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8 ways you can establish heart-healthy routines

With simple efforts, you can make healthy choices to help protect yourself and loved ones from heart disease.

Outside on a porch or deck, two older white people stand around a metal mixing bowl with a salad of greens, carrots and cherry tomatoes. The man is drizzling olive oil onto the salad and the woman holds plates and forks. Because the photo was taken from slightly above them and they’re both looking down at the salad, you can’t see their eyes.

(Photo from Getty Images)

What weighs less than a pound, pumps about 2,000 gallons a day and benefits from a good laugh? Your heart.

We associate this organ with love and life itself. However, while most people have a routine for changing their car’s oil and checking tire pressure, many have not made a plan for how to sustain a healthy heart.

That’s concerning because heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Also, heart health is connected to brain health, including problems such as stroke and dementia.

The good news is that with early screening and healthy lifestyle behaviors, you can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends regular exercise (150 minutes per week), healthy eating, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, limiting alcohol use, knowing your family history of heart disease, managing stress and monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol count.

If that sounds like a lot to do, take heart. With some simple new routines, you can greatly improve your heart health. Here are ways to make sure you are on track to take excellent care of your heart, now and into the future.


Make an appointment right now with your health care provider for a health assessment, no matter what your age, and do it annually to check your blood pressure and lipid levels, including cholesterol and diabetes risk. Don’t wait until something goes wrong to find out your numbers because heart disease can be present in people of any age and without symptoms. If you have had a physical exam or biometric screening recently, you can look for these numbers in your chart.

If your cholesterol and low-density lipids are high, your health care provider might recommend a coronary calcium scan, which is a noninvasive scan of your heart that provides information about your coronary arteries. This scan is a good predictor of heart attack risk.

Write down your family’s heart history and take it to your next appointment to help your health care provider assess your heart disease risk.


Shop for healthy food that you can cook or munch on easily. Choose whole grains, nontropical oils like olive and canola, low-salt nuts and fresh fruits and vegetables (aim for five servings each day). Avoid high-sodium processed foods. A little time prepping healthy food goes a long way. The Wexner Medical Center has these great tips for heart-healthy eating.


Take time to relieve stress at least a few times a day so that it doesn’t build up. There are many ways to do this, including simple stretches, a five- to 10-minute meditation, deep abdominal breathing, the practice of gratitude, a short walk or a few minutes of journaling.

Exercise — just 30 minutes of exercise a day can greatly improve your health. It doesn’t have to be all at once: try giving yourself three 10-minute breaks to walk, climb stairs, jog in place or dance. Schedule these into your daily planner or set an alarm for “time to move.”

If you have a heart condition, monitor your blood pressure daily and write it down to keep track. This record of variations in your blood pressure can be valuable to your health care provider.


Take time to stand up if you stay seated for most of the day, and move around at least once an hour. Not only is it good for your heart, but it will boost your energy and mental alertness as well.

Right now

Laugh. It’s OK to have fun at work! Studies show that a little laughter relaxes blood vessels, sending 20% more blood through the body, which makes your heart’s job easier.

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