heart health

  1. Slash stroke risk factors in half

    The simplest way to prevent a stroke

    Do you know when most people worry about stroke risk factors? When it's too late -- after they've already had one, and are battling the crippling damage left behind.

    Some people lose function in one or both arms. Some can't walk. Some stroke victims can't even speak, or do so only with great difficulty.

    There are ways to help recover after a stroke, but that's a letter for another day.

    Today, I want you to worry about your stroke risk factors.

    More specifically, I want you to worry about lowering it so you never have to deal with post-stroke recovery -- and you can start by boosting your intake of fruits and vegetables, as new research finds that eating more fresh produce will slash your stroke risk by more than a fifth.

    That's overall.

    Eat more, however, and your risk will drop even further. Every additional 200 grams of fruits and vegetables you add to your diet could slash your stroke risk by 32 percent, according to the review of 20 studies involving a combined 760,629 men and women.

    That's not a lot of extra fruits and vegetables. That's about 21 extra ounces a day, or roughly the equivalent of two smaller apples or one big one.

    I didn't pick that example at random, either. Apples are actually one of the best foods you can add to your diet for reducing your stroke risk factors, according to the study.

    Looks like an apple a day won't just keep the doctor away. It might keep the ambulance away, too.

    Other top options for stroke prevention include pears, citrus fruits and leafy greens, according to the study.

    Eating more fruits and vegetables is of course a healthy habit in general -- in part because when you eat fresh produce, you're not eating as much of the junk that can promote the clots that lead to stroke.

    But fruits and vegetables help in other very specific ways, too. They're loaded with antioxidants, minerals and other nutrients that are essential to good circulation.

    That's why diets rich in fresh produce are also terrific for heart protection and brain health -- and that's why I recommend a healthy Mediterranean diet, which includes all the fresh fruits and vegetables you can eat.

    Not coincidentally, this diet is proven to cut your stroke risk factors nearly in half.

    You can read more about that in this free report from my House Calls archives.

  2. Healthy heart benefits of exercise

    More benefits of exercise

    Some things just get better with age -- and exercise is one of them.

    Sure, fitness is important for the young, old and everyone in between. But new research shows how regular activity is especially critical to healthy aging.

    It's as if the benefits of exercise actually get better as you get older -- because seniors who step up their activity have much healthier hearts, with better heart rate variability than seniors who get little to no movement.

    Heart rate variability refers to changes in the amount of time between each heartbeat. These changes are incredibly small -- but they're also incredibly important.

    A healthy heart has very little variability, and changes in that variability can often be an early warning sign of a heart problem.

    Exercise, however, can help make sure that your heart stays as steady as a drumbeat -- and based on the numbers in the study in Circulation, that alone could slash your risk of a heart attack or death from cardiac problems by 11 percent.

    But it's important to note that the biggest benefits  of exercise didn't go simply to people who got regular exercise.

    No, they actually went to seniors who stepped up their exercise during the five-year study, especially those who improved their walking pace or distance.

    In other words, if you haven't been exercising, it's not too late to get started as long as you're ready to get moving.

    You can begin with something as simple as a walk. Get outside, hit the pavement, and see how far you can go. Then, get to work on improving it. Add more distance and more time, and pick up the pace a little bit.

    Consider each step a step toward good health and longevity.

    And if you have been exercising, congratulations -- but don't stop now. See if you can improve on what you're already doing.

  3. Lose weight to prevent diabetes

    Diabetics who lose weight need fewer meds, are less likely to be hospitalized and enjoy a better quality of life than diabetics who don't.
  4. Vitamin E can undo the effects of tobacco

    Smokers who quit and take vitamin E supplements see bigger improvements in heart health than smokers who quit without taking the nutrient.
  5. Mediterranean diet can slash heart & stroke risk

    The common-sense Mediterranean diet can cut the risk of stroke by nearly half and reduce the risk of all major cardiovascular events by a third.
  6. Surviving a heart attack and benefits of marriage

    Your spouse can save your life, even if you don't realize it: Married people are more likely to survive a heart attack.
  7. Beta-blockers may not work at all

    Heart drugs used by 20 million Americans may not have much of an effect at all, as new research finds no benefit to beta-blockers for many.
  8. Chili pepper compound capsaicin can lower cholesterol

    A key compound found inside hot chili peppers can protect your heart and lower your LDL cholesterol levels.
  9. Happiness is good for the heart

    Attitude and good stress control are almost as important to heart health as diet and exercise -- and a Harvard analysis of more than 200 studies confirms that an optimistic outlook can cut your risk of a first heart attack in half.
  10. One more reason to drink beer

    In fact, you can get just about all the benefits of wine and then some from plain old beer -- and the latest research confirms that a cold brew is every bit as good for your heart as a glass of red.
  11. Meditation boosts physical health

    Culture is a funny thing: In some places, you're considered a little weird if you meditate... in others, you're weird if you don't. Most people here in the West never even consider it at all -- but maybe you should, because a growing body of evidence finds that this practice of the mind can have a major impact on the body, including a serious boost in heart health.
  12. Put some teeth in your heart health plan

    It turns out your mouth may play a bigger role in heart health than anyone could have imagined.

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