5 Foods and supplements for a healthy heart

Preventing heart attack means watching what you eat. But it doesn't mean you have to take out everything that's good.  Here are 5 foods and supplements that will help you improve your heart health.

5 Foods and supplements for a healthy heart

1. Take your niacin.

LDL, LDL, LDL. If that's all you're hearing when you ask for your cholesterol results, then you're only getting half the story. High levels of HDL — the so-called good cholesterol — are just as important, if not more important, in predicting heart attack risk. But if all your doctor does is prescribe a statin, you're missing the boat. Talk to your doctor about high-dose niacin — a B vitamin shown to increase HDL levels. Don't be thrown by negative talk about flushing as a side effect of niacin. Today, new formulations provide all the benefits of niacin without the once-common side effect of causing your skin to flush..

2. Get heart-healthy with chocolate.

It seems to go against all of the nutritional advice Mom ever gave, but dark chocolate truly is a healthful food — proven in studies to lower your blood pressure. With its heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, antioxidants and other beneficial plant chemicals, dark chocolate is actually more akin to nuts than it is to candy. It also provides fibre and magnesium. Scientists who fed people 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) of dark chocolate every day for two weeks found that their blood pressure dropped a significant amount — on average. The one hitch: the test subjects had to forgo other sweets or junk food in their diets to compensate for the added calories. So eat 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) of dark chocolate every day, and pass up 531 calories worth of pies, cakes, ice cream and chips that you would have eaten otherwise.

3. Replace butter with avocados in your food.

We have nothing personal against dairy farmers, but avocados are a tasty, heart-protecting substitute for butter and cream. When you mash them, they take on the same creamy texture as butter. Use them to thicken your soup or make your mashed potatoes creamier. Avocados are one of the only two fruits (along with olives) that are high in fat — but it's the heart-healthy variety called monounsaturated fat.

4. Take horse chestnut extract to prevent clots when flying.

If you are stuck on a long flight, take double the recommended dose of horse chestnut extract before heading for the airport. The herb helps reduce leg swelling, minimizing your risk of blood clots.

5. Milk for high blood pressure.

Mom always told you to drink your milk to build strong bones. We're telling you to drink it to reduce blood pressure. A study published in the journal Hypertension evaluated nearly 5,000 men and women found those getting three or more servings of low-fat dairy a day were 36 percent less likely to have high blood pressure than those consuming half a serving a day.

These 5 tips from the experts will leave you feeling much more confident the next time you go to the doctor to get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked.

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