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Fighting Back: Your Heart Will Thank You

There are things that you can do now to help you gain a better understanding of your risk factors and perhaps lower your chances of high cholesterol and heart disease. For starters, it's important that you eat right, get plenty of exercise, as recommended by your physician, and begin to understand your family health history. A heart-healthy diet may help reduce total cholesterol. In general, you want to get "good" cholesterol higher and "bad" cholesterol lower.

You can still enjoy a wide variety of foods by making healthful dietary choices and changes.

If elevated cholesterol is part of your family genetics, or you have other conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, you may need medication in addition to eating a heart-healthy diet. But whether you have normal cholesterol, high levels, or are currently taking a cholesterol-lowering drug, eating a healthy diet is important for everyone.

Good fats/bad fats
Fats can be good for you and your heart, when they're the right kind and consumed in limited amounts; but even good fat is packed with calories.

Those include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which decrease "bad" cholesterol, and omega-3 fatty acids, which lower triglycerides.

  • Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.
  • Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil.
  • Polyunsaturated fats include corn oil, safflower oil and soybean oil.

Saturated fats are the bad guys that may endanger your heart. They increase LDL or "bad" cholesterol more than anything else in your diet.

  • Saturated fats, found mostly in animal products, are hard at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Think butter, shortening, fat on and in meat and poultry skin. Whole milk or two-percent milk products, half-and-half and cream all have a lot of saturated fat.
  • Tropical oils—coconut, palm and palm kernel oils—also contain a lot of saturated fats. These oils are used in commercially baked crackers, cookies and non-dairy creamers.
  • Foods containing saturated fats often also contain high amounts of cholesterol, which is only found in animal products.

Trans fats are another culprit to watch out for.

  • Trans fats raise "bad" cholesterol.
  • Trans fats are found in foods made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils—stick margarine and some store-bought cookies and cakes, fast-food French fries, potato chips and other snacks.
  • Read your food labels before purchasing. If there are .5 grams or less of trans fats in an item, the company can claim 0 trans fats on the label, so check the ingredient list for hydrogenated oils.

© 2010 HealthyWomen All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (toll-free). On the Web at: www.HealthyWomen.org.

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