• 19 Everyday Things That Could Impact Your Heart Health (and What Your Heart Has to Say About It)


    It’s American Heart Month 2014! To mark this awareness month, we’re sharing our list of 19 common things in our lives that impact our heart’s health. Read below for interesting bits and bites of information. Curious to know more or have a question of your own? Join in the discussion on Twitter at #whatdoestheheartsay or follow us @secondscountorg.

    Let’s start with STRESS:

    1. Anxiety

    It can affect us all, to some degree. It can be that hard to nail down uneasy feeling or it can seriously affect how we lead our daily lives. To combat these feelings, figure out what’s causing the anxiety in the first place. Find a few minutes every day to block out the rest of the world and take inventory of what’s worrying you these days. Make a list then make a plan!

    2. Type A personalities

    You know who you are. You probably have a to-do list that starts with “write to-do list” just so you can cross it off the list. But beware – some studies have suggested “Type A” conduct is right up there with smoking, high cholesterol and blood pressure as risk factors for heart attacks and coronary events.

    3. The Daily Grind

    In the stress of your day-to-day responsibilities, laughter can be the best medicine. In between doing the laundry, driving kids to their activities, getting the groceries, taking your pet to the vet, and checking your smartphone for emails, each day can easily become a never-ending to-do list. Take time to appreciate the lighter side of life with your family and friends. With the world becoming ever more connected electronically, it’s easier than ever to find that new silly joke, news of the absurd, or a crazy cat video. Click here to watch Meredith Roman, pediatric nurse practitioner, sharing the heart benefits of laughter.

    Moving on to EXERCISE:

    4. Biking

    Working out those big leg muscles while riding your bike raises your heart rate and enhances cardiovascular fitness and stamina. Biking is a great form of aerobic conditioning, which means it makes the heart muscle stronger, enabling it to pump more efficiently. Therefore, your resting heart rate is reduced and the heart doesn’t need to work as hard. But as with any physical activity, be sure to talk to your doctor before you start any new exercise program, especially if you have a previous heart event or condition. Watch as Rena L. Silver, cardiology nurse practitioner, explains.

    5. Marathoning

    Running 26.2 miles is the cultural ideal of a healthy body, but before embarking on this endeavor, it’s important to do your homework, and involve your doctor if you’re thinking about training for a marathon. Especially if you have a history of heart disease, the doctor might want you to have a stress test to record your heart’s electrical activity during exercise to determine its effects on your heart’s rate and rhythm. Watch as Dr. John P. Reilly, interventional cardiologist, discusses benefits and dangers marathons can have on the heart. Recent studies suggest repeated marathon training could be harmful for heart health, and can leave scarring.

    6. Walking

    Put simply – walking works. It seems so easy, but it is such a good way to reduce the risk of heart disease, improve blood pressure and blood sugar, improve cholesterol and maintain body weight. Walking can also be the first step in getting into other kinds of exercise and active hobbies.Check out this video featuring Rena Silver, cardiology nurse practitioner, sharing tips for increasing your steps

    7. Yoga

    Om. Studies have shown a variety of cardiovascular benefits from yoga – lower blood pressure, cholesterol and resting heart rate. So keep practicing your downward dog and sun salutations.


    8. Marriage

    Do you have a spouse in your house? We know married men live longer. Thanks to researchers in Canada we may have an idea why. In a 2011 study of heart attack patients, they found married men or men with common law partners made it to the hospital a full half-hour earlier than their single counterparts. The same benefit wasn’t found for married women, however. Hmmm. But people in happy relationships produce less of the stress hormone cortisol when under duress. Excess cortisol may promote fat storage around abdominal organs, setting the stage for heart disease.

    9. Sex

    This is of course the question new heart disease patients ask their doctor the most, and it’s really good they do. Fear of straining the heart can really get in the way of intimacy. There’s some evidence sexually active people live longer, but sex is a physical activity. That means, as with good diet and not smoking, for most people, it’s good for the heart. Watch as Dr. Jeff Marshall, interventional cardiologist, discusses the importance of talking with your healthcare provider about when it's safe to have sex after a heart attack.

