Your heart, which is a lot like the water main of your anatomical house, provides the nutrients you need to live. In your body, your heart pumps blood to every part in your body � to your brain so you can think, to your digestive system so you can process food, to your muscles so you can help people move their furniture. The fact is, you feel an intimacy with and awareness of your heart that you probably feel with few other organs. We can feel its presence and its work just by pressing on our chest or grabbing our wrist for a few seconds. If our heart stops working, so do we. Coronary Artery Disease or CAD is the leading cause of death in every developed country. Every Asian has a 40 percent chance of dying of heart disease, and a 50 percent chance that his or her quality of life will be damaged by arterial aging disease. Damaged arteries slow down your memory, the ability of your other organs to function. In other words, they slow you down. Your heart is so powerful that it can change pumping levels to whatever situation you�re in, whether you�re walking on a treadmill or escaping from an angry flock of geese. Imagine clenching your fist sixty to seventy times per minute for your entire life. Which is essentially what your heart does � without ever becoming exhausted. That pumping processes five liters of blood per minute when you�re resting. When you start doing aerobic exercises you�re immediately pumping twenty liters of blood. The most important factor in your heart�s health and ability to pump more blood is its own blood supply � the efficiency of your coronary arteries to transport blood to your heart. The most common barrier to that supply is coronary artery disease, in which the arteries become narrowed or blocked. When that happens, your heart muscle weakens from lack of blood. You supply the ingredients that dictate what fluids run through your pipes and damage or protect the lining � through what you eat, how you exercise, and how you respond to social and environmental stresses.

Your Heart : The Live Younger Action Plan

Action 1: Pump Your Heart

Your body is a natural fat burner. You burn calories all the time � whether you�re gardening, reading, or going to the bathroom. For optimum health, you�ll do enough physical activity (exercise) to burn between 3,500 and 6,500 a week (or from 500 to 950 a day). Most of that calorie burn comes from everyday activities, without your even trying to do so. But the scientific data shows that in addition to those calories you burn from general physical activities, you also need about sixty minutes a week of stamina training � that is, cardiovascular activity that elevates your heart rate to 80 percent or more of your age-adjusted maximum (220 minus your age) for an extended period of time. Ultimately, the stamina training necessary to obtain optimum health (more is needed for getting into shape but not needed for health) comes in the form of only three twenty-minute workouts per week at this heart rate. It�s also the level that would make you sweat in a cool room. Once you go over sixty or so minutes, there�s no more benefit to your body from a longevity standpoint. Even walking just a few extra minutes a day lowers your lousy (LDL) cholesterol, raises your healthy (HDL) cholesterol, and decreases inflammation, among other benefits. Start with walking until you can do weight lifting and then add some kind of activity � cycling, swimming � to elevate your heart rate (running chronically often stresses your joints too much). By adding strength training and then stamina training, the average fifty-five-year- old man becomes eight years younger in Real Age, and a fifty-five-year-old woman makes herself 9.1 years younger. You increase your risk of heart disease in two ways if you�re seriously overweight (a body mass index of above 35 � for example, being five feet eight inches and 230 pounds) or if your waist size is forty inches or for men and thirty-five inches or greater for women (measure around the belly button). The weight carries two important risks. First, you�re much more likely to have or develop other risky conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, lipid disorders like high LDL levels, sleep apnea, or arthritis, which will inhibit your desire to exercise. Second, if your extra weight is carried around your waist, you�re at even higher risk, because the fat cells in abdominal fat secrete a hormone that directly increases inflammation in your blood vessels.

Action 2: Know Your Numbers

Blood Pressure Test � Blood pressure is the amount of force exerted by your blood on the walls of your arteries as it passes through. If your blood pressure is high (optimum level is 115/76), that force is literally gouging holes in your arteries But high blood pressure has no symptoms, which makes it easier to ignore it. It is also, however, as easily treatable with drugs or lifestyle changes (diet and exercise), which means that everyone should have their blood pressure measured regularly and take immediate steps if it is high. If you are fifty-five years old, you are one year older in Real Age for every 5mmHg increase to the top number, or 7mmHg increase in the bottom number. But drop 160/90 readings down to the ideal, and make yourself nine years younger. Blood Test � Yearly blood test sheds insight into your overall heart health . Cholesterol � LDL cholesterol is the �bad� kind � the kind that breaks apart easily and builds up on the walls of your arteries wherever there is a nick or hole. While HDL, high-density lipoprotein is the good kind. Let�s remember them by their first initials � L for lousy, H for healthy. High LDL levels can be the result of eating a lot of foods like red meat or cakes � foods laden with cholesterol, simple carbohydrates, and trans and saturated fats. Or it can be partially determined by genetics. Exercising, losing even ten pounds of weight, avoiding simple carbohydrates (avoid most all white foods like white bread, white sugar, and white pasta), and restricting saturated and trans fats to fewer than 20 grams a day will lower your LDL. A fifty-five-year �old with a LDL of 180mg/ dl who lowers it to 100 will make himself three years younger. Avoiding more than 20grams of saturated and trans fats everyday has another benefit � it keeps your arteries able to dilate, providing you with more energy. Meals laden with saturated and trans fats lead to blood laden with saturated and trans fats, which in turn paralyzes that muscular middle wall of your arteries. And you want that artery muscle to be functional, so when you ask a leg muscle to move, it gets enough energy to do so. So to be energetic, keep your saturated fat and trans fats to fewer than 20grams a day. For a change, we actually want to increase something in your body, you also want as high an HDL level possible, and at least greater than 40. Increasing your HDL can be done in several ways:

