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How can you maintain a healthy heart?

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Quick Answer

Cutting out smoking, getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet are all part of avoiding the risks of heart disease. One of the biggest causes of death is cardiac disease, but while some factors such as age, and family history are not avoidable, people can change their lifestyle choices.

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Full Answer

The use of tobacco is one of the most important risk factors for the development of heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. Chemicals lurking in tobacco can harm the blood vessels and heart, causing the arteries to narrow and leading to atherosclerosis. This condition can lead to a heart attack. The carbon monoxide present in cigarette smoke takes the place of some oxygen in the blood stream. Even smokeless tobacco and so-called light cigarettes are dangerous, as is second-hand smoke exposure. When people do quit, though, their risk of heart disease decreases almost to that of a non-smoker in approximately five years.

Getting 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity at least four days a week is ideal for reducing the risk of heart disease. Exercise helps with weight control and reduces the likelihood of developing conditions that can stress the heart, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension.

Making vegetables, fruits and whole grains the focus of your diet also protects the heart from disease. Low-fat protein sources such as lean chicken and some types of fish also cut the likelihood of heart disease. Eliminating saturated fats such as red meat and trans fats in deep-fried foods and packaged bakery products is crucial for heart health.

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