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Five changes to your diet might protect your heart

February 28, 2005

According to the American Heart Association, making just a few changes in your diet can improve heart health today and in the future. The association offers five heart-smart strategies to keep you on track:

· Limit intake of unhealthy fats and cholesterol. Of the dietary changes possible, limiting your intake of saturated and trans fats is the most important step you can take to reduce your blood cholesterol level and lower your risk of coronary artery disease.

· Choose low-fat protein sources. Meat, poultry and fish, along with dairy products and eggs are some of your best sources of protein. But they might also be high in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Choose low-fat versions, such as skim milk or skinless chicken breast. Legumes - beans and peas - are also good sources of protein, making them good substitutes for meat. Soybeans are especially good for your heart. And certain types of fish are heart healthy because they're rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fats might help lower triglyceride levels and might reduce your risk of sudden cardiac death. Omega-3 fats are most abundant in fatty, cold-water fish such as salmon and herring.

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· Eat more fruits and vegetables. They are low in calories and rich in dietary fiber. They also contain phytochemicals, substances found in plants that might help prevent cardiovascular disease.

· Select whole grains. A diet high in fiber can help lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce risk of heart disease.

· Practice moderation and balance. Knowing which foods to eat is key for creating a healthful diet. But you also need to know how much to consume. Overeating can lead to excess calorie, fat and cholesterol intake.

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