How to make your lifestyle heart-healthy

February 13, 2001

How to make your lifestyle heart-healthy

February is Heart Health Month and a good time to consider what you're doing for the health of your heart. Heart disease doesn't develop overnight. You don't catch it like a cold or the flu. Nor is it likely to develop from a single cause. Rather, it's known as a "lifestyle disease," meaning that it develops, in part, because of certain habits or lifestyles.

In the United States, we have plenty of lifestyles that contribute to heart disease. As a result, heart disease is our leading cause of death, claiming one life every 32 seconds. A high level of cholesterol in the blood is one indicator of increased risk of heart disease. If your blood cholesterol level is more than 200 milligrams per 100 milliliters, the American Heart Association considers you at high risk of coronary heart disease.

Lower your risk

That's the bad news. The good news is you can lower your risk of having a heart attack by making the following positive lifestyle changes:


HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Eat a heart-healthy diet.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Get plenty of exercise.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Maintain proper weight.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Avoid smoking.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Get prompt, effective treatment of diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Of particular importance - in terms of diet - is lowering fat consumption, especially saturated fat and dietary cholesterol.

Reducing fat, cholesterol

Here are tips on ways to reduce the amount of fat, saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Steam, boil or bake vegetables, and season them with herbs and spices rather than using sauces, margarine or butter.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Reduce the amount of salad dressing used, or use low-fat salad dressings.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Drink skim or low-fat milk instead of whole milk. Use skim or nonfat dry milk in soups, puddings and home-baked products.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Choose lean meat and fish.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Trim visible fat from meat before cooking.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Broil, bake or boil, rather than fry, meat and poultry.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Eat poultry without the skin.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Chill meat or poultry broth until the fat hardens, then spoon fat off before using the broth.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Eat fewer rich bakery items.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Limit use of egg yolks and organ meats, such as liver.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Read labels and limit foods that contain coconut or palm oil.

In addition to reducing fat in your diet, your heart will benefit from foods high in complex carbohydrates and fiber, especially soluble fibers. Oats are a good source of soluble fiber, but other fiber sources include dry beans, carrots, cabbage and broccoli.

For information, go to the American Heart Association's Web site,, and click on Family Health/Nutrition.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County. Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

The Herald-Mail Articles