February is universally known as a month devoted to heart health. And while many people know the basics of keeping a healthy heart, there are a few under-the-radar health issues that can have a surprising impact on your heart health.

Sleep

People who don’t get enough sleep are at a higher risk for heart disease including things like high blood pressure or even a heart attack or stroke. Lack of good-quality sleep raises your levels of cortisol and can increase general, low-lying inflammation throughout your body.

E-cigarettes

A recent report by the American Stoke Association showed a 71 percent higher stroke rate among people who use e-cigarettes (that’s double those who smoke cigarettes). Although some see vaping as less dangerous than the nicotine in regular cigarettes or even as a way to help quit smoking, these products have their own health hazards. If you are trying to quit smoking, investigate other ways that might be as effective but without the added significant health risk.

Diet Sodas

Having a diet soda every now and then isn’t a big deal, but if you routinely drink them throughout the day, you could be setting yourself up for heart troubles. A recent study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke linked drinking two or more diet sodas a day with increased risk of stroke. The study focused on a cohort of postmenopausal women, but raises questions for the larger population’s heart health.

Menopause

There’s not much you can do about going through a natural physical change. It helps to be aware that menopause reduces estrogen which has heart-protective benefits. Women who are approaching, going through, or finished with menopause should pay extra attention to their heart health. Focus on strength training, stress reduction, sleep, diet, and exercise to keep a healthy heart.

Mental Health

Conditions like depression and anxiety can do a number on your heart health. If you are feeling any of the symptoms of depression or anxiety, seek treatment to get help. Medication and/or talk therapy can have a profound effect on your daily life and that helps your long-term heart health.

Oral Health

Gum disease (symptoms include inflamed gums or bleeding when you brush or floss) can indicate systemic inflammation, one of the known risk factors of heart disease. Dental checkups are easy to let slide, so make sure you make it a priority. Even if you take excellent care of your mouth, a dentist can help stop trouble before it becomes a major problem.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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