Take care of the heart that takes care of you

Take care of the heart that takes care of you

The human heart beats more than 100,000 times per day, pumping about four quarts of blood every minute. To ensure this vital muscle never misses a beat, it is important to keep your heart in tip-top condition.

In addition to exercise and a good diet, here are some things that can help ensure a healthy heart:
Practice good oral hygiene

People with gum disease (periodontitis) have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event, according to the Harvard Medical School. Studies show that bacteria in the mouth involved in the development of gum disease can move into the bloodstream and heart. Floss and brush teeth daily to ward off gum disease.

Avoid secondhand smoke
Studies show that the risk of developing heart disease is 25 to 30 percent higher for people who are exposed to secondhand smoke. According to the American Heart Association, nonsmokers who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol have an even greater risk of developing heart disease when exposed to secondhand smoke. This is because chemicals emitted from cigarette smoke promote the development of plaque buildup in the arteries.

Don’t sit too long
Research suggests that staying seated for long periods of time is bad for your health no matter how much exercise you do. Observational studies involving 800,000 people revealed a 147 percent increase in cardiovascular events – and a 90 percent increase in death caused by these events – among those who sat the most.

Eat healthy fats
Monounsaturated fats (avocado, almonds, olive oil) and polyunsaturated fats (fish, flax seeds, walnuts) are “good fats.” Trans fats (cakes, cookies, doughnuts) are known to increase the risk of heart disease or stroke. Trans fat clogs arteries by raising bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lowering good cholesterol levels (HDL). Look for food with 0 percent trans fat.

Get enough sleep
A study of 3,000 adults over age 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. Sleep apnea, which occurs when breathing repeatedly stops and starts, increases the risk of heart failure by 140 percent and coronary heart disease by 30 percent, according to the Sleep Foundation.