Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Simple Steps to Preventing Heart Disease

If you have a family history of heart disease, you may be at increased risk for developing the disease yourself. So, it is important for you to pay attention to other risk factors. In many cases, you may be able to prevent or delay the development of heart disease by following a few basic steps.

Know Your Risks
Family history is a known risk factor for heart disease. Other risk factors include obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, particularly high LDL or bad cholesterol levels, and high triglycerides. A diet that is high in sugar, trans fat or saturated fat and low in dietary fiber can also contribute to heart disease. Studies suggest that low vitamin D levels may also put you at risk.

Tips for Making Your Diet Heart-Healthy
The American Heart Association and other healthcare experts have recommended a number of strategies to lower your risk for heart disease. Here are a few tips:

Weight Control. Lose weight if you are overweight. Small changes in your diet, coupled with exercise will help you to lose the weight and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Omega-3 fats. Increase your intake of omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are powerful anti-oxidants that help to reduce inflammation in your body; inflammation has been linked to plaque buildup and an increased risk of heart disease.

Fiber. Foods that are rich in fiber play a key role in controlling your cholesterol. Fiber helps to control cholesterol by slowing the absorption of fat and by binding with bile in the gut to reduce the production of cholesterol.

Saturated fats and trans fat. Saturated fat and trans fat can increase the level of cholesterol in the blood, lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries and increase your risk for a heart attack or stroke. So do your best to avoid these fats.

Triglycerides. High triglyceride levels are common in people with diabetes. These fats have also been linked to heart disease. So, make a special effort to avoid these fats.

Sugar. Excess sugar can contribute to the development of heart disease by causing an increase in blood glucose and high insulin levels. Both high blood glucose and insulin have been associated with increased inflammation. This inflammation can lead to damage to the heart and blood vessels, thereby increasing your risk of heart disease.

Salt. Eating too much salt, specifically the sodium portion of the salt molecule, can lead to high blood pressure in certain individuals. High blood pressure results when the walls of the blood vessels get stiff, making it difficult for blood to pass through the arteries to the heart. When this happens, the heart can be damaged, resulting in a heart attack or a stroke.

You can reduce your risk of heart disease by maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if you are overweight, eating a a diet that is rich in natural fiber,and eating foods rich in omega-3 fats. Avoid consuming sodas and other sugary drinks or foods made with a large amount of sugar. Also, avoid trans fats and  foods containing large amounts of saturated. fat. You should also reduce your salt intake. And finally, stay active.