Every year, over 365,000 Americans die from heart disease. As cardiovascular diseases continue to be the world’s top killer, more and more people are taking preventative measures. However, some everyday habits can actively harm your heart.
Common habits, such as skipping breakfast and not brushing your teeth, can lead to cardiovascular disease over time. Even sitting at your computer is more heart-healthy than some of the actions listed here. If you want to delay heart disease, stop performing these unhealthy habits.
Watching TV Is Worse Than Sitting At The Computer
Although sitting isn’t heart-healthy, watching TV is worse for your heart than sitting at work. In June 2019, researchers from Columbia University found that not all sitting is created equal. Sitting around at home harms your heart more than being sedentary at work.
According to the study, people who watch TV for four hours per day are 50% more likely to experience cardiovascular disease and early death. Watching TV after dinner results in people staying still for hours. While watching TV, try to stand up frequently.
How Loneliness Destroys Your Heart
Researchers have determined that social isolation can hurt your heart, both emotionally and physically. In 2018, a study in the journal Heart concluded that lonely people are 43% more likely to have a heart attack and 39% more likely to experience a stroke.
One of the scientists, Christian Hakulinen, argues that loneliness may not worsen the heart. Instead, it lowers peoples’ ability to recover from a heart attack, stroke, or disease. If you want to enhance your physical health, keep your social life active.
Why You Shouldn’t Skip Breakfast
According to The NPD Group, 31 million Americans skip breakfast every morning. This habit could have some serious health consequences. Research in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology concluded that skipping breakfast raises your chance of heart disease by up to 87%.
Why does skipping breakfast harm the body? Researcher Dr. Wei Bao says that it often leads to overeating later in the day. Insulin sensitivity also becomes imbalanced if the morning fast lasts for too long. To take care of your heart, eat breakfast.
Are You Consuming Too Much Caffeine?
While moderate coffee intake is perfectly healthy, too much caffeine can worsen your heart. According to the Australian Center for Precision Health in Adelaide, caffeine raises blood pressure that can strain your heart.
But how much is too much? In March 2019, scientists from the University of South Australia aimed to discover the “tipping point.” Participants who drank six cups of coffee daily–or 450 mg–had a 22% higher risk of cardiovascular disease. For perspective, a grande cup at Starbucks has 150 mg of caffeine, not including espresso shots.
Although walking improves heart health, slow walking hardly makes a difference. After observing over 420,000 adults, British researchers determined that walking speed impacts our heart. Brisk walkers had a far lower chance of developing heart disease.
Fast walkers raise their heart rate, breathing, and muscle strength. Older adults especially benefit from brisk walks because muscle mass dissolves with age. Scientists from the University of Leicester concluded that fast walkers are less likely to develop disease and are more physically fit than slow walkers.
Why People Have Heart Attacks After Overeating
Heart health doesn’t only depend on what you eat; it also relies on how much you eat. According to a study in 2000, your risk of a heart attack is four times higher after a heavy meal. And it remains that high for up to two hours.
Even if you don’t have a heart attack, overeating can raise your blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, says Northwestern Medicine. Nutrition scholar Marion Nestle argues that large portion sizes are a major cause of obesity in the U.S. To lower your portions, drink more water, and eat on smaller plates.
Don’t Exercise Sparingly–Form A Routine
Researcher David A. Gonzalez-Chica claimed that 70% of Americans don’t follow a regular exercise routine. You don’t need an intense workout to improve your heart. According to the British Medical Journal, even brisk walks can lower your chances of heart disease by 50%.
The American Heart Association claims that 30 minutes of exercise five days a week is enough to keep your heart healthy. A two-hour workout once every few weeks won’t cut it. Exercise not only regulates blood pressure, but it also kickstarts nitric oxide, which opens blood vessels.
Ouch, Long Commutes Hurt!
According to researchers, long, stressful commutes can have serious physical consequences. A study in the BMJ Journal noted that stressful commutes increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, walking or biking to work decreases your chances of disease.
Think about it: long commutes are stressful and sedentary. Richard Jackson, a UCLA professor of environmental health sciences, says that commutes raise your blood pressure, cortisol levels, and heart rate. When people feel stressed, they are more likely to eat unhealthily, too. Changing up your commute can do wonders for your heart.
Another Reason To Take Care Of Your Teeth
A 2019 study found that 68% of Americans don’t floss daily. If you’re one of them, know that oral health is closely connected to heart health. Research by the European Society of Cardiology concluded that poor oral habits increase the risk of heart disease.
In 2018, another study compared people who brush once a day to those who brush twice a day. If you brush once a day or less, you are three times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Scientists still don’t know whether this is correlation or causation, but either way, take care of your teeth.
Stop Eating “Empty Calories”
“Empty calories” means that a food has many calories but no heart-healthy minerals or nutrients. For instance, soda’s calories come from sugar, but it has little to no vitamins. In 2008, researchers determined that empty calories are a surefire route to heart disease.
