Tips For Preventing Heart Disease
Here are a few things you can do to lower your risk of developing heart disease:
- Watch your weight. Being overweight tends to make your LDL rise. It also puts added strain on your heart.
- Get active. Exercise can help control your weight and improve your blood cholesterol numbers.
- Eat right. Choose a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Nuts, seeds, and legumes are also heart-healthy foods. Opt for lean meats, skinless poultry, and fatty fish over red or processed meat. Dairy products should be low fat. Avoid trans fats altogether. Choose olive, canola, or safflower oils over margarine, lard, or solid shortening.
- Dont smoke. If you currently smoke, talk to your doctor about smoking cessation programs.
- Get an annual checkup, especially if you have a family history of heart disease. The sooner you discover you may be at risk, the sooner you can take action to help prevent heart disease.
Full Fat Or Reduced Fat Dairy
Although full fat dairy foods contain saturated fat, it appears this type of fat has a neutral relationship with heart health.
The Heart Foundation recommends unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese can be consumed by the general population but for people who need to lower their LDL cholesterol, reduced fat versions should be consumed instead.
Studies Reveal An Unhealthy Partnership
Researchers have known for a while that high blood cholesterol can lead to high blood pressure. In 2002, they separated participants into three groups according to their cholesterol levels . They then tested blood pressure under various conditions of rest and exercise.
The results, which were published in the Journal of Human Hypertension , showed that those with higher cholesterol levels had significantly higher blood pressure levels during exercise than those with lower cholesterol levels. The researchers concluded that even mildly increased cholesterol levels could influence blood pressure. They added that cholesterol seems to mess up how blood vessels contract and release, which can also affect the pressure needed to push blood through them.
A later study, published in the Journal of Hypertension , found similar results. Researchers analyzed data from 4,680 participants aged 40 to 59 years from 17 different areas in Japan, China, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They looked at blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diet over the previous 24 hours. The results showed that cholesterol was directly related to blood pressure for all participants.
Results showed the following:
The same researchers did a similar test on women with a follow-up of about 11 years, and found comparable results. Their study was published in .Healthy women with higher levels of cholesterol were more likely to develop hypertension down the road than those with lower levels of cholesterol.
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The Link Between High Cholesterol And Heart Disease
The higher your cholesterol, the higher your heart disease risk. High cholesterol is one of the multiple risk factors for heart disease. By getting your cholesterol under control, you can help reduce your risk of dying from heart disease. Effective treatment saves lives!
People at all risk levels should make lifestyle changes such as improved diet and increased exercise to help control their cholesterol. Depending on your risk level, you may also need medication. Regardless of your risk level the goal is to make the bad cholesterol go down and the good cholesterol go up. The lower you can get your LDL cholesterol, the better.
Talk to your doctor about your risk of developing heart disease, which treatment plan is right for you, how to set goals for your treatment, and how to evaluate the success of your treatment.
High Cholesterol And High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the force of the blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is too high. Both high blood pressure and high cholesterol damage the inner lining of the blood vessels, and both contribute to atherosclerosis and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. But having both high blood pressure and high cholesterol dramatically increases your risk of heart disease.
Around 60 percent of people with high blood pressure also have high cholesterol. The relationship between high blood pressure and high cholesterol is complicated, but it goes both ways. When excess cholesterol in the artery walls stiffens and narrows the arteries, the heart must work harder to get blood through them, which increases your blood pressure. High cholesterol also appears to trigger inflammation, which causes the release of hormones that lead the blood vessels to constrict, raising blood pressure.
High blood pressure causes damage to the arteries by making tears in the walls, where cholesterol can easily build up, increasing the odds of developing atherosclerosis.
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The Link Between Cholesterol And Heart Attack Risk
While high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart attack, theres plenty you can do to lower it.
Cholesterol gets a bad rap, but the truth is, we need it to function well. Cholesterol is an important building block for the cells of our body, says Bruce Andrus, MD, a member of the American College of Cardiologys Prevention Council and codirector of the Lipid Clinic at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
Myth: Eating Foods With A Lot Of Cholesterol Will Not Make My Cholesterol Levels Go Up
Fact: It can be complicated. We know that foods with a lot of cholesterol usually also have a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fats can make your cholesterol numbers higher, so its best to choose foods that are lower in saturated fats. Foods made from animals, including red meat, butter, and cheese, have a lot of saturated fats.
Instead, aim to eat foods with plenty of fiber, such as oatmeal and beans, and healthy unsaturated fats, such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts. Learn more about healthy diets and nutrition at CDCs nutrition, physical activity, and obesity website.
