How to Keep Your Heart Healthy & Strong

How to Keep Your Heart Healthy & Strong

Maintaining good heart health is critical to leading a long and happy life. But where should you start? How much does diet play in? Do you need to exercise every day? And what about sleep and stress? If you’re looking for evidence-based information on how to keep your heart healthy and strong, read on. We’ve compiled the latest scientific research to help you understand what matters and how to take action.

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.

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1. Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy diet helps keep your heart, blood vessels, cholesterol, and blood sugar all in check. It provides necessary nutrients, helps your body fight off infections and inflammation, and supports your energy levels so you can stay active and fit (Badimon et al., 2019). 

A science-backed heart-healthy diet plan includes (Tsao et al., 2022, Cacau et al., 2022; Vanegas et al., 2022).

  • Fruits and vegetables 
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Fiber and whole grains
  • Fermented foods
  • Healthy fats (such as olive oil and coconut oil)
  • Nuts and seeds

It also means reducing your intake of:

  • Sweet sugar beverages 
  • Salt or high-sodium meals
  • Highly refined carbs
  • Highly processed food, such as processed meats
  • Trans fat

Be sure to read this post about heart-healthy foods that can actively lower your cholesterol. 


2. Get Moving! 

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, it’s time to embrace being more active.  

Aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes of activity daily. This can be anything from walking to yoga to dance to strength training. Regular physical activity ramps up your metabolism, strengthens your heart, and maintains blood vessel health (Valenzuela et al., 2023; AHA).

Sitting for long periods of time can be even worse for your heart health than being overweight, a study from the University of Florida reveals (Mainous 3rd et al., 2019). 

New data are encouraging: reducing sedentary time and increasing physical activity lower both the risk of heart disease and the risk of dying from any cause in overweight or obese middle-aged and older adults (Zhang & Liu, 2024). 

3. Don’t Smoke or Vape

Quitting smoking is critical to keeping your heart healthy and strong!

Many studies warn that smoking, tobacco use, and vaping can all take a toll on your heart and overall health (Banks et al., 2019; CDC; Kuntic et al., 2020). 

Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and sudden death. In the US, smoking accounted for 33% of all deaths from heart disease (CDC). 

It’s not too late to quit even if you’ve been a smoker for a long time. Within a year of quitting, your risk is halved (CDC; Lightwood & Glantz, 1997). 

However, the earlier you give up cigarettes, the better. Quitting in the first 40 years of life reduces the associated risk of death by 90% (Gallucci et al., 2020).

Harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke create a buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis), raise cholesterol levels, trigger oxidative stress, and increase the risk of blood clots. Even low-tar cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and passive smoking pose considerable risks to the heart and blood vessels (Gallucci et al., 2020).

Maintaining a smoke-free lifestyle also reduces inflammation and helps your immune system work better, contributing to your general well-being. 

4. Limit Alcohol 

While low-to-moderate alcohol consumption may provide some cardiovascular benefits, the overall evidence suggests that the healthiest approach is to limit alcohol intake (O'Keefe et al., 2014; Hoek et al., 2022; Mezue et al., 2023). 

Avoid heavy or excessive drinking altogether. High alcohol intake may increase blood pressure and contribute to the development of hypertension, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation and flutter, and stroke (Piano, 2017; Arora et al., 2022). 

Current guidelines generally recommend 1 drink or less daily for most individuals, with some allowing up to 2 drinks daily among younger and middle-aged men (Hoek et al., 2022). 

5. Maintain a Healthy Weight 

Losing any extra weight you may have will help keep your heart healthy and strong, reducing your risk of disease in the long-term.  

A BMI of 25 or higher is considered overweight. It’s linked with higher cholesterol and blood sugar and a greater risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and diabetes (Limpijankit et al., 2022). 

It’s not just about losing weight, it’s about maintaining a healthy weight. A recent review cautions about the risks of weight cycling. Body weight variability—or the “yo-yo effect”—is associated with an increased risk of heart disease independent of ethnicity or diabetes status (Massey et al. 2023)

Your waist circumference is another way to estimate your cardiovascular disease risk, aside from BMI. Women with a waist size greater than 35 inches (88.9 centimeters, or cm) and men with a waist larger than 40 inches (101.6 cm) are at higher risk (Ross et al., 2020; Siren et al., 2012; Peters et al., 2018). 

6. Go Outside

Vitamin D—the “sunshine vitamin”—helps keep your heart healthy by toning your blood vessels. Its deficiency has been linked with heart disease and a shorter lifespan (Guía-Galipienso et al., 2021; Heath et al., 2009). 

