Low Fat? Low Salt? Low Carb?
Confused about what to eat or not eat to maintain a healthy heart? The key to heart-healthy eating is reducing your risk factors - specifically high blood pressure, excess weight and high cholesterol.
If you have diabetes, you'll also need to control your blood glucose levels. People with type 2 diabetes have a two-to-four-times greater risk of heart disease than people without diabetes. High blood glucose levels can damage arteries, reducing their elasticity and making it easier for plaque to collect.
Keep an Eye on Your "Numbers"
Your personal risk factors will determine what you should eat to keep your heart healthy. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend reducing your salt intake. If you need to lose weight, you'll need to reduce calories. And if your cholesterol level is high, reducing fat intake is important.
Your doctor may recommend a group of blood tests, called a lipid profile to assess your cholesterol levels. A lipid profile measures several different types of "lipoproteins" in the bloodstream, including low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is sometimes called "bad" cholesterol because it can clog the blood vessel walls. HDL is referred to as "good" cholesterol because it helps clear cholesterol out of the blood vessels.
Your doctor may recommend specific cholesterol goals for you. The following guidelines are considered "desirable" for the general population:
- Total cholesterol - Less than 200
- HDL cholesterol - Higher than 60
- LDL cholesterol - Less than 160 (if high risk, less than 100)
Make Healthier Food Choices
Eating a heart-healthy diet doesn't have to mean giving up all the foods you love. Even simple changes to your diet can make a big difference. Here are some guidelines:
- Choose leaner cuts of meat. Poultry, fish, seafood, beef sirloin tips, pork tenderloin and leg of lamb are good options.
- Pick the right fats. Monounsaturated fats, such as olive or canola oil, are better choices than saturated or trans fats, which are found in butter and many baked goods.
- Reduce fat intake to less than 1/3 of total calories each day.
- Use vegetable oil sprays to keep foods from sticking to the pan.
- Bake, broil, grill, boil, steam, poach or microwave food, instead of frying.
- Switch to fat-free dairy products.
- Eat two servings of fish or shellfish weekly (grilled or baked).
- Eat more foods from plants, including oats, beans, fruit, whole grains and vegetables).
The Cardiovascular Services department at MidMichigan Medical Center- Midland has created a list of recommended reading for heart-healthy living.
Of course, regular exercise is an important part of any diet plan, and even moderate daily exercise, such as 30 minutes of walking, can help lower blood pressure and reduce weight. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
MidMichigan Can Help
MidMichigan offers nutrition counseling and classes to help you lose weight, cook healthier meals and increase fitness. The Fitness Center at the Campus Ridge Building on the campus of MidMichigan Medical Center - Midland and MidMichigan Medical Center - Gratiot, offers members a personal training programs, including physical fitness assessment, personalized exercise program and one-on-one guidance in setting and reaching fitness goals. MidMichigan adheres to specific safety and exercise guidelines including those established by the American Heart Association. Exercise physiologists or registered nurses are available at all times to offer assistance.