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Health and Fitness Tips

Heart Health

John, a 35-year-old computer programmer, ran and played tennis regularly, and took pride in remaining fit and trim despite his high-fat diet. So he had no idea anything was wrong the day he came home from a run and felt a tightening in his chest that wouldn't go away. An hour later he went to the emergency room and was treated for a heart attack; a week later he underwent coronary bypass surgery.

While being active is undeniably good for your heart, athletic and cardiovascular fitness don't always go hand in hand. Over time, a poor diet and other lifestyle habits can result in serious heart disease. And though heart attacks usually occur later in life, as John found out, that's not always the case.

Even if you are relatively healthy now, your current habits can powerfully affect your likelihood of developing heart disease. According to some studies, the artery deposits that cause heart attacks start developing as early as age 15, and nearly every American has some artery damage by age 30.

Still, you can prevent and even reverse heart disease at any age. Apart from genetics, most of the factors that can significantly reduce your risk are directly related to lifestyle - what you can eat and what you do. And nearly anyone can improve their behavior.

High cholesterol is one of the main problems in heart disease. Most people can lower total cholesterol through fairly simple lifestyle changes, particularly dietary ones. Foods high in saturated fat, such as red meats, dairy products and hydrogenated vegetable oils used in convenience and fast foods, signal the liver to produce low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

High cholesterol isn't the only risk factor for heart trouble. The following should also make you think about changing your lifestyle:

*A family history of heart disease, especially if a parent, grandparent, uncle or aunt has had a heart attack before age 60.

*High blood pressure. Hypertension often causes no symptoms. Have your blood pressure checked regularly - if it's higher than 140/90, ask your doctor how to lower it.

*Smoking. It contributes to high blood pressure and may cause the initial injury to the artery wall that allows cholesterol plaque to develop.

*A high-fat, low-fiber diet.

*Obesity (being more than 30 percent over your ideal weight)

* A sedentary and stressful existence. The best stress-reducer is a healthy lifestyle that includes aerobic as well as an absorbing, relaxing hobby. People face a lot of stress can also benefit from relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.

*Other medical problems, such as diabetes.

Anyone who doesn't maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle can become vulnerable to heart disease. To determine your own risk, start by having your blood cholesterol level checked. If you're genetically predisposed or over 50, check it every year. Always request a total lipid panel, which measures HDL and LDL levels as well as total cholesterol. Honor yourself and your heart by eating right and exercising properly.

Rick Gusler is a certified personal trainer and diet nutritionist who serves his clients through Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center in central Denver. To schedule a free consultation, or to learn more about the Gusler method of body sculpting, spin yoga, or Rick's Boot Camp, please contact him at 303.860.7131 or online at

Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center, LLC
459 Acoma Street · Denver, Colorado 80204 · 303-860-7131
Hours: Monday-Friday: 6am-8pm · Saturday: Closed · Sunday: Closed