How To Have A Healthy Heart

How to have a healthy heart: Calm your mind

Stress and heart disease go hand-in-hand, says Dr Martha Gulati, director of women’s cardiovascular health at Ohio State University, US. If you’re constantly frazzled, your body’s high levels of stress hormone cortisol can lead to a rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure, a potentially deadly combo. Too much cortisol can damage arterial linings, making it harder for blood to deliver nutrients to your organs.

Knock down your stress level by hitting the mat! A study published in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics found that heart rate variability, a sign of a healthy heart, has been shown to be higher in yoga practitioners than in non-practitioners.

Lauren Maher, a yoga therapist, recommends starting with the uber-relaxing “cat-cow” pose: get onto your hands and knees and slowly inhale while arching your back toward the ceiling; slowly exhale and round your back down toward the floor. Repeat for three minutes.

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How to have a healthy heart: Have more sex

Getting busy at least twice a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and reducing stress, recommends obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Andrew Scheinfield. You’ll still be helping your heart even if you don’t always reach the big O; researchers suspect that just being aroused can trigger your brain to release hormones such as dehydroepiandrosterone, which may improve circulatory-system function and boost cardiac performance.

No partner? No worries. “I encourage my patients to take matters into their own hands,” says Dr Scheinfeld. And science backs him up. Numerous studies show that women who experience increased sexual frequency and satisfaction – with a mate or on their own – have a greater resistance to heart disease.

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How to have a healthy heart: Floss every day

Gum disease doesn’t just make for foul breath and a mangled smile – it’s also murder on your heart. If you’re breeding bacteria between your teeth, your immune system is on chronic high alert, a condition called inflammation that taxes your vital organs, including your heart.

In fact, a woman’s chance of having a heart attack may double if she has gum disease, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, US. Flossing is the best way to banish oral bacteria, so whip out that string every night before brushing your teeth, says dentist Dr Mark Schlesinger.

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How to have a healthy heart: Get a move on!

Consider this: on a minute-by-minute basis, your heart muscle labours twice as hard as your leg muscles during a sprint. And you have to work your heart out to keep it working. The Heart Foundation recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, on most, if not all, days of the week (think brisk walking or cycling) and that regular vigorous activity (ie cardio that’s intense enough to make carrying on a conversation difficult) gives you extra protection against heart disease. But the most important aspect of exercise is making it a habit. “Time is not as important as frequency,” says fitness coach Scott Danberg. Start easy with a 15-minute workout like this Total-body strength workout.

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How to have a healthy heart: Skip the salt

You should bypass most salt shakers, says cardiologist Dr Ashley Simmons. Your body counteracts sodium intake by releasing extra water into the blood, leading to increased blood volume and a seriously overloaded heart.

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