3 min read

10 Healthy Things You Can Do for Your Heart

By Dr. Heidi Schwarzwald, MD, MPH on 2/13/24 9:34 AM

February is American Heart Month when everyone is encouraged 
to focus on their cardiovascular (heart) health.

As we age, we are more likely to be at risk for certain things than younger people. Just like an engine in a car, the heart keeps our body running but needs proper maintenance. Aging can cause changes in the heart and the blood vessels that feed the heart and body. These changes can increase the risk of heart disease. In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death. One person dies from cardiovascular disease every 33 seconds in America, which is why taking care of our heart is important. 

Below are 10 steps you can take to help strengthen your heart and help it stay healthy. 

  1. Eat a heart-healthy diet. The adage, “You are what you eat,” is true. A diet rich in plant-based proteins, fruits, vegetables, and fish helps to maintain a healthy heart. It is also important to be mindful of your portions. A super-sized diet can lead to super-sized heart issues.
  2. Adopt a pet. Who knew that little fur ball sleeping at your feet was so good for your heart? Studies show that owning a pet (called “Pet Therapy”) may help improve your heart function and lower your chances of dying from heart disease. Don’t have a pet? Visit your local shelter.
  3. 3. Brush and floss daily. Your heart and your teeth have a close relationship. Bacteria that cause gum disease can raise the risk of heart disease. When you brush regularly and floss daily, you are taking care not only of your teeth but also of your heart. 
  4. Move it or lose it. Exercise is at the literal heart of your cardiac health. Join a gym if you can, but there are other ways to sneak more exercise in. Choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Bypass that parking spot close to the building and park further away to get a few more steps in. Walk your dog and play with the grandkids rather than watching them. 
  5. Pump up the volume. Weight-bearing exercises help to maintain stronger muscles. Your heart may not be the biggest muscle in the body (that’s the gluteus maximus), but it is the hardest working. The stronger you are, the stronger your heart is. If you don’t belong to a gym, talk with your doctor about strength-training exercises you can do at home.
  6. Cut the salt. It may as well be a “four-letter word” to your heart. Processed food and restaurant meals are often high in salt, and adding more salt to food already laden with salt can be risky to your heart health. Still craving salt? Talk with your doctor about healthy salt substitutes.
  7. Take medication as directed. If you are taking prescription medication, it is essential that you follow the instructions exactly. All medication, including prescriptions for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, must be taken as directed. Instructions are not suggestions - they can be a matter of life and death. If you have difficulty understanding the instructions for your medication, talk with your doctor or your pharmacist.
  8. Monitor blood pressure at home. Your blood pressure is a quick way to check in to see how your heart is doing. Self-measured blood pressure monitors are easy and safe to use. Some physicians lend them to their patients for free, and some health insurance plans cover all or most of the expense. 
  9. Find a hobby. The body’s systems are all connected. When a person is isolated, it can lead to depression or anxiety and can be hard on the heart. Maintaining an active outlook by being interested in hobbies and social activities is a fun way to look after your cardiac health.
  10. Quit smoking. No ifs, ands, or butts about it, and you don’t have to quit “Cold Turkey.” Smoking has long been connected to increased risk for heart disease and is one of the top controllable risk factors. Talk with your doctor about ways to stop without relapsing.

Talk with your primary care provider (doctor) for more information on how to adopt heart-healthy activities. Your health insurance plan may offer additional resources. Call the number on your card to take advantage of all they offer. 

Your heart works hard to help maintain your health. Talk with your primary care provider about scheduling a preventative appointment to discuss the ways you can help it beat stronger and longer. 

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Resources used:
https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.html
https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-heart-tips#move
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-healthy-diet/art-20047702
https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/hearthealth.htm
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Heidi Schwarzwald, MD, MPH
Dr. Schwarzwald is the Chief Medical Officer for Signify Health Home & Community Services.