14 May 2010

28 Days to a Healthier Heart-- A simple change each day can cut or reduce heart disease risk by 92%

 Did you know that more than 41 million women in America have heart disease? And that more women than men will die from it? In fact, it’s the leading health problem that kills women (not cancer—a common myth).
But the good news is that just five lifestyle guidelines—moderate alcohol, a healthy diet, daily exercise, normal body weight, and not smoking—can cut your heart attack risk by a whopping 92%, according to a Swedish study of more than 24,000 women. Incorporating just the first two into your routine cuts your risk by more than half.

The 28 tips that follow are designed to help you get started. Try one a day for a month, and then stick with as many as you can for the long haul.

Day 1: Drink Green Tea
This potent beverage contains several powerful antioxidants that reduce cholesterol and may even lower blood pressure. To make a day's supply, bring 20 ounces of water to a boil, drop in three decaffeinated green tea bags, cover, and steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags, and refrigerate the tea. When cool, pour the tea into a container, add ice if you like, and sip throughout the day. http://hallosushant.blogspot.com/

Day 2: Scan Food Labels for Unhealthy Fat
Adults who read food labels and nutrition facts slash twice as many calories from fat as those who don't give them a look, according to one study. When it comes to heart health, that’s important: Don't let fat exceed 30% percent of your calories. And more important, make most of your fat the healthy monounsaturated (from olive oil, nuts, dark chocolate, avocado) and polyunsaturated (from salmon, flaxseed, walnuts) kinds.
Limit saturated fat intake to 7% of your total calories (for a 1,600-calorie diet, that’s about 12 g a day). And avoid trans fats whenever possible; they should comprise 1% of your daily calories, or less than 2 g a day. (Look for “hydrogenated” on ingredient lists; trans fats are most often found in cookies, crackers, baked goods, and other processed foods.) Both of these fats raise levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.
Day 3: Cook Like an Italian
Use MUFA-rich olive oil in your food prep whenever possible. The heart-healthy fat lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol and raises “good” HDL cholesterol. Bonus: Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, which may help reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, like Alzheimer’s.
Substitute olive oil for butter or margarine at the dinner table, drizzle it on salads, and use it to replace vegetable oils in baking wherever possible. Buy only cold-pressed, extra-virgin oil; it retains more of the olive's heart-healthy antioxidants than other forms.

Day 4: Carve Out Time for Sleep
Every extra hour of sleep middle-aged adults can add to their nightly average reduces their risk of coronary artery calcification, a cause of heart disease, by 33%, according to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. When you're even a little sleep deprived, your body releases stress hormones that constrict arteries and cause inflammation.
If you routinely wake up feeling tired or need an afternoon nap, then you're probably sleep deprived. Most adults need 7 to 8 hours a night to function well.

Day 5: Fiber Up Your Diet
Studies show that the more fiber you eat, the less likely you are to have a heart attack. Load up on whole grain breads and cereals that contain whole wheat, wheat bran, and oats. Toss beans into casseroles, soups, and salads. Aim for at least 25 to 35 g of fiber a day.

Day 6: Feast on Fish http://hallosushant.blogspot.com/
Meat's saturated fat will clog your arteries. On the other hand, fish such as salmon and anchovies are loaded with the omega-3 fatty acids that will help your heart maintain a steady rhythm. Having even one serving of fish high in omega-3s a week could reduce your risk of death from a heart attack by 52%!

Day 7: Start Your Morning with Juice
Orange juice contains folic acid that helps lower your levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to a higher heart attack risk. Grape juice is loaded with flavonoids and resveratrol, both potent antioxidants that may discourage red blood cells from clumping together and forming an artery-blocking clot. Choose 100% fruit juices to limit excess sugar.

Day 8: Make Room for Veggies
To get the 2½ cups that nutritionists recommend you eat daily, aim to make veggies 50% of your meals. Extra points for picking cruciferous vegetables such as kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage, which are a gold mine of antioxidants and other heart-saving phytochemicals.
Day 9: Make Nuts Your Go-To Snack Studies have found that those who eat more than 5 ounces of nuts a week are one-third less likely to have either heart disease or a heart attack. Just don't overdo it—nuts are high in fat and calories, which can pack on pounds if you inhale them by the fistful.

