Obesity is a risk factor for high blood pressure and high cholesterol—both predictors of heart disease.
The American Heart Association defines overweight as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29. Obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or more.
Eat two servings of omega-3-rich fish each week.
Omega-3s decrease risk of arrhythmias, decrease triglyceride levels, improve artery health, and may lower blood pressure.
One serving equals 3 ounces cooked fish, about the size of a deck of cards. Fish rich in omega-3s include mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon.
Limit sodium to 2,400 mg/day.
Too much salt can increase blood pressure.
Recommended daily amount equals roughly 1 teaspoon of salt. To season food without salt, use fresh herbs, such as oregano, dill, and parsley.
Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Produce contains heart-healthy phytonutrients and may reduce blood lipid levels.
Fruits and vegetables are low in fat and sodium and contain no cholesterol. A medium apple is one example of a single serving.
Eat a variety of whole grains.
Whole grains are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which may help lower blood cholesterol levels.
One serving equals one slice of whole-grain bread or 1/2 cup cooked grains.
Add soy to your diet.
Helps lower cholesterol. The FDA recommends 25 grams of soy protein a day to help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Minor side effects include occasional gastrointestinal upset, such as stomach pain, loose stools, and diarrhea.
Sources: Jaime S. Ruud, RD, research analyst in the department of nutritional science and dietetics at the University of Nebraska and author of Nutrition and the Female Athlete (CRC, 1996); American Heart Association, www.americanheart.org.