Your heart is a pretty important organ. It’s sort of like the Mama of the body, and when it ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, as they say.
There are obvious things you can do to give your heart a healthy boost, like eat the right foods and get regular exercise (30 minutes a day, five days a week is ideal), and then there are the less obvious things that promote heart health.
5 Lesser-Known Tips for Heart Health in Women
Here are some of the surprising things you can do to protect your heart, and promote its well-being.
Brush your teeth, floss and visit the dentist
Yep, it’s true. Gingivitis (gum disease) and other dental issues are linked to heart disease. For one thing, the plaque that builds up on your teeth can become dislodged, enter your bloodstream and have been found in the arteries of the heart, as has the oral bacteria that causes gum and periodontal disease. Oral bacteria also trigger an inflammatory response, which reduces the blood circulation and can lead to blood clots. Brushing and flossing daily, and visiting your dentist every six months (more if your dentist says so) will help to prevent gum disease and other periodontal conditions associated with heart disease.
Get a good night’s sleep
Poor sleep habits are linked to high-pressure, which is a known risk factor for both heart disease and heart attacks. The average adult needs at least seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night. If you’re not getting that, make sleep a priority. In addition to your heart, healthy sleep habits are also good for overall well-being, including mental alertness, positive outlooks, higher energy levels throughout the day and a faster metabolism (yep, healthy sleep can help you lose weight too). Visit the Sleep Education website to learn more about establishing healthy sleep habits for yourself and your family.
Being proactive about migraines
In an ongoing study of more than 28,000 women, researchers found a distinct link between women with severe migraines (the type with an aura, often preceded by seeing spots or a blinding light) and heart attacks. In fact, after high-blood pressure, these severe migraines were considered the second-strongest contributor to both heart attacks and strokes. If you suffer from migraines, researchers recommend doing all you can to establish your own triggers and mitigate them, including quitting smoking, eliminating alcohol and caffeine as much as possible, getting regular exercise and working with a doctor to get migraines under control.
Take advantage of anger (and stress) management practices
Do you spend a lot of mental and emotional energy feeling angry, furious or enraged? If so, a 2014 article, published in the European Heart Journal says you are five-times more likely to have a heart attack. And, equally interesting, a 2016 study published in Circulation found that those who worked out in order to burn off their anger (exercising while still enraged) were three times more likely to have a heart attack. The first moral of the story is work to decrease anger and chronic stress as much as you can. The second, as recommended by the experts conducting these studies, is to calm down before working out to minimize strain on your heart. Breathing, meditating, taking conscious walks in nature, keeping a gratitude journal, working with a therapist to facilitate latent anger from past or present life scenarios are also ways to help release the bad and facilitate the good – which is proven to be better for your heart.
Minimize use of over-the-counter pain medications
Pain killers – both prescribed and over the counter – often include the active ingredients ibuprofen or naproxen (examples include Aleve, Motrin or Advil). When these products first created their fine print warning labels, the labels said that use of these medications “may cause” an increased risk for heart problems, including heart attack and stroke. However, continued research has established a marked connection between the risk of heart attack or stroke and the use of pain meds containing ibuprofen or naproxen, even when they’re only used for a short time. Now, the FDA has forced the manufacturers of these meds to change the verbiage from “may cause” to “cause.” These types of medications should always be used sparingly, but those with a history of heart disease or who have elevated risk factors should be especially careful. Talk to your doctor about more natural or alternative pain relief methods so you don’t have to use medications long-term.
Other, lesser-known ways to reduce your risk of a heart attack include snuggling with the ones you love, reducing time spent in front of the TV, avoiding peak traffic times, being a dog owner and laughing more often. Now it’s your turn to go out there and do something positive for your heart.