Lower Your Cholesterol


from the Heart Health Center

For many Americans working toward better heart health, an important first step is getting cholesterol to a healthy level. Diet and exercise are important steps to reduce high cholesterol. However, many people may find that with diet and exercise alone, cholesterol numbers are not where they should be.

More than one hundred million Americans have high cholesterol, an important risk factor for heart disease. Though diet is very important, many people don’t realize that cholesterol is also produced in the body based upon heredity.

Learning about your family health history is important—we recommend talking to your family about their health and creating a family health tree. Bringing this information to your next doctor visit will help you discuss your family history regarding cholesterol and other hereditary health concerns.

Understanding Cholesterol

What you eat affects your health, by raising or lowering the blood fats (cholesterol, triglycerides) that circulate through your body. Some foods increase your levels of total cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. Over the years, excess cholesterol and fat are deposited in the inner walls of the arteries that supply blood to your heart. Eventually, these deposits can make your arteries narrower and less flexible, a condition known as atherosclerosis. Left unchecked, this buildup can lead to heart attack, stroke and death.

Additionally, because of your family health history, your body may be genetically predisposed to make more cholesterol than you may need, in addition to the cholesterol from your food intake.

Know your numbers!

Each one of us has a cholesterol goal level, based upon our individual risk factors and our risk for heart disease. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that everyone age 20 and over have a blood cholesterol test every five years to check their cholesterol levels. To learn more about your goal, visit http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/chd for the National Cholesterol Education Program’s Live Healthier, Live Longer Web site.

If your cholesterol levels are mildly to moderately higher than your goal, making a few dietary changes may be all you need to get back on track.

According to current NCEP recommendations, people with coronary heart disease or others considered to be at high risk for coronary heart disease generally have an LDL cholesterol goal of less than 100 mg/dL. An LDL cholesterol goal of less than 70 mg/dL is a therapeutic option for people considered to be at very high risk. Work with your doctor to develop a plan to help reduce your LDL cholesterol number to goal.

Here are guidelines for your cholesterol and triglyceride levels according to NCEP guidelines (new guidelines will be released in 2010):

Total blood cholesterol levels
less than 200 mg/dL Desirable
200 to 239 mg/dL Borderline high
240 mg/dL or above High
LDL blood cholesterol levels
less than 100 mg/dL Optimal
100 to 129 mg/dL Near optimal/above optimal
130 to 159 mg/dL Borderline high
160 to 189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and above Very High
HDL blood cholesterol levels
above 60 mg/dL. Levels above 60 mg/dL are considered especially beneficial and can offset risk factors for heart disease, according to NHLBI. The higher the level, the healthier it is. Optimal
50 to 60 mg/dL for women; 40 to 50 mg/dL for men Average
less than 50 mg/dL for women; less than 40 mg/dL for men. Below these levels is considered a major risk factor for heart disease. Low
Triglyceride levels
less than 150 mg/dL Normal
150 to 199 mg/dL Borderline High
200 to 499 mg/dL High
500 mg/dL or higher Very high

It is important to remember that these recommendations are for healthy individuals, not for women with existing risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, kidney disease, being overweight, smoking or having a family history of heart disease. If you are at risk for heart disease, your target goals likely will be lower.

Fighting Back

There are things that you can do now to help you gain a better understanding of your risk factors and perhaps lower your chances of high cholesterol and heart disease. For starters, it’s important that you eat right, get plenty of exercise, as recommended by your physician, and begin to understand your family health history. A healthy diet may help reduce total cholesterol. In general, you want to get “good” cholesterol higher and “bad” cholesterol lower.

You can still enjoy a wide variety of foods by making healthful dietary choices and changes.

If elevated cholesterol is part of your family genetics, or you have other conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, you may need medication in addition to eating a heart-healthy diet. But whether you have normal cholesterol, high levels, or are currently taking a cholesterol-lowering drug, eating a healthy diet is important for everyone.

Good fats/bad fats

Fats can be good for you and your heart, when they’re the right kind and consumed in limited amounts; but even good fat is packed with calories.

Those include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which decrease “bad” cholesterol, and omega-3 fatty acids, which lower triglycerides.

  • Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.
  • Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil.
  • Polyunsaturated fats include corn oil, safflower oil and soybean oil.

