8 Easy Ways to Improve Your Heart Health

February is American Heart Month; here are some simple steps you can take to keep your heart healthy all year long

It’s an unfortunate reality, but more and more research continues to link cardiovascular disease with everything from stress and poor sleep habits to sedentary behavior and even depression.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., accounting for one in every four deaths.

The CDC notes that eating a healthy diet, walking briskly for 10 minutes three times a day, five days a week, not smoking, and maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels will play a key role in helping to prevent heart disease.

There's more you can do to take good care of your heart, though.

In addition to the CDC’s guidelines and in honor of American Heart Month in February, Dr. Steve Feyrer-Melk, Director of Patient Wellness at The Optimal Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention Center in Scottsdale and a partner of the health-tracking app Nudge, suggests following these eight tips for improving and maintaining your heart health all year long.

-8 Easy Ways to Improve Your Heart Health-

1. Have some candy: “Well actually, have dark chocolate,” Feyrer-Melk said. “Seven to ten grams per day is what's recommended, and the darker the better.”

2. Eat fish twice a week:  Feyrer-Melk says this will  help you get the right dose of  omega-3 fatty acids. “There's nothing fishy about the studies that prove these fatty acids decrease abnormal heartbeats and triglyceride levels,” he said.

3. Have some cumin: “The spice is linked to lowering cholesterol health and weight loss,” Feyrer-Melk said.

4. Relax: Give yourself a break to help decrease stress. “Take a moment to take deeps breaths,” said Feyrer-Melk “In through the nose, out through the mouth.” 

5. Use an activity monitor: Get a good idea of just how much you’re moving each day. “If the data is too complicated to read, sync it with Nudge, to get an easy-to-read score and a better understanding of your fitness,” Feyrer-Melk suggested.  

6. Cut down on the sugars: According to Feyrer-Melk consuming too much sugar can have a significant impact on your health in general and reducing your intake can lead to better heart health.

7. Exercise: “Fitness is probably the best move you can make for your heart as it lowers blood pressure and strengthens your heart,” said Feyrer-Melk. 

8. Take your heart health seriously: “While blowing a valve or springing an oil leak on your car can be expensive, it can be fixed,” Feyrer-Melk explained. “Having a similar problem in your heart could cause it to be totaled.”