8 Bad habits putting heart health at risk

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8 Bad habits putting heart health at risk

Heart health is often taken for granted when young. We tend to believe that heart issues mainly happen amongst the elderly.  But reality shows different. Heart health relies on your youthful prior years of practicing heart healthy habits. If these heart health habits are ignored, it could likely lead to serious heart issues that could have been avoided. 

There are certain habits that clearly are bad for both your heart and health in general.  Some habits you may be doing without realizing it.  But the good news is you can easily change these bad habits that could potentially damage your heart. 

Here are 8 habits to stop doing that can improve the health of your heart:

1.  Staying seated for long periods of time

Sure, you may go on a daily run or walk for 30 minutes, but if the majority of hours while awake are spent primarily seated, that could be a problem.  The human body is meant to move and be active throughout the day.  The key is doing frequent bursts of activity each waking hour.  If you have a desk job, every hour, take a walk for at least 5 minutes to boost circulation.  Binge-watching your favorite movies or TV show?  During commercials or every 30 minutes, get up and do jumping jacks, push-ups, march in place or dance to rev up your heart. Set a timer reminding you to move – every little bit of movement helps.

2.  The belief, “I’m young – heart health can wait”

A common bad habit is to put off worrying about heart health.  What you do when young makes a difference on heart health when you’re older.  Now is the time to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, control blood pressure, cholesterol and to take steps to prevent diabetes.  Cultivating these good habits early in life not only will keep you healthier but also helps you look better.  There’s no time like the present to take care of your heart and general health.

3.  Drinking too much alcohol

For most people, consuming alcohol in moderation can be okay.  Moderation is defined as no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men.  Over imbibing of alcohol however can have serious consequences for heart health. One too many drinks can raise levels of certain fats in the blood and can raise blood pressure too. If you choose to consume alcohol, stay within your limits when it comes to the health of your heart.

4.  Eating an unhealthy diet for heart health

If burgers, hot dogs, chips, fries, and sugary beverages are a mainstay of your diet, your heart health will suffer.  The good news is healthy diets do not have to be bland and boring.  In fact, the Mediterranean-style diet has delicious foods nourishing heart health such as olive oil, nuts, fruits, whole grains, fish, vegetables, lean protein, and red wine.  These “good” fats plus fiber and nutrients are the best foods to be feeding your body for heart health.

5.  Unaware of important health numbers

A good first step towards a healthier heart is to know certain health numbers – what is your cholesterol level or blood pressure?  If you are unable to answer this, that could be putting you at risk.  A high blood cholesterol or blood pressure are usually not felt and could be too high without you knowing.  Protect yourself starting young.  Always ask what your blood pressure is when taken and have your blood lipid levels taken every 5 years. 

6.  Your waistline has expanded

Carrying excess weight around your abdomen (aka belly fat) can be especially damaging to your heart.  How big is too big?  Use a measuring tape to measure around the smallest part of your waist (usually around the belly button).  It’s a red flag if it’s more than 35 inches around for women or 40 inches for men.  If you need to lose weight, take it step by step.  Even a small amount of weight loss of just 5%-7% of your current weight can be good for your heart. 

7.   Breathing in secondhand smoke

There’s only one thing worse than being a smoker and that is living with someone who does.  Breathing in secondhand smoke can do the same damage to your heart and lungs as it is doing to their health.  If this is someone you live with or spend a lot of time around, insist they at least not smoke around you.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s at home, work, or in your car, be vigilant about not breathing in their smoke harming your health.  Taking the tough love approach may nudge them into kicking the habit, which will be good for both of you. 

8.  Not taking steps to reduce stress

How do you respond to stressful situations?  Are calm, cool, and collected or do you have a full meltdown with steam shooting out of your ears?  Everyone responds differently to stress.  How much you have and your reactions can lead to a variety of heart health problems.  When stress is excessive, it can contribute to high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, and overeating.  Some people choose to drink too much alcohol or smoke cigarettes to “manage” their chronic stress, but this simply increases damage to artery walls.  Instead, choose more healthy ways of dealing with stress.  Talk therapy, exercise, meditation or medication (if needed) can improve your mood so you have more energy to take care of yourself and your heart.