Of the roughly 805,000 Americans who have a heart attack each year, 200,000 occur in people who’ve already had a previous cardiac episode.

Known risk factors, many of which can be reduced or managed, cause the vast majority of subsequent heart attacks.

Making lifestyle changes to lower your risk factors lessens your chances for having another heart attack and helps you feel better overall.

Keep in mind that adopting lasting lifestyle changes requires setting SMART goals. When you begin your lifestyle makeover, make sure the challenges you set are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-oriented

Here are a few changes you can make in your daily life to help keep your heart healthy.

A healthy eating plan is one of the best ways to combat cardiovascular disease.

You can begin by tracking how many calories you consume daily. Determine how many calories you need in order to lose or maintain a moderate weight and aim to stay within that range each day.

Try to avoid or limit foods that have very few nutrients and a lot of calories as often as possible.

Limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Try to reduce the amount of — or eliminate — processed foods, which tend to be high in sodium and sugar, and consume alcohol in moderate amounts.

Instead, when available, eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats and oils.

Heart-healthy foods

Here are just a few foods that can help you keep your heart in good shape:

  • leafy, green veggies
  • whole grains, such as whole wheat, brown rice, oats, rye, and quinoa
  • berries
  • avocados
  • fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna
  • nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds
Was this helpful?

Cardiovascular exercise can seem like a miracle potion. It strengthens your heart and helps lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It also acts as a stress reliever and mood enhancer.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, at least 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise, or a combination of both.

Whether you decide to walk, run, swim, ride your bike, or even engage in some types of household chores, you can improve your health. There are cardio fitness plans for all levels, including beginners.

Be sure to get the all-clear from your doctor before lacing up your running shoes.

Maintaining good mental health can benefit you in many ways.

If you’re able to have a positive outlook about your treatment after a heart attack, including any lifestyle changes, this can help reduce your risk for heart problems.

After a heart attack, you’ll likely experience a wide range of emotions, including depression and anxiety. These emotions can make it more difficult to implement and maintain habits that will greatly improve your health.

That’s why it’s important to discuss mental health concerns, as well as physical one, that you may have with your doctor.

Smoking negatively affects your cardiovascular system in a number of ways.

It can damage your heart function and blood vessels, and prevent oxygen-rich blood from getting to your organs and other body parts.

As a result, smoking is a major risk factor of heart disease, which can lead to a heart attack.

If you’re a smoker, consider quitting. Talk with your doctor about finding a plan to help you quit.

If you have friends or family who smoke, try to also avoid breathing in secondhand smoke.

Carrying extra weight requires your heart to work harder, which in turn increases your risk for heart disease. Having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar can increase your risk even more.

Introducing exercise and diet modifications into your life as often as possible can help you maintain a moderate weight and lower your risk factors.

Elevated blood pressure, or hypertension, puts added stress on your heart and blood vessels. Engaging in regular exercise, eating a low-sodium diet, and maintaining a moderate weight can work wonders.

Your doctor may also recommend beta-blockers to help manage your blood pressure.

Statins are frequently prescribed to lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) — the “bad” cholesterol that increases your risk for heart disease.

Recovery can be a difficult journey, but there’s no reason to go it alone. The people in your life can help you navigate the difficult road ahead.

Meeting other heart attack survivors and joining a local or national support group can provide the support and camaraderie you need to deal with any emotional ups and downs.

There’s no time like now to get started on your heart-health journey.

Have a conversation with your doctor, who can help you with:

  • making good food choices
  • finding activities you enjoy that will keep you moving
  • understanding how small changes can make big improvements