Good news: New research reveals that a few surprisingly simple tricks can keep your heart healthy — no gym membership required!
Push “play” while you putter.
Putter around for 30 minutes a day with pleasant music playing, and your heart will benefit, suggests a seven-year study at the University of Belgrade in Serbia. Tranquil sounds calm the body’s “fight or flight” response by soothing the sympathetic nervous system. “Music also relaxes arteries, lowering blood pressure and heart rate,” says integrative cardiologist Patrick Fratellone, MD of Fratellone Medical Associates in New York City.
The result: Folks on heart medication who listened to music for a half hour a day felt 33 percent less anxious and lowered signs of cardiovascular issues (like chest pain) by 25 percent compared to those on meds alone.
Go four-alarm four times a week.
That bowl of chili you enjoyed for lunch was more than just delicious: It also helped cut the risk of heart attack by over 40 percent and stroke risk by over 50 percent. Credit goes to the spiciness that the four-alarm dish is famous for. “Capsaicin in chili peppers has anti-inflammatory properties that can decrease plaque buildup in artery walls,” explains Dr. Fratellone.
Interestingly, investigators found that no matter what kind of diet participants followed — healthy or not — simply eating four spicy meals a week had the same heart-protective effect. Another benefit: Chili is packed with beans, something Canadian scientists say lessens the risk of heart disease by up to 10 percent and the risk of hypertension by 9 percent.
Add more relax to your bath.
A new 20-year Japanese study shows that a nightly soak cuts the risk of heart disease by 35 percent — that’s as effective as walking 30 minutes a day for five days a week. Scientists suspect warm baths help vessels dilate so the heart can pump with less effort.
The trick: Mimic an extra-deep Japanese soaking tub by making sure the water in your bath covers the front of your shoulders. This ensures enough of your skin is covered in the soak to get the heart-protective benefits.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.