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Strengthen Your Ticker
February is National Heart Month, and if you haven't already please read my previous post on major risk factors for heart disease.
So now that you know what increases risk, let's focus on what decreases risk of heart disease.
- Exercise Every Day: Exercise and increasing daily physical activity is extremely powerful for the heart. It helps reduce weight (or prevent weight gain), improves circulation, boosts "good" HDL cholesterol, and reduces blood pressure. It also helps you blow off steam which may reduce stress levels, another risk factor for heart disease.
- Lose Weight: I know you are probably tired of hearing it, but being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing numerous diseases, and heart disease is one of the major diseases affected.
- Quit Smoking: If you are a smoker (even cigars and pipes), the smoke has a direct affect on your heart. Invest some energy into your future health by creating a plan to quit.
- Reduce Bad Fat: The types of fat we eat affects our blood lipids (fats) and contribute to how much fat sticks to the insides of our arteries. Two types of fat are the worst: saturated and trans fat. Saturated fat is found in whole milk, cream, butter, cheese, high fat meats, palm kernel oil, and coconut and coconut oils. Trans fat is found mainly in hydrogenated oils in packaged products like chips, crackers, and baked goods. It is found in fairly large quantities in stick margarine, but most if not all soft spreads are trans fat free. Trans fat is often also found in fried foods, but many restaurants have changed to trans fat free oils.
- Add More Fiber: Fiber, especially soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol. Focus on foods like oatmeal, oat-based cereals, beans, fruits, vegetables, and fiber supplements containing psyllium husk. My favorite high fiber bar is Gnu Foods Flavor and Fiber Bar. It has 12 grams of fiber, and 8-9 of them are soluble fiber (depending on flavor)!
- Up Your Soy: Soy protein has also been shown to help lower cholesterol. Numerous foods contain soy protein, and I will write more about my favorite soy foods tomorrow. Stay tuned!
- Include Plant Sterols: Plant sterols also help lower bad cholesterol. For a partial list of foods that contain plant sterols, check out www.corowise.com.