Saturated fats are the bad guys that may endanger your heart. They increase LDL or “bad” cholesterol more than anything else in your diet.

  • Saturated fats, found mostly in animal products, are hard at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Think butter, shortening, fat on and in meat and poultry skin. Whole milk or two-percent milk products, half-and-half and cream all have a lot of saturated fat.
  • Tropical oils—coconut, palm and palm kernel oils—also contain a lot of saturated fats. These oils are used in commercially baked crackers, cookies and non-dairy creamers.
  • Foods containing saturated fats often also contain high amounts of cholesterol, which is only found in animal products.

Trans fats are another culprit to watch out for.

  • Trans fats raise “bad” cholesterol.
  • Trans fats are found in foods made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils—stick margarine and some store-bought cookies and cakes, fast-food French fries, potato chips and other snacks.
  • Read your food labels before purchasing. If there are .5 grams or less of trans fats in an item, the company can claim 0 trans fats on the label, so check the ingredient list for hydrogenated oils.

Heart-Healthy Choices

1. Switch your dairy

  • Make the change from whole or two-percent milk to one-percent and then to skim, for drinking and in recipes. Or try almond milk or rice milk for a nondairy alternative.
  • Use low-fat or nonfat sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese and ice cream.

2. Choose lean cuts

  • Beef tenderloin, sirloin, eye of round, ground beef with 10 percent or less fat and pork tenderloin are good choices.
  • Other alternatives include white meat chicken or turkey.
  • Remove the skin before cooking any poultry.

3. Cook with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated Oils

  • These include olive, canola, peanut, safflower, sunflower, sesame and soybean oils.

4. Use more plant-based proteins instead of animal products

  • These include beans and peas—black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils—and tofu or soy. Try veggie burgers (soy-based or grain-based) for an alternative to beef.

5. Boost your intake of foods that are high in soluble fiber

  • This type of fiber binds to cholesterol in the digestive tract and helps remove it from your body. Good sources include oatmeal, oatmeal bread, oat bran cereal, beans and peas, apples, bananas and citrus fruits.

6. Increase whole grains in your diet

  • Choose bread with at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per slice, whole-grain pastas and brown rice.

7. Use products containing plant sterol and stanol esters

  • These components help keep your body from absorbing cholesterol.
  • Consuming two to three grams a day decreases LDL cholesterol by 6 percent to 15 percent.
  • Food products that have added cholesterol-lowering sterols and stanols include margarines, orange juice and yogurt.

8. Eat fatty fish twice a week

  • Choose wild salmon over farm-raised to reduce possible toxin exposure.
  • Pregnant or nursing women and children should limit tuna intake to 6 ounces a week and avoid swordfish, due to concerns about methyl mercury levels.

9. Increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables you eat

  • Most women should have 1-1/2 cups of fruit and 2 to 2-1/2 cups of vegetables (without cheese sauce!) every day, according to new guidelines.
  • Adding more of these to your diet fills you up, adds fiber and important nutrients and helps replace foods with saturated fats.
  • For details on the new dietary recommendations, visit www.mypyramid.gov .

10. Keep an eye on dietary cholesterol

  • Dietary cholesterol, such as is found in eggs, dairy products and some other foods, may raise cholesterol in the blood slightly, but newer studies find that consumption of dietary cholesterol is unlikely to substantially increase risk of coronary heart disease or stroke among healthy men and women. If you have other existing health conditions or risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, kidney disease, being overweight, smoking or having a family history of heart disease, you may need to monitor dietary cholesterol more closely.
  • Egg yolks are filled with dietary cholesterol—213 milligrams in each. If you have elevated cholesterol, the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends you keep your consumption under 200 milligrams per day.
  • Egg whites are cholesterol-free, so use two for each whole egg in recipes, or use cholesterol-free egg substitute, which works well in baking and omelettes.

