September is Heart Health Awareness Month, a time of year dedicated to educating people about cardiovascular disease, and highlighting the importance of a healthy lifestyle. We all know that a balanced diet and regular exercise go a long way towards protecting our heart’s health. But there are also some less obvious ways you can take care of your heart.
This September, start making some of these smart lifestyle changes to improve your heart’s wellbeing and enjoy better overall health.
- Get Enough Sleep
We all love the idea of a cat nap or a lie-in, but did you know that getting a bit more sleep can help your heart as well? Too many late nights really take a toll on your cardiovascular system (not to mention your brain and your mood).
Studies have shown that getting too little sleep causes disruptions in our biological rhythms and can exacerbate underlying health conditions. This leads to higher blood pressure and inflammation, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.
Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep most nights, for optimal heart health.
- Avoid Second-hand Smoke
It should go without saying that if you’re a smoker, the kindest thing you can do for your heart is to kick the habit. Smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease. However, it’s important to know that second-hand smoke is dangerous too.
The chemicals emitted from cigarette smoke lead to the build-up of plaque in the arteries. This affects non-smokers as well as smokers, and those with high blood pressure or cholesterol are at even greater risk. According to the American Heart Association, exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke contributes to approximately 34,000 premature heart disease-related deaths a year.
If you’re a non-smoker, try to limit your exposure to smoke (at work, at home or out and about) as much as possible.
- Cut your Salt Consumption
Salt seems pretty innocent compared to the big culprits like cigarettes, but too much of it in your diet can also impact your heart health. A salt-heavy diet raises your blood pressure, which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
For healthy blood pressure levels, try to reduce the amount of table salt you use in your cooking. Watch out for ready-made foods and fast foods with high salt content, and choose low-sodium options when you can. As a guideline, adults should eat less than 6g (one teaspoon) of salt a day in total.
- Take Care of your Teeth
Yes, as strange as it sounds, good dental hygiene is linked to good heart health. People with gum disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease. The bacteria that cause gum disease can move into the bloodstream and increase markers for inflammation in the blood vessels. This pushes up the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, and visit your dentist for a check-up and cleaning every six months. This will keep your teeth in tip-top condition, and will also protect your heart.
- Take Time Out to Meditate
Stress is another big factor that damages heart health, so taking time to de-stress can have big benefits. Meditation helps to calm the mind, but it also has some great physical effects, like slowing the heartbeat, and lowering blood pressure levels. If you’re under strain, taking a few minutes a day to meditate can work wonders for your stress levels, and help to take some pressure off your heart.
Better heart health means better quality of life, and longer years spent enjoying time with your loved ones. It’s never too early to start taking better care of your heart!
American Heart Association – Quit Smoking/ Tobacco. Retrieved from: http://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking-tobacco
5 Things to Do Daily to Keep Your Heart Healthy. Retrieved from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-things-to-do-daily-to-keep-your-heart-healthy/
Top 10 Healthy Heart Tips. Retrieved from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/
Meditation May Help Heart Health… And It Definitely Won’t Hurt. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/meditation-may-help-heart-health-and-it-definitely-wont-hurt#4