Great news: All of your efforts to rein in high blood pressure are paying off! According to researchers from the National Institutes of Health, heart attack risk among women over 50 has dropped by 22 percent in the past few years. Better still, science proves you can pump up your protection even more by engaging in summer fun. Here’s how:
Gather ‘round the campfire
Gazing at a fire will pare down your blood pressure by six points in 15 minutes, report University of Alabama scientists. And when regular summer bonfires drop your blood pressure to a healthy level (120/80 mmHg or less), they’ll cut your risk of heart disease by 35 percent! Turns out, the three things we love most about log fires — the flickering light, crackling sounds and distinctive smell — can calm your nervous system and lower your blood pressure as effectively as meditation.
Go a little nutty
Fresh salads, ice-cream sundaes, fruity desserts… So many summer treats taste better with nuts! And Harvard University researchers say enjoying 1/3 cup daily could cut your heart disease risk by 35 percent. Cardiologist Magnus Back, MD, explains that the healthy plant fats and minerals in nuts help keep your heart pumping strong and your arteries in good repair.
Pour a glass of iced tea
Staying well-hydrated on hot, humid days is key to protecting heart health, and here’s a tasty way to boost the benefits: Brew up a jug of homemade iced tea. Dutch researchers say drinking three tall glasses of iced tea daily can cut your risk of a heart attack by as much as 55 percent. Explains cardiologist Henry Dreger, MD, brewed tea is packed with compounds — polyphenols — that reduce artery-damaging inflammation, plus prevent risky blood clots.
Relax into deeper sleep
More than a dozen studies prove getting seven to eight hours of shut-eye nightly cuts your heart disease risk in half by tamping down the production of artery-aging stress hormones by 32 percent. University of Arkansas researchers say giving your tired feet a five minute massage will help you drift off twice as quickly and snooze up to 60 minutes longer even when it’s hot out.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.