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August 16, 2011 > Take Steps to Prevent Heart Disease

Take Steps to Prevent Heart Disease

Washington Hospital Seminar Offers Tips for Reducing Your Risk

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and nine out of 10 heart disease patients have at least one risk factor.

"There are a number of factors that increase your risk for heart disease, including family history, diet, and inactivity," said Dr. Jon-Cecil Walkes, a cardiothoracic surgeon and member of the Washington Hospital medical staff. "You can't do much about your family history, but you can have a significant effect on controllable issues like diet and exercise."

Walkes will present "Prevention of Heart Disease: Healthy Diet for Your Heart" on Tuesday, August 23, from 1 to 3 p.m. He will be joined by registered dietitians Nachal Bhangal and Anna Mazzei. The free seminar will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. You can register online at www.whhs.com or call (800) 963-7070 for more information.

Walkes will address the major risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, overweight or obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use. The seminar will also focus on healthy eating, which can help to control risk factors like diabetes and high cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight.

"Reducing these risks is the best way to avoid heart disease," Walkes said.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that builds up in the walls of the arteries and blocks the flow of blood to the heart, which carries oxygen. High blood pressure means the pressure on the artery walls is too high, increasing the risk for a heart attack.

Walkes will encourage participants to work with their health care providers to keep risk factors under control. He recommends regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks for those at higher risk.

Lifestyle choices can help to reduce these risk factors, he said. Avoiding tobacco and alcohol are two obvious choices. Increasing physical activity and eating right can also go a long way toward reducing the risk of heart disease, he said.

"Diet and exercise can help you keep your weight down and your cholesterol and blood pressure under control," Walkes said.


Eat a Heart Healthy Diet

Bhangal and Mazzei will discuss the importance of eating a diet that is low in fat and salt and high in fiber. The pair will also offer tips for eating a heart healthy diet.

"We will talk about cholesterol guidelines and how diet can affect cholesterol and other risk factors," Bhangal said. "Saturated fat increases blood cholesterol, which can clog the arteries and lead to heart disease."

She said it's important to reduce the amount of saturated fat you eat and stick with leaner proteins. Solid fats like butter and lard are high in saturated fats. Snacks like chips, crackers, cookies and baked goods are often loaded with saturated fat. Even those labeled "low fat" can contain trans fats, she explained.

"Avoid fried foods and don't eat too much red meat," Bhangal added. "Fish and chicken are great choices for lean protein. Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce triglycerides."

She also suggested using fat-free or low-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, and sour cream as a way to reduce the fat in your diet.

"Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a heart healthy diet," Bhangal said. "They are packed with nutrients and fiber. Beans, peas, and lentils are also great sources of protein. And substituting fruits and vegetables for higher-fat foods can help keep your weight under control."

Whole grains are another source of fiber and other nutrients. Whole grain breads, oatmeal, and high-fiber cereals are all part of a heart healthy diet, she said.

"We will also encourage participants to reduce their salt intake because sodium can increase blood pressure," Bhangal added.

To learn more about the nutrition services offered by Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com/nutrition. For information about the Heart Program at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com/heart.

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