Practices like meditation, deep breathing and yoga have been shown to dial down the stress response. In 2017, the AHA endorsed seated meditation as a “reasonable intervention” along with other strategies for maintaining cardiac health. Research also shows that yoga improves circulation and blood pressure and may lower heart disease risk as much as brisk walking.
Gianos recommends following the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Both are rich in plants, with an emphasis on leafy greens, whole foods and plant fats like olive oil. Your eating schedule matters too. “Sticking to three balanced meals and one snack works well for optimizing energy, blood sugar and insulin regulation, digestive health and weight,” Sass says. “Time your carbs for early in the day, before your most active hours.”
There’s no doubt that exercise is essential for a strong heart. One 2018 study published in the journal Circulation found that physical activity can even counteract a genetic risk for heart disease. The researchers looked at 500,000 men and women in the U.K. and found that those at the highest risk of heart troubles who had high levels of physical fitness had a 49% lower risk of coronary heart disease. While the AHA recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, Gianos urges 30 to 60 minutes every day. Overall the goal is to move daily, but don’t feel you have to run 20 miles a day. “Extreme exercise has not been noted to be protective,” Gianos says, “and it may add some harm.”
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." This definition has been subject to controversy, as it may have limited value for implementation. Health may be defined as the ability to adapt and manage physical, mental and social challenges throughout life.