Live Well, Live Long

Jul 25, 2007
Outside Magazine
Heart Health Q & A

Do fish-oil supplements really prevent heart disease, or are they just a fad?
The omega-3's in fish oil help regulate cholesterol levels, which could decrease your risk of heart disease. "Fish oil lowers triglyceride levels," says Dr. Brian Kahn, a cardiologist with Baltimore's Mercy Medical Center. "We often recommend it in combination with statin drugs for patients with high cholesterol." Kahn suggests taking 1,000 mg twice daily with your doctor's approval. And check labels carefully: The best is distilled, pharmaceutical-grade fish oil that's free of mercury and other toxins.

Live Well

You've eliminated the obvious risk factors, improved your diet, and maxed out your cardio training. Now what? The best thing you can do for your heart, we're happy to report, is take a nap. Among other pleasant surprises.

Love Your Job
Get a better job, to be precise, and work less. According to a study published in the October 2006 issue of Hypertension—one of our favorite reads—clerical and unskilled workers are more likely to have high blood pressure than professionals, and the incidence of high blood pressure goes up with the number of hours worked each week. A separate study by researchers in Britain suggests that people who feel they are being treated unfairly—at work or elsewhere—also have higher rates of heart disease.

Drink Up
Mounting evidence shows it's better to drink in moderation than not at all. According to the Harvard School of Public Health and The New England Journal of Medicine, consuming one to two glasses of wine or beer a day reduces your chance of heart disease and stroke. (However, consuming more than three or four glasses a day is risky, they found.) Not a drinker? Try tea instead. Tea's flavonoids have blood-thinning, artery-relaxing properties. But don't add milk. A study published in January in the European Heart Journal found that milk negates tea's beneficial effects, which may be one reason why tea drinkers in Asia have lower heart-disease rates than their counterparts in Britain.

Relax More
Go to your happy place. According to the Interheart global study, which surveyed 30,000 subjects across 52 countries, stress is responsible for a fifth of heart attacks worldwide. Duke University researchers found that among patients with a history of heart problems, stress management reduces cardiac events by 74 percent. Therapy, yoga, tai chi, and meditation are all effective techniques. Meditation especially "reduces excessive physiological responses to stressors," notes Dr. Robert H. Schneider, co-author of Total Heart Health (Basic Health Publications, 2006).

Take a Nap
You snooze, you win. A study of more than 23,000 adults in Greece by the University of Athens and the Harvard School of Public Health found that subjects who regularly took midday siestas were 37 percent less likely to die of heart disease. That number increased to a whopping 64percent for working men who napped.

Eat Fat
No kidding. The American Heart Association recommends that 7 percent of your daily calories come from fat. Just make sure it's the right kind. How do you know the good from the bad? Bad fats (saturated and trans fats) tend to be more solid at room temperature—think butter or animal fat—while good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) tend to be moreliquid, as with olive and vegetable oils.

Floss Your Teeth
That's right. The immediate gratification is nice, but it turns out there's more to flossing. Studies published in the Journal of Periodontology show that people with periodontal disease are nearly twice as likely to suffer from coronary-artery disease. The theory is that oral bacteriacan enter the bloodstream and attach to fatty deposits in the heart's blood vessels, leading to clots. The findings "support accumulating evidence that warding off oral bacteria may be good for your heart," says Preston D. Miller Jr., DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology.