FOLLOW A HEART HEALTHY DIET
1. Rise and dine. men who ate breakfast every day were 44 percent less likely to be overweight and 41 percent less likely to develop insulin resistance, both risk factors for heart disease.
2. Refill the bowl. two servings of whole-grain cereal (Cheerios count) a day can reduce a man's risk of dying of heart disease by nearly 20 percent.
3. Choose dark chocolate. Cocoa contains flavonoids that thin the blood and keep it from clotting (like it does just before you clutch your chest and expire). And at least a third of the fat in chocolate is oleic acid, which is the same healthy, monounsaturated fat found in olive oil. Dove dark chocolate bars retain as many flavonoids as possible.
4. Go fishing for tuna. Omega-3 fats in tuna help strengthen heart muscle, lower blood pressure, and prevent clotting - as well as reduce levels of potentially deadly inflammation in the body. Plus, tuna's high in protein. Research shows that consuming more protein may lower a man's risk of heart disease by nearly 26 percent.
5. Add ground flaxseed to your food. It's a natural source of omega-3s, for those who don't like fish.
6. Grill a steak. You may think it's bad for your heart, but you'd be wrong. Beef contains immunity-boosting selenium as well as homocysteine- lowering B vitamins. And up to 50 percent of the fat is the heart-healthy monounsaturated variety.
7. Eat grapefruit. One a day can reduce arterial narrowing by 46 percent, lower your bad-cholesterol level by more than 10 percent, and help drop your blood pressure by more than 5 points.
8. They really are good for your heart. Beans are a great source of homocysteine- lowering folate and cholesterol- lowering soluble fiber. Tulane University researchers found that people who ate four or more servings a week had a 22 percent lower risk of developing heart disease (and 75 percent fewer camping companions) than less-than-once- a-week bean eaters.
10. Order garlic bread. In addition to lowering cholesterol and helping to fight off infection, eating garlic may help limit damage to your heart after a heart attack or heart surgery. Researchers in India found that animals who were fed garlic regularly had more heart-protecting antioxidants in their blood than animals who weren't.
11. Order take-out. Lots of Chinese and Indian foods contain ginger or turmeric - spices packed with natural anti-inflammatories . "Anything that helps keep levels of inflammation low is good for your heart,".
12. Swap sugar for honey. honey has powerful antioxidant qualities that help combat cardiovascular disease, while sugar consumption can lower your levels of HDL cholesterol, potentially increasing your risk of heart-related disorders.
13. Don't let your tank hit empty. people who eat six or more small meals a day have 5 percent lower cholesterol levels than those who eat one or two large meals. That's enough to shrink your risk of heart disease by 10 to 20 percent.
of folic acid: asparagus, broccoli, and fortified cereal.
14. Decaffeinate. Drinks that contain caffeine increase blood pressure by nearly 4 points, on top of speeding up your heart rate by an average of 2 beats per minute. It's enoug h to push a borderline heart problem into the danger zone.
15. Scramble an egg. They're relatively low in saturated fat, and they're packed with betaine, a compound that helps lower homocysteine levels in the blood by as much as 75 percent. Eggs are one of the few good food sources of betaine.
16. Order a chef's salad. Leafy greens and egg yolks are both good sources of lutein, a phytochemical that carries heart-disease- fighting antioxidants to your cells and tissues.
17. Have the red licorice. A compound in licorice root has been shown to spike blood pressure - especially in men who eat a lot of black licorice. Fruit-flavored licorice, however, doesn't contain the compound.
18. Take the Concord . compounds in Concord grapes help slow the formation of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol. The grapes also lower blood pressure by an average of 6 points if you drink just 12 ounces of their juice a day.
19. Snack on pumpkin seeds. One ounce of seeds contains more than a third of your recommended intake of magnesium. According to Mildred Seeling, M.D., author of The Magnesium Factor, magnesium deficiencies have been linked to most risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and the increased buildup of plaque in the arteries.
20. Feast on potassium. Slice a banana on your cereal, then bake a sweet potato or cook up some spinach for dinner. All are loaded with potassium. Studies show that not getting your daily 3,500 milligrams of potassium can set you up for high blood pressure. Other good sources of potassium include raisins, tomatoes, and papayas.
