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Thursday, February 23, 2017

10 Tips To Turn Your Finances Around In 2017

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We’re more than a month into the new year, but there’s still plenty of time to turn your finances around in 2017. Here are 10 recommendations you can consider:

1. Write down your financial goals. Jotting them down can help you visualize where you’re going. “Often, the sense of being overwhelmed comes from not having a clear picture of your goals and how to achieve them,” said Aron Levine, head of Merrill Edge, an investing firm under Bank of America. “Outline your goals in a way that's specific enough for you to act on them, but flexible enough to allow for more than one approach.”

2. Take stock of your expenses. Start writing down every single expense for a few months. “I mean all of them,” said Adam Torres, CEO of Century City Wealth Management in Century City, Calif. “This includes those small reoccurring subscription expenses that can usually go under the radar for months whether or not you are actually even still using the services.”

After doing this, Torres said, cancel the expenses you’re not using and items that don’t affect your lifestyle drastically. “I don't recommend cancelling everything at once. If you do that, it is likely you will just add new expenses shortly after,” Torres said.

3. Pay yourself first. This is a time-honored tip, but still holds true. It means: treat your savings goal as a monthly expense, not an afterthought. “Take that money off the top of your income and not from what's left at the end of the month,” said Levine. “Then take a look at your budget to identify areas where you can cut back to free up more money to save.”

4. Sign up for an automatic savings plan at your bank. This is especially worth considering if you’re not disciplined enough to pay yourself first. Think of this idea as the equivalent of autopay plans for your bills. "You can set up recurring transfers from your checking to your savings and investing accounts,” said Tony Drake, a Certified Financial Planner and owner of Drake & Associates in Milwaukee. “You can’t spend money you can’t see.”

Read: Six tips to increase your savings during recession

5. Pay off that credit-card debt. Otherwise, it will continue to drag your finances down. “You need to organize your debt and start attacking the lowest balance first by paying as much as you can on that card all while maintaining minimum payments on your other cards,” Drake said. “To clarify, I am not saying we shouldn’t use credit cards, but we should use them responsibly and pay them off monthly.”

6. Get in the habit of splurging strategically. Just like with diets, if we try to deny ourselves pleasure, it typically doesn’t work out well. Drake says: If you like cappuccino or espresso, invest in a machine to make cups at home. If you enjoy a good steak, purchase a grill to cook this meat. “A good way to determine if a purchase is really worth it is to take the price of the item and divide it by the number of times you will use that item. Then use that number to decide if it is worth it,” Drake said.

7. Get smart about making loans and gifts to family members. No one wants to see their children or grandchildren struggle or lose that dream home they want. However, Drake said think long and hard about helping family members financially. That’s what he tells his clients, too.

“You should not give or loan money without knowing you can live without it being paid back,” said Drake. “This is especially important if the you are close to retirement, when you will have to live off your savings and investments. Children will likely have another opportunity to buy a home, but parents may not have another chance to catch up on retirement savings.”

8. Try to sell your unwanted stuff. If you have antiques or other items sitting around that you no longer want or use, look for ways to unload them to buyers. Rare, or first-edition books might bring in more than you can imagine. But it can be difficult to attract purchasers for some types of furniture, jewelry and other items, as this Next Avenue article explains.

9. If you’re nearing retirement, start looking for ways to supplement your income. “I have seen many people entering retirement drive an Uber on the side to pay down debt and begin to fatten their retirement savings,” said Torres. If you don’t like to drive, perhaps you can turn a hobby into supplemental income or become a paid consultant in your previous career field.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. “Turning around your finances is no easy feat, especially when you have competing priorities,” said Levine. “There is no shame in turning to (legitimate) online resources or meeting with a financial solutions adviser who can help you determine your goals and put a plan in place to pursuing them.”

10 Financial Tips For Planning The Wedding Of Your Dreams And save Money
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Malia Obama shines in Colorado (photo)

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Barack and Michelle Obama's first daughter, Malia was photographed having lunch at the Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro in Aspen, Colorado, with a large group of billionaire and socialite friends - Audrey Kotick, the daughter of Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, Brice Lourd, son of money manager Brice Lourd, and Michelle Obama's frequent designer Monique Lhuillier and many more.

