7 Amazing Things Your Heart Does for You, and 7 Things You Can Do for It

(Bonus: Some Are Delicious)
heart health

As the second week of February unfolds, hearts seem to be everywhere: displayed in shop windows, decorating greeting cards, carefully stenciled onto the tops of cakes and cookies. Sure, some of that might have to do with some holiday coming up on the 14th, but we’re choosing to believe that everyone is just really, really excited about American Heart Month.

Moved to action by the spike in heart health-related deaths in the United States, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the first American Heart Month in 1964. Since then, the month of February has been devoted to educating Americans about how they can reduce their risk of heart disease and improve cardiovascular health.

It’s still a huge issue today, with 1 in 4 deaths stemming from heart disease. Fortunately, you can greatly lower your risk of heart disease by taking some simple steps toward a healthier lifestyle. In honor of the hard-working, long-suffering muscle, we rounded up 7 incredible facts about the heart, plus 7 things you can do to show it a little TLC.

7 Amazing Things Your Heart Does

1. Over the course of a day, your heart beats about 100,000 times.

2. If separated from the body, your heart can continue to beat on its own—this is because it has its own electrical impulse.

3. In under a minute, your heart can pump blood to almost every cell in your body (and there are trillions).

4. Your heart sends blood through around 60,000 miles of branching blood vessels that link together the cells of your organs and body parts.

5. Each day, your heart creates enough energy to drive a truck 20 miles.

6. Every minute, your heart pumps 1.5 gallons of blood.

7. Over the course of your lifetime, your heart does more physical work than any other muscle.

7 Ways to Improve Your Heart Health

1. Make breakfast count. Eating the right breakfast is an easy way to pack in some heart-healthy nutrients right off the bat. We love this power breakfast from Healthy Baby Beans, which blogger Clancy describes like so: “It consists of scrambled egg with sautéed spinach served with a side of oven grilled asparagus, sliced avocado and berries. It is so good you can feel the cells in your body do a happy dance full of love and joy.”

Let’s break that down: spinach is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that reduces the risk of heart disease; asparagus contains vitamin K, which helps prevent blood clotting, plus potassium, which regulates blood pressure; avocado, filled with monounsaturated fatty acids that lower cholesterol and prevent clotting; and polyphenol-packed berries, which have been associated with improved overall heart health. Add a slice of heart-healthy whole grain toast for an added bonus!

2. Run like the wind! DietBet player Kwogni explains why this dreaded gym class activity is actually a powerful way to boost heart health: “Wind sprints are a technique to improve your cardiovascular fitness, where a long session of aerobic activity is interlaced with short bursts of anaerobic activity (i.e. sprints). These short bursts will ultimately improve your aerobic performance. It is used primarily to improve running but can be adapted to any exercise you do such as cycling, swimming, and cross-country skiing.”

3. Get happy! Turning that frown upside down could improve a lot more than your afternoon: studies have shown that emotional vitality, a sense of hopefulness, and engagement in life are associated with reduced risk of coronary heart disease. On the flipside, chronic stress, unhappiness, or fear can cause wear and tear on the heart, leading to serious health conditions later in life.

4. Reduce recovery. Recovery—that time between bouts of exertion when you’re exercising—is great. We know. But turns out, cutting recovery and increasing exertion can greatly improve heart health. In fact, this principle is the basis for DietBet host Shaun T’s popular INSANITY program. As he explains, “I specifically call on you to train for longer work periods with shorter recovery times. When you train this way, your heart health improves and so does your lung capacity.”

5. Go nuts! Nuts are full of unsaturated fats, which can lower levels of the bad kind of cholesterol and raise the good kind. Walnuts in particular have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, which can prevent both blood clots and irregular heart rhythms. So grab a handful of nuts for your afternoon snack—doing so could reduce your risk of dying from heart disease by 29%!

6. Take a hike! Or a walk, or a stroll. Don’t worry, wind sprints and INSANITY aren’t your only heart-healthy fitness options. According to the American Heart Association, just walking for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week can have a positive impact on cardiovascular health.

7. Chill out. Unmanaged stress can have a serious impact on heart health, increasing the risk of high blood pressure, irregular heard rhythms, artery damage, high cholesterol, and coronary artery disease. Luckily, you can combat the strain of stress by simply making relaxation a priority. Try incorporating meditation into your daily life, or simply take a few minutes to sit quietly and breathe deeply when the demands of life make your heart race.

Make it WayBetter

You don’t need to implement all 7 of these tips every day. Making a point of doing just one each day of the week will improve heart health and make it easy to slowly build up heart-healthy habits.