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​There are a number of risk factors involved when evaluating your overall heart health.  Some of these risk factors can be controlled, and others cannot.  The good news is that making healthy dietary choices can reduce your overall risk for heart disease.

Some people have a higher risk for "Bad" LDL cholesterol if they fall into the following groups:

  • I am a male at least 45 years old
  • I am a female at least 55 years old
  • I am a female under 55 years old with premature menopause and have not had estrogen replacement therapy
  • Early heart disease runs in my family (a parent or sibling under 55 if male, or under 65 if female).
  • I am a smoker
  • I have high blood pressure
  • I have diabetes
  • I have a low "good" HDL - cholesterol level (less than 35).

By changing your diet, you can actually decrease your risk for heart disease.  Eating fewer high-fat, high-cholesterol foods and watching calories are 'important steps to a healthier diet and a healthier heart.  With your doctor, determine the number of calories you need each day to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight.

  • Eat fewer high-fat foods
  • Lower cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day
  • Keep fat intake to less than or equal to 30% of your total daily calories
  • Choose foods high in starch and fiber
  • Replace some saturated fat with unsaturated fat
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation

Decreasing fat and cholesterol in your diet is also very important in decreasing your risk for heart disease.  Why should you trim the amount of fat in the food you eat?  Why switch to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet?  The answer is simple: Lowering dietary fat can lower your risk of having a heart attack.

A family history of heart disease, a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol, smoking, lack of exercise, and obesity can all contribute to your risk of hardening of the arteries.  Beware: Saturated fats may raise your blood cholesterol as much as or even more than products containing cholesterol.  You may feel fine, even if you have a high cholesterol level or other risk factors.  In fact, for many people, a heart attack is the first sign of trouble.

Fortunately, many Americans can lower their blood cholesterol to an acceptable level by changing their diets.  By following a low-fat, low- cholesterol, high fiber diet, you can help control your blood cholesterol and reduce your risk of a heart attack. 

A seven-year, government sponsored study showed that the risk of heart disease falls 2% for every 1% an elevated blood cholesterol is lowered. 

Always consult your physician first and follow their instructions for proper dietary intake tailored to your specific needs.  The above information is a general guideline.  Always follow your physician's diet.