Healthy Aging

Three surprising ways to help your heart

This month Senior Planet focuses on heart health for Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month. 

Most people realize that healthy diet and exercise are important to lower the risk for heart attacks; but other ways to have a healthy heart might surprise you.

Dental care and your heart

Is there a link between healthy teeth and a healthy heart?  Scientists have found both direct and indirect relationships between the two.  First, there is evidence that the same bacteria that infect the gums and cause gingivitis and periodontitis have been found within the atherosclerotic plaques in the heart. Second, people with poor oral health have a higher risk of heart disease.  There are many possible reasons for this relationship: 1) People who take good care of their teeth and gums may also eat healthier food, exercise routinely and avoid smoking.  2) Scientists have discovered that unhealthy gums can cause inflammation in the body (elevated C reactive protein) which is a risk for heart attacks. 

The bottom line – take care of your teeth and gums and you will reduce risk of heart disease!

Sleep and your heart

Hot off the press – a new article by Dr. Valentin Fuster, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY, demonstrated that both sleep duration and sleep quality matter. Prior studies have shown that lack of sleep is associated with heart disease risk by increasing risk factors: blood pressure, glucose levels, obesity and inflammation. This study, however, found that when controlling for the traditional risk factors, sleepers of fewer than 6 hours a night were 27 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis.  In addition, those who had a poor quality of sleep (frequent awakenings, etc), were 34 percent more likely to have arterial disease.   Get those zzz’s!

Lift your Mood – and your heart

Pay attention to your mood.  The latest guidelines for treatment of heart disease risk in women noted that depression is related to risk of heart attack.  Depression is associated with changes in blood platelets and inflammatory proteins that can lead to heart attacks.  Doctors should be asking patients about depression and referring for treatment – but don’t be afraid to take the first step yourself and get help if you need it.

A quick prescription for a healthier heart

  1. See a dentist  every six months
    1. Make flossing a part of your daily routine
    2. Brush teeth at least twice a day
    3. Tell your dentist the medications you take for high blood pressure and heart disease, as they may impact your gum health and bleeding risk
  2. Get the most out of your sleep! 
    1. Turn off computer screens and mobile devices one hour before bed.  
    2. Keep phones across the room when you retire for the night.  
  3. Seek help for depression and anxiety.
    1. Try meditation techniques
    2. Increase exercise; it increases endorphins/mood and improves heart health


Mary Ann McLaughlin, MD, MPH is the Director, Cardiovascular Health and Wellness, Mount Sinai Heart, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY  

This article offered by Senior Planet and Older Adults Technology Services is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.  




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