Mind & Body
Healthy Heart Tips You May Not Be Aware Of
1/31/2018 9:49:30 PM
Heart Tips

You’ve heard it all before — eat a nutritious diet, exercise, drink alcohol in moderation, and don’t smoke to help keep your heart and body healthy. 

It’s true, all these things are important. There’s a reason, after all, that they’re recommended time and time again. But they aren’t the only steps you can take to keep your heart healthy.

Here are a few lesser-known heart health tips. Now you know!

Get a flu shot. The flu is hard on your heart. It involves a lot of inflammation, which can in turn increase the risk of heart events. But some research has found that getting the flu shot lowers the odds of having a heart attack or stroke. This is especially important for anyone who has heart disease. Though the shot’s effectiveness varies from year to year, it’s best to get one anyway. Thirty or 40 percent effectiveness is certainly better than nothing, and if you do come down with the flu, you may have milder symptoms if you’ve been vaccinated.

Get adequate sleep. "Your overall sleep quality is extremely important,” says Brett Goodwin, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at Imperial Health. "Getting eight hours of sleep at night will reduce stress levels and blood pressure over time.” That’s key because high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease.

If you believe you are getting enough sleep but you’re still chronically tired and/or you snore, particularly if you’re overweight, you should be tested for sleep apnea, which Goodwin describes as a "really underdiagnosed and underrecognized disorder.” Basically, it occurs when the airway repeatedly becomes blocked during sleep. Apnea patients are at increased risk for heart attack and other complications, so getting tested and treated is important.

Avoid secondhand smoke. You know you shouldn’t smoke, but is it really harmful to be around other people while they’re smoking? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts it this way: "There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.” Health conditions associated with secondhand smoke exposure include coronary artery disease and stroke. If someone in your household is a smoker, encourage them to quit — for their health, as well as your own.

Limit your intake of sugar and refined grains. When it comes to eating right to protect your heart, we hear a lot about limiting fat, cholesterol, and sodium. But did you know your intake of sugar and refined grains matters, too? Limiting the number of sweets you eat seems obvious, but you should also watch your intake of white bread, white pasta, and white rice. These items have been refined, meaning the fiber, which your body needs, has been removed. Basically, you’re left with carbohydrates but not the good stuff. Whole-wheat breads and pastas and brown rice are much better options.

Speaking of food, Goodwin recommends the Mediterranean diet. This involves eating primarily plant-based foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and lentils. You don’t have to give up meat entirely though. Poultry and fish should be eaten at least twice a week but red meat limited to a few times a month. The diet also involves replacing butter with fats such as olive or canola oil and using herbs and spices rather than salt. Red wine in moderation is fine.

"Many studies have found that people who eat a Mediterranean-style diet have an increased lifespan because their overall risk of dying and their risk of dying from cardiovascular causes is decreased,” Goodwin says.

Sounds like it’s worth a shot!
Posted by: Andrea Mongler | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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