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. 

7. Stay Away from Pollution

Pollution often gets overlooked as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Yet, one study estimates that pollution was responsible for 9 million deaths worldwide in 2019, 61.9% of which were due to cardiovascular disease (Rajagopalan et al., 2021). 

You can reduce your risk by choosing to spend less time in polluted environments—be it by spending weekends in nature or by deciding to live in a greener area (Rajagopalan et al., 2021). 

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).

8. Get Enough Sleep 

Research shows that people are sleeping an average 1.5h less per night than a century ago! 

If you want to keep your heart healthy and strong, don’t compromise sleep. Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule and aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per day. This is recommended for most adults aged 18-60 years old, according to a joint consensus statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and Sleep Research Society (SRS).

People who don't get an adequate amount of quality sleep have a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, and depression (Gao et al., 2022). 

A large study of over 60k Asian adults revealed that both poor sleep quality and short sleep duration were linked to higher heart disease risk (Lao et al., 2018).

An Iranian study of 8k people also found a link between chronic nighttime sleep deprivation (less than 5 hours) and higher rates of heart disease (Sadabadi et al., 2023). 

Sleep is a physiological need your whole body benefits from. Restful nighttime sleep helps your nervous system reset, contributing to a strong heart and healthy blood flow during the day (Nagai et al., 2010). 

9. Reduce Stress 

Research confirms that stress can have a major influence on a person’s risk of heart disease. In one Pakistani study, heart disease risk was higher in people with a history of social isolation, marital stress, work stress, childhood abuse, or trauma (Satyjeet et al., 2020). 

A Swedish study revealed that the risk is higehst in the period immediately following a stressful life event or diagnosis of a stress-related disorder (Fang et al., 2019). 

Chronic stress has also been associated with an increased risk of heart disease in several studies (Levine, 2022). 

If you are experiencing chronic stress or have a history of trauma, consider working with a trauma-informed professional to get proper treatment. 

10. Support Your Mental Health 

Heart health and mental well-being are tightly linked. Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke (Borkowski & Borkowska, 2024

On the flip side, positive psychological traits—optimism, a sense of purpose, and mindfulness—have been linked with a lower risk for heart disease (Kubzansky et al., 2019). 

11. Support Your Gut Microbiome

Supporting your gut microbiome can help keep your heart healthy. 

Scientists have long known about the link between gut dysbiosis and heart disease. Most factors discussed in this article that negatively affect the heart also disrupt the gut microbiome. Good news—this means that as soon as you start leading a more heart-healthy lifestyle, your gut microbiome will improve as well! (Novakovic et al., 2020, Wu & Chiou, 2021)

Targeted probiotics like L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 may also help. L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 is a clinically tested probiotic that has been shown to support healthy LDL and total cholesterol, as well as improve other markers of heart health. Plus, it contributes to an already normal anti-inflammatory response and healthy vitamin D levels in the body (Jones et al., 2011, Jones et al., 2012; Jones et al., 2013, Jones et al., 2013; Martoni et al., 2015; Jones et al., 2011; Jones et al, 2012).


12. Add Supplements as Needed

A healthy diet and lifestyle provide most of the nutrients you need to keep your heart healthy and strong. 

If you’re struggling with your diet and feel like you need an extra boost, you may also consider taking supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, CoQ10, vitamin D, and garlic (Casas et al. 2018; Bronzato & Durante, 2018).

Some healthcare professionals may also recommend adding plant sterols to your regimen, but new research advises against their widespread use (Makhmudova et al., 2021; Helgadottir et al., 2020).

Read why you should avoid plant sterols and share this information with your provider. 

13. Go In for Regular Health Checkups

High blood pressure and high cholesterol are sometimes called “silent killers” because they can damage your heart and blood vessels before you show any symptoms. 

Regular screening tests can tell you what your levels are and whether you need to take action. Tests typically involve measuring blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides and comparing them to the optimal levels for your sex and age group.

How to Keep Your Heart Healthy Poster

How to Keep Your Heart Healthy Poster Infographic

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Ana Aleksic, MSc

Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy)

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.

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Ana Aleksic

Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for direct, individual medical treatment or advice. It is the responsibility of you and your healthcare providers to make all decisions regarding your health. Microbiome Plus recommends that you consult with your healthcare providers regarding the diagnosis and treatment of any disease or condition. Products sold on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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