While it’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetic component of creating a good workout and nutritional program, you really must not overlook the importance of exercise and healthy eating when it comes to maintaining good health. 

Even more important is ensuring you have a healthy heart because cardiovascular disease is rising at an increasing pace.

While there are certain factors you simply cannot control, such as a genetic predisposition to heart disease, there are some you can and should control. The sooner you start taking measures to prevent heart disease, the better you’ll fair later in life.

That being said, here are the top ingredients you need to keep your ticker working the way it should, as we take a look at the eight ingredients to a healthy heart.

1. Cut Back on Red Meat
If you are a big red meat eater, you may want to rethink your choices. While some red meat in your diet is beneficial to ensure you are getting enough iron and protein, limit yourself to consuming it two or three times a week, and make sure when you do eat it you only eat lean sources.

For the remaining days, get your protein from sources like fish (especially fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids), poultry, beans, and low-fat dairy products.

2. Up Your Consumption of Dark-Colored Fruits and Vegetables
It cannot be stated enough: A diet that is loaded with fruits and vegetables is going to be your single best protection when it comes to fighting off disease.

When making your selections, always go for the ones that are deepest in color as they will most often contain the higher concentration of antioxidants, which are critical in preventing cancer.

3. Control your Insulin Levels
One of the best ways to prevent large spikes in insulin levels followed by rapid crashes is to omit all the "white" grain-type of foods from your diet. Rather, focus on products that come straight from the ground and are the least processed as possible. Potatoes, dry oats, brown rice, and quinoa sprouts are all better choices than white bread, pasta and dry, cold cereal.

4. Make Your Own Meals
Rather than relying on eating out all the time or purchasing ready-to-eat meals, do your own home cooking. This allows you to really control what goes into your dishes so you can be sure you are using nothing but the best ingredients.

Furthermore, consider avoiding store-bought salad dressings as these are often very high in saturated fat and calories. Instead, make your own by combining heart-healthy olive oil with your choice of balsamic vinegar, a small amount of wine, soy sauce and any variety of spices you prefer. Spices are another thing to watch out for to maintain an healthy heart as often these contain a high salt content. Try out some of the salt replacement spices that are out on the market today like Mrs. Dash, for example.

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5. Up Your Soluble Fiber Content
If you take the step in point three you should already be increasing your soluble fiber content, but make sure you make an even further concentrated effort to do so. Beans are a terrific source of soluble fiber, as is oat bran, barley and non-sweetened oatmeal.

Do take note, though, that you should avoid using processed fiber, especially if you have traditionally been eating a low-fiber diet for a long period of time. These are not the healthiest products to be putting in your body in comparison to real food, so try your best to get your fiber from natural sources. These natural sources will also provide you with so many other nutrients that you would be missing out on if you chose to take a processed fiber.

6. Reduce Your Cheese Intake
One major culprit when it comes to the rising increase in saturated fat intake is cheese. Unfortunately, unless you are consuming low-fat cheese products, this dietary choice is not going to work with you in your effort to help reduce heart disease. With today’s increase in restaurant eating and the fact that many meals come with cheese either baked into the dish or sprinkled on top, consumption is increasing. Try as hard as you can to eliminate cheese from your diet. While it is a good source of protein and calcium, there are many other heart-healthy methods that meet these requirements with more nutritionally smart options.

7. Drink in Moderation
While you don’t necessarily have to remove alcohol from your diet to protect yourself against heart disease, you definitely do need to keep it within moderation. Those who drink in moderation actually tend to show decreased rates of heart disease, especially when wine is the beverage of choice. Moderation here would be classified as one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men.

Also, keep an eye out for your caffeine consumption, as too much of this can also be problematic for your heart. Since caffeine does act as a central nervous system stimulant, it will put additional stress on the heart.

8. Do Intense Exercise
On the exercise side of things, being in good cardiovascular shape plays a large role in helping to ward off heart disease and maintaining a healthy heart. When it comes to this cardiovascular conditioning, however, you will reap the most benefits from intense short-duration physical activities, such as running sprints.

A good way to tell how at risk you are is to perform an intense activity, slow down and see how long it takes for your heart to return to normal. The longer it takes, the greater your risk (as this is associated with not being in good shape).

The more often you sprint, the better your body will adjust to returning to its baseline heart rate after the exercise. Aim to perform 20- to 30-second bursts with 1- to 2-minute rest periods in between, repeated 6 to 12 times at least twice a week.

If you are not currently in the shape to do such a workout, work on building your cardiovascular base through more moderate sessions first, then promptly move to this when you are ready.
keeping a healthy heart.

Keep these eight factors for a healthy heart in mind as you go about your day. Your lifestyle choices really do affect your overall health, both now and in the long-term, so being smart and thinking things through health-wise really does pay off in the end.