6 Powerful Lifestyle Changes to Keep Your Heart Healthy

Did you know that more women die from a heart attack than all combined cancers? [space]

And yet, heart attacks still remain to be the most overlooked health concern for women. We are all too busy shuttling the kids, making the perfect homes or launching the perfect career so we erroneously think that we can focus on our hearts later. However, focusing on our hearts is something that we must make a priority even if we haven’t been officially diagnosed with a heart condition. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure, especially when it comes to preventing a heart attack. [space]

Implementing these 6 simple and powerful lifestyle changes today can help to ensure that you don’t miss a beat. [space]

1.Start an exercise regimen. Harvard and Stanford researchers found that exercise was just as effective as medicine in preventing mortality in patients with coronary heart disease. In fact, the research was so compelling that the researchers concluded that exercise should be a viable alternative to drug therapy, or at a minimum, exercise should be combined with drug therapy to prevent secondary heart disease or mortality. [space]

2. Eat more mineral rich foods that contain potassium and magnesium. These two essential minerals are critical to good heart health because they both regulate our heartbeat and heart rhythm. Sodium and calcium are important but we tend to get an adequate amount from our diets already. Note: if you’re already on a high blood pressure medicine that contains a diuretic or if you are taking a diuretic supplement, it is critical that you get your daily requirements (4700 mg of potassium and about 320 mg of magnesium for women) of these two critical minerals because some diuretics will cause minerals like potassium to secrete from the body. Losing potassium daily can have deadly consequences if it’s not restored in a timely manner. [space]

Consider this list of food and one beverage to add to your daily diet to ensure you have the proper amount of heart healthy potassium and magnesium in your body: [space]

  • 1 Baked sweet potatoes contains- 690 mg potassium/33 mg magnesium
  • 1 Baked potato contains- 610 mg potassium/48 mg magnesium
  • ¼ Cup of tomato paste contains-664 mg/71 mg magnesium
  • ½ Cup of cooked lima beans contain- 484 mg/5 mg magnesium
  • 1 Medium banana contains-422 mg potassium/32 mg magnesium
  • 1 cup of almonds contain- 649 mg potassium/247 mg magnesium
  • ¾ Cup of orange juice contains-355 mg potassium/9 mg magnesium
  • 1 Cup of coconut water contains- 435 mg/9 mg magnesium

3. Get an annual EKG and/or an Echocardiogram and stress test. An EKG is great for checking the electrical activity of your heart and alerting your doctor as to whether or not you have an abnormal arrhythmia, but it doesn’t provide a complete picture of your heart’s health.  Therefore, you’ll also need an echocardiogram (also referred to as an echogram), which is a type of ultrasound test that gives views of the heart while you are at rest and during stress, i.e., exercise.  This will give your doctor an indication as to whether or not blood is flowing freely and no arterial blockage is present in any of the four heart chambers. [space]

4. Add heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids to your diet.  Did you know that fish oil is an essential fatty acid that helps prevent arrhythmia, blood clotting, and inflammation, just to name a few? Omega-3 fatty acids are found in flax seed oil in the form of ALA, alpha-linolenic acid, which has to be converted (through metabolism) to EPA, eicosapentaenoic acid and DHA, docosahexaenoic acid.  I don’t recommend flax seed oil because only a small amount of EPA and DHA can be converted from ALA if you don’t have the proper amount of enzymes present in your stomach.  So, your best source is to take an animal based fish or krill oil which both have readily bioavailable EPA and DHA. [space]

5. Cook with heart healthy cooking oils.  You’ve probably already heard that trans-fats are horrible for your health and your heart, but did you know that they also increase your risk for sudden cardiac arrest by three-fold?  This is why I recommend completely removing it from the diet and replacing trans-fat with heart healthy oils like olive oil, coconut oil, peanut oil, palm oil and sesame seed oil. [space]

6. Eliminate caffeine in your diet.  Research is back and forth in terms of whether or not coffee can cause heart problems. One minute you’re hearing that coffee doesn’t harm your heart and the next minute, you’re reading that it does—who’s right?  It turns out that both views are correct.

A nutritional study was done to determine if coffee consumption was a risk factor for nonfatal acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), and the results will surprise you.  Coffee consumption was a risk factor for half of the subjects in the study; while the other half remained unaffected.  What does this mean to the average coffee drinker? If you metabolize coffee slowly, i.e. you drink a cup of coffee in the morning or at noon and can’t fall asleep at night, you are at risk for having a nonfatal heart attack.  On the other hand, if you drink a cup of coffee and fall asleep 30 minutes later, consider yourself lucky— you get to keep drinking one of the world’s most favorite beverages. But beware caffeine does cause calcium to leach from your bones. According to the study, you can lose about 6 milligrams of calcium for every 100 milligrams of caffeine ingested. That’s not a huge amount, but is something to keep in mind.

We protect our hearts in relationships so it’s just as important to protect our heart health. These six easily implemented changes can mean the difference between having a heart attack or preventing one from happening. I hope that you make the pledge to start doing them today and in addition to wearing red-be sure to share this article with the women in your circle. [space]


  1. Great information, I plan to purchase the krill oil and incorporate in my diet some of the potassium rich foods you listed. I will also be scheduling an echocardiogram. I Look forward to reading more of your articles!

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Walker's Legacy is a growing global women in business collective founded to establish networks of empowerment and access for women of color in business.