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November 13, 2013 | 2 minute read

Heart Healthy Living: It’s Also Cancer Prevention Living

Don’t be surprised if the next time you get your cholesterol tested, your doctor talks to you about a plant-based diet – vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. New guidelines released yesterday for heart healthy living highlight that how you eat and move for heart health are what we know can also help you prevent cancer. dreamstime_xs_32027497

These new evidence-based  guidelines for preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD) include lifestyle, drug and obesity management recommendations. They come from expert task forces convened by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

For the first time, the recommendations for heart healthy eating focus on overall eating patterns, rather than just saturated fat or sodium. That’s good news, because examples they give, such as DASH and Mediterranean diets, are plant-based eating patterns. They also align with AICR’s recommendations for cancer prevention, including limiting sugary beverages, red meat and salt/sodium.

Here are key take-aways from the new heart health guidelines:

  1. Choose a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains; also include low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, nontropical oils (such as olive or canola oils) and nuts.
  2. Limit your sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.
  3. Limit red meats.
  4. Reduce trans fat and saturated fat (5% to 6% of total calories for saturated fats).
  5. To lower blood pressure, reduce sodium.
  6. Be physically active for 40 minutes, 3-4 times a week, at moderate-to-vigorous intensity.

These specific diet and physical activity guidelines reduce CVD risk regardless of their effect on weight according to the report. There are separate guidelines for management of overweight and obesity.

As we talk about healthy eating our focus more and more is on total diet and eating patterns because studies are showing that plant-based diets – put together in a variety of ways – lead to a longer and healthier life. You can learn how to put this into practice with our New American Plate Challenge.

We also talk about healthy patterns in a recent AICR webinar for health professionals: Eating Patterns to Lower Cancer Risk: More than One Route to a Plant-Based Diet.

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