Scientists define an empty-calorie diet as refined grains, high fat, and high sugar with few fruits or vegetables. Women who ate empty calories had a higher weight, blood pressure, and risk of cardiovascular disease. To prevent this, avoid sugary drinks and meals with little produce.
Depression Harms You Emotionally And Physically
People who leave mental health unchecked are more likely to get heart disease. According to medical director Nieca Goldberg, depression causes physiological symptoms such as inflammation, hormone imbalance, and higher blood glucose. Over time, your heart may suffer, metaphorically and physically.
Cardiologist Milena A. Gebska adds that heart disease and depression are co-dependent. People with heart disease have a higher risk of becoming depressed and vice-versa. Emotional distress is now a confirmed risk factor for blood vessel blockages. If you don’t seek medical attention for mental health, your heart may pay the price.
Financial Stress Could Lead To A Heart Attack
Seventy-two percent of Americans struggle with financial stress, according to the American Psychological Association. This can significantly harm your heart. In 2017, the South African Heart Association discovered that money concerns could raise your risk of heart disease 13-fold.
You don’t need acute money stress, either. According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, people with mild financial stress are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease. Of course, not everyone can control their financial worries. By learning to manage your stress, you can potentially save your heart.
You’re Probably Eating Too Much Red Meat
Red meat can be healthy if eaten sparingly. According to the CDC, most Americans eat 4.5 servings of red meat per week–which is far too much. In February 2020, scientists at Northwestern University reported that every two servings of red meat heightens your risk of a heart attack by up to 7%.
That said, research in Annals of Medicine asserts that the evidence linking red meat to heart disease is weak. Rather, it is processed meat–filled with sodium and trans fats–that pose the greatest risk.
Don’t Ignore Sleep Apnea
If you or someone you know snores loudly while sleeping, don’t ignore it. According to Harvard Health Publishing, sleep apnea directly correlates to heart disease; between 47% to 83% of people with heart disease have sleep apnea.
Why does sleep apnea hurt the heart? The American Heart Association explains that sleep apnea’s irregular breathing strains the body. High blood pressure and arrhythmia are common side effects of sleep apnea. If you suspect that you have this condition, talk to a medical professional for your heart’s sake.
Watch Out For Added Sugars
Although most people know not to over-consume sugar, many don’t look for added sugars. Even if you have a healthy weight, sugar can still increase your risk of heart disease, says JAMA Internal Medicine. People whose diets consist of 25% sugar are twice as likely to die than those who eat 10% sugar.
Many of these sugars are added to preserve foods. “The effects of added sugar intake — higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease — are all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke,” says Harvard doctor Frank Hu.
Want To Help Your Heart? Engage In Your Hobbies
Believe it or not, people who routinely engage in hobbies may live longer. In 2010, research in the journal Heart Vessels connected hobbies to heart health. Participants who did not engage in hobbies were more likely to suffer from heart disease than people who enjoy hobbies.
Why do these help? For one thing, some hobbies–such as gardening, painting, and knitting–require some level of physical activity. Psychologists believe that when people enjoy hobbies, their physiology improves, too. If you don’t have any routine hobbies, you may want to find one.
The Dangers Of Overworking Yourself
The Center for American PROGRESS reports that Americans are more overworked than any other country. For the sake of your heart, you may want to take a break. During a 2014 study, researchers from the University College London concluded that overworked people are more likely to experience a heart attack.
Participants who worked 55 hours a week were 33% more likely to suffer from a stroke, too. Stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine place strain on your heart, says Harvard Health Publishing. If you can, take more breaks.
Quell Your Anger
Angry outbursts have a strong physiological effect. According to Harvard Health, research shows that your risk of chest pain, heart attack, and stroke heighten after an angry outburst. If you’re at high risk, an angry outburst could be dangerous.
One study in the European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care found that intense anger raises your risk of heart attack by nine times. Angry people are far more likely to have a heart attack up to two hours after an outburst. If you struggle with hot-headedness, reach out to a medical professional for help.
Drinking Every Day Isn’t Healthy
Some health websites say that drinking daily can improve your heart. However, the keyword is “moderate” drinking, says cardiologist John William McEvoy. If you don’t limit yourself, you run the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and stroke.
The American Heart Association reminds people that alcohol–especially wine–has high calories and added sugars. Moderate intake means four ounces of wine (one glass) or 12 ounces of beer (one or two bottles). So, no, daily happy hour can’t be justified as heart-healthy.
Don’t Assume You’re Not At Risk
You’re never too young to consider heart health, says the American Heart Association. High blood pressure is called a “silent killer” for a reason. Even heart attacks can occur unnoticed.
Once you turn 20, the American Heart Association recommends checking your cholesterol levels every five years. Annual check-ups can also catch heart diseases before they develop. “The general point is that just because you didn’t have it at 24 doesn’t mean you don’t have it at 54,” says Dr. Robert Ostfeld of Montefiore Medical Center.