Getting Results From a Heart-Healthy Diet
In the quest for a healthy heart, lower blood pressure, and low cholesterol, you've committed to eating right, exercising, and maintaining your weight.
You probably want to know two things: When will you see results, and what kind of results will you see?
Remember that all the things you're doing -- diet, physical activity, weight maintenance, and stress reduction -- work together. Many little changes add up to significant results.
Results to Work Toward
Take a look at what the research shows about the results from heart-healthy diets and other lifestyle habits:
DASH diet: If you follow the DASH diet -- eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods and less red meat, sweets, saturated fat, and sodium -- you may lower your blood pressure by eight to 14 points.
TLC diet: By reducing saturated fat to 7% of calories, dropping dietary cholesterol to less than 200 milligrams a day, and adding 2 grams of plant sterols/stanols and 5 to 10 more grams of fiber to your daily diet, you may reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol by 20%.
Weight loss: If you lose weight (to a body mass index of 18.5-24.9), you may see a five- to 20-point reduction in blood pressure and a 5% to 8% drop in LDL cholesterol.
Exercise: If you get 30 minutes of physical activity 5 or more days a week, you may see a two- to eight-point reduction in blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol, and higher HDL "good" cholesterol.
Biofeedback and relaxation techniques may reduce high blood pressure by three to five points, improve sleep, and result in some weight loss.
The long-term heart health benefits from these lifestyle changes can be huge. Controlling your blood pressure alone can cut your risk of a heart attack by 20% to 25%, lower your odds of a stroke by 35% to 40%, and curb your chances of heart failure by 50%.
How Long It Takes
Give yourself at least 3 months to see results, though you may see changes as quickly as 3 weeks.
Your doctor will probably recommend you wait at least 3 months before following up with lab work. She can also give you a referral to a dietitian, if you want more help with changing the way you eat in order to reach your goals.