Heart-Healthy Tips for Eating Away from Home

Here’s how to eat out and have a terrific meal without taking in too much fat and cholesterol:

  1. Preparation counts. Order your food fresh, sautéed, grilled/broiled, or poached. If sautéed or broiled, ask for it to be cooked with olive oil or without fat. Have sauces served on the side, so you add only what you need.
  2. Divide and conquer. Resist the pitfalls of inflated portions by eating only half of what you order. Take the rest home for an easy lunch or dinner the next day. Ask if you and your dining partner can share an entrée, with each of you ordering individual salads.
  3. Balance. Have the nachos if you really want them, but order a healthy entrée. Dessert isn’t a no-no—pick fresh fruit or sorbet. Enjoy the bread or rolls, just skip the butter and drizzle on olive oil.
  4. Sip slowly. Wine may raise HDL “good” cholesterol a bit, but there’s also evidence it can boost your triglyceride levels.
  5. Fast food stops are OK. Most fast-food restaurants now offer healthier items than a bacon double cheeseburger. Depending upon which chain you visit, you may find salads (ask for nonfat or olive oil dressings), grilled chicken, yogurt, baked potatoes and fresh fruit cups.
  6. Look for a heart-healthy symbol. Some restaurants put a heart or other sign next to healthful menu items. Choose from those.

For more on heart health, visit: www.healthywomen.org/healthcenter/heart-health

© 2010 HealthyWomen All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (tollfree). On the Web at: www.HealthyWomen.org.


Sexercises: Workouts to Work You Up


from HealthyWomen’s e-newsletter, HealthyWomen Take 10

You know all of the good-for-you arguments for becoming more physically active, but here’s an especially attractive reward: exercise can improve your sex life.

Being physically active helps you feel more interested in sex, gives you the energy and strength you need for enjoying your partner or yourself more, reduces the stress that can block sexual interest and builds the muscles used in sexual intimacy.

Research shows that exercise boosts women’s sexual arousal—even if they were experiencing low sexual desire before starting physical activity. That effect is strongest 15 minutes after exercising (a good reason to work out at home!).

These exercises can help increase your sexual interest and pleasure:

  • Aerobic exercise of all types—brisk walking, dancing, bike riding, swimming, jogging—improves blood flow, which supports sexual arousal. It also increases lung capacity and cardiac endurance for sustaining sexual activities as long as you want.
  • Do floor exercises to strengthen your flexibility and stamina. While lying on your back, try gentle pelvic arches, lower body lifts and thigh stretches. And don’t forget the importance of being able to support your body’s weight during sex. To get in shape for that, lie on the floor face down and do modified push-ups (keep lower leg bent on the mat or carpet).
  • Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and are known for improving urinary incontinence in women and men, but these exercises also may help women reach orgasm and increase sexual functioning. Go here and here to learn more about how to perform Kegel exercises.
  • Pilates and yoga both build core muscles and so are likely to benefit sexual activity. Women have reported anecdotally that these methods have helped them. A 2010 study found that Pilates improved pelvic muscle strength as much as a pelvic floor muscle-training program in women with little or no functional problem. Recent yoga research determined that women enrolled in a 12-week yoga program significantly improved their sexual functions in all categories: desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and less pain

For more on sexual health, visit: www.healthywomen.org/healthcenter/sexual-health


University of British Columbia Sexual Psychophysiology and Psychoneuroendocrinology Laboratory. “Sympathetic Nervous System Arousal and Sexual Functioning.” http://www.psych.ubc.ca/~bglab/female.html.

Price J. Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty. ( Emeryville , CA : Seal Press, 2006.)

Mayo Clinic. “Kegel Exercises: How to Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles.” http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/kegel-exercises/WO00119. Accessed January 7, 2010 .

Zahariou AG, Karamouti MV, Papaioannou PD. “Pelvic Floor Muscle Training Improves Sexual Function of Women with Stress Urinary Incontinence.” International Urogynecology Journal and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. 2008 Mar;19(3):401-6. Epub 2007 Sep 18.

Culligan PJ, Scherer J, Dyer K, et al. “A Randomized Clinical Trial Comparing Pelvic Floor Muscle Training to a Pilates Exercise Program for Improving Pelvic Muscle Strength.” International Urogynecology Journal and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. Epub 2010.

Dhikav V, Karmarkar G, Gupta R, et al. “Yoga in Female Sexual Functions.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Epub 2009.

© 2010 HealthyWomen All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (tollfree). On the Web at: www.HealthyWomen.org.



Over 200 Bergen County residents are expected to be among the more than 4,000 participants.

