A Heart-to-Heart on Cardiovascular Disease
Make simple changes to help you beat the odds against heart disease, a leading cause of death. Caring for your heart means ensuring that you have healthy cholesterol levels, managing blood pressure, reducing stress and managing your weight.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and other cells and found in certain foods, such as food from animals, like dairy products, eggs, and meat. Although it is by no means the only major risk factor, elevated serum (blood) cholesterol is clearly associated with a high risk of heart disease.
Did you know that cholesterol is important to the proper functioning of your body? Cell walls need cholesterol to produce certain hormones, vitamin D and bile acids which help digest fat. Unfortunately, too much cholesterol can cause problems such as heart disease.
What do the Numbers Mean?
Types of Cholesterol:
- LDL (Low-density lipoproteins) referred to as “bad” cholesterol because it can cause plaque buildup on artery walls and increase risk of heart disease.
- HDL (High-density lipoproteins) also known as “good” cholesterol because it helps to rid the body of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Unlike LDL, the higher your HDL cholesterol the better; the lower your HDL levels the risk for heart disease increases.
- Triglycerides (TGs) are a group of fatty compounds that circulate in the bloodstream and are stored in the fat tissue. Individuals who have elevated blood levels of TGs (known as hypertriglyceridemia) appear to be at increased risk of developing heart disease. People with diabetes often have elevated TG levels. Successfully controlling diabetes will, in some cases, lead to normalization of TG levels.
What are the ideal numbers for Cholesterol?
The relative amount of HDL to LDL is more important than total cholesterol. For example, it is possible for someone with very high HDL to be at relatively low risk for heart disease even with total cholesterol above 200. Evaluation of changes in cholesterol requires consultation with a healthcare professional and should include measurement of total serum cholesterol, as well as HDL and LDL cholesterol.
- Desirable: less than 200 mg/dL
- Borderline high: 200 – 239 mg/dL
- High: 240 mg/dL or higher
- Optimal: less than 100 mg/dL
- High: 160-189 mg/dL
- Very high: 190 mg/dL and above
- Desirable: 40 – 60 mg/dL
- Low: less than 40 mg/dL
- Normal: less than 150 mg/dL
- Borderline High: 150-199 mg/dL
- High: 200-499 mg/dL
- Very High: 500 mg/dL and above
Risk Factors for developing Heart Disease
- Men > 45 y/o
- Women > 55 y/o
- Family history of Heart Disease or Diabetes
- Cigarette smoking
- High blood pressure
- Blood pressure > 140/90 mmHg
- On medication to lower blood pressure
- Low HDL cholesterol (HDL < 40 mg/dL)
- Keep total fat to no more than 25-35% of total daily calories
- Saturated fat: less than 7% of total daily calories
- Dietary cholesterol: less than 200 mg per day
- Exercise: Regular physical activity can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol levels. Exercise regularly – an average of 30 minutes several times a week.
How to use Wellness Factor Tags to find Heart Healthy Foods in our stores:
Shopping tip: Heart Healthy Attributes to look for on our Wellness Factor Tags at shelf
- Low Sodium: Contains <140mg per serving and per RACC*; Meals/Main dishes: Contains<140mg per 100 grams
- Low Saturated Fat: Contains <1g Saturated Fat per serving, 3g or less total fat per serving and <15% calories from saturated fat; Meals/Main dishes: <1g saturated fat per 100g product and <10% calories from saturated fat.
- Whole grains: Contains foods with first ingredient listed as whole grain or if water is first, whole grain is second ingredient
Source of Fiber:
- Good Source: Contains between 10-19% Daily Value per serving fiber; Contains >2.5g Fiber per serving and per RACC* and <4.9g per serving and per RACC and 3g or less of total fat per serving.
- Excellent Source: Contains >20% Daily Value per serving fiber; and 3g or less of total fat per serving.
- Low Cholesterol: < 20mg cholesterol per RACC and per RACC is a small serving size AND < 2g saturated fat per serving and per RACC; Meal Products / Main Dishes: < 20mg per 100g and < 2g saturated fat per 100g.
