7 Hidden Heart Risks
- Polluted AirIt’s hard enough to pronounce airborne pollutants like nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. Now, imagine breathing them in. Doing so may trigger heart attacks within hours or days, warn experts at the American Heart Association. To reduce your exposure, avoid exercising next to busy roadways or near industrial facilities.
- Too Little—Or Too Much—SnoozingGetting less than five hours of sleep has negative effects throughout your body. It’s been linked to heart risk factors like diabetes and obesity, along with a 50 percent greater risk of getting or dying from heart disease. Aim for six to eight hours of shut-eye; more than nine may also harm your heart.
- InflammationInflammation can be a good thing. It’s the cascade of events that occurs when your body’s immune system fights injury or infection. But over time, it can lead to buildup of plaque in the arteries, a major cause of heart disease. Ask your doctor if you need a C-reactive protein test. High levels of this compound, produced by the liver, could mean your heart is at risk.
- Screen TimeCouch potatoes, take note. Four hours of TV time a day may tune you in to a brand-new channel: elevated cardiovascular disease risk. And working out doesn’t protect you from the dangers of recreational sitting. Limit your free-time screen hours to two to lower your odds.
- Irregular PeriodsSure, it’s annoying when your monthly visitor continually changes the date of her reservation. But more sobering, in a study of more than 15,000 women, those with irregular menstrual cycles were more likely to die of heart disease. A fluctuating flow may be a symptom of a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal imbalance known to raise heart risks. Call your doctor if your period lasts more than a week or is heavier than usual for three months.
- Erectile DysfunctionFor most men, this type of sexual problem seems like nothing but bad news. But it may actually offer an opportunity to prevent cardiovascular troubles: It normally occurs three to five years before a heart attack or stroke. Tell your doctor if you or your partner has difficulty sustaining an erection. Medications can help, and tests can then assess your heart risk.
- On-the-Job StressSmoldering from a workplace slight? Or just feel you’re slaving away with little notice of your efforts? Stress at work could boost your heart risk by half, studies show. If you work overnight shifts—which disrupt the body’s natural rhythms—you might be in greater danger. Find healthy ways to manage stress. Some daily deep breathing might ease the strain.
7 Hidden Heart Risks