The prevention of cardiovascular disease with nutrition and physical activity

Reducing saturated fat, trans fat and sodium with the addition of physical activity are among the recommendations of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that a reduction of trans fat in the food supply could prevent an additional 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year. It also predicted the reduction could avert up to 20,000 heart attacks each year. These estimates may have influenced the recommendations on the prevention of cardiovascular disease released by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Recommendations related to lifestyle changes include:

  • Reducing saturated fat, trans fat and sodium intake.
  • Engaging in physical activity.
    • Children: Recommends 60 minutes of varied activity each day.
    • Adults: Recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.

Michigan State University Extension, consistent with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, offers nutrition education programs focusing on the importance of:

  • Reducing daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) and further reducing intake to 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
  • Consuming less than 10 percent of daily calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Keeping trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible, especially by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils and by limiting other solid fats.
  •  Reducing the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.

The guidelines include assessment for the risk of stroke in addition to heart attack. It also provides gender and race-specific formulas for predicting risk. The new guideline recommends moderate or high-intensity statin therapy for the following:

  • Patients who have cardiovascular disease
  • Patients with an LDL (“bad”) cholesterol level of 190 mg/dL or higher
  • Patients with type 2 diabetes who are between 40 and 79 years of age
  • Patients with an estimated 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease of 7.5 percent or higher who are between 40 and 79 years of age. The equation considers age, sex, total and HDL cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, blood pressure treatment, diabetes and smoking.

In addition, body mass index followed by a measurement of waist circumference are being taken to determine risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and death. Based on this evaluation, providers are recommending a three to five percent weight loss to improve clinical measures.

MSU Extension offers nutrition education classes for adults and youth that include information on positive dietary lifestyle habits that will help to prevent cardiovascular disease. More information can be found at

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