While a healthy heart is something we all want to have, cardiovascular disease affects more than 1 in 3 adults in the US. Thankfully, adopting some simple, everyday habits can make a big difference in how healthy your heart is. Let's take a look at 16 daily habits that are bad for your heart, as well as how to avoid them.
1. Watching too much television
Even if you exercise regularly, sitting for hours on end increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke. The lack of movement may affect blood levels of fats and sugars. So, spare your heart and walk around periodically, making it a point to stand up for certain activities too.
2. Leaving stress, hostility and depression unchecked
How you handle your emotions can affect your health, and leaving emotions such as stress, resentment and depression unchecked can take a toll on your heart. Rather than bottling up your emotions, talk about your problems. Never underestimate the health benefits of social support and a good laugh every once in a while.
3. Ignoring the snoring
In some cases, snoring may be more than just a minor nuisance. In fact, snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that is marked by interrupted breathing during sleep, which can cause blood pressure to skyrocket. And while people who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for sleep apnea, slim people may have it too. So if you snore and often wake up feeling tired, talk with your doctor.
4. Not flossing your teeth
Studies have shown a strong link between gum disease and heart disease. Flossing is essential for preventing gum disease, due to the sticky, bacteria-laden plaque that builds up on the gums over time. Consequently, bacteria may trigger inflammation in the body. Inflammation promotes atherosclerosis (a disease of the arteries, characterized by the deposition of fatty material on their inner walls). Therefore, treating gum disease can improve blood vessel function.
5. Not taking the time to strengthen connections
While some alone time is essential, be sure to take the time to strengthen and build connections with family and friends. People who do so tend to live longer, healthier lives.
6. You have an all-or-nothing mentality
You may dive into exercising with good intentions, then suddenly stop exercising all together. Rather than having an all-or-nothing approach, it is more important to commit to regular exercise and be in it for the long run.
7. Drinking too much alcohol
While a small amount of alcohol may be good for your heart, excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to a greater risk of high blood pressure, high levels of blood fats and heart failure. If you enjoy a drink every now and again, stick to no more than two drinks per day (for men), and no more than one a day (for women). One drink is equivalent to four ounces of wine.
8. Thinking that you are not at riskCardiovascular disease, including stroke, heart disease and heart failure claims more lives in the US than any other illness, including cancer.
9. Eating red meat
Red meat is best thought of as an occasional treat as opposed to the foundation of your daily diet. It is high in saturated fat, and recent studies have shown that processed meat such as bacon and hot dogs may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer. As a result, aim to have less than 10% of the food in your diet coming from animals and animal products. If, however, you have a hard time parting with beef, choose a lean cut of red meat and limit your intake.
10. Smoking or passive smoking
While the effects of this bad habit may be ingrained in your mind, it is worth repeating. Smoking wreaks havoc on your heart, promotes blood clots and can block blood flow to the heart, also contributing to plaque buildup in the arteries. Smoking is also harmful to those around you. In fact, about 46,000 non-smokers that live with a smoker die from heart disease each year because of secondhand smoke.
11. Skipping or stopping medication
It can be easy to forget to take your meds if you are feeling fine. High blood pressure is called the silent killer because you don't feel it, but feeling well is no justification for stopping taking your pills.
12. A diet low in fruits and vegetables
A heart-healthy diet is a plant-based diet. Stock up on fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, low-fat dairy and protein. Studies have shown that people who eat more than five servings of fruit and vegetables a day have about a 20% lower risk of heart disease and stroke than people who eat less than three servings per day.
13. Not paying attention to physical symptoms
If your chest feels like it has excess pressure on it, or you feel out of breath after climbing a single flight of stairs (particularly if you used to walk up without a problem) it's time to check in with your doctor. 'Time is muscle', so the quicker you get treated for possible trouble, the less likely you are to have permanent damage to your heart muscle.
14. Snacking on too much salt
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke, kidney failure and a heart attack. It is therefore essential that you keep salt to a minimum. In fact, most of us should keep our sodium intake below 2,300 milligrams a day, but if you have high blood pressure or are over 50, your salt intake should be cut back to 1,500 milligrams. Avoid junk food and be sure to read the labels for sodium content.
15. Eating empty calories
Foods high in sugar, fat and oil should be avoided, not only because they deliver calories, they also have very few, if any, nutrients your body can use. Therefore a diet that is full of empty calories increases the risk of obesity and diabetes. Rather, opt for foods that are rich in nutrients - vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans and peas and unsalted nuts and seeds, as well as lean meats and poultry, fat-free and low-fat milk.
16. Not drinking enough coffee
A new study has found that consuming a moderate amount of coffee could lower the risk of clogged arteries. The study found that people who drank coffee had a lower risk of having calcium deposits in their coronary arteries (vessels that bring oxygenated blood to the heart muscle) - an indicator of heart disease.
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