Everyday Ways to Improve Heart Health
Heart disease is very common and can be incredibly devastating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease accounts for the equivalent of one death every 36 seconds—the leading cause of death in the United States. Millions of Americans, with and without symptoms, live with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease and other heart-related ailments that can significantly affect their quality of life and lead to other medical conditions.
Lifestyle changes such as getting regular exercise and eating more fruits and vegetables are well-known ways to help improve heart health, but you have plenty of other ways to boost your blood flow and enhance overall wellness.
Spend time (and maybe get physical) with your partner
Good relationships of all kinds can boost mental and physical health, and this is particularly true for long-term romantic relationships. According to the American Heart Association, physical touch, such as hugging and holding hands, helps reduce levels of stress hormones; high levels of stress hormones contribute to heart-related problems over time. The AHA also states that "stable relationships at midlife were a better predictor of being healthy and happy 30 years later than cholesterol levels."
Plus, if you're spending time with someone you love, don't be shy about hitting the sheets. According to Harvard Health Publishing, sex counts as a form of mild to moderate physical activity that acts as a safe way to add a little exercise to your day, even if you have heart problems. Sex shouldn't substitute for your regular exercise routine, but it's a good way to add extra movement.
There's nothing inherently wrong with starting your day with a cup of coffee, but if you want to boost your heart health, consider adding tea to your routine. Dietitian Morgyn Clair said tea drinkers appear to be at lower risk of heart issues than people who don't drink it.
"According to several meta-analyses, drinking the world's most popular beverage has a host of benefits for heart health," Clair said, "including a positive effect on cardiovascular-related incidents, such as strokes and heart attacks."
Clair added that herbal teas may not offer the same benefits, so look for an infusion that includes a mix of real tea and herbs or fruits. Be careful about adding too many extras such as honey or milk: The more you add, the more you could counteract the heart-healthy benefits with extra calories, sugars and fats.
Make time to laugh
Humor and laughter are possible indicators of heart health, said Steven M. Sultanoff, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and professor.
"People with high levels of sense of humor are less likely to have major heart disease," Sultanoff said. "And those with major heart disease are more likely to have a low sense of humor."
Sultanoff points out that laughter may help lower blood pressure and increase the elasticity of the endothelium walls, which are critical for a healthy heart. On the flip side, individuals with chronic anger, hostility and stress have increased risks for heart disease.
So if you're overly stressed out, dealing with anger and generally grinding your way through life without laughter, it may be time to fire up your favorite sitcom or schedule a dinner with your funniest friends.
A large component of heart health revolves around a series of lifestyle choices you make on a daily basis. Eating right and exercising are important, but so are other factors, such as spending time with loved ones and looking for ways to infuse your life with fun. If you are worried about your heart health, consult a doctor or a physician.