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Special and Modified Diets Series: Heart Disease

If you are at risk of developing heart disease, or have recently been diagnosed with heart disease or high blood pressure, it’s important to know that dietary changes can make a huge difference in your current and future health status. To protect your heart and keep it strong and functioning for years to come, consider making these diet modifications.

Increased dairy. Milk, cheese, and other dairy products are rich in vitamins A, D, the B vitamins niacin and riboflavin, and protein, all of which are essential for maintaining and re-establishing healthy heart function.

Reduce fat intake. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, so a diet low in saturated fat is key. Avoid cuts of meat that are high in fat (distinguished by “marbling,” or visible patterns of white in the meat), bacon, butter, and heavy cream. Better choices include flank steak, ground turkey, chicken and other poultry with the skin removed, canola and sesame oils, and nuts and seeds in moderation.

Cut low-nutrition foods.
A well-balanced diet is essential for people with heart issues, so reduce or eliminate sodas, junk foods, ice cream, and candy and replace them with water, vegetables, soy-based frozen treats, and fruits.

Supplement your diet.
Coenzyme Q-10 significantly reduced systolic and diastolic pressure in a 12-week Australian study, and fiber pills and powders can also help keep blood pressure within a normal, healthy range. Omega-3 supplements have several protective benefits for people at risk for developing cardiovascular disease and those who have already been diagnosed—including the lowering of high blood pressure, decreasing the risk of arrhythmias, and inhibiting the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties block the damage that can be caused by fre- radicals, byproducts than can accelerate the aging process and make us more likely to develop heart disease. Minerals such as potassium and magnesium help restore the healthy functioning of blood vessels and aid in the transmission of electrical impulses that regulate the heartbeat.

Your heart is undeniably one of the most important organs in your body, so get (and keep) heart-healthy with the above advice . . . your heart will thank you.

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