This is a great cause so we wanted to help spread the word…. Special Olympics New Jersey has announced that approximately 200  residents of Bergen County are expected to participate in their Feb. 27 Polar Bear Plunge at Seaside Heights. This year more than 4,000 people are expected to take the Plunge into the frigid Atlantic Ocean for Special Olympics New Jersey in what will be the biggest Plunge yet.

 For those interested in taking the Plunge and supporting the more than 21,000 Special Olympics athletes in New Jersey, there is still time to sign up. On-line registration will be accepted until midnight on Feb. 24, or you can register on-site beginning at 9 a.m. on Feb. 27 outside the Aztec Ocean Resort.

The Polar Bear Plunge is a Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics New Jersey event, presented by the NJ State PBA, the Aztec Ocean Resort and NJ 101.5. This year’s event will once again be broadcast live by The Voice of the Plunge, NJ 101.5’s own Big Joe Henry.  Lunch will be provided to all Plungers by area restaurants.

To learn more about the Polar Bear Plunge, or to support a Plunger please visit www.njpolarplunge.org, or call (609)896-8000.  You can also support the event by texting PLUNGE to 90999.

Spread the Word about American Heart Month Activities


There are many National Health Observances—special days, weeks, or months used to raise awareness of important health topics. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, should know—they coordinate the official list of American National Health Observances by providing an annual calendar that includes all observances, along with sponsoring organization and contact information. In 2010, they want to do more—so they’ve created National Health Observance toolkits to help promote certain observances.

Help promote American Heart Month by spreading the word about the recently launched American Heart Month National Health Observance toolkit. The toolkit provides readers with easy, actionable ways to educate and engage the public in American Heart Month—and it’s free.

 You still have time to take action to promote heart health.

  1. Host an American Heart Month event at local schools, health centers, libraries, etc. Work with local recreation and fitness centers to spread the word about the importance of physical activity to prevent heart disease.
  2. Contact your local Red Cross to host a CPR training event in your community. Urge local community members to learn CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator). These skills can help save the life of someone who has sudden cardiac arrest.
  3. Host a 20-minute group walk around your office at lunch time.
  4. Conduct a cooking demonstration using a heart-healthy recipe.

Heart disease can be prevented. To keep your heart healthy:

  • Watch your weight.
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
  • Get active and eat healthy.
  • Manage stress.

One of our main goals at Heartstrong is to help people make healthy well-informed decisions that will allow you to live a longer, healthier and hopefully wealthier life.  We offer educational seminars to help you and your group get started improving your overall health.  Most People Know What Healthy Habits Are, But Do Not Know How or Where To Start.  Heartstrong presents health and wellness seminars on a wide variety of topics to corporations, community groups, professional groups and healthcare providers.  Programs can be customized for your groups needs.  Check out our books “Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” and “Take Charge: A Man’s Roadmap to a Healthy Heart” available at www.heart-strong.com

Valentine’s Chocolate is Heart Healthy (in Moderation)


 So Valentine’s Day is here…… Did you get some chocolate?

 The chocolate we enjoy today is very different from the cocoa that was eaten more than 2,000 years ago. Cocoa was first used by the Maya and Aztecs as a medicinal drink.  The natural plant product, cocoa, and the processed food product, chocolate, are quite different. Chocolate is a combination of cocoa, sugar, milk, and other ingredients to form a solid food product. Chocolate is often viewed negatively because it is relatively high in calories from sugar and fat.

Recent research has linked cocoa and chocolate to improved heart function, lower blood pressure, and improved blood vessel health.  Cocoa is a rich source of flavonoids, even greater than tea and wine. Dark chocolate contains substantially more flavonoids than milk chocolate.

Keep in mind that while chocolate has some health benefits, it is loaded with calories and should be eaten in moderation.

Dark chocolate has the greatest heart healthy benefits.  For only 20 calories, two tablespoons (10g) of unsweetened cocoa powder provides the same antioxidant power as two glasses of red wine, two cups of green tea or three cups of black tea.

Amounts of common chocolate products that contain approximately 100 calories (adapted from The Hershey Company):

Product Amount Equaling 100 Calories
Semi-sweet chocolate 1 ½ baking block (21 g) or 1 ½ Tbsp. chocolate chips (22.5 g)
Bittersweet chocolate 1 ½ baking block (21 g)
Unsweetened  baking chocolate 1 ½ baking block (21 g)
Milk chocolate 0.75oz candy bar or 2 Hershey’s Nuggets or 4 Hershey’s kisses (22 g)
White chocolate 1 ½ Tbsp. white chocolate chips (22.5 g)

So, enjoy your Valentine’s chocolate – but in moderation!

