Tag Archives: heart health

What do you know about cholesterol

It may seem counter intuitive, but our bodies need cholesterol. It is an important to the manufacturing of hormones, and helps the body absorb fats more efficiently. We consume cholesterol mostly through animal proteins, plants do not contain cholesterol, but they do contain sterols which are similar. Cholesterol is a lipoprotein, which means its contains fats (lipo) and proteins. Total cholesterol levels should be below 200 mg/dL for most healthy adults.

There are 3 “types” of cholesterol that make up your total cholesterol: high density lipoprotein (HDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides. HDL is the “good” stuff, it helps remove LDL from the blood stream. Foods that contain HDL include olives, olive oil, beans and legumes, fatty fish like tuna and salmon. Normal HDL levels for adults is 40mg/dL, less than that is considered low HDL, and since it’s the good cholesterol, the higher the better.

LDL is associated with plaque build up, that causes clogged arteries and can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Foods that contain saturated and trans fats are high in LDL cholesterol; whole fat dairy, red meats such as beef, lamb, pork and veal, coconut and palm oils, processed meats and many processed foods contain high levels of trans and saturated fats. Normal LDL levels for healthy adults is 100mg/dL or lower.

Triglycerides are the stored excess energy from our diet (excess calories), this type of cholesterol is associated with hardening of the arteries. Diets that contain a lot of added sugar, refined carbohydrates (read: sugars), alcohol and fat can cause high levels of triglycerides. Normal triglyceride levels for adults is 149 mg/dL or lower.

While there are other factors that contribute to blood cholesterol levels, including genetics and certain medications, we can aim to control them using nutrition by choosing foods that contain HDL cholesterol and avoiding foods that contain LDL and controlling our caloric intake to reduce triglyceride levels.

How keeping a food diary helps you lose weight

Hope everyone had a happy July Fourth weekend! A friend asked me over the weekend what my number 1 nutrition tip was for someone trying to lose weight and I said, hands down, without a doubt, keeping a food diary, closely followed by meal planning. Any registered dietitian or nutrition professional will emphasis the importance of tracking your food intake on a daily basis. Most nutrition experts will ask you to track your intake for several days prior to consultations, and then ask you to maintain the diary while under their care. There are several ways that keeping a food diary helps you manage your weight. Heres a list why you should do it:

  1. Simply writing down the things you consume, including drinks and snacks, helps hold you accountable. There are several apps for smart phones that make this process so easy and convenient; Myfitnesspal or fooducate ; both are free to sign up. If you don’t have access to a smart phone, using a small notebook to jot down everything and look up the nutritional information on the internet later.
  2. Sometimes just seeing the amount of food you have consumed is enough of a surprise to inspire change. Then looking up the nutritional content, or lack thereof, can have a sobering effect.
  3. If you suspect a food allergy, or suffer food borne illness, keeping a food diary can act as guide to decipher which foods may be the culprits.
  4. For those of us who are emotional eaters (I tend to eat when I am bored), keeping track of when we eat, what we ate and how we felt when we ate it helps us self-monitor our feelings and instigate behavioral changes.
  5. Keeping track of your daily nutritional intake can help you make sure you are consuming enough vitamin, minerals and fiber to keep your body healthy and free from deficiencies. And if you do have deficiencies, it’s almost always better to get added vitamins/minerals from your diet as opposed to supplements (food products are easier for your body to utilize)
  6. When you log your daily nutrition often enough, you start to learn which food choices are better, or worse, for your diet.

Some tips to help you keep a better diary:

  1. for the first 5 days, do not alter your eating habits. During the initial phase you are tracking your diet so that you can go back and look for trends and patterns. This helps you develop behavior modifications that are appropriate for your habits.
  2. track EVERYTHING! Every drink, a piece of gum, a half a chicken nugget, 4 french fries, everything gets counted.

I keep a diary all the time because I track my macros (especially when I am training for a race or doing a lot of strength training) and I want to make sure I am getting enough fiber (25 grams a day for women, 30 grams for men). Having IBS, getting enough fiber, as well as avoiding certain food triggers, helps keep it under control without using medication.

Here’s some fourth of July goodies I served up this weekend:

Quick Pickled Vegetables

Grillable Veggie Burgers – Minimalist Baker

Heart health and nutrition

My 39 year old step son had a massive heart attack this week. The left anterior descending portion of his coronary artery was 100% blocked by plaque, and another portion is 40% blocked by plaque. The coronary arteries supply your heart with oxygenated blood, thus allowing it to function, when blocked your heart no longer pumps properly, if at all, thus causing a heart attack. These sorts of things can easily kill you. Thankfully, my step son made it to the hospital where they were able to diagnose the blockage, clear it and place a stent in the artery so it stays open. He left the hospital 4 days later. Very lucky to be alive.

My husband had a diagnostic angiogram 7 years ago, while they did discover some plaque build up in his coronary artery, is was limited to only 20-30% and the doctors reassured us that that degree of build-up was normal for his age (58 at the time), we were told that they would monitor it through ultrasound for growth. However, having plaque deposits does show that my husband is a builder and going forward should be careful with his diet in order to prevent the existing build up from growing and becoming a problem. It just so happens my hubby had such a ultrasound last week, and his build up has not grown at all over the last 7 years!! I’m just going to go ahead and take all the credit for that!!

All of this got me thinking: How can someone so young have so much build up? Turns out, after doing a little research, in the last 5 years men between the ages of 30 and 40 are the having more heart attacks than ever before!! In one study, researchers autopsied 2700 people between the ages of 15 and 50, all of whom died from something other than heart disease. They found that boys as young as 15, with no family history of heart disease, had early stages of atherosclerosis (arterial plague). Heart Disease is no longer a condition for older people.


Things that put you at higher risks for heart attacks include conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being over weight, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, diabetic, etc. Even if you work out every day, doing lots of cardiovascular exercise and strength training most days, and have never smoked, but still eat a diet high in saturated fats, fatty meats, sodium and refined carbohydrates, you’re at the same risk of having a heart attack as someone who eats the same diet but does nothing all day. You’re daily nutrition is that important.


Eat real foods in moderate amounts. The basic rules that apply to a normal person who is trying to be healthy can also be applied to an individual with a heart condition. Always check with your cardiologist and cardiac rehab nutrition specialist for specific instructions. Most heart specialist recommend the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. This reduces sodium, trans fat and cholesterol from the diet. You can find the details here: https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/The-American-Heart-Associations-Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp

making healthy choices

See my list of rules to follow here: https://rulesbyred.com/2016/05/rules-for-eating-healthy/

Use MyFitnessPal to track your daily nutrition values, as well as monitor your progress

If you smoke, stop. If you need help quitting, see your doctor. These days they are many tools available to assist you.

Set a good example for your kids. If you or a family member has heart issues, there’s a good chance your children could develop those same issues. Help them avoid long term damage by changing their habits now! You can start by providing them with a good example to follow and involving them in the process of changing to a healthier lifestyle for the whole family. Eat as a family; several studies show that kids who sit down with family most nights weigh less then those who don’t. Eating together also provides a great opportunity for unhurried conversations.

Be active. Even if it’s as simple as parking a little farther away, or taking the stairs. Start taking family walks together.  Make a concentrated effort to move more.

more information

The Weight of the Nation – a look at the obesity epidemic

Skinny Taste – great recipes