High Cholesterol Heart Healthy Diet and Nutrition

{SCA} If you want to eat a heart-healthy diet but are not sure what foods you should buy, check out this heart-healthy kitchen essentials guide. From fruits and vegetables to whole grain goodness, learn what foods to keep on hand.

By paying close attention to what you eat, you can reduce your chance of developing atherosclerosis, the blocked arteries that cause heart disease and stroke. If the artery-clogging process has already begun, you can slow the rate at which it progresses. With very careful lifestyle modifications, you can even stop or reverse the narrowing of arteries.

While this is very important for everyone at risk for heart disease, it is even more important if you have had a heart attack and/or procedure to restore blood flow to your heart or other areas of your body, such as angioplasty, bypass surgery or carotid surgery. Following prevention advice can protect against restenosis, or the re-narrowing of your arteries.
Feed Your Heart Well

Feeding your heart well is a powerful way to reduce or even eliminate some risk factors. Adopting a heart-healthy diet can help reduce total and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), lower blood pressure, lower blood sugars, and reduce body weight. While most dietary plans just tell you what you CAN’T eat (usually your favorite foods!), the most powerful nutrition strategy helps you focus on what you CAN eat. In fact, heart disease research has shown that adding heart-saving foods is just as important as cutting back on others.

Here are 5 nutrition strategies to lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease:

  • Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. These wonders of nature may be one of the most powerful strategies in fighting heart disease. The increase in dietary fiber helps lower bad LDL cholesterol.Choose fat calories wisely. Keep these goals in mind: Limit total fat grams; Eat a bare minimum of saturated fats and trans-fatty acids (for example, fats found in butter, salad dressing, sweets and desserts); When you use added fat, use fats high in monounsaturated fats (for example, fats found in olive and peanut oil). Another strategy is to use plant stanols or sterols as a dietary option for lowering bad LDL cholesterol.
  • Eat a variety — and just the right amount — of protein foods. Commonly eaten protein foods (meat, dairy products) are among the main culprits in increasing heart disease risk. Reduce this nutritional risk factor by balancing animal, fish and vegetable sources of protein. Substituting soy protein for animal protein has been reported to lower LDL cholesterol, which reduces your risk of heart disease. Higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that fish be included as part of a heart-healthy diet.
  • Limit cholesterol consumption. Dietary cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels, especially in high-risk people. Limiting dietary cholesterol has an added bonus: You’ll also cut out saturated fat, as cholesterol and saturated fat are usually found in the same foods. Get energy by eating complex carbohydrates (whole wheat pasta, brown or wild rice, whole-grain breads) and limit simple carbohydrates (regular soft drinks, sugar, sweets). If you have high cholesterol, these simple carbohydrates exacerbate the condition and may increase your risk for heart disease.
  • Feed your body regularly. Skipping meals often leads to overeating. For some, eating five to six mini-meals may help keep cravings in check, help control blood sugars and regulate metabolism. This approach may not be as effective for those who are tempted to overeat every time they are exposed to food. For these individuals, three balanced meals a day may be a better approach.