<< Back

5 Bad Habits That Can Affect Your Heart Health

April 28, 2023

They say you can’t hide from bad habits. And some of these habits, if ignored, can cause deadly heart disease. You may be familiar with some of these bad habits, says Carrie Wolfberg, MD, a cardiologist with Hartford HealthCare’s Heart & Vascular Institute in Torrington. “Smoking, being inactive and eating the wrong way can all lead to coronary disease,” she says. But what other bad habits should you be aware of in order to protect your heart? [insert-cta-small id=39025]

Indirect causes of poor heart health

According to Dr. Wolfberg, there are some "indirect" lifestyle choices that can lead to poor heart health. Three common ones are:
  • Smoking. Inhaling toxic chemicals in cigarette or marijuana smoke leads to various cancers, as does using smokeless tobacco. Even inhaling second-hand smoke can be harmful. This habit is damaging for the lungs, but it's just as bad for the heart and arteries, Dr. Wolfberg notes.
  • Eating wrong. If you find yourself choosing fast food or dishes high in fat and salt, you may be setting yourself up for poor health. Salt alone, says Dr. Wolfberg, can raise your blood pressure, causing stress and leading to heart disease. Other indirect dietary choices like indulging in soda or sugary drinks can cause weight gain and add stress on the heart to support a larger body.
  • Being inactive. Inactivity lead to obesity, which impacts heart function. And when you miss out on exercise - even as little as 10 minutes at a time - you miss the chance to strengthen muscles in the body, including the heart, Dr. Wolfberg says.
> Related: This Common Ingredient Could Be Causing Your Hypertension

Two more habits to be mindful of

Beyond the more obvious habits that affect your heart, here are two other key lifestyle factors you should think about addressing to stay heart healthy:
  • Curbing alcohol intake. Drinking can cause various non-coronary heart issues, explains Wolfberg. “Alcohol is a toxic chemical for heart muscles,” she says. “It weakens the heart diffusely.” Excess drinking can cause a condition called “alcoholic cardiomyopathy,” which affects heart function.
  • Reducing stress. While this may seem impossible with work, family and other obligations, even the smallest steps toward managing stress help your heart, Dr. Wolfberg says. “Stress indirectly causes all sorts of problems by increasing your adrenaline levels,” she says.
Want more health news? Text StartHere to 85209 to sign up for text alerts

Dr. Wolfberg's advice for making changes

Exercise addresses two harmful habits – inactivity and stress - at once, Dr. Wolfberg continues. “Everyone relaxes in different ways. I like to exercise when I can. It’s a great stress reliever,” she says. She also recommends finding a way to “turn work stress off at the end of the day.” Through a wellness course she took a few years ago, Dr. Wolfberg worked on a project about the impact of disconnecting outside of work on provider mental health. “The key is finding something you find relaxing and doing that,” she says.