Despite being the number one killer in the world, heart disease can usually be stopped in its tracks with lifestyle changes. There’s no shortcut to leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, but there are many quick hacks you can incorporate into your life today to start the journey.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide medical advice. Please talk to your doctor about your health concerns and consult them before taking any supplements or making changes to your regime.
13 Ways to Improve Your Heart Health
We cover the “Simple 8” below while diving deeper into other natural strategies.
Making heart-healthy changes can seem overwhelming. Start with tiny steps, make one healthier choice every day, and you may find it easier to continue going.
Don’t expect changes overnight—keeping your heart healthy is a lifetime commitment.
How to Improve Heart Health Infographic
Leading an Active Lifestyle
Tip 1: Stay active and get some exercise each week
AHA recommends 2 ½ hours of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week (AHA).
You don’t have to be strict about it! The goal is to lead an active lifestyle so that you don’t have to count every minute. Spend less time sitting and more moving throughout your day. Mix up walking, running, weight training, yoga, dance, gardening—whatever feels right for you.
Look to add some strength training at least twice a week and find fun in upping the intensity.
People who regularly exercise are less likely to die from heart disease and have a lower risk of developing heart problems in the first place. They also have lower blood pressure and healthier cholesterol levels (Nystoriak & Bhatnagar, 2018).
Add tidbits of physical activity into your daily routine. Make it a habit to walk to get your groceries every morning or start biking to work. Set a reminder to get up every hour to stretch. Sign up for a dance or yoga class in your neighborhood or online. Get creative!
Tip 2: Lose (most of) the extra pounds
Maintaining a healthy weight is critical for heart health. Being overweight—and especially having lots of belly fat—puts you at risk of both heart disease and diabetes (Katta et al., 2021).
You don’t have to overdo it, though. Research shows that as long as you are fit and physically active, you can have a couple of extra pounds with no adverse effects on your health. This has been termed the “obesity paradox” (Oktay et al., 2017).
Instead of counting every calorie, avoid overeating. Focus on gradual weight loss by consuming healthy foods and staying active.
Tip 3: Spend more time outdoors and get natural sunlight
Vitamin D—the “sunshine vitamin”—keeps your blood pressure in check by toning your blood vessels. Its deficiency has been linked with higher mortality and heart disease risk (Guía-Galipienso et al., 2021).
The best way to boost your vitamin D levels is exposure to natural sunlight. Plus, being outdoors in nature has many other benefits for your heart—less pollution, more oxygen, more physical activity.
Taking a walk in the forest rather than in the city may even lower blood pressure and pulse rate by reducing the “fight-or-flight” response, according to recent research (Li et al., 2011; Li et al., 2016).
Look up the nearest forest park or green space in your area. Go there with family and friends and turn it into a hike and picnic.
Cutting Back on Toxins & Unhealthy Habits
Tip 4: Don’t smoke
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., including about a third of all deaths from heart disease. Quit smoking and look to also avoid second-hand smoke (AHA).
Make a decision to stop smoking and get support. Start today by avoiding the places and things that trigger you. Explore healthier ways to cope with your urges and stress.
Tip 5: Avoid alcohol in excess
Drinking too much alcohol increases your risk of heart disease. Don’t go over 2 drinks per day (AHA).
If you can avoid alcohol altogether, do. Otherwise, small amounts of red wine seem to be the best choice. Red wine is high in antioxidants like resveratrol and its intake has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease in some studies (Castaldo et al., 2019).
If you like to have a drink every now and then, pour yourself a glass of red wine once or twice a week.
Tip 6: Eliminate endocrine disruptors
Endocrine disruptors are man-made chemicals that interfere with how hormones work in the body. Many of them are also microbiome disruptors. Exposure to these chemicals has been fueling the rise in many chronic health conditions in the past decades (Kirkley et al., 2014).
A recent meta-analysis including almost 90,000 people warns that exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals increases the risk of heart disease and unhealthy cholesterol levels (Fu et al., 2020).
