Some risks for developing atherosclerosis are beyond our control – like being male or gating older. But there are many risk factors we can control. What steps can you take? Avoid or quit smoking, manage weight and control blood pressure. Make physical activity part of your daily life to help keep weight normal and promote overall heart health. After age 20, have your total LDL and HDL cholesterol levels measured every five years.
Some years ago, many health experts advised people to emphasize polyunsaturated oils in their diets. You seldom will hear this advice today.
Replacing saturated fat with omega-6-rich polyunsaturated oils like corn oil may decrease total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, but it also lowers healthful HDL cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fatty acids in vegetable oils also oxidize easily and provide too much omega-6 fatty acid in relation to omega-3.
Earlier diet advice also emphasized minimizing dietary cholesterol – few egg yolks, no liver or organ meats, and no seafood (the amount of cholesterol in seafood was later found to have been overestimated). Lowering cholesterol intake does help some people, but for most, lower blood levels aren’t guaranteed, and lowering saturated fat intake is more effective.
Today, nutritionists recommend lowering total fat intake, lowering saturated fat, and keeping body weight normal. With in total fat limits, monounsaturated oils should be the fat source of choice. For people who respond to a reduced-cholesterol diet, lowering dietary cholesterol is a good idea. Eating fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains that contain fiber helps lower cholesterol levels too. These foods also have antioxidant nutrients and vitamins B such as folic acid that may also reduce the risk of heart failure.
The latest recommendations:
1. Choose foods low in saturated fat.
2. Choose foods low in total fat.
3. Choose foods high in starch and fiber.
4. Choose foods low in cholesterol.
5. Be more physically active.
6. Maintain a healthy weight, and lose weight if you are overweight.
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