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3 easy ways to lower your risk for heart disease

Oct 14, 2011, 7:29 p.m.

Three easy ways to lower your risk for heart disease

Between 1950 and 2000, the death rate from heart disease dropped by almost 70%. That’s good news, right? Think again. While the death rate may have decreased, more Americans than ever before are being diagnosed with heart disease. And it is still the leading cause of death for both women and men in America.

Over time, cholesterol and other fatty deposits build up inside our arteries, narrowing the inside of the arterial walls and impeding the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This can lead to a heart attack, stroke or even congestive heart failure. While life-saving medical care, like bypass surgery, angioplasty and heart medications, can help us manage heart disease, simple lifestyle changes can help us avoid it altogether.

There are lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise, that can reduce your risk for heart disease. Lower your risk naturally with these three easy tips.

  1. Load up on fiber. Not only does fiber help you stay full longer (which naturally helps to manage weight), but fiber also acts as a “sponge,” soaking up all the bad cholesterol and fats that could build up in the blood stream. Studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the Journal of the American Medical Association show that fiber blocks the absorption of fat and cholesterol from food. In fact, a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that the more fiber participants ate, the higher the fat content of their stools.
  2. Get moving. Aim to break a sweat every day. Whether you’re working in the garden, jogging around the neighborhood, or hiking your local nature trail, daily physical exercise is essential to reducing your risk for heart disease. Even better, invite a friend to join you. Studies, like one published in the journal Heart, consistently show that close relationships can reduce the risk of a repeat heart attack. Whether it’s your spouse, a best friend or even your dog, companionship and love can reduce stress and enhance well-being—and will also make your jog go by a lot faster too.
  3. Eat the rainbow. The best way to battle inflammation is to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day. Colorful fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, antioxidants and flavonoids that reduce inflammation. Chronic inflammation is linked to an increased risk for heart disease, and simple dietary additions can significantly reduce this risk. Drink a glass of orange juice, bite into a juicy apple, toss together a fresh spinach salad, add a handful of chopped bell peppers to your favorite dish, and top plain yogurt with blueberries. The more color on your plate, the better!

Though initiating these lifestyle changes will lead to a healthier heart, smokers must recognize that smoking or using smokeless tobacco is one of the single greatest risk factors for heart disease. No amount of smoking is safe; even “social smoking” with friends at a bar or exposure to second-hand smoke is dangerous. If you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, you should avoid exposure to second-hand smoke for optimal heart health.