Eat fish at least twice a week because omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, trout and herring) may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease. Smoking by itself increases the risk of coronary heart disease. When it acts with the other factors, it greatly increases your risk from those factors, too.
Although heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans, most of its risk factors are avoidable, especially the factors known as "bad habits,” such as smoking and poor food choices.
Smoking is the most important and most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Smokers have a higher risk of developing many chronic disorders, including atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries and can lead to coronary heart disease, heart attack (myocardial infarction) and stroke. Controlling or reversing atherosclerosis is an important part of preventing future heart attacks or strokes.
Smoking by itself increases the risk of coronary heart disease. When it acts with the other factors, it greatly increases your risk from those factors, too. Smoking decreases your tolerance for physical activity and increases the tendency for blood to clot. It decreases HDL, or good cholesterol. Your risks increase greatly if you smoke and have a family history of heart disease. Smoking also creates a higher risk for peripheral artery disease and aortic aneurysm. It increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery, too.
During the quitting process, people often slip and have a cigarette. It's important not to feel like you failed at quitting; just give it another chance. If you need more support, look for quit-smoking programs offered by hospitals. Many states have hotlines with trained staff to help you with quitting, too.
Poor eating habits also have a major impact on the risk of cardiovascular disease. You may be eating plenty of food, but your body may not be getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Nutrient-rich foods have 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 often.
Unrefined whole-grain foods contain fiber that can help lower your blood-cholesterol level and help you feel full, which may help you manage your weight.
Eat fish at least twice a week. Recent research shows that eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, trout and herring) may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease. Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat. Select fat-free, 1 percent fat or low-fat dairy products.
Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet. Aim to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Aim to eat less than 1500 milligrams of sodium per day.
To learn more about the risk factors of heart disease, log on to www.heart.org.
February is American Heart Month, a time designated to spreading awareness of America's No. 1 killer: heart disease. Carrie Skogsberg is a communications director for the American Heart Association.