Cardiovascular disease

Heart Disease

Cholesterol and CVD

Reducing the proportion of fat in your diet, especially saturated fat, can help to reduce blood cholesterol levels. There’s a strong link between high blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. For those who don’t have CVD or aren’t considered to be at high-risk of CVD, normal blood cholesterol levels are below 5mmol/litre. This can be measured by your GP. People with average energy needs should aim to consume no more than 70g/day of fat and less than 20g/day of saturated fat.

Trans-fatty acids are a particular kind of fat that are naturally occurring in meat and dairy products but may also be produced when plant-based oils are hydrogenated to produce solid spreads, such as margarines. They’re often found in confectionery and processed food like pastry, biscuits and cakes. They’ve been found to have the same effect on cholesterol levels as saturated fat and should be avoided as much as possible. Thankfully, many manufacturers have now modified processing techniques to keep these fats to a minimum. Check labels for hydrogenated fats.

When reducing total fat, it’s important not to cut out the heart healthy fats from your diet including mono and poly-unsaturated fats and omega-3, mostly found in plant and fish oils.

How to modify your fat intake:

  • Use butter and other spreads sparingly
  • Choose lean cuts of meat or trim fat off
  • Grill, bake or steam food rather than frying
  • Swap saturated fats such as butter for unsaturated oils such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil
  • Limit your intake of trans-fats from processed food
  • Eat two to three portions of oily fish each week (e.g. sardines, mackerel, fresh tuna, salmon)

Essential fatty acids

Essential fatty acids such as omega-3s, which are found in oily fish, have been shown to reduce the risk of CVD by lowering blood triglycerides, reducing blood clotting and regulating heart rhythm. For general heart health, try to eat two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oily.

Stanols and sterols

Certain plant-derived compounds, called stanol or sterol esters have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. Spreads, yoghurts, drinks and soya ‘dairy alternatives’ are now available containing these products. These sterol enriched foods may be particularly useful for those with raised blood cholesterol which has remained elevated even after making other dietary changes. Clinical trials show that when used regularly, they can reduce high cholesterol levels.

Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are rich in many essential nutrients including vitamins C and E and carotenoids (which are all antioxidants). They may help to protect the heart by limiting the damaging effects of cholesterol on body tissues. Aim for at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. (See the Fruit and Vegetables article for more information on what a serving is.)

Wholegrains and fibre

Studies of large groups of people in the US have shown that diets rich in wholegrain food can reduce the risk of CVD by up to 30 per cent. You can include wholegrain food in every meal by choosing wholemeal bread and wholegrain varieties of pasta and rice.

Soluble dietary fibre, found in oats, beans and pulses, can help to lower LDL cholesterol. These foods should be included as part of an overall healthy balanced diet, at least two to three times each week.

Soya protein

A diet that includes at least 25g of soya per day has been associated with reductions in LDL cholesterol and CVD. Soya isoflavones in particular have been shown to reduce CVD risk as they inhibit the growth of cells that form artery-clogging plaque. Soya protein is also an excellent substitute for meat and is available in a convenient and tasty form in many ready-made meals. Another good source of soya protein is soya milk and yoghurt.

The British Heart Foundation has an excellent range of resources giving information about reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Rest and relaxation

While exercise can help lower blood pressure and strengthen your heart, rest and relaxation can reduce your levels of anxiety and improve your reactions to stress – both of which can affect the blood vessels and heart. All of us have to contend with major life events from time to time such as a divorce, bereavement, job loss or financial problems. However, there’s also a wide range of everyday events (being stuck in traffic, a row with your partner or a disagreement with someone at work) that can be stressful – and these everyday irritations may be even more stressful because they are constant.

Ways to manage stress

  • Keep a diary: make a note of stressful situations and how your react to them. This will help you identify what stresses you out, so you can begin to change your reactions.
  • Stay positive: your thoughts control your feelings. If you stop and listen to your emotions, you may be surprised to discover how negative they are. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones will help you deal with stressful situations more calmly.
  • Learn to relax: pay attention to your posture and consciously relax physically. You may also want to try a technique such as yoga, massage, meditation or other complementary therapies.
  • Get as much sleep as you need: we all need different amounts of sleep and you will know how many you need to feel refreshed. Try to get this amount of sleep most nights.

