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Nutrition in a Nutshell #4: New Guidelines for a Healthy Heart
by Barbara Hiebert, R.D.

The National Institutes of Health have just published the latest guidelines for prevention of heart disease. Why is this important? Statistics show that more people in the United States die from heart disease than any other health problem. Each year more than a million Americans have heart attacks.

That's the bad news. The good news is that you can do something about it! By making changes in your lifestyle that include diet, exercise, and (for some) medication, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

One way to assess your risk is by looking at cholesterol content of your blood. By obtaining the results of a "lipid panel" you can find out where you stand.

Here are the new recommendations:

LDL cholesterol <100 mg/dL.
Total cholesterol < 200 mg/dL.
HDL > 40 mg/dL.

While in the past the medical community focused on total cholesterol, LDL is now thought to be a better indicator of cardiac risk. Here's how you can work to bring down your LDL and total cholesterol levels while working to raise your HDL levels:

Certain grocery store products are available that contain cholesterol-lowering compounds (plant stanols). One of these is "Benecol," a cholesterol-lowering margarine that can further reduce your cholesterol levels by up to 14%. Plant stanols are added to some salad dressings as well (look for the advertising on the label).

If you want further information about any of these recommendations (i.e. How do I cut down on sodium? How many grams of fat should I eat in one day? etc.), please email me at: I'll be glad to help you out in any way that I can!

If you are interested in websites, here are some good ones: