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2 Ways to Boost Heart Health That Have Nothing to Do with Diet or Exercise

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February is technically American Heart Month—but chances are, you keep up the heart-healthy habits (doing cardio workouts, eating your kale) year-round.

But while maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine (and, apparently, eating cheese) are surefire ways to keep your ticker healthy, there are two even easier ways to give it a boost in a matter of minutes: good posture and a better attitude.

Why? Bad posture reduces your breathing capacity and limits your circulation, says Alice Ann Dailey, exercise physiologist and author of Dailey Strengthening: 6 Keys to Balance Core Muscles for Optimal Health. Having the correct spinal alignment allows your circulation to flow and your heart to pump properly. (Try this workout to strengthen your way to better posture.)

"Healthy shoulder posture balances muscles on the front and back sides of the shoulder girdle," she says. "The breast bone lifts and the ribs open outwards, providing more space for the lungs." Do this, and it'll instantly relax your body, slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure, and make it easier for you to breathe. It's like a (literal) breath of fresh air.

Plus, bad posture and poor spinal alignment strain your neck, shoulders and back, making you more prone to injury (and generally not-great physical well-being), says Michael Miller, M.D., University of Maryland Medical Center and author of Heal Your Heart, The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. The results: You're much less likely to engage in aerobic and other heart-healthy activities.

"This might help to explain the two-fold increased risk of heart disease associated with poor posture," he says.

Did you just sit up a little taller while reading? Great. You're already on your way to better heart health. While the second easy trick—having a good attitude—can be done on its own, having better posture can actually lead you straight to this mood boost.

"Good, upright posture affects your positive mental attitude (PMA) that will provide a balanced state of being and a happy heart," says Dailey. Studies have even shown that standing up straight, opening your eyes widely, and putting a smile on your face can improve your mood, she says. (Better yet, try a mood-boosting workout designed to give you a powerful endorphin high.)

All this mood and attitude talk might sound more like an improvement to mental health, but, ICYMI, stress is a huge contributor to heart disease. (Just ask this young, fit spin instructor who had a heart attack for that exact reason.) In fact, chronic stress and negative emotions account for about 30 percent of heart attacks and strokes, says Miller. (That's one reason being single is literally healthier for your heart than enduring a bad relationship.)

"Positive emotions such as daily hugs, listening to joyful music, and laughing until you cry not only offset stress but also improve blood pressure and overall vascular health," says Miller. So, yes, you just got another reason to dance to Queen Bey and indulge your Broad City addiction on the reg.

The bad news: One day of ballerina-straight posture and stress-free happy feels won't keep your heart strong for life. The effects only last up to 24 hours, says Miller. The good news: These are easy (and enjoyable) enough to trick yourself into doing them every single day.

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