You already know you should do cardio exercise and eat healthily. Try these (much more) fun ways to boost your heart health too. By Estelle Low
How love helps your heart health. (Photo: Sergey Novikov / www.123rf.com)
Have sex twice a week
Sex might halve your risk of heart disease, according to a study in the Journal Of Epidemiology And Community Health. Even if you don’t reach the big O, just being aroused can trigger your brain to release hormones that improve circulation and boost your heart’s performance. (But sex doesn’t replace exercise because a 15-minute romp in the sack is only equivalent to a 1.6km walk.)
Listen to music
Listening to music you enjoy might help increase blood flow in your body, according to research by the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the US. It also reduces stress, boosts your mood and promotes sound sleep – all critical factors for good heart health.
Take Monday off
And Tuesday too, if you can. Missing a few days of work lowers heart attack and stroke risk by almost 30 per cent due to the reduction in stress, according to a study by the State University of New York in the US.
Row a boat
Go on a canoe expedition to a nearby island… Or try dragon boat racing. A study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that rowing uses more muscles than running and causes your heart to pump more blood through the body, giving its fitness a major boost.
Hug a loved one every day
Hug everyone you love for at least 10 seconds every day. This can lower your blood pressure, drive up the level of feel-good hormones and shrink the amount of stress chemicals in your body, according to a study published in the journal Comprehensive Psychology. Over time, this boosts your immunity and reduces the risk of heart disease.
Watch a comedy
Laugh out loud while at it. Research has shown that a hearty laugh helps make the lining of your blood vessel walls to relax, increasing blood flow for up to 45 minutes afterwards.
“We don’t know yet why laughing protects the heart, but we know that mental stress is associated with impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining our blood vessels. This can cause a series of inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries and ultimately to a heart attack,” says Dr Michael Miller, director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center.