Talk with your health care provider about ways to manage your cholesterol. Learn more about medicines to lower cholesterol.
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Zeroing In On Key Factors For Heart Disease
There’s no doubt about it, inflammation is a key contributor to heart disease. A major study done at Harvard found that people with high levels of a marker called C-reactive protein had higher risks of heart disease than people with high cholesterol. Normal cholesterol levels were NOT protective to those with high CRP. The risks were greatest for those with high levels of both CRP and cholesterol.
Another predisposing factor to heart disease is insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, which leads to an imbalance in the blood sugar and high levels of insulin. This may affect as many as half of Americans over age 65. Many younger people also have this condition, which is sometimes called pre-diabetes.
Although modern medicine sometimes loses sight of the interconnectedness of all our bodily systems, blood sugar imbalances like these impact your cholesterol levels too. If you have any of these conditions, they will cause your good cholesterol to go down, while your triglycerides rise, which further increases inflammation and oxidative stress. All of these fluctuations contribute to blood thickening, clotting, and other malfunctions leading to cardiovascular disease.
Family History Of Cvd
If you have a family history of CVD, your risk of developing it is also increased.
You’re considered to have a family history of CVD if either:
- your father or brother were diagnosed with CVD before they were 55
- your mother or sister were diagnosed with CVD before they were 65
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have a family history of CVD. They may suggest checking your blood pressure and cholesterol level.
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Blood Pressure And Salt
A diet high in salt is linked to hypertension , which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Most of us consume more than 10 times the amount of salt we need to meet our sodium requirements .
Most of the sodium in our diet is not from added salt at the table, but from packaged and processed foods. Even sweet foods and those that dont taste salty can have much more sodium than youd expect!
A simple way to cut down on the amount of sodium in your diet is to reduce the amount of processed foods, limit fast food and use herbs and spices for flavour.
The Relationship Between High Cholesterol And High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure and high cholesterol both damage the inner lining of blood vessels, known as the endothelium.
Over time, endothelial damage contributes to the buildup of cholesterol plaques and inflammatory cells in the blood vessels throughout the body, known as atherosclerosis.
Endothelial damage also results in improper regulation of blood vessel dilation. The result is stiffened, narrowed arteries that do not respond the way they should.
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Myth: I Cant Do Anything To Change My Cholesterol Levels
Fact: You can do many things to improve your cholesterol levels and keep them in a healthy range!
- Get tested at least every 5 years .1,2 Learn more about cholesterol screenings.
- Make healthy food choices. Limit foods high in saturated fats. Choose foods naturally high in fiber and unsaturated fats. Learn more about healthy diets and nutrition at CDCs nutrition, physical activity, and obesity website.
- Be active every day. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Learn more about physical activity basics and tips.
- Dont smoke or use tobacco products. Smoking damages your blood vessels, speeds up the hardening of the arteries, and greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you dont smoke, dont start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Learn more about tobacco use and ways to quit at CDCs smoking and tobacco use website.
- Talk with your health care provider about ways to manage your cholesterol if any medicines are given to you to manage your cholesterol, take them as they are prescribed. Learn more about medicines to lower cholesterol.
- Know your family history. If your parents or other immediate family members have high cholesterol, you probably should be tested more often. You could have a condition called familial hypercholesterolemia .
Dietary Fats And Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is a fat crucial to many metabolic functions and is an essential part of all the bodys cell membranes. It is made by the body from the food we eat and is produced in the liver.
Blood lipids that contain cholesterol include low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein . LDL cholesterol can lead to plaque forming in the arteries while HDL cholesterol helps to remove cholesterol from the body and makes it harder for plaque to form in the arteries.
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Cholesterol And Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease
Atherosclerosis is a type of heart disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries, which may result from high cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and other fats found in the blood. The plaque left behind by LDL bad cholesterol hardens over time and narrows your arteries, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs.
Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease can affect any artery in the body, including those in your heart, brain, and extremities. Other risk factors for atherosclerosis include diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, stress, and excessive alcohol consumption.
Depending on where the buildup and blockage occurs, atherosclerosis can cause ischemic heart disease, a term given to heart problems caused by narrowed arteries.
What Should My Cholesterol Levels Be
Blood cholesterol is measured in units called millimoles per litre of blood, often shortened to mmol/L.
