13 Steps to a Healthy Heart

Posted on February 27, 2007

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1. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables — try five or more servings a day.

2. Eat a variety of grain products and complex carbohydrate foods. Focus on whole grains and legumes.

3. Choose low-fat and fat-free dairy products every day (two to three servings).

4. Eat a variety of protein foods. Don’t just include one protein type; balance your intake of lean protein sources such as fish, skinless poultry and lean meats. Include fish varieties that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines. Vegetable protein sources count, too.

5. Limit foods high in saturated fat and trans fat and/or cholesterol — mostly found in products such as full-fat milk, fatty meats, tropical oils, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, desserts, sweets and many packaged foods. If you use added fat, choose monounsaturated fats — such as olive oil and canola oil. By eliminating high saturated fat foods, you are also cutting down on cholesterol as well (cholesterol and saturated fats can be found in several of the same food items).

6. Eat plenty of fiber foods daily. Just to name a few, try bran, oatmeal, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

7. Manage your weight. You don’t need to be the perfect size “_” (you can fill in that goal number), but by reaching and maintaining your best weight, it will help. Obesity is a major factor contributing to heart disease. —

8. Feed your body regularly. If you skip meals, you are more likely to overeat. By eating more frequently throughout the day, your blood-sugar levels are controlled better; you speed up your metabolism and regulate your cholesterol levels.

9. Reduce salt intake. Put the salt shaker away. Try to keep your total sodium intake below 2,400 milligrams a day. A low-salt meal plan can help control your blood pressure.

10. Exercise. The more movement the better. Exercise helps to improve blood flow, strengthen the heart muscle, reduce blood pressure and raise your good cholesterol (HDL).

11. Keep hydrated. Drink at least eight cups a day. Water is the best hydration fluid. Don’t forget, caffeine can actually dehydrate you.

12. Stop smoking and limit alcohol intake.

13. Enjoy life and be happy!

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