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Be Heart Healthy

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), better food habits can help reduce your chances for heart disease, high blood cholesterol, strokes, and heart attacks. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a gradual process of inadequate circulation that accounts for more deaths annually than any other disease or group of diseases. Many risk factors are involved with CHD. Risk factors are conditions that increase your chances of developing various heart problems.

Non-modifiable risk factors for CHD include age, heredity, and the male sex. Risk factors that can be modified include cigarette smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus. Simple dietary changes to limit your total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol intake can improve a number of existing risk factors.

The American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee strongly advises these fat guidelines for healthy Americans over age two:

  • Limit total fat intake to less than 25-35% of your total calories each day.
  • Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total daily calories.
  • Limit trans fat intake to less than 1% of total daily calories.
  • The remaining fat should come from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, fish, and vegetable oils.
  • Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day, for most people. If you have coronary heart disease or your LDL cholesterol level is 100 mg/dL or greater, limit your cholesterol intake to less than 200 milligrams a day.

Daily Tips to Help Improve Your Heart's Health

  • Eat at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fish (preferably oily fish) a week.
  • Try main dishes featuring pasta, rice, beans and/or vegetables.
  • Limit servings of fats and oils used for cooking to five to eight teaspoons.
  • Boil, bake, broil, roast, poach, steam, sauté, stir fry, or microwave instead of frying.
  • Trim excess fat from uncooked poultry and meat, and skim hardened fat from the top of soups after chilling.
  • Choose small amounts of soft margarine instead of butter.
  • Limit total egg yolk intake to three or four per week.
  • Limit use of organ meats such as liver, brains, chitterlings, kidney, heart, gizzard, sweetbreads, and pork maws.
  • Choose skim or 1% milk and nonfat or low-fat yogurt, and cheeses.
  • Eat at least four and a half cups a day of fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat at least three 1-ounce equivalent servings of fiber-rich whole grains a day.
  • Choose foods higher in water-soluble fiber content such as oat bran, oatmeal, barley, dry beans/peas, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Drink eight glasses or more of water per day.
  • Add physical activity to daily lifestyle.
  • Eat less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day .
  • Consume no more than 450 calories (36 ounces) a week of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Eat at least four servings a week of nuts, legumes, and seeds.
  • Limit processed meats to no more than two servings a week.

Checking Blood Cholesterol Levels

Blood cholesterol levels of 200-239 mg/dL are considered borderline and a level of 240 mg/dL or greater is considered above normal limits for adults. Elevated cholesterol doubles the risk for heart disease, so it is important to annually consult a physician for cholesterol testing. Follow these charts for cholesterol awareness:


Total Blood Cholesterol:


  • Less than 200 mg/d
  • 200-239 mg/dL
  • 240 mg/dL or greater
  • Desirable
  • Borderline-High
  • High


Total Blood Cholesterol:


  • Less than 170 mg/d
  • 170-199 mg/dL
  • 200 mg/dL or greater
  • Acceptable
  • Borderline
  • High

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