Here are some tips to help you look after your heart.

Quit smoking now: Twelve months after quitting, your increased risk of dying from heart disease will be half that of a continuing smoker.

Improve your diet Include wholegrain cereals, legumes, fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts in your diet and lower your risk of heart disease.

Exercise regularly: Walk briskly for 30 minutes a day and reduce your risk of heart attack by one third.

Maintain your friendships People with supportive friendship networks are at less risk of heart disease.

Eat more fish Oily fish like tuna, sardines or salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and will boost your good cholesterol.

Avoid salty and high sodium foods Don’t add salt when preparing or eating your meals.

Have a diabetes test Uncontrolled diabetes can damage your artery walls and contribute to heart disease.

Make fitness fun Choose activities that combine exercise and socialising like pilates, water aerobics, dancing, cycling or yoga.

Following are some of the benefits of sleep and how it improves the quality and the length of your life.

Sleep helps to repair your body.

Your body produces extra protein molecules while you’re sleeping that helps strengthen your ability to fight infection and stay healthy.

These molecules help your immune system mend your body at a cellular level when you are stressed or have been exposed to compromising elements such as pollutants and infectious bacteria.

Sleep helps keep your heart healthy.

Your cardiovascular system is constantly under pressure and sleep helps to reduce the levels of stress and inflammation in your body. High levels of “inflammatory markers” are linked to heart disease and strokes. Sleep can also help keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels (which play a role in heart disease) in check.

Sleep reduces stress.

A good night’s sleep can help lower blood pressure and elevated levels of stress hormones, which are a natural result of today’s fast paced lifestyle.

High blood pressure can be life threatening and the physical effects of stress can produce “‘wear and tear” on your body and degenerate cells, which propel the aging process. Sleep helps to slow these effects and encourages a state of relaxation.

Sleep improves your memory.

That ‘foggy’ feeling that you struggle with when deprived of sleep makes it difficult to concentrate. This often leads to memory problems with facts, faces, lessons, or even conversations. Sleeping well eliminates these difficulties because, as you sleep, your brain is busy organizing and correlating memories.

One of the great benefits of sleep is that it allows your brain to better process new experiences and knowledge, increasing your understanding and retention. So, next time you hear someone say “why don’t you sleep on it,” take their advice.

Sleep helps control body weight issues.

Sleep helps regulate the hormones that affect and control your appetite. Studies have shown that when your body is deprived of sleep, the normal hormone balances are interrupted and your appetite increases.

Unfortunately this increase in appetite doesn’t lead to a craving for fruits and veggies. Rather, your body longs for foods high in calories, fats, and carbohydrates.

So, if you’re trying to lose those stubborn few pounds that just keep hanging around, consider the benefits of sleep on weight control and make sure that getting enough sleep each day.

Sleep reduces your chances of diabetes

Researchers have shown that lack of sleep may lead to type 2 diabetes by affecting how your body processes glucose, which is the carbohydrate your cells use for fuel.

The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School reports that a study showed a healthy group of people who had reduced their sleep from eight to four hours per night processed glucose more slowly.

Other research initiatives have revealed that adults who usually sleep less than five hours per night have a greatly increased risk of developing diabetes.

Sleep reduces the occurrence of mood disorders.

With insufficient sleep during the night, many people become agitated or moody the following day. Yet, when limited sleep becomes a chronic issue, studies have shown it can lead to long-term mood disorders such as depression or anxiety.

The benefits of sleep are extensive and can make a difference in your quality of life, as well as the length of your life. Therefore, it is vital to place a priority on getting ample, consistent sleep.

To improve the quality and quantity of your sleep, you need to make sleep a top priority in your life. Take a look at your present sleep habits and compare them to the following guidelines on how to sleep better. Then, pick one area at a time on which to focus. Human beings are creatures of habit and your body takes time to adjust to change.

For best results, make the following changes slowly and methodically. Once you’ve got one area in line with your goals, move onto the next one.

Set up a regular bedtime.
To get a good night sleep, your body needs the foundation of a regular bedtime. Your individual sleep requirements will then establish your natural wake-up time.

Getting your internal body clock in step with your sleep schedule will have a big impact on the quality of your sleep.

Formulate a bedtime routine.
The habit of following a certain pattern of events and behaviors every night before bed helps prepare your brain and body for sleep. A soothing, pre-sleep ritual helps reduce the stress and worries of the day and enables you to ease into sleep faster.

Avoid activities that disrupt sleep.
Be careful not to sabotage a good night sleep with activities that overstimulate your brain or body in the two or three hours before bed.

Watching action shows on TV, reading a suspense novel, exercising, checking e-mail, or eating a big meal are examples of activities that can cause you to stare at the ceiling for a while instead of enjoying sweet dreams.

Create a soothing sleep environment.
Your bedroom should provide peaceful, comfortable surroundings that help prepare you for sleep.

Remove excess clutter; make your bed inviting with nice sheets, soft pillows, and a good mattress; use light-blocking curtains; remove your television, computer and other electronics; and keep your bedroom smelling fresh and clean.

Learning how to sleep and cultivating these healthy sleep habits will lead to better sleep. In return, you’ll benefit from a host of positive changes in your daily life.

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