By Edeline Anne Goh
A healthy heart helps to protect you from cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, heart attack, arthrosclerosis as well as stroke. With the wide array of awareness and education that is now easily available, many have already got the ball rolling on heart health by taking necessary precautions such as exercising and healthy eating.
However, did you know that there are also some very ordinary daily habits, which can help your heart? Read on and see how you can incorporate these simple, heart-friendly steps into your everyday routine.
Pick Up Your Toothbrush
A Scottish Health Survey showed that people who brush their teeth less frequently were 70% more likely to contract heart disease. In other words, poor oral hygiene is now being connected to a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases and higher levels of inflammatory chemical markers although no precise cause-and-effect has been established. That’s definitely another good reason to brush your teeth twice a day!
A Good Dose of Laughter
Tickle your sense of humour by watching funny movies, sharing jokes, jumping in on light-hearted chats around the water cooler in your office or finding any excuse to laugh out loud. So why should you find opportunities to laugh? Other than the obvious “feel good” factor, research shows that laughter increases blood flow to your heart and throughout your body to the same extent as light exercise or cholesterol-lowering drugs do.
The result of a 2012 study suggests that smiling aids heart recovery after stressful situations. Just like laughing, smiling is contagious too. So, spread the goodness of flashing those pearly whites throughout the day. Of course, genuine smiles are always best!
Get A Game Console
Find fun games to play on interactive indoor game consoles. Thanks to technology, you can now sweat it out in more ways than one. The best part about this is you’ll be having too much fun to feel exhausted and before you know it, you’d have had a great workout without going outdoors!
Find Inner Peace During Traffic Jams
You may not perceive yourself as ‘stressed’ but the fact remains that living and working in a fast-paced environment exposes you to environmental stressors — like annoying traffic jams — all the time. Find inner peace and enduring calm by listening to relaxing tunes from your favourite album or carpool so you can fall back on some good company during a gridlock. Also, don’t forget to take breaks throughout the day, visit green spaces and meditate.
Appreciate the people around you and make an effort to spend heaps of happy, bonding time with them. Having fun with friends and loved ones encourages social connections, which improves not just your heart health but your overall wellbeing too.
These Boots Are Made For Walking
Studies have found comparable health benefits of brisk walking to running when total energy expenditure is the same. So find time to take walks in parks or around your neighbourhood with an exercise buddy. Love (not lament) the energy spent in taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking to the car, and running errands at the local supermarket.
Stretch It Out
Improve the elasticity of your arteries by doing flexibility exercises. You could start with 10 minutes of stretching daily or you could enroll in a yoga class or join your community Tai Chi classes.
Cuddling up to a loved one lowers stress and blood pressure, just as hugging, kissing and other displays of affection in healthy relationships do. Give a loved one a hug before leaving for a long day at work and see how it makes a world of difference.
Spend Time with Your Pets
Get active by walking your dog or relax by playing with your pets at home. Pet owners have been shown to have greater heart variability and cope better with bodily changes in stressful situations. Besides, several studies have also shown that pet owners show less signs of heart diseases.
Get Enough Shut-Eye
Getting sufficient sleep can have a positive effect on bodily processes and circadian rhythms. An adult requires 8 hours of sleep each night. While this may seem like a lot for some, the following information may change your mind: according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, sleeping just an hour earlier helps to decrease the buildup of plaque in you arteries by up to thirty three percent!
Look On the Bright Side Of Life
Positive psychological wellbeing is not merely the absence of depression or anxiety. Do you have a happy, optimistic attitude towards life? If not, boost your psychological strength. Research has found that a positive attitude will motivate you to start and maintain healthy lifestyle habits which will contribute to your heart health.
Good News for Chocoholics
Hold on! Don’t reach for those chocolate brownies just yet. Only bittersweet, dark chocolate (more than 60% cocoa and very little added sugar) when taken in moderation, has been shown to be beneficial to heart health. Enjoy one ounce of chocolate a day, two to three times a week. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which reduces the risk of blood clots and improves blood vessel function.
A Glass of Red Wine
You may have heard of the Mediterranean diet. This includes red wine as part of a healthy, balanced diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables. A major clinical trial conducted this year found that a glass of red wine when enjoyed together with a healthy diet reduced the risk of heart attacks and stroke by thirty percent when compared to a low-fat diet.
Have Mental Strength and Resilience
The ‘broken heart’ syndrome, also called stress cardiomyopathy, is brought on by severe grief or emotional stress that results in a sudden adrenaline rush that can overwhelm heart muscles. Symptoms of this condition may resemble a heart attack although it is not actually the case. However, the heart still undergoes stress during the episode, which may precipitate heart failure.
Do Meaningful Things You
A research conducted with teenage volunteers found a correlation between an increase in empathy and altruistic behavior with better cardiovascular health. This was indicated by lower levels of inflammation and cholesterol. So, lend a helping hand to those in need. The best part? Volunteering or carrying out charity work can also be a great family-bonding project!
Avoid Secondhand Smoke
Smoking is a risk factor for heart disease and if you think that you’re safe because you’re a non-smoker — think again! Exposure to secondhand smoke and its toxins creates cardiovascular risks for non-smokers as well. If you know a smoker, let him know that smoking is not only fatal to him but to those around him as well.