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News flash: Ninety percent of all heart attacks are completely preventable. A recent Canadian study of nearly 30,000 men and women -- half of whom were heart attack survivors and half of whom were healthy people of similar age and race -- has revealed nine essential risk factors that are to blame for the vast majority of heart attacks. All of them are risks you can control.
We have discussed most of these risk factors such as -- smoking... abnormal cholesterol... lack of exercise... eating too few fruits and vegetables... and high-stress living. Stress -- once considered a "soft" risk factor for heart disease -- actually doubles your risk for heart attack. The other heart attackers -- high blood pressure, diabetes, abdominal obesity and abstaining from alcohol -- all are within your control through lifestyle and/or medical intervention.
To me, this is very exciting news. Sure, it may require some "unfun" lifestyle changes, but I think it's empowering to know that you are in the driver's seat when it comes to slashing your risk for heart attack by more than half.
For most people, the secret of living much longer is as simple as making minor adjustments, such as taking a 10-minute walk at lunchtime, listening to soft music in the evening or having a serving of nuts instead of chips as a TV snack. These lifestyle adjustments buy you years of healthy, vital living.
Here now, from the upcoming book 30 Minutes a Day to a Healthy Heart, are seven of the easiest fixes (you can institute one a day until they become habitual) to slash your risk. (Note: This advice is not designed to replace regular medical care. You should continue taking any medications and maintain a relationship with your doctor.)
1. Start the day right. Choose a breakfast with the highest fiber count you can find. Studies show that every gram of soluble fiber you add to your diet cuts your LDLs (bad cholesterol) by two points. If you eat cold cereal for breakfast, switching to a bran cereal packed with 10 g of fiber can lower your LDLs by 20 points. Don't forget the fresh fruit for even more healthy fiber.
2. Make the whole-grain switch. Whole grains are filled with heart protective vitamin E, fiber and antioxidant phytochemicals. Switching completely from refined to whole grains could cut your heart attack risk by 30%.
3. Aim for nine. Forget five a day. Fruits and vegetables are so crucial, you should aim for nine daily servings. It's easy if you sneak them into every meal and snack.
4. Get good fats. Even better than going low-fat is eating good fats. Whether in the form of nuts, olive oil or avocados, monounsaturated fats help lower LDL "bad" cholesterol... slightly increase HDL "good" cholesterol... and reduce triglycerides. Use olive oil for scrambling eggs, basting meats and flavoring savory dishes. (Caution: Frying or high-temperature cooking with canola oil transforms the oil into the bad peroxidized compounds that cause heart disease.)
5. Brush up. People with periodontal disease, a chronic bacterial infection of the gums, are nearly twice as likely to have a fatal heart attack as those with healthy gums. Toxins from the bacteria can contribute to heart disease. Brush twice a day, floss before bed and use an antibacterial mouthwash to protect against the ill effects of plaque.
6. Shhhh. You can't change the world, but you can change your response to it. Carve out a quiet place in your house where you can escape, collect your thoughts, listen to some relaxing music and decompress. Spending more time relaxed instead of stressed can cut your heart disease risk in half.
7. Move. A Harvard study of nearly 40,000 women over the age of 45 showed that walking, even leisurely, for as little as one hour per week makes you half as likely to have a heart attack or be hospitalized for heart disease as those who rarely walk. Walk to the mailbox... take the stairs whenever possible... park in the farthest parking space. Every little bit helps. In fact, Johns Hopkins researchers found that people who snuck small bouts of activity -- parking in the far spots, yard work and walking the dog -- every day achieved the same improvements in fitness, blood pressure and body fat as people who took structured aerobics classes. More good news: Studies show that walking up two flights of stairs a day can shave off six pounds a year. Take advantage of every little opportunity to move.
These lifestyle practices aren't so hard, are they?
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This article was provided by Bottom Line's Daily Health News. Bottom Line's vast network of leading mainstream, alternative, and complementary practitioners brings you the information you need to make informed decisions about your health. Sign up now for their FREE electronic newsletter.
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