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6 Foods Women Should Eat to Prevent Heart Disease

Healthy foods for heart health. Related Service: Primary Care for Women

Your diet plays an enormous role in your heart's health. This is especially true for women, who are more likely to die of heart disease than men. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading killer of women over age 25 and is responsible for one out of every four female deaths in the United States. That said, you can reduce your risk of heart disease with a healthy diet and exercise.

When it comes to heart health and diet, we've all heard about the foods that we shouldn't eat. Stay away from red meat, cheese, and anything fried—we get it. But talking about what we shouldn't eat is a bit of a downer. Instead, I'd like to feed you some advice that you can savor, literally.

Here are six foods women should incorporate into their diet to help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Salmon

Red meat might not be the best for your heart, but salmon meat sure is. The omega-3s found in salmon can prevent erratic heart rhythms, reduce likelihood of blood clots inside arteries, improve the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol, and prevent cholesterol from becoming damaged, at which point it clogs arteries.

Cooking Tip: Prepare a filet with a marinade or rub of your choice and cook it on the grill (extra points for using wooden grilling planks). Add a side of vegetables—asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli—and you have a heart healthy meal. Be sure to save a chunk of fish for a future pasta dish or salad.

Garlic

Studies show that garlic can help ward off heart disease. This flavorful food positively affects blood pressure, platelet aggregation, serum triglyceride level, and cholesterol levels—all of which keep your heart performing.

Cooking Tip: If you don't include garlic in your Italian recipes already, it's time to start. Chop up a clove, throw it in a pan with some olive oil, and give your pasta and meat dishes a burst of flavor.

Oranges

Turns out soccer moms are onto something. Orange slices help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol; oxidized cholesterol sticks to the walls of the arteries, building up plaque. Plaque can grow large enough to block blood flow in small blood vessels, causing a heart attack or a stroke.

Cooking Tip: Okay, so it's tough to cook an orange. But they make for a great addition to a salad or a stand-alone snack when you peel and slice them.

Sardines

While they might not have the best reputation, these tiny fish deliver a ton of health benefits. They're loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and niacin. Niacin is an important B vitamin that may raise HDL, also known as "good" cholesterol. In fact, many health experts consider sardines to be a brain food.

Cooking Tip: Try them fresh on the grill or use canned sardines packed in oil on salads, in sandwiches, or in sauces.

Walnuts

Walnuts are another good source of omega-3s. They contain alpha linoleic acid (ALA) which research suggests may help heart arrhythmias. While they may be high in fat, most of it is polyunsaturated, which is considered "good fat" and has a favorable effect on cholesterol.

Cooking Tip: Use a handful of walnuts as a flavorful crunch to salads, pastas, cookies, muffins, and even pancakes. Or just pack some up as a quick and easy afternoon snack.

Prunes

Prunes may be a food that you associate with a sweet old grandmother, but if you plan to make it to old age, you might want to take a page out of grandma's recipe book. Prunes are loaded with fiber and absorb LDL, also known as "bad" cholesterol. Prunes also contain high levels of iron and may protect you against colon cancer.

Cooking Tip: Try and lamb and prune stew, or if you can't bring yourself to eat prunes, try drinking prune juice.

The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.

The images being used are for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted is a model.

 
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