(AscendHealthy.com) – Most of us do what we can to stay on top of our heart health. A balanced diet, regular exercise and efforts not to abuse tobacco and alcohol can go a long way to extend our lives and keep us feeling our best. Still, we could be holding on to damaging behaviors that undermine all that hard work, quietly harming our cardiovascular systems and putting us at risk for heart attacks and strokes.
One bad habit could tip the balance between having a well-functioning cardiovascular system and suffering one or more preventable, possibly even deadly, complications. Check out these seven daily habits that could have long-term effects on the heart.
1. Staying Up Too Late
It seems there’s never enough time in each day to squeeze in everything we want to do, and staying up late can feel like a decent solution — at least until morning rolls around. The American Heart Association recently published a report on the effects of poor sleep quality on our health. According to the analysis, people who get fewer than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night are more likely to die from some form of cardiovascular event.
2. Ignoring Depression
Depression can kill — or at the very least, it can worsen existing risk factors. Research has shown people who are depressed have higher risks of suffering from coronary heart disease (CHD). Even more, depressed individuals with CHD are more likely to die from it. Experts believe treating depression to reduce its impact on sufferers’ lives may positively affect heart health risks.
3. Blowing Off Social Interaction
Perhaps related to depression and similar factors, low levels of social interaction may also lead to increases in heart-related deaths. One study investigating the health outcomes of 28,369 men between ages 42 and 77 found those who experienced social isolation were 1.82 times more likely to die from CHD. Isolation appears to accelerate aging, increasing not only cardiovascular risks but also those of overall health issues.
4. Poor Stress Management
Stress can be another real killer. When stress is left unaddressed, particularly in people highly prone to anxiety, cardiovascular risks can skyrocket. Research has shown anxiety disorders and mismanaged stress may increase unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco or alcohol abuse. In addition, the physical stress of recurring emotional ups and downs may trigger chronic inflammation that can impact the cardiovascular system.
5. Regular Alcohol Intake
Let’s face it, alcohol is toxic — and even low to moderate alcohol consumption might take a greater toll on the body than previously believed. According to one study, the more alcohol a person drinks, the higher their chances of experiencing heart disease. However, there does appear to be one loophole: Moderate drinkers might mitigate some of those risks by switching their drink of choice to wine.
6. Driving Congested Commutes
About 10 million US residents commute for 2 hours or more each day, according to an EPA report, and its health effects on the heart are measurable. Driving in traffic has been shown to cause lung inflammation and reduced variability in heart rate, both of which increase cardiovascular risks.
Exposure to vehicle exhaust is likely the biggest issue, forcing the ingestion of multiple pollutants that can interfere with healthy functioning. People concerned about the effects of commuting on their health should consider looking into options to reduce their time on the road.
7. Rushing the Oral Hygiene Routine
Researchers have only begun to explore the link between oral and cardiovascular health, but it’s clear that bacteria in the mouth can have serious impacts on the heart. Research has demonstrated a connection between oral infections and certain types of heart disease.
The American Dental Association also acknowledges the link. It advises the use of antibiotics before dental procedures that could require the cutting or puncturing of the gums for patients with pre-existing heart conditions.
Our heart health is dependent on the choices we make every day, and diet and exercise are only two of many lifestyle factors each of us should be considering. Some habits are more harmful than others, and they may compound one another, so the fewer bad habits we keep, the better off our cardiovascular systems are likely to be.
~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension
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