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New guidelines for a healthy heart

Ask women what their No. 1 health threat is and you’ll likely hear “breast cancer” more than a few times. But, in fact, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying of cardiovascular disease is nearly one in three women; breast cancer claims the lives of one in 30 women.

But there’s a silver lining: Heart disease is also one of the most preventable diseases.

Unhealthy lifestyle habits can lead to excess weight, high blood pressure and clogged arteries, all of which can set the stage for heart disease long before the first signs appear. You can lower your risk of developing heart disease by as much as 82 percent if you adopt healthier eating and physical activity habits. Take these steps, based on the American Heart Association recommendations, to safeguard your heart:

  • Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking on most or all days to help you maintain a healthy weight. If you’re looking to drop excess pounds, you’ll need a minimum of 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most or all days. Talk with a registered dietitian about how you can revamp your diet to help you achieve your weight-loss goal.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains every day. Eating oily fish such as salmon twice a week can give you a boost of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Limit saturated fat to less than 7 percent of your daily calorie intake and keep cholesterol intake below 300 mg a day. Try to avoid trans fats altogether.
  • Don’t smoke and avoid breathing in secondhand smoke. If you have difficulty quitting, try counseling, nicotine replacement therapy or medication in conjunction with enrolling in a formal stop-smoking program.

It’s never too late to change your health habits. If you’ve struggled to lose weight or stop smoking, now’s the time to talk with your healthcare provider about getting the help you need.