According to the American Heart Association (AHA), every minute in the U.S. someone’s wife, mother, daughter or sister dies from heart disease, stroke or another form of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Although heart disease death rates among men have declined steadily over the last 25 years, rates among women have fallen at a slower rate.
Weight control and regular exercise are important for keeping your heart in shape. A heart-healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke by 80%. If you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease, have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, a heart-smart diet can help you better manage these conditions and lowering your risk for heart attack.
Limiting saturated fats and cutting out trans fats entirely is extremely important. Both types of fat raise your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol level, which can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Reduce the amount of solid fats like butter or margarine, and add flavor to your dishes with herbs or lemon juice. You can also trim fat off your meat or choose leaner, non-animal proteins. Instead of chips, eat fruits or vegetables. Use moderation and opt for “good” fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Eating high amounts of salt can also contribute to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The AHA recommends no more than about a teaspoon of salt a day for an adult.
Carrying excess weight means that your heart must work harder, and this often leads to high blood pressure—a major cause of heart disease. Reducing high-calorie portion sizes is a crucial step toward losing or maintaining a healthy weight.
A sedentary (inactive) lifestyle is one of the top risk factors for heart disease. Regular exercise can strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system, improve your circulation, help your body use oxygen better and lower blood pressure. Stretching exercises, cardiovascular and strengthening exercises are all important for heart health. Before starting any exercise program, check with your doctor.