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Diet and Heart Disease

Trans Fats and High Cholesterol
Trans fats can also increase cholesterol and affect a person's risk for heart disease. Trans fatty acids, or trans fats, are made when liquid vegetable oil is heated in the presence of hydrogen. This process is known as hydrogenation. The more hydrogenated an oil is, the harder it will be at room temperature and the more trans fat it will contain.
Trans fats are even worse for cholesterol levels than saturated fat and cholesterol itself because they raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol.
(Click Foods High in Cholesterol for more information.)

Recommendations for Reducing Your Risk

In order to reduce the chances for heart disease, you should follow a heart-healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet is not a "diet" in the traditional sense. Rather, this is an eating plan that focuses on making good food choices for the heart.
A heart-healthy diet means a diet that's low in fat, cholesterol, and salt, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber. It doesn't mean that you can never have pizza or ice cream again. Experts point out that a heart-healthy diet should be the routine. That way, when you have high-fat food every now and then, you're still on track. Making a high-fat diet the routine is asking for trouble.
Remember that a heart-healthy diet is fine for the whole family, including children from the age of two to four onward. Children under two years of age should NOT follow the heart-healthy diet -- they need more fat to provide enough calories for growth and development.
A heart-healthy diet should meet the following criteria:
  • No more than 8 to 10 percent of the day's total calories should come from saturated fat.
  • Total fat should make up no more than 30 percent of the day's total calories.
  • Dietary cholesterol should be limited to 300 milligrams a day.
  • Sodium intake should kept under 2,400 milligrams a day.
  • It should contain just enough calories to achieve or maintain a healthy weight and reduce your blood cholesterol level. (Ask your doctor or registered dietitian what is a reasonable calorie level for you.)
You can also incorporate foods that have been shown to decrease the risk for heart disease (see Heart Healthy Foods for more information).
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