Prevent Heart Disease: Foods and Exercises To Try For a Healthier Heart

Stethoscope

These foods and exercises can lead to a healthier heart. | Michael Burrell/iStock/Getty Images

Heart disease accounts for one in seven deaths in the U.S. — within the next 90 seconds, someone will die from the disease in our country. While the death rate has actually fallen in the last few decades, the American Heart Association (AHA) reported that the risk factors remain scarily high.

And while there are some risk factors you can’t control, you can choose to eat heart-healthy food and exercise. While many people think of exercise as an exclusive weight loss tool, certain exercises are proven to strengthen more muscles than just your biceps — including your heart.

Incorporate beans and beets into your diet

Beans and beets are good for your diet and heart health. Beets are a surprisingly heart-healthy vegetable. The veggie is full of nitric oxide, which studies show helps open blood vessels, in turn lowering your blood pressure. A recent study found that drinking just 2.5 cups of beet juice can significantly lower your systolic blood pressure within six hours.

No list of heart-healthy options would be complete without legumes, which includes all kinds of beans, lentils, chickpeas and black-eyed peas. Adding just three-quarters of a cup of legumes to your daily diet have been shown to improve blood pressure and contribute to weight loss in obese subjects. Legumes have no cholesterol and very little natural fat (about 3%) but are chocked with iron, magnesium, B vitamins, zinc, and protein.

Other heart-healthy, low-cholesterol foods include:

  • Salmon and other fatty fish
  • Nuts like pistachios and walnuts
  • Fat-free and low-fat yogurts
  • Avocados
  • Leafy green vegetables

What’s the correlation between exercise and cholesterol?

Cholesterol isn’t overall a bad thing — the right amount is essential to many of the complex processes that keep you alive — but a high proportion in the blood of low-density lipoprotein is what increases your risk of heart disease.

Studies have shown that exercise raises the amount of HDL, or “good” cholesterol in your blood, which in turn lowers the amount of potentially harmful LDL. Exercise generally leads to and assists in weight loss, which helps regulate your body’s cholesterol levels. Working out can also change the size and composition of cholesterol particles which in turn makes them less likely to clog your articles and lead to heart problems.

These exercises will naturally lower your cholesterol

Woman runner running on city road

Running is a great way to lower your cholesterol. | Lzf/iStock/Getty Images

If you suspect you have high cholesterol (or just want to promote your heart’s health) incorporating a few different exercises or making simple lifestyle changes is a good way to start. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercises like the following can help lower your “bad” cholesterol … for good.

WebMD recommends those new to exercise find an activity they love. Not only will you burn calories, work off fat, and potentially help your heart, you’ll be enjoying doing it!

Keep in mind that while you can exercise at a moderate intensity level, the American Heart Association recommends a high “exercise volume,” or the amount of time spent exercising. Work out for around 30 minutes a day for health and weight maintenance or 60 minutes for weight loss. Consider working out in 10-minute increments to start, as long as it adds up to 30 minutes a day.

These exercises naturally lower cholesterol:

  • Walking, jogging, and bicycling
    • Strengthen your heart
  • Yoga
    • Studies show yoga can improve cholesterol in some people
  • Weightlifting
    • Lose fat and gain muscle, both of which can lead to better cholesterol levels
  • Swimming laps
    • Works multiple muscle groups and cardio strengthens your heart