Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Lucky 13 Steps to Heart Health

By keeping your heart healthy, you can spend even more time with the special people in your life. If you pay attention to what you eat, you can actually reduce or slow down the chance of developing heart disease.

Healthy food choices can reduce the major risk factors for heart disease: high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and excess body weight.

The good news about cardiovascular disease is most of it can be prevented. Heredity does play a role and you may have a higher incidence of developing heart disease, but many of the lifestyle behaviors you choose can decrease your risk of this disease. Your genes can't be altered, but your behaviors can change. The important thing is to understand that taking care of your heart can make a lifesaving difference, not only for yourself, but for your family. There are many simple behavior choices that can really make a difference in your life.

Below are some heart-healthy tips to help reduce your risk -- you are probably already doing many of them and not even aware of them. Educate yourself and apply what you learn.

1. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables -- try five or more servings a day.

2. Eat a variety of grain products and complex carbohydrate foods. Focus on whole grains and legumes.

3. Choose low-fat and fat-free dairy products every day (two to three servings).

4. Eat a variety of protein foods. Don't just include one protein type; balance your intake of lean protein sources such as fish, skinless poultry and lean meats. Include fish varieties that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines. Vegetable protein sources count, too.

5. Limit foods high in saturated fat and trans fat and/or cholesterol -- mostly found in products such as full-fat milk, fatty meats, tropical oils, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, desserts, sweets and many packaged foods. If you use added fat, choose monounsaturated fats -- such as olive oil and canola oil. By eliminating high saturated fat foods, you are also cutting down on cholesterol as well (cholesterol and saturated fats can be found in several of the same food items).

6. Eat plenty of fiber foods daily. Just to name a few, try bran, oatmeal, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

7. Manage your weight. You don't need to be the perfect size "_" (you can fill in that goal number), but by reaching and maintaining your best weight, it will help. Obesity is a major factor contributing to heart disease.

8. Feed your body regularly. If you skip meals, you are more likely to overeat. By eating more frequently throughout the day, your blood-sugar levels are controlled better; you speed up your metabolism and regulate your cholesterol levels.

9. Reduce salt intake. Put the salt shaker away. Try to keep your total sodium intake below 2,400 milligrams a day. A low-salt meal plan can help control your blood pressure.

10. Exercise. The more movement the better. Exercise helps to improve blood flow, strengthen the heart muscle, reduce blood pressure and raise your good cholesterol (HDL).

11. Keep hydrated. Drink at least eight glasses a day. Water is the best hydration fluid. Don't forget, caffeine can actually dehydrate you.

12. Stop smoking and limit alcohol intake.

13. Enjoy life and be happy!

Whether you start with Step 1 or Step 2, each one you take will move you farther down the road to a healthier heart.

( From an article of Pamela Ofstein ,Dietician and eDiets Staff )

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