February is the month for love, candy and valentines. But it is also the month to remember your heart, the organ in your body that really has nothing to do with emotions but a lot to do with giving life and death, especially if we don’t take care of it. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
Recent research has found that one out of every three baby boomers will develop medical problems which may lead to strokes or myocardial infarctions (heart attacks).
The study also listed some surprising and some not-so-surprising heart health risks that we may be able to prevent if small changes are made in our life styles.
It is unbelievable, but noise levels have been shown to be a risk factor. The noisy neighborhood can influence your heart health. Work environment, stress factors and chaotic, disruptive situations are hazards to be aware of.
Your sleep habits also make you vulnerable to heart problems. A study out of Canada has shown that sleep deprivation, especially in teens or people with long-term unhealthy sleep habits, can be a risk for cardiac issues. People that don’t sleep well tend to have hypertension, weight gain, diabetes or other blood sugar issues. These symptoms may lead to more serious illness and diseases.
Obesity and bad diet are other heart risk factors. Not only does obesity affect sleep, perhaps involving sleep apnea, but also the diet that leads to obesity may also be a detriment to your heart. A healthy heart diet includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish and low fat protein choices.
A good heart healthy diet does not include processed food, white flour starches or lots of red meat. Some foods that are especially good and are high in antioxidants include blueberries and strawberries. Probiotics, those products that increase micro-digestion, such as yogurts, help cholesterol levels. Fiber products are also a must for a healthy colon; they aid in digestion, are an excellent source of protein and also reduce cholesterol levels.
Habits for a healthy heart should start early in life. These include healthy diets, weekly exercise, smoking cessation and limiting alcohol intake. Teaching these few habits to children is important; however, it is never too late to for anyone to adopt a better life style.
For instance, a Mayo Clinic health care study showed that recent laws banning smoking in many public places have decreased heart attack rates as much as 33 percent in a community in Minnesota. The investigators believed that if a person could no longer smoke in public areas, they were more likely to quit or at least cut down on cigarette consumption.
Another interesting study showed that unemployment can not only hurt your pocketbook, but it can also hurt your heart. This paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine noted that unemployed people were more likely to have heart risks and develop cardiac problems than people that were employed. Hypertension illnesses related to smoking and stress related syndromes were also linked to the people noted in this study.
The seasons and your location also may be a cardiac risk factor. Have you noticed that many times cold winters bring illnesses? That also includes cardiac problems. Physiologically, blood vessels constrict during colder weather and also people are more sedentary during the colder days. Holiday binge eating, depression and stress have also been noted as possible contributors to winter heart attacks.
This Valentine’s Day, skip the champagne and candy and give your heart some love instead. You’ll be glad you did.