How to Improve Heart Health: Diet, Exercise, and More

Heart disease is a major public health problem in the United States. In addition to taking medications prescribed by a doctor, a person can take a number of actions to improve their heart health. This includes eating healthy, staying active and avoiding behaviors such as smoking.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)There are several ways a person can reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attack.

Keeping blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels within healthy limits can help.

In this article, we will explain how to improve heart health.

Many of the recommendations for improving heart health focus on diet.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people consume:

  • variety of vegetables and fruits
  • whole grains
  • lean proteins such as seafood and plant proteins from tofu and other sources
  • liquid, non-tropical oils such as olive oil or avocado oil
  • minimally processed foods
  • no added sugars
  • limited salt
  • limited alcohol

There are several specific diets that have these characteristics, including:

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet focuses on vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and regular consumption of olive oil. He recommends that people eat dairy products and red meat infrequently and foods with added sugar infrequently.

Review from 2019 Circulation study found strong and consistent evidence to support the heart health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The more a person adheres to this dietary pattern, the lower the risk of developing heart disease.

DASH diet

The DASH diet includes more protein from low-fat dairy, meat, and poultry.

A 2019 review previous research has found that the DASH diet has links to a lower chance of developing cardiovascular disease and improved blood pressure, as well as other heart-healthy benefits.

Physical activity plays an important supporting role in heart health. It can also help a person maintain a healthy weight, especially when combined with diet.

2019 survey Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine found that moderate- and vigorous-intensity exercise improved cardiovascular function in people who had heart failure.

Different types and intensities of exercise offer heart health benefits:

Cardio

Cardio or aerobic exercise is any physical movement intense enough to raise your heart rate and cause you to sweat.

Physical activity of moderate intensity can lower a person’s risk of heart disease by improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels. One should aim to get at least 150 minutes aerobic exercise per week if possible.

Examples of moderate-intensity cardio activities include:

  • fast walking
  • water aerobics
  • cycling on mostly flat ground
  • plays doubles tennis
  • mowing the grass

Examples of high-intensity cardio activities include:

  • jogging or running
  • swimming lengths of a pool
  • cycling fast or on hilly terrain
  • plays singles tennis
  • i play basketball

One can combine moderate and vigorous intensity physical activity. This may allow people to spend less time exercising, as 1 minute of vigorous-intensity activity is equivalent to 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.

Strength training

Aerobic exercise isn’t the only type of exercise that benefits heart health.

2021 Systematic Review Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine concluded that resistance training combined with aerobic training is more beneficial for people with coronary heart disease than aerobic training alone.

The authors report that resistance training improves a person’s exercise capacity and quality of life.

The CDC we also recommend doing strength training in addition to aerobic exercise. One should aim to do strengthening activities at least 2 days a week.

They can exercise with their own body weight, for example by doing push-ups or using resistance machines or free weights at the gym. One should aim to work all major muscle groups, including:

  • legs
  • the thighs
  • vice versa
  • the belly
  • chest
  • shoulders
  • hugs

Flexibility exercises

Study in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Researchsuggests that stretching may be a useful therapy to improve the regulatory effect of the nervous system on the heart. Also, without flexibility, the body may struggle to do some aerobic or strength exercises.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends stretching to the point of mild tightness or discomfort at least two or three times a week or daily for best results.

In addition to diet and exercise, a number of lifestyle changes can also help improve heart health. The AHA recommends:

One should also make sleep a priority because it supports overall health and well-being, including heart health.

Some people take supplements to try to improve their heart health. However, research supporting the use of many popular supplements for heart health is mixed. In some cases, there is no conclusive evidence that they work.

Supplements for heart health include:

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 (Co-Q10) supplementation may be beneficial for people with cardiovascular disease.

The authors of a 2017 review looked at data from a combination of human and animal studies to evaluate the benefits of this nutrient and found some evidence that Co-Q10 may reduce morbidity and mortality in people with heart and metabolic disease.

However, the authors pointed out inconsistencies in the available data and urged future researchers to conduct randomized trials that assess the impact on survival.

Vitamin D

Low vitamin D levels are associated with some of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and inflammation. For people with vitamin D deficiency, taking this supplement or getting more sunlight can be beneficial.

A 2018 review of 81 studies concluded that vitamin D supplementation may have a protective effect on cardiovascular health. However, other studies have found different results.

For example in a 2019 review, scientists analyzed data from 21 randomized clinical trials involving 83,000 participants. They found no association between vitamin D supplementation and a reduction in major adverse cardiovascular events, heart attack, stroke, or death from any cause.

More research is needed to confirm that vitamin D supplements are beneficial for heart health.

Niacin

A 2017 review investigates whether niacin may benefit heart health. Although niacin has been linked to lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, the authors found no evidence that taking it as a supplement reduced the number of deaths, heart attacks or strokes.

Additionally, 18% of people experienced side effects and had to stop taking the supplement.

How quickly measures such as diet and exercise work to improve heart health depends on the person’s situation and what their goals are.

For example, a person who quits smoking will begin to gain benefits from it as little as possible Two weeks. At this point, circulation and lung function begin to improve. After 1 year, their risk of coronary heart disease was 50% lower.

Lowering cholesterol can be more variable. For people using only diet and lifestyle changes, doctors may allow up to 3 months to see if it works. In people taking statins, cholesterol can drop significantly after 6-8 weeks.

Other changes may be more difficult to predict or measure. If a person wants to track markers of heart health while making diet or lifestyle changes, they can ask a doctor to help with that.

Heart disease is leading cause of death in the U.S., but people can do a lot to reduce their risk. This includes a nutritious and balanced diet low in added sugar and salt.

Regular exercise and lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, also support heart health.

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