According to the Heart Foundation, heart disease kills nearly 800,000 people in the United States each year, making it the number one cause of death. Cardiovascular disease actually claims more lives than ALL forms of cancer combined.
Women are at a higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Since 1984 more women have died from heart disease than men, and in fact, every minute in this country one woman dies from heart disease.
These are sobering numbers that point to the fact we’re not taking as good care of our hearts as we should be. Heart health cannot be overstated. When your heart is diseased or damaged, you simply cannot live a quality of life. You can’t move like a healthy person can, you can’t enjoy time with your family as much, and eventually you lose a bit of your independence.
Here are 7 things you can and SHOULD do every day to keep your heart healthy:
1. Improve Your Oral Hygiene
Let’s start with something that’s not talked about enough – the fact that oral hygiene affects the health of your heart. Many studies have confirmed that the specific bacteria in your mouth that causes periodontal (gum) disease, when allowed to enter the bloodstream, causes an elevation in C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels. This, in turn, may increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
If your oral hygiene is ho-hum, kick it up a notch by flossing each day. Even better is the use of a waterpik, which can clean around the entire gum line. Chew sugarless gum after each meal to create more saliva in your mouth. Your saliva helps kill bad bacteria responsible for gum disease.
2. Forgo Trans Fats for Healthy Fats
To be healthy, we need fat in our diet. But not all fats are created equal.
Trans fats are known to increase your risk of developing heart disease. This is because trans fats raise bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and clog your arteries.
But what are trans fats and how do you know if you’re eating them or not? Trans fats are man-made fats often found in processed foods, particularly packaged baked goods, fried fast foods and packaged snack items. They are used to add texture and flavor, and they do a spectacular job at making processed food taste addictingly awesome. They also do a spectacular job of beating up your heart, so stop eating them.
Start reading labels and look for ones that say 0% trans fats. Even better, stop eating packaged foods and opt for whole foods like meats, cheeses, nut, fruits and veggies. Your heart will thank you.
3. Don’t Sit for Too Long
While sitting may be comfortable, it turns out it is incredibly bad for our health. New research is even stating that sitting is bad for your health EVEN IF you exercise a lot. In fact, several observational studies found that those people who sat the most had 147% increase in cardiovascular events and a 90% increase in death caused by these events.
It is important that you move your body throughout the day. This means if you can, use a standing work station. Take more walks during your work day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, and park farther away from stores and buildings.
4. Exercise Regularly
And while we’re on the subject of moving your body, it’s important to partake in cardio-strengthening exercises at least three times per week. Exercise not only helps you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, it also lowers bad cholesterol and keeps blood pumping through your circulatory system.
You don’t need to overdo it but try and work out your heart at least three times each week by walking, biking, hiking, swimming and dancing.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential when it comes to the health of your heart. People who don’t get enough sleep each night are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, no matter their age or how active they are. Researchers now believe that too little sleep disrupts biological processes, including inflammation and blood pressure.
We’ve said it before on this blog and we will say it again: it is VERY IMPORTANT that you get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Do not use electronic items like laptops and eReaders before bed, as the light emitted from these devices disrupts your sleep cycle. Try to read a physical book, listen to music, take a bath, and / or have sex with your partner to ensure a good night’s sleep.
If you are a big snorer, you may have sleep apnea, a condition that is linked to heart disease. It’s important that you see your doctor about this condition and get treatment.
6. Avoid Secondhand Smoke
By now you should know that smoking is bad for your heart and every other organ and system in your body. If you smoke… QUIT!
What you may not realize is that secondhand smoke is also linked to heart disease. In fact, studies have shown that those exposed to secondhand smoke on a regular basis are about 30 times more likely to develop heart disease.
If a loved one smokes encourage them to stop and if they refuse, let them know you can’t spend time around their smoke. While it may cause some tension, be firm in your decision. Your health is at risk.
7. Take Your Antioxidants
Antioxidants are important to your overall health and especially the health of your heart. Antioxidants protect your heart from the damaging effects of free radicals that cause inflammation and chronic diseases. Studies have found a 20% reduction in heart disease when antioxidants are taken on a regular basis. Foods rich in antioxidants are berries, nuts, beans, artichokes, cocoa, citrus fruits, and green leafy vegetables.
Of course, we can’t talk about the health of your heart without talking about your blood pressure. If you have hypertension, you know firsthand the danger it poses. It’s important to get your numbers low and keep them low, but prescription medications aren’t the way to go. Common meds like Lisinopril and Metoprolol Succinate can cause harmful and even deadly side effects.
If you’re looking for a COMPLETE blood pressure system, one that has helped thousands of Americans take control of their blood pressure and overall health – I’d recommend The Blood Pressure Solution, written by a doctor that has been helping people naturally lower their blood pressure WITHOUT prescription medication for years.