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Know risk factors for heart disease, and eat with your heart in mind
ABOUT 80 percent
That's according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which is sponsoring
In this column, I'll share information about foods that can shield your heart. But first, a little detail about what causes heart disease.
Risks for heart disease in women, according to the NHLBI, are:
age 55 or older
a family history of heart disease in a father or brother before age 55, or in a mother or sister before age 65
high blood pressure
high blood cholesterol
being overweight or obese
being physically inactive.
The same factors apply to men, except that the risk of developing heart disease starts 10 years earlier, at age 45.
Fortunately, there's more than one eating plan that can help your heart.
All the proven plans tend to be low in saturated fat and high in fruits and vegetables. Either a standard low-fat plan or a Mediterranean plan--which is higher in heart-healthy fats such as olive oil--can reduce risks of heart attacks by about 30 percent, according to international research.
The first step in reducing your risks, though, is knowing them--so ask your doctor about your numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. Most doctors recommend healthy eating and exercise, even if you need medications, too.
Beat blood pressure
Ideally, your blood pressure should be lower than 120/80. This applies to men and women. Blood pressure of 140/90 is considered high, and anything in between is considered pre-hypertension by the NHLBI.
Be aware that pregnancy, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy may increase blood pressure, according to the NHLBI.
If your blood pressure is above 120/80, consider the DASH plan, short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It has been proven to lower blood pressure.