The “Couch Potato” Heart & Other Risks

 The Heart: The Engine of Life - Resources - The Franklin Institute

“Eat right and exercise.” We’ve all heard that advice many times. In fact, we may have heard it so often that we don’t think much about what it really means.

Let’s dig into the issues a little deeper.

  • Most people enjoy some less-nutritious “treats” from time to time. But when fatty foods become a staple of a person’s diet, the heart can suffer.

    That’s because fatty foods can create plaque inside your arteries. Over time, the plaque can build up and interfere with blood flow. That may cause a heart attack or a stroke.

    On the flip side, consuming healthy foods like fruits and vegetables can help protect arteries from plaque buildup.

    So what’s the rule of thumb? All things in moderation. Go ahead and enjoy those fries now and then. Just make sure to offset them with lots of other healthy food to help ensure that your heart can do its job.

  • Everyone can benefit from exercise, even if they already appear to be at a healthy weight. That’s because exercise gives the circulatory system a needed challenge by increasing blood flow to the muscles.

    As the heart beats faster, the blood circulates more quickly, delivering extra oxygen throughout the body. That can help build heart strength, or cardiovascular fitness.

  • What do smoking and drinking alcohol (or taking other drugs) do to the heart? Quite simply, they give the organ too much work to do.

    Smoking can double your risk of heart attack, and double, triple, or even quadruple your risk of sudden cardiac death. The good news is that quitting smoking can immediately lower your health risks. In fact, former smokers can completely lower their risk of sudden cardiac death within ten years of quitting.

    While drinking alcohol in moderation may not pose a risk, drinking excessively can pose a serious hazard to your heart. When alcohol flows in your blood stream, the nutrient-rich blood is less able to nourish the heart. Over time, heart damage can occur.

    It’s also important to remember that any drug, even those prescribed by doctors, can affect your heart. However, doctors are able to control the effect a prescription drug will have on your heart by controlling the dosage. There’s no way to know what effect illegal drugs may have on your heart or other organs. With some illegal drugs, even a small dose can be enough to stop the heart.