As we get older, we become more susceptible to a multitude of illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular health problems. Aging is a natural and beautiful process but can become scary if you are not taking the necessary steps to stay healthy. Your heart health is vital to a happy and healthy existence. With this in mind, this article will explore actionable steps you can take today to improve your current cardiovascular health and live your best life.


What Is Cardiovascular Health?

Cardiovascular health refers to the overall health status of your heart and blood vessels. Your heart pumps blood and your blood vessels deliver essential oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. The efficiency of this blood delivery can affect your energy and stamina, your immune system function, your brain health, your lung health, and so much more. Therefore it is vital that you do what you can to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy and functioning optimally.


The Importance Of Cardiovascular Health

I feel like this should not have to be explained, but just in case I am wrong, here are some basic facts and statistics about cardiovascular health:


  • Cardiovascular disease (heart disease) is the leading cause of death for people in the U.S.
  • Roughly 1 out of 5 deaths in 2020 were from cardiovascular disease
  • Roughly one person dies every 34 seconds in the U.S as a result of cardiovascular disease.
  • The most common cardiovascular disease is coronary heart disease, which killed over 382,000 people in 2020 alone.
  • Someone suffers from a heart attack in the U.S. roughly every 40 seconds.


Risk Factors Of Cardiovascular Disease

Do these facts bother you? They should. These statistics are only likely to grow worse if people do not create changes in their daily habits and lifestyle to prevent the onset of risk factors of cardiovascular health problems from setting in. Risk factors of cardiovascular disease include:


You need to be taking steps to avoid these risk factors from developing to give yourself the best chance to avoid developing any cardiovascular health problems. What steps do you need to take? Let’s explore those now.


8 Steps For Protecting Your Cardiovascular Health

I would like to say right out of the gate that these steps are not everything you can do to promote good cardiovascular health, but are merely a starting place to get you on the right path. With that out of the way, let’s jump into 8 steps you can take today to improve your cardiovascular health and keep your heart and blood vessels functioning at maximum efficiency.


Step 1: Stop Smoking

The carcinogens and other chemicals found in cigarettes create an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In fact, despite the almost common knowledge that smoking is bad for your health, millions of Americans still continue to smoke. If you want to protect your cardiovascular health, the best thing for you to do is quit smoking. Smoking tobacco can easily lead to addiction due to nicotine, so quitting is easier said than done. However, there are some healthier alternatives to reducing or quitting smoking altogether if you are willing to put forth the effort. Some options for those looking to quit include:


  • Counseling
  • Nicotine replacement therapy (patches, gum, lozenges, etc.)
  • Medication
  • Develop a support system for accountability
  • Avoid triggers
  • Keep your mind busy with new hobbies, activities, etc.
  • Develop a reward system for curbing the habit
  • Be patient with yourself because breaking long-term habits takes time.

Add some of these tips to your arsenal and quitting smoking will be a little easier. Trust me, it will be worth it when you’re older and your heart and lungs are in good condition.


Step 2: Promote Cardiovascular Health By Eating Right

The foods you eat have the greatest impact on your overall health. Because of this, your diet is a double-edged sword that is either your greatest weapon or will kill you faster. However, eating a heart-healthy diet is not very difficult. A diet that would promote good cardiovascular health would consist of fruits and veggies, lean meats, fish, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Foods to avoid would be heavily processed foods, excessive sugar, and foods high in saturated and trans fats. Below I will list a few diets that are great for promoting heart health.


  • The Mediterranean Diet
  • The DASH diet
  • Veganism
  • Vegetarianism
  • Variations of low-carb diets

All of these have different parameters but serve to limit processed foods and foods high in sugar, saturated fats, and trans fats while promoting whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, and lots of fruits and veggies.


Step 3: Be More Active

Similar to diet, exercise is one of those tools that can benefit or harm you depending on how you use it. To promote cardiovascular health, you need to be more active. Unfortunately, we live in a modern world where we spend most days sitting at a desk, sitting in a car, or sitting on a couch. Obviously, you do not have to spend hours killing yourself in the gym to avoid cardiovascular disease, but you do need to sit less if you want to avoid some of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease development such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Daily activity is all you need to offset those risk factors. It can be as simple as a 10-15 brisk walk every day. Another thing you can do to move more is when you are at home or anywhere where you are sitting for long durations of time, get up and move around every 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes for 1-2 minutes. Some other life hacks for increasing your daily activity include:


  • Taking the stairs when possible
  • Parking farther away from the doors
  • Walk instead of drive whenever you can
  • Move during commercial breaks when watching TV

It is small steps like this done consistently over time that have an impact. Get moving, and stay consistent. Your heart will thank you later.


