You know I had a rather sizable boner last week for Go Red Month, but just because February is nearly half over doesn’t mean it’s time to forget about heart-healthy living. In conjunction with Fitbook, today I am joining a blogger initiative to blog my heart out — and remind you to keep thinking of your heart all month long!
I think cholesterol is one of those things a lot of young women don’t necessarily understand or find of particular importance. They may think high cholesterol only happens in older people, in men, in people who eat burgers all the time, in people who are overweight. WRONG. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.
Here are some facts:
- Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is made in the liver and found in animal products.
- We do need cholesterol for bodily functions, but when we have too much (usually from our diets), it causes plaque to build up in our arteries.
- Boring science shit: cholesterol travels on protein molecules. Cholesterol + protein = lipoproteins.
- There are two types of lipoproteins: LDL and HDL. LDL is bad cholesterol; it can lead to heart disease. HDL is good cholesterol (it essentially gets rid of the bad stuff). I remember this because LDL is a LOSER and needs to be LOW and HDL is a HOTTIE and needs to be HIGH! (And now you know how I passed the ACE Fitness exam. “Mean Girls” mnemonics.)
- Your cholesterol numbers (which you need to – NEED TO – have tested in a lab) can be influenced by a number of things: diet, weight, age, activity level, and genes.
By the way — if your diet sucks, or everyone in your family has high cholesterol, you also will very likely have high cholesterol, even if you are at a “healthy weight.”
OK, so let’s say you haven’t had your cholesterol levels checked yet but you are next week (like me). Fine. But let’s just err on the side of “lowering LDL and raising HDL” and adopt some healthy habits. Here’s how we do it…
- You know how Cheerios are always saying they are heart-healthy? It’s because of the soluble fiber. Oats and fruits have it too. Soluble fiber traps cholesterol in your digestive tract so it doesn’t get into your blood stream. So just another reason I’m telling you to EAT MORE OATMEAL!
- Peace out, saturated fat! Saturated fat is not good for you. It’s not essential. And you know what? It’s not found in plants. So eat more plants. Eat less bacon. Hard, I know, because bacon is delicious, but things like bacon, fatty cuts of red meat, and full-fat cheese have way too much saturated fat to be the main staple of a healthy diet. (Hear me on the full-fat cheese point, carb-and-cheese vegetarians!)
- Don’t give up eggs. That eggs will raise your cholesterol is a myth. Eggs are boss, so keep on eating them!
- Think about the positive – the HDL. Can’t lower the L? Then raise the H! Do it with OMG! fatty acids (Trader Joe’s salmon burgers, $5 for five burgers, frozen section…I think we’re done here) and almonds and walnuts.
- Get your body in motion! I imagine arteries are like a river with water flowing through. If the river is filled with rocks and mud, it’s much harder for that water to flow. But if the water starts gushing, it can loosen up some of the rocks and mud and carry them away. That’s what happens when you exercise – that blood pumping helps keep deposits from sticking around.
- Here’s the other sweet thing about exercise: it not only lowers LDL, but it also raises HDL. That, my friends, is the free gift with purchase. But the HDL increase is dependent not on intensity or frequency, but on duration. OK so you wouldn’t only spend $18 if you got the free gift at Clinique with a $22 purchase…so don’t go to the gym and then half-ass your way through a 20 minute workout. Get sweaty and stay sweaty longer!
And are you noticing a trend here? Oatmeal, salmon, almonds, and exercise are the solution to a TON of health problems. Seriously, health and weight loss isn’t just about what you DON’T do…it’s about what you DO do! I always tell people, if I can’t get you to give up certain things, then I at least want you to commit to adding certain things. (Because I know that the more little good things you add, the less crappy things you have room for, and things will eventually tip toward healthy.) Do I eat bacon once a week? Yup. But I do cardio five times a week and eat oats and almonds seven times a week. And my cholesterol digs that ratio!
By the way, if you need another reason to eat oats, let me present my latest endeavor in heart-healthy porn. I give to you…whole grain oats, almond butter, cinnamon, pear, dried cranberries, crushed almonds, and white chocolate chips.
[Technically speaking, I suppose yes, dark chocolate chips are heart healthier, but I mean, given my personality….I’m obviously just a white chocolate kind of girl.]
Enough talk! Go forth and be healthy!