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Jun 24, 2008
Most people with heart disease have a poor dietary history. They have usually eaten too much fast food and junk food, and not enough fruits and vegetables. But if your heart is in trouble, it is time to turn food into a friend. A healthy diet can help you prevent a heart attack, and possibly even help clear your arteries from plaque. A new study suggests that a very low-fat diet may be as effective as statin drugs (such as Lipitor) in lowering your cholesterol.

Not all diets are for all people, personal tastes and preferences are varied as we are. The basic rule for everyone with coronary heart disease is, go easy on fats, especially avoid saturated fats. Your body turns saturated fats into LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol), that clogs your arteries.

Even more dangerous to your heart are trans fats, found in margarine, fried fast foods, and cookies and most snack foods. Trans fats are labeled on packaged foods as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or modified oil. They increase your LDL levels and lower your HDL ("good" cholesterol) that helps clear your arteries.

A recent Harvard University study found that replacing just 2 percent of trans fat calories with calories from healthier fats reduced the risk of heart disease by more than half.

According to the American Heart Association, people with coronary heart disease should get less than 30 percent of their calories from fat and less than 7 percent from saturated fat. For a standard 2,000-calorie diet, that means less than 67 grams of fat and 16 grams of saturated fat. This alone will go a long way toward lowering your LDL and cutting your risk of a heart attack. Reading package labels on processed foods will give you all the information you need to make a healthy choice.

Some fats can help protect your heart. These healthy fats are monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, canola oil, and some nuts. These Omega-3 type fats can reduce your LDL cholesterol level and reduce the progression of heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats, found corn oil, soybean oil can also lower LDL cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon and some fish oil or flaxseed supplements, may also lower your cholesterol and actually be of a benefit your heart.

Besides fat intakes there are other changes you can make to help your heart troubles. The AHA recommends getting less than 200 milligrams of cholesterol per day. That means not eating more than two egg yolks per week. Also, you should get at least 55 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, especially complex carbohydrates. That is at least five to seven portions of fruits and vegetables and lots of whole grains on a daily basis.

Lowering your fat intake doesn't take much work. People can cut their intake of saturated fat and trans fats in half by avoiding butter, margarine, fatty meats, and full fat dairy products.

Changes in diet can have pretty immediate results. So Give it a try and see what happens with your next blood test.


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