Heavy drinking does the body no favors. It can lead to weakened heart muscle and irregular heart rhythms, as well as dementia, cancer and stroke. But could drinking just a little be heart healthy? The science is unsettled. While some research suggests that moderate drinking (up to a drink a day for women and up to two for men) is linked with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, the research does not prove cause and effect, Gianos cautions. For example, it could be that people who drink regularly take time to relax with loved ones, and that may be what is providing the heart benefit.
Prolonged psychological stress may negatively impact health, and has been cited as a factor in cognitive impairment with aging, depressive illness, and expression of disease. Stress management is the application of methods to either reduce stress or increase tolerance to stress. Relaxation techniques are physical methods used to relieve stress. Psychological methods include cognitive therapy, meditation, and positive thinking, which work by reducing response to stress. Improving relevant skills, such as problem solving and time management skills, reduces uncertainty and builds confidence, which also reduces the reaction to stress-causing situations where those skills are applicable.
There’s no doubt that exercise is essential for a strong heart. One 2018 study published in the journal Circulation found that physical activity can even counteract a genetic risk for heart disease. The researchers looked at 500,000 men and women in the U.K. and found that those at the highest risk of heart troubles who had high levels of physical fitness had a 49% lower risk of coronary heart disease. While the AHA recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, Gianos urges 30 to 60 minutes every day. Overall the goal is to move daily, but don’t feel you have to run 20 miles a day. “Extreme exercise has not been noted to be protective,” Gianos says, “and it may add some harm.”