Heart attacks and strokes are the two most prevalent types of cardiovascular disease (CVD) that kill more than 800,000 Americans every year. Even if your lifestyle is healthy—you eat right and exercise—you may be at risk for heart disease if you make one or more of these all-too-common (but surprising) mistakes.
You Don’t Floss. WebMD says that “[p]eople with gum disease are more likely to have heart disease, too. The connection isn’t clear, but some experts think bacteria from your gums may move into your bloodstream, leading to inflammation of the blood vessels and other heart problems. See your dentist every six months for checkups. Make an appointment right away if you spot redness or soreness on your gums or changes in your teeth.”
You Retreat into Your Shell. People with robust connections to family, friends, and society in general are not only more likely to live longer and avoid a CVD, but enjoy better health throughout their lives. “It’s no secret that on some days, other human beings can seem annoying, irritating, and just plain difficult to get along with…but you should still reach out to others and keep in touch whenever you can,” according to health.com. WebMD suggest that “if you’re not near family or close friends, get connected by helping someone in need, or adopt a dog or cat. Volunteers and dog owners might enjoy better heart health and live longer, too.”
You Get Stuck in Traffic. Research shows a clear link to spending time—even as little as one hour a day—in bumper-to-bumper traffic to an increased chance of having a heart attack. The stress of heavy traffic almost certainly contributes to damaging your heart, but high noise levels like that on a freeway also may be a factor, medical experts say.
You Drink Diet Sodas. We think that a diet drink is healthier than the high octane sugared version. It is healthier but not without its own risks. Studies cited by AARP Magazine “found that people who drank diet sodas daily had a 36 percent greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome [a cluster of conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, and stroke] and a 67 percent greater risk of diabetes. Both of these conditions significantly raise the odds of having a stroke or heart attack.” If you want bubbles in your beverage try sparkling water with a wedge of lemon or lime.
You Miss Your Flu Shot. Understandably we have all been focused on the COVID-19 vaccine over the past several months. While it may be easy to overlook your annual flu shot, you shouldn’t forget it. Medical experts say that if you get the flu you are six times more likely to suffer a heart attack or other cardiovascular disease event.
You Add Cream or Sugar to Your Coffee. Recent medical studies have brought good news to coffee drinkers. The American Heart Association says that “habitual coffee drinking has been linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease in women.” However, that only applies to black coffee. Adding cream or sugar negates the positive effects of coffee. “That warning goes double for even fancier coffee drinks [where] [v]ery quickly, calories can add up, and weight gain will create negative effects on cardiac risk.”
A few simple tweaks to your everyday habits could pay big dividends with a healthier heart, but lifestyle changes are not easy nor do they happen quickly. “In fact, according to a study that appeared in the British Journal of General Practice in 2012, it takes about 66 days for a practiced behavior to become a habit,” reports Everydayhealth.com. This website advises, “practice patience and follow these steps to make your heart-healthy changes stick:
Write out a list of the changes you want to make. Putting goals down on paper makes them tangible and creates a guide you can follow. Just be sure you’re as realistic and specific as possible.
Break down your goals into manageable milestones. Don’t try to make all the changes at once.
Gradually add new changes. When a change starts to become second nature, add another goal. Keep doing this until you reach the end of your list.”
The information contained in this article is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for informational purposes only.