Go for a Walk
Just 40 minutes three or four times a week (or 25 minutes of harder exercise, like jogging) can lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight. You don’t have to do it all at once. Even 10 minutes at a time is great for your heart. Take the dog or meet a friend at the park. If you’re new to working out or just getting back into it, start slow. Talk to your doctor to see if you’re healthy enough for exercise.
Eat More Fruits and Veggies
The nutrients and fiber (and low calories and fat) make them heart-healthy. But they also have antioxidants, which may help protect your cells from damage that can lead to diabetes and heart disease. Try to work different colors of produce into your diet. You can also add them to foods you already enjoy, like loading pizza with veggies or adding fruit to a bowl of cereal.
Snack on Nuts
The fiber, unsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids in nuts may help your body cut down on inflammation, “bad” LDL cholesterol, and plaque buildup in blood vessels — all linked to heart disease. They also might protect against blood clots that cause strokes. The type of nuts you choose probably doesn’t matter much, but don’t overdo it — they have lots of calories. About 4 small handfuls a week of unsalted nuts should do it.
Serve Up Salmon
Two servings a week of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, or tuna may help your heart health. Scientists used to think it was the omega-3 fatty acids in the fish, but there may be other nutrients that make a difference, too. Supplements and other foods with omega-3s like flaxseed, soybeans, and canola oil may not have the same benefits.
Do Some Yoga
It’s not just exercise, it’s also a way to calm your mind and ease stress. That can lower heart rate and blood pressure and make you less anxious, which is all good for your heart. If yoga’s not your thing, make time for other healthy ways to relax and cut stress, like meditation, listening to music, or a hobby you enjoy.
Sleep at Least 7 Hours a Night
Your body needs long periods of deep rest. During that time, your heart rate and blood pressure drop low for a while, which is key for heart health. If you always snooze less than 7 hours, your body may start to make chemicals that keep those things from happening. Less sleep is also linked to inflammation and high blood sugar, which can be bad for your heart.
Smoking raises blood pressure, makes it harder to exercise, and makes your blood more likely to clot, which can cause a stroke. But your chances of having a heart attack go down just 24 hours after your last cigarette. So see your doctor or check with groups like the American Heart Association for resources that can help you quit.
You’re less likely to have heart disease if you have sex a couple of times a week, compared to once a month. Scientists don’t know exactly why. The sex itself may help protect the heart. Or it may be that healthier people have more sex. Either way, what have you got to lose?
Stay at a Healthy Weight
Extra pounds raise your odds of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, all linked to heart disease. Don’t rely on fad diets or supplements to slim down, though. Exercise and the right amount of healthy foods are the best ways to keep a healthy weight. Talk to your doctor about how to measure your body mass index (BMI) to find out if you need to lose weight.