Who doesn’t want to keep his or her heart in tiptop shape? You probably already know that exercising and eating a healthy diet can substantially reduce your risk of heart disease. But we think keeping your heart healthy can be a lot more fun than that. In honor of February being American Heart Month, we put together five surprising and entertaining ways to show your ticker some extra love.
1. Have more sex
Preventing heart disease could be as easy as spending more time between the sheets with your partner. Yep! We said it. Sex triggers the release of a hormone called DHEA, which helps relax arteries and improve circulation. One study found than men who reported having three or more orgasms a week experienced 50% fewer strokes and heart attacks than men who didn’t. Watch this video with cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, to discover more about why sex can help you maintain a healthy heart.
2. Get away
It’s time to book those plane tickets or hop in the car. Taking a vacation can cut your heart attack risk by almost one-third. Here’s why: Overcommitment leads to chronic stress, and too much stress puts you on the fast track for heart disease. Can’t afford a getaway? Take a staycation. Turn off your phone and computer, rent all your favorite flicks, order in and unwind in the comfort of your own home. Trust us, your heart will love it. Click here to find out if you live in one of the least-stressed cities in America.
3. Eat chocolate
Go ahead! Have some dark chocolate or treat yourself to a decadent dark chocolate truffle. The sweet stuff doesn’t just taste delicious; studies show that regularly eating a half ounce of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) can drop your blood pressure numbers by five points – enough to lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke by 20%. Evidence suggests eating a small amount of dark chocolate every day may also increase your HDL (good) cholesterol and decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol.
4. Hit the snooze button
There’s no need to feel guilty about spending a little extra time in bed. Sleeping in can actually do your heart a favor. As little as one extra hour of sleep can lower your risk of developing calcium deposits in your arteries, a precursor of heart disease. Sleep also protects you from too much exposure to the stress hormone cortisol, which causes high blood pressure.
5. Drink up
Raise a glass to your heart! Research shows that moderate drinking (no more than one drink a day for women and two a day for men) may help lower your risk of heart disease by as much as 40%. Alcohol seems to help raise levels of HDL cholesterol and lower your blood pressure. Just be mindful of how much you’re drinking – too much booze can have negative health effects and make your RealAge® older.