The 18-year-old who has returned to New York to continue her internship with the Weinstein company, was wearing a blue and red hat with "USA" boldly written on the front.

Malia will be heading to Harvard University this autumn.  She looks gorgeous.
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Rihanna becomes Harvard's Humanitarian of the Year

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Rihanna has been named Harvard University's Humanitarian of the Year at a ceremony on Feb. 28 in Memorial Hall’s Sanders Theatre.. The award is to recognise the singer's contribution to society. S. Allen Counter, the Harvard Foundation's Director says, 
"Rihanna has charitably built a state-of-the-art centre for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados,” 
“She has also created the Clara and Lionel Foundation Scholarship Program [named for her grandmother and grandfather] for students attending college in the US from Caribbean countries."
Read: ANGELINA JOLIE HONOURED FOR HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS AT 2013 GOVERNORS AWARDS

Recall that RiRi launched the Global Citizen education initiative in 2016 and topped Billboard's chart recently.

This is worthy of emulation. Congrats to her.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

7 Costly Friendships to Watch Out For in 2017

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Real friends help us celebrate the good times, get through the bad, and make everything we do a lot more fun. But that doesn’t mean that all friendships are good for our finances – not by a long shot.

Most of us have at least one friend who always pushes our financial limits - whether they know it or not.

But it's not always because they mean you harm, the experts say. Sometimes your friends just don’t know any better. Other times, it's because they're awful with money themselves.

7 Costly Friendships to Watch Out For

Whatever the cause, it’s crucial to watch out for friends who would bleed you dry if you let them. I reached out to several financial advisors to learn the type of friendships you should watch out for when you're trying to save money and avoid costly mistakes. Here's what they said:

#1: They go out four nights per week, and want you to come, too.
Have you ever been friends with someone who goes out constantly – to the tune of hundreds of dollars spent on concerts, shows, and booze? If so, you should watch out, says Seattle Financial Advisor Josh Brein.

“Just because your friends can afford to go out several nights a week and spend hundreds of dollars on entertainment and dining out, it certainly doesn’t always mean you can,” he says.

According to Brein, these types of relationships are rife with social spending pressure that can be a major distraction from your financial goals. If you fall into the habit of going out when you don’t really have the money, you could fail to reach important financial milestones - or worse, rack up credit card debt.

If your friendship is solid other than their penchant for nightlife, you don’t have to cut them off altogether, he says.

“Instead of never going out again, decide how much room you have in your budget for entertainment and dining out and give yourself an allowance to spend every week or month that will work for you. If you can stick with it, you’ll be more likely to keep your jet-setting friends by joining them at least sometimes and have enough saved for a rainy day as well," says Brein.

#2: They sell financial products, and expect you to buy.
“Everyone has at least one friend in their social circle who will misuse their social capital to sell financial products, says Bismarck Financial Planner and host of Retirement Starts Today Radio Benjamin Brandt.

Most of the time, they want to sell you whole life insurance, an annuity, or some other financial product that pays them a huge commission. But, should you say yes?

If you don’t want to buy, then absolutely not.

“Your friends that dabble in financial products and insurance could ruin your financial life,” says Brandt.

“Acting on a friend’s hot stock tip or caving to pressure from a friend on an expensive life insurance policy could have lasting consequences in your financial life,” he says. “Stick with qualified, credentialed professionals for your financial advice, or wind up with a financial mess and one less friend!”
#3: Your friends mooch because they think you can afford it.

We’ve all got those friends who let you pay because they think you can afford it. According to Alex Whitehouse of Whitehouse Wealth Management, these friends rely on your wealth to have fun because they believe you’re financially better off than they are.

Even if this is true, these friends can be a drain on your finances, says Whitehouse.

“To deal with moochers, communicate expectations ahead of time,” he says. For example, ask for separate checks when going out to dinner – or make clear how the bill will be split before you enjoy any activities together.

