A healthy diet and regular physical activity are cornerstones of cardiovascular health. But did you know that some of your everyday activities can also impact your heart? Here are a few facts about heart health that may surprise you.
Naps may be good for your heart.
Researchers recently looked at how an hour-long siesta at noon affected blood pressure in about 400 people with hypertension. The result? Those who took naps experienced a 5 percent drop on average in their systolic blood pressure compared to those who didn't rest. Nappers saw their blood pressure readings fall by 4 percent during the day and by 6 percent while sleeping at night.
Eating spicy food may lower your risk of dying from heart disease.
In a study based on a multi-year food analysis, adults who reported eating spicy foods -- particularly fresh and dried chili pepper -- as little as three days a week were less likely to die than those who ate spicy foods less than once a week.
"The finding is very simple," said study author Dr. Lu Qi. "If you eat more spicy food, it's better for your health and lowers the risk for mortality, especially as it relates to cancer and heart disease." Spices are known to contain components that beneficially affect cholesterol levels, and they're high in potent antioxidants that could be protective against heart disease.
Happiness helps lower your risk of heart disease.
A review of more than 200 studies found a connection between happiness, optimism, and life satisfaction and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. Happiness is also associated with lower blood pressure, normal body weight, and healthier blood fat profiles.
If you have a positive sense of well-being, it's easier to maintain good habits like regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and eating a balanced diet. People with an optimistic mindset are also more likely to engage in healthy behaviors. Practicing mindfulness, expressing gratitude, and having a supportive network of family and friends can all contribute to a happier, healthier life.
Healthy choices may trump genes.
There are factors that increase your risk of heart disease that are out of your control, including age, family history, and a genetic predisposition. But a recent study finds that healthy choices -- particularly consuming a diet rich in raw fruits and veggies -- can compensate for some of the risks caused by variations in a gene linked to heart problems.
Heart-healthy habits can be learned as early as preschool.
It's never too early to learn healthy eating and exercise habits to help reduce the risk of heart problems in the future. A new study introduced a heart-healthy lifestyle to more than 2,000 kids between the ages of 3 and 5. The program focused on diet, exercise, managing emotions, and an understanding of the body.
After three years, those in the program showed better knowledge about a heart-healthy lifestyle, attitudes, and habits. They were also less likely to be overweight or obese than those who weren't in the program.
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