25 Heart-Smart Moves to Make Right Now

To get heart healthy, you don't need a lifestyle overhaul. Even making little changes can bring big benefits.
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The best prevention: exercise

Being physically fit helps protect the heart, perhaps even more than eating a nutritious diet. A study at Stanford University found that volunteers who exercised three times a week cut their cholesterol, while those on a low-fat diet saw no change. Here are easy ways to get moving:

1. Kick it up a notch. According to a recent study, a vigorous workout has double the heart benefits of mild exercise. Men who jogged, played tennis or swam cut their risk of a heart attack by as much as 20 percent.

 

2. Fit it in. Too busy to exercise? Studies show that several short sessions of exercise (about fifteen minutes each) can cut heart-attack risk as much as a longer workout.

3. Pump some iron. Regular strength training increases muscle strength and endurance, improves heart function and reduces the risk of coronary disease. Plus, it can boost metabolism.

4. Turn up the heat in the bedroom. Having sex not only helps you feel more connected to your spouse, but it's also a mini-workout equivalent to running three minutes on a treadmill. Consider it an exercise bonus.

 

5. Take some flextime. Try yoga and breathing and relaxation techniques. Recent research suggests that these types of exercises may help reverse symptoms of heart disease.

 
Little life changes

The daily grind can take a toll on your heart. If you're constantly stressed, blood pressure climbs and the risk of heart attack increases. Ease up with simple changes:

6. Indulge yourself. Getting a massage is not only relaxing, but it also reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure and improves circulation. Even better, research suggests that it may help relieve PMS.

7. Get over your grudge. If you're steamed about an argument with your spouse, make sure the rift gets resolved. In a study of newlyweds, researchers found that wives who used negative words to describe their marriage had more of an increase in stress hormones than their husbands did. Over time, high stress levels can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

8. Adopt a furry friend. Researchers asked one hundred married couples to discuss a recent argument and found that the blood-pressure readings of pet owners were lower, rose less and returned to normal faster than readings of those without pets.

9. Soothe your temper. A recent study found that people who get angry easily have a nearly threefold higher risk of a heart attack or dying from heart disease than calmer folk.

10. Make new friends and keep the old. Research suggests that people who have little contact with friends and family have a two to three times greater risk of heart disease than those with a good support network.

11. Kick the habit. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and a major risk factor for coronary heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, 50 percent of heart attacks in middle-aged women are linked to smoking.

 

12. Manage stress. It's critical for women to find a way to relax -- whether through yoga, listening to music, meditating or laughing with friends. The stress hormone cortisol can cause estrogen levels to drop, putting some women on a high-risk course for heart disease even before menopause.

 
Continued on page 2:  Nutrition know-how

 

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