7 Harmful Habits for Heart Health
If you follow my blog, you probably know how to support heart health: Eat a balanced, varied diet. Support nutrition with dietary supplements. Exercise regularly. Get plenty of sleep and rest. Keep stress levels low.
But we don’t often talk about what not to do—the habits that are the worst for heart health. Here are six harmful habits to avoid:
I can’t say it enough: If you smoke, consider quitting. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Smoking impacts blood pressure levels, heart function, and structure and function of blood vessels and has many other effects on the body. Nonsmokers are much less likely to develop heart conditions, and people who quit begin to see the benefits of not smoking within just 20 minutes, according to the American Cancer Society. Within 15 years of not smoking, a former smoker’s cardiovascular health is similar to that of a nonsmoker’s.
#2 Excessive sitting
Research shows that people who sit less tend to have healthier cardiovascular systems. This is because standing and movement of any kind triggers processes within the body to support the breakdown of sugars and fats. Movement also stimulates the endothelial cells to produce more Nitric Oxide (NO), the critical molecule in the cardiovascular system involved in dilation of the blood vessels. Higher levels of NO supports heart health.
#3 Not flossing
If you’re not brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once daily, it’s time to start. Not only will it keep your mouth healthy, but research also shows good oral hygiene directly supports heart health. The link seems to be that bacteria present in the mouth can travel to the heart and may also activate an inflammatory response in the body. Caring for your teeth and gums helps avoid the formation of bacteria in the first place.
#4 Poor diet
Nutrition impacts more than just how you look and feel. In fact, what you eat affects nearly every process in the body, and especially your cardiovascular system. When you eat a balanced, varied diet, you give your endothelium and other organs the nutrients they need to function properly. (For more on nutrition, read, “7 of the Worst Foods for Heart Health.”)
#5 Too much sodium
Salt adds flavor, but too much sodium can come at a heart health cost. Sodium impacts blood pressure levels, which affects the cardiovascular system. Instead, opt for other spices like garlic, fresh ground black pepper, rosemary or basil. And be sure to stay away from high-salt foods. Read “10 Surprising High-Sodium Foods” for a list of the ten foods to avoid.
#6 Poor hydration
Many of us have been told since childhood to drink plenty of water. Hydration is important for the entire body—after all, our bodies are made up of 60 percent water. Good hydration makes it easier for the heart to pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. It also helps the muscles remove waste, which supports muscle efficiency.
#7 Not enough laughter
The health impact of stress is well known, but what about unhappiness? If you aren’t smiling and laughing regularly enough, take time to do something that makes you happy. Research published by the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore showed that laughter causes the endothelium to dilate or expand in order to support healthy blood flow. Laugh more—it’s good for your endothelium and your heart.
What else can you add? Please share below.