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News > Food and lifestyle choices have big impact on heart health
Food and lifestyle choices have big impact on heart health

Posted 2/9/2011   Updated 2/9/2011 Email story   Print story


by Christine Cooley
Health and Wellness Center

2/9/2011 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of three articles about heart health in light of Heart Month. One in three adults has some form of heart or cardiovascular disease. Many of the resulting deaths and risk factors are preventable, and food choices plus lifestyle changes have a big impact on your heart's health, even if you have other risk factors. A healthy lifestyle, including following a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, participating in regular physical activity, quitting smoking and managing stress, can lower one's risk for heart disease and may prevent current heart disease from worsening.

To lower your risk of heart disease, your diet should be:

Low in saturated and trans fat. Saturated fats are found in some meats, dairy products, baked goods and deep-fried and processed foods. Trans fats are found in some fried and unprocessed foods. Both types of fat raise your LDL, or "bad" cholesterol level.
High in omega-3 fatty acids. Foods high in omega-3s include fish and canola oil n High in fiber, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. A diet rich in these elements helps lower LDL cholesterol as well as provides nutrients that may help protect against heart disease.

Low in salt and sugar. A low-salt diet can help manage blood pressure, while a low-sugar diet can help prevent weight gain and control diabetes and pre-diabetes. If you are overweight or obese, gradual weight loss offers the best results for overall health. Do not deny yourself everything at once. Try to gradually decrease calories with more moderate portion sizes and limiting added sugars and fats. With this strategy you can lose up to 1 pound a week, improvements to overall health can come with a 5-10 percent drop in weight.

Exercise can help with weight loss and overall healthy weight maintenance, and also strengthens the heart. Learn more about developing an exercise plan to improve heart health in next week's article, the final in the Heart Health series.

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