10 Surprising things that are good for your heart

Exercise and a balanced diet are well-known factors that improve heart health, but there are many other lifestyle factors that can reduce your risk of heart disease. Some may even surprise you! Here are 10 things you can do for a healthy heart.

Woman eating dark chocolate

1Dark chocolate for a healthy heart

Darker chocolate contains polyphenols, a substance that reduces free radicals, which can cause cell damage. Polyphenols also protect the heart. The Harvard School of Public Health studied almost 8,000 Americans around age 65 for five years. They found that those who ate chocolate and sweets up to three times a month lived almost a year longer than those who ate too much chocolate or none at all.

2Sip tea for your ticker

The flavonoids in green, black and white teas improve blood vessel function and increase blood flow. Research in the Netherlands has shown that people who drink three to five cups of tea per day also cut their risk of heart disease and stroke by 44 percent.

3Brush up on your heart health

Believe it or not, your dental health can affect the health of your heart. The bacteria in gum disease can spark inflammation that damages the blood vessels. A recent study by the University of California, Berkeley reported that women who get regular dental care reduce their risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases by one-third.

4Giggle! It’s good for your heart!

Research at University College in London says that hearty laughter relaxes the walls of your arteries, causing increased blood flow for up to 45 minutes. And since laughter is contagious, why not share the joke with others? Daily recommended dose for health: At least 15 minutes of chuckles.

5Meditate to prevent heart disease

Studies by the Medical College of Wisconsin reveal that meditating for 30 minutes daily may lower your risk of heart attack by 50 percent. The study focused specifically on transcendental meditation, which involves sitting quietly and comfortably 15 to 20 minutes per day, and is easily learned, researchers say.

6Be grateful and your heart will thank you

A decade-long study of more than 1,700 adults published in the European Heart Journal reports that adults who have a positive outlook on life reduce their chance of a heart attack. Those who regularly feel gratitude for their life circumstances or express it to others have a better chance of living longer and having a healthier life.

7Sleep more for heart health

Sleep is crucial for heart health, especially if you’re a woman! University of Chicago researchers found that even one extra hour of sleep decreased the odds of hardening of the coronary arteries by 33 percent. So go ahead, roll over and reset the alarm clock. Enjoy!

8Have more sex for a healthy heart.

A happy love life seems to go with overall good health. For one thing, sexual activity is an excellent stress reducer. It’s also great exercise – you burn about 85 calories during a 30-minute session.

9Recall happy times for a happy heart

Focus on happy times from your past. Research has shown that recalling good memories helps your immune system, and your overall good health, which in turn strengthens your heart.

10Turn off the TV to tune up your ticker

FamilyatHeart.org suggests that families should limit screen time to less than two hours a day. This may be a first step toward increased physical activity, which will help you prevent many other heart-related diseases. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that most adults need a minimum of four to five hours of moderate to intense aerobic physical activity each week.

More eating tips for healthy hearts

Heart-healthy eating

Joining Shay Pausa is celebrity chef Gale Gand and Dr. Jennifer Mieres. They discuss how what we eat affects our heart.

More heart-healthy tips and tricks


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