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    10 Ways to Protect Your Heart From the Tolls of Recession

    Healthy Diet, Exercise, Relaxing Techniques Can Go a Long Way in Reducing Ill Effects of Economy-Related Stress

    2. Get moving

    We know you’ve heard that exercise is important, but during a recession, your health may depend on it. This is particularly true if you’ve been laid off, doctors say. The tendency may be to pull the covers over your head and stay in bed -- or sit in front of the TV. Don’t. Get your day started with a brisk walk, says Winston Gandy, MD, co-director of cardiac ultrasound at Piedmont Heart Institute in Atlanta.

    Hazen recommends, “Do jumping jacks, take a milk crate and turn it upside down and step on it -- do something."

    Repeated studies have shown the benefits of exercise to heart health, with as much as a 15% decrease in mortality rates with relatively minor changes in one’s exercise routine.

    3. Become a Sleeping Beauty

    Sleep is not just a time of rest, but of restoration,” says Charles Raison, MD, director of the Mind-Body Clinic in the department of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine. While we are sleeping, our bodies repair a lot of the damage that happens during the day.

    “Think of it like the night cleaning crew that comes in when the lights are down and the office is empty,” Gandy says.

    Although we need eight hours of sleep a night, many Americans live in a sleep-deprived state, and that’s not good for our health during the recession, or any other time.

    To sleep better, avoid doing stressful things before bedtime, such as paying bills, reading about your diminishing retirement fund, or having a tense conversation with your partner or family. If you have trouble sleeping on a regular basis, discuss this with your doctor.

    4. Watch your stomach

    Eat healthful foods and limit fatty, processed foods. Fresh vegetables, fruit, and lean meats should top your grocery list. Skip desserts and fried foods -- and save money, too.

    If you’ve been laid off, it’s especially important to watch your weight, Gandy says. “Suddenly people begin to see 5 pounds around their middle, and they don’t know where it came from,” he says.

    Often, it comes from mindless nibbling and snacking throughout the day. That extra weight, particularly around the middle, can increase a person’s risk of heart disease.

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