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American Heart Association Has New Guidelines for a Healthier Heart

What you eat can determine how long you live. A recent report in the Journal of the American Heart Association recommends new diet and lifestyle choices for a longer and healthier life.

Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States.

With obesity becoming a worldwide problem, heart disease and other illnesses promoted by obesity are also becoming global concerns. The American Heart Association recently issued dietary guidelines for people over the age of two.

Dr. Alice Lichtenstein from Tufts University chairs the Heart Association's committee on nutrition. "What these American Heart Association dietary and lifestyle recommendations are really focused on is long term, permanent change in the way we eat and the way we move our bodies," she said.

Dr. Lichtenstein says a lot of people think of diet as depriving themselves of foods they enjoy. With these new recommendations, she says that is not true. "If you really focus on a whole dietary pattern,” she said, “then there's a lot of flexibility and it's more likely that people can make changes that they can live with for a long period of time and still not feel deprived or that they are making any major deviation from the way they normally would eat."

Key recommendations in the new guidelines include eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and high fiber foods. Many people at a Los Angeles, California farmers market, already follow that advice. "The older I get, I definitely am more selective about what I eat," said one resident.

Another resident said, "I do eat more fruits and veggies now than I have in previous years."

The recommendations also include eating fish at least twice a week, especially oily fish such as salmon, which is rich in omega three fatty acids. These acids are found to reduce the risk of heart disease.

The association also says to choose and prepare foods with little or no salt, avoid added sugars and pay attention to portion size and calories. Limit your intake of saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol, which can be found in meat, and fried foods such as French fries. Lichtenstein said, "We can't really accurately calculate the saturated and trans fatty acid content of the diet. What we can do is choose foods within each category that will minimize our intake."

The new guidelines also recommend regular physical activity, which helps with blood pressure and blood glucose levels. Other recommendations involve tobacco products -- avoid using them, avoid smoking and stay away from smokers so you do not breathe the smoke they exhale. The American Heart Association says these recommendations would benefit anyone anywhere in the world.