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IntroductionHeart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, but it doesn't have to be.
There are many well-known ways to keep your heart healthy, including being physically active and quitting smoking. Maintaining a healthy weight and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels are three more keys to keeping your ticker in great shape.
But researchers are continually looking for additional ways to help people cut back on their risk factors for heart disease and keep their hearts healthy. Here are nine things to know about heart health, gleaned from the latest research.
Make time for breakfast.Slide 2 of 19
Make time for breakfast.Enjoying a healthy, hearty breakfast may be a simple strategy to avoid clogged arteries, a study from Spain suggests.
Middle-aged adults who regularly skipped breakfast —or just drank coffee or juice —were twice as likely to develop atherosclerosis, compared with people who typically ate a healthy morning meal, according to the findings. (Atherosclerosis, or hardening and narrowing of the arteries, can increase a person's risk of heart disease.)
Breakfast skippers had more plaque buildup in their arteries than people who usually ate a bigger meal in the morning as well as those who grabbed a lighter one.
The researchers suspect that going without breakfast is strongly tied to other unhealthy habits, such as drinking too much and smoking, which can both increase a person's risk for heart disease. In this study, people who went without breakfast were also more likely to be overweight and have poor eating habits.Slide 3 of 19
Meditation may protect the heart.Slide 4 of 19
Meditation may protect the heart.Meditation may not only be good for relaxing the body and quieting the mind, but it may also play a role in reducing your risk of heart disease, a 2017 review from the American Heart Association suggests.
It's not exactly clear how the ancient practice of focusing a person's thoughts and attention may help keep heart disease at bay, but after reviewing the existing evidence, the researchers identified a range of potential benefits to the heart from meditating.
Whether paying attention to your breath or focusing on a mantra (repeated phrase), meditation may be linked to reduced levels of stress, anxiety and depression, according to the findings. Stress and other negative emotions can affect a person's risk for heart disease.
Better sleep is another payoff from meditating on a regular basis, the analysis showed. Poor sleep habits may be linked with a greater risk for heart disease.
More research is needed to determine whether meditation "has a definite role" in preventing heart disease, the researchers said.Slide 5 of 19
Avoid 'yo-yo' dieting.Slide 6 of 19
Avoid 'yo-yo' dieting.Yo-yo dieting can be hazardous to women's waistlines, but it may also be hard on their hearts, especially after they go through menopause, a study from 2016 reveals.
Researchers found that women ages 55 and older who had a "normal" body mass index (BMI) weight, but had weight fluctuations of more than 10 lbs. (4.5 kilograms) over the course of a decade, may have an increased risk of developing heart problems, compared with women who had smaller weight swings during the same period. (A "normal" BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.)
Surprisingly, weight fluctuations did not pose the same dangers to the hearts of women who were overweight or obese, according to the analysis.
The researchers suggest that maintaining a stable, healthy weight is better for women's hearts than having a fluctuating normal weight caused by yo-yo dieting. It's not clear whether losing weight and then regaining it might have similar effects on younger women or men's hearts.Slide 7 of 19
Keep a lid on hostility.Slide 8 of 19