These 8 heart-healthy tips that aren’t diet or exercise related are just as important as any workout or healthy recipe when it comes to taking care of your heart.
Special thanks to my assistant and fellow registered dietitian nutritionist Emily Cooper for her help with this post.
As you may know, February is not only the season of love, it’s also National Heart Health month. What better time to spread love to the health of our hearts and the importance of stress management when it comes to keeping your ticker in tip-top shape.
It’s no secret that a healthy, well-balanced diet and daily movement are key to overall health as well as heart health, but there’s something just as (if not more) important: Stress.
Heart disease is the leading killer in the United States, and chronic stress is a major risk factor. These heart-healthy tips are easy ways to make your heart a priority, even if your diet and exercise routine are in check.
Now this doesn’t mean you have to zen out for an hour to reap the benefits of getting a little more mindful. Research shows that giving your mind a rest for even a few minutes a day can help lower heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels.
There are plenty of apps, podcasts, audiobooks, and YouTube channels to help you bring meditation into your everyday life. Finding one that works for you is the key to keeping up with it regularly.
Takeaway: Clearing your mind with meditation or mindful breathing for even minutes a day can help lower stress, blood pressure, and heart rate.
Do Something You Love
You know how the saying goes: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” That same mindset could be another key to keeping your heart healthy. Studies show that people who have more positive attitudes and moods can actually live longer, more fulfilling lives.
Doing something you love doesn’t just have to apply to your job. Finding things that bring you joy everyday can be just as powerful for lowering stress and improving your overall mood.
Takeaway: Keeping a positive mood can help keep a healthy heart. Finding something that brings you happiness and positivity everyday is a great way to lower stress and improve health.
Working crazy hours and being on the go all the time is the fastest way to burnout and keeps stress levels high. Giving yourself permission to do absolutely nothing for even just a few minutes a day can give both your mind and body a much needed break.
Take a hot bath, read a chapter in a new book, or simply sit down and listen to music. Taking time for yourself is the first step in making your health and well-being a top priority.
Takeaway: Give yourself full permission to do nothing for even a few minutes each day. Finding quiet and stillness can give both your mind and body a needed break and lower overall stress levels.
Get Enough Rest
Another act of doing nothing that is actually beneficial to heart health is sleep. Regardless of how healthy your diet and exercise routine, research shows if you aren’t getting enough rest you could be increasing your risk for heart disease.
Make sleep as much as a priority as you would important appointments or meetings. Aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night to reap the powerful benefits of a little R&R.
Takeaway: Regardless of diet or exercise, a lack of sleep can put you at risk for heart disease. Prioritize getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Good dental hygiene doesn’t stop at your teeth and gums. Those who suffer from gum disease may also have the same risk factors for heart disease and increased risk of stroke.
Take the extra minute each night to include flossing along with brushing your teeth before you go to bed to decrease your risk for both gum disease and heart disease.
Takeaway: Gum disease is strongly connected to heart disease. Prevent both by flossing and brushing your teeth regularly.
Giving thanks for being healthy can actually keep you healthy. It’s been shown that those who are more appreciative for what they have in life are at lower risk for heart disease, have more energy, and better sleep.
Show thanks for the small things you may take for granted each day, such as clean, running water, a roof over your head, or a loving relationship. Not only do these acts of gratitude improve your overall mood, but they can help protect your heart in the process.
Takeaway: Giving thanks and staying positive can actually keep you healthier due to stress-reducing properties. Silently give gratitude for the things you have in your life, and more good things will return.
Stepping outside for some fresh air and sunshine can do more than clearing your head and getting in a few extra steps. Getting a little bit of sunshine each day can increase vitamin D levels in the body, which studies show is a key contributor to heart health.
The sun isn’t shining? Getting outside for a stretch or a quick walk around the block can help reduce stress and improve concentration and your overall mood, no matter the weather.
Takeaway: Getting a little sunshine and fresh air each day can improve vitamin D levels, concentration, and mood.
Having a good network of friends and loved ones can be more important to your health than you thought. Connecting with others can help lower stress, and research has shown that those with strong relationships live longer, healthier lives.
The key to healthy relationships along with healthy hearts is quality over quantity. The stronger, and more connected the relationships are, the better the health outcomes as well.
Takeaway: Healthy relationships can lower stress, and improve health and longevity. Focus on fostering strong bonds with friends and family. Quality matters more than quantity.
Looking for some heart-healthy recipes? Check out a few of my favorites!