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Heart-Healthy Habits To Get Into Now

Chances are, you don't give your blood pressure a second's thought. But while most people don't develop hypertension  -- a significant risk factor for heart disease  -- until their 40s or 50s, a healthy lifestyle now is key to prevention. And if you're thinking about having another baby, keeping your blood pressure in check will help reduce your risk of developing hypertension-related complications during pregnancy, including preeclampsia.

The good news: Adopting simple lifestyle habits may actually lower high blood pressure  -- or prevent it in the first place, according to Lawrence Appel, M.D., professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore. Make changes one by one or in combination  -- whichever's easiest to stick to:

• Get 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise, such as swimming, brisk walking, or bicycling, five or six times per week.

• Eat a low-fat diet full of fruits and vegetables  -- nine servings a day  -- plus three daily servings of low-fat milk and dairy products. Cut down on salt, red meat, and sugar.

• Keep alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day.