25 Heart-Smart Moves to Make Right Now

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Nutrition know-how

Maintaining a healthy weight will put the brakes on three of the biggest heart hazards: high cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension. These eat-smart habits also can help:

13. Cut back on coffee. Drinking two to three cups a day can elevate blood pressure and increase the body's production of cortisol.

14. Eat often. Instead of skipping meals, or taking the three-square route, try grazing. New research in The New England Journal of Medicine found that eating several small, low-fat meals throughout the day, can lower cholesterol.

15. Get plenty of C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that mops up damaging particles known as free radicals, which have been linked to the development of heart disease. Boost your intake with apples, bell peppers and oranges.

16. Eat a balanced diet. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables, helps lower high blood pressure. New studies also show that it significantly lowers levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Power foods

Stocking up on four to ten servings of fruits and vegetables a day may decrease your risk of heart disease by as much as 30 percent. Here are fabulous foods to pile on your plate:

17. Tomatoes. These are chock-full of lycopene, an antioxidant that protects against heart disease and cancer. Your body can absorb more lycopene from cooked or processed tomatoes (like those in tomato sauce or ketchup), while fresh tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C.

18. Complex carbs. Researchers have found that women who eat lots of potatoes, white bread and white rice are two and half times more likely to develop diabetes than women who eat these foods sparingly; they also double their risk of heart attack. Choose heart-healthy complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain breads, brown rice and beans.

19. Nuts. It's true that nuts are high in fat, but it's the unsaturated kind that can help lower cholesterol. For a midafternoon snack, grab a handful of almonds: They're rich in vitamin E, which may help reduce the inflammation associated with heart disease, as well as calcium and folate.

20. Fish. Salmon, mackerel and trout may help prevent the deadliest cases of heart disease. Why? They are loaded with omega-3s, powerful fatty acids that inhibit the formation of blood clots, lower triglycerides and may slow the accumulation of artery-clogging plaque.

21. Green tea. It contains polyphenols, powerful phytochemicals that reduce the risk of heart disease by fighting damaging free radicals.

Things to ask your doctor about

Studies show that people who are informed about health care get the best treatment. So don't be shy; talk about these issues:

22. Heart-attack symptoms. If upper abdominal pain, nausea and fatigue strike, don't wait to get help. Along with chest pain, these are common symptoms of heart attack in women. Studies show that women are less likely to receive early treatment during a heart attack, possibly because their symptoms aren't the same as the typical symptoms in men.

23. Aspirin. A recent study found that women were less likely to receive aspirin, an effective treatment to help prevent a second heart attack, after discharge from the hospital.

24. A complete cholesterol checkup. High levels of triglycerides may be as artery clogging as high cholesterol. The Framingham Heart Study found that high triglyceride levels are related to higher risk of heart attack in women, not men, although experts aren't sure why.

25. Clinical trials. Although more women are signing up for single-sex studies than ever before, only 38 percent of participants in studies including both sexes are women. By analyzing sex differences, researchers may find new answers to help both men and women.--Melinda Leader and Christina Sciammacco


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