7 Unique Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy

Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death and while we cannot change the risk factors – like family history and age – we don’t need to accept a fate of dying too young. We all know that exercise and a healthy balanced diet can make us healthier and keep our heart stronger, but did you know there are surprisingly fun ways to take care of your heart health? Here is our list of unique ways to keep your heart health in check:

1. Laughter Is the Best Medicine

Laughter is not only good for our emotional health, but it also helps our hearts pump a little stronger. When we laugh, the diameter of our blood vessels enlarges which increases the blood flow with benefits similar to aerobic exercises. A recent study by the University of Maryland  found that when people laugh at a funny movie scene, their blood flow improves. So grab some friends, tell some jokes, and get your heart pumping!.

2. Love the Mediterranean Diet

In 2011, Johns Hopkins Medicine stated in a news release that following a Mediterranean diet can improve our heart health. Since then, many studies have been done on the benefits of this kind of diet and most came to the same conclusion. The Mediterranean diet is high in green vegetables, fruits, nuts, avocados, beans, high-fiber grains, olives, olive oil, and an occasional side of small, wild fish (ie., salmon). Foods rarely consumed are dairy products (i.e., cheese, milk, butter, and ice cream), red meat, poultry, eggs, refined flour, and sugary foods and drinks.

The next time you go shopping, head to your local farmer’s market and stock up on lots of vegetables, avocados, nuts, fruits, non-wheat whole grains, and oils.  

3. Listen to Your Favorite Tunes

According to numerous studies listening to music can help you relax and improve your heart health. In a study by a nurse-led team at Massachusetts General Hospital, music was played for 30 minutes each day to heart patients confined to their bed. Relative to the patients not exposed to the music, the music-exposed patients had lower blood pressure, slower heart rates, and less distress. In another Hong Kong study relaxing music was played for 25 minutes per day for four weeks to older volunteers. They found the patients’ systolic blood pressure was 12 points lower while their diastolic blood pressure was 5 points lower.

You now have a great excuse for playing your favorite tunes!

4. Man’s Best Friend May Be Your Heart’s Best Friend

Dogs are not only good company to people, but they are also good for our heart health. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), dog owners tend to live longer, have lower risks for heart disease, hypertension, better cholesterol profiles, and are less vulnerable to stress. Dog owners are generally more active than non-owners.  Having a pet who loves you unconditionally has plentiful emotional benefits.

If you’re not in a position to own a dog, don’t despair! Local animal shelters almost always need volunteers to play with dogs. You can also play with a friend’s dog, or even become a part-time dog walker.

5. Everyone Needs a Hug

When giving and receiving hugs, our oxytocin levels rise and our stress hormone, cortisol, drop.  We immediately can reduce our stress levels and heart rate while feeling warm and fuzzy. In an experiment by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, participants who hugged their partners during the trial had a slower heart rate of 10 beats per minute than those who didn’t have contact with their partners.

So grab your partner, friend, sibling, parent, or dog and give them a big hug!

6. The Secret of Making Love

The American Journal of Cardiology published a study in which they found that men who had sex twice a week are half as likely to develop heart disease compared to men who have sex only once per month. During sex, our brains release endorphins which have a calming effect, help us sleep, and are natural painkillers.

You may not need a reason to fornicate, other than that it is fun, but who can argue with science? It’s what the doctor ordered!

7. Little Acts of Kindness

Being kind to others causes our oxytocin levels to rise and our cortisol levels to drop. When cortisol, our stress hormone, increases, our blood pressure and inflammation rises. Oxytocin, on the other hand, lowers our cortisol levels and helps improve our health.

The next time you get angry, think twice and counteract your emotion with benevolence. Doing good deeds every day may just be what you need to improve your health and happiness.

Have Fun While Keeping Your Heart Health in Check

Keeping our hearts healthy just became so much easier! Who doesn’t want to have a good time while looking after your heart?

If you need any advice on heart health, whether with your diet, exercise program, stress level, or finding more fun ways to keep your heart in check, reach out to Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D.

Author
Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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