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Foods That Help Your Heart -- and Your RA

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It's time to change your views -- especially if you have rheumatoid arthritis. Women who’ve been through menopause are two to three times more likely to have heart trouble than younger women. For those who have inflammatory diseases like RA, the risk is even greater. That makes a heart-healthy lifestyle -- including good healthy food -- even more important.

Wondering how what you eat can influence your heart disease risk and your arthritis? Read on, and follow these guides for making the best food choices.

Recommended Related to Rheumatoid Arthritis

Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis

Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in the early stages can be difficult. There is no single test that can clearly identify rheumatoid arthritis. Instead, doctors diagnose rheumatoid arthritis based on factors that are strongly associated with the disease. The American College of Rheumatology uses this list of criteria: Morning stiffness in and around the joints for at least one hour. Swelling or fluid around three or more joints simultaneously. At least one swollen area in the wrist,...

Read the Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis article > >

Foods That Fight Inflammation

When you have RA, the same process that makes your joints sore, hot, and swollen can lead to clogged arteries, heart attacks, and strokes. That process is inflammation.

Some foods may cause inflammation. The list includes those high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in corn, sunflower, safflower, soybean, and cottonseed oil. They lurk in snack foods, fried foods, margarine, meats, and egg yolks. We know these foods are bad for the heart, but it’s not clear what affect, if any, they have on RA.

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can ease joint pain and lessen morning stiffness. You may be able to lower your dose of pain medicine, or even stop taking them. Good sources include fatty fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, sardines, and herring. Add two 3-ounce servings of salmon or other oily fish to your menu each week.

Fiber can also help. Studies suggest it reduces C-reactive protein (CRP), a sign of inflammation found in the blood. A high CRP level can signal RA or heart disease. Stock up on fruits, vegetables, and other high-fiber foods.

How to Lose or Maintain Weight

Try to lose extra pounds if you need to, or stay at a proper weight. It’ll make you less likely to get heart disease and lower the pressure on your joints. Losing weight may also help lower inflammation, because fat cells make chemicals that cause it.

If you want to keep a healthy weight, figure out how many calories you need each day and don't eat more than you can burn off that day. If you want to lose weight, eat less than you burn. Make it a habit to check calorie amounts in the foods you eat. You can get the info from packaged food labels, cookbooks, web sites, and cell phone apps. Use it to make a meal plan, and be conscious of what you eat. Keeping a food diary for a while can help.

Stay away from fatty snacks, and fill up on whole-grain foods, fruits, and vegetables that have lots of fiber. High in nutrients and low in calories, these foods will help you feel full. They’re good for you and can help you control your weight.

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