Day 10: Walk for 20 Minutes a Day
Just 2.5 hours of exercise a week (that’s a little more than 20 minutes a day) could reduce heart attacks by one-third, prevent 285,000 deaths from heart disease in the United States alone, and practically eliminate type 2 diabetes. Wow!

Day 11: Change Your Bread Spread
Olive oil is ideal for dunking your bread, but if you must use a spread, pick one with cholesterol-lowering sterols. Adding 2 g of these plant compounds to your daily diet can help lower your total cholesterol by about 10%—often within 2 weeks, according to numerous studies published in both American and European medical journals. That may not sound like a substantial reduction, but it could translate to a 20% lower risk of heart disease.
Day 12: Stir in Flaxseed
Flaxseed is one of the most potent sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Studies indicate that adding flaxseed to your diet can reduce the development of heart disease by 46%, while helping to keep red blood cells from clumping together and forming clots that can block arteries. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flaxseed a
Day on your yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, or salad. Buy it preground, and keep it refrigerated.
Day 13: Start or End Your Day with Stretching
Flexibility may be key to heart health: Adults over age 40 who were the most limber had 30% less stiffness in the arteries than less-bendy participants in a recent Japanese study. Stretching for 10 to 15 minutes a Day may keep arteries pliable; they may be affected by the elasticity of the muscles and tissue that surround them. Try some gentle yoga moves to improve your flexibility.

Day 14: Unwind with a Little Wine
You've probably heard that imbibing is good for you. Research overwhelmingly shows that 1 to 3 ounces of alcohol a Day significantly reduces your risk of a heart attack. Unless you have a problem with alcohol, high blood pressure, or risk factors for breast or other cancer, you can safely have one alcoholic drink a Day.
Indulge with dinner so you sip slowly. And remember that a full pour in a large wine glass can easily double what’s considered a healthy serving.
Day 15: Swap in Soy
These plant proteins can help lower cholesterol when you eat them in place of less healthy foods. (Think tofu instead of beef stir-fry or edamame in lieu of dumplings).
It’s best, however, to limit processed soy (from chips and patties) and avoid soy supplements. The problem with these is that we do not always know the amount of phytoestrogens (plant chemicals in soy that function in ways similar to the hormone estrogen) in them. This can make its effects on the human body unpredictable. And exposure to high concentrations of phytoestrogens could stimulate the growth of cells that are responsive to estrogen, which include many breast cancers.

Day 16: Cook with Garlic
Just one clove a Day—or 300 mg 3 times daily—reduces the risk of a heart attack at least three ways: It discourages red blood cells from sticking together and blocking your arteries, it reduces arterial damage, and it discourages cholesterol from lining those arteries and making them so narrow that blockages are likely.

Day 17: Spice Up Your Workout
The best exercise is one that you'll continue to do. So every day, in addition to your regular workout, try something new just for fun—hitting a tennis ball against the house, shooting hoops with your kids, or dancing around your bedroom after work. If you find something that you like, incorporate it into your daily workout. Research shows that people who are active in little ways the entire day burn more calories and are generally healthier than those who exercise for 30 to 60 minutes and then sit at a computer, says cardiologist and Prevention advisor Arthur Agatston, MD. http://hallosushant.blogspot.com/

Day 18: Stop Faking It
One of the biggest causes of stress is trying to live in a way that’s not consistent with who you are. Ask yourself: Am I doing what I want to do? Am I getting my needs met? Every day, run a reality check on what you've done. When it says that your actions aren't true to the kind of person you are, make sure you listen.
Spend time with people and on activities that make you feel happy and challenged in a healthy way—not drained or burned out.

Day 19: Meditate for 5 Minutes
Practicing a form of meditation in which you focus awareness on the present moment can reduce the effects of daily stressors. Ride out a stress storm by simply closing your eyes and quietly focusing on your breathing for 5 to 10 minutes.

