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Eat a healthier diet that is low in saturated fat and trans fat, cholesterol and salt. As more research is done, it appears that trans fat raises your low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad" cholesterol) and lowers your high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good" cholesterol).

The Three Tenets of a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle
Eating Well Shouldn't Have to Taste Bad

Include lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Your level of physical activity, age and gender will affect the number of servings you should have of each of the food groups. To determine what's best for you, visit myplate.gov.

Incorporate "super foods" in your meals. Super foods such as the following provide multiple disease-fighting nutrients:

  • Low-fat or fat-free plain yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Nuts, but mind your portion control
  • Kiwis
  • Quinoa, a whole grain
  • Beans
  • Salmon
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Berries

Exercise regularly at a fitness center or elsewhere at least 30 to 60 minutes a day as frequently as possible. If you can't exercise all at one time, don't worry. Breaking up the activity into 10- to 15-minute increments will produce the same heart benefits.

According to the American Heart Association, studies show that you may increase your life expectancy by two hours for every hour you exercise. Benefits also include:

  • Improved blood circulation, which reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Weight control
  • Assistance in the battle to quit smoking
  • Improved blood cholesterol levels
  • Prevention and management of high blood pressure
  • Prevention of bone loss
  • Higher energy level
  • Stress management
  • Lowering of anxiety and depression
  • Greater likelihood of falling asleep faster and sleeping more soundly
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Reduced coronary heart disease in women by 30 to 40 percent
  • Reduced risk of stroke by 20 percent in moderately active people and by 27 percent in highly active ones

When exercising, it is important to monitor your target heart rate.

Stop smoking or using tobacco products. If you don't smoke, don't start. In America, more than 392,000 people a year die from tobacco-caused disease, making it the leading cause of preventable death. Secondhand smoke is another killer, taking the lives of an additional 50,000 people each year. "Social smoking," or only smoking with friends or while attending social events, raises your risk of heart disease, too.

There are more than 4,800 chemicals in tobacco smoke. Many can damage your blood vessels and heart, making you more susceptible to atherosclerosis (arteries that narrow), which can ultimately lead to a heart attack.

Watch your weight and monitor your Body Mass Index (BMI). Losing just 10 to 15 pounds can help lower your blood pressure and help prevent diabetes, both of which increase your risk of heart disease.

Take your medications as directed.

Drink alcohol in moderation. If you don't drink, don't start.

Talk to your doctor about regularly monitoring your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose. Ask your doctor if taking a daily aspirin is right for you.

Participate in heart and vascular screenings.

Attend one of our heart and vascular health seminars, Advances in Medicine.

Request a Healthy Heart Kit.

Talk with others about what they are doing to keep their hearts healthy.