Despite decades of heart-health campaigns, heart attacks are still all too common: Each year, 715,000 people will have a heart attack, or one every 44 seconds, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the stereotypical symptoms and causes of a heart attack are well known i.e, chest pain and a diet high in saturated fat, for example, there are many common risk factors and behaviors doctors say their patients don’t realize can lead to a heart attack, but they wish they knew. 

Long and stressful commute
A commercial district in Lagos, Nigeria.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that exposure to traffic increases the chance of a heart attack in people already at risk. Other studies have shown that longer commute times also increase the risk of weight gain, stress, and high blood pressure, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. If you find yourself in this situation, it might be time to try heart-healthy tactics like relaxation exercises and meal prep.

Binge-Watching TV

An occasional fave-show binge may be practically harmless, but frequent binge-watching leaves you sedentary for long periods, which can be hard on your entire cardiovascular system. Studies have shown that most adults are sedentary for six to eight hours a day, and even if those people are moderately active the rest of the time, they are still at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack.

Binge watching TV

The best way to avert this impending crisis is to ensure you get plenty of physical activity when you’re not on the couch. It is recommended that adults get at least 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (such as running or swimming) or 120 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) each week. If you work a desk job, find ways to be more active during the day, if just standing and walking around more.

Excessive soda intake
Soda and ice.

Studies show that people who drink diet sodas and other artificially sweetened beverages have a higher risk of metabolic syndrome. That’s when your body has trouble processing insulin, which is a precursor to Type 2 diabetes. And that’s a heart attack risk. Instead, swap out sugary beverages and diet drinks with tap water, seltzers or homemade fruit-infused water. Avoid any with artificial sweeteners.

Having a heart break
Broken hearted.

According to medical experts, sudden heartbreak, or broken heart syndrome, is a real condition. It is believed that this happens due to a sudden surge of catecholamine, or nerve hormones. Even a sudden surge of negative emotions can lead to heart problems. If you’ve had your heart broken, don’t suffer in silence, don’t isolate. Instead, maintain social connections and seek professional help for your grief if necessary.

Poor sleep time or pattern.
Woman lying in bed suffering from insomnia.

People who have healthier sleep hygiene have a lower risk of heart attacks and heart problems. A study once done by the CDC, showed that people who slept less than 7 hours a night reported having more heart attacks along with obesity, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, three conditions that lead to heart disease. Experts recommend that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.

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