Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How to Raise Good Cholesterol

A new study published last week highlights the benefits of the Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil for improving good “HDL” cholesterol especially in people at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

The study followed 296 participants with high risk of cardiovascular disease. One group followed a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, the second group followed a Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, and the third group followed a control diet which reduced red meat, processed foods, high fat dairy products, and sweets.

All participants following the Mediterranean diet ate vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and moderate amounts of fish and poultry.

The control diet reduced total and bad “LDL” cholesterol levels, and while both Mediterranean diets improved HDL function, the olive oil group saw the biggest improvement.

HDL works like a sponge, patrolling arteries and collecting cholesterol to bring back to the liver for recycling or disposal. HDL provides antioxidant protection which can help lower plaque from forming in arteries. It also improves vasodilation which keeps blood vessels open and blood flowing more freely.

While the control diet did show benefit for lowering total and LDL cholesterol it had a negative impact on HDL’s anti-inflammatory capabilities. This could be less beneficial for people with high cardiovascular risk.

Research continues to show strong health benefits with the Mediterranean diet, especially when olive oil is used regularly.

Mediterranean Diet Tips

  • Eat mostly plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts
  • Replace butter with olive oil and canola oil
  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor food
  • Limit red meat to a few times per month
  • Eat fish at least twice per week
  • Limit sweets to a few times per month
  • Get plenty of exercise

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Go Red! It is American Heart Month

Cardiovascular disease, which includes high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke is the leading cause of death throughout the world. Creating awareness saves lives, and one small heart healthy change at a time can save even more. 70% of cardiovascular disease can be prevented or delayed with the right diet and a healthy lifestyle. Start with…

Meeting with your health care team: Knowledge is power and preventative visits with your health care team helps identify risk factors before they become big problems. Visit your doctor, have your cholesterol screened, and blood pressure checked regularly.

Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk. Start by eating smaller portions and increase your activity level. Studies show losing 10% of your body weight can significantly improve your health, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, increase insulin sensitivity, and decrease inflammation. For customized recommendations meet with a registered dietitian to design the best meal plan for you.

Increase fiber intake: Fiber can lower cholesterol naturally, men should aim for 38g and women should aim for 25g daily. Great sources are beans, berries, lentils, pears, oatmeal, apples, flaxseeds, and peas.

Exercise regularly: At least 30 minutes of moderate-intense exercise 5 days a week is recommended. This includes fast walking, hiking, water aerobics, and biking on level ground. Higher intensity exercise, such as running and biking hills, provides even greater health benefits and burns more calories.

Eat less sodium: The American Heart Association recommends most people limit their sodium to 1500 mg daily. This is about 1/2 tsp and includes “hidden” sources such as sodium in soup, bread, lunchmeat, condiments, and restaurant food.

Eat the right fat: Adopt a Mediterranean style of eating which includes a moderate amount of healthy fat (olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish, avocado, flax) while limiting unhealthy fats (cheese, bacon, sausage, red meat, butter, fried foods, desserts.)

Eat fatty fish regularly: Eating 3.5 oz of fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout, herring, sardines, and mackerel) twice a week is associated with 30-40% reduced risk of death from cardiac events.

Don’t smoke: Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in our country. Smoking increases your risk of heart disease by damaging arteries, making your blood thicker, and it can increase plaque formation.

Limit alcohol: Moderate consumption may have protective benefits against cardiovascular disease, but high intake does not. Men should limit intake to one or two drinks per day and women should limit intake to one drink or less per day.