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HEALTH & WELLNESS by jeff csatari

8 Steps to a Healthier Heart Easy ways to keep your pump in prime shape.

arteries and your heart,” says renowned cardiologist and researcher H. Robert Superko, M.D., author of Before the Heart Attacks. Here are eight simple things you

can do to keep your heart healthy: 1READ HOMER. A study in the American Journal of Physiology in 2003 found that reading ancient poetry may help your heart. In the study, 20 men and women in their 40s were asked to read pas- sages from Homer’s The Odyssey while having their hearts and lungs monitored. As they read the dactylic hexameter verses, heart and respira-

tion rates slowed and synchronized. Researchers say

FROM 1911 TO 1952, Personal Health merit badge featured a heart motif. Maybe the Boy Scouts of America should reissue that old badge just for Scouters as an extra incentive to take better care of their tickers. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States, accounting for one in five deaths annually. You may think you’re doing right

by your heart because you don’t smoke and you haven’t had a hot dog with the works since getting off the trail last summer with your troop, but your body’s engine deserves more attention. “Your ability to control your life-

style choices gives you a great deal of authority over the condition of your

48 SCOUTING ¿  

the results are similar to the effects of reciting the Rosary devotion or yoga’s “om” mantra. Slow breathing and heart rate have been linked to lower blood pressure and helping the heart and lungs work more efficiently. 2SLEEP LONGER. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that every extra hour of sleep that middle-age adults add to their nightly average lowers risk of artery hardening by 33 percent. More sleep helps reduce the stress hormones your body secretes when you are tired; these chemicals constrict arteries and cause inflamma- tion, which encourages calcification of the heart. 3DRINK MORE WATER. Researchers at Loma Linda University report that people who drank five eight-

ounce glasses of water daily were about half as likely to die of coronary heart disease as those who drank two glasses or fewer. The research- ers say that drinking water appears to benefit heart health as much as stopping smoking by fighting dehydration, which elevates blood viscosity, a heart-disease risk factor. 4SNACK LESS. Avoiding salty chips and high-calorie cookies and cakes can have a dramatic impact on your weight and heart health. Try this trick Dr. Superko recommends to his patients: Keep a bag of baby carrots in the fridge. Make a deal with yourself: You can have an unhealthy snack, like a chocolate chip cookie, as long as you eat six baby carrots first. Like magic, eating the carrots often crushes the craving for the cookie. 5EAT OATS. You eat oatmeal for breakfast on the trail. Get in the habit while at home. Oats contain beta- glucan, a type of fiber that surrounds bad cholesterol in your gut and escorts it out of the body. Dozens of studies prove the cholesterol-lowering ben- efits of fiber-rich foods such as oats, vegetables, beans, apples, pears, barley, and prunes. 6GO EASY ON SALT. The average American swallows 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, more than 1,000 milligrams more than he or she should. Keeping sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams per day can lower your risk of heart disease by up to 9 percent, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Achieve

FIND MORE ADVICE on improving your health and fitness at scouting


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