How to Keep Your Heart Healthy Throughout the Day
February is American Heart Month. Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the world. And many of these deaths are preventable – at least 200,000 cardiac deaths in the United States could have been avoided each year with proper preventative care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While maintaining heart health includes the old standards of not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and eating well, there are specific things throughout the day that can help boost heart health 24 hours day. At the 68th Annual Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology in 2019, experts offered insights that could provide a heart health boost all day long!
Does what we eat for breakfast, and how much, make a difference in the health of our arteries? You may have heard the expression the breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Is this true? Dr. Sotirios Tsalamandris, a cardiologist at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece, conducted research to find out. He studied 2,000 older people from the Corinthia region of Greece and found that those who started their day with a lot of high-energy foods, such as cereals and whole-grain bread, had significantly healthier arteries.
“A high-energy breakfast should be part of a healthy lifestyle,” Tsalamandris said. He also cautioned that skipping breakfast and then eating more later in the day is linked to poor arterial health, and offered an intriguing theory: “Eating a breakfast constituting more than 20 percent of the total daily caloric intake may be of equal or even greater importance than a person’s specific dietary pattern, such as whether they follow the Mediterranean diet, a low-fat diet or other dietary pattern.”
Another study presented at the conference found that taking a midday nap can help us lower our blood pressure. Dr. Manolis Kallistratos, a cardiologist at the Asklepieon General Hospital in Voula, Greece, reported that people who nap can lower their blood pressure enough to reduce their risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems—comparable to cutting back on salt.
“We obviously don’t want to encourage people to sleep for hours on end during the day, but on the other hand, they shouldn’t feel guilty if they can take a short nap, given the potential health benefits,” said Dr. Kallistratos. “Based on our findings, if someone has the luxury to take a nap during the day, it may have benefits for high blood pressure. Napping can be easily adopted and typically doesn’t cost anything.”
His team offered another interesting hypothesis: “Along with the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet endemic to this region, the cultural acceptance of midday napping may also play a role in the healthier profile seen in these populations.”
What do you do during your leisure hours? A second study by Dr. Tsalamandris compared the heart health of people with how much TV they watch. The study showed that people who watch more than 21 hours of TV per week were almost twice as likely to have unhealthy plaque buildup in their arteries. “These findings suggest a clear message to hit the ‘off’ button on your TV and abandon your sofa,” said Dr. Tsalamandris.
What should we do instead during the evening hours? “Even activities of low energy expenditure, such as socializing with friends or housekeeping activities, may have a substantial benefit to your health compared to time spent sitting and watching TV,” said Dr. Tsalamandris.
But what if you can’t bear to give up all your favorite TV programs? “Performing recreational activities, weight lifting, stretching bands or treadmill exercise while watching TV may be a healthy alternative,” Dr. Tsalamandris suggests.