Surprising Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy: 4 behaviors to put into practice today

February is American Heart Month. With heart disease the number one cause of death in the U.S. and the leading global cause of death, there’s good reason to use this month to kick your heart-healthy habits into high gear. While those statistics may sound scary, heart disease is largely preventable. Lowering your risk involves not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, limiting salt intake, and reducing your consumption of saturated and trans fat. But that’s not all. There are plenty of lesser-known ways to keep your ticker in top shape.

Eat a nutritious breakfast: People who regularly skip breakfast are more likely to have an overall unhealthy lifestyle. A recent study suggests that skipping breakfast may be associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis, or the hardening and narrowing of arteries due to a build-up of plaque.

Keep your mouth healthy: Scientists believe there may be a link between oral health and heart health. Bacteria in your mouth from periodontal disease spreads to the heart, causing inflammation, which can lead to development of coronary heart disease. Brush, floss, and see your dentist regularly.

Go for the LOL: Anger, depression, and anxiety all lead to higher rates of heart disease. On the flip side, laughter can decrease stress hormones, reduce artery inflammation and increase HDL, the “good” cholesterol.

Use an air purifier: In a small study, exposure to fine particulate matter (a component of air pollution from vehicles, factories, power plants, fires and smoking) increased stress hormones, blood pressure and signs of oxidative stress and inflammation, all of which adversely affect cardiovascular health. Researchers believe that use of air purifiers may lessen that impact.

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