Summer 2005
14 Ways—Plus One!— to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

If heart disease runs in your family (and whose family tree doesn't have a few heart-shaped knotholes?) you know you need to take steps to reduce your own risk. But sometimes it seems like an overwhelming task.

OK, how about starting out with some small steps? You can add a few more every few weeks, and the next thing you know, you'll have made some very smart lifestyle changes that will put you on the road to good heart health.

Here are 14 smart ways to get going—plus one very effective, highly enjoyable way to jump-start your heart routine.

  1. Practice stress-reduction techniques. Deep breathing, yoga, or meditation can help lower your risk of heart disease.

  2. If you smoke, quit. After a year, your excess risk of cardiovascular disease will be reduced to half that of a smoker.

  3. Consume less cholesterol. Read food labels to find the cholesterol content. (Hint: Cholesterol is found in animal-based foods, from meat to milk and more. Vegetables are cholesterol-free.)

  4. Eat less saturated fat. No more than ten percent of your daily calories (seven percent if you have established cardiovascular disease) should come from saturated fat—the kind that is usually from animals, and is solid at room temperature.

  5. Eat less trans fat. Trans fat is vegetable fat that has been hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. It behaves like saturated fat in the body.

  6. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Go for at least 5–9 servings per day to get enough fiber, antioxidants (substances that prevent or delay cell damage), and phytochemicals (nutrients found in plant foods). All are helpful in preventing heart disease.

  7. Eat fish that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids. Twelve ounces a week of fish can provide you with Omega 3 fatty acids that can help protect you against heart disease. Shark, swordfish, and tilefish are higher in mercury, so keep your intake to less than seven ounces per week of these fish.

  8. Walk or do other aerobic exercises for at least 30 minutes a day and preferably up to 60 minutes a day, at least five days a week. Walking a mile burns approximately 100 calories. Try to burn up 1000–1500 calories a week through increased physical activity and exercise.

  9. Lose weight if you are overweight. Hint: Reduce your portion sizes!!!

  10. Know your blood pressure and keep it under control.

  11. If you are diabetic, keep your blood sugars under very close control.

  12. Switch from coffee to tea. Tea contains antioxidants and phytochemicals that are good for your heart.

  13. Have regular physical exams that include tests to see if you are at risk for cardiovascular disease.

  14. Take the medication your doctor has prescribed, if any.

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