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Cut your risk of heart disease, even at work

April 05, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey

Heart disease is a killer, and now researchers say staying late at work could be one contributing factor. But here’s a note to the water-cooler crowd: It’s not just the workaholics who get heart attacks. 

One in four deaths in the U.S. are due to heart disease. Most of those deaths are from coronary heart disease, in which fatty material clogs arteries that deliver blood and oxygen to the heart.

Some big risk factors, such as age and family history, can’t be changed.  But you can lower your risk—even at the office—with some lifestyle changes. Working fewer hours may be one way, if we’re to believe the latest headlines (bosses won’t want to). Here are some others, for both the hard workers and the office slackers:

-- Take breaks away from the screen. Adults who sat in front of a TV or computer—recreationally—for more than four hours a day have a 125% increased risk of a heart problem compared to those who sit fewer than two hours a day, according to a study in January. So if you’re a chronic YouTube browser on the sly, jog up and down the stairs a few times, or take scenic routes around the office.

-- Snack on fruits and vegetables. If mornings are hectic, pack a container the night before with sliced apples, broccoli, carrots, grapes or berries. Canned fruit in sugary syrup doesn’t count. Fresh plant foods are full of heart-healthy phytochemicals, nutrients that are often destroyed in processed foods, and they can satisfy your appetite before you indulge in less healthful fare.

-- Pack a lunch. You control your portion size and limit the fat from butter and oil that restaurants may heap into their dishes.

-- Avoid cigarette smoking, including second-hand smoke. About one in five heart disease deaths are related to cigarette smoking.

-- Cut down on stress—maybe. Less stress means better sleep and an easier time losing weight, but contrary to popular wisdom, there isn’t enough evidence to say that decreasing stress alone can cut your risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Assn.

To estimate your risk for heart disease, check out this calculator. It takes into account factors such as your age, weight, and eating and smoking habits. 

Then get back to work.

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