Roses, chocolate and maybe a nice meal out. The 14th of February marks Valentines day. The heart is often used as the symbol of love so why do so many of us choose to neglect it? Why not treat your body this Valentines Day and take on board some of our top tips to maintain a healthy heart.

1: Eat Clean

Your heart works best when it runs on clean fuel. That means lots of whole, plant-based foods (like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) and fewer refined or processed foods (like white bread, pasta, crackers, and biscuits).

It’s time-tested wisdom. The latest fads get overplayed by the media. But the core of what makes a heart-healthy eating pattern hasn’t changed for decades.

One of the fastest ways to clean up your diet is to cut out sugary beverages like soda and fruit juice, which lacks the fiber that’s in actual fruit.

2: Manage Your Sleep

The next time you’re tempted to stay up later than you should, remember how comfy that pillow will feel and how good a full night’s sleep is for your heart.

In one study, young and middle-age adults who slept 7 hours a night had less calcium in their arteries (an early sign of heart disease) than those who slept 5 hours or less or those who slept 9 hours or more.

The type of shut-eye they got was important, too. Adults who said they got good-quality sleep also had healthier arteries than those who didn’t sleep soundly.

If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, or if you don’t feel refreshed after a full night in bed, talk to your doctor about what changes you can make to help.

3: Move More

To keep it simple, aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of moderate exercise. That includes any activity that gets you moving around and breaking a slight sweat.

Also, pay attention to how much time you spend seated, whether it’s at work, in your car, or on your sofa at home. You want to cut that time down.

We now know that even if you exercise for 30 minutes a day, being sedentary for the other 23 1/2 hours is really bad for your heart,” says Monika Sanghavi, MD, assistant professor of cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Break up long periods of sitting, and stand or walk while doing things like talking on the phone or watching TV.

 

Although there are literally hundreds of small changes you could make to your lifestyle that will have a huge impact on your health we’ve chosen three that will make the biggest difference. For more information on how to improve your cardiovascular fitness talk to your doctor.