In February, we think of all things heart-related, from love in honor of Valentine’s Day to heart health in honor of American Heart Month. With heart disease the number one cause of death in the U.S. and the leading global cause of death, knowing how to live a heart-healthy life is crucial. Many people look at heart health from the inside, and that’s a good place to start. That means no smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, since both are risk factors for developing heart disease; exercising regularly to keep your heart healthy; and getting the cardioprotective effects of the Mediterranean diet by consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, beans, legumes, nuts, and fish. Now let’s look at heart health from the outside in—what’s in your environment that can hurt or help your heart health.
Steer clear of secondhand smoke: Even if you’re not a smoker, secondhand smoke can increase your risk of developing heart disease by 25-30 percent.
Protect against air pollution: Use an air purifier at home and work to lessen the potentially heart-damaging impact of exposure to fine particulate matter (a component of air pollution).
Reduce noise exposure: Research has shown that road traffic noise is associated with an increase of heart attack risk. If you live in an area where outside noise is high, carpeting, rugs and draperies can help absorb the sounds. Window seals, caulking, and triple-pane windows help, too.
Seek community: Multiple studies have linked strong social ties with better health and a longer life. On the flip side, social isolation is associated with health problems, including heart disease. Animal friends count too, as caring for a dog, and taking it on regular walks, may help protect you against cardiovascular disease, especially if you live alone.
Avoid sudden exertion in cold temperatures: If you live in a cold weather climate and have a heart condition, sudden exertion when you’re outside in the cold can trigger a heart attack.