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Lifestyle and Healthful Diets are Key to a Healthy Heart
Because keeping your heart healthy involves much more than your eating habits, the American Heart Association (AHA) added lifestyle suggestions to its updated dietary recommendations.
“The previous recommendations stressed a healthy dietary pattern; the new ones include the importance of a healthy lifestyle pattern. The two go together—they should be inseparable,” says Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc., chair of the AHA’s Nutrition Committee and professor at Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Boston.
Guidelines for a healthy heart:
- Get more exercise. The AHA reports that regular exercise reduces cardiovascular risk, as well as the risk of type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, depression, and breast and colon cancer.
- Reduce saturated and trans fats. To cut saturated and trans fats, the AHA advises choosing lean meats, using fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and reducing intake of partially hydrogenated fats, such as those found in fried and baked foods.
- Reduce sugary foods and drinks. People who drink large amounts of sugary beverages, such as soda, tend to consume more calories and gain more weight.
- Avoid tobacco. Exposure to tobacco, even secondhand smoke, can cause heart disease to worsen.
- Put down the saltshaker. As sodium intake increases, so does blood pressure. Shaking sodium out of your diet can prevent or control hypertension. African-Americans and middle-age and older persons, along with those who have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, should limit their intake to 1,500 milligrams per day. Others should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams per day.
- Maintain an even keel. When your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels remain at a healthy constant, you may be less likely to have heart disease.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods. Deeply colored produce, such as carrots and spinach, have higher amounts of nutrients. Avoid preservation techniques that add trans fat, sugar, or salt.