Everyone wants to have a healthy heart. Still, cardiovascular disease affects more than 1 in 3 adults in the United States.
The good news is that some simple, everyday habits can make a big difference in your ability to live a healthy lifestyle.
Here are the 17 worst habits for your heart, and how to avoid them.
Sitting for hours on end increases your risk of heart attack and stroke, even if you exercise regularly.
“Intermittent exercise doesn’t compensate for the time you sit,” says Harmony R. Reynolds, MD, associate director of the Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.
Why? The lack of movement may affect blood levels of fats and sugars.
Dr. Reynolds advises walking around periodically and, if you’re at work, standing up to talk on the phone.
Leaving hostility and depression unchecked
Are you feeling stressed, hostile, or depressed? It can take a toll on your heart.
While everyone feels this way some of the time, how you handle these emotions can affect your heart health. “Those likely to internalize stress are in greater danger; research has shown a benefit to laughter and social support,” Dr. Reynolds says.
“And it’s helpful to be able to go to someone and talk about your problems.”
Ignoring the snoring
More than a minor annoyance, snoring can be a sign of something more serious: obstructive sleep apnea. This disorder, marked by breathing that is interrupted during sleep, can cause blood pressure to skyrocket.
More than 18 million Americans adults have sleep apnea, which increases the risk of heart disease. People who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for sleep apnea, but slim people can have it too.
If you snore and often wake up feeling tired, talk with your doctor; there are easy ways to screen for apnea, says Robert Ostfeld, MD, s cardiologist and director of preventive cardiology at Montefiore Health System, in New York City.
While the exact reason is unknown, there is a strong link between gum disease and heart disease, Dr. Ostfeld says.
If you don’t floss, sticky, bacteria-laden plaque build up over time, which can lead to gum disease. One theory is that these bacteria trigger inflammation in the body.
“Inflammation promotes all aspects of atherosclerosis,” Dr. Ostfeld says. Treating gum disease can improve blood vessel function.
Withdrawing from the world
It’s no secret that on some days, other human beings can seem annoying, irritating, and just plain difficult to get along with.
However, it makes sense to strengthen your connections to the ones you actually like. People with stronger connections to family, friends, and society in general tend to live longer, healthier lives.
Everyone needs alone time, but you should still reach out to others and keep in touch whenever you can.
You’re either all or nothing
Call it the Weekend Warrior Syndrome.
“I see so many people in their 40s and 50s dive into exercising with good intentions, hurt themselves, and then stop exercising all together,” says Judith S. Hochman, MD, director of the Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center at NYU’s Langone Medical Center.
With exercise, it’s wise to aim for slow and steady. “It’s more important to have a regular exercise commitment,” says Dr. Reynolds. “Be in it for the long game.”