Due to Valentines Day, February is often associated with hearts. But there’s another reason to think about hearts, specifically our own and it’s health: it’s American Heart Month.
Since 1963, February has been the designated month to raise awareness of heart disease, i.e., the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.
Most people understand the importance of regular exercise and healthy eating to maintain their heart’s integrity. However, there are also some simple tactics you might not have known about that can keep your heart healthy.
7 Ways To Boost Your Heart Health
1. Indulge in dark chocolate
It turns out that dark chocolate is both delicious and nutritious!
Consuming dark chocolate in moderation has been shown to decrease oxidized LDL (“bad” cholesterol”) and increase HDL. Dark chocolate is also high in magnesium, which helps your heart, muscles, and kidneys.
When adding dark chocolate to your diet, make sure it has a high cocoa content; this will ensure you’re getting the most antioxidants and minerals that may help protect you from heart disease.
2. Have more sex
Besides improving your happiness and wellbeing, sex can also be good for your heart. American Journal of Cardiology researchers show that having a higher frequency of sexual activity (twice a week vs. once a month) can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. If you’re experiencing frequent performance issues in bed, talk to your doctor to see if you have erectile dysfunction.
3. Adopt a furry friend
We can all agree that animals add immense joy to our everyday lives, but did you know they can help your heart health too?
Research has shown that owning pets can reduce your risk of heart disease through improved physical activity and stress relief. Additionally, adopting a furry friend can also fend off feelings of depression and loneliness, which has been shown to increase the risk of having or dying from a heart attack or stroke.
4. Brush your teeth regularly
Dental hygiene isn’t just for looks—it impacts your overall health!
Dental health is a good indication of your overall health as those with periodontal (gum) disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease. People with gum disease have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
5. Ease your stress
When you feel high amounts of stress or anxiety it can lead to adrenaline, which increases your heartbeat and breathing rate. Frequent adrenaline surges, leading to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. To protect your heart, you can manage your stress by:
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night
- Exercising regularly
- Having minimal alcohol and caffeine
6. Be more social
We know that social isolation can hurt your heart health, so how can you stay socially active, especially in the pandemic era? Ways to stay socially active include:
- Reaching out to family or friends
- Joining a virtual support group
- Signing up for a fitness or art class
7. Avoid COVID-19 infection (if possible)
This heart health tactic is easier said than done to follow, especially since social distancing efforts have ended and mask mandates have dropped in the United States. But it’s important to remember that we’re still in a pandemic and a COVID-19 infection can lead to serious heart problems.
While research is ongoing, studies show the COVID-19 virus can cause inflammation in the body to go into overdrive, which can damage to the heart and it’s cells, and disrupt the electrical signals that help it to beat properly. This inflammation can also reduce the heart’s pumping ability and cause abnormal heart rhythms.
So, how can you avoid infection? By:
- Masking up in crowded places with a KF94 or N95 mask
- Wash and sanitize hands frequently
- Improve the ventilation in your home
- Moving indoor activities outside
- Stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
Celebrate Heart Month by incorporating some of these tips into your day-to-day life, or, use them as a checklist to see if you’re prioritizing your heart health. Take pride in even the smallest of victories and share them with the people you care about most. You’ll inspire them to join your lead and make lifestyle changes that prevent heart disease.
Edited by Courtney Smith
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