How do we lower our risk of heart disease? It’s a massive question for people with diabetes, who are already at a much higher risk. There’s exercise. There’s diet, but nobody seems to able to agree on which foods help. And then there’s having more orgasms.
Yup. Having more orgasms. And it’s hardly the only bizarre reducer of heart disease risk. Here’s six of them.
A new study from the University of Aberdeen found that eating up to 100g of chocolate could lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. And it’s not just dark chocolate, either: according to the study’s press release, “The beneficial effects may extend to this type of chocolate [milk] too.”
It’s really important to note, however, that the link the researchers found was a correlation. That means that, while the two things occurred at the same time (eating chocolate and lower heart disease risk) the chocolate didn’t necessarily cause the heart disease the risk. It could do, but we don’t know yet. The right studies still need to be done.
If you read our blog on Johannes Bohannon, the German journalist who duped the science world to make a point, you’re probably reading this with raised eyebrows. So were we, at first. But the source of this study is a lot more legitimate.
2. Listening to classical music
Science has long been fascinated by the potential health benefits of listening to classical music. And earlier this month a study from the University of Oxford found that it can lower blood pressure and slow your heartbeat.
One of the most interesting things about a very interesting study was that the music tastes of the participants made no difference to how music affected them. Metal fans will still see their heart rate jump at metal music, just as much as people who don’t like metal. And the same classical pieces seemed to work on everyone.
It’s worth noting that the researchers identified specific pieces of classical music that were good for the heart, including Va Pensiero by Giuseppe Verdi, Nessun Dorma by Giacomo Puccini, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony adagio, and Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria.
That said, this isn’t completely confirmed; it’s just one exciting study. As Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation says: “More robust evidence is needed before we see cardiologists prescribing a dose of Taylor Swift of 30 minutes of Vivaldi a day.”
3. Moving out of the city
There’s quite a lot of evidence to suggest that living in the city bumps up your risk of heart disease. According to a recent German study, it’s the exposure to heavy traffic. Other research has linked it to the general effects on stress levels, and how the body reacts to the noisy stimulation of city environments (something which is also linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes).
Either way, it seems likely that fleeing the city could do your risk of heart disease some good.
4. Having a good boss
So, this isn’t really one you can control, but it is bizarre: apparently having a poor relationship with your boss makes you more likely to develop heart disease.
In 2005, researchers from the Department of Public Health Sciences at the Karolinska Institute and the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University surveyed 3,000 men between the ages of 42 and 65. Those whose bosses were described as “inconsiderate, opaque, uncommunicative” had a higher risk of heart disease – almost 60 per cent higher.
It’s a fascinating study that emphasises the importance of feeling valued and listened to at work. Not being valued and respected could have much bigger consequences than we thought.
5. Living with others
Studies have also shown that we can reduce our risk of heart disease by surrounding ourselves with people. And that means not living alone. Of course, we don’t always have a choice in the matter – and sometimes there’s nothing like having your own space – but it’s interesting to note the often unexpected ways our lifestyle choices can impact our health.
In 2012, a group of researchers examined 44,573 people, 19 per cent of whom were living alone. Socially isolated participants at risk of heart disease had a 14.1 per cent risk of dying from the condition, compared to 11.1 per cent who didn’t live alone. That may not sound huge, but it’s a pretty big difference to play out consistently over such large study.
The researchers suggested that social isolation might increase emotional stress, which can place more pressure on the heart. The other reason they suggested for the results was that people are less likely to go to the doctor about things when they don’t have someone badgering them to look after themselves.
6. Having more orgasms
Here’s a phrase I never thought I’d use: “Orgasmic frequency.”
According to a 1997 study, men with “high orgasmic frequency” can count on robust health as they get older. Sexual activity, in the words of the researchers, has “a protective effect on men’s health.”
The biggest benefit derived from “high orgasmic frequency” was a lower risk of coronary heart disease, and significantly lower risk of death from heart disease.
So gentlemen, if classical music, chocolate, and living in the countryside don’t work for you, you can always reduce your risk of heart disease by…doing that.