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heartveggiesThe bad news: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., for both men and women. The good news: There are eight ways you can prevent and reduce your risk for heart disease. Even better news, they all support one another. It’s like a domino effect, you choose one, and it will help you in doing another one.

Here are the top eight behaviors that will help you to prevent heart disease.

These first three go hand-in-hand. Eat healthy and exercise to help yourself lose or maintain a healthy weight.

1. Eat a healthy diet. Eating healthful meals and snacks will help you to avoid heart disease and its many complications. Consume a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetable. Prevent high blood pressure by consuming foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber. Keep blood pressure low by limiting salt or sodium in your diet.

2. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, speak to your doctor about your body mass index (BMI), or calculate yours with our free BMI calculator.

3. Get regular exercise. Physical activity can help to maintain a healthy weight, as well as reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General’s recommendation is that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week, and if you can do more, then all the better!

These next three controllable heart disease risks relate to medical measurements that a regular check-up with your doctor can provide.

4. Prevent type II diabetes. Diabetes increases heart disease risk, your risk for developing diabetes increases if you don’t manage your weight, eat healthy, or exercise. Again, it all ties together. Learn more about type II diabetes.

5. Manage cholesterol. When you eat healthy and exercise, you can manage your cholesterol. For some this is difficult if high cholesterol is genetic. However, that doesn’t mean you should bypass healthy eating and exercise. Those changes matter, too.

6. Maintain a healthy blood pressure. By consuming a diet of healthy foods and reducing salt intake to about 2100 mg/day or less, it’s possible to manage your blood pressure. If it gets too high your heart has to work too hard, which can be dangerous.

These final two items are related to lifestyle, not necessarily diet or fitness. However, they are completely controllable on your part

7. Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. So, if you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease.

8. Limit alcohol. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which causes high blood pressure. If you already drink, red wine can be healthy if consumed in moderation, which is about one glass or less per day.

By Rebecca Scritchfield MA, RD, LD – DietsInReview.com

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