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Wishes for a Berry Healthy Heart

One in four. Those are the odds of dying from heart disease. It is the number one cause of death in the U.S. Fortunately, there is much you can do to prevent, slow, and possibly even reverse the progression of heart disease. Here are six simple ways to protect your heart:

1. Think Low-Energy-Dense

Being overweight increases the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, factors that raise your risk of developing heart disease. The #1 waist-control tactic is to choose “low-energy-dense” foods. These are low-calorie foods that still fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied. Fruits, vegetables, cooked whole grains, and broth-based soups are great low-energy-dense choices. Have a bowl of oatmeal topped with blueberries for breakfast, a bowl of vegetable soup for lunch, snack on raspberries and add an extra serving of steamed vegetables to dinner.

2. Boost nutrients

A diet filled with minimally-processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and fish, is rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and omega-3s, which help keep the heart in tip top shape. Salmon with a side of raspberry blueberry kale salad is a delicious example of a heart-healthy meal.

3. Enjoy Berries

Berries are perfect for weight loss and heart health. They are loaded with B vitamins, vitamin C and potent antioxidants, such as the flavonoids, resveratrol, and more than 40 different anthocyanins. These strengthen tissue defenses against oxidation and inflammation, which are underlying factors in heart disease. Aim for a cup of berries several times a week. Looking for creative ways to add berries to meals? Check out these heart-healthy berry recipes.

4. Choose Lean Protein

If you eat meat, select extra-lean cuts, such as chicken breast without skin. Prepare meats with little or no butter, margarine, or other saturated or trans fats. Choose low-fat milk products. Then, keep an eye on portions; a serving of meat is 3 to 4 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards.

5. Toss the Salt

Too much sodium increases the risk for high blood pressure, a major factor in heart disease. Limit intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams, or about 1 teaspoon of salt per day. Use salt substitutes, spices, and herbs instead. Snack on raspberries instead of chips and you automatically lower sodium intake.

6. Move Every Day

Take the stairs instead of the elevator; wear a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps a day; opt for a bike ride instead of an afternoon on the couch. For your waistline, blood pressure and heart, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity almost every day.

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