Heart healthy diet and exercise tips

While some heart risk can be hereditary or related to genetics, which are out of our control, there are so many lifestyle changes that we can control. It’s important to put heart healthy habits in place today.  

We spoke with Indraneil Ray, MD, a cardiologist with HonorHealth Heart Group, who shared important diet and exercise tips that will help you prevent heart disease and keep your heart healthy. Here’s what he had to say:

It’s all about exercise

No matter your age, it’s important to develop good exercise habits. At times it may be hard to find the time for exercise, but it’s so important to make it happen consistently. For me, it’s waking up early and getting my workout in first thing every day. I usually start my day with spinning or running on a treadmill. You really want to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise in every day. 

Any type of activity that allows you to get your heart rate up for an extended period of time is a good choice – brisk walking, tennis, hiking or riding a bike are all great options. Start with 30 minutes most days of the week, and work your way up from there. It’s also recommended that you do moderate to vigorous weight-training or band-training. These sorts of high repetition movements build up your muscle strength, and that includes your heart.

Dietary choices are critical

Most of the time, our western diet is filled with sodium, sugar and fat, so it’s really hard to make good decisions. For me, I changed my diet to a vegetarian diet with seafood and have seen such great benefits. I encourage my patients to at least consider that, but otherwise, focus on lowering your salt and trans-fat intake to start. 

A diet low in salt is so helpful in blood pressure management. One thing to remember is that there’s already enough salt in the foods we eat, so stay away from adding any extra salt to your meals. When it comes to fats, focus on monosaturated fats, and avoid trans-fats that are found in foods like red meats, deli meats and butter, since these increase cholesterol levels. As a whole, raw vegetables, fruits, chicken and fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids are the best choices. Great options are salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna or trout. 

Lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your risk

Stop smoking, limit your alcohol intake and reduce your stress. Keep in mind that these lifestyle choices, along with diet and exercise, affect your risk dramatically, so even if heart disease doesn’t run in your family, poor choices can all lead to heart disease later in life. 

Start at a young age

It’s really important to start developing these good habits at a very young age. It starts with parents teaching their kids these healthy habits, so keep in mind that if you have young kids, they’ll learn a lot from you. The earlier you can develop these habits, either for yourself or your children, the better. 

It’s not too late

If you haven’t been making the best lifestyle choices so far, now is a great time to start. Even in people with established heart disease, we know that when people make smarter choices and establish care with their cardiologist early, it prevents progression and worsening outcomes. There are ongoing studies that show very positive outcomes in people with chronic diseases who have implemented a vegan diet, for example. There’s a lot of reason for hope, so the best advice I can give you is to start making these positive lifestyle choices now.

Care that’s convenient for you

If you need heart care, we’ve got you covered. Whether you live in the metro Phoenix area or you’re looking to travel to HonorHealth from another part of the state or country, you’ll receive personalized care designed with your convenience in mind.

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Request an appointment with a heart and vascular specialist or call to schedule a consultation: 623-580-5800

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