Smoking and alcohol

Smoking and drinking are both linked with heart disease. But while there are no potential health benefits from smoking, moderate drinking can help to protect your heart.

Smoking

One of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease is to stop smoking. Smokers younger than 50 are five times more likely than non-smokers to die of coronary heart disease. By stopping, you not only lower your risk of heart disease but also help reduce your risk of lung diseases such as cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The key to successful quitting is to pick a method that’s right for you. For example, if you’re motivated by other people and enjoy their company, you may find encouragement and support by joining a group.

If you prefer to go it alone, you may find it helpful to buy a book or tape. Your GP can prescribe aids such as nicotine replacement therapy or, alternatively, you may benefit from a complementary therapy such as acupuncture.

Drinking alcohol

Consuming moderate amounts of alcohol – between one and two units a day – has been found to reduce the risk of CVD. Alcohol can increase HDL cholesterol and makes it less likely that clots will form. However, high intakes of alcohol are associated with increased risk. It’s also worth noting that saving up your weekly units for a weekend binge doesn’t offer the same benefits.

There’s no need to give up alcohol altogether but it’s important to drink sensibly.

Always eat when you drink: take a tip from the Mediterranean countries and always have a meal or snack when you drink alcohol. Know your limits: To reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, don’t exceed 1-2 units of alcohol a day. A unit is equal to half a pint of regular strength beer or lager, one small glass of wine or a small (pub measure) of spirits. Watch your glass size: it’s easy to exceed safe limits by using a bigger glass.

Mix and match: if you’re at a party or drinking socially, try to have a non-alcoholic drink for every alcoholic drink you consume. Once you’ve consumed your daily units, drink only soft or non-alcoholic drinks.

Regular monitoring

People should also have regular blood pressure readings, height and weight monitoring, and tests for cholesterol levels. Those with high levels should be encouraged to improve their diet and can be treated for poor cholesterol levels with drugs – usually, statins or niacins.

The American Heart Association recommends that blood pressure should be no more than 140 over 90 Hg. The association recommends a series of diets, with no more than 30% of calories coming in the form of fats, and limiting calories in the form of saturated fats to between 7 and 10%.

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Heart attack recovery

Heart Disease

Lifestyle changes

Changing your lifestyle can greatly reduce your risk of a further heart attack:

  • Give up smoking – this halves your risk.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Take regular exercise.
  • Keep your weight under control.
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Learn to deal with anger and stress, which can trigger an attack.

Cardiac Rehabilitation

Heart Disease

WHAT TO EXPECT DURING CARDIAC REHABILITATION

Cardiac rehab continues on a regular basis for 2 to 3 months. During this time, you learn how to:

  • Increase your physical activity and exercise safely
  • Follow a heart healthy eating plan
  • Reduce risk factors for future heart problems
  • Improve your emotional health

The rehab team works with you to create a plan that meets your needs. Each part of cardiac rehab helps lower your risk for future heart problems.

Overall, you usually work with the team for 6 to 12 months. The length of time depends on your situation. The lifestyle changes you make during rehab will become more routine. They will help you maintain a reduced risk for heart disease.

Support from your family can help make cardiac rehab easier. For example, family members can help you plan healthy meals and do physical activities. The healthy lifestyle changes you learn during cardiac rehab can benefit your entire family.

INCREASE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND EXERCISE SAFELY

Your cardiac rehab team will assess your physical activity level to learn how active you are at home, at work, and during recreation. If your job includes heavy labor, the team may recreate your workplace conditions to help you practice in a safe setting.

You will work with the team to find ways to safely add physical activity to your daily routine. For example, you may decide to park farther from building entrances, walk up two or more flights of stairs, or walk for 15 minutes during your lunch break.

Your rehab team also will work with you to create an easy-to-follow exercise plan. It will include time for a warmup, flexibility exercises, and cooling down. It also may include aerobic exercise and resistance training.

You will get a written plan that lists each exercise and explains how often and for how long you should do it.

You’re more likely to make exercise a habit if you enjoy the activity. Work with the rehab team to find forms of physical activity that you enjoy and that are safe for you. If you prefer to exercise with other people, join a group or ask a friend to join you.

