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7 ways to protect your heart right away

November 9, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The heart is an impressive organ. In one minute, it can pump a gallon and a half of blood through thousands of miles of the body's blood vessels.

However, few people take the time to understand how easy it is to care of it.

Dr. Nicole Weinberg of St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica says there are seven ways people can start protecting their heart right away.

  • Sleep: Weinberg says to aim for at least seven hours. Your body's cardiovascular system can't operate efficiently without it.

    "You do need that recovery phase," she says. "Every evening, a good amount of sleep. You need to have that REM sleep."

  • Exercise: You also have to work your heart in order to keep it working. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise. Think of brisk walking or cycling. Make it a habit. The time you spend is not as important as the frequency.

    "Squeezing in that exercise is probably the most important thing, and even if you can do 10 minute intervals of some sort of aerobic exercise a day, that will be very, very helpful," Weinberg says.

  • De-stress: Another tip is to regularly de-stress. Meditate. Do deep breathing. It helps lower blood pressure and keeps stress hormones under control.
  • Sex: New studies also look into the heart healthy benefits of sex. Experts say at least two to three times a week can also produce a de-stressing effect.
  • Limit salt intake: Most experts agree too much salt increases blood volume, which is taxing on your heart.
  • Wine: We've all heard about that glass of wine with dinner.
  • "If you're already doing it and everything is OK, it's not an unreasonable thing to continue," Weinberg says.

  • Floss: Weinberg adds gum disease can be taxing on the heart.
  • The bacteria in your mouth causes inflammation, which puts the body's immune system and vital organs on high alert. Experts recommend flossing every night.

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