Are You CardioSmart?

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CardioSmart LogoCardioSmart—from the American College of Cardiology—is a terrific online resource designed to help people with high cholesterol and heart disease risk understand and improve their heart health.

The CardioSmart site explains “Our mission is to help individuals prevent, treat and manage cardiovascular disease. We are committed to providing visitors to our site with accurate, un-biased information in an advertising-free environment. We hope you enjoy visiting our site and find it a useful extension of your relationship with your cardiologist.”

Understanding the risks and options for managing high cholesterol so you can partner with your physician in creating a treatment plan that best addresses your personal situation is so important. Active management and discussion with your doctor is vital, and this website is a great educational resource.

Their specific page about High Cholesterol is particularly helpful.  In addition to useful, easy-to-understand definitions of high cholesterol and cholesterol types and risk, they include this excellent summary of lifestyle changes you can make to lower your cardiac disease risk:

“Lifestyle Changes

Adopting a heart-healthy diet and getting regular exercise are the most important steps you can take to prevent or control cholesterol problems and heart disease. Here are some general tips:

  • Get physical. Aim to get a minimum of 30 minutes of (moderate-intensity) activity at least five times a week. Activities might include a brisk walk, jogging, riding a bike, swimming—even gardening or heavy housework. If you don’t have a 30-minute block of time free, even 10-minute bursts of activity three times throughout the day is helpful. Consider wearing a device that keeps track of the number of steps you take each day so that you know your starting point.
  • Take time to read and understand food labels, and pay special attention to the amount of saturated fats, trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils) and sugar content.
  • Try to avoid full-fat dairy products, processed foods, and foods high in salt (sodium) and preservatives.
  • Substitute butter or margarine for healthier fats such as olive oil, avocados and a handful of almonds (remember, fat that becomes solid on the counter should probably be avoided). Nuts, fish, certain oils (olive, canola and peanut oils) and other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are good choices.
    Consider keeping a food diary so you can see what you are eating and what dietary habits you might need to change.
  • Ask about seeing a dietitian or nutritionist who can help you meal plan and provide dietary strategies for lowering LDL or triglycerides, and improving your sugar levels and boosting your energy.
  • As with any goal, start small. Make sure you are setting yourself up for success.
  • Limit alcohol. Too much alcohol can raise triglyceride levels and blood pressure.”

And they also include this great reminder of how you can help lower your own cholesterol with a heart-healthy diet:

Chart of what to eat and what not to eat

Their “What Is Cholesterol” poster/infographic is also a great summary. Click the link to see the full poster but here’s a snapshot of the risk and lifestyle section:

 

 

Actively managing your lifestyle with exercise and diet CAN help you lower your heart disease risk. For some, it can even lower cholesterol enough to avoid prescription medication. For those who must take cholesterol-lowering statins, a heart-healthy lifestyle remains an important part of lowering heart disease risk. Of course, it’s imperative to consult your physician to determine your personal treatment plan. But learning from the CardioSmart site’s videos and information will make you better informed in talks with your doctor, and enable you to take an active role in lowering your own heart disease risk.

 

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