We all know the leading causes of heart disease. We know that smokers suffer from heart attacks more than non-smokers, that red or processed meats put consumers at risk, and that it’s important to exercise. However, there are quite a few habits or actions that we do or refrain from doing on a daily basis, which can have a particularly significant impact on the most important muscle in our body.
The following 12 habits are common things many of us may do without paying attention, but have a profound effect on our cardiovascular health. If you have any of these habits, cut them out!
Many of us avoid flossing after brushing our teeth, even though dentists repeat its importance for gum health. Now, it turns out that it's also important for heart health. Dr. Jane Heath of Columbia University School of Medicine said researchers have found a link between flossing and heart health: inflammation of the gums can lead to infections in other parts of the body, and those, in turn, increase the risk of heart attacks.
2. You don’t sleep enough
You may not be able to enjoy continuous sleep because of noise outside your home or obsessive thoughts about the day’s events. If you thought that the only effect of such poor sleep is fatigue, you're wrong. A person who doesn’t sleep well is in a constant state of stress and, as Dr. Heath points out, may double their risk of heart attack.
At the same time, even those who enjoy consistent hours of sleep can still be at risk of damaging their heart. For example, a study conducted in 2011 by British researchers found that people over the age of 45 who slept less than six hours a night were twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who slept between 6 and 8 hours.
After a long day's work, there's nothing we want more than to sit down on the sofa and watch TV, but it's much more damaging than previously thought. Dr. Tamara Horowitz, director of the cardiac rehabilitation department at the UCLA Medical Center in the United States, says that sitting in front of the TV is the "new smoking" in terms of damage to our heart. She notes that even those who go to the gym several times a week don’t compensate for the damage caused by hours of inactivity during the evening.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to swap out your TV viewing for another sitting activity, but it's highly recommended to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
Since childhood, we’ve been taught how important it is to wash hands after going to the bathroom, but not everyone does so. Not washing your hands, or not washing them well enough, causes the bacteria that accumulate on your palms to settle on the food you eat, which eventually, will reach our body and from there, the arteries in the neck, heart, and legs.
Be sure to wash your hands even while preparing food, treating wounds, removing lenses, playing with animals, blowing your nose, taking out the garbage, shaking hands and so on. Wash your hands in running water for at least 20 seconds, and be careful to clean areas that are often neglected such as the nails and between your fingers.
The combination of cortisol and epinephrine, which are secreted when we are in stressed and depressed, increases blood pressure and sugar levels in our bodies and thus threatens our heart.
These feelings also hurt the heart indirectly, since it's reasonable to assume that people who are under stress or are depressed will not get good sleep at night and won’t eat enough during the day. So, if you feel that you are going through a difficult period, talk about what you feel with friends, use natural stress-fighting solutions like pressure points, or seek help from professionals.
If you are generally always in a great mood, don’t smoke, and exercise regularly, you may accidentally miss important heart health warning signs. Many of us don’t know what our blood pressure or cholesterol levels are, even though these are risk factors that can lead to heart attacks. If a test yields high blood pressure results, it's important to repeat it two or three times the following month to see if it's a non-representative or trend-specific outcome that needs to be looked into. As for cholesterol, many studies have shown that even outstanding athletes can tolerate high cholesterol without being aware of it, which means that it is important to check your cholesterol levels from time to time as recommended by your doctor.
Tea leaves are rich in flavonoid antioxidants, which clean cholesterol residue from blood vessels, fight blood clots and maintain cardiovascular system health. Drinking between 1 and 2 cups of black tea a day has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by 25 percent, so you should add tea to your diet, even during the summer.
Stress from work during the day, a particularly important task or even the desire to continue to sleep at night, often cause us to delay going to the bathroom. Of course, we all hold it in from time to time, but it's important to know that making this a regular habit has negative effects not only on our mood but also on our heart's health. Pressure on the bladder increases heart rate by 9 beats per minute and limits blood flow. These two factors are very simple to avoid, so you should fight laziness or embarrassment and go to the bathroom when necessary.
For those with high or borderline blood pressure, salt is an enemy that may cause water retention in the body, which can sometimes be formed around the heart as an edema. Use fresh herbs as a substitute for salt when cooking. Remove the salt from the table to avoid unnecessary salting.
Caffeine has quite a few drawbacks to our health, but it turns out that moderate consumption of coffee actually has an advantage when it comes to preserving the heart. A study conducted at Harvard University suggests that people who drink about 3 cups of coffee per day are at a lower risk of dying from a heart attack than those who abstain from drinking coffee. Although the relationship between the two is still being studied, Dr. Heath recommends that you don't avoid coffee and says that as long as you don’t exceed the recommended amount, it's quite possible that it can help our health.
As any partner of a snorer knows, snoring can be an unpleasant nuisance. However, in addition to the noise they cause, in some cases, snoring may be a sign of a more serious problem such as obstructive sleep apnea. This disorder, characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep, leads to a decrease in oxygen levels in the blood and can cause blood pressure to skyrocket.
More than 18 million Americans suffer from this problem, and those who are overweight are at higher risk. If your snoring wakes you up in the middle of the night or you wake up exhausted in the morning even though you’re sure you’ve slept all night, don’t ignore the problem. Contact a doctor who can refer you to a sleep lab as soon as possible.
While the link between tobacco use and heart disease is undeniable, many do not recognize the damage and harm caused by passive smoking. A comprehensive report published in 2014 found that people who don’t smoke but are exposed to second-hand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of heart disease by 25-30%.
Passive smoking causes almost 34,000 cases of early death from heart disease in the United States each year, as it interferes with the normal functioning of the heart and the vascular system. Establish a non-smoking policy at home and in your vehicle, choose restaurants and bars that are smoke-free and avoid staying in places where other people smoke regularly. Do not allow others to hurt you, avoiding this can help your heart health as well as your overall health.