Source of Calcium:
- Good Source: Contains >100mg Calcium per serving or per RACC and <190mg per serving or per RACC*
- Excellent Source: Contains >20% Daily Value of Calcium per serving or per RACC*; contains >200mg Calcium per serving or per RACC*
Source of Vitamin A:
- Excellent Source: > 20% DV of Vitamin A per serving and per RACC*
- Good Source: Contains 10 - 19% DV of Vitamin A per serving and per RACC*
Source of Vitamin C:
- Excellent Source: > 20% DV of Vitamin C per serving and per RACC*
- Good Source: Contains 10 - 19% DV of Vitamin C per serving and per RACC*
- Low Fat: Contains < 3g Fat per serving and per RACC; Meals/Main Dishes: Contains < 3g Fat per 100g and not more than 30% calories from fat
* (RACC) Reference Amount Customarily Consumed. Source: FDA
Tips to Eating Right
|Add in some Olive Oil||Monounsaturated fats, such as the fats in olive oil, lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, especially when the olive oil replaces saturated fats, such as many fats from meat and dairy, in the diet.|
|Avoid added sugars||Eating sugar has been reported to reduce HDL (“good”) cholesterol and to increase other heart disease risk factors.|
|Choose canola oil and flaxseed||People who eat diets high in alpha-linolenic acid—found in canola oil and flaxseed products—have high blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which may protect against heart attacks.|
|Eat fish||Eating fish has been reported to increase HDL “good” cholesterol and is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease in most but not all studies.|
|Get good omega-6 fatty acids||Many vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds contain omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids that improve the ratio between “bad” and “good” cholesterol. (When choosing oils, avoid partially-hydrogenated oils, which increase heart disease risk|
|Get your garlic||Eating garlic has helped to lower cholesterol in some, but not all, research. It is also known to act as a blood thinner and may reduce other heart disease risk factors.|
|Go nuts||Research consistently shows that people who frequently eat nuts have a reduced risk of heart disease, possibly because eating nuts lowers cholesterol.|
|Reduce risk with fiber||Add whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables to your meals to reduce heart disease risk.|
|Choose coffee carefully||Drinking boiled or French press coffee increases cholesterol levels, but drinking paper-filtered coffee does not, as paper coffee filters keep the offending chemicals from entering the cup.|
|Eat smaller, eat often||When people eat a number of small meals, studies have shown that serum cholesterol levels fall compared with the effect of eating the same food in three big meals.|
|Replace meat with soy||Soy protein has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. And if soy replaces animal protein, the cholesterol-lowering effect is even more pronounced|
|Try a vegetarian diet||Vegetarians have lower cholesterol than meat eaters, in part because they avoid animal fat. Vegans (people who eat no meat, dairy, or eggs) have the lowest cholesterol levels.|
|Cut the bad fats||Foods that contain saturated fat, hydrogenated fat, and cholesterol can raise cholesterol.|
|Choose tub margarine over stick margarine||Stick margarine contains high levels of trans fatty acids and are linked to high cholesterol. Most tub margarines are made with healthy unsaturated fats and some even contain plant sterols which have been shown to lower cholesterol.|
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is elevated pressure of the blood in the arteries.
- The heart pumps blood with excessive force.
- The body's smaller blood vessels (known as the arterioles) narrow, so that blood flow exerts more pressure against the vessels' walls.
What do the numbers mean?
Two numbers are used to describe blood pressure: the systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure.
- Systolic Blood Pressure: the force that blood exerts on the artery walls as the heart contracts to pump out the blood.
- Greater risk factor for heart, kidney, and circulatory complications and for death, particularly in middle-aged and elderly adults.
- Diastolic Blood Pressure: the force as the heart relaxes to allow the blood to flow into the heart.
- Strong predictor of heart attack and stroke in young adults.
What are the ideal numbers?
|Blood Pressure Category||Ranges for Most Adults (systolic/diastolic)|
|Optimal Blood Pressure||Below 120 mm Hg/ 80 mm Hg|
120 to 139 / 80 to 89 mm Hg
NOTE: People with diabetes should strive for 130/80 or less.
|Stage 1 Hypertension||140 to 159 / 90 to 99 mm Hg|
|Stage 2 Hypertension||>160 / 100 mm Hg|
|Note: These numbers are not meant to diagnose a condition. Speak to your doctor about your personal blood pressure numbers.|
- Engage in at least moderate exercise.
- Maintain normal weight.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Reduce salt intake
- The DASH diet
- Important studies have reported that such healthy lifestyle change can lower blood pressure as well as improve other risk factors for heart disease and poor health, including in people on anti-hypertensive medications.
- Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. In fact, your blood pressure rises as your body weight increases.
- Also, being overweight or obese increases your chances of developing high blood cholesterol and diabetes.
- BMI is a measure of your weight relative to your height. It gives an approximation of total body fat.
Dash Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)—diet was developed for a US government–sponsored, controlled study that investigated the effect of a healthy diet on blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is anything over 120/80 mmHg. Focus on what you can eat:
- 6 to 8 servings of grains per day (choose whole grains when you can)
- 4 to 5 servings of fruits and 4 to 5 servings of vegetables per day
- 2 to 3 servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy per day
- 6 ounces of meat, poultry, or fish per day
- Limit your sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day
Best bets: Limit animal fats, and eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and non-or low-fat dairy products. Talk to a registered dietitian for more information about following this diet.