Other Risk Factors

Other factors—or, more precisely, markers—may be related to CHD, although there isn’t as much evidence yet to support their role as independent risks as there is for the ones discussed so far. They include:

Low magnesium. When researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed nutritional data and causes of death for nearly 13,000 men and women, they found that those with the highest levels of magnesium were 31 percent less likely to die from heart disease. No surprise, since the mineral plays a major role in keeping your heart beating regularly.

The recommended daily allowance of magnesium is 350 milligrams for men and 280 milligrams for women. A national survey conducted between 1988 and 1991 found that men averaged only 321 milligrams and women only 238 milligrams. Further, while many of us are focused on getting enough calcium, most don’t know that it’s just as important to maintain a favorable ratio of calcium to magnesium, ideally 2:1. A 4:1 dietary calcium-magnesium ratio is blamed, in part, for the high rate of heart disease among middle-aged men in Finland. In contrast, the calcium magnesium ratio of healthy centenarians in Italy suggests that high magnesium consumption might even prolong life.

High oxidative burden. There are now ways of measuring the relative abundance of “oxidants,” such as free radicals, in the blood. These compounds can injure the lining of blood vessels, interfere with nitric oxide production, and make LDL more likely to stick to artery walls. This relative abundance is known as the oxidative burden, Smokers tend to have an especially hich oxidative burden, while people living a healthy lifestyle and eating plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables tend to have a low one.

Carotid artery thickness. According to an article in the British Medical Journal, the thickness of the walls in your carotid arteries (the arteries on either side of your neck) may indicate the amount of atherosclerosis you have and your risk of heart attack and stroke. This is an easily accessible spot to use ultrasound to measure therosclerosis. Finding it in one place generally means it exists elsewhere in the body.

Get With the Program

Congratulations! After plodding tirelessly through all of the weighty information in this chapter, you are now fully armed against your enemies, You know that inflammation is a formidable threat—and that aspirin and fish-oil supplements can help you combat it- You know that eating plenty of walnuts, oats, and cold-water fish will boost your body’s production of nitric oxide, which keeps artery walls slick so nothing can stick to them. You know that simply taking a daily multivitamin can lower your homocysteine level and potentially slash your risk of heart attack, Too much to remember? Don’t worry—you’ll be doing all of these things on the Live [t Down Plan, With so much more to offer you than cholesterol-lowering drugs (or drugs alone), the  Plan is a potent, overall defense of your total heart health. Read on to find out how to put the Plan into action.

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