We’ve been reminding you all month long that February is American Heart Month. Today we’re reminding you that lack of physical activity is one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Luckily in Florida we have beautiful weather (especially in February) so we can continue to be active all year long – no excuses! But if getting out there to exercise for the recommended 30 minutes a day seems impossible, fear not. Did you know you can get the same heart benefits from breaking up that 30 minutes into short bursts of activity you can fit in throughout the day? Come on, we all have time for 5 or 10 minutes here and there. Here’s how to get it done.
September is National Cholesterol Education Month! Here are some things we learned courtesy of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs. There are two kinds: high-density lipoprotein (“good” cholesterol) and low-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol). Having too much of the “bad” in your blood is bad for you; excess cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries and form blockages. Due to this, too much cholesterol in the blood is one of the main risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
What role does screening play?
High cholesterol doesn’t exactly have any symptoms, so many people do not know their cholesterol is too high. It’s good to have your doctor do a simple blood test to check your cholesterol levels. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that if you’re an adult aged 20 years or older that you should look into checking your cholesterol every 5 years. Depending on some other factors, you may need to do this check more often.
How can you prevent or treat high cholesterol?
Here are some lifestyle changes to consider!
- Eating a healthy diet – avoid saturated fats and trans fats, as they are known to raise cholesterol levels. Some other fats, like polyunsaturated fats, can conversely lower the level of cholesterol in your blood. Eating more fiber is also useful!
- Exercising regularly – Physical activity is also good for lowering cholesterol. 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week is recommended for adults by the Surgeon General.
- Maintaining a healthy weight – Your cholesterol levels may raise and be much higher if you’re overweight or obese. It follows that losing some of that weight can help lower that cholesterol.
- Not smoking – Quit as soon as possible if you do!
For more information, visit the CDC website to find more resources like useful links and additional reading. You might also find some helpful related information on heart disease in our Consumer Health LibGuide on our library website!
Happy Valentine’s Day from the Health Sciences Library Staff! Spend some time with your loved ones today if you can! Since it’s still February, here is some heart-healthy information courtesy of The Cleveland Clinic, just in time for the sweetest of all holidays.
Flavonoids are compounds found in many plants that provide an antioxidant defense against environmental toxins and help to repair damage. There are may types of flavonoids; Flavanols are the main type found in the cocoa bean. Flavanols are responsible for giving cocoa its bitter and pungent flavor. During cocoa bean processing, flavanols may be lost (through roasting, fermenting, etc.) in an effort to reduce this taste.
Dark Chocolate, depending on how it was processed, tends to have higher levels of flavanols than milk chocolate, resulting in the stronger taste. The higher the natural cocoa content, the more flavanols will be in the chocolate! When we consume plants-turned-foods rich in flavonoids we benefit from their antioxidant power too. As in plants, antioxidants help the body’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals that are formed by normal bodily processes (like breathing) and from environmental radicals (like cigarette smoke). Inadequate levels of antioxidants can lead to an increase in LDL-cholesterol oxidation and plaque formation on the walls of the arteries.
Research has indicated that flavanols have many positive influences on our vascular health. They may lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain and heart, make blood platelets less sticky and able to clot, and lower cholesterol.
Fat in chocolate comes from cocoa butter and is made up of equal parts of oleic acid (found in olive oil), stearic acid (which has a neutral effect on cholesterol) and palmitic acid (only makes up 1/3 of fat calories in chocolate). So, if you avoid the extra add-ins (like caramel and marshmallow) that raise the fat content in chocolate, an ounce or so of Dark Chocolate a few times per week could be considered healthy for you!