Day 20: Get in Touch with Your Spiritual Side
Studies indicate that those with regular spiritual practices who meet with a faith community—attending church or temple, for example—live longer and better and are far less likely to have a heart attack. You can still reap the benefits even if you can't attend regularly; just getting involved socially, like volunteering at a food drive, can help.
Day 21: Stay Connected
Strong ties to family, friends, and community reduce anxiety and fight depression—two factors that increase your risk of a heart attack. Make a lunch date with a friend you’ve been playing phone tag with, dedicate at least 1 night a week for a sit-down family dinner, or plan to visit your place of worship. Resolve to do one of these things every day (yes, jetting off a quick thinking-of-you e-mail counts).

Day 22: Take Vitamin D and Fish Oil
While research on multivitamins for preventing heart disease is mixed, science does stand behind these two supplements. "The only dietary supplement consistently shown in randomized clinical trials to work against cardiac death is fish oil," says Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, an assistant professor medicine at Harvard Medical School. Omega-3 fatty acids stabilize the heart's electrical system, lower blood pressure and triglycerides, slow arterial plaque buildup, and ease systemic inflammation. Fish oil was more successful than statins at preventing death in heart failure patients, according to a recent Italian study. “D” boasts a wide range of health benefits, heart health among them. Recent studies show that too-little amounts can raise the risk of peripheral arterial disease by 80% and increase the odds of developing diabetes (a known heart disease risk factor).

Day 23: Do Something Sweet For Your Partner
There’s a lot of proof that marriage buffers you against heart disease, but that may be true only if you’re happily coupled, says Agatston. One study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that spouses who reported a lot of negative encounters with their partner had blood pressure that was, on average, 5 points higher than that of single people. The emotional stress of a difficult marriage typically causes adrenaline levels in the blood to spike, raising blood pressure; it can also cause blood vessels to spasm.
To make sure your marriage doesn't go on autopilot, forge little ways to stay connected all the time. If you do something nice today (like paying an unexpected compliment or taking on a chore he normally handles) chances are he'll reciprocate soon, which helps bolster your bond. http://hallosushant.blogspot.com/

Day 24: Indulge with Dark Chocolate
Cap off your day with a nibble of this healthy treat. Dark varieties contain flavonoids, antioxidants that make blood vessels more elastic. In one study, 18% of patients who ate it every day saw blood pressure dip. Have 1/2 ounce (at least 70% cocoa) daily.

Day 25: Steer Clear of Secondhand Smoke
Got friends or coworkers who smoke socially? Stay away when they light up and your heart will thank you. The effects on the cardiovascular system due to passive smoking are, on average, 80 to 90% as great as those due to active smoking, research shows. Even brief (minutes or hours) exposure to secondhand smoke can have cardiovascular effects nearly as great as long-term active smoking.
Day 26: Go Bananas
To lower your blood pressure, don't just eat less sodium. You should also increase your potassium intake, as it speeds up the body's sodium excretion, say researchers at the Hypertension Institute of Nashville. Lead author Mark Houston, MD, says most Americans consume more sodium than potassium, but it should be the other way around. Some popular potassium-rich foods to help fix this: baked potatoes, tomato paste, lima beans, yogurt, cantaloupe, and bananas.

Day 27: Cut Back on Sugar
People who consume more than 74 g of added fructose a day (that’s two to three sweetened soft drinks) are 87% more likely to have severely elevated blood pressure than those who get less, according to a recent study. Researchers believe excess fructose may reduce the production of nitric oxide, a gas that helps blood vessels relax and dilate.
To cut your intake, watch out for the worst offenders: drinks and baked goods. Drink seltzer in place of soda, or eat oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon instead of an oatmeal raisin cookie.

Day 28: Laugh at Yourself
When researchers from the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore tested the "humor quotient" of 300 people, they found that those with heart disease were 40% less likely to laugh at the gaffes, mix-ups, and irritations of everyday life than those without cardiovascular problems.
"Laughter is no substitute for eating properly, exercising, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels with medication if need be," says study author Michael Miller, MD, director of the university's Center for Preventive Cardiology. "But enjoying a few laughs every day couldn't hurt, and our research suggests that it might help your heart health."
From: www.prevention.com 
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