We all know a healthy heart is vital to a healthy body. It pumps fresh, oxygenated blood throughout the body to keep it functioning. But, according to John’s Hopkins Medicine, approximately 84 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease. Yikes! Since prevention is the best medicine, and it is American Heart month, we pulled together five heart-healthy tips in honor of your ticker.

 

Exercise regularly

The heart is a muscle, and the more it works out the stronger it gets. Consistency is key when it comes to preventing heart disease. Find a class you love and take it twice a week. Make a date with a friend for a walk around the neighborhood. Meet up with your personal trainer once a week. Make exercise part of your everyday life and your heart will thank you.

 

Eat a heart healthy, colorful diet

Fill your daily plate with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lean protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. This isn’t anything new as this type of diet is recommended for preventing nearly every chronic disease in the book. And for good reason! It works!

 

Chill out on the salt

Exceeding the daily recommended amount of 2,400 milligrams of sodium raises the danger of developing high blood pressure which can lead to heart disease. Even if that salt shaker gathers dust on your dining room table, you still need to watch out since sodium sneaks into nearly every processed or packaged food we eat. Be sure to read that nutrition label and try to pick whole foods, as minimally processed as possible.

 

If you smoke, try to quit

Smoking doesn’t just affect your lungs and throat, but it’s linked to poor cardiovascular health. It can cause atherosclerosis, or a build-up in the arteries in the heart. This tightens, or narrows, the arteries which makes it harder for blood to flow to the heart, potentially blocking it and eventually contributing to a heart attack.

 

Manage stress levels

Recent research has shown chronic stress can lead to an increase in the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. A daily gratitude practice, yoga class, meditation, or relaxing ‘me’ time at the end of the day are all proven to decrease stress. So, make yourself a priority, show yourself some love, and that keep that heart pounding strong for many years to come.