7 Tips to Improve Your Cardiovascular Health

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This post is sponsored by Henry Ford Health System. All opinions contained in this post are my own. 

Over the holidays, I got to see most of my family, which was awesome. And then my mom started asking what I wanted for my birthday and it hit me.

I turn 36 this year (actually this week!). 

I am officially heavier than I’ve ever been, and as I was coming up from the basement, my heart rate spiked and I was winded.

Y’all, my basement has a normal amount of stairs. They aren’t steep or crazy long. They’re just a normal flight of stairs. And I was having a hard time with them.

This was an eye-opener for me. I’m no longer in my “early” 30’s. I’m closer to 40 than 30.

My grandfather died of a heart attack (though not in his 30’s) when I was little. And he was healthy if a little on the heavy side.

cardiovascular health


I’m bringing this up because I was going through old pictures and I came across one of Grampy and me when I was about 7. He used to come over every single night and play with us. And then one day he didn’t come. Because his heart stopped.

I remember being completely devastated, and I didn’t understand. And as I get older, this becomes more and more important to remember…we need to take care of our hearts.

Here I am, eating junk (paleo junk, but it’s still junk), and waiting for someone else to do the work for me. Obviously, cardiovascular health hasn’t been at the top of my list. 

At least it wasn’t until this Christmas. But this year? This year it is.

I’m officially done. No more resolutions. No more “get to it later.”

Raise your hand if you made a resolution this year (we all know how I feel about that).

Are you still doing strong? Or have you fallen off the wagon?

If you have, it’s okay! It’s never too late to make a change and get healthy.

Trust me on this.

This year, I’m focusing on cardiovascular health because of my family history of heart disease, but I think that it’s more than that. I want to be healthy. I want to be able to run up a flight of stairs and not feel like I can’t breathe. I want to chase my kids and climb our 40-foot sledding hill (yes, really).

I want to start skating again (once the snow melts). So something has to change. Now, I’m not a huge fan of drastic sweeping change because that doesn’t work.

But lasting change, that works, and it’s usually far easier to sustain.

Rethink Your Diet

If you’re like me, the word diet makes you cringe. Like, full on, toe-curling gag reflex. A diet means that you don’t get to enjoy the foods you love or rely on for comfort, celebration, or heartache…or does it?

I’m not a fan of diets, but I do know that eating a well-rounded diet full of lean meats and veggies (and even the occasional slice of bacon) does more good than harm.

cardiovascular health

I know that I need a change. I’ve been doing the whole “junk paleo” think for far too long, so this month I went back to basics.

To help give myself a jump start, I am revisiting the Whole30 to help my body rest.

So far I’m loving it. After the initial cravings for junk were gone (after about a week), I’ve found that being prepared has been the best thing. If you’re paleo-curious, I recommend checking out my primer, Paleo Diet 101.

Honestly, it’s way easier than it sounds. I have been loving simple egg cups. I made a large batch and refrigerate them. Breakfast takes minutes to reheat, and I can eat them as I run out the door with Smalls to catch the bus.

For lunch, I’ve been loving using the “salad in a jar” technique. I prep all of my salads in about 20 minutes and then I get to dump them in my favorite deep bowl and dig in. For the dressing I’m loving just a little bit of lemon and some avocado blended (try it!).

Dinners are fast and easy because I use my Instant Pot to cook our protein, and then I just need to add a salad or vegetable on the side.

These are things that do not take me a ton of time but they make a big impact.

Ditch the Coffee

….or at least cut back.

Don’t get me wrong. I run on coffee and prayers some days, but I’m trying really hard to change that.

Some great heart-healthy alternatives are teas and bone broth, both of which I love.

cardiovascular health


The people who built our home put an instant hot water tap in the basement, and I set up a simple tea station with my favorite mug and loose leaf teas.

When I feel like I need a pick me up, I just choose a tea that sounds yummy. If you don’t have instant hot water, that’s totally ok!

You can get an electric kettle that boils water in just 2 or 3 minutes (way faster than 10 minutes on the stove).

Bone Broth

Bone broth is a nutritional powerhouse, full of vitamins and minerals that your body needs (and often doesn’t get if you aren’t eating a wide variety of foods).

Bone broth also has collagen, which helps plump the skin. And it’s really, really good for your gut, which means that your body will be far more efficient in digesting your food.

For me, that’s a win-win.

