Your heart is one of the most active organs in your body. It is also one of the most vulnerable body parts and can malfunction if not well cared for. Although we don’t realise it, most of us have developed habits that are harmful to our hearts.
Sitting for long hours
Most of us spend hours in the office seated. Whilst at home a lot of us are too mentally and physically exhausted to work out and find ourselves spending the entire evening in front of the television. This sedentary lifestyle is dangerous for your heart. Studies have found that people who sit for long hours daily have double the risk of getting a heart attack than their more active counterparts. If you cannot find time to exercise before or after work, try and fit it into your day in the office. Stand up whilst talking on the phone, walk around periodically, use the stairs instead of lifts and use your lunch break as an opportunity to go for a brisk walk.
Poor dental hygiene
Failure to regularly brush your teeth and floss can lead to gum disease. Severe gum disease has been associated with development of heart disease. The exact mechanism is not known but it is thought to be a result of inflammation.
Snoring can be annoying for your sleeping partner and most of us only think about it as a minor inconvenience. However, snoring can be a sign of something more serious — a medical condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). People with OSA have episodes during sleep when they stop breathing. This interrupted breathing pattern can negatively affect your blood pressure and has been associated with increased risk of heart disease.
Drinking too much alcohol
There has been a lot of debate about the pros and cons of alcohol and the effects on your heart. Several studies shown that a small amount of alcohol may be good for your heart. However, too much alcohol can be dangerous for your heart. It has been linked to a greater risk of high blood pressure, unwanted weight gain and even heart failure. If you wish to drink alcohol, stick to two drinks per day for men, and one drink a day for women. (One drink is roughly the equivalent of a small can of beer or small glass of wine).
Smoking or living with a smoker
Smoking damages your blood vessels, has been associated with blood clots, cardiac arrests and strokes. Although being a smoker is dangerous, living with a smoker and inhaling second hand smoke can be equally harmful. People who have never smoked but live or work with smokers have been known to die from smoke related complications.
Ignoring body’s warning signs
Often, the heart gives warning signs if you are in imminent danger of a getting a cardiac event. You may notice that you are short of breath after climbing up a flight of stairs which you were previously comfortable climbing. Or you may get chest pain during sexual intercourse. Do not ignore these symptoms. Always get a medical review and do not assume that it’s because you are getting older or because you are out of shape.
Too much salt
Ingesting too much salt can raise your blood pressure levels which can ultimately damage your heart. Most of us do not consciously ingest too much salt.
It is ‘hidden’ in our favourite snacks and processed meats. To reduce your salt intake, avoid adding it to cooked food (most meats and vegetables have natural salts and do not require you to add any more). If you find the food too bland, cook with herbs. In addition, avoid salted snacks and processed meats.
Poor food choices
Foods high in sugar, fat and alcoholic beverages deliver lots of calories, but are often low in nutrients.
These meal choices can lead to obesity and which increases your chances of getting hypertension and heart disease. The most ‘heart-friendly’ foods are plant based. They are rich in vital nutrients and low in sugar and fats. People who take in at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day have been found to be at a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes then those who don’t.
Stopping or skipping medication
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is known as a silent disease. This is because it often gives you no symptoms as it damages your body. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor will start you on medication even though you are not feeling unwell. The medication is meant to reduce the pressure and prevent your organs from getting destroyed.
Most people fail to take their medication because they do not notice any positive changes in the quality of their lives whilst on treatment. In addition, some suffer from side effects of their medication.
Do not stop taking your high blood pressure medication because you are feeling fine.
It can have a disastrous outcome. Many stroke and heart attack patients report that they were not faithful to their anti-hypertension drug regimen. If you have unwanted side effects, talk to your doctor about changing medication.