The Fab 14
Tomato sauce can be annoying on kids' faces and dry-clean-only clothes, but it's one of the best things to include in your diet. Tomato sauce reduces blood pressure as much as any pill reduces plaque in your arteries, and it's linked to lower cancer rates. Shoot for 10 tablespoons of tomato sauce a week.
Raw tomatoes won't do it, however. You'd have to eat 165 raw tomatoes to get the equivalent amount of lycopene—the ingredient that's thought to do much of the good work.
The biggest nutritional villains of all are trans fat and saturated fat. Both activate a gene that causes destructive inflammation in your arteries. Try to stick to under 20 grams a day of trans fat and saturated fat combined. An average croissant has around 32 grams. A four-ounce slice of roast pork tenderloin has about four grams. Trans fats—or hydrogenated oils—found in many processed and baked foods are probably at least as bad as saturated fats, maybe even a little worse.
Even if you already spend too much time in the bathroom, you've got to make sure you get in an extra two minutes. Gingivitis and periodontal disease cause inflammation in your body and aging of your immune and arterial systems. Daily flossing and brushing not only remove the unsightly broccoli florets stuck in your teeth, but they also reduce the risk to your heart. Also, get a professional cleaning every six months to have your gums checked and protected.
In your body, you have 300 million cell duplications a day. When something goes awry with those duplications, your risk of cancer increases. Luckily, you have a gene—called the p53 gene—that looks for typos in those duplications to correct problems before they start. Vitamin D helps the p53 gene do its job.
You need 800 international units of vitamin D a day to decrease cancer rates. Get it in skim or soy milk, fortified foods, supplements, or with 20 minutes a day of summer sun or winter sun south of Los Angeles. Now, what does this have to do with your heart and arteries? Vitamin D not only seems to help turn on the genes that kill cancer cells, it also kills the cells making plaque in your arteries grow abnormally bigger.
Nuts are an excellent source of both healthy fats and healthy protein. They also can be concentrated sources of the antioxidants called flavonoids. In the Iowa Nurses Study and three other studies, one ounce of nuts a day decreased the incidence of heart disease between 20 and 60 percent. Eat at least one fistful of nuts a day. The best nuts are those highest in omega-3 fatty acids—like walnuts. But all nuts, even legume peanuts, are good for you.
Fish—especially fatty fish like salmon, and white fish like cod and bass—is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have several powerful benefits. They appear to reduce triglyceride levels in the blood (high levels cause plaque buildup in the arteries), stabilize the heartbeat (reducing irregular rhythms), make platelets less sticky (reducing clotting) and may bring down blood pressure as well.
Some studies have suggested that eating fish once a week cuts your risk of a heart attack in half. The best fish are those with the least mercury and PCBs. Look for wild, line-caught salmon (almost all canned salmon is wild salmon), mahi mahi, catfish, flounder or sole, tilapia and whitefish.
If you do not like fish or fish oils, echium oil may do the same thing.
You already know that flu shots can save you from spending three days in a row in bed and near the toilet, but recently we've learned these immunizations decrease inflammation in your body. This improves the health of your arteries to keep you from aging from a stroke or a heart attack. Treat your body the way you should treat your computer, by keeping your virus protection up to date.
The average American has sex 58 times a year, but who's counting? If you were to double that with mutually monogamous, high-quality, safe sex, you could make yourself almost two years younger than you actually are.
However, there's not enough data on masturbation to know if one-seat flights are as effective.
Powerful, negative emotional states are bad for your heart and are important enough to make your RealAge effect eight years older, so this is not just touchy-feely stuff. These emotions can cause high blood pressure. They can also disrupt your body's normal repair mechanism and constrict your blood vessels, making it even harder for enough blood to work its way through.
Various kinds of therapies, including relaxation techniques, meditation and having friends you'd never think of getting angry with, can help you handle these damaging feelings in a healthier way.
You already know that walking 30 minutes a day, building muscle 30 minutes a week and breaking a sweat 60 minutes a week is ideal for your health, but all three are ideal for your heart and arteries as well. Their order of importance is walking, weight lifting and cardio.
With a blood test, find out your level of HDL, the healthy cholesterol. Study after study shows the higher the number above 50, the better. That's because the clog-clearing cholesterol helps lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, impotence and memory loss. The best ways to increase it are exercise, healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, and one alcoholic drink a day.
Niacin and vitamin B5 raise HDL, as do the statins Lipitor and Crestor. Other statins just lower the lousy LDL cholesterol.
Blood pressure is the amount of force exerted by your blood onto the walls of your arteries as it passes through. The optimum level is 115/76, while the national median is 129/86. If your blood pressure is high, that force is literally gouging holes in your arteries, causing the inflammation.
The problem is that high blood pressure has no symptoms, which makes it easy to ignore. It is also, however, easily treatable with drugs or lifestyle changes in diet and exercise, which means that everyone should have their blood pressure measured regularly and take immediate steps if it is high.
If you are 55 years old, you are one year older in RealAge for every five mmHg increase to the top number or seven mmHg increase in the bottom number. But if you can drop 160/90 readings down to the ideal reading, you make yourself nine years younger.
Talking is a way to decreases the aging that comes from stress, especially stress that comes from nagging, chronic sources or from a major life event, like a death in the family. Those stressors age our arteries and our immune systems, and increase the risk of accidents. Whether it's a phone call at home or, even better, while walking, any kind of social networking has great benefits beyond discussing who just got kicked off of American Idol.
The flavonoids in real cocoa reduce plaque in your arteries, and the saturated fat in real cocoa is one of the few saturated fats the body turns into healthy unsaturated ones. So share some at least 65-percent-cocoa-based chocolate with a special person on Valentine's Day.