Get some zzz’s
Most people need seven to eight hours a night to be well-rested.
Sleep is not just downtime. It’s when your brain forms new pathways to help your memory. It’s when your heart and vascular system get a break, as your blood pressure and heart rate slow down. If you don’t sleep enough, your body constantly produces adrenaline and stress hormones to keep you awake. That means your blood pressure and heart rate doesn’t slow down as well, and that hurts your heart.
Your sleeping body also produces cytokines, which helps your immune system fight infections and chronic inflammation. Studies show poor sleep – anything less than six hours – hurts women more than it does men.
Poor sleep can also exacerbate depression symptoms and depression increases your risk of heart attacks.
Get active (yes, including sex!)
Any kind of exercise is essential for your heart, including sex, studies show.
“My guess is the ‘get more sex (suggestion)’ was published by a man,” Dr. Deidre Mattina joked. But the Henry Ford Health System cardiologist admitted she has “written on my prescription pad that a patient should have more chocolate, sex and coffee.” All of those, in moderation, are good for stress relief, she said.
Raise a glass – and maybe a carrot – to your heart
A drink a day can keep the heart doctor away. If you drink (don’t start for a healthier heart), Mattina suggests one alcoholic beverage is enough (for the guys it’s two). Any more can stress your heart.
A drink, by the way, is not an extra-large tumbler. It’s 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.