  • Consuming healthy fats like those in olive oil, fish, and walnuts (one tablespoon, four ounces, or twelve a day, respectively)
  • Walking or doing any physical activity for thirty minutes a day
  • Having a drink of alcohol every night (seven on Saturday night doesn�t count, and avoid drinking if you have a family member who becomes angry when he/she drinks)

Alcohol is a double-edged sword. In its favour, it decreases inflammation, for reasons not fully understood. But too much of it can cause aging of the immune system, perhaps by inactivating the cells that defend you. Anything over about two and a half drinks daily for men and one and a half drinks for women is a net increase in risk. Blood Sugar � Keep it lower than 100mg/dl. The excess sugar in the blood that�s caused by diabetes damages the arteries by inactivating a specific phosphokinase, a substance that makes it possible for your arteries to smoothly dilate and contract. So all of us, not just diabetics, really want to avoid foods that are high in simple sugars and saturated and trans fats.

Action 3: Get Mental and Develop Lifelong Friends

You are healthier when you�re happy. So it shouldn�t be a surprise that your emotions � specifically, how you handle some of the nonscientific things in your life � can have an enormous impact on the way your body works. Fight Anger And Hostility � Powerful negative emotional states are bad for your heart and are important enough to make your RealAge effect eight years older. These emotions can cause high blood pressure as well as disrupt your body�s normal repair mechanism and also constrict your blood vessels, making it even harder for enough blood to work its way through. Various kinds of therapies - including learning relaxation techniques and meditation, and having friends you�d never think of getting angry with � can help you handle these damaging feelings in a healthier way. Stand Up to Depression � A passive negative emotional state over the long term is strongly associated with heart disease. In fact people with depression are statistically four times more likely to have a heart attack. A feeling of helplessness appears to weaken the immune system. Being depressed may make you more prone to arterial clotting and arterial aging. Seeking professional help and managing depression whether through therapy or medication is a needed first to help you and your heart. Destress � stress is the greatest ager of your body in general, especially the nagging, unfinished tasks kinds of stress that hang over you day after day, or the stress of things that are out of your control Therapies like meditation and relaxation techniques can teach you how to tolerate the stressful elements in your life.

Action 4: Eat Your Heart Out

It�s becoming clearer every day that food is one of your most powerful tools for keeping your body (and especially your heart) in optimum condition. Go nuts � eat at least one handful of nuts a day. Oil Your Body � Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats. Which help raise your HDL cholesterol � the �healthy� cholesterol. Go Fish � You should eat three portions of fish per week. Fish especially fatty fish like salmon and whitefish like cod or bass, is high in those omega-3 fatty acids, which have several powerful benefits. Pick Your Favourite Flavo � Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants and anti inflammatory-substances that occur in certain plant foods, including nuts; any tea, including green tea; red wine; grapes; cranberries; 100 percent natural orange juice; onions; and tomatoes and tomato juice.

Action 5: Don�t Ignore The Relatives

Anyone with a family history of heart disease should be extra vigilant about heart-risky behaviours, and should also begin routine tests at an earlier age than the general population. If you do this you may beat the genetic odds.

Action 6: Go On Pills

Aspirin helps prevent cardiovascular disease. Multivitamin is a fountain of micronutrients, some of which are particularly key to your heart�s health.

Action 7: Schedule Sleep

We don�t know why, but if you get less sleep than you need, you increase your arterial aging and your risk of heart attack. The optimal amount is seven to eight hours per night for men, and six to seven hours for women. And those need to be solid hours: you have to be snoozing about two and hours in arrow before your sleep becomes truly restorative. Inadequate sleep causes you to release less of the pleasure hormone serotonin in your brain. To compensate you try to increase those levels with foods like sugar or harmful substances like tobacco.

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