You may only be able to tolerate very light conditioning exercises. The rehab team will help decide what level of exercise is safe for you.

Aerobic Exercise

Typically, your rehab team will ask you to do aerobic exercise 3 to 5 days per week for 30 to 60 minutes. The exercise specialist on your team will make sure that your exercise plan is safe and right for you.

Examples of aerobic exercise are walking (outside or on a treadmill), cycling, rowing, or stair climbing.

Resistance Training

Typically, your rehab team will ask you to do resistance training 2 or 3 days per week. Your exercise plan will show how many times to repeat each exercise.

Resistance training may include lifting weights (hand weights, free weights, or weight machines), using a wall pulley, or using elastic bands to stretch and condition your muscles.

Exercise at the Rehab Center and at Home

At the start of cardiac rehab, you will exercise at the rehab center. Members of your rehab team will carefully watch you to make sure you’re exercising safely.

A team member will check your blood pressure several times during exercise training at the rehab center. You also may need an EKG (electrocardiogram) to check your heart’s activity during exercise. This test shows how fast your heart is beating and whether its rhythm is steady or irregular.

Your exercise program will change as your health improves. After awhile, you will add at-home exercises to your plan.

FOLLOW A HEART HEALTHY EATING PLAN

Your rehab team will help you create and follow a heart healthy eating plan. This plan will help you reach your rehab goals, which may include managing your weight, blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, heart failure, and/or other health problems that your diet can affect.

You will learn how to plan meals that meet your calorie needs and are low in saturated andtrans fat, cholesterol, and sodium.

A dietitian or nutritionist may advise you on how to follow a heart healthy eating plan.

REDUCE RISK FACTORS FOR FUTURE HEART PROBLEMS

Your cardiac rehab team will work with you to control your risk factors for heart problems. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, overweight or obesity, diabetes, and smoking.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure raises your risk for future heart problems. The rehab team will work with you to reach the blood pressure goal your doctor sets. This goal will depend on factors such as your age and whether you have heart failure, diabetes, or kidney disease.

Exercising, losing weight, limiting how much salt and alcohol you consume, and quitting smoking can help you lower your blood pressure.

You may need medicine to lower your blood pressure if lifestyle changes aren’t enough.

High Blood Cholesterol

Too much cholesterol in the blood can cause heart disease. Your rehab team will work with you to lower high blood cholesterol.

Following a heart healthy eating plan, losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, and limiting how much alcohol you drink can help lower cholesterol. Physical activity also can increase HDL cholesterol, which is “good” cholesterol.

You may need medicine to lower your cholesterol if lifestyle changes aren’t enough.

Overweight and Obesity

If you’re overweight or obese, your rehab team will help you set short- and long-term weight-loss goals. You can reach these goals by following the eating and exercise plans that the team creates for you.

Diabetes

If you have diabetes, your rehab team will work with you to control your blood sugar level. Following a heart healthy eating plan, losing weight, and exercising can lower your blood sugar level.

The doctor may suggest that you test your blood sugar before and after exercising to watch for numbers that are too high or too low. Your doctors will tell you what numbers to look for.

You may need medicine to lower your blood sugar level if lifestyle changes aren’t enough.

Smoking

Smoking is a risk factor for heart disease. If you smoke, quitting will help you avoid future heart problems. Quitting can help lower your blood pressure and keep your cholesterol levels healthy. You also should avoid secondhand smoke.

It may help to set a “quit date.” Some people find it helpful to enroll in smoking cessation programs or to seek counseling. Other people find acupuncture or hypnosis helpful.

Your doctor also can prescribe medicines to help you to quit smoking.

IMPROVE EMOTIONAL HEALTH

Psychological factors increase the risk of getting heart disease or making it worse. Depression, anxiety, and anger are common among people who have heart disease or have had a heart attack or heart surgery.

Get treatment if you feel sad, anxious, angry, or isolated. These bad feelings can affect your physical recovery. Depression is linked to complications such as irregular heartbeats, chest pain, a longer recovery time, the need to return to the hospital, and even an increased risk of death.

The cardiac rehab team needs to know whether you use alcohol or other substances. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure and harm your liver, brain, and heart. Seeking help is important. Group or individual counseling helps lower your risk for future heart attacks and death. It also may motivate you to exercise and help you relax and learn how to reduce stress.

