Special Report

28 Dangerous Things Experts Link to Heart Disease

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11. Air pollution

The buildup of plaque in a coronary artery (atherosclerosis) has been directly linked to air pollution. Long-term exposure to pollutants like particulates and nitrogen oxides prematurely age blood vessels and leave calcium deposits in coronary arteries, according to a study funded by the Environmental ProtectioN Agency.

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12. Too much sleep

Women regularly sleeping for more than nine hours a night may raise the risk of heart disease by 38%. Mortality, from any cause, is also higher among people who oversleep. This, however, may be due to depression and low socioeconomic status, which have strong links to oversleeping and negative health outcomes in general.

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13. Too little sleep

While the link between too little sleep and heart disease is not completely established, lack of sleep does affect an adult’s blood pressure and ability to metabolize glucose. Teenagers who don’t get enough sleep tend to exhibit signs of poor health such as higher cholesterol levels and larger waist sizes. Men with severe sleep apnea are 58% more likely to develop congestive heart failure than those who don’t have problems sleeping.

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14. Lack of exercise

How exercise affects heart health is well-documented. Lack of physical activity has been known to be a major of cause of chronic diseases, including that of the heart. Less well-understood by most people is how a modest effort–say, an hour a week of walking–pays significant dividends in avoiding high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

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15. Meat

Eating more than one serving a day of unprocessed red meat (beef or pork) raises the risk of mortality from heart disease by 13%. Eating processed meats like hot dogs or sausage raises that risk by 20%. Research suggests that red meat’s saturated fat, cholesterol, and iron content are the reasons for the higher risks.

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