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5 Sneaky Habits That Sabotage Your Heart

Heart Hands

Photo courtesy of Spark People

We all know that for optimum heart health we need to eat a healthy diet, exercise and not smoke. But little things you do every day can also have a big impact on the most important muscle in your body. Are you guilty of any of these seemingly innocent mistakes?

1. You fly off the handle. Do you suffer from regular bouts of rage or intense anger at home, at work or in traffic? If so, your angry temperament may be hurting more than the people around you. While moderate anger can be a good way to release tension, explosive anger or chronic bouts of rage can increase your risk of heart disease. Anger and anxiety have been shown to increase blood pressure, disrupt the electrical impulses of the heart and possibly speed up the process of atherosclerosis, a fatty build up in the arteries.

2. You sleep too much (or too little). Getting fewer than five—or more than nine—hours of sleep a night can hurt your heart because both extremes elevate blood pressure and levels of stress hormones. In fact, the Nurses’ Health Study of more than 71,000 women, ages 45 to 65, found that sleeping five or fewer hours each night increased the risk of coronary disease by a whopping 45%. Those who regularly slept nine or more hours had a 38% greater risk than those who slept eight hours—even after taking snoring and smoking in account.

3. You don't floss regularly. You may think that regular flossing just helps keep your pearly whites in tip-top shape, but research shows that dental disease and cardiac health are correlated. Researchers believe that inflammation from gum disease allows bacteria to enter your mouth’s blood vessels, travel into the coronary artery vessels, and narrow their passages. This reduces blood flow, which hurts the heart. In fact, people with coronary artery disease are 38% more likely to also have gum disease. While research is still being done in this area, it's best to keep that mouth healthy!

4. You see the glass as half empty. Looking on the bright side isn't just about improving your mental state; it's also a boon to your heart. In a groundbreaking 2009 issue of the American Heart Association journal Circulation, researchers found that not only did optimism seem to protect against heart disease and death but also that pessimism seemed to increase the risk. Pessimists were more likely than optimists to have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and suffer from depression (which has also been linked to poor heart health). Cynics are also more likely to be overweight, smoke and avoid exercise. All reason to start focusing on what's good in life, right?

5. You think secondhand smoke is no big deal. While the association between tobacco use and heart disease is undeniable, did you know that secondhand smoke also harm your heart? Constant exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace or at home nearly doubles a person's risk of having a heart attack.

Continued: 3 More Bad Habits for Your Heart. Plus: How to Combat All of These Saboteurs!


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