Healthier eating can have a positive effect on your vascular health. Everyone has unique dietary needs depending on their overall health, but there are some guidelines everyone should follow to improve vascular health. Below are some basic guidelines to eating healthier.
- Choose fats wisely. The kinds of fat you eat affect your blood lipid levels. Unhealthy blood lipid levels cause a fatty substance called plaque to stick to artery walls. This can lead to a hardening of the arteries, reduced blood flow, and stroke. The types of fats and how they affect blood lipid levels are explained below.
- Trans fat has the most negative effect on the body of all types of fat – it raises LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and lowers HDL or “good” cholesterol. It is found in baked goods, deep-fried foods, and margarine. Avoid trans fat as much as possible.
- Saturated fat is found mostly in animal foods such as meat, sausage, poultry skin, and dairy products like cheese and milk. Decreasing the amount of saturated fat you eat can help lower LDL levels.
- Unsaturated fats are found in fish, plant foods, and vegetable oils. These fats have as many calories as other types of fat, but eating this type of fat instead of trans and saturated fats can be good for blood lipid levels.
- Cholesterol is found in animal foods. To decrease your cholesterol levels, cut back on animal foods, especially organ meats and egg yolks.
- Add fiber. Some types of dietary fiber help move triglycerides and cholesterol out of your system. To add fiber to your diet, eat more vegetables, whole grains, and fruits.
- Limit alcohol intake. More than one drink a day can raise triglyceride levels and blood pressure, and can be bad for overall health.
- Limit salt intake. Too much salt (sodium) can increase blood pressure levels. Sodium intake should be less than 1,500 mg a day.
- Reduce calories. If you need to lose weight, reduce the amount of calories you eat. To cut back on calories, eat smaller portions, eat lower-calorie foods such as vegetables, and limit the number of sweets you eat.
- Increase daily activity level. Daily activity is an important part of overall health. It can decrease stroke and heart attack risk while improving your strength and energy level.
By following these basic guidelines, you will be well on your way to healthier living. Some additional resources can be found online at www.choosemyplate.gov and www.fda.gov/Food/LabelingNutrition.