Are you one of the 25 percent of Americans who has a heart-related health issue? If so, then you'll need to pay close attention to your diet and exercise habits to make sure you are doing everything you can to protect your health.
But don't stop there. Research shows that there are other, unexpected things you can do to improve your heart health. Celebrate your heart by giving these heart-healthy habits a try:
- Cuddle. Research shows that snuggling with a loved one releases oxytocin, a stress-releasing hormone that helps to reduce blood pressure.
- Laugh. Laughing dilates blood vessels by 22 percent, increasing blood flow and reducing blood pressure.
- Get your chocolate fix. Cocoa beans are full of antioxidants, nutrients that boost the immune system to help the body fight off damage.
- Pet your pet. People with pets to have lower blood pressure and are at a decreased risk from heart disease than those who don't have pets. It could be because people with pets also tend to get more physical activity than their non pet-owning peers.
- Go meatless — at least on Mondays. Studies show that vegetarianism reduces heart disease risk by 32 percent.
- Stand up. Sitting for the better part of the day, whether at work or in front of the TV, significantly increases your risk of heart disease. Stand up and walk around the office, chat with a co-worker, or take a walk around the block every few hours to improve your heart health.
- Sleep — but not too much or too little. Research shows that oversleeping can increase your risk for heart disease by 38 percent while sleeping too little raises it by 48 percent. Shoot for seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
- Caffeinate.Good news for coffee lovers! Coffee may help to stabilize heart rhythms in folks who have problems with an abnormal heart rate. Aim for one to three cups a day.
- Stay off the road. Studies show that your heart attack risk increases by 12 percent for every 10 decibels of highway traffic you are exposed to.
- Get married. Married people have healthier hearts. For women, 10 years of marriage works out to a 13 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.