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12 Tips for Better Heart Health

Diet, sleep, fitness, and more -- how to strengthen and protect your heart right now
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“Doctors usually talk about good and bad cholesterol and most folks will have that down, but triglycerides are a better marker for high risk of diabetes and heart disease,” says Jones.

Triglycerides are also much more responsive to lifestyle changes than other types of blood fats. “Your triglycerides can drop 30% to 50% just by reducing saturated fats and reducing your weight,” Jones says.

3. Go for nuts and plant sterols.

Your heart will love you if you eat six walnuts before lunch and dinner, according to Michael Roizen, MD, the chief wellness officer for Cleveland Clinic and chairman of the clinic’s Wellness Institute. Why? Because “walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to decrease inflammation in the arteries surrounding your heart, so they keep your heart functioning longer and better,” promises Roizen,co-author of the best-selling You: Staying Young: The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty. “Walnuts will also make you feel fuller faster so you are less likely to overeat at meals.”

You may want to give pistachios a try as well. A recent study shows that a serving or two of pistachios each day may help reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, as long as you are mindful of calories. One cup of pistachio nuts has about 700 calories!

Other nuts, such as peanuts, macadamia nuts, and almonds are a rich source of plant sterols, which block cholesterol absorption in the intestines. Studies have shown that eating foods enriched with plant sterols lowers LDL cholesterol. Eating 2-3 grams a day lowers LDL cholesterol by 6-15%, without affecting HDL cholesterol or triglycerides. Sterols are found in all plant foods, but the highest concentrations are found in unrefined oils, such as vegetable, nut, and olive oil. Some foods have also been fortified with plant sterols, including milk, yogurt, juices, and spreads.

4. De-stress your heart.

Unplug yourself from the news cycle and your email. It’s good for you and your ticker. And that begins with your PDA. “Start turning it off for 15 minutes at a time and work up to an hour a day to reduce stress,” Goldberg says. “Stress raises blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol,” she says. “These days, people are less and less capable of leaving stress at the office because everyone is connected 24/7.”

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