Living the Heart-Healthy Way

Eight easy steps for better health

Take control of your health by adopting food and lifestyle changes. Eating sensibly with some modifications, as well as exercising, can keep your heart strong and healthy. Follow some of our suggestions below and your heart will love you for it.

Eat Fruits & Vegetables
Not only are fruits and vegetables high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, they're also very low in calories and high in antioxidants, which can help prevent chronic disease. Fill up on an abundance of these delicious and beneficial foods every day.

Focus on Fiber
Fiber refers to the indigestible carbohydrates we eat and is found in fruits, vegetables and unrefined grains. It keeps the body's digestive system running smoothly and helps the body feel full, a key to weight management. Most importantly, soluble fiber, which is found in oats, nuts, seeds, apples, pears and berries, helps lower cholesterol.

Go for Low-Fat Dairy
To reduce the amount of saturated fat and calories in your diet, replace high-fat dairy products (such as whole milk, cheese, sour cream and cream cheese) with skim or 1% milk, low-fat yogurt, Neufchatel and low-fat cheeses.

Watch Your Sodium Intake
Sodium can raise blood pressure. The largest portion of sodium in Americans' diets comes from processed foods. By cooking fresh food at home, you can cut back on sodium dramatically. Also try removing the salt shaker from the table, using herbs and spices for flavor and cooking with half as much salt as in the past. If you use canned soups, broths and sauces, select low-sodium versions.

Eat the Right Fats
Cut back on saturated fats (found in meats and full-fat dairy products) and avoid trans fats (found in some commercially baked goods and fried foods, and listed on labels as partially-hydrogenated). Stick with unsaturated such as monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are mainly found in olive and canola oils, nuts, avocados and olives. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in corn, soybean, safflower or sunflower oils.

Go for Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Research has shown that omega-3s lower triglycerides (fat in the blood); help maintain the "good" cholesterol; and decrease the risk of sudden heart attacks, blood clots and stroke. These compounds are found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines) and plant foods (flax seeds, walnuts).

Get Moving
Extra pounds and inactivity can put stress on the heart and create other health problems. Exercise is key to weight management. Try to aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. Not only will it help shed some pounds, but it will also raise "good" cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Have Some Wine
Alcohol in wine, beer and distilled spirits has been shown to protect the heart in some studies by increasing HDL, or "good" cholesterol. Additionally, heart-healthy polyphenols (antioxidants) occur in both red and white wine. If you don't drink, it's best not to start now, but if you do, have moderate amounts. That means one drink per day if you are a woman or two drinks per day if you are a man.

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