8 Ways to Make Your Diet More Heart-Healthy
Lifestyle changes can make a big difference
Your body mass index (BMI) is a good barometer of whether you're overweight
or obese, but your waist-to-hip ratio may be better for evaluating your
heart-disease risk, according to a recent study published in the journal
Lancet. If you carry excess weight in your midsection, the risks are greater
than if the extra pounds settle on your hips.
The good news is that losing as little as 5%-10% of your body weight can
reduce your risk of heart disease, by lowering your cholesterol levels and
blood pressure and improving blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. You don't
need to get to your goal weight to improve your health.
The Exercise Equation
Along with a healthy diet, a lifestyle that includes regular physical
activity is key to heart health, says Winston Price, MD. Price advises his
patients to strap on pedometers and try to incorporate extra steps into their
"The combination of a heart-healthy diet -- a Mediterranean-style one
that is rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and low- or nonfat diary -- and a
commitment to exercise can have a huge impact on the development of heart
disease," he says.
Regular physical activity not only burns calories and strengthens your
cardiovascular system, but can also raise your HDL "good" cholesterol
levels. You can get this heart benefit from brisk walking, jogging, cycling,
swimming laps, or other aerobic exercise. Doing the equivalent of 3 miles, four
times a week, will provide the greatest benefit.
Two recent studies in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine
suggest that walking a half hour a day can add three years to your life and
improve your heart health.
See Your Doctor
It's important to keep in mind that, even with a heart-healthy diet and
other lifestyle improvements, some people will still need medication. Talk with
your doctor and see if you could reduce or eliminate your medications by
adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle.