I was just casually scrolling my Facebook feed when I saw it again. Another friend had a heart attack. Thank God he is fine, but it amazes me how often I see those post roll past. I’m only 40. My friends are only in their 40s and yet there it is, “I’m fine now, but just letting you know, I had a heart attack”.
Now I want to start by saying that I’m not blaming anyone and there is no judgement here. I am in no shape, literally or figuratively to judge anyone, but the sad thing is that most of the time these attacks can be prevented. They are simply the result of bad habits.
People think they only happen to old men. Men who have lived their whole lives eating steak and butter and cheese. The truth is 1/3 of women’s deaths are due to heart disease, and 48% of women have cholesterol levels of at least 200mg/dl, yet we don’t talk about this. Our women’s magazines are all about “How to lose 20 lbs in 20 days” or “How to lose 4 dress sizes by summer”. Our culture is more obsessed with being skinny than being healthy. We are more obsessed with looking good than actually living.
Now that I have my son I’m not concerned as much about how I look in my jeans as I am in making sure that I’m alive to see him graduate from high school. I want to watch him walk down the isle. I want to meet his children and watch them grow. My father died a month after my son’s second birthday. He had diabetes. He had heart disease. He had bad habits that grew into horrible diseases. I have made the decision to change my life
. My father had a million wonderful attributes that I want to pass down to my son, but diabetes and heart disease aren’t on that list.
My friends list is sadly starting to wane. Not because we outgrew each other or drama blocking… but because diseases are taking them one by one. I don’t want to be the next on the list.
Well, here’s a new list for you:
1. Eat heart-healthy foods
- Choose healthier fats. Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and dairy products, raise your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol. As a rule, you should get less than 7 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat. Choose leaner cuts of meat, low-fat dairy and monounsaturated fats — found in olive and canola oils — for healthier options.
- Eliminate trans fats. Trans fats affect cholesterol levels by increasing the “bad” cholesterol and lowering the “good” cholesterol. This bad combination increases the risk of heart attacks. Trans fats can be found in fried foods and many commercial products, such as cookies, crackers and snack cakes. But don’t rely on packages that are labeled “trans fat-free.” In the United States, if a food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat in a serving, it can be labeled “trans fat-free.”Even small amounts of trans fat can add up if you eat foods that contain small amounts of trans fat. Read the ingredient list, and avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect LDL cholesterol. They have other heart benefits, such as helping to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol, reducing your triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood, and reducing blood pressure. Some types of fish — such as salmon, mackerel and herring — are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, almonds and ground flaxseeds.
- Increase soluble fiber. There are two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble. Both have heart-health benefits, but soluble fiber also helps lower your LDL levels. You can add soluble fiber to your diet by eating oats and oat bran, fruits, beans, lentils, and vegetables.
- Add whey protein. Whey protein is one of two proteins in dairy products — the other is casein. Whey protein may account for many of the health benefits attributed to dairy. Studies have shown that whey protein given as a supplement lowers both LDL and total cholesterol.You can find whey protein powders in health food stores and some grocery stores. Follow the package directions for how to use them.
2. Exercise on most days of the week and increase your physical activity
Adding physical activity, even in 10-minute intervals several times a day, can help you begin to lose weight. Just be sure that you can keep up the changes you decide to make. Consider:
- Taking a brisk daily walk during your lunch hour
- Riding your bike to work
- Swimming laps
- Playing a favorite sport
To stay motivated, find an exercise buddy or join an exercise group. And remember, any activity is helpful. Even taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing a few situps while watching television can make a difference.
3. Quit smoking
Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate decrease. Within one year, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker. Within 15 years, your risk of heart disease is similar to someone who never smoked
4. Lose weight
Start by evaluating your eating habits and daily routine. Consider your challenges to weight loss and ways to overcome them.
And look for ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine, such as using the stairs instead of taking the elevator or parking farther from your office.
5. Drink alcohol only in moderation
Moderate use of alcohol has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol — but the benefits aren’t strong enough to recommend alcohol for anyone who doesn’t already drink. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.
Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough …
Sometimes healthy lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower cholesterol levels. Make sure the changes you make are ones you can continue to do, and don’t be disappointed if you don’t see results immediately. If your doctor recommends medication to help lower your cholesterol, take it as prescribed, but continue your lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can help you keep your medication dose low