February: National Heart Month

February is National Heart Month — most of us know that know the key to heart health is a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and whole grains along with an active lifestyle.

But there are some interesting studies out there that reveal some heart healthy facts you may be unaware of:

  • Sleep duration is key to heart health. Data gathered from the National Health Survey in 2005 reveals that sleeping too much or too little both increase risk of cardiovascular events. Compared to people who sleep an average of 7 hours per night, those who sleep more than 9 hours a night were 1.5 times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.  Those who slept only five hours a night are three times more at risk.
  • Most of us know that belly fat increases heart risk, but do you know why? A study conducted by Wake Forest University discovered that stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that increases the risk of central adiposity, or belly fat. The problem with central adiposity is that it covers vital organs, which increases risk of heart attack or stroke.
  • Chocolate is good for your heart. A 2009 study concluded that heart attack survivors who eat dark chocolate three times a week are less likely to suffer another cardiovascular event — this because chocolate reduces inflammation, which increases cardiovascular risk
  • Another study confirms the connection between chocolate and heart health — research conducted by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston establishes that long term chocolate consumption reduces risk of heart attack and stroke in post-menopausal women and elderly men who have a history of heart disease.
  • According to a study published in Circulation, the journal published by the American Heart Association, heart attack patients who begin an exercise program return to work sooner than those who remain inactive.
  • A recent study reveals that for every additional 2,000 steps per day, cardiovascular risk decreases by 8%

According to the American Heart Association, the 5 biggest risk factors for heart disease are a sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, abnormal value of blood lipids, smoking and obesity.

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