Adopting a heart-healthy diet and getting regular exercise are the most important steps you can take to prevent or control cholesterol problems and heart disease. Here are some general tips:
- Get physical. Aim to get a minimum of 30 minutes of (moderate-intensity) activity at least five times a week. Activities might include a brisk walk, jogging, riding a bike, swimming—even gardening or heavy housework. If you don’t have a 30-minute block of time free, even 10-minute bursts of activity three times throughout the day is helpful. Consider wearing a device that keeps track of the number of steps you take each day so that you know your starting point.
- Take time to read and understand food labels, and pay special attention to the amount of saturated fats, trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils) and sugar content.
- Try to avoid full-fat dairy products, processed foods, and foods high in salt (sodium) and preservatives.
- Swap out butter or margarine for healthier fats such as olive oil, avocados and a handful of almonds (remember, fat that becomes solid on the counter should probably be avoided). Nuts, fish, certain oils (olive, canola and peanut oils) and other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are good choices.
- Consider keeping a food diary so you can see what you are eating and what dietary habits you might need to change.
- Ask about seeing a dietitian or nutritionist who can help you meal plan and provide dietary strategies for lowering LDL or triglycerides, and improving your sugar levels and boosting your energy.
- As with any goal, start small. Make sure you are setting yourself up for success.
- Limit alcohol. Too much alcohol can raise triglyceride levels and blood pressure.