Look to avoid the following products that contain endocrine disruptors:
- Plastic wraps, bottles, and food containers
- Detergents and degreasing agents
- Industrially produced foods that contain pesticides
- Ultra-processed foods high in additives and contaminants
Buy organic whole foods and get a couple of glass or stainless-steel food containers. This way, you’ll already have reduced exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals by over 50%!
Supplements & Foods
Tip 7: Stick to a heart-healthy diet
If you want to improve your heart health and cholesterol, diet is the first place to start.
Read this post to find out what a heart-healthy diet should look like and which foods to include, based on the latest research.
Increase greens, whole grains, and legumes. Skip processed foods altogether and focus on fresh foods.
Tip 8: Up your nutrient intake
Diet quality matters more than the intake of any single nutrient. Aim for a balance of high-quality macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Magnesium and copper are two critical heart nutrients that many people are deficient in. Higher magnesium levels have been linked with a lower risk of high blood pressure and stroke (Rosique-Esteban et al., 2018; Hill & Shannon, 2019; Wazir & Ghobrial, 2017).
Copper deficiency increases the risk of high cholesterol, heart disease, and inflammation (DiNicolantonio et al., 2018).
- Whole grains
- Organ meats
Add organ meats and cashews to your diet.
Tip 9: Look into heart-healthy supplements
You don’t need to take any supplements to improve your heart health.
However, certain supplements have been proven to support a healthy, strong heart and normal cholesterol levels. The ones backed up by research include:
- Coenzyme Q10 (Martelli et al., 2010)
- Curcumin (Qin et al., 2017)
- Omega 3s (Shen et al., 2022)
- Garlic (Ansary et al., 2020)
- Red yeast rice extract (mixed data) (Li et al., 2022)
- Oat beta-glucan (Othman et al., 2011)
- Fiber (Rae, 2017)
- L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 (Jones et al., 2012)
Make sure grains, garlic, and fish are part of your diet before considering more targeted supplements.
Tip 10: Avoid supplements that may be harmful
Certain supplements may raise blood pressure or cholesterol or interact with medications. Supplements you may want to avoid or discuss with your doctor include:
- Licorice root
- St. John's Wort
- Bitter orange
- Plant sterols (controversial—read more in this post)
Make a list of any supplements you are using or considering and take it to your next doctor or pharmacy visit. Your healthcare provider will make sure nothing is contraindicated.
Holistic Health & Wellness
Tip 11: Tend to your microbiome
Gut microbiome imbalances and inflammation play a big role in the development of heart disease (Wu & Chiou, 2021).
Add some yogurt, kimchi, and olives to some meals—these fermented foods are rich in probiotic bacteria that tend to your gut microbiome.
Tip 12: Get enough sleep and reduce daily stress
Even AHA now recognizes that good heart health relies on getting enough quality sleep (AHA).
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Stress can also have a huge negative impact on heart health (Steptoe & Kivimäki, 2012).
Work on reducing stress in your life and find ways to relax and stay centered.
Avoid screens before going to bed and do yoga or meditation instead. Make sure to get direct sunlight in the morning and throughout the day to help sync your internal clock.
Tip 13: Address underlying inflammation and other health issues
Many other conditions can affect heart health, including diabetes, kidney disease, insomnia, and others. Work with a holistically minded practitioner to better understand and manage your overall health.
Ways to keep your heart healthy naturally include:
- Being more active and losing extra weight
- Getting enough sleep and reducing stress
- Avoiding tobacco and endocrine-disrupting chemicals
- Keeping your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure in check
- Addressing any other health concerns you may have
- Taking supplements like CoQ10, curcumin, and L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 (optional)
Consult your healthcare provider before taking any supplements to avoid interactions and side effects.
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Ana Aleksic, MSc Pharm
Ana is an integrative pharmacist and scientist with many years of medical writing, clinical research, and health advising experience. She loves communicating science and empowering people to achieve their optimal health. Ana has edited 800+ and written 200+ posts, some of which reached over 1 million people. Her specialties are natural remedies, drug-supplement interactions, women’s health, and mental health. She is also a birth doula and a strong advocate of bridging scientific knowledge with holistic medicine.