5 Ways to a Healthier Heart

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1  In fact, 1 in every 4 deaths in the US is attributed to heart disease.1  There are many risk factors associated with heart disease that we cannot control. These include things like age, gender, and genetic factors.  However, there are plenty of risk factors that we can control, such as diet, physical activity level, smoking, alcohol consumption, and weight/BMI score, to name a few.  Don’t be another statistic – start taking care of yourself now with these 5 ways to a healthier heart:

1. Stress Management

According to the American Heart Association, there is a growing belief that stress and heart disease are linked because stress increases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can impact your blood pressure and heart rate.1   Under normal circumstances, your body can regulate these hormones, turning them off and on as necessary.  And under normal circumstances, they are beneficial.   Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain's use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.  The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body's processes.2  So where do you start when you’re feeling stressed?  Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York states that identifying and addressing the cause of the anxiety could help.  She also suggests slowly incorporating one healthy habit at a time to manage stress and ultimately improve heart health.1

2. Physical Activity

The American Heart Association suggests at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). In other words, thirty minutes a day, five times a week.  If you’re pressed for time, even dividing your time between three 10 minute sessions or two 15 minute sessions would be beneficial.3

Just a few of the many benefits of exercise include3:

·       Improves blood circulation

·       Keeps weight under control

·       Helps in the battle to quit smoking

·       Improves blood cholesterol levels

·       Manages high blood pressure

·       Prevents bone loss

·       Boosts energy level

·       Helps manage stress

·       Releases tension

·       Promotes enthusiasm and optimism

·       Counters anxiety and depression

3. Magnesium Supplementation

Magnesium is present in every cell of the human body. At least half is found in the bones, combined with calcium and phosphorus, and the remainder is in soft tissue, including red blood cells and muscles, making it essential. It is the fourth most abundant cation (i.e., positive metal ion, Mg2+) in the body, at 25 grams in the average human adult. In fact, it is so important for metabolism, that magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 enzyme reactions and regulates about 80% of the body’s biochemical processes. It is not only essential for energy production since it aids in the formation of ATP, it also stabilizes mitochondrial membranes that support high energy areas of the body like the brain, heart and liver. Additionally, magnesium is a building block for DNA and RNA synthesis, aids in the production of glutathione, a master antioxidant in the body, and assists with glucose and insulin metabolism. It is also a precursor for neurotransmitters in the brain and is critical in cell reproduction and smooth muscle action, specifically the muscle tone of the heart.4

4. Weight Management

The benefits of a healthy weight go far beyond just looking good.  The American Heart Association also mentions these health-promoting benefits of maintaining a healthy weight5:

·       Fewer joint and muscle pains

·       More energy

·       Better regulation blood pressure

·       Reduced burden on your heart

·       Better sleep patterns

·       Reductions in blood triglycerides, blood glucose, and risk of developing type 2 diabetes

·       Reduced risk for heart disease and certain cancers


So how do you know if you’re at a healthy weight?  Body Mass Index (BMI) is a good, albeit not perfect, indicator of the amount of body fat for most people.  A BMI between 18.5 and 25 kg/m² indicates a normal weight. You can calculate your BMI using the following equation:


Metric Method:

BMI = weight (kg)/ (height (m))2


Imperial (US) Method:

BMI = (weight (lbs) x 703)/ (height (in))2


Example: Average Joe weighs 185 lbs and is 6’ 2” tall. 

BMI = (185 x 703)/ 742

= 130,055 /5476

= 23.75

So, Average Joe is within normal range.

And here is a simple chart to give you a good idea of where you’re at:







BMI (kg/m2)



25 - 29.9




5. Quit Smoking

Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the US.  Smoking by itself increases the risk for coronary heart disease.  It also decreases your tolerance for physical activity, decreases your cholesterol and increases the tendency for your blood to clot.6

Here’s a link to the American Heart Association’s page on Getting Ready to Quit Smoking:




1. American Heart Association.  Stress Management. 2014. Accessed from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/StressManagement/Stress-Management_UCM_001082_SubHomePage.jsp

2. Mayo Clinic. Healthy Lifestyle Stress Management. 2013. Accessed from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037?pg=1

3. American Heart Association.  Physical Activity.  2014.  Accessed from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/American-Heart-Association-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-in-Adults_UCM_307976_Article.jsp

4. National Institutes of Health. Magnesium. 2013. Accessed from http://ods.od.nih.gov/ factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/

5. American Heart Association. Weight Management. 2014.  Accessed from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/WeightManagement/BodyMassIndex/Body-Mass-Index-In-Adults-BMI-Calculator-for-Adults_UCM_307849_Article.jsp

6. American Heart Association. Quit Smoking. 2015.  Accessed from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/QuitSmoking/QuittingSmoking/Why-Quit-Smoking_UCM_307847_Article.jsp


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