I’ve found that drinking bone broth in the morning not only gives me energy, but I feel better too.

Looking at the benefits, it’s not difficult to see why.

Go See Your Doctor

Seriously. On the regular. Getting in even for a wellness exam can help.

Thankfully I live here in Michigan where we have the amazing Henry Ford Health System, which includes The Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute, Henry Ford Health System Heart Screening, and Henry Ford Health System Women’s Heart Center.

Check-ups are super important as we age. Or get older. Your choice of how you want to phrase that.

I’m built like my dad, so I want to make sure that my heart is taken care of and problems are caught before they cause a major issue, like a heart attack.

As scary as a heart issue can be, knowing that you have access to world-class providers should make things easier. Thankfully, with The Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute, if you do have a heart issue, you have access to providers that are on the cutting edge. They are world leaders and have pioneered some amazing minimally invasive surgeries and treatments.

I have found that being on top of your health is the best way to catch things early, and Henry Ford offers an easy, interactive, online tool to assess your heart health called the Heart Health Risk Assessment, and it’s free. I took it a few days ago, and I found that although I’m only 36, my risk actually puts me at 41. I need to get more exercise and make sure that I keep losing weight (working on that right now). 

My next step (and yours, too!) is to go to my annual exam next month and ask my doctor about the $99 heart screening

When I visit The Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute, I don’t worry that they’ll just give me a number. They really listen because they honestly believe that medicine starts with the patient. That’s why people travel the world to see these specialists.


Remember that your 70 percent water and the more you drink the better you’ll feel and the better your body will function. A good rule of thumb is to drink half an ounce to a full ounce of water per pound, so for a 200-pound person, you’d want to aim for 100-200 ounces of water a day.

That far exceeds the old “8 8-ounce glasses” rule, but I find that when I drink more water, I’m less inclined to snack between meals, and I feel better.

I’m also far less bloated (YAY), even if I have to run to the bathroom more often.

Move Your Body

I’ll admit, since the move, I’ve been slacking on exercise, but this month, I’m on it.

cardiovascular health

Since I can’t really skate outdoors right now, I’ve resurrected my barre and my barre workouts, and have been using YouTube a lot.

Not into skating, barre, or calisthenics? That’s okay.

Try to get moving, even if it’s just 5 minutes at a time. All that movement ads up. You’ll feel better, burn more calories, and your heart with thank you.

And if you find that you’re stuck inside like me, get creative. Climb your stairs a couple of extra times, do squats while you cook dinner, or incline push-ups while you’re bathing the kids.

The important thing is to get your heart rate up so that you strengthen your heart.

Exercise is so, so good for cardiovascular health.

Get Outside

Yes, it’s winter. And yes, I live where it snows, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t get outside. Over the Christmas holiday, I took my boys to a local 40-foot sledding hill and we ran around for 30 minutes.

cardiovascular health

We all had a blast, even though we all needed a nap.

Try to get outside (when it’s safe to do so, I do not recommend that you go sledding when it’s only 8 degrees). Doing this will avoid the stir crazies and allow everyone (even you) to run just a little bit.

If you have trails near you, look into snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

Live in the South? Get out and camp! It’s gorgeous this time of year!


If you move more, you’ll sleep better. When I was a kid, my mom always told me that sleep was when the body repairs itself. Turns out she’s right.

When we sleep, our bodies repair the tiny tears in our muscles (your heart is a muscle!) and work to heal. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you end up feeling foggy, making mistakes, and may even have impaired judgment.

The typical recommendation is 8 hours, but some people need more and some need less. Take a week or so and see how you feel when you get 8 hours of sleep each night. Better? Worse?

Gradually increase the time you’re asleep either by moving your bedtime up or fitting in a nap until you wake refreshed.

The moral of this story?

It’s pretty simple. Eat better, move a little more, ditch coffee (at least some days) and get your rest. And don’t forget to see your doctor.

Getting regular check-ups isn’t just for kids, y’all. When you visit your doctor make sure you’re doing more than saying hi.


How are you keeping your heart healthy this winter?


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Henry Ford Health System.

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1 Comment

  1. Johnny McCarron on July 5, 2019 at 11:28 pm

    I like how you recommended that you get exercise, even if it’s just five minutes at a time. With my wife having POTS and my family having a history of heart disease, cardio care is super important to me. I hope we all are taking care of ourselves and finding the help we need, should we so need it.

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