Your heart is the pump that provides oxygen and nutrients to all the tissues in your body. Keeping it in great shape is key to a healthy life. Following these tips in your daily life can help keep your ticker ticking.

Tip 1: Lower your daily sodium intake

Too much sodium causes you to retain water, according to a small 2017 study. When it does, your heart has to work harder to move the additional fluid through your body. Choose foods labeled as “no salt added,” try to avoid foods that have more than 400 milligrams of sodium per serving, and try to stay below 1500 milligrams total per day.

Whenever you can, replace salt in your cooking with herbs and spices. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet can also be a helpful way to lower sodium and help take care of your heart.

Tip 2: Lower your saturated fat intake

Saturated fat can lead to atherosclerosis, where hard plaque builds up in your arteries. You can lower your intake by eating low fat cuts of meat, like the eye of round roast or sirloin tip, and avoiding high fat dairy products. Generally speaking, if it’s greasy, it’s likely higher in saturated fats.

Tip 3: Choose heart-healthy fats

Unsaturated fats can be heart-healthy by lowering inflammation in your body. Inflammation can lead to heart disease. Heart-healthy fats include vegetable oil, low fat mayonnaise, and oil-based salad dressings.

Following a Mediterranean diet can be a tasty way to bring healthier fats into your diet and lower cholesterol.

Tip 4: Increase your dietary fiber intake

Fiber helps you feel fuller and can help lower cholesterol levels. Plus, the Department of Health and Human Services says that high fiber foods are generally healthier, including beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Tip 5: Eat lots of fruits and vegetables

Fruits and veggies are packed with nutrients and are lower in calories to help you maintain a moderate weight and reduce inflammation. The more colorful and fresh your choices, the better.

Tip 6: Eat low fat dairy products

Low fat dairy products are excellent alternatives to high fat ones. Examples include skim milk, low fat yogurt, soy milk, or fat-free cheeses.

Tip 7: Get enough exercise each week

Moderate or vigorous activity — it’s your choice how you like to get your exercise in. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Combining both is okay, too.

Tip 8: Don’t leave out resistance training

Engaging in activities that help you build strong muscles, such as lifting weight or using resistance bands, can power your metabolism. This helps you maintain a moderate weight and blood pressure.

Tip 9: Spend less time sitting

Standing, walking, and moving, in general, can be more heart-healthy than constant sitting. If possible, use a standing desk or make efforts to take walk breaks throughout your day. According to the AHA, physical inactivity is linked with greater risks of heart disease and early death. Keep moving!

Tip 10: Don’t smoke

Smoking can have serious effects on your heart health. If you do smoke, this is a great time to try quitting. If you need help, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to access a 24/hour quitline with resources for quitting smoking.

Tip 11: Avoid secondhand smoke

Exposure to secondhand smoke puts your heart health at risk, too. If someone in your house smokes, ask them to smoke outside. Or better yet, encourage them to quit.

Tip 12: Avoid excess alcohol intake

Alcohol in excess can increase your risk of heart disease. Moderation is key. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends not more than 2 drinks per day for most adults.

Tip 13: Maintain a moderate weight

When you maintain a moderate weight, you aren’t putting excessive demands on your heart. Talk with your doctor about what a moderate weight is for you given your age, height, and frame.

Tip 14: Manage your chronic health conditions

Visiting a doctor annually (or more often, depending on your health) can help you take a preventive approach to care. If you have conditions known to affect heart health, such as chronic kidney disease or diabetes, make efforts to manage these conditions to improve your overall health. Getting treatment early and following your treatment plan can drastically improve your outlook.

Tip 15: Take time to relax each day

Even if it’s just for a few minutes, taking time to relax can be beneficial to your overall health. If stress is a part of your everyday life, you’re at an increased risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease.

