Eat more fruits and veggies, exercise, lose weight and stop smoking: You know those will help protect your heart. Here are three more strategies to consider, based on the newest research:
• Get your teeth cleaned. People who had their pearly whites professionally scrubbed had a 24% lower risk of heart attack and 13% lower risk of stroke compared with those who never had a dental cleaning, according to early research presented at the most recent American Heart Association scientific meeting.
• Drink less sugar. Though it's true that sipping on too many sweetened beverages can lead to obesity (a risk factor for heart disease), preliminary findings suggest women with a sugary drinking habit don't have to put on the pounds to raise their heart risk.
Researchers assessed the beverage patterns of nearly 4,200 adults ages 45 to 84 and found middle-aged women who drank two or more sugar-sweetened drinks a day were almost four times as likely to have high levels of unhealthy blood fats when compared with women who drank less than one a day; they also had more dangerous belly fat but not necessarily more weight. Those results weren't seen in men; scientists speculate it's because men have more body mass and may need to drink more soda to see an effect.
• Check your vitamin D level. Too little is linked to a significantly higher risk of heart diseases. Cardiologists at the University of Kansas determined people deficient in D were 40% more likely to have high blood pressure and about 30% more likely to suffer from a diseased heart muscle. If you're low, consider taking a supplement, but you may want to monitor your levels - research in the American Journal of Cardiology suggests too much vitamin D could hurt your heart.
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