People with heart disease who receive mental health treatment often show improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, and other measures of physical health.

The rehab team may include a mental health specialist or be able to refer you to one. Without help from a professional, these problems may not go away.

Some communities have support groups for people who have had a heart attack or heart surgery. They also may have walking groups or exercise classes. Help with basic needs and transportation also may be available.

Counseling for Sexual Dysfunction

People with heart problems sometimes have sexual problems. The most common is less interest or no interest in sex. Impotence or premature or delayed ejaculation may occur in men.

Depression, medicines, fear of causing a heart attack, or diabetes can contribute to sexual problems.

Sexual activity is often safe for low-risk patients. The maximum heart rate during usual sexual activity is similar to other daily activities, such as walking up one or two flights of stairs.

Talk to your doctor if you’re having sexual problems and to find out whether sexual activity is safe for you.

Quick Tips: Self-Care for Heart Failure – Get started

Heart Disease

Get started

Heart failure usually gets worse over time. But there are many things you can do to feel better, stay healthy longer, and avoid the hospital.

Self-care means managing your health by doing certain things every day, like weighing yourself. It’s about knowing which symptoms to watch for so you can avoid getting worse. When you practice good self-care, you know when it’s time to call your doctor and when your heart failure has turned into an emergency. The lists below can help.

Top 5 self-care tips for every day

  1. Take your medicines as prescribed. This gives them the best chance of helping you.
  2. Watch for signs that you’re getting worse. Weighing yourself every day is one of the best ways to do this. Weight gain may be a sign that your body is holding on to too much fluid. Weigh yourself at the same time each day, using the same scale, on a hard, flat surface. The best time is in the morning after you go to the bathroom and before you eat or drink anything.
  3. Find out what your triggers are, and learn to avoid them. Triggers are things that make your heart failure worse, often suddenly. A trigger may be eating too much salt, missing a dose of your medicine, or exercising too hard.
  4. Limit salt (sodium). This helps keep fluid from building up and makes it easier for your heart to pump. Your doctor may want you to eat less than 2,000 mg of salt each day. That’s less than 1 teaspoon. You can stay under this number by limiting the salt you eat at home and by watching for “hidden” sodium when you eat out or shop for food.
  5. Try to exercise throughout the week. Exercise makes your heart stronger and can help you avoid symptoms. Walking is a great way to get exercise. If your doctor says it’s safe, start out with some short walks, and then slowly build up to longer ones.

When to act

Try to become familiar with signs that mean your heart failure is getting worse. If you need help, talk with your doctor about making a personal plan.

Here are some things to watch for as you practice your daily self-care. Call your doctor if:

  • You gain 3 pounds or more over 2 to 3 days. (Or your doctor may tell you how much weight to watch for.)
  • You have new or worse swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs.
  • Your breathing gets worse. Activities that did not make you short of breath before are hard for you now.
  • Your breathing when you lie down is worse than usual, or you wake up at night needing to catch your breath.

Be sure to make and go to all of your follow-up appointments. And it’s always a good idea to call your doctor anytime you have a sudden change in symptoms.

When it’s an emergency

Sometimes the symptoms get worse very quickly. This is called sudden heart failure. It causes fluid to build up in your lungs.

Sudden heart failure is an emergency. If you have any of these symptoms, you need care right away. Call 911 if:

  • You have severe shortness of breath.
  • You have an irregular or fast heartbeat.
  • You cough up foamy, pink mucus.

Other tips to help you stay healthy

There are other things you can do to take care of your body and your heart. These things will help you feel better. And they will also reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

  • Try to stay at a healthy weight. Eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
  • Keep high blood pressure and diabetes under control. If you need help, talk with your doctor.

Also let your doctor know if:

  • You’re having trouble sleeping. Sleep is important to your well-being. It also helps your heart work the way it’s supposed to. Your doctor can help you decide if you need treatment for sleep problems.
  • You’re feeling sad and hopeless much of the time, or you are worried and anxious. Heart failure can be hard on your emotions. Treatment with counseling and medicine can help. And when you feel better, you’re more likely to take care of yourself.

