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Eating to Keep Your Heart Healthy With RA

Eat to Control Cholesterol

Before menopause, women appear to get a boost in HDL "good" cholesterol thanks to the hormone estrogen. Estrogen also appears to help control levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol. After menopause, when the estrogen benefit disappears, it's even more crucial to eat healthy foods to keep your cholesterol levels in check.

The main cholesterol culprits in your diet are foods high in saturated fat, including some meats, butter, cheese, and whole milk. Processed foods, too, tend to contain high levels of saturated fat.

Here are some numbers to shoot for, according to the American Heart Association:

Total fat: 25%-35% of your daily calories. For someone eating 1,200 calories, that's between 33 and 47 grams of fat.

Saturated fat: Less than 7% of daily calories, or 9 grams of saturated fat.

Trans fat: Less than 1% of daily calories or less than 2 grams.

Cholesterol: Less than 300 mg per day. If you already have high LDL blood cholesterol levels or are taking cholesterol medication, you should consume less than 200 mg of cholesterol per day.

Fiber: 25 to 30 grams per day, preferably from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Eat to Combat High Blood Pressure

You can help control blood pressure by cutting back on salt in your diet. Aim for less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

If you drink, do so in moderation -- for women, that means not more than one drink a day.

Eat to Maximize Nutrients

Just eating enough food so that you're not hungry does not mean you are getting the nutrients you need to be healthy. Nutrient-rich foods are chock full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients but are lower in calories. To get the nutrients you need, choose foods like vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products most often.

Read labels carefully -- the Nutrition Facts panel will tell you how much of those nutrients each food or beverage contains.

By taking the time to consider your food choices, you may find the answer to "What's for dinner?" can have big benefits for both your arthritis and your heart.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on March 18, 2013

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