As we turn the corner into February, some of us are doing better than others on our New Year’s Resolutions. There’s no rule against starting fresh in February. In fact, since February is American Heart Health Month, it’s a great time to evaluate your health-related goals. Many people try to begin new habits for a new year, but sometimes quitting old habits can be beneficial as well. Here are four common things people do every day that damage cardiovascular health.
You saw this one coming. We probably don’t have to tell you that smoking is hard on your heart or that quitting will significantly lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. What you may not know is how quickly positive results happen. Just 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure will fall. Two to three weeks later, your circulation will improve. After one year of being smoke-free, your risk of heart disease is half what it was when you smoked.
It takes several years for your heart disease risk to fall back to what it would have been if you had never smoked. Since everyone’s risk of heart disease rises with age, this is more incentive to quit now. The sooner you quit, the sooner you will bring your heart disease risk down to normal. The younger you are when that happens, the better.
Of course, nicotine is highly addictive and just knowing the benefits isn’t enough to make quitting easy. There are resources that can help. Smokefree.gov provides information and resources for Americans from all walks of life who want to quit smoking or vaping. They have information tailored specifically for Spanish speakers, women, military personnel, teens, and seniors. Nicotine gum, patches, and anti-addiction medications are also useful for many people.
Studies show that social support is essential to success. Social support can take many forms. Nicotine Anonymous provides a twelve-step program for people trying to quit. The American Lung Association also provides a group clinic with eight sessions that walk members through becoming nicotine-free. Some people find that enrolling a friend or partner as their accountability buddy is enough to get them through the ups and downs of quitting.
2. Sitting All Day
You may have heard that sitting is the new smoking. This may be a slight exaggeration, but sitting is hard on your heart and circulatory system. People who sit five hours a day or more without breaks are at double the risk of heart failure. Our bodies are meant to move. Ancient humans routinely walked five miles a day or more, and modern bodies function better when they get something close to that. Your heart, lungs, bones, and muscles will all thank you for moving more.
Walking five miles a day isn’t realistic for most people, but there are simpler ways to reduce the harm sitting does to your heart. Simply getting up from your desk and walking around for five minutes every hour will reduce your risk. Standing desks aren’t necessarily the answer to the problem of sitting. While standing for a certain length of time could be beneficial, standing for too long can cause musculoskeletal problems. Again, the real problem is lack of movement, not what position we are in.
Researchers think standing rather than sitting for around 30 minutes every hour during your workday is a good balance between benefits and potential risks. Standing, especially if you are shifting your weight, is better for your heart than sitting. Walking around is better still. Most people can’t walk all day while they work, but there may be some tasks you could do while pacing just as easily as you could sit. Talking on a cell phone, looking at email on your mobile device, or thinking up ideas can all be done while moving around. You may even find that you think and work better while moving.
If the best you can do at work is stand up every hour, daily exercise should be a priority. Everyone should aim for about half an hour of moderate activity every day.
3. Skipping the Floss
Brushing and flossing aren’t just good for your mouth; they’re good for your heart too. Bacteria that live in our mouths can cause heart problems. People with gum disease are at an increased risk of heart disease. Flossing is one of the best ways to prevent gum disease. Good oral health care will also decrease your chance of tooth loss. While missing teeth can be fixed, the process is expensive and painful. People with missing or failing teeth often don’t get the nutrients they need because eating is uncomfortable. Do your heart and whole body a favor and prioritize flossing.
4. Not Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is crucial to physical and mental health. Your heart needs to rest, your blood pressure needs to drop, and your cortisol levels need to fall. If you don’t get enough rest to allow these things to happen, your heart will feel the strain. Sleep-deprived people tend to have higher resting cortisol rates than people who get enough sleep. Cortisol is a stress hormone necessary for certain functions, but chronically high levels can harm the heart and other organs.
Sleep deprivation puts you at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, obesity, and diabetes. Practice good sleep hygiene and set a bedtime that allows you to get seven to eight hours of sleep. If you struggle to sleep despite good bedtime habits, consider talking to your doctor about a sleep study. Sleep disorders like sleep apnea often go undiagnosed for years and can wreak havoc on your whole body, especially your heart.
Holistic Health Care in Michigan
At Burkhart Chiropractic, we work with our clients to help them live at their healthiest. Chiropractic care can improve sleep, reduce stress and make physical activity more comfortable. Come see us today to find out how we can help you meet your heart-health goals.