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5 heart-healthy habits for a stronger you

By Dr. Michael Hulin

Caring for your heart doesn’t have to be complicated. Small changes in your daily routine can make a huge difference in your overall wellness. Here are five powerful, heart-healthy habits you can incorporate into your day.


You don’t have to be a gym fanatic to keep your heart happy. Even a brisk walk in the evenings or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can help. You should aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day. Moving your body not only strengthens your heart, but also boosts your mood and energy levels. The most important aspect of exercise is enjoyment. If you enjoy the activity, you’re likely to keep doing it.


Eating for a healthy heart is all about making smart choices. Load up on fruits, veggies, whole grains and healthy protein sources like fish and seafood, nuts, low-fat dairy and lean cuts of meat and poultry. It’s also important to limit processed foods (foods that are pre-prepared or pre-packaged) and foods with a high salt content. You can try swapping out processed snacks for nuts, seeds or fresh fruit. An easy rule of thumb: eat mostly foods with no ingredient lists.


Tobacco use damages your heart and blood vessels, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. The good news is that when you quit smoking, dipping or vaping, your body responds almost immediately. Within minutes of quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure decrease. Over time, you can expect to experience even more health benefits, such as improved circulation, reduced shortness of breath and a lowered risk of heart attack, stroke and many types of cancer.


Stress can tax your heart, so finding ways to manage it is crucial. Take breaks during the day to relax, practice deep breathing or engage in a hobby you enjoy. Spending time with loved ones, laughing and doing activities you love also can work wonders for reducing stress and benefiting your heart health. If possible, take time to communicate and share the things that cause stress with someone you love and trust. Keeping those emotions bottled up is never good.


The American Heart Association recommends seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night. You can get better sleep by setting an alarm for one hour before your targeted bedtime. This alarm will remind you when it’s time to start winding down and allow you to put away your phone and start limiting screen time. If possible, try to keep screens (phones, tablets and TVs) out of your bedroom. Good sleep not only helps your heart, but also boosts your overall wellbeing.

Incorporating these habits doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Start small, focusing on one habit at a time, and gradually build these practices into your lifestyle. Your heart will thank you.

Dr. Michael Hulin is a board-certified family medicine physician at Ochsner Health in Gulfport. Dr. Hulin cares for people of all ages and provides preventative care, routine checkups and personalized health counseling. To schedule an appointment, visit

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