5 ways to protect your heart

In support of the awareness of American Heart Month, we’ve compiled some evidence-based tips to help you support your ticker as you age.

Man on the beach

Walk more

You’ve likely heard it all before, but the proof is in the pudding. Walking is one of the first steps in preventing cardiovascular events and supporting a healthy heart. Walking for more than 4 hours each week is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular complications and walking for an average of 30 minutes or more each day has been shown to reduce the risk of some cardiovascular complications by 35% percent.

But don’t worry, there’s no crazy daily step count you need to hit to make a real difference to your cardiovascular health. A recent meta-analysis of 17 studies with almost 227,000 participants revealed that the number of steps we should ideally be taking each day for cardiovascular health is lower than what was previously recommended.

The study analyzed the effects of up to 20,000 steps per day, concluding that depending on health outcomes – you can happily start at 2,500-4,000 steps per day to contribute to your cardiovascular health goals. While greater increases in step count yield larger cardiovascular health benefits, research shows that even the smallest improvements in the amount of daily walking can support cardiovascular health.

Eat more healthy fats

For decades we’ve been avoiding saturated fats and cholesterol-containing foods (like eggs, butter, grass-fed meat, etc.) for a ‘heart-healthy’ diet – but what we now know is that it’s not necessarily cholesterol that creates problems, it’s when cholesterol becomes oxidized and builds up in our blood vessels that we run into health complications. Studies continue to debunk the link between the intake of saturated fats and cardiovascular complications, with many concluding that it’s more about the type of fat we’re eating and where it comes from.

Healthy fats (the ones derived from fish, eggs, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, grass-fed meat, etc.) are a major source of energy for the body. Fats help us absorb vitamins and minerals; they are necessary for building cell membranes (aka the vital exterior of each cell) and the sheaths surrounding nerves.

Healthy fats are a staple in the Mediterranean diet, which is quickly becoming one of the most widely known tools to support cardiovascular health and longevity. One randomized controlled trial analyzing over 7000 healthy subjects, found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet experienced a 30% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular complications. The “PREDIMED” study demonstrates dietary patterns that follow the Mediterranean way of eating (rich in antioxidants and high in unsaturated fats) can be a useful tool for the prevention of cardiovascular complications.

Lift weights

When you think about exercising for cardiovascular health, running, cycling or high intensity interval training often come to mind. But recent studies reveal that it’s time to switch our thinking from a traditional cardio focus to a strength training focus. Research shows that ‘static’ exercise and activity, such as strength training, are more strongly associated with the reduced risk of heart health complications when compared to the classic cardio-based activities like running or cycling.

One study revealed that resistance training is not only correlated with a lower risk of cardiovascular events but also demonstrated positive effects on two types of adipose tissue that surround the heart which arekey factors in heart health.

In comparison to those who didn't exercise, participants who incorporated both aerobic endurance workouts and resistance training experienced significant reductions in epicardial adipose tissue mass (that’s the fat that’s on the inner wall of the heart). Additionally, those who practiced resistance training also saw a 32% decrease in pericardial (outer) adipose tissue, while those who performed endurance training did not see any decrease. The study showed that the benefits of strength training extended beyond superficial measures.

These findings challenge the narrative that high intensity, cardio-based exercises are the only way to move the needle when it comes to supporting cardiovascular health. So, the next time you hit the gym – consider mixing up your routine and adding in some resistance exercises for a heart-healthy boost.

Diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing is characterized by deep, slow inhalations and exhalations that engage the diaphragm. Stress can elevate heart rate and blood pressure, which puts a strain on the cardiovascular system and increases the risk of cardiovascular events. By promoting relaxation and reducing stress hormones like cortisol, this breathing technique has been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular complications.

Deep breathing expands the lungs, enabling increased oxygen intake, which is crucial for the heart's energy production and function. Diaphragmatic breathing optimizes oxygen delivery, enhancing the heart's metabolic efficiency and lowering the risk of cardiovascular problems. Diaphragmatic breathing also stimulates the vagus nerve, a key component of the parasympathetic nervous system. When the vagus nerve is activated, the body is better able to regulate our heart rate to promote cardiovascular stability. Diaphragmatic breathing can also lower resting heart rate and improve heart rate variability, both of which are indicators of heart health. Regularly practicing this breathing technique enhances stress resilience, tissue oxygenation, and autonomic nervous system function, promoting a healthier heart and reducing cardiovascular disease risk.

Address oxidative stress

Our cardiovascular system is a major player in the energy production supply chain, and to support the body effectively, it must consume large amounts of this energy. Our heart and blood vessels rely heavily on large numbers of high-performing, energy-generating mitochondria.

Because they are at the core of the energy production process, mitochondria are responsible for 90 – 95% of the free radicals in our cells and as a result, are 10 times more exposed to free radicals than any other part of the cell. Mitochondria work hard to neutralize free radicals and keep them confined within, preventing them from escaping into the cell. Oxidative stress is the state our body is put in when the levels of antioxidants in our body are not high enough to counteract the damaging effect of free radicals. When you target the mitochondria to help reduce oxidative stress, you’re ultimately supporting your cardiovascular system.

Mitoquinol Mesylate (MitoQ) is a world-first antioxidant molecule that targets mitochondria, which are abundant in heart muscle cells and a major site of free radical production. MitoQ provides free radical defenses right inside your cells, supporting strong, healthy heart and flexible arteries. In fact, a recent clinical trial concluded that MitoQ supports arterial health by greatly improvingarterial dilation by 42%.

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