Ask any cardiologist, and they’ll likely tell you that, in general, the best way to prevent heart disease down the road is by adopting holistic heart-healthy activities today, which, bonus points, can also improve your overall well-being. Fortunately, small, daily habits add up in big ways when it comes to protecting your ticker, says cardiologist Mona Shah, MD, who’s also an expert in holistic integrative medicine. This includes your diet, exercise and sleep, as well as your stress level and how you manage it.
In particular, there are a few holistic heart-healthy activites Dr. Shah recommends doing consistently (they’re part of her daily routine, FYI), which you’ll find below.
5 holistic heart-healthy activities to add to your daily routine
1. Morning rituals to prevent stress
Dr. Shah recommends spending 15–20 minutes at the start of your day doing practices that’ll promote mindfulness and reduce mental tension such as journaling, practicing gratitude. Both of which have been shown to lower stress and improve happiness levels, she says. Her other recs include breathwork and yoga. “I find that on mornings where I start with even just two or three habits, I am so much more calm and less stressed at work and for the rest of my day,” says Dr. Shah.
2. Going for a walk or jog
“Getting some sunshine and moving our bodies even for 15 minutes can provide quick and natural vitamin D and release endorphins to improve mood and promote happiness,” says Dr. Shah, who recommends walking or jogging since both are beneficial to heart health.
3. Eating antioxidant-rich foods
Dr. Shah recommends choosing meals that minimize simple carbs, processed foods, and sugars, which can all cause insulin and blood sugar levels to go up and down like a rollercoaster. “This creates inflammation, which is the root cause of so many disease processes and risk factors of the heart,” she says. Instead, focus on eating a variety of anti-inflammatory foods and complex carbs. If you prefer to follow a particular meal plan, the Mediterranean diet is good for your heart.
4. Elevating your heart rate with exercise
Moderate to high-intensity exercise not only relieves stress, but it also promotes better heart health and circulation. Dr. Shah recommends a combination of weighted exercise and cardio (two of the best types of workouts for heart health).
5. Intermittent fasting
Taking extended periods of time between eating meals is an ancient practice—one some of the longest-living people on the planet do regularly. “There are so many benefits of letting your body have at least 12 hours of not eating to help enhance hormone function, metabolism, and lower inflammation,” explains Dr. Shah. One of the most common ways to practice IF is by spacing out the window of time between when you eat dinner and breakfast, which how Dr. Shah prefers to do it. But as Well+Good previously reported: A 2017 study found that people who fasted for five days a month for three months (eating 800-1100 calories per day) had lower blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and cholesterol levels—all biomarkers associated with cardiovascular disease—than people who ate normally for three months.
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