Did you know that taking a vacation, going to the beach, eating chocolate, and watching funny YouTube videos are all prescriptions for better heart health? A variety of easy, often enjoyable actions and simple lifestyle changes can provide remarkably powerful protection against a heart attack, cutting risk by up to 800 percent. Here’s a look at nine surprisingly effective ways to protect your ticker.
An analysis of Framingham Heart Study data found that women who take vacations once every six years, or less often, were almost eight times more likely to suffer heart attacks or die of cardiac causes during the 20-year study than those who vacationed at least twice a year, even after risks like diabetes and smoking were taken into account.
Another study tracked about 12,000 men at high risk for coronary heart disease. Over the nine-year study, men who regularly took annual vacations were 39 percent less likely to succumb to cardiovascular disease. The researchers theorize that getaways are good for the heart because they combat stress (a risk factor for heart disease) and also offer opportunities for healthy activities, such as sports.
People with periodontal disease have double the risk of suffering a fatal heart attack or stroke. One theory is that chronic bacterial infection of the gums may spark inflammation inside the blood vessels—a condition that’s recently been shown to actually cause both cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.
As I recently reported, one of the simplest—and cheapest—secrets of long life is taking care of your teeth, with daily brushing and flossing. Conversely, neglecting your chompers—and skipping dental visits—can be fatal, the researchers report. During the 17-year study, those who never flossed were 30 percent more likely to die than were those who flossed daily.
Adults who get vaccinated for flu are nearly 20 percent less likely to have their first heart attack in the next year than those who skip the shot, even when other risks, such as smoking and family history, are taken into account, according to a study of 78,000 people age 40 or older.
The researchers found even greater benefits to getting a flu shot early in the season. The study adds to earlier studies linking respiratory infections to increased risk for heart attacks and strokes.
Snoozing less than six hours a night more than doubles heart attack and stroke risk, compared to catching six to eight hours of Z’s a night, a new study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting reported.
Another new study found that in the fall, heart attack risk drops 10 percent during the days after we set the clocks back (and gain an extra hour of sleep), while risk peaks by the same amount when we lose an hour of slumber due to the start of daylight savings time.
Amazing, but true: Eating dark chocolate could actually save your life. People who eat the most chocolate are 37 percent less likely to develop heart disease and 29 percent less likely to suffer a stroke, compared to those who eat the least, according to an analysis of earlier studies involving 114,009 participants.
One of the most surprising findings was that indulging in the sweet treat also trims diabetes risk by 31 percent, the researchers reported in British Medical Journal.
Basking in the sun boosts vitamin D levels, while a deficiency of the sunshine vitamin boosts the threat of a heart attack or stroke. A recent study also linked low levels of D to higher levels of triglycerides and blood sugar, a higher BMI (body mass index), and lower levels of heart-protective HDL “good” cholesterol in women.
During the 16-year study women who were deficient in vitamin D were nearly 50 percent more likely to either die or suffer heart failure, a heart attack, or a stroke, compared to women with normal levels.
Laughter enhances blood vessel health, a University of Maryland study found. When volunteers were shown a funny movie, the lining of their blood vessels (endothelium) widened, increasing flow.
When the same volunteers were shown a stress-inducing movie, their blood vessel lining had an adverse reaction called vasoconstriction, lowering blood flow. The endothelium, sometimes called “the brain” of the arteries, plays a key role in the development of cardiovascular disease.
“The magnitude of change we saw in the endothelium is similar to the benefit we might see with aerobic activity,” the researchers reported.
For each extra serving of fruits and vegetables people eat per day, the threat of fatal cardiovascular events dropped by four percent, a recent study of more than 313,000 men and women reported.
During the 8-year study, people who ate at least eight services of about 3 ounces apiece daily had 25 percent lower risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke than those who consumed fewer than three portions a day.
Too much sitting can be just as dangerous to your heart as smoking. However, even if you have a sedentary job, standing up frequently can have surprisingly powerful benefits, a new study suggests.
Those who took the most breaks from sitting—even for a minute--had, on average, slimmer waists (by nearly 2 inches), lower levels of C-reactive protein, blood fats, and blood sugar, and other indicators of reduced risk for heart disease and diabetes, compared to those who took the fewest breaks.
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