Wednesday, March 5, 2014

4 Bad Habits That Hurt Your Heart

Did you know that your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood through your body each day? How about that, in the average lifetime, the heart creates enough energy to drive a truck to the moon and back? Did you know that a large part of your healthcare provider’s medical equipment rental includes cardiology supplies like EKGs, stethoscopes, and defibrillators? The heart gets a lot of attention because it has a big job to do. 

The universal symbol of love, your heart is your body’s hardest-working muscle, supplying you with oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood all day and night. It’s easy to take your heart for granted considering you don’t really see it, but that lack of awareness can have some serious repercussions. However, you can do your part to ensure good cardiovascular health. Let’s take a look at some bad habits that hurt your heart. 

1. You don’t floss. As your dentist has told you after every appointment, you need to brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day. Most of us don’t have a problem with the brushing part, but flossing is far less common although it’s just as important. Flossing maintains the health of your gums and pearly white smile, but studies show that flossing can also prevent heart disease. 

 2. You drink a lot of soda, fruit juice, or sweet tea. Sweeteners contain sugar and fructose, both of which can raise triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are the main form of fat in the human body. Although you need triglycerides for stored energy, high levels of triglycerides contribute to hardened arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. The sweeteners in soda can also lead to weight gain, which puts extra strain on your heart. Reserve sodas and other sugary beverages for special occasions, and make water your drink of choice. Water is cheap, convenient, and won’t raise your triglyceride levels.

 3. You’re a hothead. Even the most Zen individuals have their moments of anger, but are you constantly flying off the handle at work, at home, and in traffic? Anger is good for releasing tension, but if you are prone to chronic bouts of rage, you’re hurting more than just the feelings of those around you. Many studies suggest a direct, physiological link between anger and heart disease. When you get mad, you activate your body’s fight-or-flight response, which is a necessary survival instinct that gets you ready to escape or confront potential danger. This involves flooding your body with stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, that speed up your heart rate, constrict your blood vessels, and raise your blood pressure. Constantly flooding your body with these chemicals taxes your heart, causing long-term wear and tear to the arteries. Find a healthy way to deal with your anger. If it’s becoming a big problem, consult your doctor and consider enrolling in anger management courses.

 4. You skip meals. You don’t mean to do it. Maybe you were caught up in your work or didn’t have the opportunity to grab some lunch with all the meetings in your schedule, but skipping meals puts a lot of strain on your body. Regularly skipping meals can lead to insulin sensitivities, causing an imbalance in blood sugar that could eventually lead to diabetes. Diabetes can lead to high blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart disease. Then there’s the mere fact that starving yourself often leaves you reaching for whatever might be convenient later on, whether it’s greasy burgers, fried foods, or potato chips. There’s really nothing good about skipping meals, and that includes breakfast. Make sure you eat four to five small meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar and energy up. Turn those bad habits into good habits that keep your heart going. 

Good luck!