21. Beat the heat with a handful of cold grapes. University of Connecticut researchers recently discovered that fresh grapes provide cholesterol- lowering, artery-clearing protection similar to that you get from drinking concentrated grape juice or wine.
22. Toss your salad with olive oil. Men whose diets include as much as 2 ounces of olive oil a day have an 82 percent lower risk of having a fatal first heart attack than men who consume little or none. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats - known to hinder the oxidation of LDL cholesterol into its artery-clogging form.
23. Change your oil. Researchers in India found that men who replaced the corn and vegetable oils in their kitchens with sesame-seed oil lowered their blood pressure by more than 30 points in just 60 days, without making any other changes in their diets.
24. Double the tomato sauce. The lycopene in tomatoes prevents the harmful buildup of cholesterol on artery walls. So double up the sauce on your pizza and pasta.
25. Use the rotisserie. Foods cooked at high temperatures produce blood compounds called advanced glycation end products, which researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital say reduce cell elasticity and increase heartdisease risk. Three fixes: Steam your vegetables, add marinade to your meat before grilling to keep it moist, and cook foods longer at lower temperatures.
26. Snack on nuts. Harvard researchers found that men who replaced 127 calories of carbohydrates - that's about 14 Baked Lays potato chips - with 1 ounce of nuts decreased their risk of heart disease by 30 percent.
27. Have a fiber appetizer. Take a fiber supplement - Metamucil, for instance - 15 minutes before each meal. It'll help slow the digestion of highly processed starches and sweets. Diets high in foods that quickly raise your blood sugar may increase heart-disease risk.
1. Run indoors on hazy days. Researchers in Finland found that exercising outside on hot, hazy days when air pollution is at its worst can cut the supply of oxygen in the blood, making it more likely to clot.
2. Take up rowing. A study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that, compared with running, rowing uses more muscle and causes your heart to pump more blood through the body, resulting in greater overall gains in cardiovascular fitness.
3. Climb. Yale researchers found that men with insulin resistance - a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease - who exercised on a stairclimber for 45 minutes 4 days a week improved their sensitivity to insulin by 43 percent in 6 weeks.
4. Play hard. Any regular vigorous physical activity reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, even if performed for only 5 to 10 minutes at a time, says John Yarnell, Ph.D., of Queen's University of Belfast , who authored a study on the subject.
45. Push yourself. Harvard researchers found that men who perceived themselves to be working out vigorously were 28 percent less likely to develop heart disease than guys who felt they were slacking. An intense run should be at 75 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. (Calculate your MHR by subtracting your age from 220.)
6. Dive in the pool. U.K. researchers found that men who burn just 50 calories a day in strenuous activities like swimming and hiking are 62 percent less likely to die of heart disease than men who burn nearly seven times as many calories - 340 per day - during less active pursuits like walking and golfing.
7. Bike away the blues. Men who are suffering from depression are more than twice as likely to develop heart disease as guys who aren't depressed. So c'mon, get happy. In a trial of 150 men and women, Duke researchers found that after just 3 months of treatment, antidepressants and exercise were equally effective at relieving almost all symptoms of depression.
8. Take the stairs. People who walked an extra 4,000 to 5,000 steps each day lowered their blood pressure by an average of 11 points, according to a small study at the University of Tennessee .
LEAD A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
1. Watch a scary movie. Anything that causes your heart to race - slasher flicks, a good book, even being in love - also makes your heart stronger, according to researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center . Upsetting the rhythm once in a while is like hitting your heart's reset button, which helps it keep on ticking.
2. Join a group. Any group. According to research from the University of Chicago , lonely people have a harder time dealing with stress and are at greater risk of heart disease than people with a wide circle of friends.
3. Tell your wife to butt out. Or you may leave her - in a hearse. Researchers in Greece found that individuals who were exposed to cigarette smoke for just 30 minutes three times a week had a 26 percent greater risk of developing heart disease than people who rarely encountered secondhand smoke.
4. Check for carbon monoxide. Almost all large household appliances, including furnaces, water heaters, washers, dryers, and fireplaces, can leak carbon monoxide into your home. Large levels of the gas can kill you in hours, but long-term exposure to tiny amounts can be just as lethal, promoting the formation of blood clots and increasing the risk of heart disease. So make sure vents are clear and appliances are properly ventilated, and install a carbon monoxide detector near your bedroom.
