Men who sleep less than five hours a night show two times the risk of developing heart disease than those who get seven to eight hours. Sleep helps to regulate insulin activity, and lack of sleep causes your cells to be more resistant to insulin, which results in higher blood sugar and may contribute to weight gain and heart disease. Exhaustion is another symptom of heart disease that is often ignored in women. If you notice that you're persistently exhausted, even after sleeping well, consult your doctor.
Your weight matters, but your waistline can be an even better indicator of your heart health. Women with waistlines over 35 inches and men whose waistlines measure over 40 inches are at increased risk of heart disease. Studies show that losing even just five to ten percent of your weight can significantly improve your heart health. And 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise at least three times a week will help to strengthen your heart and reduce high cholesterol and high blood pressure, especially if combined with a Mediterranean diet.
Laughter truly is the best medicine. Your body responds to laughter by lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Having lower levels of stress and cortisol can decrease your blood pressure and help boost your mood and immunity. Studies show that individuals with heart disease who are depressed are twice as likely to have life-threatening health issues, so make sure to add a dose of laughter to your life every day!
Wondering about your heart health? Take this quiz to find out if you’re at risk for heart disease.
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