23. Ask for next Monday and Friday off. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh analyzed data on more than 12,000 middle-aged men from the Framingham Heart Study and found that those who took regular vacations sliced their risk of death from heart disease by a third. And no, taking along the cell phone, laptop, and a briefcase full of papers will not help you achieve the stress-reducing effects of a vacation that, in turn, reduces your risk of heart disease.
24. Drive with the windows closed and the air conditioning on. This reduces your exposure to airborne pollutants, which a Harvard study found reduces something called “heart rate variability,” or the ability of your heart to respond to various activities and stresses. Reduced heart rate variability, also called HRV, has been associated with increased deaths among heart attack survivors as well as the general population.
25. Keep a bottle of multivitamins on your kitchen counter and make the pills a regular addition to breakfast. After six months of taking daily multivitamins, participants in one study had significantly lower levels of a protein connected with inflammation than those who didn’t take a vitamin.
26. Call a friend and arrange dinner. A study published in the journal Heart in April 2004 found that having a very close relationship with another person, whether it’s with a friend, lover, or relative, can halve the risk of a heart attack in someone who has already had a heart attack.
27. Pay attention to the basics. Two major studies published in the summer of 2003 found that nearly everyone who dies of heart disease, including heart attacks, had at least one or more of the conventional risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol levels.
28. Along with exercising every day, take a supplement containing the amino-acid L-arginine and the antioxidant vitamins C and E. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that while moderate exercise alone reduced the development of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, adding L-arginine and the vitamins to the mix boosted the effects astronomically. The two — exercise and the supplements — have a synergistic effect in enhancing production of nitric oxide, which protects against a variety of heart-related problems.
29. If you find you’re having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, have lost interest in your normal activities, or just feel really blah, call your doctor. You may be depressed, and untreated depression significantly increases your risk for a heart attack.
30. Go to the pound this weekend and adopt a dog. The power of furry friends to improve heart health is proven. Not only will a dog force you to be more active (think about all the extra walking you’ll be doing), but the companionship and unconditional affection a pooch provides has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.