How to maintain a healthy heart
To help maintain a healthy heart, it is important to have a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating well and exercising regularly. And one area to focus on when it comes to heart health is cholesterol. Managing your cholesterol is not just about what you do and what you eat, but also what you don't do and what you don't eat.
Total cholesterol, as the name suggests, is the total of LDL, HDL and other smaller components. Because total cholesterol is made up of the "good" HDL and the "bad" LDL, the ratio of each type is important. To maintain heart health you need to have high "good" HDL cholesterol and low "bad" LDL cholesterol. This can be achieved by eating a healthy diet and by being physically active every day.
A heart healthy eating plan
Leading a healthy lifestyle means that you are likely to have a healthy total cholesterol. The good news is that a healthy lifestyle leads to good health in general, benefiting many aspects of your life and particularly maintenance of a healthy weight.
Follow basic dietary principles to help keep your heart healthy. Eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and grain-based products, choose low-fat dairy foods, opt for lean meat, chicken (remove the skin) and eat fish at least two times a week. It's also recommended to aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day, such as walking.
Limit saturated fat in your diet
Some fat in our diet is necessary to protect organs, to maintain cells and to provide some vitamins like vitamin E. To maintain heart health, try to limit saturated fat. Choose mono or polyunsaturated fats when you do consume oils and fats — they can be found in products such as safflower, olive, sunflower and canola oils and margarines, and in avocados and nuts.
Generally, saturated fat is found in animal products, but be wary of the exceptions: palm oil and coconut milk and cream. Try to avoid foods such as biscuits, cakes, pies, pastries and sausage rolls, as they are generally high in saturated fat. Enjoy lean cuts of meat, skinless chicken and fish, along with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and grain-based food like high-fibre and wholegrain bread, cereals, pasta and rice. Aim for steamed food instead of fried or baked with additional fats.
Most people are now aware that a diet high in total dietary fibre is beneficial to digestive and general health. Soluble fibre, however, has a valuable part to play in helping to reduce cholesterol absorption.
Soluble fibre is found in many high fibre grain-based products, and particularly those that contain psyllium, oats and barley. Fruit, vegetables and legumes such as dried beans are also high in soluble fibre. To help maintain heart health, eat plenty of foods rich in soluble fibre every day.