Matters of the Heart: 6 Heart-Healthy Tips That May Surprise You

When it comes to heart health, you may not think much of it. If you’re a woman, you may think it’s a man’s problem. If you’re young, you probably think it’s not a concern until your golden years. If you’re a gym rat, you may think it only strikes couch potatoes. But people of any gender, any age, or any level of fitness can have heart troubles.[1] The good news is there are concrete steps you can take to support your heart that may surprise you.*

NF-US-Heart-Health

Eat Heart Smart

Is it better for your heart to eat healthy foods or avoid junk foods? According to a recent study, you’re better off regularly consuming the good stuff than banning the bad stuff from your diet.[2] That means generous portions of fruit and vegetables; foods high in soluble fiber like beans and oats; and heart-healthy fats like olive oil, salmon, nuts, seeds, and avocados. A little dark chocolate (70%) also provides antioxidants…and happiness. (Don’t forget happiness.)

 

Get out of Your Chair

Are you convinced that exercise only counts if you do a hard workout for an hour several times a week? The truth is, every little bit helps. Even ten minutes of walking a day can help your heart.[3] In fact, any activity that gets you up from your chair is important, because prolonged sitting is not good for your heart. Replacing just 30 minutes of sitting time with light movement can help you live longer.[4]

 

Reach Out

What’s the new smoking? Loneliness. It’s true, lonely people have the same risk of heart problems as smokers.[5] And now that many folks are spending more time alone than ever, it’s important to reach out to others, whether that’s through a Zoom call or a socially distanced, masked walk with a friend.*

 

Take a Chill Pill

What do traffic noise, frequent anger, long hours at work, and raising kids have in common?[6] They all increase your stress levels — and undermine your heart health. (The little ones bring joy, but also a heap of worries.) Managing stress is crucial for your health. Find what works for you — quiet time, socializing with friends, time spent outdoors — and make sure you’re getting those needs met on a regular basis.

 

Respect Your Circadian Rhythm

Weekends and time changes both disrupt our circadian rhythm and deprive us of sleep — and your heart doesn’t like that.[7] Getting sufficient sleep supports your blood pressure, as well as makes it easier to manage stress.* It also increases your motivation to exercise and make good food choices.[8]


Watch Your Mouth

Can the health of your gums tell you something about your heart? Yes! If you have poor dental health, bacteria in your mouth can find its way into your bloodstream and trigger unhealthy inflammatory responses in your arteries.*

 

Have a happy, heart-healthy month!

 

References:

1. CDC. 2021 Jan 26. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/any_age.htm

2. Focus on eating healthy foods more important than avoiding junk food: study. NDTV Food. 2019 Jul 6. https://food.ndtv.com/news/focus-on-eating-healthy-foods-more-important-than-avoiding-junk-food-study-2064849

3. 3 surprising benefits of walking just ten minutes a day. Prevention. 2016 Jun 7. https://www.prevention.com/fitness/a20512958/health-benefits-of-walking-for-just-10-minutes-a-day/

4. Ducharme J. Want to live longer? Just for 30 minutes a day, do anything but sit. Time. 2019 Jan 15. https://time.com/5502042/sitting-exercise-move/

5. Health Publishing. 2016 June. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/loneliness-has-same-risk-as-smoking-for-heart-disease

6. Beckerman J. WebMD. 2020 Mar 4. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/ss/slideshow-heart-disease-surprising-causes#:~:text=Unhealthy%20foods%2C%20lack%20of%20exercise,%2C%20infections%2C%20and%20birth%20defects

7. Harvard Heart Letter. 2019 Mar. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/time-sensitive-clues-about-cardiovascular-risk

8. How does sleep affect your heart health? CDC. 2021 Jan 4. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/sleep.htm