We’ve all heard the classic advice for preventing heart disease: Eat lots of fruits and vegetables; go easy on foods high in salt, fat and cholesterol; exercise; and don’t smoke. These are important, but research offers other simple steps we can take toward heart attack prevention. Here are five:
Get a good night’s sleep
In one large study, women who had five hours’ sleep or less per night were 39 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease within 10 years than those who slept for eight hours. Quality of sleep counts, too. Breathing problems such as obstructive sleep apnea, in which breathing stops briefly many times during the night, have been linked to an increased risk of heart problems. So allow seven to eight hours a night for sleep. If you still wake up unrefreshed, talk to your doctor.
See your dentist
Both tooth loss and untreated gum disease have been associated with W an increased risk of cardiovascular illness. Doctors believe bacteria from gum disease enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation of other tissue— including the lining of the arteries, producing atherosclerosis. And in data from a major survey of nearly 42,000 people ages 40 to 59, the more teeth a person lacked, the more likely he or she was to suffer from heart disease.
Add more soluble fiber to your diet
Oatmeal and barley both contain enough soluble fiber that their labels can sport the FDAapproved claim “may reduce the risk of heart disease.” How does soluble fiber keep your heart healthy? By helping to lower both LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and total cholesterol levels. Other foods high in soluble fiber include Brussels sprouts, oranges, beans (particularly black and kidney) and flaxseeds.
Consume olive oil and nuts
In a Spanish study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Mediterranean-style diets rich in healthy fats outdid a low-fat diet in improving cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Where to find these healthy fats? Extra-virgin olive oil retains natural antioxidants and other nutrients thought to reduce dangerous inflammation in blood vessels, while almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts contain unsaturated fats also believed to support heart health.
Enjoy dark chocolate
Most people would agree: Chocolate is good for the soul. Science shows that it can be good for the heart, too (just be sure to balance the extra calories and sugar by cutting them elsewhere). Compounds in dark chocolate—70 percent cocoa or higher—help to reduce blood pressure. They also help to keep platelets from sticking together too much, reducing the risk that blockages will occur. The cocoa butter in chocolate helps to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol while boosting HDL (good) cholesterol. All in all, a pretty sweet way to treat your heart.