5 habits that can hurt your heart

January 09, 2024 | by Endeavor Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

Heart health varies widely depending on your lifestyle choices.

Yes, genes play a role in heart disease. But we also have a good amount of control over how healthy (or unhealthy) our heart is as we age.

The habits and routines we establish affect our heart health over time. That consistency can make your heart healthier or hurt you in the long run.

“Lifestyle choices make a big difference in our health and are especially important if you have a genetic risk of heart disease,” said Thriveni Sanagala, MD, cardiologist with Endeavor Health. “If you have consistently high blood pressure or high cholesterol, for example, you can make choices to help lower it, which will lower your risk for heart disease in the process.”

Here are some habits that can hurt your cardiovascular health over time:

  1. Smoking. If you smoke, stop. Smoking is a major cause of heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking can damage the lining of your blood vessels, causing clots to form and restrict blood flow. Quitting smoking has many health benefits and greatly decreases your risk for heart disease (and other diseases).
  2. Frequent couch surfing. Exercise has many health benefits including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and keeping your weight at a healthy level — all of which lower your risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association notes that 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity benefits your heart. If you don’t exercise, start. It may take time to develop a regular exercise habit, but starting now is better than doing nothing. It can be as simple as a 10-minute walk, three times a day. Make this the month you get moving!
  3. Drinking too much alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can produce irregular heart rhythms and lead to an increase in blood pressure or other risk factors such as obesity.
  4. Avoiding the doctor. Certain health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol can increase your risk for heart disease. Consult with your doctor to see how diet, exercise and (possibly) medication can help. Regular checkups will also help catch any signs of heart disease early.
  5. Unchecked stress. Studies have shown a relationship between heart disease and stress. Stress can also lead to other behaviors, such as smoking, alcohol consumption or overeating, which put you at higher risk for heart disease. Regular exercise and getting enough sleep can help reduce stress levels. If stress becomes overwhelming, consider talking to your doctor about other things you can do to reduce stress.

Your heart is in good hands when you choose Endeavor Health Cardiovascular Institute. Learn more.

NorthShore University HealthSystem, Swedish Hospital, Northwest Community Healthcare and Edward-Elmhurst Health are now united under one name, Endeavor Health. We’re setting a new standard for healthcare that’s focused on you, because your best health is our endeavor. Learn more.

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