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Keep Your Heart Healthy and Control Cholesterol with Food First

Heart disease is America's number one killer of both men and women. Regardless of gender, high cholesterol puts everyone at increased risk for heart disease. But there are some important and simple steps you can take toward keeping cholesterol in check and improving overall health.

Start With Food

Your diet is an important factor in controlling cholesterol. A healthful low-fat eating plan, combined with regular physical activity, is key to heart health. In fact, new National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines recommend that one in three Americans need to make diet changes to lower their risk for heart disease. Foods high in soluble fiber, like oatmeal, beans and peas, barley, and many fruits and vegetables (such as apples, oranges, and carrots) are now recommended to help lower cholesterol levels.

Get to Know Cholesterol - The Good and the Bad

Think of "good" and "bad" cholesterol as two buses which transport cholesterol around the body:
• The "bad" LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol is like a oneway bus. It carries cholesterol from the liver (where cholesterol is made and recycled) and deposits it in the arteries where it can cause blockage that leads to heart disease.
• The "good" HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol is like a second one-way bus. It picks up cholesterol from the arteries and brings it back to the liver so the cholesterol does not harm arteries.

Boost the Good and Lower the Bad

Bottom line? The less LDL you have, and the more HDL cholesterol you have, the lower your risk for heart disease.

The best way to increase your HDL, "good" blood cholesterol, is to stay active and trim away excess pounds if you're not already at a healthy body weight.

When it comes to LDL, the "bad" cholesterol, your food choices are key. A heart-healthy eating pattern -- a diet that's high in soluble fiber with moderate amounts of fat and cholesterol -- can make a difference and can help reduce LDL levels.

To lower LDL, try eating more foods high in soluble fiber. Studies have shown that oatmeal helps to lower LDL cholesterol, without lowering HDL.

Quick Ways to Fit Fiber In

• Eat foods from all five food groups -- And eat a variety of foods within each food group. That way you'll get a full benefit package from food.
• Remember breakfast -- A perfect time to enjoy fiber-rich foods and fuel your body for the day ahead. Enjoy oatmeal, or other whole-grain cereals. Top a bowl of whole-grain or fiberrich hot or cold cereal with fruit and nuts for additional fiber.
• Pick high-fiber snacks -- When you need a quick energy boost during the day, reach for a high-fiber treat. Popcorn, fresh fruit, raw vegetables, or nuts are convenient and healthful choices.
• "Fiberize" your cooking style -- Substitute higher-fiber ingredients in recipes. Swap up to one-third of the flour with quick or old-fashioned oats when you bake. Add extra vegetables to casseroles, soups, salads and pasta dishes. Use brown rice instead of white rice.
• Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily -- When possible, eat the skin -- it provides fiber, too!

Heart Health -- A Special Note To Women!

Women's risks for heart disease, though generally later in life, are as great as those of men. But it's never too early for women to make hearthealthy choices.
• Know your family history and inform your health care professional of any hereditary risks.
• Prevention is key -- don't skip annual checkups.
• Control high blood pressure.
• Eat plenty of soluble fiber daily from foods like oatmeal, oat bran, beans and barley.
• Enjoy foods rich in the antioxidant vitamins C -- strawberries, citrus fruits -- and E, found in seeds, nuts and fortified ready-to-eat cereals and whole grains.
• Choose fewer foods high in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol by selecting lean meats and low fat dairy foods.
• Lose excess weight to help lower blood levels of harmful LDLcholesterol.
• Get regular physical activity. Even a low- to moderate-intensity daily walk counts.
• Stop smoking. Women who smoke have an up to six times greater risk of a heart attack.

If we can be of additional service to you, please contact our registered dietician:  Sarah Peterson at 307-885-5932.

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Sarah Peterson
SVMC Dietician