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April 23, 2010 / Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN, CDE, CDN

Five Things You Can Do to Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk

Cancer is the disease that  people fear most.  But did you know that the number one killer of both men and women in the United States is heart disease?  In 2006 454, 613  women and   398,563 men died of heart disease. This is 30% more than all cancer deaths combined.  Now that is frightening!  Although there is a genetic link for heart disease, having a healthy lifestyle can have  a pronounced impact on reducing your risk for this disease that claims lives in staggering numbers.  Here are five things you can implement now to start improving your heart health:

1.  If you smoke, quit.

2.  Exercise at least 4 hours per week.  You don’t have to join an expensive gym.  Walk outside for an hour at a moderate pace (4 miles/hour).  Or find a dance class that you love.  Even purchasing a pedometer and aiming for 10,000 steps from the time you get up until bedtime will do wonders for your heart.  But most importantly enjoy whatever exercise you choose to do.

3.  Avoid trans fat. These fats are also known as hydrogenated fats.  They are found in fried foods, stick margarine, vegetable shortening  and baked goods.  Read all Nutrition Fact labels for trans fats.  Even a small amount is bad for you.If a product contains equal or less than .5 gram of trans fat, the food manufacturer can claim 0 grams on the label.  So it you eat a variety of products during the day that contain some trans fat but not enough per  serving to list, they can add up and increase your cardiac risk. My advice: avoid products that contain them.

4.  Limit saturated fats.  Saturated fats are found in meat, poultry skin, butter, whole milk and 2% milk, half and half, egg yolk, ice cream and coconut.  Choose more vegetarian proteins which are lower in saturated fat such as tofu, beans, hummus and nut butters. And use olive or canola oil in place of butter.

5.  Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans.  These foods have so many health benefits and lower your risk for so many health problems.  These nutritional powerhouses are packed with antioxidants and fiber and they are cholesterol-free.  Eat to your heart’s content!  Just make sure to have some of these foods at each meal and snack!!

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