The human heart can be compared to a motor or engine, as it pumps and distributes blood throughout the body. Every single organ in your body relies on a healthy heart to perform optimally. If you don’t care for your heart, you may be more susceptible to heart and circulation disorders such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and vascular dementia.
Heart disease is indeed the biggest cause of death for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a matter of fact, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with an estimated one death every 36 seconds.
Fortunately, adopting more heart-healthy behaviors can significantly reduce that risk. Keep reading to know some habits you should stop if you want your heart to stay healthy.
1. Overindulgence in Alcohol
When we drink more alcohol than our bodies can process, it places a lot of strain on many different organs, including the heart. Even though a little alcohol is fine, drinking too much can hurt your heart. It increases your blood pressure and makes your blood vessels have more fat on the walls. According to experts, men shouldn’t consume more than 2 drinks daily, while women shouldn’t have more than one.
2. Not Exercising
Like any other body muscle, your heart needs lots of exercises to stay healthy and robust. Aerobic exercises are ideal for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system since they challenge the heart and lungs by increasing the heart rate and depth of breathing.
Walking, cycling, and swimming are all great cardio exercises that don’t require a membership to a fancy gym. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage in some physical activity daily, mixing moderate-to-high intensity periods with easier exercises.
The walls of the arteries are negatively impacted by smoking as it speeds up the accumulation of fatty deposits in the lining, which in turn causes the artery to become more constricted. Conversely, the carbon monoxide produced when cigarettes burns can reduce the oxygen concentration in the blood, which may affect heart health.
According to research, young individuals who smoke increase their risk of having a heart attack by eight times. The decision to stop smoking may be daunting, but it should be made if you care for your heart health.
4. Not Getting Adequate Sleep
Slowly but progressively, your health, particularly your heart, will deteriorate if you don’t receive the recommended seven (or eight, or nine) hours of sleep per night. Untreated sleeping disorders and conditions such as sleep apnea can elevate blood pressure and take a toll on your heart health.
When we don’t get enough sleep, our brain has less time to recharge, which can put additional strain on the rest of our body organs, including the heart. Prioritize sleep by establishing and sticking to a bedtime and developing a nighttime routine that assists your body in winding down and getting ready for sleep.
5. Spending Prolonged Periods Sitting
Did you know that those who sit for 10 or more hours per day have twice the risk of cardiovascular disease than those who sit for not longer than 5 hours? The heart and the rest of the cardiovascular system work best when you move around.
Sedentary behavior during the day reduces blood flow, which promotes the accumulation of fatty deposits along the vessel walls. Gardening, exercising, or strolling for at least half an hour daily can help reduce the chance of developing cardiovascular disease.
6. Poor Diet
The state of one’s cardiovascular system is significantly affected by what one eats. Depending on the number of nutrients it contains, it can either strengthen or weaken your heart. A good diet for your heart should consist of a wide variety of tasty foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, and whole grains.
Recent data implies that the so-called Mediterranean diet, which consists primarily of vegetables and “healthy fats” such as almonds, walnuts, olive oil, and avocados, promotes heart health.
7. Adding Excess Salt to Food
Taking excessive amounts of salt might place a burden on the cardiovascular system. Therefore, the more salt you consume, the greater your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Since the salt and sugar level in processed ready-to-eat foods tends to be high, be cautious of this when selecting convenience foods.
To avoid too much salt, cook your food at home using fresh-from-the-farm ingredients. This way, you can regulate the quantity of salt that goes into your food.
8. Depression, Stress, or Solitude
Although we can’t always avoid stress, it is manageable with practice. Constant stress can have detrimental consequences on the heart and other body systems. Conversely, persistent dissatisfaction or depression due to a lack of socialization or poor connections have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Studies have connected feelings of isolation to physical health issues like elevated blood pressure. If you are having trouble in this area, especially because of socially isolating behaviors, it’s essential to figure out how to interact with other people in a safe way.
9. Not observing proper dental hygiene
Even though it may seem paradoxical, maintaining good oral health can help protect your heart and immune system over time. Not many can understand how the mouth relates to the heart.
It’s common knowledge that flossing and brushing are necessary for good oral hygiene. The American Heart Association reports that cardiovascular disease risk can be reduced by brushing and flossing for two minutes twice a day.
If you fail to care for your mouth, you may develop inflammation, which might be why poor oral hygiene is linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
If these bad heart habits sound familiar, find ways to make practical, daily changes to improve heart health. Changing even one of these bad heart habits can positively affect heart health: Don’t give up if you run into difficulties. Keep in mind that it’s the new behaviors that become routines.