The heart is arguably the hub of life. It is the singular, central body organ on which every other organ or tissue depends for nourishment and survival. Why? Because it is the powerhouse that keeps pumping blood through which oxygen and other essential nutrients are distributed around the body.
Despite this cardinal role, the heart is usually the focus of several bad habits that tend to compromise its functions. Furthermore, while some of these habits are obviously deadly and many try to avoid them, others appear seemingly harmless. However, the bitter truth is they can all prove deadly to your heart.
For all intents and purposes, smoking has a damaging effect on not only the heart, but also every body organ. Cigarettes contain a substance, nicotine which increases the heart rate, elevates the blood pressure and damages the inner lining (endothelium) of blood vessels supplying the heart, thereby impairing blood flow to the organ.
Research has shown that about 20% of deaths from heart disease are directly related to smoking. Also, it has been found that people who smoke have 2-4 times higher risk of coming down with heart disease than nonsmokers. Sadly, secondhand or passive smokers (I.e people around smokers) are not exempted.
My candid advice to you is to avoid smoking of any form because it kills faster than you think.
Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Research has shown that moderate consumption of alcohol (especially red wine containing flavonoids) can be cardioprotective. In excess, however, the reverse is the case as alcohol increases your blood pressure, blood fats and weight. Hence, it is an important risk factor for cardiovascular problems like heart failure, heart attack and stroke.
If you must drink at all, the American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 1-2 bottles per day for men and 1 bottle per day for women. In larger quantities, alcohol does more harm than good to your body.
Sitting for long
Prolonged periods of sitting (>5hrs a day) either at a desk or in front of TV could prove dangerous to the heart. Folks who sit for long periods without getting up are said to have a double risk of developing heart disease since a sedentary lifestyle can promote obesity, high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels. A 2014 study done at Indiana University recommends taking a five-minute walk every hour if your job is such that you must sit all day. This simple routine will keep your blood vessels flexible and enhance a smooth blood flow.
What overzealous exercise does is to stimulate the body to release stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol which increase the heart rate and shoot up the blood pressure, thereby increasing the risk of cardiovascular phenomena such as heart attack, heart failure and stroke. It’s a good habit to indulge in 30min of moderate-intensity exercise about 5 times in a week because it improves the condition of your heart and blood vessels while also helping you to burn some fat.
Flossing is important not just for your teeth but also for your heart. Studies have shown that bacteria associated with gum disease can cause inflammation and get into the bloodstream, leading to plaque formation and eventual narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart. This may predispose to coronary artery disease and heart attack.
Excessive Salt Intake
It is no more news that table salt has high quantities of sodium which can raise the blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular events. But what about the hidden sodium content in most processed foods including sardines, canned vegetables, chips and salty snacks? The American Heart Association recommends a maximum daily sodium intake of 1500mg. Hence be sure to read the nutritional labels of the products you consume and avoid those with very high sodium content.
The need to make ends meet and earn a good living compels a lot of people to sacrifice their sleep. They often find themselves going to bed very late and getting up very early in the morning. This kind of habit deprives the overworked cardiovascular system of the needed rest and you may just be setting yourself up for high blood pressure and its dreaded complications. Studies have shown that 7-8 hrs of sleep every night is optimal for the body.
Anger and Anxiety
Research has shown that emotional outbursts in form of anger and anxiety can raise the blood pressure, disrupt the normal rhythm of the heart and promote atherosclerosis (a build-up of fatty plaques on the inner lining of blood vessels). Understandably, all these can set the stage for cardiovascular complications.
Avoiding Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are high-fibre, low-calorie diets that can facilitate weight loss and help burn fat. In fact, some fruits like bananas are rich in potassium which has been shown to protect the heart.
Studies have shown a 20% lower risk of heart disease and stroke in individuals who consume more than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, compared to those who consume less than 3 servings.
Poor Compliance with Medications and Clinic Attendance
High blood pressure is often aptly referred to as the ‘silent killer’ because the majority of people may not feel any symptoms of the disease until they come down with complications. Hence it is very dangerous to stop taking your anti-hypertensive pills or ignore clinic appointments just because you no longer feel any symptoms.