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Fresh veggies, less salt

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STUDY What's a heart-friendly diet? Go easy on salt

FRESH IS BESTAvoid canned vegetables as far as possible
FRESH IS BESTAvoid canned vegetables as far as possible

Ahealthy diet sustains us, but a poor diet can lead to increased blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels and weight and put you at heart disease risk.

According to Donna Arnett, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Epidemiology in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health , diet can exert a strong influence on the cause of heart disease.

Sodium is considered the culprit for high blood pressure. It attracts water into your cells; the increased fluid raises your blood pressure and subsequently raises your risk of stroke and heart attack, heart failure and death, Arnett says. Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat daily.

Fish also is on Arnett's list of better food choices.

When preparing your food, limit saturated fats such as those in butter, hard cheeses and red meats.

"Avoid trans fats because they raise your bad cholesterol levels. So read food labels and look for partially hydrogenated oils, which is another name for trans fats,” Arnett says.

Fats considered suitable for low consumption — avocados, nuts, olives and olive oil — are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can help reduce the cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease. A big calorie-causing culprit is sodas and sports and energy drinks.

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