Heart Health Tips From a Top Cardiologist (cont.)

Forget the competing headlines -- the best way to eat heart healthy is to follow national guidelines from organizations like the American Heart Association. "These are established by experts who monitor research, and are not focused on the latest fads and trends. It's actually much simpler than people realize," Mosca says.

5 Simple Steps to a Heart Healthy Diet

Ready to step up to a diet rich in the healthy nutrients your heart craves? The experts recommend staring here:

  • Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fiber.
  • Eat fish at least twice a week.
  • Limit how much saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol you eat. Only 30% of your daily calories should come from fat, with very little of that from saturated fats.
  • Select fat-free, 1% fat, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.
  • Limit your salt intake.

One way to make sure that your diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber, and low in saturated fats, is to divide your plate at each meal: half vegetables, 1/4 high-quality protein (like legumes -- terrific sources of protein and great for a healthy heart!), and 1/4 for fish or a very lean meat.

And remember, you should get your nutrients from foods themselves, the antioxidants and other heart-healthy goodies found in foods like blueberries, beans, and artichokes don't pack the same punch when they're not in food form.

And avoid fad diets, advises Mosca. "Almost every one may result in short-term weight loss but leave you weighing even more a year later, and preventing weight gain is one of the best ways to prevent developing heart disease risk factors."

Is Your Exercise Routine Really Helping You Have a Healthy Heart?

It's easy to get discouraged about exercise: It's hard to fit into a busy lifestyle. The people at the gym look like they spend hours there. You haven't run a mile since college. But no excuses -- like eating right, getting the exercise your heart needs is easier than it looks.

If you're not overweight, all you need to maintain a heart healthy lifestyle is 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five or more times a week. And you don't have to do it all at once -- 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening are just fine.

"Getting that amount of exercise has substantial benefits for your heart," says Mosca. Just how much is hard to quantify, but research shows that being physically inactive is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease.