5 Surprising Things That Can Harm Your Heart
We all know that a poor diet, not enough exercise, smoking, and overdrinking can harm your heart.
But there are other less obvious things you may not be aware of that are bad for your ticker. Things that you probably got away with when you were younger but affect your heart as you age.
Here are 5 surprising things that can harm your heart:
Setting Your Alarm Clock
According to Research by the National Institute of Industrial Health in Japan, waking up to a jolting noise can be bad for your heart.
“Waking up abruptly can cause higher blood pressure and heart rate,” an article from ABC News notes. “Besides increasing your blood pressure, an alarm can add to your stress levels by getting your adrenaline rushing.”
Not only that, but it may be contributing to obesity, according to Till Roenneberg, a professor at the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology. His research suggests that it’s playing havoc with our biological clocks which can affect our weight as well.
If you’re retired, this may not be an issue. One of the perks of retirement is not having to wake up at a specific time every day.
But what if you’re still working and need to wake up early? Or maybe you’re taking an early morning flight. What should you do?
Here are three suggestions:
- Try to wake up at the same time everyday. Crack open your blinds/curtains so light can shine through your windows.
- If you must rise before the sun, put your lights on a timer.
- If you prefer an alarm clock, use one that wakes you up with soft music, singing birds, or waves crashing. If you’re a sound sleeper, some alarms use louder tone chimes 10 minutes later if you’re still asleep.
Sitting in Bumper-to-Bumper Traffic
Okay, living in Southern California, I’m aware that sitting in traffic is super stressful. But I didn’t realize there’s a connection between traffic and heart attacks.
In other words, older people don’t have the luxury of road rage.
According to a Science Daily news release, patients who suffer a heart attack are likely to have been exposed to traffic, especially in the hour before the onset of symptoms. Studies have also shown that high noise levels – like the kind you hear on a freeway – are linked to heart attacks.
Statistics linking an association between traffic and heart attacks went up for women, elderly males, unemployed patients, and those with a history of angina.
What can you do if you are forced to travel during rush hour?
- Give yourself lots of extra time.
- Take some deep breaths.
- Listen to relaxing music on the radio or create a soothing song list to play during stressful bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Drinking Too Much Diet Soda
We all know too much sugar is bad for us. So, some people have turned to artificially sweetened beverages.
But all those diet drinks don’t let you off the hook either.
Researchers found that people who drank the most artificially sweetened beverages (more than two per day) were significantly more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke compared to those who rarely or never had the drinks. A comprehensive April 2022 meta-analysis by the World Health Organization supported this connection. If you’re older, the risk even is higher. One study included 59,614 women with a mean age of 62.8 years. Researchers found that those drinking at least two diet drinks per day was associated with a higher risk of heart problems and dying from heart disease. Although more research is needed, since these studies showed an association but not causation, why take chances?
What are some refreshing alternatives you might want to try?
- Flavored waters are widely available, but many contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. A healthier choice is to add slices of your favorite fruits, veggies, and herbs — try lemons, oranges, watermelon, cucumber, mint, or limes — to a pitcher of ice-cold water. Or put chopped-up or pureed fruit in an ice cube tray, add water, and freeze. Place these colorful fruit cubes in your beverage for instant flavor and color.
- Iced or hot tea is always a good alternative. Or how about an Arnold Palmer – just mix iced tea with lemonade.
- Need some fizz? Try sparkling water. If desired, add a splash of orange, cranberry, or mango juice for more flavor.
Snoring Like a Freight Train
I don’t mean to alarm you, because everyone snores sometimes. But you may need to take note if your snoring sounds like a scene out of Jurassic Park. I’m talking about loud, raucous, obnoxious snoring or snoring that is interrupted by pauses in breathing – which can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea.
Here’s the bad news: Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during central sleep apnea can adversely affect heart health. The disorder is linked to high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, strokes, and heart failure. Don’t ignore your symptoms, as the negative effects on health should not be ignored, says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Sleep apnea is more common than you may think. At least 25 million Americans and 936 million people worldwide are estimated to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, with many more undiagnosed. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea occurs significantly more in older adults and is more common in men.
Concerned but don’t want the hassle of going to a sleep lab?
“Sleep tests nowadays are much, much easier to get than in prior years when you could only go to a sleep lab,” says sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta Dasgupta in a CNN interview. “You don’t have to be stuck in the lab with all these wires on you, looking like Frankenstein. You can do an at-home sleep test in your own bed, which is nice.”
Treatments can help you breathe easier and lower your risk for heart disease. The CNN article listed a few you may want to consider:
- Sometimes simple positional therapy – sleeping on your side instead of your back – can improve airway flow and reduce snoring. Try sewing tennis balls into the back of your pajamas or wear your bra backwards and put the balls in the cups, experts suggest.
- Weight loss can significantly decrease or even eliminate obstructive sleep apnea.
- Doctors can also prescribe an oral appliance designed to enlarge the airway by moving the tongue or jaw forward. If anatomical issues, such as nasal polyps, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, or a deviated septum, are contributing to the apnea, surgery may be recommended.