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Is Your Diet Affecting Your Heart Health? 

In our efforts to lose weight, we might be damaging our health without even realizing what is taking place in our bodies. On the latest episode of the A Healthier Michigan Podcast, hosted by Chuck Gaidica, he and ShanthAppelöa registered dietitian for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan discuss how diets impact heart health. 

 

Research shows the benefits of moving past dieting in favor of healthy lifestyle changes, said Shanthi Appelö points out. 

“Once we get to our end goal, we actually have to continue to work hard. That’s why we have to think of diets as a lifestyle change,” said Appelö, noting a 2017 study looked at people who already had pre-existing heart conditions. Those whose weights fluctuated had double the mortality risk from heart-related conditions as those with stable weights.   

“We need to switch our mindset to think of food as fuel, and we have to exercise to earn what we’re putting in our bodies. Our bodies function and they deserve fuel to function,” said Appelö. 

When considering healthy lifestyle diets, it’s important to look at a number of factors: 

  • Triglycerides – Refined carbohydrates and excess calories, in general, lead to high triglycerides, which contribute to hardening of the arteries. This can increase the risk for stroke, heart attacks and heart disease. 
  • Cholesterol – This is a marker for heart health. There are two different kinds. LDL cholesterol — think of the “L” as lousy — creates a fatty buildup in arteries and increases the risk for heart disease because it brings cholesterol to tissues. HDL cholesterol — think of the “H” as happy — takes the LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it can be broken down and passed from the body.  

Fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol. That’s why heart-healthy diets include fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. 

“When we consider jumping into a diet, we want to make sure that we’re also getting the nutrients we need because our health is not only measured by what’s on the scale,” said Appelö. “It’s important to think about those other nutrients, too, to make our bodies feel good and actually work well in the long run.” 

Listen to the A Healthier Michigan podcast to hear the entire conversation. 

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