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Rules for happy, healthy hearts in later life                          Archive


Essential rules for happy, healthy hearts

Health writer Jan Fairfax provides the knowhow.  All you have to do is follow it…

The wonderful thing about the human organism is that it continually regenerates itself. Some cells have a rapid turnover while others, like bone, take longer. But within an 18 month period literally every cell in your body will have been replaced. So it is rarely too late to have a complete change of heart and to begin following a healthy regime. What is good for your heart is also good for your brain, so you won’t just feel energetic and live longer, you’ll be brighter, too.


a)  Stop smoking

Smoking makes the blood stickier, so the red blood cells clump together making the formation of dangerous clots more likely, especially if you are inactive. Nicotine is one of the inflammatory factors blamed for causing the furring-up of the walls of the blood vessels, including the vital coronary arteries that feed the heart muscle. As well as increasing the risk of having a heart attack or getting lung cancer, smokers are also in danger of stroke. Giving up smoking is the single best thing you can do for your health and longevity.

b) Eat a healthy diet

You need to eat loads of fruit and vegetables including root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, swedes, onions, beetroot etc. and the green leafy ones like broccolli, spinach cauliflower and cabbage, every day. Trials show that red grapes, and good red wine in moderation, help the heart. Choose whole-grain cereals, beans, pulses, seeds and nuts. Have fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, herring and salmon three to four times a week and cut down on red meat, full-fat diary products and sugary foods. The flora which inhabit the intestines, helping to digest food, can be replenished by regularly eating live yoghurt containing acidophilus. It is terribly easy to get into the habit of constantly eating the same things rather than trying a wide variety of foods. Drink lots of water, your body is 70% liquid, it helps to lubricate the joints and the lungs.

c) Get physical

Brisk walking for 10 minutes (building up to 20 minutes) four times a week will help burn foods faster and give your heart and blood vessels a thorough workout. Pick any exercise, like cycling, dancing, swimming or gardening that appeals to you, but do it briskly and regularly for your heart’s sake. You are pacing yourself properly if you can walk and talk without panting. . Most local authorities offer free, or heavily subsidised, entrance to their swimming pools and gymnasiums to senior citizens. Many run special keep-fit and aquarobic classes. If you are overweight, or have had heart or chest problems, check with your GP before starting any exercise programme.

d) Know your cholesterol  levels

There are two types of cholesterol: high-density, the good one, and low-density, the baddie. High levels of low-density cholesterol are linked with heart disease. By the age of 55, the majority of us have raised cholesterol levels. A simple blood test will measure yours and, if necessary, your doctor will prescribe drugs called statins to lower them. If your cholesterol is only slightly raised, try eating Benecol yoghurts and spreads, or consider Lestrin by Innovia Nutraceuticals. These products contain plant sterols which lower cholesterol levels.

e) Have your homocysteine level measured 

Homocysteine is an amino acid that is believed to be the end product of metabolising red meat. It is known that consuming a lot of red meat raises levels of homocysteine in the blood and elevated levels are associated with heart disease. The good news is that homocysteine levels can be lowered by taking a pill containing folic acid and vitamin B12 and B6.

f) Control stress

Prolonged stress keeps high levels of harmful chemicals circulating in the blood, causing chronic tiredness, a sluggish digestion and clogging up the arteries. Research indicates that those with families suffer less stress, although it may not always feel like it. Maintaining friendships with people of all ages and keeping interested and enthusiastic about things which really matter to you are great stress busters. Loneliness causes stress and can become a habit but there are lots of ways of getting out and meeting other people. Most libraries have a notice board crammed with different pursuits and there are a huge choices of evening classes. The University of the Third Age is widespread in the UK and it offers a variety of intellectually-stimulating activities and group travel opportunities. Check in your regional phone book. The local branches of charities are always on the lookout for volunteers and there are also various mentoring schemes which need responsible and sympathetic adults to advise the young. Yoga, tai chi and all the different types of meditation have been proved to lower stress levels. Watch Stress-free Living, an inspiring video of various meditation techniques for busy people by Maneesha James from video shops or

February 2002


laterlife interest

The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

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