Empower Your Heart: Daily Routines for Lasting Cardiovascular Vitality

daily heart health

Protect your heart for the long run

There’s a reason why your heart, the vital organ that pumps blood throughout your body, is encased inside the center of your ribcage: for protection, stability, and optimal blood flow. But the heart needs additional support that can’t come from its position within your body.

In the pursuit of a heart-healthy lifestyle, adopting certain habits plays a pivotal role in fortifying cardiovascular well-being. A holistic approach encompasses mindful dietary choices, regular physical activity, and lifestyle adjustments that collectively contribute to a resilient heart. From engaging in regular exercise, managing stress, prioritizing quality sleep, and embracing heart-healthy nutrition that is personalized for you, these actions form a foundation for cardiovascular health. 

However simple they may seem, committing to regular, practical actions like the ones outlined below can help proactively safeguard your heart and promote health and well-being well into your senior years. 

Let’s get the tough stuff out of the way

It almost goes without saying, but – if you smoke, quit. Even if you’ve smoked for multiple years, or decades, quitting will benefit your heart health. Studies have shown that quitting smoking reduces the risk of heart attacks by 50% or more.1 Stay away from secondhand smoke if possible, or encourage loved ones to quit.

If you drink alcohol, limit your intake to no more than 1-2 drinks per day.2 Since studies have found alcohol to also be disruptive to the balance of your microbiome, the benefits of quitting alcohol completely would be twofold for your body, so it’s something to consider.3,4 If you don’t drink alcohol, no need to start now.  

Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol may become part of your daily steps to better heart health. If they are, we are with you one hundred percent in spirit and encourage you to get support from your physician or community to be sure you have all the tools within your reach for success.  

Eat a heart-healthy diet that’s right for you

One of the simplest ways to cut the dietary risk for heart disease is to stop eating red meat. Not only is red meat high in calories and saturated fat, but there is also a direct correlation between eating red meat and the risk of heart disease, according to studies.5

Limiting or eliminating foods and drinks with added sugars is also a great way to stay heart-healthy. Risk of metabolic issues like type 2 diabetes and heart disease are both associated with consuming added and excessive sugars.6

Along the same lines, decreasing your salt intake can also lower your risk of high blood pressure, which can damage your arteries and lead to heart disease.7 Cooking and seasoning with less salt is one way to decrease your sodium intake, but one of the biggest sources of sodium is processed and packaged foods. Stick to a whole-food diet so you can control exactly what you’re putting into your body. Seasoning your foods with herbs and spices, rather than salt, will keep your sodium intake down and open your palate up to a world full of new flavors. Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal, and also include whole grains and lean proteins. Don’t forget to get plenty of fiber. 

Plus–because we are lucky to have extremely comprehensive wellness tests available on the market right now, you’re able to take your nutrition one step further–to make sure the foods you’re selecting are not only heart-healthy, but right for your unique biological needs. It turns out that the microbiome also plays a vital role in cardiovascular health through its impact on inflammation, cholesterol metabolism, and blood pressure regulation.8

Spinach, salmon, avocados, and walnuts may all be heart-healthy foods, but they may not be the right superfoods for your body right now to provide your microbiome with the best nutrition to help support your cardiovascular health. And in fact, those foods may interact with your microbiome to produce metabolites that have negative effects on your body, such as the oxalates in spinach, or almonds. Can your current microbiome process oxalates properly? If not, an oxalate overload can predispose you to issues like kidney stones.9

So, how do you know what foods are the best and the most heart-healthy for you, based on your unique biochemistry? Simple. Test with a Viome Intelligence Test and find out.

Get up and move your body every day

The American Heart Association recommends getting in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combo of both) per week. Spread your time out per week for best results.10 

Moderate-intensity activity can be anything from hiking or shooting hoops with your friends, to Argentinian tango classes, yoga, gardening, pickleball, or anything else that gets your heart rate up.

Start slow, if you’re a newbie to physical activity, and ramp up your time and intensity. If you are normally in a chair for most of the day, even a light-intensity session will help balance out some risks of being sedentary, and get you started with your movement routine. Add in some strength training with resistance bands or weights when you’re ready, up to 2 times per week. Weight-bearing resistance training also gives you the benefit of building bone density. 

