Most people can recite the main risk factors for heart disease. But it turns out there are more risk factors than previously believed. It’s possible that your heart is under attack from enemies you may have never considered.
Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, and a lack of activity are the heart disease risk factors you hear so much about. Your doctor talks about them, and they’re covered in pamphlets across the country. But some other risk factors get very little coverage. They include:
- Air pollution
- Lack of green space
- Not enough sleep
Now, you might see that list and get a little frightened. You can’t exactly control or monitor those risk factors like you can the others, at least upon first thought. But with a little bit of effort, you might be able to reduce these sneaky heart disease risk factors.
Particulate matter in the air can lead to inflammation in the lungs that have an immediate impact on the cardiovascular system. If you’re elderly or have an existing heart condition, staying indoors or wearing a mask outdoors when air quality is poor may help. But if you’re otherwise healthy or air quality is good, research has shown that the benefits of exercising outdoors outweigh the risks of particulate matter. Further research indicates that a Mediterranean-style diet may mitigate some of the damage caused by air pollution.
Green space can also play a role in reduced risk for heart disease. It’s associated with greater levels of physical activity, mental well-being, and better eating habits. This may be difficult for people living in urban environments, but there is some evidence that spending time in calming areas may help reduce stress. So, if a local flower garden, park, or other primarily green or relaxing place exists nearby, it might be worthwhile visiting a few times per week.
Working on sleep hygiene and staying socially active and engaged can also help reduce the silent risks of heart disease.