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How to Eat Right and Stay Active to Protect Your Heart

Everyone knows that diet and exercise are important for staying healthy, but many may not know precisely what to eat and do to protect their heart health.
Brooke Anderson, RD, LDN, CNSC, Lead Clinical Dietitian, Medical Acute Care Unit, at Hebrew SeniorLife's Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, offers this advice:

  1. Try to keep your sodium intake to less than 2000 mg per day. Canned, jarred, and pre-packaged foods tend to be high in sodium, so limit your intake or buy the low sodium versions instead.

  2. Eat more fiber. This will not only help with bowel regularity, but increased fiber intakes can also help with decreasing the bad cholesterols in your blood, decreasing your risk for heart disease.

  3. Cut the bad fats! Focus on intake of lean meats that have less than 10 percent fat content, as well as low-fat dairy, such as skim or 1% milk and reduced fat cheese.

  4. Pay attention to portion sizes, which can lead to overall decreased intake of high fat/high sodium foods. Some examples of appropriate portions include: ½ cup pasta, 2-3 oz. of lean meats, ¼ cup nuts.

  5. Maintain a healthy weight. This will not only decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease, but will also decrease your risk for diabetes, kidney disease, and stroke.

  6. Exercise! Regular exercise can help improve your cardiovascular system, which can, in turn, decrease your risk for heart disease. PLEASE seek advice from your primary care physician before starting a new exercise program.

  7. Be emotionally healthy. In some people, depression can lead to over-eating, which can subsequently lead to an increased risk of cardiac disease. Make sure to talk to your doctor about your emotional health as well as your physical health.

  8. When in doubt, seek the help of a registered dietitian. If you feel as though you need help with menu planning, grocery shopping, or weight loss in order to achieve a heart healthy diet, ask your primary care doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian that they know and trust, or go to to find a registered dietitian in your area.

Above content provided by Hebrew SeniorLife in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted July 2012

Contact Information

Division of Gerontology
Department of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Lowry Medical Office Building #1B (West Campus)
110 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02215

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Hebrew Senior Life
1200 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02131