25 science-backed ways to improve your hearth health

Most advice on the internet for improving heart health either lacks in being actionable or ranks low on the credibility factor. This World Heart Day, we, therefore, thought of going through some of the latest scientific research papers on the subject and translate them into 25 actionable advice for you to improve your health.

Medical research shows that you need a combination of diet, physical activity, habits and weight management to be able to be most effective in improving your heart health. However, what exactly should be done under each of these categories? Here are some easy-to-implement pointers that studies have shown can help you improve your cardiovascular health.

Diet

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found 3 healthy diets that reduced heart injury and inflammation within just 6-week:

  • A carbohydrate-rich diet like the well-known DASH diet, with fibre, grains and starches accounting for more than half of its calories.
  • A protein-rich diet with 10% of calories from carbohydrates replaced by protein.
  • An unsaturated fat-rich diet with 10% of calories from carbohydrates replaced by the healthy fats found in avocados, fish and nuts. This diet is similar to another study that found Pesco-Mediterranean diet (that is, a diet rich in plants, nuts, whole grains, extra-virgin olive oil, fish and/or seafood) along with intermittent fasting is an ideal combo for optimising heart health.

All three diets were low in unhealthy saturated fat, cholesterol and salt while providing other nutrients at recommended dietary levels. The research thus concluded that healthy foods are more important than the type of diet to improve heart health.

Specific foods that improve heart health:

  • Eating oats regularly can reduce bad LDL cholesterol, finds a study.
  • Brocolli, which is a folate-rich food, is good for heart health, especially for those with rheumatoid arthritis, found experts at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
  • Omega-3 fats strongly protect heart health, confirm researchers.
  • A new study by the University of Eastern Finland found that camelina sativa oil and fatty fish reduces inflammation and improves heart health.
  • Snacking on almonds reduces bad LDL-cholesterol and improves heart health in just 6 weeks, found researchers from King's College London who used Nightingale’s blood test to conduct the study.
  • Another study found walnuts are also good for health and also provide good fatty acids, fibre and bioactive compounds — for our gut microbiomes to feed on.
  • A study by Penn State University researchers found eating one avocado a day helps reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol” counts and increases antioxidants levels in the blood.
  • An easy and inexpensive pantry item, legumes (beans, pulses, lentils, peas, etc.) reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and high blood pressure, found researchers.
  • Best beverages for your heart apart from plain water: unsweetened tea, coffee, and flavoured waters.

Foods that are not so great for your heart:

  • Medical studies suggest cutting down saturated and trans-fats like those present in baked good and dairy products like cheese and butter.
  • Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that high-protein foods, such as red meat, that contains high amounts of phenylalanine (an amino acid) is broken down by the gut microbes to produce a by-product that harms heart health.
  • Also, food items with high fructose content like corn syrup, refined sugar, sugary drinks etc. are not good for heart health.

Exercise

Habits

Environment

  • Air pollution may play a role in the development of cardio-metabolic diseases, including diabetes, found a study.

Research on the subjects keeps evolving every day and so does the advice. We’ll also keep updating this list. But for now, are you interested in knowing how well-protected your heart is against future diseases? Or want to track how your daily lifestyle affects your heart health?

My Nightingale helps you can track your Heart Age, along with 19 other aspects of your health in an easily accessible mobile app.