Article written for ThirdAge.com
Imagine an unwedded sixty-something year old man who never dates women past the age of thirty. Such a man exists. His name is Harry Sanborn, the lead character in the romantic comedy, Something’s Gotta Give. From the get-go, Sanborn describes himself as “an expert on the younger woman.” Nevertheless, his way of life radically changes after having a heart attack amidst foreplay with his current thirty-something year old girlfriend, Marin. Hereafter, his EKG shows a blocked artery.
Like Sanborn, many people experience heart attacks. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, it is a leading killer in the United States among men and women. Although deadly, a heart attack may be prevented by those who choose a healthy lifestyle. Aside from exercise, a healthy diet is extremely important. A diet should include foods to lower cholesterol.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “high cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease and heart attacks.” Interestingly, there are too types of cholesterol. While high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as “good” cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is known as “bad” cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association, a thick deposit of plaque may build up in the inner walls of the arteries if there is too much LDL circulating within the blood. When this occurs, a person is at risk of having a heart attack or stroke because a blood clot may form.
It is important to lower LDL while maintaining HDL, and one way to do so is by consuming cholesterol-lowering foods. Samantha Heller, registered dietitian and certified nutritionist, suggests tips that help reduce the risk of heart disease. According to Heller, a healthy diet should include fruits and vegetables, food containing healthy fat, fiber-rich foods, beans, and nuts.
As stated on everydayhealth.com, fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of antioxidants and phytochemicals, which work against LDL. For instance, lutein is found in green leafy vegetables, such as spinach. According to Prevention, lutein-rich food helps to reduce cholesterol levels. Furthermore, research suggests that merely consuming 1/2 cup of food containing lutein will help to guard against heart attacks.
While vegetables and fruits are helpful, it can be fun to eat a little fat every now and then. Luckily, there are foods that contain healthy fat. According to EverydayHealth.com, healthy oils “help fight internal inflammation, improve cholesterol levels, boost the immune system, and keep your brain and central nervous system healthy. The oils listed are: olive, canola, peanut, sesame, flax, and walnut. On the contrary, coconut and kernel oil are two that should be avoided because they contain saturated fat. According to Prevention, saturated fat should be avoided because the liver uses it to make cholesterol.
Another way to counteract cholesterol is by eating foods that are high in fiber. “Soluble fiber forms a gel in water that helps bind acids and cholesterol in the intestinal tract, preventing their re-absorption into the body,” according to Prevention. Soluble fiber can be found in barley, oats, carrots, apples, and brown rice. According to the FDA and the National Cancer Institute, adults should consume 25 to 40 grams of fiber each day.
Another fiber-rich food that fights cholesterol is beans. According to Prevention, beans have more fiber than any other food; better yet, they are high in soluble fiber. “Eating a cup of any type of beans a day-particularly kidney, navy, pinto, black, chickpea, or butter beans-can lower cholesterol by as much as 10 percent in 6 weeks,” as stated by Prevention. Although beans are known to be the “magical fruit,” the price you may pay is well worth the end result.
Last but not least, nuts are a cholesterol-lowering food. Everydayhealth.com suggests eating three to five servings of unsalted nuts, such as walnuts, peanuts, and almonds. According to Prevention, nuts contain phytochemicals, magnesium, vitamin E, and copper, which have been associated to heart health. Because nuts are a source of healthy fat, it is wise to eat in moderation.
All in all, even if a person does not have high cholesterol, it is important to start eating healthy now in order to prevent future problems. Although there are those like Sanborn who survive a heart attach, it changes one’s body and life. In the film, the doctor tells Sanborn, “After a heart attack, rule of thumb is: If you can climb a flight of stairs, you can have sex.” It takes a good while for Sanborn to reach the top of a stairs. Although comical, it’s simply symbolic that it’s no fun to have a heart attack, so take care.