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February Is Heart Month

5 months ago

4525  0
Posted on Feb 19, 2024, 5 p.m.

February is heart month and for more reasons than Valentine's Day. With those resolutions we made weeks behind us, some of us may be reverting to less healthy choices. Heart Month is an opportunity to remind ourselves that making more healthful choices like following a healthy diet is not just about our waistlines, it is also important for our hearts. 

What we put into our body affects us in many ways, such as our cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These are fats that are made in your body and found in the food you eat, while our body needs both to perform daily functions, high levels of either can increase your risk for heart problems such as experiencing a heart attack or stroke. You may think that triglyceride and cholesterol are the same, however, they are not, and too much of either can increase your risk for health problems. 

High levels of triglyceride can lead to many serious health conditions like stroke, heart failure, arteriosclerosis, heart attack, diabetes, pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, kidney failure, liver disease, kidney disease, thyroid conditions, and metabolic syndrome. A recent study even found that high levels of triglycerides were associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality. 

High levels of cholesterol can build up in the arteries (plaque), restricting blood flow and hardening the heart arteries (atherosclerosis). Studies have found that high levels of cholesterol are associated with a higher risk of cardiac-related death. High levels of cholesterol can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, atherosclerosis, peripheral arterial disease, transient ischemic attack, and an increased risk of coronary artery disease.

You can take some healthful steps to make lifestyle changes to improve your blood cholesterol levels and lower your levels of triglycerides such as being less sedentary, exercising regularly, limiting/avoiding trans fats, lowering intake of saturated fats, limiting intake of high cholesterol foods, maintaining a healthy body weight (BMI), and eating more plant-based foods. 

There is no need to completely deprive yourself of everything indulgent, you can still enjoy the foods that you love, but do it in moderation and be mindful of the portion size. Ideally, you should be placing more priority on following a heart-friendly diet, small changes can make a significant impact on reducing your risk of developing heart disease. 

According to Harvard Health oats, barley, and other whole grains provide ample amounts of fiber which can help to lower the risk of heart disease. Beans are also especially rich in soluble fiber, aiding in digestion and helping you to feel full for longer after a meal. Eggplant and okra are also low-calorie options that are rich in fiber. Eating fatty fish 2-3 times a week to replace meat boosts omega-3 levels which helps to reduce the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream. Fruits that are rich in pectin such as apples, grapes, strawberries, and citrus fruits are packed full of this soluble fiber which helps to lower levels of LDL cholesterol. 

Fatty fish like mackerel, herring, sardines, and salmon are loaded with triglyceride-lowering omega-3 fats that also help to reduce inflammation while supporting both brain and gut health. Avocado is a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids that can help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease and certain factors for metabolic syndrome by replacing saturated fats, trans fats, and carbohydrates in the diet with avocado. Quinoa is high in protein and mineral contents with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and reduced triglyceride levels. Whole grains like buckwheat, barley, and millet have been shown to reduce levels of triglycerides by up to 74%. Garlic has also been shown to lower triglyceride levels among other metabolic markers. Finally, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts have been shown to help significantly reduce triglyceride levels and improve markers of metabolic health. 

The bottom line is that high triglyceride levels increase your risk for metabolic syndrome, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for stroke, heart attack, and coronary heart disease. Diet plays a major role in the levels of both of these in your body, and certain foods may help to lower your blood levels. 

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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