Improve Heart Health: Lifestyle Changes To Implement

Written by GHBY Team on Fri, 09 December 2022 — Fact checked by Dr. Sintayehu Abebe

Key Highlights

  • Cigarette smoking, a low-fruit and vegetable diet, lack of physical activity, and psychological stress contribute to the global prevalence of heart disease.
  • Well-established cardiac rehabilitation (CR) strategies, such as drug and lifestyle-related interventions, have been proved to reduce the risk of cardiac diseases.
  • Certain lifestyle modifications can help avoid heart disease.

Many biological risk factors and lifestyle factors cause 90% of all heart diseases irrespective of sex, age, or geographic location. They are:

  • Hyperlipidemia: high cholesterol
  • Hypertension: high blood pressure
  • Diabetes: increased blood sugar level
  • Obesity: increased body weight
  • Smoking
  • Unbalanced diet: low fruit and vegetable consumption
  • Low physical activity
  • Psychological stress

Lifestyle modifications to improve heart health

Cardiac Rehabilitation (CR) strategies include education, counseling, and group training, emphasizing smoking cessation, dietary improvements, and stress management.

Among the CR strategies mentioned above, dietary modification is the most preferred and effective lifestyle change to control blood pressure and diabetes, followed by counseling and exercises.

Smoking cessation and stress management include only small beneficial effects. 

Influence of diet modifications

Diet plays an essential role in either advancement or management of cardiovascular disease. Eating a healthy diet is one of the most simple but critical things you can do to improve your heart health.

Abnormal blood cholesterol levels have been associated with a higher risk of heart disease, and these abnormal levels are directly related to the food you eat. High blood cholesterol levels are frequently caused by a diet high in saturated fats.

What to eat: Fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetables are high in unsaturated fats and good for the heart. These unsaturated fat sources contain essential fatty acids like omega-3 fatty acids, which are suitable for the heart but can't be made by the body.

Another key risk factor for heart disease is hypertension, which has been linked to a high sodium diet. According to WHO recommendations, daily salt intake must be less than 5 grams.

Unhealthy diets and consumption of junk food raise the risk of hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and diabetes, all of which affect heart health. A diet low in saturated fats and salt but rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is crucial for maintaining a healthy heart.

Good heart health diets: DASH and Mediterranean Diets

Diet plans such as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and the Mediterranean diet can help in reducing the risk of heart diseases.

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) advocates the intake of naturally low sodium, cholesterol, and fat diet and consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meat, and low-fat dairy.

Such eating pattern lowers blood pressure, improves the effectiveness of antihypertensive drugs, and lowers the risk of heart disease and associated morbidity and mortality.

The Mediterranean diet is characterized by:

  • A high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and marine protein
  • A reasonable intake of olive oil and red wine
  • A low intake of meats, milk, sweets, and processed foods

The Mediterranean diet has been found to have a favorable but small effect on high blood pressure and high lipids, and its impact on weight control remains elusive. Regardless of weight reduction, persistent adherence to the Mediterranean diet has been associated with lower inflammatory markers such as CRP, interleukin 6, and white blood cell count.

Influence of smoking on heart diseases

A report from the Asia Pacific Cohort Studies Collaboration indicates that:

  • 27 percent of smokers suffer from ischemic heart disease
  • 9 percent of smokers suffer from hemorrhagic stroke
  • Smokers are 4.5 times more likely to get hypertension
  • Smokers have 16 times more risk for hyperlipidemia

According to other studies, 23 percent of nonsmokers who live with smokers are prone to increased risk of myocardial infarction. Therefore, nonsmokers who live with smokers have increased susceptibility to heart disease compared to smokers.

Stop smoking to prevent heart disease

Smoking and passive smoking can contribute to the onset and recurrence of heart diseases.

  • Acute smoke exposure causes adverse cardiovascular effects, including increased hypercoagulability, decreased oxygen delivery to tissues, airway inflammation, and constriction of coronary vessels.
  • According to recent statistics, despite the known health risks, around one-third of smokers continue smoking even after an acute heart attack.
  • The risk of recurrent cardiovascular events increases considerably post-heart attack in active smokers, whereas quitters have a risk similar to non-smokers, three years after quitting.
  • Smoking increases the risk of sudden cardiac death in coronary patients.
  • Similar to the effect of the antihypertensive intervention, smoking cessation alone reduced cardiovascular disease mortality by about 2-35% in people without any history of cardiovascular disease.
  • Before the age of 40, quitting smoking reduces the risk of death linked with continuing smoking by around 90%.

Exercise and heart health

Exercise delays the onset of cardiovascular disease by affecting several heart-regulating proteins and lowering the C-reactive protein level (CRP).

  • Physical activity can help you lose weight and increase your insulin sensitivity.
  • Maintaining a long-term exercise routine can help lower CRP and prevent cardiovascular disease.
  • Physical exercise and other activities under the CR program offer a significant improvement in body fat indices, mobility, overall strength, and other cardiovascular risk measures.
  • Regular exercise has indeed been linked to a 25% reduction in heart patients' death risk. Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), including scheduled exercise and an enhanced lifestyle with physical activity, has been linked to a lower risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality and a lower risk of recurrent MI and coronary revascularization in secondary prevention.
  • Exercise-based CR is dependent on a physician's consent. Coronary artery disease patients should be advised to engage in moderate-intensity aerobic exercises like brisk walking for at least 30 to 60 minutes, 5 days per week, and increased physical activity.
  • Motivational interviewing approaches, doctor-patient collaborative communication, and a variety of fitness-based devices may be useful in persuading patients to embrace such lifestyle modifications. For example, wearing a pedometer has been associated with improved cardiovascular health indicators such as more physical activity, lower body mass index (BMI), and lower blood pressure.

Improved coronary risk factors are connected to structured aerobic exercise, increased lifestyle physical activity, or both, leading to:

  • Decreased resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure
  • Decreased intra-abdominal and total body fat
  • Improved insulin sensitivity and blood lipid profiles
  • Improved cardiorespiratory fitness

Does pollution influence heart health

Environmental pollution is thought to be a major cause of congenital cardiac disease. A contaminated environment can affect the growth of the fetus during pregnancy, which can lead to congenital cardiac disease.

Recent research has suggested that prenatal exposure to outdoor air pollution may play a role in the cause of congenital malformations, notably congenital cardiac disorders.

Studies have shown that after breathing just two days of contaminated air, the quantity of blood flow into the heart was reduced. This alteration in heart function had no discomfort connected with it, but it was a sign of heart disease development.

In vulnerable individuals, particle pollution exposure is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction, stroke, arrhythmia, and heart failure aggravation within hours to days of exposure.


By now we know we can improve our heart health significantly if we consciously choose to work on our dietary habits and lifestyles.

A healthy diet, an active lifestyle and good lifestyle habits can go a long way in protecting the heart in the long run.

On the other hand, patients with heart disease should seek help and collaborate with their health care providers to change their daily habits and achieve a healthy heart and a happy life.



GHBY Team comprises content writers and content editors who specialise in health and lifestyle writing. Always on the lookout for new trends in the health and lifestyle space, Team GHBY follows an audience-first approach. This ensures they bring the latest in the health space to your fingertips, so you can stay ahead in your wellness game. 

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