It is so easy to go a day, a week, even a year and never think about the fact that it is a friggin’ miracle that a muscle the size of a fist is pumping gallons of blood daily. Yes, I am talking about the heart muscle. After practicing cardiology for nearly 30 years, I wish we literally wore our hearts on our sleeves so we could see them and think about maintaining them with healthy habits. But hearts are buried deep in our chest so we'ree unaware we're doing things to harm them. We had some reminders of the fragile nature of the heart with celebrity deaths. In March 2016 we lost Garry Shandling to a pulmonary embolus (blood clot) to his lungs. In December 2016 we lost Alan Thicke to a dissected and ruptured aorta while playing hockey with his son and shortly after we lost Carrie Fisher to an apparent heart attack and cardiac arrest. These deaths can remind us of what we need to do and what we need to stop doing.
Here are 11 things you may be doing to silently beat you heart up that you can change right now.
1| SITTING TOO MUCH
Prolonged sitting is now firmly associated with heart disease and premature aging of arteries. Basically, sitting is smoking. In a study using heart CT scans and physical activity records of more than 2,000 adults living in Dallas, each hour of sitting per day was associated with a 14 percent increase in coronary artery calcification. Coronary calcification is a sign of damaged heart arteries and can increase the risk of a heart attack. Standing desks, apps and timers are all necessary tools in today’s sedentary society.
2| SLEEPING POORLY
Sleep is restorative and your pillow is the best anti-aging pill. In a study of persons sleeping poorly and <6 hours a night compared to those sleeping soundly for 7 hours, the risk of coronary heart disease (clogged arteries) was 79% higher! Sleep soundly in 2017 using mindfulness meditation, smart phone apps, CBD oil, or adaptogenic herbs.
3| SKIPPING YOGA
There are many benefits to yoga but one of the most powerful is spinal flexibility. Unknown to most are studies that flexibility of the spine correlates to flexibility of important arteries in the body. My favorite practice for the spine are the 5 Tibetans which you can learn online on many free video demonstrations. Get bending.
4| MISSING SWEATING
You can run but you cannot hide from toxins in plastics, personal use items and food. Heavy metals like mercury and lead are particularly damaging to the heart and arteries. A practice of sweating, as in exercise or infrared sauna, can help eliminate toxins efficiently according to many research studies.
5| AVOIDING SEX
Unless you lie perfectly still, most sexual encounters raise the heart rate and blood pressure significantly. Fortunately studies show the more frequent you have sex, the lower the risk of heart events. Get busy boning in 2017.
6| DRINKING DIET SODA
If you are watching your weight by drinking a few cans of diet soda a day you are trading the devil you know for the devil you don’t, heart disease. A massive study shows women that drink two or more diet sodas a day have a major increase in heart disease and deaths. Water, unsweetened tea, green juice, and black coffee should be on your list.
7| MISSING A MEDICAL CHECK-UP
You are young and feel invincible but even a healthy lifestyle does not make you immune from heart disease, beginning even in your teens and 20s. There are genetic factors that are an important minority of the reason people get heart disease with what we eat, smoke, and move being the most important. See a health care provider to check your blood pressure, EKG for your QT interval, and lab work for fasting glucose, vitamin D level, cholesterol panel, lipoprotein a and homocysteine measurements, and an assessment of inflammation by a test called hd-CRP. If you are over 40 with risks for heart disease, get a coronary artery calcium scan and know your score.
Maybe it is too obvious to include this on the list but the fast track to a heart attack or erectile dysfunction is to smoke. Although smoking rates are dropping fast, about a quarter of millennials still smoke, the highest percentage of any age group. Quit now no matter how hard it may be.
9| IGNORING STRESS
Stress has been linked to heart disease for decades and smart phones and wi-fi have not made life more relaxing. 24/7 is not just a tag phrase but a credo for many young people. The stress and the adrenal fatigue can age arteries fast. Learn a few strategies to manage stress that you can use on a daily basis and take a cellular detox at least a few hours a week.
10| EATING BACON, HOT DOGS AND PEPPERONI
The last year has been a rough one for processed red meats. In October, 2015 the World Health Organization announced definitive data that processed red meats cause colorectal cancer. We already knew these foods were associated with a spike in heart disease and heart attacks. Bypass the bacon before you need a surgical bypass of your heart.
11| DRINKING SUGARY BEVERAGES
I already called out diet sodas and the increased risk of heart disease, but the data is no better for sugar sweetened beverages. In a massive study of over 300,000 subjects, the more sugar drinks, the more strokes and heart attacks. This kind of association study doesn’t prove that your Mountain Dew is killing your heart, it might be the cigarette and donut you are having with it, but ditch the crap drinks and their friends for your health.
About the author:
Dr. Joel Kahn is one of the world's top holistic cardiologists. He has treated thousands of acute heart attacks during his career, and would like to put a stop to ALL future heart attacks by educating and inspiring people to embrace a holistic lifestyle. America’s Healthy Heart Doctor has been featured on The Doctors and Dr. Phil television shows, and is one of the few doctors that posts consistently for Mind Body Green.