[SIZE=4]HOW TO BEAT HEART DISEASE: 15 WAYS TO HELP YOUR HEART [/SIZE]
- HAVE A WEEKLY SAUNA
Regular saunas could cut the risk of heart disease by as much as 60 per cent, according to a recent Finnish study.
Middle-aged men who took frequent saunas were half as likely to die from heart conditions as those who didn’t take them.
The heat raises heart rate, which effectively ‘exercises’ your cardiovascular system.
However, Dr Edward Langford, a consultant cardiologist at Sevenoaks Medical Centre, warns: ‘Sudden stress in those with heart disease may precipitate a heart problem.’
- BREAKFAST ON PORRIDGE
Oats contain a soluble fibre, beta-glucan, which lowers bad cholesterol. It forms a thick gel like wallpaper paste, which binds to cholesterol in the gut and prevents its absorption into the bloodstream.
Just 3g of beta-glucan a day (an average-sized bowl of porridge or muesli provides 1.5g) can reduce cholesterol by 5 to 10 per cent, says dietitian Dr Sarah Schenker. She suggests snacking on oatcakes (1g of beta-glucan each) or switching to oat bread (such as Hovis Hearty loaf, 0.5g beta-glucan a slice).
Nuts have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels, too, possibly because they contain plant sterols, which block the absorption of cholesterol. Try to eat a handful (20 almonds, ten brazils or 15 cashews or walnuts) every day.
3. MAKE SURE YOU FLOSS REGULARLY
Gum disease has been linked to hardening of the arteries and heart attacks — the bacteria that cause tooth decay are thought to trigger inflammation, which has been linked to heart disease.
Experts recommend brushing regularly and flossing religiously (and that’s not just when there’s food stuck between your teeth — flossing also breaks down the biofilm that traps the gluey mass of bacteria).
4. HAVE SEX TWICE A WEEK
Men who have sex at least twice a week are 45 per cent less likely to develop heart disease than those who do so once a month or less, says an American Journal of Cardiology study. ‘This is probably due to physical and emotional benefits, and stress reduction,’ says cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra.
5. WEAR A SLEEP MASK
Lack of sleep is linked to a greater risk of heart attack death: fewer than six hours a night raises it by half, says a study by Warwick University. Lack of sleep interferes with the appetite hormones ghrelin and leptin, leading to obesity.
Ensure that your bedroom is dark or wear a sleep mask, as light suppresses production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
- CUT OUT SUGAR
U.S. studies published last year suggest that sugar may be a greater contributor to high blood pressure than salt. They found that attempts to lower salt levels were driving people to increase their consumption of starches and sugars.
Dr James DiNicolantonio, a cardio- vascular research scientist at St Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, who led the study, says: ‘Encouraging consumers to say no to sugar, not to salt, may be the better dietary strategy to achieve blood pressure control.’
- BOOK A SUNNY HOLIDAY
Going on holiday regularly cuts the risk of dying from heart disease by a third, say researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.
And a holiday somewhere sunny could boost the benefits. Last year, the universities of Southampton and Edinburgh found that sunshine alters levels of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, helping blood pressure to fall.
- EAT A POT OF YOGHURT
A daily dose of ‘good bacteria’ or probiotics (from a live yoghurt or supplement) could help to lower blood pressure, particularly in people with higher readings, according to a study from the Griffith Health Institute and School of Medicine in Australia.
One theory is that the ‘good’ bacteria counteract the inflammatory process linked to heart disease.
- WATCH A FUNNY FILM WITH FRIENDS
A good belly laugh can boost blood flow by more than 20 per cent — and some studies suggest its stress-busting effect can reduce the risk of heart disease. Research by Robert Provine, a U.S. professor of psych-ology and neuroscience, suggests that we are 30 times more likely to laugh when we are with other people.
- DON’T DELAY GOING TO THE LOO
A small study of people with early heart disease in Taiwan suggested that an over-full bladder can cause your heart to beat faster and put unnecessary stress on coronary arteries, triggering them to contract.
- GET A SIT-STAND DESK
Research suggests sitting for eight hours a day raises the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes by 40 per cent.
One study found sitting for more than four hours means you’re twice as likely to get heart disease, even if you work out.
Try a ‘sit-stand’ attachment, which lets you raise or lower your computer.
‘Build your standing time to the point where you can happily stand for 30 minutes,’ says John Buckley, professor of applied exercise science at Chester University. Aim for a total of two hours at least, ideally four, a day.
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- DOWNLOAD A ‘MINDFULNESS’ APP
A recent study by Brown University in the U.S. found that people who are ‘mindful’ (they have a heightened sense of what they’re feeling and thinking at any given moment) are 83 per cent more likely to have a healthy heart. Though mindfulness — a form of meditation — is known to be deeply relaxing, the study’s lead author, epidemiologist Professor Eric Loucks, says mindful people also usually lead healthier lives.
Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra recommends Headspace, an app that teaches mindfulness techniques.
Head space, free for ten days, then £8.95 a month.
- CUT BACK ON SALAMI
Vegetarians have a lower risk of heart disease — but if you can’t stomach going fully veggie, a recent Harvard study found that switching from three meat-based meals a day to three a week cuts heart disease risk by 19 per cent.
Replace meat with foods rich in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, and fruit, vegetables and pulses to boost your fibre intake. An extra 20g of fibre could lower bad cholesterol levels by 12 per cent.
Pay particular attention to processed red meat such as sausages, salami, bacon and ham. A Swedish study last year found that men who ate the most processed red meat were more than twice as likely to die from heart failure.
- LOSE HALF A STONE
Studies have consistently shown that losing 5 to 10 per cent of your bodyweight — 7lb if you weigh 12st, 10lb if you weigh 15st — can lower blood pressure, reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and blood fats, inflammation and blood sugar levels, and have a real impact on your heart health, especially if the excess weight had accumulated round your waist.
- GLUG A LITTLE OLIVE OIL EVERY DAY
The Mediterranean diet — which is rich in fish, vegetables, fruit and olive oil — can protect against heart disease.
But it’s olive oil in particular that appears to have a potent anti-inflammatory effect.
Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, who says he has at least 4tbsp of extra virgin olive oil a day, explains: ‘Olive oil contains compounds called polyphenols as well as vitamin E, which together rapidly reduce the risk of blood clotting and have a positive impact on the chronic inflammation that is at the root of heart disease.
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