African American and Caucasian women exercising
Heart Health
Heart health Overview

The Five-Point Plan for a Healthier Heart

Heart disease is the number one killer of people of most ethnicities in the United States. (It’s the second biggest killer for American Indians, Alaska Natives and Asians or Pacific Islanders.) So it’s crucial to do as much as you can to keep this vital organ healthy. Here, from the experts at Labdoor, a dietary-supplement review site, are strategies for a healthier heart:

  1. Take care of the basics

A healthy diet and exercise regimen are essential for a healthy heart. There’s no way around it. Most of the main predictors for heart disease, including hypertension, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and physical inactivity can be modulated with diet and exercise. For some tips, the American Heart Association has an excellent guideline for a heart-healthy diet, and they recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.

On top of preventing heart disease, research also shows that certain foods and regular exercise can make you happier. In a study of more than 12,000 subjects, people who consumed the most processed foods like fries, fried chicken, cookies, and cakes were 37% more likely to become depressed than people who avoided junk foods. On the other hand, Mediterranean diets slow the rate of neuropsychological decline compared to diets low in vegetables and high in animal fat. Exercise can make these mood and cognitive benefits even more pronounced. In the short-term, a good exercise session can improve your mood for about four hours, but regular exercise long-term has the potential to improve mood and self-esteem, and slow the progression of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

  1. Invest in positive relationships

Emotionally supportive relationships, characterized by caring, sympathy, and understanding, keep your heart healthy. In fact, the degree to which you feel loved in your relationships affects your risk for atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, and how quickly it advances. Research also shows that negative close relationships increase the risk for coronary heart disease even more than positive relationships can protect you from it. That’s because negative interactions carry heavy risks for depression, reduced self-esteem, and anger, all of which lead to inflammatory and immune stress responses that damage your organs.

Ultimately, it’s important for you to feel valued, so do your heart a favor by seeking supportive relationships and managing negative ones, whether that means repairing them, distancing yourself, or asking for outside help. Recognize, also, that relationships are a two-way street. In a study of individuals above 70 years old, something as trivial as helping others with small tasks and making them feel like help is available when they need it has been shown in research to prolong life for both parties.

  1. Limit your work stress