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Healthy eating, managing your weight, exercise, trying to move more and sit less can all help support your cardiovascular health.

Smoking is not great for cardiovascular health, yet often it is one of the hardest things to change; help is out there.

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Reducing your risk: a healthy lifestyle

There are many places to get information on having a healthy lifestyle. You will find more general information in our healthy living webpages, the best nutrients for your health, physical activity, managing your weight and preventing weight gain. The following information is a summary of key aspects of healthy living that relate to your cardiovascular health.

Foods that influence cardiovascular health

Information about how to work out a healthy eating plan, good nutrition for your health and the nutrients important to cardiovascular health helps you to know what you can do for good cardiovascular health. A few small changes and a new approach can have a significant impact on your wellbeing.


Salt can affect blood pressure. It helps to have no more than 6mg (one teaspoon) of salt each day. Many packaged foods contain salt.

Phytoestrogen foods

Eating foods that contain phytoestrogen may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Phytoestrogen foods include:

  • soy products (e.g. soy milk, soy sauce, tempeh, tofu)
  • grains (eg oats, rice, barley, quinoa)
  • seeds and nuts (e.g. flaxseed, sesame seeds, pistachios, almonds)
  • legumes (e.g. chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans)

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 is a type of essential fatty acid and plays a vital role in brain function, growth and development. Research suggests omega-3 fatty acids may help to lower the risk of heart disease and may reduce blood pressure.

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in:

  • fish
  • flaxseed oil

It helps to eat fish twice a week to maintain omega-3.

Vitamin D

It is quite common for women living in western countries to have low levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D has many roles in the body including cell growth, maintaining a healthy immune system and regulating the nervous system. It is not surprising then that some research has suggested that low vitamin D increases our risk of developing heart disease.

There are a number of ways to increase vitamin D levels. Your doctor can tell you if you need to take a supplement of vitamin D if your blood levels are found to be low.

Physical activity and cardiovascular health

Regular physical activity can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as reduce body fat. If you have already had a heart attack or stroke, physical activity may be part of your rehabilitation.

What else can you do?

  • One visit to a dietitian can help you find out about foods that are good for cardiovascular health
  • Our healthy eating and physical activity webpages also have more information
  • Know your healthy weight – discuss your ideal healthy weight with your doctor
  • Smoking: What can be said that hasn't been said before! To change a habit, such as smoking, research tells us the most important thing is to seek help and support. The effects of smoking on cardiovascular disease will start to decrease as soon as you stop smoking. Talk to your doctor about what might be the best method of helping you to stop or look up the QUIT website.

** Currently under review **

This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at January 2014.

Last updated: 18 February 2020 | Last reviewed: 15 January 2014

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