Surprising Ways to Keep Your Heart and Blood Vessels Healthy

Eating healthy, exercising regularly, and avoiding bad habits are proven ways to keep your heart in great shape.

But beyond eating vegetables and going to the gym, there are other preventive measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

According to John P. Higgins, MD, a sports cardiologist and professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center McGovern School of Medicine, there are some surprisingly simple daily strategies to help your heart work at its full potential.

Home oral hygiene

Of course, flossing and brushing are important to prevent bad breath and cavities, but these healthy dental habits can also be good for your heart.

Believe it or not, “research shows that brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Higgins.

Indeed, a study published in December 2019 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found a correlation between good oral care and a reduced likelihood of atrial fibrillation and heart failure.

Scientists suggest that poor oral hygiene can lead to bacteria entering the bloodstream, infections, and systemic inflammation, which is at the root of heart disease.

The dog

Four-legged furry friends are not only adorable and cuddly, but they can also improve your heart health. Indeed, people who own pets report feeling happier and are less likely to smoke or have diabetes, says Dr. Higgins.

In particular, dog owners tend to live longer and cope better with a heart attack or stroke compared to their counterparts without companion dogs, according to a meta-analysis published in October 2019 in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Dr. Higgins also points to other studies that link dog ownership to lower blood pressure. This is likely due to the fact that dogs need to be walked, so their owners tend to be more physically active, logging more steps each day. In addition, dogs provide social support and help alleviate loneliness, which contributes to overall good health.


Not getting enough sleep can also damage your heart function.

“Poor sleep quantity and quality are linked to obesity, unhealthy eating, diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension, which are risk factors for stroke and coronary heart disease,” says Dr. Higgins, adding that adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep.

“Following your natural circadian rhythm is also important,” he says. If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, try sticking to a consistent schedule where you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Falling into a similar schedule can help your body fall into deep sleep more efficiently.

And there’s evidence that it benefits your ticker. Older adults who did not have a consistent sleep schedule – meaning they had irregular sleep and wake times or different amounts of sleep each night – were almost twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as people with regular sleep patterns.

The time you go to bed can also make a difference. A study conducted in November 2021 in the European Heart Journal: Digital Health, covered more than 100,000 people and found that those who went to bed between 10 and 23 hours had a lower risk of heart disease than people who went to bed earlier or later.


It turns out that laughter really is the best medicine, especially when it comes to maintaining heart health.

“Laughter is associated with improved vascular function and lower blood pressure, plus studies show that laughter can reduce arterial inflammation, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, and lower stress hormones,” says Dr. Higgins.

Stress management is especially important when it comes to heart health. This is because chronic stress can increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which in turn increases the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association.

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Written by Emma Miller

I am a registered dietitian nutritionist and own a private nutrition practice, where I provide one-on-one nutritional counseling to patients. I specialize in chronic disease prevention/ management, vegan/ vegetarian nutrition, pre-natal/ postpartum nutrition, wellness coaching, medical nutrition therapy, and weight management.

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