Get to Know Your Heart Better With These Five Fast Facts

The heart is often thought of as the body’s powerhouse because it pumps oxygen and nutrients to every major organ. We all know the basics of keeping our hearts healthy: regular exercise, a balanced diet and a smoke-free lifestyle. But some lesser-known facts about heart health might surprise you. Let’s dive into five of them:

Sleep apnea and heart disease are closely connected.

Sleep apnea, which affects your breathing while you sleep, might seem slightly inconvenient, but its effects on heart health are significant. Those with untreated sleep apnea are at higher risk for hypertension, arrhythmias, heart attacks and even stroke. Evidence also shows that sleep apnea can cause left ventricular diastolic dysfunction, which increases the risk of heart failure. Addressing sleep apnea not only improves sleep quality but also plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy heart.

Dental health affects heart health.

Practicing good oral hygiene isn’t just about a dazzling smile – it’s a key component of heart health. Studies show that the bacteria associated with gum disease can enter the bloodstream, causing inflammation and potentially leading to heart problems. But there may not be a direct connection. Many people with heart disease have healthy gums, and not everyone with gum disease develops heart problems.

Loneliness can harm your heart.

Our connections with others can impact our physical health. Studies have found that feeling lonely and isolated can increase your odds of developing heart disease and stroke. Research also shows that feelings of loneliness can contribute to an increased risk of heart failure. Cultivating meaningful relationships and staying socially connected is good for you, the heart and soul.

Your heart has a ‘brain’ of its own.

While we often think of the brain as the command center, controlling thoughts, speech and function, the heart has a brain of its own. The heart’s brain has a complex network of neurons capable of learning, remembering, and even feeling and sensing. Information sent from the heart to the brain is not only understood but obeyed. It’s a fascinating clue to the complexity of our bodies. 

Your heart can literally break.

We’ve all experienced emotional pain, but did you know it can affect you physically as well? Known as “broken heart syndrome” or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, this condition can occur after experiencing extreme stress or a sudden traumatic event. These emotions can weaken the heart temporarily, mimicking the symptoms of a heart attack. While rare, it serves as a reminder of the powerful connection between mind and body.

The takeaway.

While the basics of heart health remain true and valid today, these surprising facts shed light on the importance of heart health. From the effects of emotional stress to the unexpected connections between oral hygiene and heart disease, optimal heart health is vital. Talk to your CHI St. Vincent primary care provider about ways to be more proactive about your heart health.