Heal your heart: Rehabilitation and recipes, from Harvard Medical School

Rest and a strict low-fat diet were once key prescriptions for heart attack survivors and others with heart trouble. No longer. Today, exercise and a Mediterranean-type diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and unsaturated fats are known as key steps to fighting heart disease and keeping the heart healthy, according to Beating Heart Disease: Strategies for a Healthy Heart, a newly revised report from Harvard Medical School, and a companion report, Healthy Eating for a Healthy Heart.

Heart disease isn't an inevitable consequence of aging, nor is it something you just have to accept. You can beat it, and often even prevent it, advises Beating Heart Disease. Exercise, stopping smoking, managing weight, and reducing stress are essential parts of the fight. Comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation programs that include these steps have been shown to reduce deaths by up to 25% during the few years following a heart attack or cardiac procedure.

A healthy diet is another essential step to healing the heart. It helps lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and stabilize blood sugar. A diet of complex carbohydrates, like fruits, vegetables, and grains; lean protein, like fish, skinless lean poultry, nuts, and legumes; and healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help prevent further heart trouble. Healthy Eating for a Healthy Heart offers practical, science-based eating guidelines for people who have or who are at risk of heart disease, and features 40 heart-healthy recipes from the publisher of EatingWell magazine.

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