Heart-Felt Tips For a Healthy Heart (Continued)
High cholesterol is a real heart breaker
So this is how it works. If you have high cholesterol, you have fat floating around in your blood. Yeah, I know. Yuckers… it sounds gross. And it is. If you have super-high blood fat you can actually see it. I remember one time after we "spun" this guy's blood, instead of palest amber plasma in the top half of the test tube, it was oily pink. "Heart attack in a tube," remarked our medical director as the rest of us stood around, mouths agape, staring at the sample. Sorry. I guess that's not a tale for the faint of heart.
Anyway… cholesterol comes in three primary flavors, but it's the "bad" cholesterol called Low Density Lipoprotein, or LDL, that poses the greatest threat to your heart. (I keep the good and bad separate in my mind by remembering that LDL stands for Lousy Damn Lipid).
LDL builds up inside your pipes in the form of plaque. Eventually, plaque can get so thick it closes off a blood vessel, blocking it totally. Ack! Heart attack! Plaque also contributes greatly to atherosclerosis — hardening of the arteries, another potentially life-shortening buddy of heart disease.
There are several things you can do to keep your cholesterol in check and the first has to do with what you eat. To eat to your heart's content (literally), diet experts suggest a "heart healthy" diet with 28 grams of fiber in a typical day, reduced saturated fat, and minimal trans-fat.
Beyond eating smarter, follow your heart to the sea — there's quite a pile of clinical evidence supporting the lipid-lowering effectiveness of popping an Omega 3 fish oil every day. And you should also take your damn cholesterol med, if your doc tells you to. Take it at bedtime. Your liver makes its cholesterol at night.
The target for bad cholesterol is 70 for anyone with diabetes; lower than for the general public because our hearts need extra protection from all the things that threaten it.
Don't blow a gasket
Can we have a heart-to-heart talk about high blood pressure? High blood pressure makes the pump pump harder. A strained, stressed-out, over-worked heart is a bad idea. Oh, and high blood pressure is bad for your blood vessels, eyes, and kidneys too.
If your blood pressure is too high, reduce your sodium and your caffeine intake for starters. Adding a small amount of modest exercise daily can actually reduce your blood pressure, too, as can losing some weight. If those measures fail, you may need to take a blood pressure pill. But that's cheaper than a heart attack.
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