Tip 16: Reach out to a friend or loved one

Reaching out to loved ones when you feel stressed can help you receive the support that you need. Sharing your emotions and anxieties can be difficult, but a person who wants the best for you will provide a listening ear. Plus, they’ll likely value the chance to understand how they can help you better.

Tip 17: Create stress management strategies

Realistically, you probably will deal with stressful events from time to time. Create a strategy for how you can maintain calm when you do. This may include deep breathing, repeating a calming saying, or prioritizing the tasks at hand. When you prepare for stressful events, you’re better able to cope with them.

When you quit smoking, you are already taking action to benefit your heart health.

A 2019 review shows that quitting smoking can lead to weight gain in some individuals. This may have a negative impact on heart health. But quitting smoking is still critically important.

To reap the benefits of quitting smoking and maintaining a moderate weight, try the following tips:

Tip 18: Use medications to help you quit smoking, such as nicotine patches or varenicline (Chantix). These approaches help to keep you from gaining weight while you quit smoking.

Tip 19: Get emotional support from a counselor or trusted friend as you are trying to quit and be healthier. Having psychological support can help you maintain your weight.

Tip 20: Exercise regularly to help maintain a healthy body and moderate weight. You’ll likely find that you’re able to challenge yourself more physically, as you may cough less after quitting smoking.

Several pregnancy-related disorders, such as preeclampsia and gestational high blood pressure, can increase your risk of heart disease later in life, according to a 2016 study. While these conditions aren’t always preventable, there are some ways you can help your heart health.

Tip 21: Attend all your recommended prenatal appointments. Your doctor can monitor you for potential complications, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Treating these with medications can help maintain your heart health.

Tip 22: Stay active during pregnancy — as long as your doctor says it’s safe. Staying active will help you maintain a healthy body during pregnancy and relieve some stress.

Tip 23: Follow a heart-healthy diet, such as the DASH diet. A 2021 review associated eating this diet during pregnancy with reduced blood pressure.

Tip 24: Avoid high fat and sugary foods during pregnancy. These habits increase your risk of preterm delivery.

Tip 25: Stop smoking if you smoke. Smoking is one of the most important modifiable risk factors for pregnant people and heart health.

A heart attack can be a wake-up call to engage in more heart-healthy measures. Some of the ways you can accomplish this include:

Tip 26: Take your medications as your doctor prescribes every day. Talk with your doctor about side effects you can expect and when you should call if you have concerns.

Tip 27: Participate in cardiac rehabilitation. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities will offer cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack. This is an approach where you can exercise while wearing a monitor. The monitor helps make sure your heart rate isn’t too high while you exercise.

Tip 28: Make an appointment with your primary health professional to get a checkup. During the checkup, they can screen you for other medical conditions that could affect your heart health, like diabetes. Assessing your overall health and taking steps to get healthier can lower your risk of future heart attacks.

Having a condition that limits your mobility can make traditional exercise approaches more challenging, but not impossible. Some low impact exercise tips include:

Tip 29: Try “exergaming,” as a small 2019 study suggests. This is when you use games or video games that involve movement as a form of exercise. A game that requires movement using controllers, such as bowling or golfing on the Nintendo Wii, can be a fun and engaging way to exercise with lower mobility.

Tip 30: Use a stationary cycling machine for either arms or legs. Even those with lower mobility can often use these exercise machines to enhance heart health.

Researchers are still studying the impacts of COVID-19 on the heart. The AHA says that, just as with the disease itself, some people are more affected than others. Some are experiencing heart tissue inflammation, and doctors are concerned this could lead to heart failure.

Because the connection between COVID-19 and heart health is a subject of emerging research, there aren’t any specific best practices shown to help people who have heart concerns after COVID-19. Until experts know more, take overall heart-healthy measures, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, and refraining from smoking, to ideally have a protective effect.

Most heart health efforts emphasize your overall wellness. This includes lowering stress, eating a heart-healthy diet, and exercising. If you aren’t sure where to begin, talk with your doctor about ways you can safely improve your heart health.