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Feeling the pressure? 8 ways to live a heart-healthy lifestyle

Posted March 28, 2022 by Fatima Samad, MD

Veggies displayed in the shape of a heart

Are you feeling the pressure to live a heart-healthy lifestyle? You’re not alone.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). What’s more, nearly half of all adults in this country are living with some type of cardiovascular disease.

The good news is you don’t have to be a statistic. While genetics do play a role in heart disease, there are several risk factors that can be reversed. And when you choose a heart healthy lifestyle, not only will you lower your risk for heart disease, but you also can reduce your risk for other serious chronic conditions, such as diabetes and certain cancers.

So take your health to heart. Summa Health offers 8 ways to live a heart-healthier lifestyle that will help keep your ticker going strong for the long haul.  

  1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet.

    Make it a habit to choose healthier food options. Reach for more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy, instead of sugary and salty snacks (chips, cookies, donuts), saturated fats (butter, high-fat meats and dairy products) and trans fats (prepackaged foods, margarines and fried fast foods). You can replace unhealthy fats with heart-healthy ones found in salmon, nuts, seeds and vegetables.

  2. Get active every week.

    Exercise is essential for a healthy heart. Just like you exercise to build muscle, exercising strengthens your heart. The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise (brisk walking, swimming or biking) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (running or aerobics) each week. In addition, include muscle-strengthening activities into your routine at least two days a week.

  3. Shed excess weight.

    Being overweight puts a lot of strain on your heart, causing it to work harder. Adding pounds can actually change the structure of your heart and its ability to pump blood, which can lead to heart failure. Excess weight also increases your risk for developing many other heart disease risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea. A healthy diet and active lifestyle are key to maintaining a healthy weight.

  4. Know your numbers and family health history.

    Maintaining your heart-healthy numbers in a normal range plays a significant role in maintaining a strong heart. Critical heart-health numbers that should not be ignored include: blood pressure, resting heart rate, cholesterol, blood sugar and waist circumference. Learn the optimal numbers for your sex and age group and take steps to maintain them.

    It’s also important to learn your family health history. Certain preventative screenings may be recommended earlier or more frequently if your family history points to an increased risk of heart disease.

  5. Catch your Zzz’s every night.

    Believe it or not, sleep contributes to a healthy heart. Deep sleep allows your body to settle into periods of lowered blood pressure and heart rate, which gives your heart a rest. It also allows your blood pressure to regulate, restores the body and helps decrease stress. Sleep requirements vary by age, but the average adult should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

  6. Reduce stress.

    Keep stress under control to protect your ticker. Stress increases cortisol, which can contribute to weight gain, and can affect blood pressure and cholesterol levels. What’s more, high stress can lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking or overeating.

    So keep your stress in check with breathing exercises, meditation or even aromatherapy. Exercise is also a great form of stress reduction, especially when you define a time that yours only — with no interruptions — and preferably outside in nature.

  7. Don’t smoke.

    If you smoke, it’s never too late to quit. Most of us know smoking — and secondhand smoke — is bad for our lungs. But, what you may not know is it’s also bad for your heart. Chemicals in cigarette smoke lead to plaque buildup in the arteries and studies show they are a major cause for coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks.

  8. Improve dental hygiene.
  9. Strange, but true: Poor dental hygiene puts your heart health at risk. Studies show a link between bacteria that causes gum disease and an increased risk of heart disease. So be sure to brush at least twice daily and floss every night to keep gum disease at bay.

With the proper steps and precautions, you can reverse your heart disease risk factors by making simple changes to your lifestyle. It’s worth it to take the pressure off.

What are some changes you’ve made to become more heart healthy? Please share.


Fatima Samad, MD

Fatima Samad, MD

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