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FOCUS ON HEART HEALTH

"E"ssential Steps to Heart Health

Heart disease is the number one health risk for all Americans. The good news is there are simple, concrete ways to practice prevention. Here's an easy way to remember the basics of keeping your heart healthy: The Three E's.

Eat Right

Look for foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and oily fish like salmon or albacore tuna. Watch out for trans fats, which increase levels of LDL — or “bad” — cholesterol. Also, avoid processed and fast foods; these contain a lot of sodium, which can raise your blood pressure. It may seem hard at first to rethink all your meals and snacks all at once, so try a few simple changes:

  • Choose whole grain instead of white bread
  • Have a piece of fruit instead of a candy bar
  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt to add flavor to foods

Exercise

Regular exercise can strengthen your heart, increase your HDL — or “good” — cholesterol that helps keep your arteries clear, lower your blood pressure, burn off extra pounds, and just plain make you feel good.

Survey
  • The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise, five days a week
  • Check with your doctor before starting a new workout program, and work up gradually
  • Take it easy. Don't be a "weekend warrior" at the gym after being a couch potato all week, it's a recipe for serious injury

Extinguish

Cigarettes damage the arteries and speed the buildup of cholesterol and plaque. If you're a smoker, quitting is the best thing you can do for your heart. If you quit right now, within two years, your threat of a heart attack will drop to the level of a person who has never smoked.

Eat Right Exercise Extinguish

Sources: American Heart Association, CIGNA, CVS Caremark

12/29/10