“It’s always better to have a clear conversation than to let the behavior impact your friendship."

#4: Your friend borrows money with no intention of paying it back.

What’s worse than a friend who always lets you pay? The friend who lets you pay then acts like he’ll pay you back. These friends always promise to “catch you next time," only to avoid every bill like the plague. Over time, maintaining this type of friendship can be extremely costly. Not only are you paying for your fun, but you’re paying for their fun, too.

“Beware of the friend who always promises to pay you back, but never seems to,” says Whitehouse. “After borrowing a few bucks, they go radio silent until enough time passes that the loan is presumed forgotten.”

Unfortunately, they’ll do this over and over again until you make it stop.

#5: They offer awful financial advice based on greed or ignorance.
Financial Advisor for Physicians Andrew McFadden says he deals with clients who get awful financial advice from their friends on a regular basis. These friends usually offer advice based on their experience without taking your unique situation into account.

“Whether it’s real estate, dot.com stocks, emerging market funds, or gold, the advice usually misses on the wisdom of diversification, and fails to realize that investments ha ve periods of both good and bad performance, and that history doesn’t repeat itself,” says McFadden. “It’s not bad to have exposure to the above listed investment classes, but to put all of your eggs in one basket because someone before you did and got lucky can quickly sabotage all your hard-earned savings.”

So, how do you deal with a friend who gives awful financial advice?

Do what you would do if they were telling an awkward or boring story. Nod, smile, and change the subject.

#6: They invite you to fancy dinners - all the time.
Some friends might want you to hit the club, go to concerts, or play pricey rounds of gold on the regular. Other friends just want to go out to fancy dinners with no regard to cost or your budget.

You agree to dinner because you’ve had a long week,” says San Diego Financial Planner. “Before you know it, you’ve spent $150 on a few gourmet burgers and drinks.”

This may not be a big deal for an occasional splurge, but the cash you spend can add up quickly if you don’t watch it. That’s why it’s up to you to set boundaries – and stick with them.

“If your friends aren’t open to changing restaurants or you don’t feel like it’s your place to say something, check the menu ahead of time and find something reasonably priced so you don’t impulsively opt for the dry-aged ribeye,” says Schulte. “If you are with your significant other, find something you can split to reduce the cost.”

And if it’s still too much, just say so. While a fancy meal can provide a fun way to spend an evening, it’s smart to save your funds for special occasions instead of random Friday nights.

#7: Your friends expect you to be their travel buddy.

The final type of friends who hurt your finances are the ones who want you to travel the world. Unfortunately, they want you to traverse the globe on your dime – not theirs.

Perhaps your friends travel to exotic (read: expensive) places, and want you to come along for fun. Or maybe they plan trips they truly believe you'll enjoy. What they may not realize, however, is that you’re not made of money.

“These friends share their fabulous pictures of their exploits and we start to feel a little jealous,” says David G. Niggel of Key Wealth Partners in Lancaster, PA. But if we’re not careful, we can sacrifice our own life goals to achieve theirs.

Before you splurge for a pricey trip with friends, make sure it’s something you want to do. If not, you could regret the expense and wind up resenting your friends.

Final Thoughts
The fact that your friends spend differently than you doesn't doom your friendship. You can be friends with people who go on expensive vacations, go out to concerts several nights per week, and only dine at the nicest places in town.

The key to making these friendships work is establishing boundaries and deciding what you can and cannot afford ahead of time.

The good news is, real friends will understand your limitations and try to accommodate you. So, if you run into a friend who only wants things their way, you don't have to feel bad when you drop them.

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Rihanna records biggest hit in the U. S. with "Love on the Brain"

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Rihanna's single "Work" has become her biggest hit on the U.S. charts according to Billboard. The singer who clocked 29 yesterday has 30th Top 10 hit for"Love on the Brain", which reached No. 8 on this week’s Billboard Hot 100. The singer becomes one of only three artists in the history of the chart to appear on 30 or more top-10 singles.

