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Five Ways to Protect Your Heart

Aug 28, 2008
First, get tested. While every doctor recommends and orders tests for LDL and HDL cholesterol, those aren't enough. You also need to test for CRP levels. This is especially true for women. CRP tests are considered more effective in revealing risk for heart problems than LDL/HDL.

CRP is a blood test for the level of C-reactive protein in your body. C-reactive protein is a compound in your blood which causes inflammation of tissues and organs. Not only does C-reactive protein affect the heart, it also increases your risk of wrinkles and developing other health problems such as diabetes.

So you need to ask your doctor to order the
Hs-CRP (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein test for you. If the results show 1.0 mg/L (milligrams per liter of blood), you are at low risk. Average risk is 1.0 - 3.0 mg/L and over 3.0 mg/L is high risk.

Secondly, choose the right fats for your diet. You need healthy Omega-3 fats. But you need to avoid trans-fats as they lower HDL, your good cholesterol. In fact they have been proven to be so detrimental to overall health that some states are now passing laws to prohibit their use in restaurants.

And when shopping read your labels carefully. Some products will read 0 trans-fat. But if you look at the list of ingredients you see the words, "partially hydrogenated." Hydrogenated oils and partially hydrogenated oils are trans-fats. And you find them in the majority of packaged cookies, confections such as cinnamon rolls and candy bars.

Do consume healthy fats. Choose foods that have alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linolenic acid (LA),
Such as walnuts, walnut oil, flaxseeds, and flaxseed oil. Cook with monosaturated fats such as virgin olive oil.

Don't skimp on sleep. Your body needs rest to rejuvenate and repair. So be sure to get your daily ZZZ's. And if you can, work in a short nap. A six year study of 23,000 Greek men and women revealed that those who took a thirty minute nap during the day decreased their risk of dying from heart disease by thirty-seven percent as compared to people who did not nap during the day.

Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. Find something that you love to do. If you can't find anything that you love, or like, then look for something you can at least tolerate.

Walking is great. It is inexpensive and easy to do. Devise little tricks to encourage more steps. Park your car at the farthest part of the lot from where you are going. Skip the elevator and take the stairs. Try wearing a pedometer on your belt and gradually increase your steps day by day. Go the long way and avoid shortcuts. If time is your excuse, just walk faster. Make your walk a social occasion by asking a friend to join you.

Explore something you have never done before like yoga, tai chi, or some exotic dance. You don't have to worry about a teacher or classes. There are videos and DVD's that cover every possible type of exercise from leg lifts to dancing. Again, make it a social occasion by asking a friend to join you.

Finally, make healthy food choices. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Limit your intake of simple carbohydrates such as white rice, white bread, and cookies. Select healthy snacks such as popcorn. You can enjoy a dessert but be careful of the quantity. It's okay to eat that chocolate chip cookie now and then but don't consume the entire box in one sitting. The key to healthy eating is variety and moderation.

Protecting your heart does take a little thought and effort, but considering the alternative, it is a worthwhile endeavor.
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