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6 Tips to Maintain a Heart Healthy Lifestyle

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. Approximately every 39 seconds, an American has a heart attack. Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the best ways to fight heart disease. 

Below, we're covering a few products you should be incorporating into your diet in order to prevent heart disease as well as the major things to avoid. 

1. Incorporate Fruits and Vegetables for a Heart-Healthy Diet

A diet rich in vegetables and fruits is essential to maintaining a healthy heart. A heart-healthy diet should consist of vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach as these foods contain carotenoids and have antioxidant properties which help rid the body of potentially harmful compounds. It is very important to build your diet around these types of foods. 

Consider having some pre-washed fresh veggies in your fridge and a bowl of fresh fruit to grab when you want a quick snack between meals. If you are looking for a place to start, here are the top five reasons you should visit a nearby farmers market to shop for fresh local produce.  

2. Choose Omega-3 Fatty Acids or 'Good Fats'

Not all fats are bad fats! Fat can be an excellent source of energy to help you get through your day and also for burning during a workout. One important source of 'good fats' are the omega-3 fatty acids that you get from fatty fish like salmon or trout.

Consuming good fats is important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Saturated and trans fatty acids, or trans fats, increase cholesterol levels. This is why it is important to limit foods that contain high proportions of animal fat like cream, cheese and butter. A few examples of foods with trans fats are cakes, pies and cookies, especially if they have frosting. Also avoid canned flaky biscuits, crackers and microwavable breakfast sandwiches. If you are cooking with fats, choose olive oil or canola oil. Vegetable and nuts oils are also good options.

3. Choose Whole Grains

Whole grains can be a great source of fiber which helps regulate blood pressure. Whether you're cooking at home or dining out, opt for the whole grain version of pastas, rice and cereals whenever it is available. Experiment with different fiber-rich substitutes like quinoa or whole-grain farro. In general, try to choose a 100% whole-grain or whole-wheat bread and look for high-fiber cereal with 5g or more fiber in a serving.

4. Choose Low-Fat Protein

Opt for lean meats such as turkey, chicken and fish, and skinless chicken breast over fried chicken patties. Other swaps for a heart healthy diet include choosing skim milk over whole milk, and turkey or soy burgers over red meat. Also, leave off bacon from your burger and consider trying an egg on top instead. 

Plant based foods, beans, legumes, lentils are all good sources of protein, and some nuts are also good. A study by the Journal of American College of Cardiology found that people who ate nuts, specifically almonds and walnuts, had a 15%-20% lower risk of developing heart disease.

5. Balance Your Carbohydrates

We need carbs for energy but you need to balance the carbs with intake and output. If you can maintain a healthy lifestyle with exercise and burn up those carbs, then they will not turn into fat.

6. Limit Your Sodium Intake

Limiting the amount of table salt you add to your meal is a good start but the majority of sodium you consume is already in your foods. Canned vegetables and soups often contain half of the amount of sodium you should consume in one day. Go for the low-sodium canned foods and looks for items that do not have salt added.

Monitoring your overall calorie intake is also important. The American Heart Association has good advice on calorie intake. As the Heart Association notes, calorie information on food labels is typically based on a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet. You may need fewer or more calories depending on things like age, gender and activity level.

If you follow these steps, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight, you will be on the path to a heart healthy lifestyle and this will help you fight your risk of heart disease. It is also good to get your cholesterol checked by your doctor regularly and make a trip to your cardiologist if you have a family history of heart disease.

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