10 Harmful Habits that are Deadly to the Heart

The heart is often the focus of several bad habits that tend to compromise its functions.
While some of these habits are obviously deadly, others appear seemingly harmless. The bitter truth is these habits can all prove deadly to your heart.


Smoking has a damaging effect on not only the heart, but also every body organ. Cigarettes contain nicotine which increases the heart rate, elevates the blood pressure and damages the inner lining (endothelium) of blood vessels supplying the heart, which impairs blood flow to the organ.

Research has shown that about 20% of deaths from heart disease are directly related to smoking. It has been found that people who smoke have 2-4 times higher risk of coming down with heart disease than nonsmokers. Sadly, second hand or passive smokers (I.e people around smokers) are not exempted.
So avoid smoking of any form because it kills faster than you think.

Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Research has shown that moderate consumption of alcohol (especially red wine containing flavonoids) can be cardio-protective.  The reverse is the case when you drink alcohol in excess, as alcohol increases your blood pressure, blood fats and weight. So it is an important risk factor for cardiovascular problems like heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

If you must drink at all, the American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 1-2 bottles of beer or 1-2 glasses of wine per day for men. For women it’s 1 bottle of beer and 1 glass of wine.  In larger quantities, alcohol does more harm than good to your body.

Sitting for Long Periods

Prolonged periods of sitting (>5hrs a day) either at a desk or in front of TV could prove dangerous to the heart.
Folks who sit for long periods without getting up are said to have a double risk of developing heart disease since a sedentary lifestyle can promote obesity, high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels.
A 2014 study done at Indiana University recommends taking a five-minute walk every hour if your job is such that you must sit all day. This simple routine will keep your blood vessels flexible and enhance a smooth blood flow.

Overzealous Exercise

What overzealous exercise does is to stimulate the body to release stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol which increase the heart rate and shoot up the blood pressure.
This increases the risk of cardiovascular phenomena such as heart attack, heart failure and stroke. It’s a good habit to indulge in 30min of moderate-intensity exercise about 5 times in a week because it improves the condition of your heart and blood vessels while also helping you to burn some fat.

Not Flossing

Flossing is important not just for your teeth but also for your heart.
 Studies have shown that bacteria associated with gum disease can cause inflammation and get into the bloodstream, leading to plaque formation and eventual narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart. This may predispose the heart to coronary artery disease and heart attack.

Excessive Salt Intake

It is no longer news that table salt has high quantities of sodium which can raise the blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular events. But what about the hidden sodium content in most processed foods like sardines, canned vegetables, chips and salty snacks?
The American Heart Association recommends a maximum daily sodium intake of 1500mg. Be sure to read the nutritional labels of the products you consume and avoid those with very high sodium content.

Inadequate Sleep

The need to make ends meet and earn a good living compels a lot of people to sacrifice their sleep. They often find themselves going to bed very late and getting up very early in the morning. This kind of habit deprives the overworked cardiovascular system of the needed rest and you may just be setting yourself up for high blood pressure and its dreaded complications. Studies have shown that 7-8 hrs of sleep every night is optimal for the body.

Anger and Anxiety

Research has shown that emotional outbursts in the form of anger and anxiety can raise the blood pressure, disrupt the normal rhythm of the heart and promote atherosclerosis (a build-up of fatty plaques on the inner lining of blood vessels). All these can set the stage for cardiovascular complications.

Avoiding Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are high-fibre, low-calorie diets that can facilitate weight loss and help burn fat. In fact, some fruits like bananas are rich in potassium which has been shown to protect the heart.

Studies have shown a 20% lower risk of heart disease and stroke in individuals who consume more than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, compared to those who consume less than 3 servings.

Poor Compliance with Medications and Clinic Attendance

High blood pressure is often aptly referred to as the ‘silent killer’ because the majority of people may not feel any symptoms of the disease until they come down with complications. Hence it is very dangerous to stop taking your anti-hypertensive pills or ignore clinic appointments just because you no longer feel any symptoms.

To learn more about heart health, get the Herbal Collective February 2020 issue or subscribe to get every new and archived issue.

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