Some of the most important factors contributing to the development of heart disease are lifestyle decisions such as lack of exercise and a diet high in sugar. Experts are beginning to understand this further by analyzing data that shows how a diet high in basic sugar and carbohydrates contributes significantly to the development of obesity, diabetes mellitus, and elevated cholesterol. While taking medications for these issues can help, the most significant improvements can be seen through increasing exercise and weight loss, as well as modification of your diet.
You can modify your risk for heart disease by changing your lifestyle through the introduction of exercise into your life and by consuming a healthier diet.
You can get started by doing the following:
- Decrease basic sugar consumption: You can start by giving up sugar in coffee, tea or soft drinks as well as carbohydrates including bread and rice.
- Eat more oats: A bowl of oatmeal or oat-based cereal can provide 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol in the digestive system and helps to remove it from the body. Try adding a banana or a few strawberries to get an extra half gram of fiber in the meal.
- Try a new grain like barley and other whole grains: Similar to oats, barley and other whole grains deliver soluble fiber, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Know your beans: Rich in soluble fiber and very filling, beans are a good choice for people trying to avoid snacking or those trying to lose weight.
- Use low calorie vegetables like eggplant and okra: Both vegetables are high in soluble fiber and are low in calories.
- Snack on nuts: Eating almonds, peanuts, walnuts and other nuts in small quantities is good for your heart. Eating ~50g of nuts each day can reduce LDL by up to 5%.
- Choose vegetable oils: Swap out butter and shortening for vegetable oils such as canola or sunflower to help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), using them minimally and avoid deep frying.
- Try fruits like apples, grapes, strawberries and citrus fruits: All of these fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that helps to lower LDL.
- Look for foods fortified with sterols and stanols: Lots of manufacturers are adding them to foods such as granola bars, orange juice and chocolate, or you can get them as supplements. Consuming 2 grams of sterols or stanols a day can reduce LDL cholesterol by about 10%.
- Make it a point to eat oily/fatty fish: Eating oily fish twice a week reduces the amount of meat you eat, indirectly reducing LDL levels; fish delivers LDL-lowering omega-3 fats and protects your heart.
Before engaging in any drastic changes to your lifestyle it is always recommended to speak to your physician about what can work best for you.