The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) strongly advocate a lifestyle that promotes and maintains heart health. This means maintaining a healthy weight and sticking to a suitable diet.

NHLBI provides important guidelines to assist you in following these components for a heart-healthy life.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese increases your risk for heart disease, even if you have no other risk factors. Overweight or obesity also raises your risk for other diseases that play a role in heart disease, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Your weight is the result of a balance between energy IN and energy OUT. Energy IN is the energy, or calories, you take in from food. Energy OUT is the energy you use for things like breathing, digestion, and physical activity.

To maintain a healthy weight, your energy IN and energy OUT should balance each other. They don’t have to be the same every day; it’s the balance over time that matters.

Balancing energy IN and energy OUT with diet or physical activity alone is possible. However, research shows that being physically active AND following a healthy diet is a better way to reach and stay at a healthy weight.

People who want to lose more than 5 percent of their body weight need to do a lot of physical activity unless they also reduce their calorie intake. The same is true for people who are trying to keep off a lot of weight that they have lost.

Many people need to do more than 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity activity a week to meet their weight-control goals.

Follow a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet also includes whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and protein foods, such as lean meats, poultry without skin, seafood, processed soy products, nuts, seeds, beans, and peas.

Choose and prepare foods with little sodium (salt). Too much salt can raise your risk for high blood pressure. Studies show that following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan can lower blood pressure.

Try to avoid foods and drinks that are high in added sugars. For example, drink water instead of sugary drinks, like soda.

Also, try to limit the amount of solid fats and refined grains that you eat. Solid fats are saturated fat and trans fatty acids. Refined grains come from processing whole grains, which results in a loss of nutrients (such as dietary fiber).

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