Omega-6s to Omega-3s: 4 to 1
Omega-6s and omega-3s are called essential fatty acids for a reason: Their work includes building cell membranes and nerve insulation. But since the body doesn't produce these fats, you must get them from your diet—and the balance makes all the difference. American drive-through cuisine includes huge amounts of omega-6s (irritating in high levels), yet hardly any omega-3s (particularly beneficial for the heart). Although the optimum ratio is 4 to 1, ours is often 20 to 1, which puts us at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, arthritis, asthma, and some cancers.
To right the omega balance: Eat more fish, seafood, whole grains, beans, nuts, and ground flaxseeds to increase omega-3s. And cut back on processed foods—along with oils made from corn, safflower, cottonseed, and peanuts—to ease off the omega-6s.
If you've ever seen an apple slice turn brown 20 minutes after being cut, you can picture what inflammation does to your body: It causes the rusting of tissue. You can gauge your level of inflammation with a blood test that measures C-reactive protein (CRP), which is produced by the liver and is part of the body's battle response. A healthy level is under 1—meaning you've got less than half the chance of heart disease than if your level is greater than 3. A number above 10 suggests you may have another ailment (such as an autoimmune disease) that should be diagnosed.
To reduce CRP: Try to eliminate low-grade irritants like gingivitis (floss daily) and vaginitis (see a doctor, especially if it recurs). Also move toward a Mediterranean-style diet (lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; fat from olive oil; moderate amounts of wine).
Vitamin D: 30
When you're deficient in vitamin D, you may be at increased risk for heart disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and immune disorders, not to mention osteoporosis. To make sure you're getting enough, take a blood test for vitamin D: Your level should be greater than 30.
To boost vitamin D: If you can't get 15 minutes of sun exposure daily, take a supplement containing at least 1,000 IU of D3, the most potent form of the vitamin, or chug a tablespoon of cod liver oil every morning.