Maintaining heart health is more important than ever because heart disease is currently the leading cause of death in the United States. Fight back by taking steps to beat the odds and stay healthy!

1. Eat right

The foods you eat can have an enormous impact by helping you to control your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels (all of which are directly related to the health of your heart).

Eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruit, low-fat dairy products, non-tropical vegetable oils (for example, skip the coconut oil and use olive oil instead), poultry without the skin, nuts, whole grains, and legumes.

It’s best to minimize your intake of foods that are high in saturated fat (such as butter), trans fats (found in many processed foods), and salt.

In the case of salt, try to limit your daily intake to a maximum of 2400 milligrams of sodium per day. You can find out how much sodium is in the salt that you add to your food by reading the labeling on the packaging. Processed foods also have a reputation for containing a lot of sodium, so be sure to check the labels before eating those foods to ensure that they won’t push your sodium intake over the limit.

When eating red meat, choose lean cuts to minimize your intake of saturated fat.

2. Maintain heart health with regular exercise

Regular physical activity is one of the keys to preventing heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Take a good look at your schedule and see where you could fit this into your lifestyle.

Remember that you don’t have to do it all at once either! For example, if you prefer moderate exercise, you could set aside 20-25 minutes a day. Or, you could do 35-40 minutes of exercise 4 times a week.

Whatever intensity of exercise routine you choose, check with your doctor before you begin!

3. Minimize stress

Although stress has not been proven to cause heart disease, it definitely affects your overall feeling of wellness.

Reduce your stress by not taking on more than you can handle – say no to tasks that you don’t have time for. When you do have a task to do, make sure to provide yourself with plenty of time to complete it – rushing will only increase your stress levels.

Many people find that meditation and listening to music provides them with a feeling of calm and well-being.

4. Don’t smoke

Smoking is one of the leading causes of heart disease and premature death. It takes the average smoker several attempts to quit, but the effort in doing so is well worth it. If you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease goes down, as well as your risk of stroke, lung disease, and cancer. You’ll have more stamina, you’ll smell better, and the taste of your food will improve, too!

Maintaining heart health is possible

You don’t need to accept heart disease as an inevitable part of getting older. You have control over many of the risk factors, and with careful attention to your diet, activity levels, and other lifestyle factors, you can dramatically reduce your risk of being affected by heart disease.