Over the last few weeks we've been looking at heart disease in African-Americans, and I want to keep going with the topic again this week.
We've already considered the risk factors you cannot change for heart disease, and we've taken a look at two of the modifiable risk factors, smoking and high blood pressure, so continuing on with the other modifiable risk factors:
Just like the rest of the population, African-Americans need to consider their cholesterol levels.
While you need a certain amount of cholesterol in your body, too much of the wrong type can lead to fatty buildup in your arteries. If you haven't visited with your doctor recently, now would be a good time to get your cholesterol levels screened to find out how you’re doing.
The following will help you make sense of your cholesterol numbers:
Desirable — less than 200 mg/dL
Borderline-high — 200-239 mg/dL
High cholesterol — 240 mg/dL and above
LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
Optimal — less than 100 mg/dL
Near or above optimal — 100-129 mg/dL
Borderline high — 130-159 mg/dL
High — 160-189 mg/dL
Very high — 190 mg/dL and above
Normal — less than 150 mg/dL
Borderline-high — 150–199 mg/dL
High — 200–499 mg/dL
Very high — 500 mg/dL
HDL (“good”) cholesterol (high is good with this one)
Low — less than 40 mg/dL
Good — 40 to 59 mg/dL
High HDL — 60 mg/dL or above
So, what can you do if your cholesterol levels need a little attention?
- Watch your saturated and trans fat intake, such as butter, cheese and fatty meat.
- Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole foods close to their natural form, as much as possible.
- Be physically active. This helps to increase your good cholesterol levels.
- Don’t smoke.
- Lose weight if you need to.
The great thing about exercising regularly is, that it helps to reduce your other risk factors (weight maintenance, improves cholesterol and high blood pressure, etc), and overall it offers huge health benefits.
If you are currently inactive you need to be aiming for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Walking is a great place to start. Another good option is to get an exercise DVD and work through it in the comfort of your own home--that way you don’t need to feel intimidated by going to the gym.
If you’re unsure about which form of exercise would be safe for you, check with your doctor first.
Obesity is a major health problem for African-Americans. If you are overweight, particularly if that weight is carried around your waist area, you are at a considerably higher risk for heart disease and stroke.
The good news is that you can take control of this issue, and significantly improve your health in the long run. Remember, being overweight isn’t simply about how you look; it’s also a personal health issue—which is far more important.
So, what should you do?
Well, it’s best to aim for 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week, as this is a safe, sensible, and sustainable amount. In fact, losing as little as 10 to 20 pounds overall, can make a really significant improvement in your health.
If you need help designing a healthy eating plan for weight loss, ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian for further help.
Here are a few simple healthy eating habits to help you:
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Go for lean meats, poultry and fish, and take care with the cooking method you choose.
- Choose whole grains rather than refined white products.
- Avoid processed foods high in trans and saturated fats most of the time.
- Drink lots of water.
The thing to remember is that healthy eating and exercise go hand-in-hand—this is a powerful combination to help you avoid heart disease and stroke in the future. So, take control right now!
Remember to drop me an email if you have any specific queries, and I'll try to work them into a future article.