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American Heart Association recommendations

Published April 05. 2010 05:00PM

We toss around the term "heart-healthy" a lot, but what does it mean? We are looking at diet recommendations from the American Heart Association, whose mission has been to battle the No. 1 killer of Americans: heart disease.

Here are seven simple steps to follow to keep heart disease at bay:

1. Get Active: Strive for 30 minutes a day of physical activity.

2. Control Cholesterol: Schedule regular cholesterol screenings and eat foods low in cholesterol, low in saturated fat and free of trans fat. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important.

3. Eat Better: Eat a wide variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups.

4. Manage Blood Pressure: This is one of the most important risk factors for heart disease, which everyone can control with proper care.

5. Lose Weight: In this country, 76.9 million men and 68.1 million women are considered obese. Obesity is a huge risk factor for heart disease.

6. Reduce Blood Sugar: Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease when compared to adults without diabetes. Keeping an eye on blood sugar can help reduce your risk.

7. Stop Smoking: Everyone knows it's bad, so stop!

Smarter Food Choices

Food plays a major roll in keeping your heart healthy and your weight down. Be sure you're taking in lots of high-fiber and low-calorie foods such as fruits and veggies. Here are more specific guidelines:

Eat fish high in omega-3 fats at least twice a week.

Eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day.

Choose lean meats and poultry without the skin, and don't cook or prepare them with added fats (i.e. butter or frying oils).

Choose 1 percent or fat-free dairy products.

Reduce your trans fat (skip anything that lists "partially hydrogenated oils" in the ingredients).

Eat less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.

Bottom Line

The AHA's heart-healthy-diet recommendations have been used for nearly 100 years to help prevent heart disease and stroke, and even if you're not at increased risk, the advice is good to follow for overall health and wellness. This diet is not as trendy or quick-fix as many of the other fad diets out there, but it's one that will probably be around for another 100 years.

Courtesy of Toby Amidor of Healthy Eats on

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