Heart : Heart Smart

By Natural Vitality & Delicious Living

More than half of Americans are concerned about their everyday stress levels, according to the American Psychological Association. But some stress equals a happy heart! This is the type that arises from facing obstacles while you're working to make a positive difference is good stress that can leave you happier and more fulfilled. Humans are genetically built to manage this kind of stress.

Snooze Longer
People who sleep less than seven hours a night have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which leads to elevated blood pressure and an increase in belly fat that's linked to heart disease and diabetes. A minimum of eight hours really is the magical number.

Taking a daily half-hour walk (that's it) can lower heart disease risk by nearly 50 percent. Everyone thinks that the more intense the exercise, the better for you, but research shows it's even more important to do moderate-paced exercise regularly. Exercise is a well-proven stress reliever and heart protector. New thinking: To protect your heart, crazy, stressful days are when you need to lace up your shoes more than ever.

Breathe Clean
Inhaling traffic-related fumes may increase heart attack risk for up to six hours afterward, a recent study suggests.

Brush Well
One study found that participants who reported less frequent tooth brushing had a 70 percent increased risk of a cardiovascular disease. (The connection is inflammation.) Remember to get to the dentist: Regular dental cleanings do protect your heart.

Both short- and long-term stress are harmful to the heart, but a simple shift from trying to hold off stress to tweaking what you do when it strikes can reap huge benefits (most people report they can't really avoid stress, anyway). Unchecked stress is a double whammy, as it can cause you to fall back on other bad habits that don't support the heart. The stress response is magnesium-dependent and the more stressed we are, the more depleted we become. Magnesium is naturally calming and can help you de-stress.

Be Mindful
This stay-calm-and-collected tactic reduces heart rate and blood pressure and is proven to help heart disease patients. New thinking: You don't need to formally meditate or do yoga. Anything that encourages your mind to relax benefits the heart. Find your own om.

Don't Skip Breakfast
Starting your day on an empty stomach can start a serious stress cycle. New thinking: Eat your leftover dinner for breakfast.

Talk It Out
Conflict can raise cortisol levels and stress the heart. New thinking: Don't expect your partner or boss to be a mind reader. If you're upset about something, he or she will likely not understand until you speak up.

© 2015 Natural Vitality