Regular physical activity can benefit your:

Heart–you’ll be strengthening that large muscle in your chest and improving its efficiency in pumping blood effectively, reducing the strain on the cardiovascular system, and building up endurance. In turn, this lowers the risk of heart disease. 

Blood pressure–exercise has been shown to help regulate blood pressure, contributing to lower resting blood pressure and enhancing the ability of blood vessels to dilate and constrict when necessary.11  

Cholesterol–regular activity can help increase your “good” cholesterol (HDL) and lower your “bad” cholesterol (LDL), helping maintain this essential balance for preventing the buildup of plaque in the arteries and mitigating the risk of heart disease.12 

Blood sugar–moving your body regularly (even with a good walk after dinner) can help improve insulin sensitivity, which is important for managing healthy blood sugar levels.13,14 This is particularly beneficial for decreasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as high blood sugar can contribute to damaging blood vessels and nerves that control your heart.15

Manage your stress levels with daily mindfulness practices

Your body’s response to stress is a protective measure in times of emergency when quick responses are needed. But, when your body is in a constant state of stress, and the stress hormone cortisol is in higher circulation, it’s possible this can contribute to increased levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure–all common factors for heart disease.16

Stress comes in far too many forms and places, including where you work, financial stress, technology and information overload, relationship and family issues, health and well-being, social pressures, personal development, and global uncertainty. There’s plenty to feel slightly or deeply concerned about these days. This makes it vital to create and rely on a daily mindfulness practice to pull you back, level you out, relax, and let you have some perspective on the day. 

Mindfulness involves “downregulation” activities or practices that help downshift your body from the stress response (also called the “fight or flight” response) into a more relaxed state (called the “rest and digest” mode). The benefits of these relaxation techniques include slowing heart rate and breathing rate, lowering blood pressure, improving digestion, reducing the activity of stress hormones, soothing muscle tension, improving sleep quality, decreasing fatigue, anxiousness, and frustration, plus boosting confidence in your ability to handle challenging issues when they arise.  

If you don’t have a go-to mindfulness practice, here are some to look into:

  • Deep breathing, or box breathing–research shows that simply breathing deeply can reduce stress and help activate your “rest and digest” mode. It’s recommended to use breathing methods that expand your abdomen.17 

  • Progressive muscle relaxation–recent studies illustrate the ability of this type of relaxation to help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiousness, improve sleep quality, reduce body tension, and help regulate blood pressure.18

  • Gentle stretching or yoga–When we have higher stress levels in our lives, we tend to hold tension in our muscles. Stretching has also been shown to boost serotonin levels, so not only will your muscles feel better, but you will probably be in a better mood as well!19

  • Mindfulness meditation–with this practice, you focus on slowing down your thoughts, calming your mind, and letting go of negativity and the stress response that happens in your body. There are many different methods that you can use, including breath awareness, Transcendental Meditation, walking meditation, guided meditation, sound meditation, and more. See which methodology works best for you, or use more than one. 

Get enough good quality sleep

Sleep is crucial for heart health. So much so, that the American Heart Association recently added sleep to its heart health checklist to help people evaluate their daily habits and improve on them.20 

Sleep is the time that your heart and your body have a chance to rest, recover, and digest–the body functions that take a backseat during your waking daylight hours when stress is usually higher.

When sleep quality is poor, there are direct and indirect effects on the health of your heart. Indirectly, poor sleep seems to have an influence on food cravings, making you want to eat foods that are not heart-healthy. In turn, those food choices can affect your sleep quality, becoming a vicious circle that can be hard to break.21 Directly, when you do not get enough sleep during the night, your risk of developing high blood pressure increases.22 

Consistency and quality of your sleep are key. The heart benefits from consistent sleep habits. A recent study of a group of older adults found that those with the most irregular sleep schedules were twice as likely to develop atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in artery walls that can lead to heart conditions, than those with consistent sleep schedules.23   

Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night and establish a regular sleep routine for yourself:

  • Keep in consistency with your schedule–got to bed and wake up at the same time each day, including weekends.

  • Get your 30 minutes of activity in each day–be sure to get in your daily movement, as it can help you fall asleep more easily in the evening. Try to avoid exercise within an hour or two before bedtime, as this may delay your ability to get to sleep and affect sleep quality. 

