The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. One person dies from the disease every 36 seconds in the United States. While these statistics are staggering, the truth is that cardiovascular disease is often preventable with healthy eating and exercise, and people who do develop the condition can significantly decrease their chances of death through lifestyle changes. Read on to learn more about the benefits of healthy eating and exercise for heart health.
Diet and Exercise for Heart Health
Nearly all lists of heart health tips include dietary and exercise components. Eating a healthy diet ensures that your body has the right nutrients needed to promote proper heart function and can lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels to benefit the cardiovascular system. Exercising strengthens the cardiac muscle and may increase cardiac output to help the heart function properly. Plus, a healthy diet and exercise plan can help you shed pounds, which has also improved heart health.
What Is a Heart Healthy Diet?
To promote heart health, try a diet rich in:
- Whole grains
- A large assortment of fruits and vegetables
- Lean proteins like nuts, legumes, fish, seafood, low-fat dairy, poultry, and lean cuts of red meat
Your body also needs healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like olive oil and vegetable oil in small amounts. Cutting down on the following can also benefit your heart:
- Processed foods
- Refined sugar
How To Improve Heart Health with Exercise
The minimum activity level recommended to support heart health is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity every week. This doesn't mean that you have to go to a gym to work out. You can do a cardio workout at home by taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood, going for a hike on hilly terrain, swimming, or playing a sport—even chores like mowing the grass and walking quickly while vacuuming can count toward physical activity.
Supplements That May Help Improve Cardiovascular Health
A balanced diet can go a long way toward supporting heart health, but you still may not get enough of certain essential heart healthy nutrients depending on your food preferences and lifestyle. Dietary supplements may help you avoid deficiencies in these critical vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown the following to be among the best supplements for heart health.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin needed for bone health, nervous system function, and immunity. Your body makes some vitamin D in response to exposure to sunlight. However, older adults, people with dark skin, those who don't spend much time outdoors, and individuals with certain health conditions are at risk for vitamin D deficiency.
There are multiple vitamin D supplement products available, including vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Scientific studies show that vitamin D3 benefits the body more as it has been observed to raise vitamin D levels to a higher level than D2.
How Vitamin D Benefits Heart Health
A study found that low vitamin D levels increase the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. This is because vitamin D helps regulate blood pressure levels by working on specific cells in the muscles and other tissues. A lack of vitamin D could cause your body's natural blood pressure control system to work less efficiently.
What Is Vitamin K?
Vitamin K is another essential vitamin, but it is one that the body can only obtain from food. Although severe vitamin K deficiency is rare, it is possible to be slightly deficient in the nutrient and not have any symptoms. Individuals with digestive disorders are especially at risk of vitamin K deficiency. There are two main forms of vitamin K: vitamin K1 found in plants and vitamin K2 found in animal products like meats and dairy.
How Vitamin K Benefits Heart Health
One research study found that people whose diets include extra amounts of vitamin K were 34% less likely to suffer from heart disease. Vitamin K1 may benefit the heart by regulating the body's natural blood-clotting mechanism, while vitamin K2 may help by controlling distributing calcium to reduce the risk of hardening of the arteries.
What Is Magnesium?
Magnesium is an essential mineral found in legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. It is also added to some fortified foods like breakfast cereals. Your body requires magnesium for more than 300 enzyme reactions and can't manufacture the mineral independently. Many adults in the U.S. do not consume enough of the mineral daily and may benefit from magnesium supplements.
How Magnesium Benefits Heart Health
A comprehensive review of clinical studies related to magnesium for heart health revealed that the mineral lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. Throughout the body, magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant. Without it, your cardiac muscle can't relax properly. In addition, it helps to move electrolytes needed for heart function throughout the body.