When it comes to your physical heart, out of sight, out of mind, and since most conditions don’t come equipped with a neon warning label, we often downplay the signs. Moreover, we ignore what we may be doing to abet them. “Heart disease” is coined as a group of conditions that have a direct impact on your heart. While many of these conditions can be intercepted through healthy habits (see: balanced diet, regular exercise and limiting things like alcohol and cigarettes), when it comes to age, these disorders don’t discriminate. With strokes on the rise for the under-30’s, it’s time to pull the blinds off heart disease. We’ve listed 5 sins of heart health that you may be committing (and how to stop doing them immediately).
You’re off your dental game
Who would have thought bacteria could travel from mouth to heart?! Once the bacilli hit your blood stream, they cause an increase of C - reactive protein in blood, acting as an inflamer in the blood vessels and raising the risk of heart disease and stroke. What’s more? Studies have shown the state of your teeth as a really good indication of both your heart, and overall, health. Turns out that those who suffer from periodontal diseases (said to be infections of your gums and teeth) suffer the same risks as those who suffer from heart disease. A good work-around? Try brushing daily and flossing regularly to stave off bad bacteria and keep your heart intact.
You ignore the snoring
Snoring is caused by an obstruction of the tongue in the back of the throat. While some may look at this condition as a simple nuisance, its impacts are resounding. Not only does it disrupt your sleep and leave you feeling restless, but it’s often a very good sign that you may also be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. OSA occurs when your upper airway is partly or mostly blocked while you sleep. This sends your diaphragm and chest muscles into overdrive, shortening your breath and limiting your brain’s access to oxygen. Your brain encloses chemicals that trigger breathing. This can fail in people who snore, forcing oxygen levels to drop drastically, and hormones like cortisone and adrenaline to spike. These not only contribute to high blood pressure but can cause heart failures or atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) that can onset stroke or heart failure. The gold standard for snoring relief? CPAP. CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) treatment blows air directly into the airways to keep them open throughout the rest period, taking a load off your heart. If you suspect you may snore, contact your trusted health practitioner to determine what solution may be best for you.
You cut corners on sleep
Snoring can leave you feeling restless, but lack of sleep altogether can leave you way more than lethargic. Some of us cut sleep short for life’s obligations, but a large segment suffers from things like insomnia or other sleep disorders. A lack of sleep can cause a spike in insulin levels, a huge contributor to both type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Cutting sleep short can increase the presence of C-reactive protein. This is tied to both stress and inflammation and plays a huge role in cardiovascular and heart dysfunction. Less than 6 hours per night is particularly bad for the heart, with sleep-deprived people having higher blood levels of stress hormone. Insufficient sleep may also have a significant impact on brain reward systems that govern energy, judgment and food choice. Further, skimping on sleep can cause issues with biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure levels and inflammation. Make sure you’re getting your 8 hours a day but be careful not to oversleep – that isn’t any good for you, either.
You are feeling withdrawn
It’s true what they say: you can really feel a broken heart. Studies have found loneliness, also understood as social isolation or the perception of it, has been shown as a real factor in poor heart health. The science? Individuals identifying as lonely often have increased peripheral vascular resistance and elevated blood pressure. This is the resistance that stops blood from properly circulating, creating an obstacle for the blood flow and system. Research from the University of York suggests that both loneliness and social isolation are linked to 29% of increased risk of heart attacks or angina, as well as 32% increase in risk of stroke. Though this can be difficult to combat, taking action is your best shot. Try volunteering or adopting a pet from a local shelter. A little bond goes a long way.
Your diet lacks colour
A beige plate typically means low nutrition. When food is fried, it has typically absorbed lots of fatty oils. When consumed, those oils head straight for your heart, raising blood pressure and cholesterol levels, leaving you more susceptible to ailments like heart disease. Processed foods are also to be avoided, as they lead to inflammation, the leading cause of heart disease. A good way to limit your exposure is by adding fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as lean protein to your diet. As a rule of thumb, remember this: the more colour you’ve added to your plate, the more good you are doing for your heart.
- Fries, W. C. (2018, April 25). 6 Simple Steps to Keep Your Heart Healthy. Retrieved from Web MD
- Xia, N., & Li, H. (2018). Loneliness, Social Isolation, and Cardiovascular Health. Antioxidants & redox signaling, 28(9), 837-851.
- CHOPIK, W. J. (2017), Associations among relational values, support, health, and well‐being across the adult lifespan. Pers Relationship, 24: 408-422. doi:10.1111/pere.12187
- Rubenfire, M. (2017, February 6). How Chronic Snoring Can Cause Heart Disease. Retrieved from https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/heart-health/how-chronic-snoring-can-cause-heart-disease
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2017, September). A good night's sleep: Advice to take to heart. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/a-good-nights-sleep-advice-to-take-to-heart