Food a double-edge sword

Food can protect the heart or be fuel for a heart attack.It is important for people with heart disease and for those without to exercise and maintain a good diet to prevent serious health risks.

A common misconception is that vigorous exercise is dangerous to people at risk for heart disease.

“Exercise helps dilate the body’s blood vessels and enables blood to circulate more freely,” according to Dr.William Choi, Medical College of Wisconsin cardiovascular medicine professor.

Studies conducted at Harvard found that people who participate in frequent vigorous exercise could see up to a 20 percent reduction of heart disease. Vigorous exercise includes running, jogging, swimming or aerobics. Walking three or more miles a week could result in a 10 percent risk reduction.

“The benefits of physical activity seem to be independent of other coronary factors,” says Howard D. Sesso, Physicians Health Study II in the Harvard Medical School Division of Preventive Medicine project director.

According to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one cardiovascular death per year may be preventable for every 145 people with diabetes who are persuaded to walk at least two hours a week.

Recent studies conducted at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas found it is better for you to be fit than to be thin. Unfit, lean men showed a higher risk of death from heart disease than men who were fit and obese.

“Exercise is also associated with other healthy behaviors,” Choi said, “like not overeating and not smoking.”

As with any health decision, changes in diet and exercise habits should be discussed and monitored closely with your regular physician.