You can do more to boost your heart health than eat right, exercise regularly, and avoid tobacco. Here are a few surprising heart-healthy moves to make:

  • First: Volunteer. Thereís a direct link between volunteer work and a decreased risk of high blood pressure. And another study found that volunteering lowers inflammation and cholesterol. Whatís the connection between being altruistic and improved health? Itís all about our stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol interferes with our immune system and increases inflammation, which makes our blood stickier and damages our heart health. Volunteering lowers stress, so it improves our health.
  • Also: >Laugh. Itís a great stress reliever. In a study in Scientific American, regular laughter increased blood flow as much as light exercise or cholesterol-lowing drugs.
  • How else can you help your heart? Adopt a pet. Petting animals boosts production of disease-fighting antibodies and lowers blood pressure. But itís not just your catís soft fur that triggers that response, even petting your beloved snake can produce the same results. Thatís how powerful touch can be.
  • One final heart health-booster: Stand up more. Research shows that people who sit for the majority of the day are 54 percent more likely to die of a heart attack than people who move around more. Because when we sit, the enzymes in charge of burning fat stop working - they actually shut down. And when that fat-burning enzyme is turned off, our metabolism is lowered and we have less good HDL cholesterol. So stand as much as you sit to reverse that process and improve your heart health.

Comment on this story