Do you love your heart? It’s hard not to, considering how much it does for the body. This muscular organ pumps blood day in and day out to keep you alive. It’s how oxygen and nutrients get around and how carbon dioxide reaches the lungs so you can breathe it out. If something happens to the heart, other organs will suffer.
The heart deserves a lot of attention. Yet, many of us are guilty of damaging it. Even worse, the consequences pile up silently and show up in one go. You won’t know until it is too late. Heart disease is also the leading cause of death for American men and women. It kills 610,000 people each year, averaging to about 1 in every 4 deaths. In 2009, more than half were men, but everyone should be on guard. Take a step back and look at your lifestyle. If you’re doing any of these 5 things, ditch these habits as soon as possible. Do it for your heart’s sake!1 2
1. Ignoring Danger Signs
When your heart is acting strange, get help as soon as possible. Don’t try to brush it off as another bout of heartburn. If it’s something serious, you’re missing a prime opportunity to prevent a bigger problem. Granted, chest pain has a lot of potential causes, but you can’t know for sure which one is affecting you. Other warning signs to look out for include dizziness, shortness of breath, palpitations, sweating, and coughing.3
2. Not Moving Around Enough
A sedentary lifestyle is bad news. Not only is it associated with heart disease but it can also boost the risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, and obesity, just to name a few. Even short-term physical inactivity harms blood pressure and stiffens the arteries.4
If you are inactive often, it will eventually catch up to you. Heart disease-related mortality will advance by 2.4 years. Add smoking and obesity to the picture and it’ll advance by 7.9 years. So get up and move! You don’t need to run a marathon or do Crossfit. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days a week.5 6 Find something you love, whether it’s brisk walking or dancing.
3. Smoking Cigarettes
Smoking cigarettes harm your lungs and heart as well. This habit will induce abnormal heart rhythm, high blood pressure, and stiff arteries – all the fixings for heart disease. Oxidative stress and carbon monoxide will do a number on the heart, too.7
However, smoking is also one of the most preventable risk factors for heart disease. Quitting can reduce that risk by 50% or more! In fact, within 24 hours of your last cigarette, the chances of a heart attack immediately drops.8 9
4. Being Super Stressed
People are increasingly stressed day by day. We’re more connected than ever, making it possible to work from every corner of the world. It’s almost impossible to detach from the screen, let alone family and life responsibilities.
And stress happens to the best of us. If you’re not careful, this stress can pile up and hurt your heart. And while the relationship isn’t direct, according to the American Heart Association, stress may promote unhealthy habits like smoking, physical inactivity, and poor food choices.10
Adopt healthy forms of stress relief. Make time for your favorite hobbies, whether it’s reading or cooking. Regular exercise will also help you get a handle on stress.
5. Avoiding Regular Checkups
Annual physical exams aren’t just for kids. As an adult, a yearly checkup is a chance to catch problems before they truly begin. It’s even more important if you’re at risk for specific diseases. When it comes to the heart, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar are all bad signs. The sooner you know about it, the better.
Your heart has no one else but you. Every habit and action totally matters. If you treat it well, it’ll return the favor.
|↑1||Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||What Is The Heart?. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑3||Heart attack. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑4||Nosova, Emily V., Priscilla Yen, Karen C. Chong, Hugh F. Alley, Eveline O. Stock, Alex Quinn, Jason Hellmann et al. “Short-term physical inactivity impairs vascular function.” journal of surgical research 190, no. 2 (2014): 672-682.|
|↑5||Borrell, Luisa N. “The effects of smoking and physical inactivity on advancing mortality in US adults.” Annals of epidemiology 24, no. 6 (2014): 484-487.|
|↑6||Bouchard, Claude, Steven N. Blair, and Peter T. Katzmarzyk. “Less sitting, more physical activity, or higher fitness?.” In Mayo Clinic Proceedings, vol. 90, no. 11, pp. 1533-1540. Elsevier, 2015.|
|↑7||D’alessandro, Alessandra, Irina Boeckelmann, Matthias Hammwhöner, and Andreas Goette. “Nicotine, cigarette smoking and cardiac arrhythmia: an overview.” European journal of preventive cardiology 19, no. 3 (2012): 297-305.|
|↑8||What Are the Benefits of Quitting Smoking?. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑9||Benefits of Quitting. SmokeFree.gov.|
|↑10||Stress and Heart Health. American Heart Association.|