BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT YOUR HEART
Everyone wants to have a healthy heart. Still, cardiovascular disease affects more than 1 in 3 adults in the United States.
The good news is that some simple, everyday habits can make a big difference in your ability to live a healthy lifestyle.
Here are the 10 worst habits for your heart, and how to avoid them.
1 SMOKING OR LIVING WITH A SMOKER
Sure, you’ve heard it a million times before: Don’t smoke. But it bears repeating.
“Smoking is a total disaster for your heart,” says Dr. Ostfeld. Smoking promotes blood clots, which can block blood flow to the heart, and contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries.
It’s also a smart bomb aimed at everyone around you, Dr. Ostfeld says. In fact, about 46,000 nonsmokers who live with a smoker die from heart disease each year because of secondhand smoke.
2 STOPPING OR SKIPPING MEDICATION
Let’s be honest: Taking pills is a pain. There can be side effects. And it’s easy to forget your meds, especially if you feel fine.
“High blood pressure is called the silent killer because you don’t feel it,” Dr. Ostfeld says. “Saying you feel fine is not a justification for stopping these pills.”
There are 30 types of high blood pressure medications, so there are choices if one isn’t working, Dr. Hochman says. “If one medication doesn’t work, we can try something else.”
3 EATING RED MEAT
It’s best to think of red meat as an occasional treat rather than the foundation of a daily diet. Red meat is high in saturated fat, and there’s also evidence that processed meat, such as bacon and hot dogs, increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer. Ideally, less than 10% of your diet should come from animals and animal products, Dr. Ostfeld advises.
Can’t part with the beef? Choose a lean cut of red meat and limit your intake. “People have to know that if you want a steak a few times a month, it’s OK,” Dr. Hochman says. “It’s what you’re eating three times a day that’s the issue. Be in it for the long haul. Eat a balanced diet.”
4 DRINKING (TOO MUCH) ALCOHOL
Sure, studies suggest a small amount of alcohol may be good for your heart. Alas, too many over-imbibe.
Excess alcohol is linked to a greater risk of high blood pressure, high levels of blood fats, and heart failure. In addition, the extra calories can lead to weight gain, a threat to heart health.
If you drink, stick to no more than two drinks per day for men, and no more than one a day for women. (One drink means a 12-ounce beer or 4-ounce glass of wine).
5 OVER EATING
Being overweight is a major risk factor for heart disease, and 72% of men and 64% of women in the U.S are overweight or obese.
Try to eat less, avoid oversize portions, and replace sugary drinks with water.
Dr. Reynolds and Dr. Hochman also suggest cutting portion sizes for high-calorie carbohydrates (think refined pastas and breads) and watching out for foods labeled “low-fat,” which are often high in calories.
6 AVOIDING FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
“The most heart-healthy diet is a plant-based diet,” Dr. Ostfeld says. That means loading up on fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and protein, and keeping junk food to a minimum. In fact, new federal dietary guidelines recommend that half of each meal should be composed of fruits and vegetables.
Research has found that people who eat more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day had about 20% lower risk of heart disease and stroke than people who ate less than three servings per day.
7 IGNORING THE SNORING
More than a minor annoyance, snoring can be a sign of something more serious: obstructive sleep apnea. This disorder, marked by breathing that is interrupted during sleep, can cause blood pressure to skyrocket.
More than 18 million Americans adults have sleep apnea, which increases the risk of heart disease. People who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for sleep apnea, but slim people can have it too.
If you snore and often wake up feeling tired, talk with your doctor; there are easy ways to screen for apnea, says Robert Ostfeld, MD, s cardiologist and director of preventive cardiology at Montefiore Health System, in New York City.
8 NOT FLOSSING
While the exact reason is unknown, there is a strong link between gum disease and heart disease, Dr. Ostfeld says.
If you don’t floss, sticky, bacteria-laden plaque build up over time, which can lead to gum disease. One theory is that these bacteria trigger inflammation in the body.
“Inflammation promotes all aspects of atherosclerosis,” Dr. Ostfeld says. Treating gum disease can improve blood vessel function.
9 WITHDRAWING FROM THE WORLD
It’s no secret that on some days, other human beings can seem annoying, irritating, and just plain difficult to get along with.
However, it makes sense to strengthen your connections to the ones you actually like. People with stronger connections to family, friends, and society in general tend to live longer, healthier lives.
Everyone needs alone time, but you should still reach out to others and keep in touch whenever you can.
10 BEING A SALTY SNACKER
The more salt you consume, the higher your blood pressure rises. One in three American adults has high blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke, kidney failure, and heart attack.
“Steer clear of packaged junk food, read the labels for sodium content, and stick to the outer portions of the supermarket, which is where the fruits, vegetables, and (unsalted) nuts are,” Dr. Ostfeld says.
Most of us should keep sodium intake below 2,300 milligrams a day. If you have high blood pressure or are over 50, cut back to 1,500 milligrams.
Thank you for reading 🙂