Taking Care of Your Heart
What aging can bring: Cardiac disease, heart attack, stroke.
What the research shows: "High blood pressure is the number one culprit when it comes to heart trouble," says Michael F. Roizen, M.D., coauthor of You: On a Diet. "If you know only one number, it should be your blood pressure." (The ideal is 115/76.) A diet high in sodium is linked to high blood pressure. As for cholesterol, the numbers to shoot for are a total count of less than 200, with an HDL greater than 60 and an LDL around 70. The two risk factors are linked: High blood pressure causes little nicks to form in arteries, which the body then plasters over with cholesterol. That attracts inflammatory cells, creating arterial plaque that can lead to clots, heart attacks, and strokes.
What you can do: Keep your diet low in salt and saturated fat and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic activity four or five days a week.