15 Tips For Avoiding Heart Disease

  • Do you have high cholesterol? Many Americans do. Even though you may be taking a popular cholesterol-lowering drug, you know you have to make lifestyle changes to keep your cholesterol in check. These lifestyle changes relate to exercise, diet and managing stress. Here are 15 tips to help you lower your cholesterol and avoid heart disease:
  • Facts To Know LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol while HDL is the “good”, but there is now some debate even about that. The bad cholesterol is increased by saturated fats in your diet, which causes plaque to build up in the arteries leading to heart disease. HDL is believed to be beneficial in clearing the plaque. Important takeaway: you want to monitor your diet in order to lower the plaque-causing cholesterol.
  • Start with portion control. Let’s face it, Americans just plain eat too much. Use your hand as a way to measure the right size portions. A serving of your protein of choice would be about what fits into your hand. A serving of pasta, rice or cooked vegetables should fit into your cupped hands. A serving of fresh fruit is about the size of your fist. And don’t even ask about dessert.
  • Heart-healthy Diet Basics Start with fish twice a week. Why? Fish is low in saturated fats and high in omega-3 fatty acids which help lower triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. Order salmon, tuna, trout and sardines. And broiled or baked, please. No fried fish and chips.
  • The Right Carbs We all need carbohydrates for energy, but not all carbs are created equal. Your best bet is to get your energy from carbs like whole grains, whole-wheat pasta and beans, which are high in fiber, will raise your sugar levels less and can help lower cholesterol. Limit your intake of other carbs like white potatoes, cake and white rice—they’ll make your blood sugar levels skyrocket and crash much faster, which can leave you feeling hungry.
  • From The Ground Up It’s hard to say whether the antioxidants in fruits and veggies help lower LDL cholesterol or if it’s just that we tend to eat less fattening foods if we’re the type who crave apples and carrots as snacks. Either way, load up on these all-natural, delicious foods—they help keep your blood pressure down and your weight at a healthy number.
  • Whole Grains For Breakfast Help reduce LDL by having a bowl of oatmeal or whole grain cereal for breakfast. Plus, the fiber and complex carbs in these grains will keep you feeling full, so you’ll be less likely to pit stop at office vending machine for an unhealthy snack. Wild rice, brown rice, popcorn and whole-wheat flower are other examples of whole grains.
  • Eat “Good” Fat Even when you’re watching your waistline, you can’t completely cut fat from your diet. About 25-35 percent of our daily caloric intake should consist of healthy, unsaturated fats which helps to lower LDL cholesterol levels and raise HDL cholesterol. Unsaturated fat can be found in canola, olive and safflower oils.
  • Lose Weight If you’re carrying too much extra weight, you could be at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even type 2 diabetes. Combat cardiovascular disease by watching your weight and losing extra fat, especially fat around your midsection, which is associated with the hardening of your arteries.
  • Work Out All you need is 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week (yes, walking counts!) to help lower your LDL cholesterol levels and boost your HDL cholesterol. Exercising helps keep your weight in check and your body in shape which can help prevent your arteries from clogging.
  • Nuts For Nuts It’s not all bad news. Nuts, which are a lot of people’s favorite snack, are good for you. They lower bad LDL and increase the probably beneficial HDL. Studies say people who eat an ounce of nuts a day have lower rates of heart disease. But it is only an ounce. Try them as a snack before meals since they also cut your appetite.
  • How To Eat Out Seeing a tempting photograph of a juicy hamburger on the menu doesn’t make it easy to eat healthy at a restaurant. But even when you’re not eating at home it’s still important to stick to foods that are low in saturated fat, sodium and calories to help keep your cholesterol at a healthy level. Don’t order anything that is cooked “fried”—stick to boiled, steamed, baked and grilled. And don’t forget to control your portion size—if the dish you ordered was bigger than you expected, take the rest of it home and eat it for lunch tomorrow.
  • Don’t Stress Some research suggests that high stress can actually directly increase your cholesterol levels. In addition, stressing out all the time can raise your blood pressure and cause plaque from the cholesterol to build up in your arteries. Decompress and relax at least once a day—try meditating, going for a walk or taking deep breaths.
  • See A Doctor Regularly If you know you have high cholesterol, it is important to check in with your doctor regularly to make sure everything is running smoothly. There’s no doubt that managing your cholesterol takes work. So when your doctor makes suggestions regarding your diet, health and lifestyle choices, make sure you listen!
  • Read Those Labels The super-market shelves can be a bit overwhelming, but for your heart’s sake, it important to take a minute to scan the box and know what you’re buying. To ensure that your choice is healthy, check the ingredients and nutrition facts— “whole wheat” or “whole grain” should be one of the first ingredients listed and the saturated fat content should low. Also, make note of the serving size—it may be bigger than you think!
  • Take Control Your doctor may know best, but in the end, the only person who can take control and better your health is you. Make healthy choices daily that will keep your cholesterol levels in check—order the bean salad instead of the cheeseburger—and get ready to enjoy a longer, more fulfilling life!