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5 Steps to Live a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

If ever there was a day for indulging in sweets so sugary they’ll stop your heart, it’s today. Another Valentine’s celebration is upon us, friends!

Whether you’re cursing Cupid or cozied up with a companion, what we have for you here is just what the love doctor ordered. That is, a blog on why you should swap those chocolates for some fresh fruit if you want to support the health of your original, A1 day 1 valentine: your heart

But wait, don’t use those sticky fingers to scroll away! The heart-healthy wellness practices we’re sharing today aren’t really meant to persuade you into quitting sweets cold turkey. 

They’re meant to bolster your holistic health toolbox so we, as Americans, can stop dying of preventable heart diseases. We took this smorgasbord of wellness practices straight from Dr. Neal’s industry-insider collection to share with you, in the hopes that together, we’ll share many more Valentine’s Days in the future. 

So read on, fellow wellness seeker — they’re only a heartbeat away. 

In This Article: 

Understanding Heart Disease: Can it be Prevented or Reversed? 

Okay, let’s bypass the rest of those cardiovascular clichés and get to right to the heart of the matter. What causes heart complications, like heart attacks, and is there anything we can do to prevent or reverse coronary complications? 

If you ask the internet, you’ll get mixed answers. 

Some so-called professionals claim that simple dietary changes can reverse heart disease, while other conservative sources warn that statin prescriptions are the only viable options. The truth, as per usual, lies somewhere in the middle

Wellness practices, like tailoring your diet to include more nutritious foods, can indeed reduce the risk of disease and slow the progression of chronic conditions. But let’s be clear: You can’t just reverse heart disease with food. 

Data-backed wellness practices, when done consistently and concertedly, can reverse heart disease in some unique cases, but only when used together and with great effort. Translation: Don’t focus so much on your diet that you forget the impact that other wellness practices, like stress management, have on your blood pressure. 

It’s easier to understand the relationship between disease and lifestyle when we reverse the timeline. So let’s take Dr. Neal’s heart attack example from this in-depth podcast episode

  • End result: Heart attack. But what caused the heart attack?
  • Heart attack: Cause by a blood clot that lodged into a vessel that feeds the heart. But what caused the clot?
  • Blood clot: Caused by a hardening of the arteries that created an inflammatory response. But what caused the hardening of the arteries? 
  • Harden arteries: Caused by elevated cholesterol and triglyceride fat content. But what causes the high levels of cholesterol and triglyceride deposits? 

The last answer is, of course, nutritionally bankrupt food, a la McDonald’s. But because the lifestyle domains in which we have wellness practices work in tandem with one another, there’s still part of the picture missing. 

Why Wellness Practices Matter for Heart Health

Things like moderate exercise, restorative sleep, and stress management can all drive down triglyceride content, which, as we now know, is one of the first dominos to fall on the path to heart attacks. 

So wellness practices in all 5 lifestyle domains are not only the first thing you should focus on for improving heart health and preventing heart disease — they’re the most important thing, too. Even more important than supplements, these foundational practices can determine whether or not you experience a preventable heart event like a premature stroke. 

The Wellness Pyramid for Heart Health

But we’re not here to rain on your V-Day parade!

Consistency is key when it comes to wellness practices, but don’t forget that sustainability is crucial for consistency.

So you don’t have to New-Year-New-You yourself into a perfect, heart-healthy lifestyle that doesn’t work for you in the long run. Slowly implementing small, strategic changes that enhance your life — not burden it — is a completely acceptable route.

In fact, let’s start at the most important facet of the lifestyle domains for heart health. If you can only make changes in one place right now, this is it:

Lifestyle Changes

When it comes to the stuff we put in our bodies, some of it is fun — like that glass of wine with dinner — and some of it is less fun, like leafy greens and omega-rich fish.

Preventing heart disease in our modern era, unfortunately, means having a lot less fun stuff. If you want to live a long, healthy life you’ll have to address any lifestyle factors that directly degrade your heart, like smoking, drinking, and doing drugs.

