Don’t sit for too long at one time.
In recent years, research has suggested that staying seated for long periods of time is bad for your health no matter how much exercise you do. This is bad news for the many people who sit at sedentary jobs all day. When looking at the combined results of several observational studies that included nearly 800,000 people, researchers found that in those who sat the most, there was an associated 147 percent increase in cardiovascular events and a 90 percent increase in death caused by these events. In addition, sitting for long periods of time (especially when traveling) increases your risk of deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot). TIP: Experts say it’s important to move throughout the day. Park farther away from the office, take a few shorter walks throughout the day and/or use a standing work station so you can move up and down. And remember to exercise on most days.
Get enough sleep.
Sleep is an essential part of keeping your heart healthy. If you don’t sleep enough, you may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease no matter your age or other health habits. One study looking at 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. Researchers believe sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes, including blood pressure and inflammation. TIP: Make sleep a priority. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep most nights. If you have sleep apnea, you should be treated as this condition is linked to heart disease and arrhythmias.
Doing absolutely nothing can be a big part of keeping your heart healthy. Be sure to “relax and unplug daily,” says Moores. “Stress is a significant villain of heart health and really any health issue. It can wreak havoc.”
Carve out time for yourself regularly. Walk away from the computer, the phone, and other distractions. Make time to recharge your batteries, to find both energy and calm.
Work Toward a Healthy Body Weight
Gaining weight is a constant threat for most Americans in our world of cheap, convenient, and decadent foods. And extra pounds — especially if you tip into obesity — raise the risk of a heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure.
Now the good news: Losing even a few pounds starts you on the road to a healthier heart. Lose a few more and you’re likely to have more energy and sleep better, too. Here are the basics:
- Go for good nutrition: Choose foods that are rich in nutrients, not just empty calories. A can of regular cola has over 120 calories and a lot of added sugar. Added sugar can give you a lot of empty calories without a lot of nutritional benefits. For a nutrient-packed snack worth the calories, try a palmful of mixed nuts. That has about 165 calories and is packed with protein and heart-healthy fats.
- Balance calories: Be aware of the balance between the calories you eat and the calories your body needs. To lose weight, eat fewer calories than you burn.
- Get physical: Get moving at least 30 minutes daily, most days of the week. Children and teens need at least 60 minutes of activity each day.