10 small ways to support your heart health
Make these simple tweaks to your life to boost your health in a heartbeat
1. Grab a cup of Joe
Turns out your average mug of Java is a bit of a heart health hero. Sipping three to five cups a day may help keep your arteries clear. A study in Korea showed people who guzzled too little or too much coffee had much higher levels of calcium in their arteries than those who enjoyed a modest amount. As calcium build up is a sign of the plaque that causes heart attacks and strokes, we say grind those beans!
2. Head to the flicks
Watching a drama releases bonding hormones amongst audiences that relieve stress, and snuggling up to your other half gives you a jolt of the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin, which protects your heart from stress. Wolf down some popcorn, which is packed with more heart-boosting antioxidants than fruit or veg (just make sure it’s not slathered in butter or salt) and you’ve got a date night that’s good for your heart on every level.
3. Sling the salt
While it makes food taste SO good, salt makes your body cling on to water, which swells blood volume, raising blood pressure. A little is fine, but you shouldn’t eat more than 6g (1 tsp) daily and many processed foods are already packed with hidden salt. Opt for eating clean where possible and switch extra salt out with a healthier substitute such as low salt alternatives.
4. Try the strictly experience
Like any cardio workout, dancing will improve heart health and blow off some stress-releasing steam. But a study revealed people with heart failure who took up waltzing saw a significant improvement in their heart health, breathing, and quality of life – much more so than those who biked or walked on a treadmill. It’s thought this was because dancers were exercising with a partner, rather than alone, which made it much more fun. Keeeeeep dancing!
5. Get spiritual
It’s time to take a chill pill – meditation, yoga and prayer can all cut heart-disease risk factors. The list of benefits is phenomenal – causing a change in brain activity, lowering your heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline levels and breathing rate, slowing down oxygen use and causing a drop in cortisol – the hormone released in response to stress. That’ll be a large portion of “omm” please!
6. Find some puppy love
Not just adorable, four-legged friends can have a paws-ative effect on your heart too. Stroking pets generally has a calming effect, lowering stress and blood pressure. But dog owners particularly tend to have lower cholesterol and blood fats (triglycerides), probably because they also get a healthy dose of exercise on all those walks. If your hectic lifestyle isn’t full-time dog-friendly right now, why not volunteer as a dog walker at your local animal shelter and reap the rewards of a canine companion?
7. Hit up a comedy club
It turns out laughter really is the best medicine, helping to expand blood vessels that boost blood to flow to the heart. The effects are so significant, that laughter can produce the same expansion you would see from exercise. But we’re not suggesting you should ditch your weekly workouts as they bring many other benefits to the table – try 30 minutes’ exercise three times a week, and 15 minutes’ laughter each day to keep your vascular system in tip-top condition.
8. Catch some Zs
We got the memo – you’re super busy and important, all day, every day – but are you prioritising some good-quality shut eye? Not only does a good night’s sleep keep you alert and boost your weight loss and memory, but it can also be key to heart health. Every hour of sleep you get above your nightly average slashes your risk of coronary heart disease by a whopping 33 per cent. To help you nod off, cut out caffeine after 3pm and create a regular evening routine to wind your body down. FYI: peak heart health sleepytime is around seven to nine hours a night.
9. Get flossing
It’s not just keeping your gnashers in good condition – bad gum health has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease. The link between gum disease and heart disease is inflammation — the body’s response to an infection. A build-up of inflammatory substances in the blood seems to increase the risk of heart disease. Eliminating the gum infection may dampen that harmful response throughout the body.
10. Breakfast like a king
You wouldn't run your car on empty, so why expect it of your body? Starting the day off with a healthy meal not only gives you the energy to take on the day – it's also linked to a lower risk of heart disease. It was found men who skipped breakfast had a 27 per cent higher risk of coronary heart disease. But this is no call for a daily fry up – think healthy choices like lean protein, fruit and wholegrain, or you might find your morning meal does more harm than good.
Mocha latte overnight oats anyone?