever possible
  • Approximating five hours of aerobic activity weekly if you can

The AHA points out that we should increase how long and intensive our workouts are as time progresses. Research shows that workout intensity has to do with its demands on our bodies [4].

Some factors that can show how cardio activity impacts us include our:

  • Heart rate
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Breathing patterns

Mayo Clinic researchers contend that, so long as an activity doesn't render you out of breath, unable to talk, or cause you to sweat sooner than 10 minutes into your workout, then it's likely a moderate-level intensity instead of a vigorous one.

Eat a balanced diet

Healthcare providers note that a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruit, seeds, and nuts makes for a heart-healthy combination. Those same researchers suggest that integrating dark chocolate, olive oil, soy products, and red wine into your diet may be a heart-healthy choice too [5].

Vegetables that improve heart health

Focus on eating the rainbow, including vibrantly colored vegetables like carrots, butternut squash, and peppers. These are action-packed with heart-healthy nutrients, including fiber and carotenoids.

Leafy greens, such as collards, spinach, broccoli, and kale, are rich in various nutrients, including fiber, potassium, vitamins E and C, calcium, and folate, which the Cleveland Clinic contends also improves heart health [6].

Nuts and seeds that improve heart health

Snacking on nuts, such as walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, or almonds, is satiating. They are also rich in heart-healthy nutrients such as dietary fiber and protein and are cholesterol-free.

Including chia or flax seeds in your diet is also a wise choice for improved heart health. Both are rich in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are also protein-rich, and flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens that may improve heart health [6].

Heart-healthy fruits

Research suggests that the fruits with the strongest heart health properties are papaya, cantaloupe, and oranges, as these are rich in fiber, beta-carotene, potassium, and magnesium.

Healthcare providers argue that you shouldn't forget about berries, including raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries, as each of these is not only rich in soluble fiber but also phytonutrients [6].

Maintain healthy daily habits

Research into heart-healthy habits is ever-evolving. Healthcare professionals with the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, a federal government agency, and others at Penn Medical suggests that the following lifestyle choices can reduce your risk of heart disease:

  • Reducing stress
  • Quitting smoking and avoiding others who smoke
  • Avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Brushing and flossing your teeth daily and seeing a dentist every six months
  • Ensuring you rest or sleep at least eight hours per night

You’ll also want to do your best to maintain a strong immune system that can help you ward off infections, the flu virus, and pneumonia. Harvard Health argues that regularly washing your hands greatly reduces your risk of contracting one of these illnesses that can seriously weaken your heart [7].

Manage heart health at home with Everlywell

If you worry that you have risk factors for cardiovascular disease and want to check your heart health at home, the at-home Heart Health Test allows you to do so. Our easy-to-use test checks your cholesterol, triglycerides, HbA1c, and hs-CRP levels. Plus, we provide you with guidance and support throughout each step of the way.

Take a proactive first step toward managing your heart health today with Everlywell.

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References

1. Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed June 27, 2022.

2. 3 Kinds of Exercise That Boost Heart Health. Johns Hopkins Medicine. URL. Accessed June 27, 2022.

3. American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids.American Heart Association. URL. Accessed June 27, 2022.

4. Exercise Intensity: How to Measure It Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed June 27, 2022.

5. Heart Healthy Foods. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed June 27, 2022.

6. 12 Heart-Healthy Foods to Work into Your Diet. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed June 27, 2022.

7. 10 Small Steps For Better Heart Health. Harvard Health Publishing. URL. Accessed June 27, 2022.

8. Keep Your Heart Healthy. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. URL. Accessed June 27, 2022.

9. Top 10 Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy. Penn Medicine. URL. Accessed June 27, 2022.

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