5 Heart Healthy Habits You Can Start Today

Get up and move 

Fire up that Fitbit you got for Christmas and get in those steps! Park a little farther from the grocery store or walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Don’t sit for too long — take a few short walks throughout the day, even if it’s just around your house or office. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. 

Get enough sleep 

If you’re not sleeping enough, you could be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease no matter what else you do. Sleeping too little — less than 7 hours a night — is thought to cause disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes, including blood pressure and inflammation.  

Eat healthy fats 

We all need fats in our diet, including saturated and polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats. But stay away from trans fats, which can clog arteries, raise bad cholesterol levels and increase the risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke. Read food labels to make sure you’re avoiding trans fats, which are found in some processed foods and appear as “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils.  

Brush and floss daily 

Dental health is a good indication of overall health, including your heart, because those who have periodontal (gum) disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease. Bacteria found in the mouth has been shown to increase a protein that’s a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels.

Avoid secondhand smoke 

You already know not to smoke, but it’s also almost as important to avoid secondhand smoke. The risk of developing heart disease is about 25 to 30 percent higher for people exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work. The chemicals emitted from cigarette smoke can cause plaque buildup in the arteries of nonsmokers who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. 

About the author

Kim O'Brien Root

Kim O'Brien Root has been a reporter for 20 years previously working for the Daily Press and The Roanoke Times. She's been a freelance journalist since 2010, balancing writing with being a chronic volunteer. She lives in Hampton with her husband, a fellow journalist, two children and a dog.