Protecting Your Heart
These are the other major source of fat in the Mediterranean diet. Nuts
contain antioxidants and are high in healthy fat. Walnuts, for example, have
been shown to reduce dangerous triglycerides and boost heart-protecting HDL; in
fact, if you are going to indulge in a high-fat meal, including walnuts can
help minimize artery damage. Other nuts to snack on: pecans, pistachios, and
hazelnuts, says Michael Miller, M.D., director of the Center for Preventive
Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Alcohol (in moderation) raises HDL, and the grape skins used to make red
wine contain the antioxidant resveratrol, which may help prevent blood clots
and keep vessels flexible.
Don't forget that the Mediterranean lifestyle includes plenty of walking and
relaxation time. "Stress is an underestimated risk factor," says Dr.
The New Skinny on Weight
There's no doubt that hauling around too much body fat is hard on the heart.
But after years of estimating risk with the body mass index (BMI), a
150-year-old formula that roughly calculates body fat using height and weight,
doctors are now being encouraged to look more closely at body shape instead. In
a 52-country study, researchers compared the BMI with a number of other
measures and found that the best predictor of heart attack risk was an
individual's waist-to-hip ratio. Pear-shaped people—those who have small waists
in relation to their hips—are at lower risk. People with an apple shape, who
have wider waists and more fat around the abdomen, have greater reason to be
To lose that tummy fat, get moving. Diet alone won't do it, but exercise
can, even before you see a difference on the scale. Exercise may also make
belly fat less risky. In a recent study at Wake Forest University, women who
cut calories lost weight and lowered their body fat; those who dieted and added
a moderate or brisk walk several days a week also shrank the size of the fat
cells around their bellies by 18 percent.
Even if you're thin, you need to exercise. In fact, for maximum heart
protection, you need two kinds of workouts: (1) a moderate-intensity activity,
such as brisk walking, dancing, or biking on level ground, which increases HDL
and lowers LDL; and (2) something a little more active, like jogging, aerobic
dance, or biking uphill, to boost heart and lung fitness.
How often? You should aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise a day on most
days of the week. But researchers say that you need to push yourself only
slightly beyond your comfort level, just enough to raise your pulse and speed