  • Eating and drinking before bed–avoid big meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime. Try to eat dinner at least 2-4 hours before retiring to go to sleep.

  • Keep your bedroom for sleeping–remove all electronics from your bedroom: televisions, laptops, smartphones, and even any plugs or devices with tiny LED lights (you’d be surprised how bright they are in the dark).

  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine–dim or shut off all blue light bulbs, take a warm bath with a little lavender essential oil, have a cup of herbal tea, and listen to some soothing music before you turn out the lights and go to sleep.


1 “Smoking and Your Heart.” (updated 2022, Mar. 4). National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Online at

2 “Alcohol Basics”. (reviewed 2022, Apr. 19). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Online at

3 Engen PA, Green SJ, Voigt RM, Forsyth CB, Keshavarzian A. (2015). Alcohol Res. 2015;37(2):223-36. PMID: 26695747; PMCID: PMC4590619.

4 Fan, X., Peters, B.A., Jacobs, E.J. et al. (2018). Microbiome 6, 59 (2018).

5 Al-Shaar L, Satija A, Wang DD, Rimm EB, Smith-Warner SA, Stampfer MJ, Hu FB, Willett WC. (2020). BMJ. 2020 Dec 2;371:m4141. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m4141. PMID: 33268459; PMCID: PMC8030119.

6 Rippe JM, Angelopoulos TJ. (2016). Nutrients. 2016 Nov 4;8(11):697. doi: 10.3390/nu8110697. PMID: 27827899; PMCID: PMC5133084.

7 Gupta DK, Lewis CE, Varady KA, et al. (2023). JAMA. 2023;330(23):2258–2266. doi:10.1001/jama.2023.23651

8 Novakovic M, Rout A, Kingsley T, Kirchoff R, Singh A, Verma V, Kant R, Chaudhary R. (2020). World J Cardiol. 2020 Apr 26;12(4):110-122. doi: 10.4330/wjc.v12.i4.110. PMID: 32431782; PMCID: PMC7215967.

9 Mehta M, Goldfarb DS, Nazzal L. (2016). Int J Surg. 2016 Dec;36(Pt D):607-612. doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2016.11.024. Epub 2016 Nov 12. PMID: 27847292; PMCID: PMC5764756.

10 “What exercise is right for me?” (reviewed 2024, Jan. 31). American Heart Association. Online at

11 Carpio-Rivera E, Moncada-Jiménez J, Salazar-Rojas W, Solera-Herrera A. (2016). Arq Bras Cardiol. 2016 May;106(5):422-33. doi: 10.5935/abc.20160064. Epub 2016 May 6. PMID: 27168471; PMCID: PMC4914008.

12 Mann, S. Beedie, C. Jiminez, A. (2014). Sports Medicine. Volume 44, pages 211-221. 10.1007/s40279-013-0110-5

13 Buffet, A.J., Herring, M.P., Langley, C.K., et al. (2022). Sports Medicine, 52, 1765–1787.

14 Erickson, M.L., Jenkins, N.T., McCully, K.K. (2017). Frontiers in Endocrinology, 8:228.

15 “Diabetes and your heart.” (reviewed 2022, June 20). Centers for Disease Control. Online at

16 “Stress can increase your risk for heart disease.” (n.d.). Health Encyclopedia, University of Rochester, Medical Center. Online at

17 Gerritsen, Roderik J. S., and Guido P. H. Band. (2018). Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 12 (October): 397.

18 Nunez, K. (2020). “Progressive Muscle Relaxation.” Healthline. Online at

19 Wipfli, B., Landers, D., Nagoshi, C., & Ringenbach, S. (2011). Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 21(3), 474-481.

20 “Life’s Essential 8™.” (2022). American Heart Association. Online at

21 Zuraikat, F.M., Makarem, N., Liao, M., St‐Onge. M.P, Aggarwal, B. (2020). Journal of the American Heart Association. 2020;9:e014587.

22 Makarem N, Shechter A, Carnethon MR, Mullington JM, Hall MH, Abdalla M. (2019). Curr Hypertens Rep. 2019 Apr 5;21(5):33. doi: 10.1007/s11906-019-0938-7. PMID: 30953237; PMCID: PMC10239254.

23 Full, K.M., Huang, T., Shah, N.A. (2023). Journal of the American Heart Association. 2023;12:e027361. /