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Cornell Cooperative Extension

January 29, 2013

Adapting a heart-healthy lifestyle

It’s likely that someone you know has suffered from cardiovascular disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 3 deaths are from a heart attack or stroke, making heart disease the leading cause of death in the United States. 

In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services launched the Million Hearts Initiative, which seeks to prevent 1 million deaths from heart attacks and strokes by 2016. One branch of this initiative encourages Americans to make heart-healthy choices to reduce the number of people who need medical intervention for high blood pressure and cholesterol. Here are some measures that you can take.

HEALTHY DIET

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and eat a wide variety of them. The antioxidants found in them are associated with lowering your risk of heart disease. They are also generally good sources of fiber and are low in calories, which helps with weight control and in fighting heart disease.

Choose whole grains more often. Whole-grain foods are good sources of fiber and can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Oatmeal and whole-grain pasta are relatively inexpensive and are both good sources of fiber. Since foods full of fiber are more filling, eating them also helps with weight control.

Choose healthier fats. Fat should be limited overall, but unsaturated-fat choices are more heart healthy than saturated fats. Unsaturated fats can be found in oily fish, like salmon, tuna and trout, as well as nuts, seeds, avocados and vegetable oils. These items can be swapped into your diet for items higher in saturated fats.

Limit foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, as well as foods that are high in cholesterol. Generally, any food with a daily value of 20 percent or more would be high in that nutrient; check the label to find that information. Remember that both trans and saturated fats can increase our cholesterol and should be limited as carefully as dietary cholesterol itself.

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Cornell Cooperative Extension