HEART HEALTH Tips for Keeping Cholesterol in Check

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1 HEART HEALTH Tips for Keeping Cholesterol in Check The human heart is amazing. In a day, it beats over 100,000 times & pumps 2,000 gallons of blood throughout the body. Although you cannot control your family medical history, there are things you can control to improve or maintain heart health. Adopting a healthier lifestyle can be challenging, but beneficial to your heart. Some lifestyle changes important for heart health are quitting smoking, exercising & maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing stress in your life. Eating a hearthealthy diet, like adopting a Mediterranean diet, is also essential. This consists of limiting saturated & trans- fats, including heart-healthy fats, eating fiber-rich foods, limiting salt intake, & enjoying plenty of fruits & vegetables. These lifestyle changes can help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure as well as reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. One factor in particular that affects heart health is elevated cholesterol (or lipid) levels, which can increase your risk of developing heart disease. Here are some cholesterol basics: Cholesterol is a waxy, fat (lipid) substance found in the bloodstream. It is made in the liver and in your body s cells. There is a difference between blood cholesterol which is the kind of cholesterol that we just described and dietary cholesterol which comes from the foods you eat. Blood cholesterol can build up in the arteries which can restrict blood flow. This slowing of the blood can then raise blood pressure, which puts strain on the heart. This strain may increase your risk of developing a heart attack or stroke. Dietary cholesterol comes from food sources such as animal products, including dairy products, eggs and meat.

2 Heart disease kills more people in the US than any other disease; claiming more than one million lives each year. One thing we can do to protect our hearts is to manage blood cholesterol levels. What is the role of cholesterol in heart disease? Your doctor orders a lipid profile or total cholesterol blood test. This cholesterol test shows how much LDL, HDL & other blood lipids (fats) are in your blood. What do the numbers reveal? Total Cholesterol: Total cholesterol is considered an initial screen to determine heart disease risk and is the number you get with a pin-prick test at health fairs. 1. A total cholesterol level that is < 200 mg/dl is desirable and is associated with reduced risk of heart disease. 2. A total cholesterol level that is 240 mg/dl is considered high cholesterol and associated with an increased risk of heart disease. For a more accurate assessment of heart disease risk, the different types of cholesterol & other lipids are measured. Blood cholesterol consists of bad cholesterol or LDL and good cholesterol or HDL. To better understand how cholesterol can be both good and bad, it is important to understand how cholesterol travels in the blood. Cholesterol does not travel alone. Actually it is bundled with fat and protein and this creates a package called a lipoprotein. The different types of lipoproteins have different functions and different effects on heart health. The two types of lipoproteins are LDL and HDL. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells. It is often called bad cholesterol because if there is too much in the blood, it can build up on the artery walls. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) carries cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver for discarding. It is considered good cholesterol or healthy cholesterol because it helps to remove cholesterol from the body. A LDL level of < 100 mg/dl is considered ideal. A HDL level of > 60 mg/dl is considered ideal. The goal should be to reduce LDL s and increase HDL s to reduce heart disease risk. You may be able to increase HDL s by not smoking, exercising regularly or being physically active & maintaining a healthy weight for height.

3 Another fat that is found in the blood is triglycerides. High triglycerides are often associated with elevated LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease. A TG level of < 150 mg/dl is considered ideal. Making lifestyle changes that include diet and exercise can affect cholesterol level and have a positive effect on heart health. Adopting the Mediterranean diet is one of these lifestyle changes. Let s break the Mediterranean diet down: Limit saturated fats by limiting red meat (including pork) and any visible fat, butter, cakes & cookies, pizza with meat, regular/full-fat cheese & dairy products. *Mediterraneans limit red meat to no more than once per week. Limit trans-fats by limiting deep-fried fast foods, processed baked goods, snack foods, ramen noodles, some stick margarines, shortening, frozen pies and pot pies & partially hydrogenated foods. Include lean protein Choose lean cuts of meat, poultry, fish and low fat dairy Include heart-healthy fats - Mediterraneans replace butter with fruity-tasting, heart-healthy olive oil. Other heart healthy fats include canola & peanut oils, avocados, omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fishes (salmon, anchovies & tuna), flax seeds, walnuts, beans (soy, navy & kidney beans) & chia seeds. Choose fiber-rich foods such as 100% whole grains & pasta, fruits & vegetables (including their skins), legumes, (beans, lentils, peas, etc.) nuts & seeds. Limit salt intake by limiting salty snacks & processed foods like canned soups & all-ready-prepared foods; and by not adding salt at the table and using herbs & spices to flavor foods instead of salt. Enjoy fruits & vegetables - According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, fill half of your plate with vegetables and/or fruit and enjoy plenty of fruits & vegetables as snacks. Choose deep, rich colored fruits & vegetables to get maximum nutrition. *Mediterraneans eat on average about 9 servings of fruits & vegetables each day! Include wine Mediterraneans enjoy wine regularly but in moderation; this means up to one five ounce glass of wine per day for women and up to two fiveounce glasses of wine per day for men. Emphasis on portion control and weight management everything in moderation is a wise approach; a small piece of birthday cake can fit as long as the rest of the day s consumption has been a wide variety of heart-healthy choices.

4 There are some less obvious behaviors that may also affect heart health but may have just as significant an effect: Laugh! Loud & hard! Research shows that laughter can be good for your heart by reducing stress. A good laugh can relax your muscles (including your heart) for up to 45 minutes! Love! Here s what the research shows: 1. When you are with the one you love, your blood pressure goes down. 2. Hugging dramatically lowers your blood pressure. 3. Married people live longer & have fewer heart attacks. Relax! Relaxation techniques may improve heart health by slowing your heart rate, lowering blood pressure, & increasing blood flow to major muscles in the body.

5 DIETARY FAT CHEAT SHEET The Bad Fats: Saturated Fats: Solid at room temperature, mostly found in animal fats but also some plant sources such as palm & coconut oils and cocoa butter; our body can make plenty of the saturated fat that it needs. Effects of saturated fat intake: 1. Raises Total Cholesterol 2. Raises LDL (bad cholesterol) 3. Even raises HDL (good cholesterol surprising yes, but not a good reason to include it in the diet!) The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations: < 10% of total calories as saturated fat Trans Fats: Made during food processing, which is the hydrogenation of unsaturated fats where hydrogen is pumped into the fat (oil) to make it more solid/saturated-like; are easier to cook with & less likely to spoil; also known as industrial or synthetic trans fats; mostly found in commercially prepared baked goods, snack foods & processed foods. Effects of trans fat intake: 1. Raises LDL 2. Lowers HDL 3. May also flare inflammation! The Good Fats: Unsaturated Fats: Usually liquid at room temperature & from plant-based foods & oils. There are two types: Monounsaturated High amounts found in olive, canola & peanut oils, avocados, almonds, hazelnuts & pecans, & pumpkin & sesame seeds. Polyunsaturated High amounts found in corn, vegetable, sunflower & soybean oils, also found in walnuts & fish. 1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Are a type of polyunsaturated fat, strongly associated with health benefits; high amounts found in salmon, sardines, tuna, anchovies & in flax seeds, chia seeds, & walnuts and in canola, flax & soybean oils. Effects associated with unsaturated fat intake: 1. Lowered TGs, (triglycerides) 2. Lowered risk of heart attack and stroke 3. Reduction of inflammation, lowered risk of cancer & arthritis and improved brain memory & performance.

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