5 Steps to Better Heart Health


Whether you have a heart condition or not, the daily decisions you make affect your heart’s health. There is much more to consider beyond diet and exercise, so keep reading!

#1 How healthy is your heart? Understand your risk.

What are some powerful modifiable elements of heart health? Blood pressure, cholesterol, and keeping blood sugar and diabetes in control lead the list along with not smoking. Body mass index/activity level is also important. The most favorable levels that reduce the risk for future heart problems are:

  • Blood pressure: less than 140/90mm Hg, with the exception for those with diabetes or chronic kidney disease (less than 130/80mm Hg)
  • LDL cholesterol: below 100 mg/DL
  • Body Mass Index (BMI): 18.5 to 24.9

The Weight Factor

Anyone with a BMI level over 25 is considered overweight, and BMIs that are 30 or more indicate obesity. Both conditions are risk factors for heart disease. If you find yourself in either condition- don't worry, there is hope! According to the National Institute for Health, losing 5-10% of your weight can reduce your risk for heart disease!

#2 Eat foods with less trans and saturated fats

There are many healthy fats that help our bodies function. However, we do not need trans fats. In fact, trans fats negatively impact your cholesterol increasing your risk of developing heart disease, having a stroke, or developing type two diabetes. Monitoring how much saturated fat you consume is also important as saturated fat raises your total cholesterol. Aim to contain your saturated fat consumption to 10% of your total daily calories.

Limit your consumption of these high trans-fat food items:

  • Prepackaged baked goods
  • Stick margarine
  • Frozen pizza
  • Packaged refrigerated dough
  • Fried foods (chicken, fries, doughnuts, etc.)
  • Nondairy coffee creamer

#3 Sleep for your heart’s sake

What is the magic number of hours you should sleep every night? The exact number is debated among medical experts, however there is agreement that less than 6 hours of sleep a night can impact your heart health. Most studies recommend having a goal of 7-8 hours of sleep a night for adults.

#4 Manage Stress Like a Pro

When you experience stress, your body releases cortisol and adrenaline hormones which elevate your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Once stress hits, you might notice an uptick in smoking, drinking, and overeating behaviors. These are all common responses to stress that add strain to your heart.

Proven-effective coping mechanisms to handle stress are yoga, meditation, and exercise such as walking. Find something that works best for you!

#5 Quit Smoking for Good

If you smoke, you’ve likely heard that it increases your risk of heart disease. Did you know that secondhand smoking can also cause damage to the heart?

Through COPC’s Tobacco Cessation Program, you can learn effective ways to quit smoking for good to protect yourself and others in your life. You can also contact your doctor for other strategies and resources.

Additional COPC Content

COPC wants you and your loved ones to stay safe and healthy. Here are other heart related stories you might like:

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, February 23). Trans fat: Double trouble for your heart. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/trans-fat/art-20046114
Understanding the stress connection. (n.d.). Www.ucihealth.org. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.ucihealth.org/blog/2016/06/understanding-the-stress-connection
Does bad sleep impact your heart? (n.d.). Heart Foundation NZ. https://www.heartfoundation.org.nz/about-us/news/blogs/how-does-sleep-affect-your-heart
6 Essential Heart Healthy Habits for the New Year. (n.d.). Cleveland HeartLab, Inc. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.clevelandheartlab.com/blog/6-essential-heart-healthy-habits-new-year/
5 Things to Do Every Day to Keep Your Heart Healthy. (2019, February 5). Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-things-to-do-every-day-to-keep-your-heart-healthy/
Shannon, H. (2017, February 9). 7 ways to show your heart some love. www.ucihealth.org. https://www.ucihealth.org/blog/2017/02/how-to-strengthen-heart
Those risky health behaviors may lead to heart disease. (n.d.). Www.ucihealth.org. https://www.ucihealth.org/blog/2018/05/risky-behaviors
CDC. (2019). Preventing Heart Disease: What You Can Do. Prevent Heart Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/prevention.htm

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