As a general guide, total cholesterol levels should be:
- 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk
As a general guide, LDL levels should be:
- 3mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 2mmol/L or less for those at high risk
An ideal level of HDL is above 1mmol/L. A lower level of HDL can increase your risk of heart disease.
Your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL may also be calculated. This is your total cholesterol level divided by your HDL level. Generally, this ratio should be below four, as a higher ratio increases your risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is only one risk factor. The level at which specific treatment is required will depend on whether other risk factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure, are also present.
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How Did The Researchers Interpret The Results
The researchers concluded that, High LDL-C is inversely associated with mortality in most people over 60 years. They said their finding contradicts the cholesterol hypothesis: that cholesterol, particularly LDL, causes fatty build-up in the arteries.
They consider that as they found older adults with high LDL live just as long as those with low LDL, this provides the rationale for a re-evaluation of guidelines recommending pharmacological reduction of LDL-C in the elderly.
What Constitutes A High Cholesterol Level
Doctors use several numbers when determining the status of your cholesterol. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, these are the current guidelines:
|less than 200 milligrams per deciliter
Low-density lipoprotein , or bad cholesterol the type of cholesterol that builds up in arteries:
High-density liproprotein , or good cholesterol the type that helps remove cholesterol from arteries:
|40 mg/dL or lower
As to what causes high cholesterol, a number of factors may be involved. Diet, weight, and physical activity can affect cholesterol levels, but so can genes, age, and gender.
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Doubt Cast On Wisdom Of Targeting Bad Cholesterol To Curb Heart Disease Risk
Setting targets for bad cholesterol levels to ward off heart disease and death in those at risk might seem intuitive, but decades of research have failed to show any consistent benefit for this approach, reveals an analysis of the available data, published online in BMJ Evidence Based Medicine.
If anything, it is failing to identify many of those at high risk while most likely including those at low risk, who dont need treatment, say the researchers, who call into question the validity of this strategy.
Cholesterol-lowering drugs are now prescribed to millions of people around the world in line with clinical guidelines.
Those with poor cardiovascular health those with LDL cholesterol levels of 190 mg/dl or higher adults with diabetes and those whose estimated risk is 7.5% or more over the next 10 years, based on various contributory factors, such as age and family history, are all considered to be at moderate to high risk of future cardiovascular disease.
But although lowering LDL cholesterol is an established part of preventive treatment, and backed up by a substantial body of evidence, the approach has never been properly validated, say the researchers.
They therefore systematically reviewed all published clinical trials comparing treatment with one of three types of cholesterol lowering drugs with usual care or dummy drugs for a period of at least a year in at-risk patients.
This level of inconsistency was evident for all three types of drugs.
Why Cholesterol May Not Be The Cause Of Heart Disease
We have all been led to believe that cholesterol is bad and that lowering it is good. Because of extensive pharmaceutical marketing to both doctors and patients we think that using statin drugs is proven to work to lower the risk of heart attacks and death.
But on what scientific evidence is this based? What does that evidence really show?
Roger Williams once said something that is very applicable to how we commonly view the benefits of statins: “There are liars, damn liars, and statisticians.”
We see prominent ads on television and in medical journals things like 36 percent reduction in risk of having a heart attack. But we don’t look at the fine print. What does that REALLY mean and how does it affect decisions about who should really be using these drugs? Before I explain that, here are some thought-provoking findings to ponder.
So for whom do the statin drugs work anyway? They work for people who have already had heart attacks to prevent more heart attacks or death. And they work slightly for middle-aged men who have many risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes.
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Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk With Healthy Eating
Eating a variety of foods is beneficial to our health and can help reduce our risk of disease . Try to eat a wide variety of foods from each of the 5 food groups, in the amounts recommended. Not only does this help you maintain a healthy and interesting diet, but it provides essential nutrients to the body.
The Heart Foundation recommends:
- Plenty of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains.
- A variety of healthy protein sources , legumes , nuts and seeds. Smaller amounts of eggs and lean poultry can also be included in a heart healthy diet. If choosing red meat, make sure it is lean and limit to one to 3 times a week.
- Unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese. Those with high blood cholesterol should choose reduced fat varieties.
- Healthy fat choices nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oils for cooking.
- Herbs and spices to flavour foods, instead of adding salt.
Also, be mindful on how much you are eating and whether you are filling up on unhealthy foods. Portion sizes have increased over time and many of us are eating more than we need which can lead to obesity and increase our risk of cardiovascular disease.
Ideally, a healthy plate would include servings of ¼ protein, ¼ carbohydrates and ½ vegetables.