A prescription for healthy living: Live longer and feel better by following these basic steps.

1. Eat right to reduce cholesterol
Almost 40 per cent of Canadians have high blood cholesterol levels. "If [our bodies] make too much cholesterol or we get too much in our diet, levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) can rise, which can contribute to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke," says naturopathic doctor Kathryn Nobrega-Porter of Wellpath Clinic (www.wellpathclinic.com).

Take the first step
Cut saturated and trans fats linked to LDL cholesterol and replace them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in many nuts, seeds and oils from plants like soybean, safflower, canola, olive and sunflower. Eat oily fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel or take an omega-3 supplement.

Add a nutrition fix
Nuts, particularly almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios and hazelnuts, reduce cholesterol levels by 10 to 15 points, says Nobrega-Porter. Men who ate nuts two or more times a week cut their risk of sudden cardiac arrest almost in half compared with men who rarely or never ate nuts, reports the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Boost it with exercise
More intense exercise—brisk walking, jogging, biking or gardening—is better than moderate exercise for lowering cholesterol. Duke University Medical Center found that those who got vigorous exercise (jogging 32 kilometres a week) lowered their LDL cholesterol level more than those doing more moderate exercise (walking or jogging 19 kilometres a week).

2. Lower blood pressure naturally
Hypertension, or high blood pressure (defined as 140/90), is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood through the body. But there are things you can do to keep your levels healthy (120/80).

Take the first step
Reduce stress, which can be a major contributor to high blood pressure. Anything that you find relaxing—Pilates, yoga, deep breathing, listening to music—keeps your stress response under control.

Add a nutrition fix
Foods rich in magnesium, such as whole grains,raisins, soybeans, avocado and beets, can help lower blood pressure. Boost it with exercise Taking brisk 10-minute walks four times a day can decrease your blood pressure for 11 hours, reports the Journal of Hypertension. A continuous 40-minute walk keeps it down for about seven hours.

3. Ward off heart disease
Every seven minutes, a Canadian dies of heart disease or stroke. Zoomers account for about 98 per cent of all deaths by major cardiovascular diseases. We know that high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity are all contributing factors.

Take the first step
Stop smoking and within 20 minutes of your last cigarette, the body begins to repair itself, says Nobrega-Porter. A staggering 21.4 per cent of Canadians smoke, making them two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than non-smokers.

Add a nutrition fix
Walnuts increase the elasticity of arteries by 64 per cent and reduce hardening of the arteries by 20 per cent. Aim for at least three servings of fish each week and include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Boost it with exercise Thirty minutes of moderately intense activity every day can reduce your risk of heart disease by 30 per cent, says Nobrega-Porter.

4. Take care of your gums
Gum disease may be a warning sign of potentially serious health problems, says Dr. Michael Glogauer, associate professor at the University of Toronto's faculty of dentistry. "It's thought that inflammation and infection in your mouth may result in bacteria and other inflammatory chemicals entering your bloodstream and causing damage in your body."

Take the first step
Daily flossing will reduce and prevent gum disease and gingivitis. Use a tongue scraper and an anti-bacterial mouth rinse. Schedule regular cleanings with a dental hygienist to remove plaque and treat gum disease.

Add a nutrition fix
Drink green tea to improve your dental health and reduce the risk of periodontal disease. It contains an antioxidant that interferes with the inflammatory response associated with periodontal illness.

Boost it with exercise
High levels of the stress hormone cortisol weaken the immune system and cause elevated plaque levels, reports a 2007 study from Dentists for Diabetics. Relieve stress through deep breathing, exercise, listening to music and maintaining a positive mental attitude.

Next: More age-proofing tips...

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