    10. Medicines for ED

    Along these same lines, medications for erectile dysfunction are generally safe for men with stable ischemic heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes. There’s an important list of contraindications and precautions, so be sure to talk to your doctor about all your medications, especially if you have heart disease.

    11. Man’s best friend

    Pets and unconditional love go hand in paw. They can lower stress and improve our health with the companionship they provide. A lot of them can help us get active by getting us outside. The health benefits of pet ownership are well known. But try not to drive with one in your lap! Watch as Dr. Jim Blankenship, interventional cardiologist, discusses the benefits owning a dog can have on your heart health.

    Rushing on to ADRENALINE:

    12. Popping the question

    Thinking of proposing on St. Valentine’s Day? There’s good evidence being married or in a committed relationship reduces the response to stress. So if you have marriage on your mind, we offer best wishes to you and your beloved! Being in love is good for your heart. Watch as Dr. Jeff Marshall, interventional cardiologist, explains one link between marriage and surviving a heart attack.

    13. Riding the rails

    For thrill seekers, there is nothing like the rush of that first drop on a rollercoaster at amusement parks across the country. You’ve seen the sign just before getting on that says people with heart problems shouldn’t ride. But what does that mean?  If you’ve ever fainted while exercising or you have a known heart condition where excessive stress should be avoided, ask your doctor before going to the amusement park. This new video features Dr. Drew Klein, interventional cardiologist, discusses when to sit out rollercoasters and other amusement park rides.

    14. Scary movies

    For some, there’s nothing better than getting good and scared in front of the screen. Gets the juices flowing and the heart racing. But if you happen to have long QT syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, a sudden spike in your heart rate could trigger a life-threatening, abnormal heart rhythm. If you’ve had an immediate family member die suddenly, especially without explanation, QT syndrome might run in your family and you should see your doctor. Watch as Dr. Jeff Zampi, pediatric interventional cardiologist, explains.

    What about energy boosters?

    15. Coffee

    For the vast majority of us, our daily cuppa joe is fine. But what about that triple shot mochalicious buzz bomb? Though recommendations vary, caffeine is generally considered safe up to 400 milligrams a day for healthy adults. A typical 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 100–200 mg of caffeine. Watch as Dr. Duraisamy Balaguru, pediatric interventional cardiologist, discusses what newer studies show about drinking coffee.

    16. Tea

    Green tea usually wears the white hat as the “healthy tea” because it has been associated with improved blood vessel function and a lower risk of dying from heart disease. Some think that’s because it has more catechins, a type of flavonoid, than black tea does. However, recent research has suggested black tea and even coffee may also protect against heart disease. It’s not known if the benefits apply to people who already have heart disease, so don’t self-prescribe tea if you’re one of those.

    17. Energy drinks

    Doctors don’t recommend them for children, even though an estimated half of children and young adults consume them. Why not for kids? They have three to five times the amount of caffeine than in a can of soda, for one thing. If you have an underlying heart problem, you should definitely avoid these drinks. According to one study, one out of five college students who used energy drinks had experienced heart palpitations. Watch as Dr. Dennis Kim, pediatric interventional cardiologist, discusses the harmful effects of energy drinks.

    And we just can’t stop – ADDICTIONS:

    18. Nicotine. Cigars. Cigarettes

    Not a news flash- it’s bad. Don’t light up either with fire or with batteries. You know it’s harming your health, you need to quit. It may be one of the hardest things that you’ll do this year, but do you heart a favor and kick the habit today.

    19. Crushing that Candy

    The joke is in calling these mobile video games. There’s nothing mobile about them, except the device on which they’re often played. Players? They’re rooted in their seats, often for hours. These games are headed for the Sedentary Hall of Fame. As the saying goes, “Sitting is the new smoking. “ Set a time limit on how long you play Candy Crush, Words with Friends, Minecraft, and all the others.  Be sure you spend as much time walking or doing a physical activity that gets the heart pumping as you do in front of a screen. Watch as Dr. Dennis Kim, pediatric interventional cardiologist, explains the dangers of sitting still for too long.

    So there is our list! We want to hear from you to keep the conversation going. Send us your question about what impacts the heart and we just may answer it on Twitter or possibly post a video response. You can see our current video responses on our YouTube playlist.