RUN FOR LIFE: Regular exercise, the experts say, gives the body and the heart ample strength to face each day.
A. “When you are stressed, your brain thinks it’s under attack and looks for anything that’s bad. Gratitude encourages you to focus on the good stuff,” says Shawn Achor, positive-psychology expert and coauthor of The Happiness Advantage. A sunnier mind-set raises levels of the feel-good hormone and lowers stress hormones that tax the heart. According to a Harvard University study, professionals with a demanding day job have up to 56 percent higher risk for heart disease than those with less strain. Achor recommends that you keep a gratitude journal to consult daily.
B. According to the experts, listening to a personal theme song after an unpleasant encounter makes you feel empowered and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering your heart rate to healthier levels. A study from Stockholm University finds that having an unpleasant boss or supervisor can increase the risk of heart disease by 64 percent in men! This kind of chronic stress, says Carol Scott (author of Optimal Stress) keeps cortisol levels high, straining your system. The Heart Foundation of Jamaica recommends ample exercise to enable your body to release mood-boosting chemicals, such as endorphins, and reduce the production of stress-linked hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. “Skipping exercise increases your chances of suffering chronic health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure,” the Heart Foundation advises. “Generally, these diseases arise as a result of long-term poor exercise habits. Staying consistent with your exercise routine will promote a stronger, healthier heart.”
> NOTE THIS: Because the heart is a muscle, it grows stronger with exercise and is able to pump blood to all parts of the body more effectively. As a result, regular workouts: improves blood flow, improves cholesterol levels and aids in blood pressure control and include weight control as an additional benefit.
>> DID YOU KNOW? Violet fruits, such as grapes, may help ward off multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, according to a study in the Archives of Toxicology. They supply iron chelators, molecules that help prevent the production of disease-causing toxins called hydroxyl radicals. That’s why nutritionists recommend one or two servings of purple produce per day.
(Sources: The Heart Foundation of Jamaica and Self magazine)