5. Wash your hands. German researchers followed 570 people for an average of 3 years and found that those with the most antibodies (from fighting off infections) in their systems also had the most significant clogging in the arteries of their hearts, necks, and legs. Use liquid soap. Germs can live on bars.
6. Ditch the fad diet. University of Michigan researchers found that people whose weight fluctuated wildly - as it tends to do when you adopt the whack-job-diet- of-the-month - had weaker hearts and worse bloodflow than people who lost weight more slowly but kept it off for good.
7. Pee in the bushes. After studying 40 people with heart disease, researchers at Taiwan University in China found that the stress of having a full bladder increases heart rate by an average of 9 beats per minute and constricts the flow of blood by 19 percent. Either could be eno ugh to trigger a heart attack, says study author Tsai Chang-Her, M.D.
8. Meditate 20 minutes a day. According to Thomas Jefferson University researchers, this daily downtime may reduce your anxiety and depression by more than 25 percent. And that's important, since a University of Florida study found that patients with coronary artery disease who had the most mental stress were three times more likely to die during the period of the study than those with the least stress.
9. Touch her. Ten minutes of skin-to-skin contact (hand-holding, hugs) with your mate can help keep your blood pressure and pulse from spiking during stressful times, according to University of North Carolina researchers.
10. Stop at 2 cups. people who drank roughly 4 cups of coffee a day had 11 percent higher levels of heart-damaging homocysteine in their blood than non-coffee drinkers.
11. Stop snoring. Half of all people with sleep apnea - a condition that occurs when people quit breathing for up to a minute at a time while sleeping - also have high blood pressure, caused by unusually high levels of the hormone aldosterone. Beat the apnea and the BP drops, too. Your doctor can prescribe a SleepStrip, an at-home sleep-apnea test.
12. Pair up. Married men are less likely to die of heart disease than bachelors. Toronto-based researchers studied 100 men and women with mild high blood pressure and found that after 3 years of marriage, the happily married men had healthier hearts than their unmarried brothers. Just choose your bride wisely, or your heart will be broken and sick.
13. Have more sex. You might think all that grunting and sweating would increase your risk of a stroke, but University of Bristol researchers say the opposite is actually true. Not only are men who have sex at least twice a week less likely to have a stroke than men who have sex less often, but all that steamy exercise may also help reduce their heart-disease risk by up to a third, compared with guys who aren't getting any.
14. Make friends at work. Researchers at St. Johns University studied 70 New York City traffic cops and found that men with the most work friends also had the lowest heart rates and healthiest blood-pressure levels, even during times of stress.
15. Read a good book. Swiss researchers found that men who recited poetry for half an hour a day lowered their heart rates significantly, reducing their stress levels and possibly their heart-disease risk. You don't need to go all Emily Dickinson; just try reading aloud to your wife or kids instead. Or to yourself. (But not on the subway.)
16. Rub. Massage helps relieve stress and reduce levels of inflammation- triggering chemicals in the skin, says Maria Hernandez-Reif, Ph.D., of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami .
KNOW YOUR BLOOD INDICATORS
1. Measure BP after exercise. Ask your doctor to measure your blood pressure after a cardiac stress test. "The numbers will be higher, but studies show they'll also be a better indicator of your overall health," says Kerry Stewart, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University .
2. Know what's in your arteries. Results of a highly sensitive C-reactive protein blood test, together with your cholesterol numbers, can help give doctors a more accurate picture of your heart-disease risk. And an apo B measurement may be a more reliable indicator of heart disease than LDL cholesterol, according to a recent review of studies comparing the two.
3. Use the free blood-pressure test (wisely). Most of the free blood-pressure- monitoring machines found in pharmacies aren't 100 percent accurate. According to a Canadian study, the machines can be off by an average of 8 points systolic and 4 points diastolic per reading. Check your BP three times, then average the readings.
4. Get your BP under 120/80. If your blood pressure is high (more than 140/90), knocking 20 points off the top number (systolic BP, the pressure when your heart is contracting) and 10 points off the bottom number (diastolic BP, the pressure when your heart is between beats) can cut your risk of dying of heart disease in half.
Remember: Your heart will benefit more from a few long-term health improvements than from a flurry of activity followed by a return to the dangerous norm.