Stages of Pregnancy Pictures Slideshow: See the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Trimesters of Mom & Baby

Medical- Medicine

Third Trimester: The Baby at 32 Weeks

  • Your baby’s bones are fully formed, but still soft.
  • Your baby’s kicks and jabs are forceful.
  • The eyes can open and close and sense changes in light.
  • Lungs are not fully formed, but practice “breathing” movements occur.
  • Your baby’s body begins to store vital minerals, such as iron and calcium.
  • Lanugo begins to fall off.
  • Your baby is gaining weight quickly, about ½ pound a week. Now, your baby is about 15 to 17 inches long and weighs about 4 to 4½ pounds.

Stages of Pregnancy Pictures Slideshow: See the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Trimesters of Mom & Baby

Medical- Medicine

First Trimester: The Baby at 12 Weeks

  • The nerves and muscles begin to work together. Your baby can make a fist.
  • The external sex organs show if your baby is a boy or girl. A woman who has an ultrasound in the second trimester or later might be able to find out the baby’s sex.
  • Eyelids close to protect the developing eyes. They will not open again until the 28th week.
  • Head growth has slowed, and your baby is much longer. Now, at about 3 inches long, your baby weighs almost an ounce.

Stages of Pregnancy Pictures Slideshow: See the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Trimesters of Mom & Baby

Medical- Medicine

First Trimester: Changes in a Woman’s Daily Routine

As your body changes, you might need to make changes to your daily routine, such as going to bed earlier or eating frequent, small meals. Fortunately, most of these discomforts will go away as your pregnancy progresses; however some women might not feel any discomfort at all! If you have been pregnant before, you might feel differently this time around. Just as each woman is different, so is each pregnancy.

Women’s Health Pictures Slideshow: 18 Embarrassing Beauty Questions and Answers

Medical- Medicine

How Did I Get Stretch Marks?

When the skin gets stretched by pregnancy, weight gain, or extreme weight loss, the stretch can create scarring. Stretch marks are usually red or purple, then fade to a glossy white. They generally occur on the belly, thighs, hips, breasts, or lower back. The marks can be reduced with chemical peels or laser surgery. Lotions and creams are usually of little benefit.

Heart healthy diet tips: Control portion size—and your weight

Heart Disease

Gaining or carrying excess weight means that your heart must work harder, and this often leads to high blood pressure—a major cause of heart disease. Achieving a healthy body weight is key to reducing your risk of heart disease. Reducing portion sizes is a crucial step toward losing or maintaining a healthy weight. Try the following tactics to control your portion sizes:

  • Understand serving sizes. A serving size is a specific amount of food, defined by common measurements such as cups, ounces, or pieces—and a healthy serving size may be a lot smaller than you’re used to. The recommended serving size for pasta is ½ cup, while a serving of meat, fish, or chicken is 2 to 3 ounces. Judging serving size is a learned skill, so you may need to use measuring cups, spoons, and a food scale to help.
  • Eyeball it. Once you have a better idea of what a serving should be, you can estimate your portion. You can use common objects for reference; for example, a serving of pasta should be about the size of a baseball (slightly smaller than a cricket ball), while a serving of meat, fish, or chicken is about the size and thickness of a deck of cards.
  • Beware of restaurant portions. Portions served in restaurants are often more than anyone needs. Split an entrée with your dining companion, or take half your meal home for tomorrow’s lunch.

Heart healthy diet tips: Focus on high-fiber foods

Heart Disease

A diet high in fiber can lower “bad” cholesterol and provide nutrients that can help protect against heart disease. By filling up on whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, you can get most of the fiber you’ll need, which means you’ll also be lowering your risk of heart disease.

Go for whole grains

Refined or processed foods are lower in fiber content, so make whole grains an integral part of your diet. There are many simple ways to add whole grains to your meals.

  • Breakfast better. For breakfast choose a high-fiber breakfast cereal—one with five or more grams of fiber per serving. Or add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.
  • Try a new grain. Experiment with brown rice, wild rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta, and bulgur. These alternatives are higher in fiber than their more mainstream counterparts—and you may find you love their tastes.
  • Bulk up your baking. When baking at home, substitute whole-grain flour for half or all of the white flour, since whole-grain flour is heavier than white flour. In yeast breads, use a bit more yeast or let the dough rise longer. Try adding crushed bran cereal or unprocessed wheat bran to muffins, cakes, and cookies.
  • Add flaxseed. Flaxseeds are small brown seeds that are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your total blood cholesterol. You can grind the seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor and stir a teaspoon of them into yogurt, applesauce, or hot cereal.

Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables

Most fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, making them heart healthy. You can use some of the following strategies to make eating fruits and veggies part of your diet every day.

  • Keep fruit and vegetables at your fingertips. Wash and cut fruit and veggies and put them in your refrigerator for quick and healthy snacks. Choose recipes that feature these high-fiber ingredients, like veggie stir-fries or fruit salad.
  • Incorporate veggies into your cooking. Add pre-cut fresh or frozen vegetables to soups and sauces. For example, mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce or toss fresh baby carrots into stews.
  • Don’t leave out the legumes. Legumes are fiber-rich, too. Eat more beans, peas, and lentils. Add kidney beans to canned soup or a green salad.
  • Make snacks count. Fresh and dried fruit, raw vegetables, and whole-grain crackers are all good ways to add fiber at snack time. An occasional handful of nuts is also a healthy, high-fiber snack.

Heart healthy diet tips: Choose foods that lower cholesterol

Heart Disease

Unhealthy cholesterol levels increase your risk for heart disease, so keeping yours low is key to a healthier heart. Your diet is central to controlling your cholesterol. Some foods can actually lower your cholesterol, while others only make matters worse.

  • Avoid saturated or trans fats. Foods containing high levels of saturated fats or trans fats—such as potato chips and packaged cookies—can increase your cholesterol levels much more significantly than cholesterol- containing foods such as eggs. Saturated fat and trans fat both increase LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Even worse, trans fat lowers your levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
  • Make smart choices. Choose foods rich in unsaturated fats, fiber, and protein. Fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, nuts, and seeds are all great cholesterol regulators. The best foods for lowering cholesterol are oatmeal, fish, walnuts (and other nuts), olive oil, and foods fortified with sterols or stanols—substances found in plants that help block the absorption of cholesterol.
  • Remember that labels can be deceiving. Navigating food labels can often be complicated since packaged foods with labels like “cholesterol free” or “low cholesterol” aren’t necessarily heart-healthy; they might even contain cholesterol that’s heart-risky. Stick to basics whenever possible: fruit, veggies, nuts, and lean proteins.
  • Lowering your cholesterol with fish or fish oil supplements

    By adding fish like salmon or herring to your diet twice a week, you can significantly lower your cholesterol, and thus your risk for heart attack. Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which work like superheroes, doing good deeds for your heart—and your whole body.

Heart healthy diet tips: Cut out saturated and trans fats

Heart Disease

Of all the possible improvements you can make to your diet, limiting saturated fats and cutting out trans fats entirely is perhaps the most important. Both types of fat raise your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol level, which can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Luckily, there are many ways to control how much saturated and trans fats you take in. Keep these culprits in mind as you cook and make food choices—and learn how to avoid them.

  • Limit solid fat. Reduce the amount of solid fats like butter, margarine, or shortening you add to food when cooking or serving. Instead of cooking with butter, for example, flavor your dishes with herbs or lemon juice. You can also limit solid fat by trimming fat off your meat or choosing leaner proteins.
  • Substitute. Swap out high-fat foods for their lower-fat counterparts. Top your baked potato, for example, with salsa or low-fat yogurt rather than butter, or use low-sugar fruit spread on your toast instead of margarine. When cooking, use liquid oils like canola, olive, safflower, or sunflower, and substitute two egg whites for one whole egg in a recipe.
  • Be label-savvy. Check food labels on any prepared foods. Many snacks, even those labeled “reduced fat,” may be made with oils containing trans fats. One clue that a food has some trans fat is the phrase “partially hydrogenated.” And look for hidden fat; refried beans may contain lard, or breakfast cereals may have significant amounts of fat.
  • Change your habits. The best way to avoid saturated or trans fats is to change your lifestyle practices. Instead of chips, snack on fruit or vegetables. Challenge yourself to cook with a limited amount of butter. At restaurants, ask that sauces or dressings be put on the side—or left off altogether.
  • Not all fats are bad for your heart

    While saturated and trans fats are roadblocks to a healthy heart, unsaturated fats are essential for good health. You just have to know the difference. “Good” fats include:

    • Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Fatty fish like salmon, trout, or herring and flaxseed, canola oil, and walnuts all contain polyunsaturated fats that are vital for the body.
    • Omega 6 Fatty Acids. Vegetable oils, soy nuts, and many types of seeds all contain healthy fats.
    • Monounsaturated fats. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, and butters made from these nuts, as well as avocadoes, are all great sources of “good” fat.

