Everyone wants to have a healthy heart. Still, cardiovascular disease affects more than one in three adults globally. The good news is that some simple, everyday habits can make a big difference in your ability to live a healthy lifestyle.
Sitting for hours on end increases your risk of heart attack and stroke, even if you exercise regularly.
“Intermittent exercise doesn’t compensate for the time you sit,” says Harmony R. Reynolds, MD, associate director of the Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.Why? The lack of movement may affect blood levels of fats and sugars.
Dr. Reynolds advises walking around periodically and, if you’re at work, standing up to talk on the phone.
Leaving depression unchecked
Are you feeling stressed, hostile, or depressed? It can take a toll on your heart.While everyone feels this way some of the time, how you handle these emotions can affect your heart health. “Those likely to internalize stress are in greater danger; research has shown a benefit to laughter and social support,” Dr. Reynolds says. “And it’s helpful to be able to go to someone and talk about your problems.”
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 180 million 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.
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.
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 per cent 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.”
Being a health procrastinator
Check in with an MD so that you know your numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. If these are elevated, you’re at risk for silent killers like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
One thought: The lifetime risk of developing hypertension, or high blood pressure, for adults in their mid-50s is approximately 90 per cent, even with those who never had a problem before.
“The general point is that just because you didn’t have it at 24 doesn’t mean you don’t have it at 54,” Dr. Ostfeld says.
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