A healthy lifestyle can help prevent coronary artery disease and help keep it from progressing. A heart-healthy lifestyle includes eating right, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, no smoking, moderate drinking, no recreational drugs, controlling hypertension, and managing stress. Cardiac rehabilitation programs are excellent to help prevent recurring coronary problems for people who are at risk and who have had coronary events and procedures.
A healthy diet includes a variety of foods that are low in fat, especially saturated fat, low in cholesterol, and high in fiber. It includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains, and limited sodium. Some foods are low in fat but high in cholesterol and some are low in cholesterol but high in fat. Saturated fat raises cholesterol and, in excessive amounts, increases the amount of the clot-forming proteins in blood. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are good for the heart. Fat should comprise no more than 30% of total daily calories. Cholesterol, a waxy substance containing fats, is found in foods such as meat, eggs, and other animal products. It also is produced in the liver. Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol should be limited to about 300 milligrams per day. Many popular lipid-lowering drugs can reduce LDL cholesterol by an average of 25-30% when used with a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are low calorie and nearly fat free. Vitamin C and betacarotene, found in many fruits and vegetables, keep LDL cholesterol from turning into a form that damages coronary arteries. Excess sodium can increase the risk of high blood pressure. Many processed foods contain large amounts of sodium. Daily intake should be limited to about 2,400 milligrams, about the amount in a teaspoon of salt. The "Food Guide" Pyramid developed by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services provides easy-tofollow guidelines for daily heart-healthy eating. It recommends 6 to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, and pasta; three to five servings of vegetables; two to four servings of fruit; two to three servings of milk, yogurt, and cheese; and two to three servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts. Fats, oils, and sweets should be used sparingly. Canola and olive oil are better for the heart than other cooking oils. Coronary patients should be on a strict diet. In 2003, the American Heart Association advised a diet rich in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, trout, or sardines. If people cannot eat daily servings of these fish, the association recommends three fish oil capsules per day.