When we think of heart health, we generally focus on the four-chambered organ in the middle of our chests – the muscle that pumps and flutters and, hopefully, rarely skips a beat. However, it is also important to focus on the health of the entire circulatory system, particularly blood vessels, to maximize cardiovascular health because healthy blood flow is vital to all organs and tissues. While American Heart Month serves as a good reminder every day is a good day to incorporate simple steps, like the ones below, to get your blood flowing.

Stretch Out Your Day

A recent study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health set out to compare eight weeks of stretching versus walking exercise in men and women with high–normal blood pressure. Interestingly, the researchers found that stretching could, in fact, reduce blood pressure – and in this study stretching was also superior to brisk walking. Researchers noted that stretching can “reduce arterial stiffness, improve blood flow, and increase activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.” The lesson from this is that typical “cardio” activities are not the only way to keep hearts in shape. Incorporating time to stretch before a brisker activity or adding yoga-like exercises to your routine can also have many benefits.

Say Yes to NO (Nitric Oxide) 

Another way to promote healthy blood flow and blood pressure is by increasing your body’s own supply of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a supermolecule that allows arteries to relax and widen. When blood is flowing, it delivers needed oxygen and nutrients to every single organ, muscle, tissue and cell – including your brain and your heart – so they stay nourished and energized. Decades of research have found that the plant-based nutrient found in natural cocoa, called cocoa flavanols, can increase nitric oxide. Cocoa flavanols can be found in the supplements made by CocoaVia™ that have been specifically created to provide a high amount of cocoa flavanols guaranteed – without the high calories of ordinary chocolate and without some of the toxins found in other cocoa powders, according to ConsumerLab.com.

Open Your Mind – And Your Blood Vessels

Opening your blood vessels can actually be done by simply relaxing your mind through meditation. While it has been known for centuries that meditation can provide clearer thought and a feeling of relaxation and calm, it can also have a biological effect on the body. Specifically, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine  and reported by Harvard Health found meditation was linked to “turning on” genes involved with widening blood vessels and “turning off” the genes that tighten blood vessels.

Those looking to boost their heart heath should think about “going with the (blood) flow” through tips like stretching, taking a cocoa flavanol supplement, and meditating that may promote healthy blood vessels and support healthy blood pressure.