If you’re here for a fun time, not a long time, then by all means, grab a pack of Marlboros! Just know that your to-the-grave brand loyalty is literal — smoking is directly connected to heart attacks and strokes.

As well as uppers, downers, binge drinking, and everything in between.


And no, you can’t Paleo your way through a binge drinking problem and expect to prevent disease.

But there are foods that — after you address your lifestyle changes — can influence your heart health for the better. Integrate more of these nutrient-rich, antioxidant foods and fewer of the over-processed junk to bolster cardiovascular function through diet:

Eat more:

  • Colorful Fruits & Veggies: Look for reds, greens, and blues in the produce aisle for foods with antioxidant content.
  • Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and the like are all high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Fish: Up your intake of fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines for an even more potent dose of omega-3s.
  • Healthy Oils: Cook your meals in fats like organic virgin olive oil for reduced risk of heart disease and improved cholesterol.

Eat less:

  • Sucrose-Heavy Sweets: Swap sodas, packaged pastries, and other blood-sugar-spiking treats for options with healthier sweeteners, like coconut sugar.
  • UPF: Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods, which can be industrially formulated for sweet or savory cravings.
  • Red Meats: Can be enjoyed in moderation, but are high in heart-hindering cholesterol and saturated fats.
  • Trans Fats: A la synthetic butter or vegetable oils like canola, which Dr. Neal calls, “the cigarettes of foods.”

Learn More: Mastering Holistic Nutrition: Dr. Neal’s Top 5 Diet Guidelines


Remember how we mentioned that exercise can improve triglyceride levels just a few beats ago? That’s not the only way that regular movement protects the heart!

Regular physical activity can also mitigate other disease risk factors like blood pressure and good cholesterol — lowering the former and raising the latter. Does this mean you have to go full gym rat in 2024, beating up barbells and taking selfies to make your exes eat their hearts out? No, thankfully, it doesn’t.

Per Dr. Neal’s expert opinion and the scores of medical research that informed it, we should aim for a baseline 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 times a week. That could be in the form of weight-bearing exercise, walking, yoga, swimming — whatever works for you and your unique life.

Learn More: The Truth About Exercise: Ditch the Myths

Stress Management

The good news is: Cutting back on drinking, eating more nutritious food, and getting regular exercise can all help improve your stress levels and mental well-being.

Because when it comes to the heart, we’re not just talking about the physical heart — we’re talking about the emotional heart, too. Stress, despite being seen as “all in your head” can have a direct effect on your physical health. It not only contributes to an increased rate of cardiovascular events and high blood pressure but can also trigger a heart attack or angina in some people.

Incorporating a stress-reduction practice might not seem as hard-hitting as eating a pound of berries every day, but the nascent science says it makes a difference. Some recent studies have shown that (totally free!) stress management disciplines like meditation and mindfulness can help attenuate heart disease risk factors, though more research is needed.


But really, is there any better stress reducer than a good night’s sleep? We think not.

As the baseline treatment for a number of chronic conditions, mental and physical, sleep is a foundational lifestyle factor for a reason. High-quality sleep impacts the entirety of our bodies — from cognition and emotional regulation to digestion and, yes, of course, heart health.

While the occasional night of tossing and turning is normal and not necessarily damaging, a chronic lack of adequate sleep can lead to all sorts of consequences you’ll lose sleep over. Like an amplified risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, high blood pressure, and obesity.

Our favorite tricks for improving sleep quality are centered on the three C’s: a calm mind, a calm body, and a comfortable environment.

But Let’s Have a Heart to Heart

Wait. Why do we, after giving you the full low down on living a heart-healthy lifestyle, still want to have a heartfelt conversation about cardiovascular wellness with you?

Well, because every heart is unique! Just like the snowflakes many of us have been blessed with on this arctic tundra of a Valentine’s Day. So if you’re lonely on this journey towards optimal heart health and overall well-being, hold the phone!

Our holistic wellness experts have hearts of gold and heavily researched answers for any of your heart-related inquiries, all just a call away via Counterside Consult.


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