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By Executive Edge

Whether you live in Toronto, Los Angeles, or anywhere in North America, you are more likely to die of heart disease than anything else.

When your first heart attack strikes, the best medical care may not save your life. About half of all heart attacks are fatal. Often there have been no symptoms of heart disease. Here are several ways you can protect yourself.

1. Exercise Lowers Blood Pressure: If your blood pressure is over 140/90, take action to bring it down. Many studies show that a combination of exercise, stress reduction, and a change in dietary habits can reduce that pressure.

Studies reported in the Journal Circulation, show the results of a ten-week exercise program. Men exercising at 65 to 80 percent of their maximum heart rate four times a week lowered their diastolic readings (the second numbers by about 10 points.

Systolic went down an average of 6 points during that short time.

You don't have to be an athlete to lower blood pressure through exercise, as proved by a study at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Mild hypertension was reduced for up to 12 hours after subjects did very moderate exercise (like walking or riding a stationary bike) for 30 minutes. The moderate exercise had no effect on those whose blood pressure was normal.

2. Check Your Diet: The American Dietetic Association advises that a well-planned diet, consisting of a variety of largely unrefined plant foods, supplemented with some milk and eggs, meets all nutrient needs.

Eating more fat, protein, and calories than your body needs can lead to heart disease. Gradual changes in diet are easiest and best. Start protecting your heart by eating smaller portions of red meat, more chicken (cooked without skin), and fish. Add more fresh vegetables and whole grains.

3. Studies at the Memorial Hospital of Newfoundland show that skipping breakfast increases "stickiness" of blood platelet activity. In people with arteries that are already narrowed with plaque, this could trigger a heart attack. For general health and heart protection, eat breakfast. Cereal and fruit are good choices.

4. Have Your Blood Pressure Checked: The American Heart Association recommends measurements be obtained at least once every two years for persons with diastolic pressures between 85 and systolic pressures below 140. If diastolic pressure is 85-89, yearly measurements are in order, with more frequent assessments if this value is 90 or higher.


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