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Strengthen heart musclesYour heart is a muscle. And, just like the other muscles in your body, it requires care and maintenance to function at optimal levels. A healthy lifestyle can improve heart function, making it strong and less susceptible to disease. Below are a few tips to strengthen your heart to keep it healthy and efficient, dramatically improving ​​your quality of life:

Exercise regularly. They say sitting is the new smoking​. To improve overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of both).

​​​People with high blood pressure​ or cholesterol should do at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times a week to lower the risk for heart attack​ and stroke.

Exercises can be as simple as walking or cycling, or be more intense, such as running or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you choose, as long as you keep moving.

Maintain a healthy diet. Studies show that heart health and your diet are linked. Sticking to a heart-healthy diet can actually strengthen your heart muscle. A heart-healthy diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, skinless poultry and fish and low-fat dairy products.

Conversely, limit the amount of trans fat, saturated fat and sodium you consume. Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars and limit your alcohol intake. And, if you smoke, quit.

Lastly, know the amount of calories you should be eating and drinking to maintain your weight. If trying to lose weight, you should control your portion sizes and work to balance your calorie intake with physical activity to achieve a healthy body weight. It’s recommended you speak with your doctor before starting any weight-loss program.

Manage stress.​ Stress and anxiety can wreak havoc on a body, causing anything from high blood pressure to asthma to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

​According to the American Heart Association, your body reacts to stress by releasing adrenaline, a hormone that causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. Chronic stress that causes this increase can damage the artery walls, putting you at risk for heart disease or stroke.

​​​Managing your stress will help you feel more in control of your life, giving you a greater sense of well-being. Some techniques include daily relaxation/meditation, taking a break from the stressor, and engaging in hobbies such as reading, gardening or knitting.

Any information and advice is given on a generalized, generic basis, and is not specific to any individual patient's condition. Use of this material is helpful in making you informed about health care issues and cannot replace a health professional-patient relationship. You should always consult with a professional for diagnosis and treatment of any specific health problems. You should not disregard any advice or treatment plan from your health professional based on your interpretation of what you may read in this material.​

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