A short video  released by Billboard on Monday highlighted Rihanna’s chart landmarks, including her top five Hot 100 tracks. “We Found Love” (featuring Calvin Harris) clocks in at No. 5, having previously charted at No. 25 on the Billboard All Time Hot 100 in 2015. The No. 4 spot belongs to 2008’s “Live Your Life,” rapper T.I.’s Rihanna-featuring earworm, while “Love the Way You Lie,” her diamond-certified duet with Eminem, finishes at No. 3.

The ranking means she has broken her third-place tie with Michael Jackson, who had 29 top-10 singles as a solo artist.

Congrats to RiRi.


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A Checklist For Selling A Used Car

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Image by Alireza Bakhshian via Flickr
Some of us do not have a lot of experience when it comes to selling a used car, as we are not all used car salesmen! Check out various websites online which have some excellent tips that you should read before you try to sell your used car. If you want to simplify the process and make it quick and easy, there are things that you will need to look at beforehand which will make it easy to sell your car for a fair price.

Clean The Outside

You will want to give your vehicle a thorough clean and get it looking sparkling for prospective buyers. When you clean up the car, you will also notice all of the scratches and marks, so it is also an excellent time to detail any of the blemishes and cover them up. First impressions count, so you will want to have your car looking in good condition on the outside.

Clean The Inside
You will also want to clean the interior of your car and get it in as good a condition as possible before you sell. Investing in some cheap car mats can improve the appearance of tatty floors drastically, so it is surely worth the expense. Make sure that all of the surfaces are clean and shining where applicable, and you are one step closer to selling your car.

Toyota recalls 3.37 million cars over faulty airbag, emissions control issues

The Mechanics
You may wish to pay for a professional valet service to clean your vehicle, and you can also get them to do the engine bay while they are at it. As well as making sure that the engine compartment is nice and clean, you will also want to check that everything is in working order. Make sure that the tires are legal and that the brakes are fully functional. If any of the lights are not working, you should change the bulbs. Give the vehicle a basic service changing the spark plugs, oil, and the filters; and if needed, top up the fluids for the brakes.

Check The Paperwork

The last thing that you will need to do is to make sure that all of your paperwork is in order before you look to sell. If you have all of the necessary paperwork including the full-service history of the vehicle, you will find that it is much easier to sell a car quickly. Now everything is ready, you can look for cash for cars from Sell My Car or similar services.

Selling Your Vehicle
If you want to save yourself some time and effort in the sale of your vehicle, you can use one of the many companies that offer to buy your car for cash. Although you may get more money when selling your car privately, there is a lot to be said for the convenience of selling your vehicle in 24 hours! A search of the internet will show many companies offering this service in your area so it will be worth your time and effort to shop around and speak to as many of them as you can. When you have talked to all of them and had their offers, you just need to choose the best one and the cash will be in your bank within 24 hours!

Google's self-driving cars involved in 11 accidents in six years

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WhatsApp introduces New Feature like Snapchat and Instagram Stories

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WhatsApp introduces New Feature like Snapchat and Instagram Stories

Whatsapp has unveiled a new version of its existing status update option called WhatsApp Status. The new feature lets users share photos and videos in a montage format for up to 24 hours before they disappear.

WhatsApp users can also send their status updates as messages to individual or multiple friends at once, much the way Snapchat’s messaging system is structured.   However, there is a privacy setting allowing users to control who sees the updates.

Read: Five WhatsApp latest features You need to Know

According to Randall Sarafaa, a product manager at WhatsApp,
“This is a format that is being broadly adopted, and we’re adopting it as well,” ,
“There are some pretty interesting things that we’ve done to make it unique to WhatsApp.”
“Obviously we’re all seeing broad adoption of this format across the industry right now,” “Our hope is that with this update, people will find new ways to share and consume media on WhatsApp, too.”
WhatsApp commences Sharing of users Data, Phone Numbers with Facebook for Ad Targeting

The feature would roll has been rolled out to users since Monday 20 Feb., and would be “available soon around the world for iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone users.”

NYT
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

CBN reviews forex policy, introduces new measures

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The Central Bank of Nigeria on Monday modified its foreign exchange policy with the reduction of the tenor of its forward sales from the current maximum cycle of 180 days to 60 days from the date of transaction.

