Eating right and regularly exercising are not the only ways to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. These four lifestyle factors play an essential role as well.

  1. Practicing stress relief. Stress can increase your risk for many types of chronic diseases—cardiovascular disease being one of them. Although mild stress is a normal reaction to accomplish tasks we sometimes find challenging, it can become overbearing and begin to negatively affect your health. It is important to learn how to manage your stress level. Below are a few ways you can begin to eliminate unnecessary and overbearing stress factors from your life.
  • Delegate some of your household or work responsibilities to others
  • Realize that it is your reaction to the stress that is harmful
  • Keep things in perspective, you are most likely not facing a life threatening situation
  • Pamper yourself with some quiet time
  • Practice deep breathing techniques to calm yourself
  • Try to spend time in nature on a daily basis, even if it’s only a 10 minute walk

  1. Include leisure time. Your body as well as your brain benefits from leisure activities.  In a recent study, researchers found participants to have a more positive mood, less stress and a lower heart rate when they engaged in leisure activities.1 Make it a routine to do some things that you enjoy like a favorite hobby or activity or form of relaxation.
  • Garden, even if it’s only potted plants
  • Watch a movie, read a book or listen to music
  • Play with your children, grandchildren or a pet
  • Color, paint or doodle
  • Sit in a park or garden and watch the birds
  1. Maintain social relationships and activities. In a recent meta-analysis (a study that compiles findings from a number of other similar studies), lack of social relationships was found to be suggestive of an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.2 Maintaining social relationships with your friends and family is really important to your wellbeing. Here are some ideas of ways to bring back social activities into your lifestyle.
  • Instead of using social media, communicate with friends or family in person. Ask them to meet you for a cup of coffee or a meal
  • Join a club that meets regularly in your neighborhood
  • Reach out to friends you haven’t seen in a while and rekindle a friendship
  • Volunteer at any organization that helps others (hospitals, homeless shelters, senior centers)
  1. Get adequate sleep. It is recommended for adults to receive seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Sleep is necessary for your body and your heart to function normally. The National Sleep Foundation offers good advice and has a brief video about how sleep deprivation puts you at higher risk for diabetes, heart attack and stroke.3 To get started on a better sleep routine, try some of these tips.
  • Establish a nighttime routine that relaxes you and gets you prepared for sleep
  • Turn down the lights and your screen time to help activate the body’s normal circadian rhythms
  • If you drink alcohol, keep it within moderation which is one drink or less per day for women and two or less drinks per day for men
  • Try not to have caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon or evening
  • Clear your mind before you go to bed by making a list of all the things you need to get done the next day.

Consider putting these positive lifestyle behaviors into action beginning with one area at a time. If you find you need some help making these changes, schedule time with a Boston Heart Registered Dietitian Coach by visiting or calling 877.425.1252 option 4.



1.Zawadzki, M.J., Smyth, J.M. & Costigan, H.J. ann. behav. med. (2015) 49: 605. doi:10.1007/s12160-015-9694-3.

2.Valtorta NK, et al. Heart 2016;0:1–8. doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2015-308790