I work with a lot of folks who are trying to lower their cholesterol. As you probably know, high cholesterol is a serious risk factor for heart disease and heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the US. For most, that is reason enough to take heart health seriously.
Your chance of developing coronary heart disease (the most common form) can be reduced by more than half by taking specific lifestyle steps to prevent and control the factors that put you at the greatest risk.
The good news is that diet and exercise can help a whole lot — as well as following five other easy lifestyle changes. These changes, called “Life’s Simple Seven” by the American Heart Association are outlined below.
1 – Do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of intense exercise, each week
2 – Maintain a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25
3 – Be a non-smoker for at least a year
4 – Meet 4 out of the following 5 key components for a healthy diet:
1. Consume at least 4 1/2 cups of fruits and veggies/day
2. Consume at least two 3 1/2 oz. servings of fish/week, preferably oily fish
3. Consume at least three 1 oz servings of fiber rich whole grains/day
4. Consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium/day
5. Drink less than 36 oz of sweetened drinks/day
5 – Keep total cholesterol below 200
6 – Maintain blood pressure below 120/80
7 – Keep fasting blood sugar below 100
Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have said easy steps; it’s not so easy and I do recognize that. In fact, out of 17, 820 adults in a nationwide study, only two met all the criteria. Yes, only two people.
You don’t have to try to meet all of these at once, maybe work down the list and get busy on a few at a time. Small changes make a big difference; for every additional criteria you meet, you can reduce your chance of dying from heart disease by 15% in the next four years!
I know diet and exercise is the hardest for most people, so I recommend working on those guidelines first. Get help where you need it. Consult a Registered Dietitian or hire a trainer to get moving. Set mini goals to tackle the list and set new goals every 4, 8, and 12 months.
If you do have cardiovascular disease, adopting these measures allows you to take control of your health each and every day.
Where can your lifestyle and diet use a lift?
Danielle Omar, MS, RD