Although the words “heart attack” make most people think of men, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women.
Eating right goes a long way to keeping your heart healthy. Here are four tips to help keep your ticker going strong.
1. Choose mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These fats are found in fish, nuts, and vegetable, canola, and olive oils. Nuts, vegetable oils, and fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart. Experts recommend two weekly servings of fatty fish (such as herring, mackerel, or salmon). Scientific studies also show nut consumption helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
2. Restrict quantities of solid fats. Lighten up, reduce, or eliminate butter, margarine, and shortening, and trim fat from meat. Choose lean meats, poultry with the skin removed, or fish. Bake, broil, or grill instead of frying or sauteing. Replace butter or sour cream with healthful substitutes. Try low-fat plain yogurt on a baked potato or a squeeze of lemon on veggies. Many crackers, chips, and other foods labeled “reduced fat” are made with oils containing trans fats, so read labels and skip foods that list partially hydrogenated ingredients.
3. Get enough fiber. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains offer vitamins and minerals plus soluble fiber that reduces total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. The American Dietetic Association recommends 20 to 35 grams (g) of fiber daily; the typical American gets about 11. Soluble fiber travels through the digestive tract, forming a gel that interferes with LDL cholesterol absorption. Cutting your cholesterol by just 1 percent can equal a 2 to 3 percent reduction in risk of heart attack, says Joseph Piscatella, author of Take a Load Off Your Heart! Choose high-fiber cereals with at least 5 g of fiber per serving.
4. Eat appropriate portions. Eating healthier won’t help if you eat twice as much as the listed serving size on nutrition labels. Super-sized portions have sabotaged our sense of what’s appropriate. A serving of pasta is about the size of a hockey puck, and a serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.