For business and personal travel allowances, the CBN said it would ease the difficulties encountered by Nigerians in obtaining forex for these types of transactions.

To achieve this, it said in a statement issued by its Acting Director of Communications, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, that it would provide direct additional funding to banks to meet the needs of Nigerians for personal and business travels, medical needs and school fees, effective immediately.

The CBN said it expected such retail transactions to be settled at a rate not exceeding 20 per cent above the interbank market rate.

It said, “Having cleared the historic backlog of matured letters of credit at the inception of the current flexible exchange rate system, the CBN will immediately begin to provide foreign exchange to all commercial banks to meet the needs of both personal travel allowances and business travel allowances for onward sale to customers.

“All banks will receive amounts commensurate with their demand per week, which will be sold to customers who meet usual basic documentary requirements.

“Similarly, the CBN will meet the needs of parents, guardians and sponsors who are seeking to make payments of school and educational fees for their children and wards. Such payments must be made by commercial banks directly to the institution specified by the customer.”

The CBN added that it would ensure that the process was smooth, noting that customers in need of forex would get the foreign exchange they genuinely demanded.

It said the decision was part of efforts to further increase the availability of foreign exchange to all end-users.

In a bid to ease the burden of travellers and ensure that transactions are settled at much more competitive exchange rates, the CBN directed all banks to open forex retail outlets at major airports across the country as soon as logistics permit.

The statement read in part, “In order to further increase the availability of foreign exchange to all end-users, the CBN has decided to significantly reduce the tenor of its forward sales from the current maximum cycle of 180 days to no more than 60 days from the date of transaction.

“In order to further ease the burden of travellers and ensure that transactions are settled at much more competitive exchange rates, the CBN hereby directs all banks to open FX retail outlets at major airports as soon as logistics permit.”


In a bid to increase the efficiency of the forex market and maintain its confidence, the CBN said it would immediately begin the implementation of an articulated programme to clear all the unfilled orders in the interbank forex market.

“Given our plan to meet all unfilled orders, and while provision of forex to the manufacturing sector would remain the CBN’s strong priority, we will no longer impose allocation/utilisation rules on commercial banks,” it added.

The statement noted that the CBN would implement an effective intervention programme to support the inter-bank market to ensure adequate liquidity necessary to deliver an efficient forex market.

The apex bank also advised the Financial Market Dealers Exchange to activate its forex order-book systems as soon as possible and also accelerate the on-boarding of forex clients on the forex relationship systems to ensure total transparency of the market.

The statement added, “Given the CBN’s objective to continuously and vigorously pursue a transparent, liquid and efficient foreign exchange market, the bank reiterates it would neither tolerate unscrupulous actions nor hesitate to bring serious sanctions on offenders, be they banks or their staff.
“The bank, therefore, encourages market participants to assist in ensuring that these new measures engender the preservation of our external reserves, stability of our financial system, and growth of our economy to the benefit of all Nigerians.”

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Happy 29th Birthday to the Iconic queen Rihanna

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Image may contain: 1 person, standing

Rihanna is a year older today.  She turned 29-year-old yesterday, February 20, 2017.  Wishing her a belated happy birthday.
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Monday, February 20, 2017

7 Tips to take care of your heart

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Valentines are one way to share loving sentiments, but as a doctor, I have another suggestion for how to show your love this month: encourage your loved ones to take care of their hearts and take care of your own.

Coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common type of heart disease, is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. CAD occurs when fatty deposits, known as plaque, build up in coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to your heart. This is known as atherosclerosis. As the plaque builds, it restricts blood and oxygen supply to the heart, which can lead to chest pains (angina) or a heart attack. Common risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, inactivity and obesity.

Coronary artery disease is distinct from other heart diseases, such as cardiomyopathy — weakened heart muscles — and structural heart diseases such as holes in the heart or valve problems. It is also something we can prevent: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 200,000 deaths from heart disease and stroke each year are preventable. More than half of those preventable heart disease and stroke deaths happen to people under age 65.

