Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Utah, which paid more than $15 million in heart disease-related claims in 1987, is urging Utahns to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

"By adopting a healthy lifestyle that takes into account reducing the major risk factors of heart disease, such as high blood pressure, a diet high in cholesterol and saturated fats and cigarette smoking, you can improve your cardiovascular health substantially," said Dr. W. Knox Fitzpatrick Jr., vice president of medical affairs for the firm.According to the physician, nearly 1 million people will die from heart disease, stroke and related disorders this year in the United States. That's more than twice the number of deaths caused by cancer. In Utah, coronary heart disease was the cause of more than 2,900 deaths in 1987, or 33 percent of all Utah deaths.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Utah is bringing the cost of heart disease to the attention of the public as part of an ongoing campaign promoting wellness. Each quarter, the Utah insurance company picks a health topic and publishes its annual expenses on the disease, as well as promoting steps to prevent the illness.

"Through this continuing program, we want to impress upon people that they play an important role in their own good health and disease prevention, because good health costs everyone less," Fitzpatrick said.

Some dos and don'ts for a health heart outlined by Blue Cross and Blue Shield:

-Do maintain a proper diet that is low in fats and high in complex carbohydrates, such as potatoes, grains, pasta and rice. A daily intake of three parts complex carbohydrates, two parts protein and one part fat is a good rule of thumb.

-Don't drink alcohol to excess. Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to high blood pressure and elevated blood fats. It may also damage heart muscles.

-Do have regular physical check-ups. It's important to know your current risk factors in order to develop an effective cardiovascular conditioning program.

-Don't smoke. Even moderate smokers have twice the risk of coronary heart disease and four times the risk of stroke. Conversely, smokers who give up the habit can reduce their risk of heart disease by as much as 50 percent.

-Do exercise regularly. Regular aerobic exercise will build cardiovascular endurance and actually strengthen the heart muscle, as well as reduce stress. Aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming and aerobic dancing should be done a minimum of three times a week for at least 20 minutes.

-Don't overeat. Regardless of the types of food you eat, it's important not to consume more than your recommended daily intake of calories.