Step 4: Lose Weight

This step is very similar to step 3, but here the focus is on losing weight rather than just moving more. This will require a little more activity than just taking the stairs, but you still don’t have to kill yourself for hours in the gym to see results here. Obesity is a big risk factor associated with heart disease, so losing weight will not only improve your cardiovascular health but also improve your quality of life. Here are some ways you can lose weight without killing yourself with intense workouts for hours at the gym:


  • Increase protein intake. Protein is very filling, so eating more protein will make you feel fuller longer, which will reduce your caloric intake over time and help you lose weight.
  • Hydrate. Drinking water regularly not only helps you feel full but also helps the body avoid retaining water weight. Drinking water should be something you do plenty of every day.
  • Eat smaller portions. Consuming fewer calories will lead to weight loss.
  • Move more. Increasing daily activity will burn more calories, increasing the amount of weight you can lose.

These are just a few tips you can implement today to help you on your weight loss journey. Healthy weight loss takes time, so avoid detoxes, juice diets, weight loss teas, and other “fast results” methods. Most of these are scams and the results are not permanent. The only truly permanent solution to losing weight is diet and exercise. Manipulate these to make sure you are burning more calories than you are consuming, and you will eventually lose weight and keep it off.


Step 5: Avoid Eating Too Much

We all tend to overindulge a bit during the holidays, and for most of us, that’s okay. It’s when this becomes a habit that your cardiovascular health becomes at risk. When you overeat, the heart has to push more blood to the digestive system to compensate for the extra work the stomach has to do to digest all that food. If this becomes a habit, there is less blood available for other organs. Another issue with overeating is this can lead to faster or irregular heart rhythm. This in turn can lead to an increased risk of a heart attack.

To avoid overeating, here are a few tips you can implement.


  • Eat slowly
  • Eat smaller portions
  • Have more protein with your meals
  • Limit distractions such as phones and TV during meals
  • Drink more water

These tips will help you limit your overeating and decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular problems.


Step 6: Less Stress = Better Cardiovascular Health

It should be no surprise that stress is bad for you. However, stress can be a silent killer that many do not expect. How is this? The body has literally hundreds of different responses to stress, and some of those responses are harmful to your cardiovascular health. A couple of responses to stress include increased heart rate, a spike in blood pressure, and rapid breathing. High blood pressure is a particularly harmful stress response. If you are consistently stressed, your blood pressure could remain high over time, increasing the risk of heart disease or other cardiovascular problems.

Learning to manage stress will help you avoid creating a stress cycle. Some helpful tips for managing stress include:


  • Nose breathing and other slow breathing patterns
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness exercises
  • Yoga
  • Developing fun hobbies

Try a few of these today or do a little research and find some other ways to reduce stress that fit your lifestyle.


Step 7: Have An Attitude Of Gratitude

I know this step might sound cheesy, but just taking a few moments each day to count your blessings and be thankful for the good things in your life can improve your cardiovascular health. Some ways to practice gratitude include:


  • Start a daily gratitude journal
  • Verbally list 1-3 things you are grateful for each morning
  • Take a gratitude walk
  • Leave yourself notes around the house or office of things you are grateful for

As you can see, it does not take much to develop an attitude of gratitude. It can take as little as 10-15 seconds a day. Doing this can reduce blood pressure and stress by releasing positive emotions to counteract the negative emotions causing stress. This is one of those ways that we can see in action the old saying, “where the mind goes, the body follows.”


Step 8: Boost Your Cardiovascular Health With Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide is a powerful signaling molecule and vasodilator. This means it dilates the blood vessels, making blood flow more effective. This in turn lowers blood pressure and helps nutrients and oxygen get delivered more efficiently throughout the body. There are plenty of other benefits to boosting nitric oxide, but for today’s topic, vasodilation is the one we want to focus on. Diet and exercise can both increase your body’s natural nitric oxide production. However, if you are older, you might need a supplement. A supplement containing dietary nitrates or the amino acids L-citrulline and L-arginine will all convert into nitric oxide when consumed.

Some other ways to boost nitric oxide include:


  • Exercise
  • Getting sunlight exposure
  • Eating lots of fruits and veggies
  • Eating lots of leafy greens


Final Thoughts

Aging can be beautiful and terrifying all at once. It is something that is inevitable and happens to us all. What we can do is take steps to ensure we are as healthy as possible as we age. For more healthy living tips, check out the rest of our blog.