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3 Surprising Habits for a Healthy Heart

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Dr. Mark Erhard Author

Most people have heard a million times: To keep your heart healthy, eat healthy and exercise more. But did you know there are three other habits you can develop that will have a profoundly positive impact on your heart’s health? I often share these with my patients and am happy to share them with you, too!

1. Cut the alcohol.

For years, many have believed that mild to moderate consumption of alcohol may be good for us. But now that thinking is called into question by a groundbreaking study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in November 2022.

The study found that each year in the United States, 1 in 5 deaths in people ages 21-49 are attributable to alcohol. Among people ages 21-64, 1 in 8 deaths are linked to alcohol consumption. Forty percent of the deaths are due to acute causes, such as motor vehicle accidents. Sixty percent are caused by chronic conditions such as liver disease, heart disease and cancer. In total, that’s 144,000 deaths per year.

Another recent study found an association between habitual alcohol intake with the risk of cardiovascular disease. So, you may want to rethink the heart benefits of that evening glass of wine.

2. Get some sleep.

Sleep hygiene is a hot topic these days, and with good reason. Research shows chronic conditions like untreated sleep apnea significantly increase the risk of heart arrhythmias and cardiovascular disease. Sleep apnea increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 30% – and the risk of heart failure by a whopping 140%.

In our fast-paced, sleep-deprived society, it is status quo to power through on little sleep. But in the long run, it takes a huge toll on our heart’s ability to keep us going. Make sure you’re getting at least 7-8 hours per night., which helps regulate blood glucose levels and helps keep you feeling fuller longer.

3. Find joy.

Abe Lincoln reportedly once said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Solomon said, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” As a cardiologist, I see the first-hand effects of happiness on the heart every day.

In 32 years of practice, I have observed that people with a good attitude deal with disease in a much more effective way. They are much more compliant with therapy treatments. They are much more resilient when faced with health challenges. In the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), a patient’s disposition – whether hopeful or hopeless – has a lot to do with their outcome.

In conclusion, less alcohol, more sleep and a brighter attitude are three great tools to sustained health and happiness.

Heart care in Duluth

At Aspirus St. Luke's Cardiology, part of Aspirus St. Luke's Regional Heart & Vascular Center, we use the latest technology treatments to address any concerns you may have regarding your heart health – no referral required! This includes heart disease, atrial fibrillation (A-fib), heart failure, blood pressure issues and high cholesterol.

To schedule an appointment, call 218.249.3057.