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You can prevent or control heart disease - here's how.

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Ten ideas that will help you become a healthy person. And when that happened your heart thanks you. Do not become overwhelmed with changing too much too fast. Pick one or two and give it a try for a few weeks. If you're still smoking, get some support, that is one habit that is hard to break.

Sometimes we are forced into change by a diagnosis, other times by someone we know who has become sick. Whatever is prompting you to take a look at your lifestyle and make some tweaks, here's a list to help you.

But remember: while there are some very important changes that should be made right away, such as quitting smoking and cutting back on drinking if you overindulge, other dietary changes and fitness goals can be reached one step at time, with gradual small changes.

Here is a list of 10 changes you can – and should – make to keep your heart disease in check. And none of them are popping a pill. However, a lot of us do need to take a baby aspirin, or a cholesterol lowering drug (statin) or a blood pressure pill.

1. Quit smoking

If you've been diagnosed with heart disease and you're still smoking, you should make your number one goal to quit. It's obviously not news that smoking nasty things to your heart and whole body, but with heart disease, smoking complicates all of the other lifestyle changes you'll want to make. Your lungs will thank you, too.

2. Eat good fats

This includes limiting the saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol and instead opting for healthier fats. The American Heart Association launched a "Face the Fats" campaign to help educate Americans on the benefits of eating heart healthy fats. Choose olive oil, fish, avocados and nuts.

3. Eat fish

A recent Northwestern University study suggests that baked or broiled fish may lower heart failure risk for women. Fried fish on the other hand can hurt your heart. This adds more evidence to the growing body of research that suggests the omega-3s in fish are fantastic for your heart. If you don't eat fish regularly, consider adding a fish oil or krill oil supplement to your diet. The American Heart Association recommends getting two servings of fish per week.

4. Eat those fruits and veggies

Fruits and vegetables are considered "functional foods" because they have a lot of chronic-disease fighting vitamins, minerals and fiber. Add whole fruits and vegetables to every meal. You don't have to wake up and be a vegan tomorrow, just make little dietary changes every day. Add a sliced apple to your plate, or a banana, or some baby carrots. One trick to eating your veggies is to eat them before you eat the rest of your meal. Also keep in mind, if you drench your vegetables in butter or salt you are taking away their nutritional value. For fruit, blueberries in particular have recently been found to have extra heart protecting powers.

5. Exercising more than 30 minutes daily

More and more research is showing that it's not what you weigh, but really how much you exercise. New research published in the “American Heart Journal” shows that a key consideration when examining mortality is your fitness level. The current study examined coronary artery disease patients and found the fittest had the healthiest hearts. Fitness was measured by testing oxygen level not body fat.

6. Get a social network

The last thing you may feel like doing after going through a major illness is reaching out and talking to people, however, social ties help keep your ticker ticking. After studying the effect of social isolation on mice that survived a heart attack, it seems lonely mice had a harder time recovering post-heart attack. The Ohio State University Researchers found the socially isolated mice suffered higher degrees of emotional, neurological and cardiac dysfunction when compared to the social mice.

7. Eat lean white meats

Ditch the red and processed meats, which include bacon, hot dogs and deli meats. A study in the journal Circulation, reviewed 20 studies involving meat consumption in healthy adults. Combined, the studies involved more than 1 million adults. The conclusion was that just a small daily serving of processed meats like bacon was associated with a 42 percent greater risk of developing heart disease.

8. Reduce your stress

Consider taking up tai chi, yoga or a regular meditation practice. Many heart failure patients develop insomnia and depression after a heart attack. Relaxation exercises have been proven to help reduce stress levels. Consider taking an eight-week class to help teach you how to introduce relaxation and meditation into your life.

9. Drink less booze

While a glass (or two for men) of red wine has shown great promise as being heart healthy, if you cross the line into higher consumption, you're doing your heart damage. Moderation is the key to alcohol.

10. Find Love

We don't just mean romantic love; find a hobby that makes you satisfied or spend more time playing with your children or grandchildren. Staying busy, doing something you love will help your heart heal. Of course, solid loving relationships help, too. Studies have proven that being married helps the heart. A recent study at University of Rochester reports those happily married had the best chance of long-term survival after heart issues. Pets are wonderful sources of love. Who doesn't want to come home to a furry happy pet excited to see you.

These 10 ideas aren't new, but it's nice to read a refresher course.

Stay well,

Lois Trader

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