The statistics around heart disease are heartbreaking. Heart disease is the number one cause of death globally. Every 40 seconds, someone has a heart attack in the United States. Heart disease is the cause of 1 in 4 American deaths. If you add stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, it’s 1 in 3! (1) Premature heart disease is rising in ages 35-64, so it’s not just a disease for seniors. Genetics is not an excuse for the increasing rates. Lifestyle choices and habits bad for heart health are leading to these heartbreaking statistics.
Just because these rates are high and it runs in your family doesn’t mean that heart disease is inevitable. Look at your habits and make changes to support a healthy heart. One study found that changing your behavior had more impact than genetics on early heart disease. (2) You can do a lot to reduce your risk for heart disease by quitting smoking, eating healthy, and exercising. There are six other habits bad for heart health that you want to stop doing right now. Some of these will surprise a lot of you, especially #3.
6 Habits Bad for Heart Health
- Restricting healthy fats
- Eating too much added sugar
- Taking a calcium supplement
- Stressing out
- Sitting too much
- Taking antacids
1- Restricting Healthy Fats
We were told for so long that fats were bad for us that many of us are still restricting fats. According to popular opinion, fats are harmful, and cholesterol is the devil. That means missing out on healthy fats which are beneficial for your heart. Healthy fats can reduce your risk of heart disease!
This isn’t permission to eat vegetable oils, trans-fats in processed foods, and inflammatory foods like dairy. For heart health, you need to cut out all inflammatory foods. It does mean you should add healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, nuts, chia seeds, eggs, and fatty fish as long as they aren’t one of your food allergies.
2 – Eating Too Much Added Sugar
While fat got all the blame, sugar has taken over the American diet. Most Americans get 10% of their calories from added sugars. That’s a lot, but some Americans get 25% or more of their calories from added sugars! Sugar is a highly inflammatory food that contributes to obesity, high blood pressure, poor dental health, and diabetes, increasing your risk for heart disease.
One study looked at heart disease risk and sugar consumption over 15 years. It found that those who got 25% of their calories from added sugars were twice as likely to die from heart disease and that overall, your risk increased with the amount of sugar you consumed. (3) It’s time to break the sugar habit for your heart health! There are lots of benefits of giving up sugar.
3 – Taking a Calcium Supplement
Yes, taking a calcium supplement is a habit that’s bad for your heart and can lead to cardiovascular disease. You thought your calcium supplement was good for you? That’s all wrong! Milk doesn’t do a body good, and you never needed as much calcium as you’ve been led to believe.
Many studies have shown an association between calcium supplementation and adverse cardiovascular events. (4) Calcium supplements cause a spike in the calcium in your bloodstream, leading to blood clots or a build-up in your arteries. Stop taking your calcium supplement and protect your heart health.
4 – Stressing Out
I talk about reducing stress a lot because it’s so harmful to your health. It is an inflammation creator, and that can lead to heart disease. Stress can cause high blood pressure. Your thoughts and anxiety are directly related to your hormones, and hormonal imbalances can lead to a hormonal cascade resulting in further inflammation and stress on the body. This can lead to increased muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure. Stressing out is one of the most challenging habits to break, but breaking the habit is critical for your overall health, including your heart health.
5 – Sitting Too Much
The average person spends more than half their day sitting. (5) Most of us have jobs that require sitting at a desk for long periods. Some of us try to combat the effects with exercise. Exercise is essential, but just because you exercise regularly doesn’t mean you get away with sitting for the rest of the time. We all know exercise is vital for a healthy heart, but sitting is terrible for your heart. Even if you exercise daily, prolonged sitting is still bad for your heart. (6) If you have a job requiring lots of sitting, take regular breaks to move around or do exercises at your desk.
6 – Taking Antacids
Your heartburn drugs can put you at a higher risk for a heart attack than those who don’t take antacids. (7) Individuals taking proton pump inhibitors have a 20% higher risk of a heart attack, not including the higher risk of stroke and other cardiovascular disease. (8) The body is like a Swiss watch; changing one system can impact another. Stomach acid has an important job, and inhibiting stomach acid can do considerable harm.
Break the 6 Habits Bad for Heart Health
Change your behavior for better heart health and break the six bad habits. Some habits you might not have even realized were bad for your heart. Develop new heart-healthy habits, like exercising, eating healthy, and getting regular chiropractic adjustments. You can make those changes now. Today! Then you can live healthy tomorrow! Genetics don’t determine your heart health. Your habits and your lifestyle can influence your heart health more than genetics.
Originally posted February 9, 2020. Updated August 1, 2023.