Eating for a Healthy Heart

What you eat can spell the difference between a heart lasting until your nineties or one that is about ready for a heart attack. Obesity, high-blood pressure and high blood cholesterol can increase the risk of developing heart disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of death among Americans so the more you know about healthy eating habits the less likely you’ll fall dead at work because of a heart attack.

Eat less fat. Saturated fats and trans fats are more likely to cause heart disease. Eat less cheese, meat, milk and butter. Or at least eat lean meats or the low fat versions of the cheese and butter.

Eat less sodium. Eating less sodium can lower your blood pressure. Avoid eating too much salty foods. Sodium is an essential nutrient but eating too much of it can lead to heart disease. Only small amounts of salt occur naturally in foods. Instead, most of the salt is added during food processing, in preparation at home, or in a restaurant. By cutting back on salt, you’ll probably lessen your taste for it over time. Try to consume no more than 6 grams (about 1 teaspoon) of table salt a day.

Eat more fiber. Fiber can lower your chances of a heart attack. The best sources of fiber are fruits, grains and vegetables. Soluble fiber is found in cereal grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes (which include beans, peas, and lentils).

Keep your weight in check. Being overweight means you are a prime target for heart disease. Count your calories if you are overweight. Read the label and remember that a 2,000 calorie per day diet is a sure fire way to keep to your ideal weight. Eat smaller portions and avoid second helpings.

Here are some other steps you can take to help protect your heart:

Stop smoking. If you can’t quit the first time, keep trying.

Lower high blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked regularly (once every 2 years if it is normal, more often if it is not). Also, maintain a healthy weight and limit your intake of alcoholic beverages—to one drink a day for women and two for men.

Reduce high blood cholesterol. Maintain a healthy weight and get your cholesterol level checked once every 5 years (more often, if needed). The test measures the level of cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream.

Aim for a healthy weight. To lose weight and keep it off, adopt a lifestyle that combines sensible eating with regular physical activity.

Be physically active. Do at least 30 minutes of a moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, on most and preferably all days of the week.

Prevent or manage diabetes. The steps that lower your risk of heart disease also reduce your chance of developing diabetes. If you already have diabetes, be sure to manage it