National Heart Month is observed in February of each year, and that means it’s right around the corner. Given the fact that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death around the globe, and that more than 17 million people die from it annually, it would seem like having a national observance like this is a great idea.

During this month-long observance, participants attempt to raise awareness about the dangers of cardiovascular disease, and what can be done to prevent it. It’s never too late to discard unhealthy habits in favor of more heart-healthy routines that can contribute to a longer, more enjoyable life. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the ways you can keep your heart strong and healthy so that you can get the most out of life.

Stretching and exercising

Of these two activities, exercising regularly is the one that will do the most good to maintain a healthy heart. Numerous studies have shown the correlation between regular exercise and a strong, disease-free heart. This doesn’t mean you need to take on the regimen of an elite athlete, but just being active and straining your body for 30 minutes a day can do wonders for your heart health. Remember that the heart itself is one huge muscle, and exercising is a way of strengthening that big muscle and making it more efficient.

Stretching is not quite as vigorous as real exercise, but if you’re unable to participate in a full-fledged exercise routine on a regular basis, stretching is the next best thing. For individuals who might have limited mobility, stretching can come close to fulfilling the need for regular exercise, because it can improve your vascular function in much the same way as exercise. It’s less strenuous than exercise, but it can still accomplish what you need it for, and that’s to ward off any unpleasant effects of inactivity.

Filtering your coffee

This one might be a surprise, although you may already have known about the positive effects that drinking two cups of coffee every day can have on your heart. Yes, it does stimulate the heart muscle and contribute toward more efficient operation.

However, much of that benefit can be lost if the way you consume your coffee is in the form of lattes, cappuccinos, espressos, or other specialty drinks. These drinks retain far more of the oils naturally occurring in coffee, and that can negate the advantage you gain from drinking the coffee itself. When you drink filtered coffee, which is the ordinary kind you get from a Keurig or a brewed pot of coffee, you’ll get much more of the raw benefit of coffee drinking.

Taking a hot bath

This is another recommendation you may not have heard of before. So how does taking a hot bath daily help to keep your heart healthy? When you relax in the tub in steaming, hot water, it can dilate the vessels of your bloodstream, thereby allowing for the freer passage and circulation of blood throughout your body. This has the happy effect of lowering your blood pressure, which will help protect your heart from the negative effects imparted by blood pressure that’s too high.

Another benefit of taking a hot bath is that it always has the effect of reducing your stress level, and that’s another thing that can be a killer for your heart. By lowering your stress level each day, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding some of the issues that can wear on your heart and lead to cardiovascular disease.

Meditation and yoga

There are quite a few benefits provided by regularly practicing yoga and meditation. Several studies have shown that people with elevated blood pressure levels were able to reduce those levels simply by practicing yoga and meditating. The exploration of the inner self has a way of calming an individual down and removing stress from daily life. Many patients who were overweight or obese have taken up meditation and yoga on the advice of their family physician and found it to be both rewarding and healthful.

A recent study conducted on diabetic patients found that practicing yoga reduced cholesterol levels, lowered the body mass index (BMI), and the level of inflammation in the body. It is thought that these positive effects come about as a result of the significant reduction in stress levels for patients who practice yoga. To achieve these same effects, it isn’t strictly necessary to involve yourself in any formal yoga program. All you really have to do is regularly participate in some activity that calms you down and lowers your stress level. By quieting down the active part of your brain and focusing more on the serenity of a quiet life, you’ll be able to eliminate stress and do your hard-working heart a big favor.

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