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Many people already know that regular exercise and a healthy diet can help keep the heart healthy. But did you know that certain daily habits can further reduce the risk of heart disease?
According to The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, every hour five people have a heart attack and 10 people suffer a stroke. Here are five daily habits that can help keep the heart working effectively.
1. Move, move, move
Even if you clock your 30 minutes of exercise per day, it’s important to get up from your desk regularly. Studies have shown that being sedentary increases the risk of cardiovascular conditions, particularly blood clots.
Habit: Try to move throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the lift, take a walk during your lunch break and, if you’re working remotely, do home walking workouts like growwithjo.
2. Watch your dental hygiene
A study published in the National Library of Medicine revealed that poor dental hygiene and particularly serious oral conditions such as gum disease could increase the risk of heart conditions. The bacteria that cause gum infection may also travel to the blood vessels, which can cause inflammation and blood clotting.
Habit: Floss your teeth every day and brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes at a time. Visit your dentist for a check-up every six months.
3. Be smart about fats
Fat is often given a bad rap, but unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats should have a place in your diet. Avoid trans fats, as they raise your bad cholesterol (LDL) and clog your arteries. These include any industry-produced fats such as margarine, baked goods such as cakes and cookies, frozen foods and packaged foods such as microwave popcorn.
Habit: Try to include a portion of healthy fats in your meals. This should be at least a teaspoon (for example, of oil or butter). Good options are avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil.
4. Back away from second-hand smoke
Smoking doesn’t only affect smokers; it puts non-smokers at risk of heart disease too. The chemicals emitted from cigarettes increase the risk of plaque build-up in your arteries, making the arteries sticky and clogged, which could result in blocked blood vessels.
Habit: Inform smokers in your daily life (at work or at home) that you don’t want to be around environmental smoke. Don’t allow anyone to smoke in your car, home or other personal spaces. Avoid smoking areas in restaurants, even when dining with smokers.
5. Axe your stress
Stress can increase the risk of high blood pressure and may lead to unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol and overeating, all of which can affect heart health. Studies also suggest that long-term increases in the stress hormone cortisol could raise blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, which are risk factors for heart disease.
Habit: Prioritise regular self-care. Carve out some time for yourself every day to do a hobby you enjoy, take a bath, have a workout or do your skincare. Practise de-stressing activities such as deep breathing, meditation and yoga regularly.
For more advice related to heart health, read these helpful articles:
The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.
- American Heart Association. (2017). Lifestyle Changes for Heart Failure. [online] Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/treatment-options-for-heart-failure/lifestyle-changes-for-heart-failure [Accessed 16 July 2021]
- Shmerling, R. H. (2021). Gum Disease and the Connection to Heart Disease. [online] Harvard Health Publishing. Available at: Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/gum-disease-and-the-connection-to-heart-disease [Accessed 17 July 2021]
- Cleveland Clinic. (2019). 5 Things to Do Every Day to Keep Your Heart Healthy. [online] Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-things-to-do-every-day-to-keep-your-heart-healthy/ [Accessed 17 July 2021]
- Temple Heart & Vascular Institute. (2021). 6 Healthy Habits to Strengthen Your Heart. [online] Temple Health. Available at: https://www.templehealth.org/about/blog/6-healthy-habits-strengthen-your-heart [Accessed 17 July 2021]