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Heart experts' advice: Eat more fish in a balanced diet
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- By now, most people know the standard dietary do's and don'ts: Do eat lots of fruits and vegetables, don't eat too much fat.
But the American Heart Association is including something new in its guidelines this year.
The organization is recommending people eat fish twice a week -- especially fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which appear to protect against heart attacks.
"That's based on a lot of scientific evidence that suggests that people who consume at least one, preferably two, servings of fish a week have reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease and stroke," explained the AHA's Dr. Robert Eckel.
An estimated 250,000 people die from sudden cardiac arrest each year in the United States, when the heart unexpectedly stops beating.
The main author of the guidelines, Dr. Ronald M. Krauss of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said the revisions are meant to help Americans obtain an overall healthy eating pattern that helps them maintain the right cholesterol level, blood pressure and weight.
So for the first time, the guidelines stress the importance of preventing obesity.
"We are emphasizing the positive message of what people should eat," said Krauss.
In the past, he added, guidelines focused on the percent of calories as fat and amounts of cholesterol. Now the emphasis is off calculation and on eating a balanced diet.
Some things in the guidelines haven't changed. The AHA still recommends eating five servings of fruits and vegetables and six servings of grain every day, as well as limiting fat, salt, cholesterol and alcohol.
But this year the experts also weighed in on popular protein diets, concluding that there is no scientific proof that they work long-term.
"We raise great concern about temporary weight reductions that are rapid, particularly using diets that are potentially harmful long-term," said Eckel.
Instead, the AHA advises dieters to drop pounds in the traditional way -- by reducing fat intake and aiming for a weight loss of two to four pounds each month.
A second new recommendation targets people with a metabolic disorder called "Syndrome X," which features symptoms including insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and high blood pressure. It's unclear just how many people have the condition, but the association said they might consider eating more unsaturated fats, found in vegetable and olive oils, nuts and avocados.
That recommendation is part of a new approach for the AHA. The group says despite general dietary recommendations for most people, doctors still need to look at an individual's health history and genetic makeup before suggesting a diet plan.
The new guidelines will be published in the October 21 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this report.
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