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There are many known behaviors that can negatively affect your heart health. From inactivity to smoking to consuming too much salt, most people understand that these dangers can have a detrimental impact on your heart.
But could you be hurting your heart in other ways without even knowing it? Here are some of the lesser-known culprits you should be aware of to protect the strength and health of your heart.
- Lack of sleep. While it primarily depends on the cause of your lack of sleep, if you aren’t getting enough zzz’s every night, your energy level during the day might not be the only side effect you’re experiencing.
Sleep loss related to a condition like sleep apnea can often be easily treated with the help of a sleep specialist. However, if sleep apnea is left untreated, it could lead to high blood pressure which adversely affects your heart. If you’re up at night – especially due to stress or anxiety – you could be putting yourself at risk for high blood pressure and putting unnecessary strain on your heart.
- Intense emotion. From stress to anger, anxiety or even grief, enduring intense emotion for long periods of time is associated with heart attacks and high blood pressure. Aside from hurting your heart, harboring these feelings can lead to other contributing factors of heart risk like a lack of sleep, straying from a regular fitness routine and unhealthy eating.
These intense emotions are also damaging for your mental health. Have you ever heard of someone suffering from a “broken heart syndrome” due to grief or loss? This condition mimics the symptoms of a heart attack and affects those who are under great emotional strain, typically middle-age women.
These women report feeling the symptoms of a heart attack, the electrocardiogram and lab tests done at the hospital suggest a major attack; however, when doctors do the angiogram to treat the heart attack, we find no evidence of any blockages. It appears the stress from the intense grief causes tremendous adrenaline release which mimics a heart attack.
- Poor dental hygiene. Coronary heart disease is associated with chronic inflammation, and when you have poor dental health, your gums are inflamed. This inflammation can extend beyond your mouth and affect your heart.
People with higher inflammatory states have more atherosclerosis (fat and plaque buildup on artery walls) in the body, which can lead to blockages in the arteries and cause serious complications including heart attack.
- Menopause. Female hormones offer some cardiovascular protection because we see that pre-menopausal women have distinctly lower rates of heart disease than men. Once women go through menopause, they are producing less estrogen and other hormones and their heart disease risk increases.
One of estrogen’s roles in the body is to fuel nitric oxide to keep arteries fluid and relaxed. Without estrogen, the arteries become stiffened and make it difficult for blood to pump through the body. The result? High blood pressure.
The best way to keep your heart healthy is to keep your entire body healthy. Exercise, eat healthy, manage stress, get a good night’s sleep and avoid harmful substances like cigarettes.
And if you feel “off” or just want to take note of the state of your heart, talk with a doctor. He or she can help you determine where you could make improvements in your life to keep your heart working the way it should.
Dr. Bryan Zweig is a cardiologist seeing patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Fairlane in Dearborn.
How healthy is your heart? Take the heart risk quiz to find out. Then, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider or find a heart expert at henryford.com or by calling 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).
For more health and wellness advice, visit henryfordlivewell.com.
This story is provided and presented by our sponsor Henry Ford Health System.
Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.