1. Get Trim
Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can result in better blood pressure, lower risk for diabetes and improved cholesterol levels, according to various research studies.
2. Cut Back on “Bad” Fats
In place of fried chicken wings, choose grilled chicken strips with low-fat dipping sauces. Other ways to reduce saturated fat: replace butter with olive and canola oils, which contain good amounts of heart healthy monounsaturated fats; choose lean meats, poultry, fish and beans instead of higher fat meats; select non-fat or low-fat milk and yogurt in place of whole-milk versions; eat full-fat cheeses sparingly.
Avoid trans fats, which also increase LDL cholesterol, by skipping foods that contain “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated oil” in their ingredient lists. (Big culprits include packaged snacks, crackers, bakery goods and some margarines.)
3. Eat at Least 25 Grams of Fiber Daily
Studies link a high-fiber diet with a lower risk of heart disease. Soluble fiber in oats, beans and citrus fruits, like oranges, helps reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
Opting for whole grains, such as brown rice and whole wheat pasta, boosts your intake of total fiber (by way of insoluble fiber, which is also good for digestion) and can decrease levels of triglycerides, another “unhealthy” fat in the blood, as a diet rich in refined carbohydrates may stoke the body’s production of triglycerides.
4. Have Fish Twice a Week
Doing so may reduce your risk of heart disease by 30 percent, research suggests. Omega 3 fats in fish lower triglycerides and blood pressure; they also can help prevent irregular heart rhythms.
Have trouble fitting in fish? Take fish oil supplements.
5. Exercise for 30 Minutes Nearly Every Day
A Journal of the American Medical Association study credited NFL players’ high level of physical activity with helping to mitigate the heart risks associated with being overweight. You don’t need to be a professional athlete to benefit from exercise. Moderate exercise (e.g., brisk walking) will help to keep your heart healthy.
6. Make Friends with Your Doctor
Don’t assume that just because your body weight, exercise habits and diet are healthy that your blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels are too. Your genes may predispose you to cardiovascular disease. Talk with your health care provider about heart-related screens that might be important for you.
We recommend that you also try to eliminate sugar, sugary drinks and all white starches from your diet, because sugar and glucose can cause inflammation in the body which can lead to higher cholesterol levels and also high blood pressure.