Do you have a happy heart? This is a perfect time to get your cholesterol checked; then be pro-active to achieve and maintain a low (healthy) cholesterol level (below 200) and low LDL cholesterol (below 130). LDL is the cholesterol that sticks to arteries, hardens, and creates plaque. It eventually builds up and narrows and stiffens arteries, blocking blood flow and causing clots. The result? Heart attacks and strokes. You can lower LDL and total cholesterol the same way. My top ten tips:
- Eat more fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Their natural anti-oxidants block LDL from oxidizing (hardening) in arteries, causing plaque. They also prevent LDL-inflamed arteries, which spin off clots. Red foods in particular are natural clot-busters. Eat red apples, berries, tea, red grapes, and red onions, tomatoes …particularly rich in the artery-protective polyphenols and flavanoids.
- Eat seafood 2-4 times a week…particularly omega-3 rich salmon, tuna, bass, sardine, swordfish, and cod. And take a fish oil supplement with 1000 mg EPA/DHA omega-3’s from marine sources only. Fish oils protect arteries from inflammation and clots, and keep the heart beat in rhythm.
- Eat lean protein – fish, poultry, lean beef and ham, nonfat dairy; 3-7 eggs a week. Keep fish/poultry/lean meat at 6 -8 oz daily to not exceed safe amounts of hidden cholesterol and saturated fat.
- Keep fiber intake high as possible, particularly insoluble fiber sources – as in oatmeal, Kasha, beans, oat cereals (like Cheerios and oat squares), and psyllium. You may also add one tsp of sugar-free Metamucil (psyllium) to a glass of water at 2-3 meals daily to lower cholesterol. Three whole grain foods daily will also lower cholesterol. Example: oatmeal, 100% whole grained bread, popcorn or corn.
- Use healthy oils – olive and canola, nuts, nut butters, avocado, olives – to lower LDL.
- Add special sterol-fortified foods (like Smart Balance Heart Right spread or milk). Two servings daily will lower cholesterol in 6-8 wks. Many more are on at your grocery store. Ask a dietitian.
- Lose 5-10 lbs – cholesterol will drop 15-25 points.
- Do not smoke.
- Limit alcohol – 1 drink a day for women; 2 for men.
- Keep moving! Aerobic activity 150 min a week and weight training (30 min twice a week) will do the trick! You will lower cholesterol and build healthy HDL cholesterol, which transports LDL out of your arteries. You will decrease your blood pressure, blood sugar and unwanted pounds.
Lowering cholesterol with food, exercise, weight, and lifestyle is the key. Check out my book The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step up to the Plate (2009) for more ideas of menus, snacks, cereals, cheeses, beef cuts, vegetable ideas to make all this easier for you . Or call me for a phone consult at 214.587.4241. I want to help you be healthy and have a happy heart!
Image: “Mixed Vegetables Healthy Lifestyle” by Grant Cochrane