World Heart Day: 5 Lifestyle Changes for a Healthier Heart

World Heart Day is celebrated every year on September 29th. This global campaign highlights the actions that we each can take to prevent and control cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Created by the World Health Federation, World Heart Day raises awareness around the globe that CVD, including heart disease and stroke, claims 17.9 million lives each year, making it the world’s leading cause of death. But it doesn’t need to be this way.

So what can you do right now to look after your heart?

A healthy diet and lifestyle is your best defense to fight cardiovascular disease. These five heart-healthy habits offer long-term benefits to your health and your heart.

  1. Get active. Exercise and physical activity are magic bullets against heart disease and other chronic conditions. For adults, the surgeon general recommends two and a half hours of moderate-intensity exercise and two sessions of at least 30 minutes each of weekly resistance training. You can spread the aerobic activity throughout the week, such as 30 minutes five days a week, or 50 minutes three days a week.
  2. Watch your weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of heart disease. Carrying extra pounds, especially around the belly, increases the amount of work your heart has to do to pump blood throughout your body. If you are overweight, losing just 5% to 10% of your starting weight can make a big difference in your blood pressure and blood sugar.
  3. Enrich your diet. Diets high in saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol have been linked to heart disease and related conditions, such as atherosclerosis. Add fruits and vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fat, lean protein (from beans, nuts, fish and poultry), and low-sodium herbs and spices. Cut down on processed foods, salt, rapidly digested carbohydrates (from white bread, white rice, potatoes and the like), red meat and soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages.
  4. Drink alcohol in moderation. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure.
  5. Manage your stress levels. Stress is a risk factor for heart disease, so learning to manage it is vital to keeping one of your five vital organs in tip-top, tick-tocking condition.

On this year’s World Heart Day, we encourage everyone to take a moment to reflect on what we each can do to fight cardiovascular heart disease and stroke. It is never too late — or too soon — to start making simple, healthy lifestyle choices and becoming a true heart hero.