Your Choices Matter

A healthy diet and lifestyle, along with making smart healthcare decisions, can be a pathway to a healthier heart. Your family history can have some impact on your chances of heart disease, but there are some simple steps one can follow that, if you stick to them, can offer long-term heart-health benefits. 

The American Heart Association notes that a heart-healthy diet should include: 

  • A variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Low-fat or non-fat dairy products
  • Skinless poultry and fish
  • Nuts and legumes
  • Non-tropical vegetable oils

Limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. If you choose to eat red meat, select lean cuts. 

Use up at least as many calories as you take in. Find out how many calories you should be eating and drinking to maintain your weight. Nutrition and calorie information on food labels is typically based on a 2,000-calorie diet. You may need fewer or more calories depending on your age, gender and level of physical activity. Control your calories through portion control. Eat until you are comfortably full but not stuffed. If you eat out, this can lead to yummy leftovers. 

Lifestyle choices are important. Smoking significantly increases your chance for heart disease. Try to avoid even secondhand smoke. Avoid drinking too much alcohol. This can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of heart disease. 

Regular exercise can help you maintain your weight, keep off weight that you lose and help you gain greater cardiovascular fitness. Each week, try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or an equal combination of both. 

If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, you can take steps to lower your risk for heart disease. These can be diet or lifestyle changes, and/or medications prescribed by your doctor. But first you need to get checked out. A routine physical tests for all of these heart risk factors so one can find out about these conditions with one doctor appointment. Your healthcare provider should test your blood levels of cholesterol at least once every five years. If you have already been diagnosed with high cholesterol or have a family history of the condition, you may need to have your cholesterol checked more frequently. 

Source: American Heart Association; Centers for Disease Control