Most of us understand that unhealthy habits are sometimes inevitable, it may be a surprise to some that a few of these habits are part of our everyday lives and go unnoticed. Here are four of those unhealthy habits along with ideas on how to promote heart health.
Regularly Skipping a Good Night’s Rest
Adults typically need seven to eight hours of sleep to feel rested and be productive. Getting enough sleep is also necessary for heart health. During the non-REM phase of sleep, blood pressure and heart rate go down, which helps to give the heart the rest it needs to maintain cardiovascular health. In addition, a chronic lack of sleep is associated with obesity, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and elevated levels of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. The presence of those hormones is an indicator of inflammation, which is linked to cardiovascular disease.
Consuming Too Much Salt
Ninety percent of Americans consume more than the recommended daily intake of 1,500 milligrams of sodium. In fact, the average daily sodium intake is 3,400 milligrams, which is more than twice the recommended limit. The salt shaker is not the culprit since only 10 percent of sodium intake is from shaking salt on food. Most dietary sodium comes from restaurant, packaged, or prepared foods. Excessive sodium consumption raises the risk of hypertension, which may lead to heart disease. People interested in lowering their sodium intake should limit or avoid high sodium foods such as bacon, cold cuts, canned soup, jerky, chips, canned vegetables, and pretzels.
Little to No Activity
Long commutes, sedentary jobs, and screen time have greatly increased the number of hours people sit per day. Five or more hours a day of sitting doubles the risk of heart failure. Regular exercise does counteract some of the impact of excessive sitting for people who sit less than 10 hours a day. Everyone can take steps to reduce sitting time. Standing while talking on the phone or watching television is an easy place to start. A bigger challenge is convincing coworkers to abandon the conference room and walk for meetings.
Drinking Too Much Alcohol
Two alcoholic beverages a day for men and one for women is considered moderate drinking. For either gender, excessive drinking is three or more alcoholic drinks a day. Excessive drinkers are at greater risk for high blood pressure, diseases of the heart muscle, and an interruption in the heart’s normal rhythm.