Below, seven habits that can help prevent coronary artery disease and lead to a healthier heart:

1. Eat a heart-healthy diet: Limit sweets, red meat, and processed foods such as snack foods, lunch meats and canned soups, and eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks. Reach instead for vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meat and poultry, fish, legumes, oils and nuts. The American Heart Association recommends less than 2,300 milligrams per day, and much less if you already have certain chronic conditions. Switch your chocolate choice to dark chocolate, which — in moderation, of course — is good for your heart.

It is also important to know your cholesterol level and have your medical provider advise you if diet, exercise, or medications called statins are needed to adjust your cholesterol levels. Having a family history of early age heart attacks in parents or siblings increases your risk of heart disease and factors into whether statin medications are recommended.

2. Exercise: Walking is one simple way to lower your chance of heart disease, or choose the activity that suits you best. The key is to do it regularly. The American Heart Association recommends that adults get 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Even if you exercise in short, 10-20 minute sessions, you can add them up to reach these goals. To lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, aim for 40-minute sessions of moderate to vigorous activity three to four times a week. You could do this by walking 2 miles briskly (about 4 mph). If that's too fast, choose a more comfortable pace. Walking briskly for 30 minutes per day can reduce your risk of heart attack by one-third. Remember to make fitness fun and choose activities that combine exercise and socializing such as yoga, water aerobics, dancing and cycling.

How to Overcome 4 Obstacles Standing Between You And A Healthy Lifestyle
3. Maintain a healthy weight: Eating well and exercising can help with weight loss, which is important because obesity is another risk factor for heart disease. Obesity can raise blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lower "good" HDL cholesterol, which is linked with higher heart disease and stroke risk. It can increase blood pressure and risk of diabetes. Have a test for diabetes if you are at risk for diabetes. Having uncontrolled diabetes can damage arteries and is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease.

4. Practice stress relief: Researchers have found links between stress and coronary artery disease. It is not known if those links are because of how we act in response to stress — such as overeating, smoking, and drinking, for instance — or if they are a result of hormones such as adrenaline that are released during periods of stress. Exercise and healthy eating are good ways to cope with stress. Other ways include practicing positive self-talk: Instead of focusing on the negative, practice telling yourself more positive messages, such as “‘l’ll do the best I can,” and “I can do this one step at a time.” Consider trying meditation, prayer, gentle yoga, knitting, tai chi or another practice that allows you to slow down and relax.

5. Maintain your friendships and reach out to new friends: Researchers have been studying the health benefits of maintaining supportive friendship networks, and studies suggest those who maintain those ties have fewer health problems and live longer. Some research indicates that healthy social ties lower stress levels, important to a healthy heart. If you can combine other good habits, such as exercise, with social interaction, you’re practicing two healthy habits at once.

Read: The dos and don'ts of earwax and healthy ear care by AAO-HNS
6. Avoid tobacco products: Smoke isn’t just bad for your lungs, it’s bad for your heart and the rest of your cardiovascular system. Even secondhand smoke is toxic, so stay away from smoke, and raise your kids in a smoke-free environment. Twelve months after quitting, your increased risk of dying from heart disease will be half that of a continuing smoker.

7. Limit alcohol consumption: If you drink alcohol, consume in moderation. Maximum healthy limits for alcohol use for men under 65 is 14 standard drinks per week with a limit of four drinks in any one day. For women, the recommendation is a maximum of seven drinks per week with a limit of three drinks per day. Regular or high alcohol use can raise blood pressure and lead to a weakened heart muscle, known as cardiomyopathy.

At a preventative or wellness visit, your medical provider is likely to give you advice to lower your risk of developing coronary artery disease by reviewing your health history, family history, exercise and dietary habits and checking your blood pressure. Your provider may also discuss labs for cholesterol and diabetes screening. Taking an 81-miligram coated aspirin is often recommended starting at age 50 and may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. If you have not seen your provider to discuss your risk of CAD, consider making an office visit to talk about risk reduction. It’s never too late to take better care of your heart.


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