Bulletproof your heart

October 28, 2010, 10:38 ammenshealth

A guide to keeping your "cardio" ticker tocking

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Every 24 minutes an Australian man meets his maker by way of cardiovascular disease. Don’t want to be one of them? Here’s a guide to keeping your ticker tocking.

YOUR BREAKFAST
Not so good: a cup of coffee
Better: bacon, eggs, sausages
Best: a bowl of cereal

The first-thing caffeine hit might get your synapses firing, but it’ll give your heart a hit of a different kind. Tests at the Henry Dunant Hospital in Athens found one cup was enough to stiffen arteries for four hours, reducing oxygen flow to the heart. The first cup of coffee of the day had the greatest effect, as caffeine in the body had settled at a low level overnight. Harvard scientists found the best start to your day is high-fibre cereal, which binds to last night’s cholesterol, stopping it from attaching to artery walls. It’s better than a fry-up: Osaka City University cardiologists found high-fat meals reduce your arteries’ capacity to expand by 18 per cent, an effect that can last for five hours after eating.

YOUR WORK
Not so good: middle manager
Better: humble underling
Best: your own boss

Not enough noughts in your pay packet might feel like a stress-booster, but as far as your ticker’s concerned, minimal responsibility means low stress levels. Middle managers have it worst, acting as a buffer between disgruntled workers and demanding senior managers. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that middle men were six times more likely to develop coronary heart disease. And while you might think it’d be like putting barbed wire around your heart, the long-term benefits of starting your own business are scientific fact. University of Michigan research found that going solo reduces feelings of stress as well as boosting work satisfaction by nearly 40 per cent.

YOUR WORKOUT
Bad: searching for the remote
Better: long, steady cardio or weight training
Best: short, sharp lung-busters

Tortoises steal some races, but as far as your heart’s concerned, the hare’s stop-sprint approach wins every time. Researchers at the American College of Sports Medicine found that although any aerobic exercise will increase your heart’s efficiency, regular interval training increases the amount of blood your heart pumps with each heartbeat by about 10 per cent. If you do no exercise at all, you’ll increase your risk of death from heart disease by 52 per cent, according to a study at the University of Hong Kong.

YOUR DRINKING HABITS
Bad: my weekends are a blur
Better: abstinence
Best: one or two drinks a day
Living the life of a monk might be lacklustre and short, according to a new European Heart Journal study, which shows a daily glass or two of any alcohol can decrease your risk of a premature heart attack by one-third over teetotallers. One or two drinks a day, combined with three 30-minute sessions of moderate aerobic exercise, mean an impressive 44-50 per cent lower risk, compared with slothful abstainers. Still, go easy. “Regularly drinking more than 30 units a week can lead to congestive heart failure.

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