Diet & Lifestyle
A healthy diet & lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease...
Diet & Lifestyle

One very helpful strategy for improving heart health involves educating yourself about food sources, so that over time, you are able to quickly determine which foods contain healthy fats and which ones contain unhealthy fats. This way you can limit your intake of foods associated with weight gain, increased levels of bad cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease.

Despite its current reputation, fat is a nutrient and essential for normal function of the body. But it also is a nutrient that is abused in the American diet of processed food, super-sized fast food, frozen food, fried food, hot dogs and hamburgers, and all manner of snacks and desserts. Couple this diet with low levels of physical activity and you have a lifestyle tailor-made for the development of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Getting a handle on the different types of major fats may seem a bit challenging at first, but all of them can be divided into three general categories:

Saturated Fats

These are found primarily in animal products such as meat, milk, cheese, butter and cream. Saturated fats have a somewhat sinister — although somewhat undeserved — reputation in the American diet. Saturated fats are the reason that foods are tender, flaky or creamy, as well as solid at room temperature. Like all fats, saturated fats help make you feel satisfied and full. Problem is, many Americans have grown accustomed to ingesting much more saturated fat than is needed for normal, healthy function of the body, and this excess intake has contributed to major increases in the number of people who are overweight and who have diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Trans Fatty Acids

Trans fatty acids are created through hydrogenation, a process food manufacturers use to harden unsaturated liquid vegetable oils into saturated- like fats. This helps increase the shelf-life of a product and helps improve texture and consistency.

Oils may be hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated (e.g., shortening or margarine). The list of foods containing partially hydrogenated oils—and therefore trans fat—is slightly longer than the U.S. Constitution, but some of the main culprits include fast foods, particularly French fries, baked goods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or vegetable shortening, doughnuts, most crackers, boxed cookies, stick margarine, certain granola bars, hard taco shells and frosting mixes.

Note: Peanut butter does contain hydrogenated oils, but it contains only very small amounts of trans fat. It also is a good source of protein and it contains mono- or polyunsaturated fats, the good fats.

Unsaturated Fats (the “good” fat)

These consist of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, the latter of which contain heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids. When eaten in moderation, unsaturated fats are the “good” fats; when used in place of saturated fats, they can help lower cholesterol types known to contribute to heart disease and heart attack risk. Unsaturated fats, unfortunately, pack lots of calories, so they must be enjoyed in moderation. (See the tips below for examples of foods that contain unsaturated fats.)

Lipids: What you should know

Cholesterol and triglycerides are the two main types of fat molecules — or lipids — in the body. Without them, the body could not function. For instance, cholesterol is an essential component of cell membranes and is used by the body to produce vitamin D and hormones such as estrogen. It also is used to produce substances that aid digestion. Triglycerides are a major source of energy.

The body has two main sources of cholesterol and triglycerides: the liver and your diet. Cholesterol is found only in animal products (meat, milk, cheese, butter and cream). For some people, eating excesses of cholesterol-rich foods will raise blood cholesterol levels. In normal, healthy humans, the liver produces all the cholesterol the body needs, so you really don’t need supplemental cholesterol from your diet.

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Yoga for Health

Stress and anxiety are everywhere. If they're getting the best of you, you might want to hit the mat and give yoga a try.

Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines stretching exercises, controlled breathing and relaxation. Yoga can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and improve heart function.. Like other meditative movement practices used for health purposes, various styles of yoga typically combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. This fact sheet provides basic information about yoga, summarizes scientific research on effectiveness and safety, and suggests sources for additional information.

Understanding yoga

Yoga has many styles, forms and intensities. Hatha yoga, in particular, may be a good choice for stress management. Hatha is one of the most common styles of yoga, and beginners may like its slower pace and easier movements. But most people can benefit from any style of yoga.

The core components of hatha yoga and most general yoga classes are:

Poses Yoga poses, also called postures, are a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility. Poses range from lying on the floor while completely relaxed to difficult postures that may have you stretching your physical limits.
Breathing Controlling your breathing is an important part of yoga. In yoga, breath signifies your vital energy. Yoga teaches that controlling your breathing can help you control your body and quiet your mind.