woman holding decorative heart

Improve Heart Health in Unique Ways

One of the leading causes of death is cardiovascular disease. Although we cannot change certain risk factors such as age and family history, we can help prevent cardiovascular disease and hope to live a long, healthy life. You probably know that  exercise and a healthy diet can help keep our hearts strong, but there are other means to improve heart health that you may not know. Here are six unique ways you can keep your heart healthy.

 

Crank up the music


Several studies have shown that music can have several positive effects on our bodies including lowering stress and even blood pressure. A study at Massachusetts General Hospital also found that heart patients who were confined to bed had slower heart rates, lower blood pressure, and less distress when they listened to music for 30 minutes each day. 1 So, pull out your favorite tunes, sit back and enjoy the improved heart health! 

 

Have a laugh


We have all heard the Old Testament proverb that “laughter is the best medicine” and have experienced positive emotional effects of having a laugh. Science is proving that there are more than just emotional benefits to laughter, however. Consequently, laughter can also helps our hearts pump stronger!  As we laugh, our blood vessels enlarge in diameter. This in return increases the blood flow like when we participate in aerobic exercise.

 

The University of Maryland also conducted a study and discovered that when people laugh at a funny movie scene, they experience improved blood flow. 2 So, head to the movies, turn on your favorite comedian or sitcom, and enjoy some laughs! 

 

Be kind


We know that high stress levels are not good for our hearts. When we are upset, cortisol, our stress hormone, increases and our blood pressure and inflammation rises. When we experience positive emotions though, our oxytocin levels rise, helping to improve heart health, and our cortisol levels drop. Being kind to others makes us feel better emotionally and just might improve heart health.


Consider the Mediterranean Diet


Many studies have had positive heart health conclusions when studying the Mediterranean diet. According to a 2013 study from Spain, a Mediterranean style of eating can reduce heart disease risk by as much as 30%. 3

The Mediterranean diet consists of green vegetables, nuts, avocados, fruits, beans, high-fiber grains, olives and olive oil,  and an occasional side of small, wild fish such as salmon. In this diet, individuals seldom consume red meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, sugary foods and drinks, and refined flours.


Love a Pet


Could your favorite canine or feline improve heart health? According to the American Heart Association (AHA), they can!  Studies show that having a pet can relieve stress, help increase fitness levels, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and increase happiness and wellbeing. 4

Studies on dog owners show that they tend to live longer, have lower risks for heart disease, better cholesterol profiles, less hypertension and are less vulnerable to stress. The reason for these positive results is not entirely clear, but it could be due to the fact that dog owners are generally more active than non-owners.  Either way, owning a pet who loves you unconditionally has plentiful emotional benefits.

If you’re not in a position to own a dog, local shelters often need volunteers to play with dogs. Consider playing with a friends dog or taking up dog walking and earn some extra cash too!

 

Offer a Hug


Oxytocin levels rise and cortisol level drop when we give and receive hugs. In a study by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, participants who hugged their partners had a slower heart rate up to 10 beats per minute than those who did not hug their partners.5

So, grab someone around you who needs a hug, and enjoy the improved heart health!

 

Good health is often about incorporating small changes in our routine. We hope this article encourages you to add some of these activities to your routine and  improve your heart health today!

Learn about Heart and Vascular Services at CCMH by visiting CCMHHealth.com/Heart-And-Vascular/.

 

Sources

1 Harvard Health Letter. Harvard Health Publishing. Nov. 2009. Using music to tune the heart.

2 Stein, Rob. Los Angeles Times. Apr. 2005.  Laughter helps blood go with the flow.

3 John Hopkins Medicine. Take Your Diet to the Mediterranean.

4 The American Heart Association. Apr. 2018. Can Your Pet Help You Be Healthier?

5 McColm, Jan. Endeavors. Jan. 2004. A Hug a Day  

 

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