Advice for having a healthy heart—exercise, stop smoking, lose weight—may sound difficult. But there are a few simpler ways to boost your heart health, too.
Several recent heart studies highlight new steps to take to reduce your risk for heart attacks and strokes. Here are a few that can set you on your way toward a healthy heart!
Filter your coffee
If you love coffee, be sure to make it in a heart-healthy way! A new study from Norway shows that using a filter when you’re brewing it can reduce your heart risks.
In the study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, researchers asked some 500,000 people between ages 20 and 79 about their diet and then followed them for 20 years. Those who drank filtered coffee were 15% less likely to die during the trial from any cause, including heart disease. That was true even after accounting for participants’ weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, exercise habits, and smoking habits.
The “sweet spot” for filtered coffee consumption was 1 to 4 cups a day. People who drank at that level had the lowest risk of death from heart problems.
Those who drank unfiltered coffee had a higher risk of dying from heart problems. This included brewing methods like using a French press and espresso drinks.
Why is unfiltered coffee bad for the heart? The study authors suggest it retains high levels of the oils in coffee that can raise cholesterol levels.
Pilates is a system of exercises designed to improve flexibility, posture, and strength—especially in the core muscles. Add a healthier heart to that last of benefits!
In research from Marymount University in Arlington, VA, a group of young women who were more than 30 pounds overweight with high blood pressure took Pilates classes for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, researchers showed they had a decrease in systolic blood pressure and lost body fat. (There were no changes in a similar group of women who didn’t exercise.)
The Pilates group also reduced the stiffness of their blood vessels, which lets blood flow more freely. And they significantly increased their levels of nitric oxide, a chemical that expands your blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.
Ask your doctor if it’s OK for you to do Pilates. You can look for classes online that you can do at home, or when the time is right, take Pilates in a studio or gym.
Eat tofu twice a week
Tofu, which is made from soybeans, is a great type of protein to try when you want to eat less meat. A new study in the journal Circulation shows that soy foods like tofu can lower your risk for heart problems. The effect is due to high levels of substances in soy foods called isoflavones.
Researchers asked more than 200,000 Americans about their diets and then looked at their health records. They found that eating tofu at least twice a week lowered the risk of heart disease by 18%. Eating tofu just once a week was also heart healthy—just not as much.
Take a bath every day
A hot bath is a great way to relax. But it turns out to be good for your heart, too, according to a new study in BMJ Heart.
Researchers tracked the bathing habits of some 61,000 adults in Japan—where baths are popular—for 20 years and also checked their health status. A hot bath every day or almost every day was linked to a 28% lower risk for heart disease and a 26% lower risk of stroke, compared to people who rarely took baths.
The researchers aren’t sure why a hot soak helps the heart. But it may be because it improves the way that blood is able to be pumped efficiently through the body. Called hemodynamic function, this translates into lower blood pressure levels—a sign of good heart health.
It’s always important to exercise, manage your weight, reduce stress, stop smoking, and eat a heart-friendly diet. That’s one that has a lot of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, low saturated fat, low-fat dairy, and small amounts of added salt and sugar.
But it’s nice to know there are also some easy ways to stack your odds in favor of a healthier heart!