Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk

July 10, 2011

Dieting, Healthy Life

Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk

If you’ve got a heart, heart disease could be your problem. Heart disease affects women just as much as it does men. But everyone can take steps to reduce their chance of developing the disease.

How? By preventing or controlling behaviors and conditions known to increase its risk. They’re called “risk factors,” and there are two types—those you can change and those you can’t. Luckily, most of them can be changed. These are smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, and diabetes.
Those you can’t alter are your age (45 or older for men; 55 or older for women) and having a family history of early heart disease (a father or brother diagnosed before age 55, or a mother or sister diagnosed before age 65).
Start now to improve your heart-health profile. For instance, following a heart healthy eating plan helps prevent or control high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, overweight, and diabetes.

Here are some other steps you can take to help protect your heart health:
• Stop smoking. If you can’t quit the first time, keep trying.
• Lower high blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked regularly (once every 2 years if it is normal, more often if it is not).
Also, maintain a healthy weight and limit your intake of alcoholic beverages—to one drink a day for women and two for men.
• Reduce high blood cholesterol. Maintain a healthy weight and get your cholesterol level checked once every 5 years (more often, if needed). The test measures the level of cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream.
• Aim for a healthy weight. To lose weight and keep it off, adopt a lifestyle that combines sensible eating with regular physical activity.
• Be physically active. Do at least 30 minutes of a moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, on most and preferably all days of the week.
• Prevent or manage diabetes. The steps that lower your risk of heart disease also reduce your chance of developing diabetes.

High Blood Cholesterol

Fat and cholesterol in the diet can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood—and that can lead to atherosclerosis, a type of “hardening of the arteries.” In atherosclerosis, cholesterol, fat, and other substances build up in artery walls. As the process continues, arteries, including those to the heart, may narrow, reducing blood flow.

Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol more than anything else in the diet. Help reduce your fat intake by looking for lowfat or fat free dairy products and other fat free items—but, again, keep an eye on the products’ calorie content so you don’t gain weight.

Some foods can actually help to lower blood cholesterol. This includes foods with soluble (also called viscous) fiber. Soluble fiber is found in cereal grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes (which include beans, peas, and lentils). See page 18 for more on fiber.

Other food products also help lower blood cholesterol: These products contain plant stanols or plant sterols. These include cholesterol-lowering margarines. Plant stanols and sterols are
noted on product food labels.

Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk

For information about how to lose extra pounds or maintain a healthy weight:
- To learn about high blood pressure:
- To learn about high blood cholesterol:
- To learn about heart health for women:

Resource: National HeartLung, and Blood Institute

This site is for information and support only and NOT a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment!
cholesterol, dieting, health

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