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Easy Moves for Healthy Living

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Ham and Broccoli With Rotini

(Family Features) - Any journey begins with the first step. So why not take time this September, National Cholesterol Month, to begin your journey toward better health? When you follow tips from the American Heart Association, the path to well-being for you and your family can be easy - and life-saving.

Coronary heart disease is the single largest killer of Americans, so managing cholesterol levels and taking care of your heart can help you lead a longer, healthier life. Who wouldn't be happier about that?

"It's simple to get started on the road to heart health," says Alice Lichtenstein D.Sc., Gershof, Professor of Nutrition, USDA Human Nutrition Research Center, Tufts University and Chair of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee. "Be aware of your blood cholesterol levels." If you are told lower your "bad" cholesterol, select foods low in saturated and trans fats as well as cholesterol, such as skim milk, lean meats, poultry, fish and plenty of fruits and vegetables. "And," she says, "get up and move! Even small changes can add up to significant benefits."

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol can be both good and bad, so it's critical to learn how it affects your health, what your levels are and how to manage it.

  • LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is considered "bad" cholesterol, because it can build up as plaque and clog arteries. A level of 130 or less is near optimal for most people; 160 or higher increases the risk of heart disease.
  • HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is the "good" cholesterol. Medical experts believe it removes excess cholesterol from the arteries. A level of 40 or less increases the risk of heart disease.
  • Triglyceride (TG) is a form of fat, and many people with heart disease and high LDL levels have high TG levels, as do diabetics and obese people. Levels of 150 are normal; 200 or more may require treatment.

To control your cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends you get a cholesterol screening, maintain a healthy weight, be active, follow your healthcare professional's recommendations and eat foods low in saturated fat and trans fat, as well as cholesterol.

Move It!

It's really this easy: Get yourself and your family into the healthy habit of activity. You don't have to call it exercise or working out. Simply look for chances to be more active during the day. Walk the mall before shopping, choose a flight of stairs over an escalator or take 10- to 15-minute walking breaks while watching TV or sitting for some other activity. Use variety to keep your interest up. Walk one day, swim the next, then go for a bike ride on the weekend.

Build a Healthy Diet.

Smart eating can help lower your cholesterol and maintain a healthy blood cholesterol level. So make sure you're selecting the right foods and:

  • Watch calorie intake by eating a wide variety of foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables; more is better. Diets high in fruits and vegetables are associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Eat six or more servings of whole-grain cereals, breads and pasta.
  • Eat fish, poultry without skin and leaner cuts of meat instead of fatty ones.
  • Eat fat-free or 1% dairy products rather than those from whole milk.

Heart-healthy eating is good for everyone. And creating a balanced, nutritious eating plan is as simple as 1-2-3 with the help of the association's distinctive red heart with the white check mark. First, log on to heartcheckmark.org. There, you'll find a complete list of food items certified to be heart-healthy. Second, create and print your healthy-diet list to take with you to the supermarket. Third, look for the heart-check mark while shopping to easily and reliably find heart-healthy foods in your grocery store.

To learn more about reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke through good nutrition, visit americanheart.org or call 1-800-AHA-USA1 for your free copy of the "Shop Smart with Heart" brochure. 

Shop smart! Live well! Look for the heart-check mark.

No need to be confused at the supermarket when looking for nutritious foods - just look for the one, true heart-check mark created by the American Heart Association's Food Certification Program. It's the familiar red heart with the white check mark. This program of product certification, backed by solid science, has made it foolproof to find heart-healthy foods quickly and reliably. All products bearing this logo meet the association's nutrition criteria per standard serving to be:

  • Low fat (less than or equal to 3 grams)
  • Low saturated fat (less than or equal to 1 gram)
  • Low cholesterol (less than or equal to 20 milligrams)
  • Moderate in sodium (less than or equal to 480 milligrams for individual foods)
  • Nutritious (containing at least 10 percent of the Daily Value of one or more of these naturally occurring nutrients: protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron or dietary fiber).
  • For meats to be eligible for the heart-check mark, they must meet the USDA standard for "extra lean."

Log on to heartcheckmark.org for more information and to create a grocery list you can print and take with you to the store.

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Ham and Broccoli With Rotini

Perfect for a rainy night, this one-dish meal is really quick and easy to prepare.

  • 4 quarts water
  • 6 ounces dried whole-wheat or regular rotini
  • 1 1/2 cups small broccoli florets
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
  • 4 slices reduced-fat American cheese
  • 3 ounces low-fat, lower-sodium ham, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fat-free milk
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
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    1. In a stockpot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Boil the pasta for 7 minutes.
    2. Stir in the broccoli and bell pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender-crisp. Drain well in a colander. Return to the pot.
    3. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Spoon the mixture onto plates.

Calories: 292g     Total Fat: 5g
Cholesterol: 19mg     Protein: 17g
Carbohydrates: 48g     Sodium: 587mg

Serves 4 (1 1/2 cups per serving)

Notes, Tips & Suggestions
This recipe is reprinted with permission from American Heart Association No-Fad Diet: A Personal Plan for Healthy Weight Loss. Copyright © 2005 by the American Heart Association. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc. Available from booksellers everywhere.

SOURCE: American Heart Association

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