Building Heart Habits


Contributed by Blue Crew member, Mascha Davis MPH, RDN

A journey to better health and well-being begins with one step and a decision to become a healthier version of yourself. Although it may seem overwhelming to implement new practices into our lifestyle, the simple habits that we add into our current routine will ultimately make a difference in our health journey and reward us with long-term benefits! Today I want to focus on a really important topic: heart health.

I just got back from the American Heart Association 2023 Wall Street Run & Heart Walk on behalf of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, where I shared all about the incredible benefits of blueberries and led mini yoga/stretching sessions for those participating in the event! The event was a blast and it was amazing to see the outpouring of support for heart health.

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), hypertension (HTN) and heart attacks are common conditions that may be prevented with adequate movement, nutrition, and stress management. 

Here are some impactful, simple habits that we can include in our daily lifestyle to help improve our heart health for long-term benefits:

1. Incorporate Daily Movement

Implementing physical activity into our daily routine is a choice we can make every day to improve cardiovascular health. Frequent movement has been shown to help lower blood pressure, helping to keep the heart from working too hard. 

Research shows that we do not need high-intensity movement on a daily basis in order to achieve the heart-healthy benefits that exercise provides. Instead, the American Heart Association recommends approximately 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (about 20 minutes of brisk walking daily) to help optimize heart health. 

Creating the habit of walking or running first thing in the morning, during a lunch break, or even after work can help bring consistent movement into our lifestyle.

2. Enjoy Foods That Support Heart Health

Taking control of our nutrition is a conscious habit that can help fight heart disease! One of the best heart healthy foods to incorporate into our diet is blueberries due to their fiber antioxidant properties such as vitamin C. The deep blue and purple coloration in blueberries is due to compounds called anthocyanins.

Did you know that blueberries are Heart-Check certified through the American Heart Association® Heart-Check Food Certification Program? Try incorporating more blueberries into your diet by adding them to an energy-rich smoothie, on top of your morning oatmeal, or by themselves as a fresh snack!

3. Manage Stress

Stress is inevitable – and just like how stressors are unique to each person, so are ways to manage stress. Studies have shown that intentional meditation and less intense movement, like yoga, may help to reduce health condition symptoms like migraine, gastrointestinal stress, and hypertension.

Yoga, meditation, or simply sitting with our thoughts for approximately 5 to 10 minutes per day can help to slow the heart rate and bring peace to our day.

Remember, a journey to a healthier lifestyle means that consistent habits built into our everyday routine will bring long-term benefits to optimize heart health. Beginning new habits does not have to be overwhelming. Try incorporating one new habit every week to your routine to slowly ease your lifestyle into being more heart friendly! Which habit are you going to try first?