Atherosclerosis, a dangerous condition where fats build up and clog arteries, can potentially cause heart disease and stroke. Above all, eating a balance of foods that are as close to their natural state as possible is a strong first step toward retaining the heath of your arteries. Read below for some more tips on how to prevent, delay, or reduce the severity of existing atherosclerosis.

Eat a low-fat, plant-based diet – Eating a diet with reduced saturated fat works to reduce LDL (or “bad” cholesterol) particles in the bloodstream. The most effective diets keep fat consumption to less than 20% of calories.

Low-cholesterol diet – Reducing cholesterol intake allows for the creation of fewer LDL particles.

Minimizing caloric intake – Fill your diet with whole, unprocessed foods. The fewer calories you consume, the fewer LDL particles will result.

Stress management – When you are stressed, your body goes through a process that will create more LDLs and dump them into your bloodstream. Practicing relaxation will help prevent this process from occurring. Quit smoking – The chemicals in cigarettes and cigars cause the creation of more LDLs and decrease your HDL (the “good” cholesterol) population. Quitting will allow the healthier HDL particle to multiply and reduce the LDL content in your blood.

Exercise – Exercise lowers LDLs and increases HDLs. As a bonus, it also decreases insulin and blood pressure, both of which can accelerate atherosclerosis.

Alcohol – Small amounts of alcohol, about 1 ounce per day, can cause the liver to increase production of HDLs.

Anticoagulants – Foods with high omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. fish) or a low dose of aspirin work to dilate blood vessels, inhibit blood clotting, and reduce inflammation, all of which play an important role in reducing the dangers of atherosclerosis.

Antioxidants – Antioxidants can work to preserve the flexibility of arteries. It is best to get these from whole foods rather than supplements. They are most abundant in fruits and veggies, but can also be found in some nuts, wholegrains and some meats, poultry and fish.

Psychosocial support system – Having a network of medical, social and familial support will help you both understand what dietary and lifestyle changes are right for you and aid your ability to follow through on them.

Be sure to consult with your physician about which steps may be right for you before incorporating any of these tips into your own routine.

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