We all know that diet and exercise play a major role in heart health—it’s old news by now. So, if you’re someone who has their heart health routine down to a science; avoiding foods high in fat, sugar and salt, and regularly getting moderate and vigorous exercise; there’s nothing to worry about—right? Maybe. Maybe not.
While there’s no denying that diet and exercise are essential for heart health—and they aren’t half bad for your overall health, either—there are other surprising (and subtle) factors that can take a toll on your heart. According to Sean Delaney, MD, a cardiologist affiliated with Gwinnett Medical Center, these are the key factors you may be overlooking:
1. You’re stressed. When you feel stressed—which is a daily reality for many of us—your body responds by releasing the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. These two hormones cause a chain reaction in your body: your heart rate rises, your blood vessels narrow and your blood pressure spikes. And if you’re always stressed, your body doesn’t have a chance to recover, which can damage artery wallsover time.
2. You’re surrounded by dirty air. It’s important to get outside to get some fresh air, but it may be tougher than you’d think to find clean air. Things like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter are still found in the air we breathe. These substances don’t just impact respiratory health, either; they can also harm your heart by causing plaque buildup.
3. You ignore your family history. Your family’s health history can say a lot about your health. Whether it’s uncovering certain risk factors that are inherited or certain habits that are passed down, your family history will provide a more complete picture of your overall health, including your heart health.
For instance, research has shown that having a first-degree relative who was diagnosed with heart disease at a young age (younger than 55 for men, 65 for women) your risk may be double or triple.
4. You skip sleep. Not only does a lack of sleep leave you feeling miserable and grumpy, it can also lead to a host of other issues—including everything from weakened immunity and weight gain to lowered sex drive and memory issues, not to mention heart issues. In fact, skimping on sleep can increase your blood pressure, while also reducing blood supply to the heart.
5. Your exercise routine isn’t quite right. When it comes to exercise and your heart, it’s all about balance—finding the sweet spot between too much and too little. That means if you’re someone who really likes to push the boundaries with weight lifting or get in high volumes of cardio, you may be at risk for blood pressure spikes, as well as thickening of the heart muscle. On the other end of the spectrum, if you sit in an office chair all day, you may have a higher risk for heart disease and decreased blood flow.
6. You don’t know your numbers. Ignorance is often bliss, but not in this case. One of the best—and easiest—things you can do to support heart health is to get regular check-ups with your doctor. After all, you can handle having your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels checked once a year—right?
With the ease of online scheduling and the knowledgeable providers of Gwinnett Medical Group Primary Care, heart health has never been easier. Don't forget to explore and learn more with GMC's new virtual health hub—Everyday Wellness. You'll find the helpful tools, tips and information you need to live your life to the healthiest.