Cutting salt consumption lowers blood pressure — which itself is vital for a healthy vascular system. But a recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that slashing sodium also reduces the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular disease by 25 percent.
— C.M.

Favor cold-water fish.

Want to shrink your risk of heart attack and stroke by another 14 percent? Eat three 5-ounce servings (which is slightly less than the size of two standard decks of cards) of wild-caught, cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, per week. The omega-3 fatty acids in these fish prevent blood clots, lower triglycerides, raise HDL, reduce inflammation, and prevent fatal heart arrhythmias (an interruption of normal heart rate).

Grab a handful of nuts.

Almonds, macadamias, and other nuts provide an almost perfect balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats — particularly heart-protective monounsaturated fats. Nuts, on average, also contain about 170 mg potassium and 60 mg magnesium per ounce, both of which help lower blood pressure, Felder says. Add in 2 ounces of nuts daily and you'll reduce your overall cardiovascular disease risk by 12 percent.

Treat yourself to chocolate.

Packed with flavonoids (a type of antioxidant), dark chocolate reduces blood pressure, which improves endothelial function and decreases LDL oxidation. Eat 2 full ounces (with a minimum 60 percent cocoa content) daily and you'll cut your cardiovascular disease risk by 11 percent.

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