4 Tips for a Healthy Heart

Ahmed Saleh, MD is a cardiologist board certified in cardiovascular medicine, echocardiography, nuclear cardiology, vascular ultrasound interpretation and internal medicine at Inova. He loves spending time with his family and friends, playing soccer, exercising, and traveling.

Stay on top of your heart health

Your heart works hard to keep your entire system functioning. Caring for your heart health by taking certain actions can make an enormous difference. You do not have to make major changes, or even a drastic change in your lifestyle. But there are some easy adaptations that will help reduce your risk of having a cardiovascular event later in your life. Whether it be a heart attack or a stroke, individuals may develop diseases such as heart failure, arrhythmias, or even peripheral arterial disease.

Tip #1: Eat a healthy diet

Our diet plays a major, key role in our cardiovascular health over the decades, whether good or bad. It has been proven that certain diets reduce the risk of multiple diseases, cardiovascular events, different cancers, diabetes, and dementia. On the Mediterranean diet you can eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes, olive oil and lean protein.This diet has an excellent anti-inflammatory effect on the blood vessels. Another diet that has proven benefits is the plant-based diet which follows a lot of the same principles, but it is more focused on greens and plant-based proteins such as quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, beans, legumes, peas, and oats.

Try to stay away from processed foods which tend to come with a lot of sodium and sugar that can raise your risk of heart disease.

If you are overweight, start to think about losing weight. When it comes to effective weight loss, you need to make sure to burn more calories than you are taking in.

As far as alcohol is concerned, drinking in moderation is an important part of your cardiovascular health. In excess, alcohol can cause a lot of issues, including heart problems.

Excessive alcohol intake can increase your risk of developing heart failure, heart attacks, strokes, cardiomyopathy, which makes it much harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body, and other negative events. If you do drink, follow the recommended guidelines which suggest not exceeding two drinks of alcohol per day for men and one drink for women. This includes all kinds of alcohol, but there is some evidence that moderate amounts of alcohol, including wine, can be protective to the heart. However, if you do not drink, do not start just to reap those benefits.

Tip #2: Exercise goes hand in hand with diet

Focus on the cardio portion of exercise that helps make your heart stronger. Whether aerobic – walking, jogging, hiking, running, biking, swimming and skiing – or anaerobic – weightlifting, jumping rope, sprinting, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) – moving your body will stimulate your cardiovascular system. Exercise will release beneficial hormones and substances to keep your blood vessels intact, active, and your heart muscle engaged.

Aim for 150 minutes a week at minimum, which is 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If you are just starting out try brisk walking, walking up hills or stairs, or swimming. Resistance training, where you strengthen your muscles by doing squats, push-ups or using weights, is especially important in older individuals because with age we do lose muscle. With exercise, try cardio, whether it is being on the treadmill, being on the stairs, elliptical bike or just walking. You will notice that there are many diets available, including intermittent fasting, which is quite popular. These diets can be effective to some extent, but their effectiveness varies from person to person.

Tip #3: Maintain healthy blood pressure

It is vital to control your blood pressure if it is too high because hypertension can heighten the risk of heart issues. Blood pressure is the force of the blood moving through our blood vessels, which are the pipes. When your pressure is high, more force is exerted. This pounding can negatively impact organs like the brain, the heart, and the kidneys over the years.

Atherosclerosis can occur and lead to problems like heart attacks, strokes, and kidney damage.

Work with your doctor to make sure you get your blood pressure medicines and stay on them because that will reduce your chances of adverse cardiovascular events. Also keep track of the sodium you are eating – choose low-sodium foods and skip high-sodium options – and stick to an exercise regimen.

Tip #4: Stop smoking now!

Smoking is a very high-risk factor for developing unfavorable cardiovascular events. Key factors are how much you smoke and how long you have smoked. Smoking does not just impact the cardiovascular system; it impacts almost every organ in every system in the body. Bear in mind that it is never too late to stop smoking, and it is never too late to undo a lot of the damage done by smoking. You can experience cardiovascular benefits as quickly as 24 hours after quitting smoking, along with improvements in your blood vessels.

Learn more about Inova Schar Heart and Vascular’s award-winning cardiovascular care.


  1. Roxy on October 9, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Thank you for giving the right tools to take care of myself specially about the Mediterranean diet

  2. John on October 10, 2023 at 7:40 am

    The article says it’s never too late to quit smoking. This is not true. Once you develop lung cancer and you can’t breath from fluid build up from the cancer your life is over. Almost my entire family were smokers that didn’t have the will to quit. So I personally witnessed a lot of deaths from lung cancer.

    • Jaz on October 11, 2023 at 2:54 pm

      Sorry for your loss John.

  3. Anne on October 10, 2023 at 8:13 am

    Extremely helpful. It keeps reminding us what we should and should not do!

  4. Renay on October 10, 2023 at 8:37 am

    Great article!

  5. Charlie on October 10, 2023 at 10:04 am

    The thing that needs to be addressed with BP is that people are different. Many health practitioner’s aim for one systolic number of 120. I can not operate at that level. We need more attention to defining the individual in terms of the BP range that is best for their condition; for example, 135 is better for me plus/minus 5 points. In this range I have a better quality of life.

    • Dr.Towhidian on October 10, 2023 at 6:38 pm

      Nice and very accurate advice.

  6. Miriam on October 10, 2023 at 2:00 pm

    The doctor indicates that drinking alcohol in moderation is acceptable. First of all, the word “moderation” means different things to different people, so that’s not a helpful recommendation. Secondly, alcohol is toxic to the body. If you want to optimize your health, eliminating it from your diet will help!

    • Paula on October 13, 2023 at 10:53 pm

      He says two drinks per day for men and one for women. While there will be varying amounts of alcohol this is an excellent guideline.

  7. Jim on October 11, 2023 at 2:21 pm

    Good advice. One thing I have a problem with is blood pressure medications. Diet and exercise should take care of that. Also, how about some herbal remedies instead of expensive medictions?

  8. Evelyn on October 11, 2023 at 9:30 pm

    Thank you for the article. I do quite well with the diet, get good night’s sleep, stay active take my meds for blood pressure regularly, but although I am very active on a daily basis, I need to do more about regular exercise. I should do more walking in my neighborhood on a daily basis.

  9. Hui-Ling on October 12, 2023 at 8:51 am

    Thank you for your reminder

  10. Abla on October 30, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    Thank you doctor Inova hospital #1 in the United States

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