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Adopting a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

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Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. But for many people, heart disease can be preventable. Even if you’re at high risk due to family history or other factors, you can lower that risk by making healthy lifestyle choices.

Often, adopting heart-healthy behaviors starts with a visit to a general cardiologist. A cardiologist can help you with a variety of approaches to fighting heart disease. These can include regular screenings for high blood pressure and normal heart function, as well as lifestyle changes, such as switching to a heart-healthy diet.

Additional heart-healthy measures can include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Reducing stress
  • Limiting alcohol intake

Small Changes Make a Big Difference

Here are some basic tips for two of the best approaches for improving cardiac health: diet and exercise. Even if you start out gradually, over time, these small changes can make a big difference to your heart. UC San Diego Health registered dietitian/nutritionists can provide you with nutrition counseling to help you meet these goals. 

Heart-Healthy Diet

  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other high-fiber foods, along with fewer processed foods
  • Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol
  • Limit salt (sodium) to less than 2,300 mg daily (about one teaspoon)
  • Stay at a healthy weight by balancing the calories you eat with your physical activity
  • Eat more foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish
  • If you drink, limit alcohol to two drinks daily for men and one for women
  • Limit your sugar intake

Benefits of Exercise

Getting regular exercise is important because it takes only a short period of inactivity for your muscles and cardiovascular system to weaken. Exercise can help:

  • Reduce chest pain and symptoms of coronary artery disease
  • Control cholesterol levels, especially when combined with lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet, not smoking, and reducing stress
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Reduce or control your weight, which can decrease your risk for coronary artery disease and diabetes
  • Reduce stress and decrease depression and anxiety

Talk to your physician before beginning any exercise program to determine how much activity your heart can handle.

  • Experts recommend that for optimum results, people should aim for at least two and a half hours of moderate exercise each week.
  • Studies show that exercise effectively reduces the number of fatal heart attacks in people with coronary artery disease.

To learn more about heart health, make an appointment with one of our general cardiologists.



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