We all know the effects of smoking, red meat and overdoing the alcohol. But there are some little-known habits you may not be aware of that significantly raise your risk for heart disease.
SITTING TOO MUCH. Whether it’s at a desk or in front of the TV, parking yourself for long periods of time increases your risk of heart attack and stroke, even if you exercise regularly. Studies indicate that constant movement is a big key in cardiac health. Lack of movement may affect blood levels of fats and sugar. Another theory holds that contracting the large posture muscles helps ‘flush out’ bad elements like cholesterol and the inflammatory proteins that contribute to cardiac issues. While we don’t know exactly why people who sit a lot have much higher rates of cardiac problems, we do know that periodic ‘movement breaks’ like walking around and stretching will help. Even a minute of motion every hour can make a difference. So get up from that desk and walk around your office. Touch your toes, do a couple lunges, throw in some knee bends during commercials instead of staying glued to the tube.
IGNORING SNORING. Snoring could be a sign of ‘obstructing sleep apnea’, a condition that can cause blood pressure to sky rocket, with obvious negative effects on the heart. Apnea is caused by relaxed tissues in the throat during sleep. Snoring is the result of vibrations of those tissues and is often the precursor or companion of sleep apnea. Sleep disordered breathing has been linked to coronary artery disease and hypertension. And with obstructive sleep apnea, the right side of the heart may suffer damage because it has to pump harder to support the extra effort of the lungs trying to overcome the obstruction of the airway. If you snore and often wake up tired, it’s definitely time to talk to your doctor about a screening for apnea.
NOT FLOSSING. Ok, it sounds strange, but there is a definite link between gum disease and heart disease. While no one knows exactly why, one theory suggests that oral bacteria enters the blood stream and attaches to fatty plaques in the heart’s blood vessels, which leads to thickening blood vessel walls and the obstruction of normal blood flow. Another theory proposes that inflammation caused by periodontal disease triggers plaque build-up throughout the entire body, causing arteries to swell and restricting blood flow to the heart. People with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have heart problems as those without.
DODGING FRUITS & VEGETABLES. It’s a fact, a heart-healthy diet is plant based. To be more specific, one half of every meal you eat should consist of fruits and vegetables. So if you’re in the habit of eating around your vegetables or leaving the fruit bowl to the kids, please pay close attention to the next sentence. People who eat 5 or more servings of fruit have 20% less risk of heart disease. Simply by increasing the amount of plant (versus meat) type foods in your diet, you can make a significant difference in the long-term health of your heart.