Make these 3 lifestyle changes to prevent heart disease

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Twenty reasons to eat more fruit: According to recent research, people who eat more than five servings of fruits and vegetables every day can lower their risk of heart disease by 20 percent. | FILE PHOTO

The American Heart Association wants to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent as well as reduce heart-related deaths and stroke by 20 percent — all by 2020.

It’s possible, they say, if adults don’t smoke, maintain a healthy weight, eat right, work out and keep cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar in check.

Research shows adopting the following three strategies can cut your risk of premature death in half:

1. Eat more fruits and vegetables.

An analysis of studies showed that eating more than five servings of fruits and vegetables every day can lower heart disease risk by 20 percent compared with eating fewer than three a day.

Also important: Include three or more daily servings of whole grains in your diet and eat at least two servings of fish a week.

2. Cut down on sugary drinks.

A 12-ounce glass of cranberry juice cocktail contains 200 calories and 12 teaspoons of sugar; the same amount of soda has 150 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar.

No surprise that studies show overconsumption of such beverages is linked to higher body weight; it also has led to more diabetes and heart disease over the past decade.

3. Lift weights.

It can help reduce blood pressure as much as 20 percent, which is as good or better than taking medication, a study at Appalachian State University shows. Resistance training also leads to a longer-lasting decrease in blood pressure than aerobic exercise.

That’s not to say you should skip cardio workouts: Walking for 15 minutes twice a day can raise levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and help manage your weight.

— USA Weekend