Eat for HealthYou can greatly improve the condition of your heart by eating healthfully. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which has a Food Guide Pyramid, helps you make healthy food choices. The Dietary Guidelines tell you to: choose a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and moderate in total fat; choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains; choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily; choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars; choose and prepare foods with less salt; and if you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
The Dietary Guidelines also emphasize that you should aim for a healthy weight, be physically active each day, and keep food safe to eat.
If you have high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, you may need to make some additional lifestyle changes.
Blood Pressure and the DASH Eating Plan.If you have high blood pressure or high normal blood pressure, you can help to lower it by adopting the DASH eating plan.
DASH, which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, and lowfat dairy products. It is rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, as well as protein and fiber. It is low in saturated and total fat and cholesterol, and limits red meat, sweets, and sugar containing beverages. Salt (sodium chloride) and other forms of sodium affect blood pressure.
You should consume no more than 2,400 mg of sodium a day—1,500 mg per day is even better. If you follow the DASH diet and cut down on sodium, you will get even greater blood pressure benefits.
High Blood Cholesterol and the TLC Program.If you need to lower your LDL cholesterol, you may want to consider a program called TLC, which stands for “Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes.” The TLC program calls for increased physical activity, weight control, and a special eating plan.
On the TLC eating plan, you should have less than 7 percent of your day’s calories from saturated fat, less than 200 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day, and just enough calories
to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
Learn New MovesRegular physical activity is a powerful way to keep your heart healthy. To get benefits, you need only do about 30 minutes of moderate-level activity on most, and preferably all, days of the week. Examples are brisk walking, gardening, or bike riding. If necessary, you can choose shorter periods of at least 10 minutes each, as long as you total about 30 minutes of activity that day.
Further, from midlife on, women can particularly benefit from weight-bearing activities, which keep bones healthier. Good weight-bearing activities include walking, lifting hand weights, and carrying groceries. Also helpful are activities that promote flexibility and balance, such as T’ai Chi and yoga.