Steps to reduce your risk for heart disease

Lijo Thomas, MD, practices internal medicine at the Franciscan Medical Clinic in Federal Way. - Courtesy photo
Lijo Thomas, MD, practices internal medicine at the Franciscan Medical Clinic in Federal Way.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

By Lijo Thomas, MD, Franciscan Medical Clinic in Federal Way

Heart disease is the number one cause of death for men and women in the United States. Also called coronary artery disease, it is a condition in which fatty deposits (plaque) build up in the arteries. These deposits cause arteries to become blocked, restricting flow of blood and oxygen to the heart.

We know a lot about what causes heart disease and things individuals can do to prevent it. To reduce your risks:

• Quit or don’t start smoking

• Balance your calorie intake and physical activity to maintain a healthy body weight.

• Consume a diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits.

• Choose whole-grain, high-fiber foods. Good choices include whole wheat, oats/oatmeal, rye, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet and quinoa.

• Consume fish, especially oily fish, at least twice a week (about 8 ounces/week). Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are rich in the omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids).

• Limit your daily intake of saturated fat (found mostly in animal products) to less than 7 percent of total calories, trans-fat (found in hydrogenated fats, commercially baked products, and many fast foods) to less than 1 percent of total calories, and cholesterol (found in eggs, dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish) to fewer than 300 mg per day. Choose lean meats and vegetable alternatives (such as soy). Select fat-free and low-fat dairy products. Grill, bake or broil fish, meat and skinless poultry.

• Use little or no sodium (salt). Reducing sodium can lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart disease.

• Cut down on beverages and foods containing added sugars (corn syrups, sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltrose, dextrose, concentrated fruit juice and honey).

• If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends limiting alcohol to two drinks per day for men and one drink for women.

A person’s age, gender, family and medical histories, and environmental factors can also affect the tendency to develop heart disease. Consult with your primary care physician or professional health care provider for guidance about steps you should take to keep your heart healthy.


Lijo Thomas, MD, practices internal medicine at the Franciscan Medical Clinic in Federal Way.


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