Though it keeps us alive and pumps blood around our bodies, we might not think about our hearts all that much in the day to day.

But heart conditions are quite common, especially among women, so it is important that we keep an eye on how healthy our hearts are.

Dr Nikki Stamp, a heart surgeon, says, “A lot of women don’t know that heart conditions can impact them; we still think it’s a disease of our fathers and brothers but heart disease is the leading cause of death for women.”

Luckily, there are some steps you can take to improve your heart health, including stopping some unhelpful habits.

Dr Stamp shares three things that can have a negative effect on your heart, as well as what to do to improve.

1. Not enough sleep

Most of us may be surprised to find out that sleep can have a huge impact on various aspects of health, including heart health.

“One thing I find people aren’t always aware of is the impact sleep can have on your heart health,” Dr Stamp says.

“Poor sleep or sleep disorders can directly hurt your heart or make it harder to do those things like eat well and exercise that are protective for the heart.”

In fact, research has found that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart attacks, diabetes, obesity, and strokes.

2. Poor lifestyle habits

Along with poor sleep, unhelpful lifestyle habits can also play a part in worsening our heart health.

According to Dr Stamp, most people know about this risk factor, which can include binge drinking, a poor diet, and a lack of exercise.

“I think most people are aware the things like diet, exercise and smoking are all things that can place undue stress on your heart,” Dr Stamp says.

3. Missing your regular check-ups

As much as getting your heart checked can seem to be a pain, but it can be incredibly beneficial.

“Having your heart checked is not difficult or painful! Simple tests like having your blood pressure checked, your blood sugar to assess for diabetes and your cholesterol can be done quickly and easily by your GP and give you a good idea of your risk of heart disease,” Dr Stamp says.

“However, if you’re not seeing your GP regularly, these checks can be missed.”

Things that can help

As for what you can do to look after your heart, Dr Stamp says the key is keeping it simple.

“There’s loads of advice floating around that is complicated, ineffective and unachievable to keep you healthy,” she says.

“Move your body – anything is great, eat a diet full of veggies, fruit, whole grains and healthy oils, sleep well and give up the smokes.”

Image: Getty

This article first appeared on Over60.