HEALTH AND FITNESS: Take it to heart: disease can be prevented

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for men and women in the United States. Also called coronary artery disease, it is a condition in which fatty deposits (plaque) build up in the arteries. These deposits cause arteries to become blocked, restricting flow of blood and oxygen to the heart.

We know a lot about what causes heart disease and things individuals can do to prevent it. To reduce your risks:

• Quit or don’t start smoking;

• Balance your calorie intake and physical activity to maintain a healthy body weight;

• Consume a diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits;

• Choose whole-grain, high-fiber foods. Good choices include whole wheat, oats/oatmeal, rye, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet and quinoa;

• Consume fish, especially oily fish, at least twice a week (about 8 ounces per week). Oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines are rich in the omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids);

• Limit your daily intake of saturated fat (found mostly in animal products) to less than 7 percent of total calories, trans-fat (found in hydrogenated fats, commercially baked products, and many fast foods) to less than 1 percent of total calories, and cholesterol (found in eggs, dairy products, meat, poultry, fish and shellfish) to fewer than 300 mg per day. Choose lean meats and vegetable alternatives (like soy). Select fat-free and low-fat dairy products.

• Grill, bake or broil fish, meat and skinless poultry.

• Use little or no sodium (salt). Reducing sodium can lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart disease.

• Cut down on beverages and foods containing added sugars (corn syrups, sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltrose, dextrose, concentrated fruit juice and honey.)

• If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends limiting alcohol to two drinks per day for men and one drink for women.

A person’s age, gender, family and medical histories, and environmental factors can also affect the tendency to develop heart disease. Consult with your primary care physician or professional health care provider for guidance about steps you should take to keep your heart healthy.

About the writer: Dr. Donald Lee practices internal medicine with the Franciscan Medical Group, which is affiliated with St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw.


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