This post was written by Stephen Olex, MD, an integrative cardiologist at the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at Villanova. Dr. Olex is the author of peer-reviewed research on the topic of meditation and cardiology and has delivered invited lectures on the implications of mind-heart and mind-body practices for mental health and cardiovascular health.
Exercise. It is now well known that aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking) is very beneficial for the heart and the blood vessels for many reasons. Aerobic exercise also benefits mood and brain health as well, helping to keep our minds sharp as we age. Although 30 minutes of exercise five times per week is a great goal, some is better than none. Depending on age and risk factors for heart disease, a stress test may be a good idea before engaging in an exercise program.
Eat well. While there are many theories on what diet is best for the heart, reducing simple carbohydrates including sugar and products with white flour, reducing sodium intake, and increasing vegetable intake are good overall principles to follow. In addition, reducing animal fat is recommended to help keep the heart and blood vessels healthy.
Breathe. Stress has a very significant negative impact on the cardiovascular system through multiple mechanisms. Focusing on taking deeper and smoother breaths throughout the day can help to ease the effects of stress. I believe that meditation as well as yoga practice (preferably both!) can be an important support in building a heart healthy lifestyle.