Healthy Diet


Healthy Diet Article

Healthy Diet

Diet For A Healthier Heart


Discounting the genetic factor, heart disease is the result of an unhealthy lifestyle—a poor diet, inactivity, and smoking—combined characteristics that some experts describe as unprecedented in human evolution. Diet is only one piece of the puzzle, but it is a big piece and we can control it.

Diet and heart disease: too much bad stuff, not enough good stuff

Research tells us that all of the following contribute to heart disease or are risk factors for heart disease:

- Eating way more calories than we need, leading to obesity

- Eating large amounts of saturated and transfats and cholesterol

- Eating sodium-loaded foods that raise blood pressure

- Eating too little of the foods with nutrients that protect the heart

Starting a heart-healthy diet: play the numbers

If you want to start a heart-healthy diet, begin by setting goals that are easy for you and your doctor to observe and measure. It's a numbers game that anyone can play. Let it motivate you. Here are the numbers you want to record and watch from the day you start your diet until you reach your first goal.

- You want these numbers to go down: weight, total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), triglycerides, blood pressure.

- You want this number to go up: HDL (good cholesterol)

Any medical website, or your doctor, can give you the latest scales for rating your numbers—from high risk to low risk.

The heart of the matter: take it or or leave it

Adopting and adapting to a heart-healthy diet means knowing what to take into your body and what to leave alone. Whether you are eating at home or eating out, use some of the most current and important guidelines.

- For a heart-healthy diet, take these: fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fish and lean meats. Together, these foods provide a diet that is low in fat and high in soluble fiber. This can translate into lower LDL and lower insulin levels, which cut the risk not only for heart disease but also for diabetes.

- For a heart-healthy diet, leave these alone: red meat, cheese. ice cream, butter, sweets and other items (breads, cereals) that are high in sugar and fats and low in fiber and nutrients. If you cannot leave them alone, cut back on them gradually until you eat them only occasionally or not at all.

Shopping for a heart-healthy diet: play the numbers again

You cannot win the first numbers game for a heart-healthy diet—lowering weight and cholesterol, raising HDL—without playing a second numbers game when you shop. Watch out for any kind of packaged, canned, or bottled items. The more you read the numbers on the labels, the more you will see the vast range in amounts of good stuff (fiber, vitamins, minerals) and bad stuff (sugar, fat/transfat, sodium). Remember that many desserts are not just bad for your waistline. They make war on your heart with loads of trans fats and provide nothing but empty calories at prices most Americans cannot afford. You don't buy empty boxes in a department store. Why buy empty food?

Ready to get started on a heart-healthy diet?

Calculate your body mass index (the National Institutes of Health website provides a calculator), visit your doctor, record the numbers from your blood work, and you are ready to play. Hedge your bets and play for keeps.