Who isn't looking for ways to improve their health? Keep it simple! You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that there are more (and easier) ways to lower your risk for heart disease — the leading cause of death in men and women — than the fab five:
- Eat right
- Lose weight
- Quit smoking
- Limit daily alcohol to 4 ounces for women and 8 ounces for men
While these are certainly the backbone of any sound health strategy, science is discovering a myriad of interesting, sometimes unexpected, ways to keep your heart healthy and happy. (Including breathing deeply!)
DRINK AT LEAST 5 GLASSES OF WATER A DAY. Drinking 40 ounces of water daily has been shown to cut the risk of dying from a heart attack by 41 percent for women and 54 percent for men, versus those who drank less than 16 ounces. The study, conducted by Loma Linda University in California, found dehydration can cause sluggish blood flow and increase the risk of clots.
Do it: We're not the first to tell you and we likely won't be the last, but drinking water is good for your health! Drink one 8-ounce glass every two hours to meet and even exceed your goal for the day. Plus, those extra trips to the kitchen or water cooler are also good for your heart.
Does coffee count? There's water in it. Coffee is a diuretic and flushes excess fluids from your body — basically, the opposite of hydration. But it's chock-full of healthy stuff, including caffeine. Drinking 6 to 18 ounces (typically one to three cups) of caffeinated coffee daily has been shown to reduce hospitalizations for abnormal heart rhythms by 20 percent. So enjoy your morning cup of joe in moderation, but don't count it as your water intake.
What about soda? There's water in it, I think. Okay, now you're reaching. A simple Google search reveals the huge number of studies proving the harmful effects of soda — both regular and diet. The University of Iowa found that healthy postmenopausal women who drank two or more diet sodas daily had a 30 percent increase in cardiovascular events and were 50 percent more likely to die from a related disease.
Other long-term studies found that men who drank just one can of a sugary beverage daily increased their risk of heart attacks by 20 percent and women who consumed more than two increased their risk by 40 percent. Need a little sugar fix? Have some heart-healthy dark chocolate instead.
TAKE YOUR BODY TO THE POTTY! If all this talk of beverages has you squirming in your seat, get up and go! Researchers at Taiwan University found that having a full bladder causes your heart to beat faster, putting additional stress on coronary arteries and possibly triggering contractions. If you're already susceptible to heart problems, this kind of contraction aggravates the situation.
Do it: And while you're there, check your urine. You'll know if you're getting enough hydrating, heart-healthy H2O if it's clear or pale yellow. If it's darker yellow or has a strong odor, get chugging. Added bonus: People who stay hydrated typically have softer stools and are less constipated.
REFUSE TO SPRING AHEAD. Reporting for work the Monday following the switch to daylight saving time increases the risk of having a heart attack by a whopping 25 percent compared to other Mondays of the year, reports a University of Colorado study. Since Monday is already the day of the week when most heart attacks occur, putting in for time off isn't a bad idea.
Do it: The issue with daylight saving time is that you're losing an hour of sleep, which for the vast numbers of already sleep-deprived people is compounding an existing problem. Getting just one extra hour of sleep can prevent the buildup of calcium deposits in your arteries, helping to lower your risk of heart disease by 48 percent. Too much sleep isn't good either, and can raise your risk for heart disease by 38 percent. Aim for seven to nine hours a night.
What if my boss says no? Feeling unappreciated in your job or working in a negative environment may make you 40 percent more likely to have a heart attack, according to a Swedish study. So it may be time to look for ways to relieve stress on the job.
What if my boss says yes? Plan a trip! Taking regular vacations has been shown to lower your heart attack risk by nearly one-third.
Do you know how healthy your heart is?
Take the Heart Risk Assessment to calculate your personal risk factors for heart disease and take steps to decrease them today.
In case of a heart emergency, dial 911 or head to your nearest ER immediately. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered so you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.
Or, learn more about the Accredited Chest Pain Centers and heart and vascular services available at the hospitals of Medical City Healthcare.