Surprise! These five things are good for your heart

February 24, 2017

Often we hear about all the things that are bad for our hearts – smoking, diets high in fat, low levels of physical activity. Likewise, we often discuss the things that improve or protect your heart health – exercising regularly, eating well, decreasing stress, and seeking preventive healthcare.

But, in honor of National Heart Month, Watertown Regional Medical Center has compiled a list of five surprising things that have been shown to boost heart health:

Dark chocolate. Yes, it’s true! Dark chocolate is good for your heart. Dark chocolate contains polyphenols, which reduce the number of cell-damaging free radicals in the body. But the key is moderation. Too much, or too little, can have a negative impact. Research suggests indulging in a sweet treat just three times a month.

Be a good neighbor. According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, being a good neighbor is good for your heart. The study found that people with low-to-moderate social cohesion - defined as a feeling part of the community, trusting neighbors, and feeling safe - were 34% less likely to have a heart attack, while people with moderate-to-high social cohesion were about 45% less likely to have a heart attack. So next time you see your neighbor, say hi!

Get a flu shot. Wait, what? According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, getting a flu shot reduces a person’s risk of having a heart attack by roughly 36%, in the year following the vaccination.

Marriage and companionship. Fellas, give your significant others a kiss tonight. Studies show that not only do married men live longer, but men with significant others tend to make it to the hospital 30 minutes earlier than single men. And with heart disease, every minute matters. According to the National Institutes of Health, of the people who die from heart attacks, about half will die within an hour of their first symptoms.

Coffee. A study published by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that drinking three to five cups of coffee a day may reduce the risk of developing clogged arteries. Furthermore, it may also reduce a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. With further research needed, scientists don’t recommend drinking coffee simply to prevent heart disease, but they do say people should not be concerned about indulging in a few cups a day.