Strong at Heart
We all have stress in our lives, but teaching yourself to react calmly and clearly versus going into a panic can help save your heart. Meditation, the practice and process of focusing your awareness, works like a surge protector. Those who try it often find that their "short fuse" gets longer and everyday stresses don't bother them as much. When you meditate, a number of desirable things begin to happen—slowly at first and deepening over time.
Meditation is simple in concept but difficult to master. Fortunately, you don't have to master it (no one ever really does) to benefit from it. In most forms of meditation, you repeat a sound or a phrase or a verse from a prayer. Out loud—or to yourself. Over and over again. Or you can simply observe your breathing. In and out. Over and over. When you become aware that you are thinking about something else, gently but firmly bring your attention back to the repetition without judging or berating yourself. With practice, your mind will wander a little less than before. Some people find it easier to meditate while moving—walking slowly or doing tai chi.
If you feel too pressured to practice formally, ask yourself if you have time to meditate for one minute. It's hard to tell yourself you don't have 60 seconds. Even a minute of meditation has benefits (the consistency is more important than the duration, and once you start, you'll probably keep going a little longer).
Get Some Action
Many people think that if you don't run at least five miles three times a week, then you might as well roll over and go back to sleep. Actually, it turns out that moderate exercise provides most of the health benefits of more intensive exercise in staving off heart disease. Just walking 30 minutes a day can reduce premature death rates from virtually all causes by half. It doesn't even have to be all at once, or even all that fast. You need only to raise your heart rate (pulse) by at least 10 beats per minute (check it by putting your finger on your neck or wrist), which, for most people, means going about two miles per half hour.
It doesn't matter if you walk, swim, perform calisthenics, or do yoga. The best kind of exercise is one that you enjoy, because you're most likely to keep doing it. Try for at least four times a week. Sex counts, too.
Your Total Guide to Staying Heart-Healthy