5 surprising things that damage your heart

You may think you know all the culprits that damage your heart – but did you know about these?

04 April 2016
by Meg de Jong

Don’t smoke, manage your weight, eat healthily, exercise regularly, manage your stress – this kind of advice is widely known to those at risk of heart disease. However, less well known is that sleeping too much, watching TV and sitting – yes, sitting – can also have a negative effect on your heart’s health. We look a little bit closer at some of these unusual correlations.

1. Sleep duration

A 2010 study by the Warwick Medical School in the UK showed not only that insufficient sleep affects cardiovascular health, but that too much sleep can be harmful too. Less than five hours or more than nine hours sleep are both associated with an increased risk. 

2. Shift work

A 2015 study published by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine has once again shown a link between shift work and hypertension. “It might not be the shift work itself that is the perpetrator, but rather the other associated factors such as sleep disorders, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating habits with a raised body mass index (BMI),” explains Dr Jens Hitzeroth, a cardiologist at Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town.

3. Watching TV

Couch potatoes beware: a 2011 study has shown that watching TV is not just bad for your heart, but also puts you at higher risk of diabetes and death. According to the study, television viewing increases the risk of non-fatal cardiovascular disease by 20% and all-cause death by 18% per two hours of TV viewing per day. “Less TV!” recommends Dr Hitzeroth.

4. Air pollution

What you breathe could be affecting your heart’s health too. A 2013 review by the University of Edinburgh in the UK has found a correlation between air pollution and heart failure. “Sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide all are associated with heart failure hospitalisation,” observes Dr Hitzeroth.

5. Sitting

The American College of Sports Medicine published an article in 2009 showing that the more time you spend sitting the greater your risk of all-cause mortality, as well as dying from cardiovascular disease. It’s time to get active – and schedule regular standing or walking breaks from your office chair!

Change your lifestyle now!

Dr Hitzeroth notes that while the above correlations are interesting, it’s more important to get the basics right than to worry about these unusual factors. He suggests that those at risk should change their lifestyle to reduce established risk factors. This includes: 

1.    Do not smoke

2.    Be screened for and, if needed, treated for hypertension (high blood pressure)

3.    Be screened for and, if needed, treated for diabetes

4.    Exercise regularly

5.    Achieve and maintain an ideal body weight

6.    Check cholesterol and, if needed, be treated

7.    Follow a healthy diet 

How Clicks Clinics can help you

Clicks Clinics will help you prevent or manage heart disease with their wide range of screening tests. These include:

  • Blood Pressure (BP) Test
  • Cholesterol Testing and Consultation
  • Lipogram Blood Test (to determine different types of cholesterol)
  • Clicks Full Basic Screening (BP, Body Mass Index or BMI, meal guide and exercise plan)
  • Clicks Screening Measurements only (BP and BMI)
  • Clicks Comprehensive Screening (BP, BMI, Glucose and Cholesterol screening, plus meal and exercise plan)

To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or visit Clicks Clinics online

For more info

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa

Read More: Heart Disease Super Section