You’ve been told to cut down on junk fare and exercise regularly. But there are surprising ways to ensure your heart and blood vessels function fine So you’re aware of the standard ways of lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke: quit smoking, shed those extra kilos, exercise, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. But recent studies suggest some possible preventive measures that are not quite common. Here are five surprising ways to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy.

Have dark chocolate

A number of studies suggest that eating dark chocolate decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Another study found that those who eat small amounts of dark chocolate, had lower levels of a protein in their blood that is associated with inflammation. Other research suggests chocolate consumption may lower blood pressure, help prevent formation of artery plaque and improve blood flow. The benefits from chocolate may come from flavonoids, compounds in chocolate thought to help protect cells against damage. They are present in higher amounts in dark chocolate. Another study found that dark chocolate helps to inhibit an enzyme known as ACE, which is involved in regulating blood flow.

Stay away from traffic

According to a recent study that found an association between traffic noise and risk of stroke, the sound of horns, and noisy trucks may take a toll on your blood vessels. Besides, the exposure to loud noise may increase the body’s stress hormone levels, and increase blood pressure, which might contribute to the uptick in stroke risk.

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Get enough sleep

Getting too little or too much sleep may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. The results showed that those who slept six or fewer hours per night had a 48 per cent higher risk of developing or dying from heart disease, and a 15 per cent higher risk of developing or dying from stroke, than those who slept seven or eight hours per night. Too little shut eye may increase blood pressure and cholesterol, and put people at risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes. But the study showed getting too much sleep was bad for the heart as well. Those who slept nine or more hours had a 41 per cent higher risk of developing and dying of heart disease than those who slept seven or eight hours.

Eat blueberries

Anthocyanins, found in foods such as blueberries, orange juice and eggplant are antioxidants. In a study, those who ate at least one serving of blueberries per week were 10 per cent less likely than those who ate no blueberries to develop high blood pressure. The researchers analysed the diets of 134,000 women and 47,000 men over a 14-year period. They studied to see how much anthocyanin, the subjects consumed. The study participants who had the highest amount of anthocyanins in their diets had an eight per cent lower risk of high blood pressure than those who ate the least amount of anthocyanins. This does not mean you opt for blueberry cakes.

Beware of

the fizz A recent study found, consuming diet sodas may increase your risk of stroke. The study, found that those who drank diet soda every day had a 48 per cent higher risk of stroke and heart attack than those who did not drink any soda at all. The results held true even after the researchers accounted for factors that might influence heart disease and stroke risks, such as whether or not the patient had metabolic syndrome or a history of heart disease. However, the researchers cautioned, the study only showed an association, and not a cause-effect link.

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Volume 10 Issue 41 | New York | Oct 21

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