February is Heart Health Month, and while this might feel like a great time to make major leaps towards a healthier heart, the reality is that the path to a healthier cardiovascular system is paved with small, simple and well-informed choices that add up to a greater good.
Choosing to take the stairs, lightening up on salty snacks or parking farther from the entrance to a building are all steps we can take on a daily basis to improve our health and are well-covered in other articles. In the following article, we will look at some less-commonly known ways that members of our community can lead heart-healthier lives.
Dental Health IS Heart Health
Did you know an individual’s oral health is often a good measurement of that person’s overall health?
It turns out those struggling with periodontal (gum) disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease. This linked risk is still being investigated, but researchers believe that gum disease-causing bacteria in the mouth can pass into an individual’s blood stream, causing an inflammation of the body’s bloodstream that causes excessive wear on the cardiovascular system.
To stay ahead of gum disease and in turn heart disease, simply make a point to brush and floss your teeth regularly, especially after meals and before bed. Also consider talking to your oral hygienist about special toothbrushes and mouthwash they recommend for your specific needs.
Sleep On It!
Many cardiologists recommend regular sessions of moderate exercise to promote heart health, but not everyone mentions the incredible healing power of sleep.
Studies differ on the magic number of hours we should sleep every day, but there is a general consensus that sleeping six to eight hours a night is far healthier than under or oversleeping.
To help your medical team provide you with better guidance, consider documenting how many hours you sleep every night and how you feel in the morning and report these findings during your next doctor’s visit.
A Body In Motion
Everyone knows that moderate cardio exercise throughout the week can have a big impact on your heart health, fewer people know that long stretches of inactivity can actually undo many of the benefits gained through exercise.
If you spend lots of time sitting at a desk, in bed or on a couch, it is absolutely critical that you periodically get up and move for a few minutes every hour. Doing so will keep your blood system circulating and lower your risk for deep vein thrombosis (blood clot).
Learn your fats
Our bodies need fat in our diets, but not all fats are the same. Researchers continue to learn more about how saturated, polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats impact our heart health, however there is a general consensus that trans fats should be avoided at all times, especially if you are already at risk for heart disease.
Trans fats do the exact opposite of what a healthy heart needs: increasing LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and decreasing HDL (good cholesterol) levels, constricting your body’s arteries and greatly increasing your risk of serious heart disease.
To avoid trans fats, simply pay more attention to the nutritional facts on food packaging and avoid items with “partially hydrogenated” oils listed as ingredients. Trans fats are typically found in prepackaged baked goods, snack foods, margarines and fried fast food.
Take it easy!
The links between high stress levels and heart disease are well-documented, but not fully understood at this time. That said, remembering to laugh, smile and share time with the friends, family and pets in your life can go a long way towards improving your overall health outlook. Conversely, the side effects of stress (poor sleep patterns and quality, binge eating, etc.) often have direct negative impacts on heart health.
SelectCare hopes you find these tips useful. Whether you are currently struggling to develop healthier habits at the suggestion of a doctor, or if the daily challenges of independent living are putting undue strain on your or your loved ones, now might be the best time to call SelectCare and learn how we help New Yorkers live happier, healthier lives in their long-time homes.