As you run through your self care to-do list, you may skip over your heart and think to yourself, ”I’m good! I don’t smoke.” But little do you know that you may be doing your body a huge disservice: New studies show that smoking is only one of many things that can be harming your heart. The care of your heart is serious business. Cardiovascular disease is the leading global cause of death, accounting for more than 17.3 million deaths per year; an astounding 801,000 of those in the U.S. Not surprisingly, smoking tops the list of the worst habits for heart health (20 percent of all deaths from heart disease are attributed to it) but combined, or alone, these poor choices can do as much damage to your cardiovascular system. The good news is you can start making positive changes in your lifestyle today and improve your heart health dramatically!
1. You don’t sleep well.
Studies showed that people who slept less than six hours a night had a whopping 79 percent increased incidence of coronary heart disease than those who slept eight hours or more. Researchers found a correlation between those who slept less with an increase in coronary artery calcification. Additionally, they found that because most people experience lowering of blood pressure at night, those who slept less had less of an opportunity for it to fall properly and as a result suffered from higher blood pressure. Another thing to consider is sleep quality. It was concluded that it was just as important as quantity with sleep apnea being the biggest concern. More than 18 million Americans suffer (and many unknowingly) from this sleep disorder that causes you to stop and start breathing throughout the night. The most troublesome consequence of sleep apnea is that it can skyrocket your blood pressure leaving you risk. If you struggle with sleepless nights, try Genexa’s Sleepology, a non-habit forming organic nightime sleep aid.
2. You don’t laugh enough.
Stress hurts the heart by causing adrenal fatigue which harms your arteries and leaves you at risk for cardiovascular disease. When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. They work together to narrow your arteries and increase your heart rate, which is an awful combination for your heart. Along with stress, anger and depression can also negatively affect your cardiovascular system. Conversely, laughing relaxes and expands the blood vessels, which keeps your heart healthy (and happy too!)
3. You don’t floss.
Interestingly, research finds that there is a strong link between gum and heart disease. Scientists think this may be because when plaque builds up on your teeth, the bacteria in it triggers inflammation all over the body which promotes atherosclerosis and can affect blood clotting. It’s also believed that the bacteria may enter the bloodstream where they attach to the fatty deposits in the heart blood vessels and can cause blood clots. Prevent issues with this twin-pack from Oral-B which includes a 2-pack of toothbrushes and a 2-pack of floss.
4. You live in a big city.
As if the stress of living in a big city isn’t enough to cause a heart attack, studies find that pollution has a significant effect on your arteries. Findings concluded that the longer people were exposed to polluted air, the thicker their carotid arteries were.
5. You don’t stretch.
Flexible blood vessels help moderate blood pressure and new research has found that people who tested poorly in the sit-and-reach stretch test spine had higher systolic blood pressure.
Happy thought: a little stretching is not only relaxing—it may be good for your heart. A flexible body helps keep arteries pliable.
— Clinique (@Clinique) June 7, 2010
It was concluded that flexibility of the spine correlates to flexibility of important arteries in the body. Get the most out of your stretching with this strap and stretching guide.
6. You’re not shvitzing.
Heavy metals like mercury and lead can damage your heart by increasing your blood pressure and cholesterol. The problem is you are probably consuming these toxins and not realizing it. Studies show the easiest way to rid your body of them is to sweat them out! Get going on the cardio or have a nice steam.
7. You party too much.
Most doctors agree that a little wine is actually good for you, but a lot of wine is bad. In excess, alcohol is associated with high blood pressure, high blood fats and can lead to heart failure.
Too much alcohol is bad for your heart. It can cause it to become weak and have an irregular beat pattern. pic.twitter.com/7S2eHBgoU3
— Cleveland Clinic (@ClevelandClinic) July 10, 2016
Research concludes that two drinks a day for men and one for women is best.
8. You drink too much sugar.
Studies show that men women who drink two or more (diet) sodas a day have a 23 percent higher risk of going into heart failure than those who chose coffee, tea, fruit juice, or water. In this instance, small changes to what you drink really add up to big results.
9. You’re sitting too much.
Research has concluded that excessive sitting is almost the equivalent of smoking in heart health. An hour of sitting per day negatively affects fat and sugar levels in the blood and is associated with 14 percent increase in coronary artery calcification. Consider investing in a sit to stand desk and anti-fatigue mat to increase your sit to stand ratio throughout your work day.
10. You forget your fruits and veggies.
Research shows that people who eat more than five servings of fruits and veggies a day had a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease and stroke making a plant based diet the healthiest diet for the heart. These super foods contain fiber, water, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that keep your cardiovascular system running smoothly. Doctors recommend that half of each meal be composed of fruits and veggies.
11. You eat bacon.
Along with fruits and vegetables, protein and fats are vital to a healthy heart diet. Bacon is a prominent source of both these nutrients; however, as the video below explains, processed meat—and yes, that means bacon—is associated with some serious health risks.
12. You add more than a dash.
The recommended intake for salt per day is 3800 mg but the typical American consumes way more than that. Excess sodium is the leading cause of high blood pressure (1 in three Americans has high blood pressure) which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Most of the salt in your diet is already in foods that you typically eat, so be careful when you add more.
13. Your jeans aren’t fitting.
It’s estimated that more than two-thirds of the US adult population is either overweight or obese and that’s a big problem. 80 million people in a given year are carrying too much fat which is doing a doozy on their heart muscles. Too much fat, especially around the midsection, is associated with a host of health problems including higher blood pressure and cholesterol, leading to heart attacks or stroke.
15. You skip your checkups.
Since lifestyle and genetic factors can contribute to heart disease and many signs and symptoms go unrecognized, it’s important to get yearly check ups to keep your numbers and body in check. Regular cardiovascular screening can help you detect all of your risk factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol. When it comes to heart health, knowing is half the battle. The good news is that high risk factors don’t necessarily sentence you to cardiovascular disease and studies show the sooner you make positive lifestyle and diet changes, the better you’ll feel and the healthier your heart will be. Most regular CV screening tests should begin at age 20 and professionals suggest that you note the following numbers associated with risk factors…and keep track of them every year: blood pressure, vitamin D, cholesterol, heart rate, blood glucose and weight.