The Sugar Blockers Diet

Heart Disease

Use these seven rules to tap into the power of foods that can naturally slow sugar absorption, so you can keep eating meals you love.

Save Sweets For Dessert Only

Reason: All of the above.

If you eat sweets on an empty stomach, there’s nothing to impede the sugar from racing directly into your bloodstream–no fat, no soluble fiber, no protein, no vinegar. But if you confine sweets to the end of the meal, you have all of the built-in protection the preceding rules provide. If you want to keep blood sugar on an even keel, avoid between-meal sweets at all costs–and when you do indulge, don’t eat more than you can hold in the cup of your hand. But a few bites of candy after a meal will have little effect on your blood sugar and insulin–and can be quite satisfying.

The Sugar Blockers Diet

Heart Disease

Use these seven rules to tap into the power of foods that can naturally slow sugar absorption, so you can keep eating meals you love.

Nosh on Lightly Cooked Vegetables

Reason: You digest them more slowly.

Both fruits and vegetables contain soluble fiber. As a rule, though, vegetables make better sugar blockers, because they have more fiber and less sugar.

But don’t cook your vegetables to mush. Boiling vegetables until they’re limp and soggy saturates the soluble fiber, filling it with water so it can’t absorb the sugar and starch you want it to. Also, crisp vegetables are chunkier when they reach your stomach, and larger food particles take longer to digest, so you’ll feel full longer. Another tip: Roasted vegetables like cauliflower can often serve as a delicious starch substitute.

The Sugar Blockers Diet

Heart Disease

Use these seven rules to tap into the power of foods that can naturally slow sugar absorption, so you can keep eating meals you love.

Include Protein With Your Meal

Reason: You won’t secrete as much insulin.

Here’s a paradox: You want to blunt insulin spikes–but to do that, you need to start secreting insulin sooner rather than later. It’s like a fire department responding to a fire. The quicker the alarm goes off, the fewer firefighters will be needed to put out the blaze.

Even though protein contains no glucose, it triggers a “first-phase insulin response” that occurs so fast, it keeps your blood sugar from rising as high later–and reduces the total amount of insulin you need to handle a meal. So have meatballs with your spaghetti.

The Sugar Blockers Diet

Heart Disease

Use these seven rules to tap into the power of foods that can naturally slow sugar absorption, so you can keep eating meals you love.

Eat Some Vinegar

Reason: It slows the breakdown of starch into sugar.

The high acetic acid content in vinegar deactivates amylase, the enzyme that turns starch into sugar. (It doesn’t matter what kind of vinegar you use.) Because it acts on starch only, it has no effect on the absorption of refined sugar. In other words, it will help if you eat bread, but not candy. But there’s one more benefit: Vinegar also increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin.

You should consume vinegar at the start of your meal. Put it in salad dressing or sprinkle a couple of tablespoons on meat or vegetables. Vinegar brings out the flavor of food, as salt does.

The Sugar Blockers Diet

Heart Disease

Use these seven rules to tap into the power of foods that can naturally slow sugar absorption, so you can keep eating meals you love.

Start Your Meal With A Salad

Reason: It soaks up starch and sugar.

Soluble fiber from the pulp of plants–such as beans, carrots, apples, and oranges–swells like a sponge in your intestines and traps starch and sugar in the niches between its molecules. Soluble means “dissolvable”–and indeed, soluble fiber eventually dissolves, releasing glucose. However, that takes time. The glucose it absorbs seeps into your bloodstream slowly, so your body needs less insulin to handle it. A good way to ensure that you get enough soluble fiber is to have a salad–preferably before, rather than after, you eat a starch.