Why Sex, Regular Sleep And, Er... Garlic Are The Secret To A Healthy Heart

Three healthy lifestyle tips that have nothing to do with eating kale.

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As cardiovascular disease continues to be one of the leading causes of death in Europe, heart health should be taken seriously at any age.

However, while diet and exercise are crucial when it comes to reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes, heart-friendly lifestyle changes don't have to be drastic, says one expert. In fact, these healthy living tips are the kind we could get on board with.

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Johannes Hinrich von Borstel has drawn on the latest studies and his own experience as a doctor and paramedic to write his new book, Heart: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Important Organ. According to von Borstel's research, the great news is there's yet more scientific evidence that sex is good for you

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"As well as an entire cardiac workout, before and during intercourse there is a big release of hormones that have a protective effect on our cardiovascular system," he explained to The Telegraph.

There's just one caveat; sexual intercourse with someone you love, rather than a random stranger, is far better for our hearts. This is because the feeling of devotion triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone which was proven to lower blood pressure and reduce stress in a recent study by Michigan State University.

The release of endorphins, oestrogen and testosterone during sex are also key, as they are said to help lower the heart rate and cholesterol levels in the blood. Still, as well as his recommendation to have "as much loving sex as possible," von Borstel's guidance doesn't only apply to the bedroom.

Garlic is known for its health benefits and if the thought of garlic-scented breath doesn't put you off, von Borstel endorses using it as a natural blood-thinner. He suggests grating three teaspoons into a glass of water every day to help reduce blood pressure. 

"Vegetables and fruits have secondary phytochemicals that have the same effect as different [heart protective] medications but not in a dose that is dangerous for your body," he said. 

The impact of sleep on our health has also been well researched, so it's no surprise that von Borstel links shut-eye with the normal functioning of the heart. However, while insomnia is said to be damaging to health, there's bad news for fans of a lie-in.

In a 2010 study, researchers at the University of West Virginia found that those who regularly slept for more than nine hours a night had an almost 50 per cent higher risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. 

As for the ideal sleep time? "Sleeping too much and too little can be harmful to our health," von Borstel said. "Seven is the perfect number for most adults."

Time to set those alarm clocks...