8 surprising heart health tips you probably haven’t heard before

8 surprising heart health tips you probably haven’t heard before

Believe it or not, your dentist, friends and earplugs can all help prevent heart disease — here’s how.

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By now you’ve likely heard the usual advice for safeguarding your heart health: Get regular cardio exercise, eat a diet rich in fruits, veggies and healthy fats, and steer clear of cigarettes. But if you’re already on track with those healthy habits, or you’re just looking for more ways to protect your heart, adding any one of these 8 other habits to your daily life can give your heart health a big boost.

1. Get enough sleep

While you snooze, your blood pressure naturally goes down. So, if you skimp on sleep, that may mean more time that your blood pressure stays higher. And that puts more strain on your heart.

Lack of sleep can also lead to weight gain. That’s because it affects brain hormones that play a role in hunger. It can make it harder for your body to balance your blood sugar and raise your risk of type 2 diabetes, which is a risk factor for heart disease.* Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night.

2. Turn down the volume

Loud noises from things like lawn mowers, road traffic, construction and live shows have been linked to heart disease. One study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, for example, found that noise from road traffic raises a person’s risk of heart disease by 8 percent for every 10 decibels of noise.* Heavy traffic usually clocks in about 80 to 90 decibels. If you can’t avoid loud noises, wear hearing protection such as foam earplugs.

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3. Don’t forget to floss

You might think your mouth and heart don’t have much to do with each other, but research shows otherwise. Studies show that people with gum disease are at a higher risk of heart attack or stroke.* To help prevent or reverse gum disease, be sure to brush and floss your teeth daily. 

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4. Stay in contact with friends

Loneliness is linked with a 27 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease, according to findings in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.* Feeling lonely or socially isolated can lead to more stress and anxiety, which also strains the heart. Try to connect with a friend or close family member at least once a week. If you can’t see them in person, call, text or video chat instead — it all counts and helps ease loneliness.

5. Get your flu shot

Having the flu or pneumonia may raise your heart risks. One study looked at people who had been hospitalized for heart attacks. They were about six times more likely to have had their heart attack within a week of getting the flu, compared with the year before or the year after.* To protect yourself, make sure you get an annual flu shot. And stay up to date on your pneumococcal vaccine to help prevent pneumonia.  

6. Eat within a 12-hour window 

If you eat all your calories between 7 AM and 7 PM, for example, you’ll see heart-healthy benefits. This eating pattern is often called intermittent fasting when you alternate fasting periods with a regular eating schedule. It’s been shown to help people lose weight and improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.* 

7. Strength train

Yes, brisk walking and other cardiovascular exercises are good for your heart. But you’ll get even better results if you throw in some strength-training moves like lunges, squats and wall push-ups a couple days a week. One study found that weight training for about an hour per week lowered the risk of heart disease events by 40 to 70 percent.*

8. Take some deep breaths

Mindfulness practices such as meditation and deep breathing exercises may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. That’s according to research findings in the Journal of the American Heart Association.* Mindfulness can lower levels of stress hormones that can raise blood pressure and inflammation in the body and are linked to heart disease.

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Try this 10-minute heart-healthy meal   

Just one cup of greens a day has been shown to help lower your risk of heart disease by 12 percent.* This simple and delicious warm grain salad with tomatoes and greens helps you get in those heart-healthy nutrients. And it can be on the table in 15 minutes or less.

Warm grain salad with tomato and greens

You can make this hearty salad with quick-cooking quinoa, a high-protein grain or rice. Combine it with tender greens, such as baby kale or baby spinach. Add fresh tomatoes for a pop of flavor. Don’t have Italian seasoning blend? Replace it with your favorite seasoning, such as lemon and pepper or Cajun.


Serves: 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes


Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa or rice

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

4 cups tender greens (such as baby kale or baby spinach)

1 tbsp. vegetable oil or olive oil

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. Italian seasoning blend

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper


Instructions:

Cook quinoa or rice as directed on the package. In a large mixing bowl, combine your grain and all remaining ingredients. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix everything together. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Nutrition info per serving: 234 calories; 8 g protein; 35 g carbs; 5 g fiber; 6 g fat (1 g saturated); 3 g sugar; 137 mg sodium

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*FOR LACK OF SLEEP RISKS SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How does sleep affect your heart health? January 4, 2021. Accessed July 18, 2023.

*FOR NOISE LINKED TO HEART DISEASE SOURCE: Van Kempen E, Casas M, Pershagen G, et al. WHO environmental noise guidelines for the European region: a systematic review on environmental noise and cardiovascular and metabolic effects: a summary. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. February 10, 2018; 15(2): 379. Accessed July 18, 2023.

*FOR GUM DISEASE RISK SOURCE: Van Dyke TE, Kholy KE, Ishai A, et al. Inflammation of the periodontium associates with risk of future cardiovascular events. Journal of Periodontology. March 2021; 92(3): 348-358. Accessed July 18, 2023.

*FOR LONELINESS LINKED TO HEART DISEASE SOURCE: Valtorta NK, Kanaan M, Gilbody S, et al. Loneliness, social isolation and risk of cardiovascular disease in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. 2018; 25(3). Accessed July 18, 2023.

*FOR FLU INCREASING HEART RISKS SOURCE: Kwong JC, Schwartz KL, Campitelli MA, et al. Acute myocardial infarction after laboratory-confirmed influenza infection. The New England Journal of Medicine. January 25, 2018; 378: 345-353. Accessed July 18, 2023.

*FOR INTERMITTENT FASTING SOURCE: Dong TA, Sandesara PB, Dhindsa DS, et al. Intermittent fasting: a heart healthy dietary pattern? The American Journal of Medicine. April 21, 2020; 133(8): 901-907. Accessed July 18, 2023.

*FOR STRENGTH TRAINING SOURCE: Liu Y, Lee D, Li Y, et al. Associations of resistance exercise with cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. March 2019; 51(3): 499-508. Accessed July 18, 2023.

*FOR MINDFULNESS SOURCE: Levine GN, Lange RA, Bairey-Merz CN, et al. Meditation and cardiovascular risk reduction: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Journal of the American Heart Association. September 2017; 6(10): e002218. Accessed July 18, 2023.

*FOR GREENS HELP LOWER HEART DISEASE RISK SOURCE: Blekkenhorst LC, Sim M, Bondonno CP, et al. Cardiovascular health benefits of specific vegetable types: a narrative review. Nutrients. May 11, 2018; 10(5): 595. Accessed July 18, 2023.

*FOR GREENS HELP LOWER HEART DISEASE RISK SOURCE: Leermakers ET, Darweesh SK, Baena CP, et al. The effects of lutein on cardiometabolic health across the life course: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. February 2016; 103(2): 481-94. Accessed July 18, 2023.

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