Let’s say that, by the numbers, your heart looks to be in great shape. Your weight’s down. Your waist is trim. Your lousy LDL cholesterol’s under 100, and your blood pressure’s pretty good (we like 115/75). Whew. One less thing to sweat, right?
Not quite. Nearly half of all heart attacks happen to people whose tickers look as good as yours. So doing a little extra could save your life. Here’s our crash course in avoiding seven hidden causes of heart trouble.
Brilliant move No. 1: Heed those dirty-air warnings on the news.
Why your heart loves it: Inhaling ozone — the nasty gas that results when tailpipe and smokestack fumes meet sunlight and hot weather —can kill cardio cells, throw off your heartbeat and boost your odds for a heart attack even if you don’t have heart disease. Smart moves: Exercise indoors on high-ozone days. Do your best to avoid exhaust-choked streets. Get out from behind diesel buses and trucks; their tailpipes spew out chemicals and tiny particles that can inflame lungs and arteries, rupture plaque build ups, encourage blood clots and boost blood pressure.
Brilliant move No. 2: Do not stop daily aspirin on your own.
Why your ticker loves it: If you take low-dose aspirin for any reason, check your supply and run out for a new bottle if it’s low. Stopping suddenly can triple your odds for trouble-causing clots in 10 days. If you’ve got surgery scheduled, have a careful talk with your doc now about the pros and cons of stopping your little white tablets.
Brilliant move No. 3: Ask your doc if there’s anything in your health history that might mean trouble for your kidneys.
Why your heart loves it: Kidneys are vital to your body’s waste- disposal system — but in many adults (one in nine) these ingenious little filters aren’t firing on all cylinders. Over time, this triples your odds for heart problems because hinky kidneys gunk up your bloodstream, which stiffens arteries and fires up inflammation. High blood pressure, diabetes and unlucky genes weaken kidneys. If you’ve got any of ’em, get checked.
Brilliant move No. 4: Treat your siblings’ heart health like your own.
Why your heart loves it: Bet you know that having parents with early heart problems ups your vulnerablility. But did you know that having a sib with heart disease before 60 doubles your own odds of trouble? Sharing clothes is one thing, but heart attacks? No way. Tell your doc about this part of the family tree. Then do everything you can to stay healthy.
Brilliant move No. 5: Give yourself extra TLC if you’ve got psoriasis, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Why your heart loves it: The scaly skin of psoriasis, the fatigue of lupus and the joint pain of rheumatoid arthritis may seem worlds away from your heart. But these are all inflammatory diseases, and inflammation packs plaque into your arteries. Get serious about keeping your blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and inflammation levels down. Then pamper your ticker with healthy meals and daily 30-minute walks.
Brilliant move No. 6: Strengthen your marriage and friendships.
Why your heart loves it: You probably suspect that a colder-than-the-Antarctic marriage can lead to physical, as well as legal, troubles. Ditto if your so-called pals fall into the “with friends like these, who needs enemies” category; they zoom up heart risk by 25 percent. Break up with that bad crowd and find real friends. If your marriage has gone from tender to tense, work on it. Your blood pressure will drop and your arteries will be cleaner.
Brilliant move No. 7: Use up your vacation time!
Why your heart loves it: Taking regular time off can cut your heart attack odds by almost a third. Aim for that blissed-out vacation feeling. Your heart will love it. So will you.
The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen, are authors of “YOU: On a Diet.” Want more? See “The Dr. Oz Show” on TV. To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com.
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