For more heart healthy tips visit www.heart-strong.com

New resource available to help increase outdoor activities


There’s a new resource we wanted to share that helps people of all ages get outdoors. Created by The North Face, PlanetExplore (www.planetexplore.com) is an online community of national and regional organizations to help people of all ages find local outdoor recreational activities. Kids especially need to start NOW to be healthy so that they grow up to be healthy adults. In fact, according to The Outdoor Foundation’s recently released Special Report on Youth (http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/research.youth.html) outdoor participation among youth continues to decrease each year, with the rate of decline steepest among the youngest age groups. Electronics, among other things, is sure to be a big part of the blame. PlanetExplore is trying to make it easier for parents to combat this issue of kids not getting outdoors enough. They and their kids need to get outdoors, and PlanetExplore helps to facilitate that.

For more heart healthy info visit www.heart-strong.com

The Top Four Exercises People Do Wrong – And How to Fix Them!


We came across some great exercise tips we wanted to share with you…

These tips are brought to you by Stacy Berman, a New York City certified personal trainer and founder of Stacy’s Boot Camp, “when a person decides to attempt weight lifting and exercise on their own, they are at great risk for injury, which can set them back even further than where they started.”

Stacy notes that almost everyone knows that lifting a heavy object without bending at the knees strains the lower back or running on an uneven surface causes sore knees and hips. What most people don’t know is that even slight changes in posture and incorrect technique while performing weight-lifting movements can cause great injuries. Below Stacy lists the top five exercises that people do WRONG in the gym, and how to correct your own technique to avoid getting hurt.

Sit-ups: The sit-up is not only bad for the neck, it isn’t very effective at toning the mid-section, either. Many people lock their hands behind their head and strain their neck while sitting up, causing a torque in the spine, which ultimately leads to neck and back pain.  

 Do it Right: According to Stacy, “For a safe and effective stomach workout, you should do abdominal crunches instead of sit-ups. Lie on your back and position your legs with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Then, with your hands either behind your head or crossed over your chest, lift your entire torso from the belly button-up to about a 45-degree angle, taking care to keep your spine aligned and your back flat against the floor.” Stacy also notes that slower is better – slowly lift and lower your torso for a better overall ab workout and less strain on your neck and back.

Squats: When done correctly, squats can be a great strength building and toning exercise for the lower body, however, Stacy says, many people overdo it when it comes to weight – which can lead to injury. “Doing a squat exercise with a barbell across your back puts you in a position to lift a great amount of weight many people – men especially – are prone to add too much weight too soon, causing them to default into improper position just to lift the weight.”

 Do it Right: Starting at a low weight is key for squats, notes Stacy, because you can focus solely on your form. The proper positioning for a squat should be as follows: standing straight with a plain (no weight added) barbell across the back of your shoulders and your feet slightly wider  than shoulder width apart, lower your body down as if you are going to sit in a chair. Keeping your knees in a straight line as you lower and stop as your thighs are creating a 90-degree angle with your lower legs. Your knees should stay in line with the rest of your legs (do not let them buckle in or out) and should not at any point bend too far forward as to cover your toes (always keep your toes in sight to make sure your are sitting “deep” enough into the squat).

Shoulder Press: This exercise strains the shoulders, both on the way down and on the way up. The little muscles on the top of your shoulders work too hard and become inflamed, causing “weight lifters shoulder.” It can also a lot of stress on the shoulder joints, which can lead to permanent damage.

 Do it Right: By keeping your spine in line with your shoulders and head, you can avoid potential pain and injury in your shoulders and spine, says Stacy. Just like the squat, moderate weight should be used while you are still developing proper form. Stacy also adds: “you should avoid the common ‘thrust up’ than you may see many weight lifters using at the gym – which creates a lot of force on the way up, making the exercise easier, but very dangerous if you are not in control of the weight you are lifting.”

Push-ups: Push-ups are often the culprit of neck, lower back, elbow and shoulder pain. They require a lot of strength – holding your entire body parallel to the floor is no small feat and it’s easy to overdo it.  

Do it Right: According to Stacy, “the number one sin when doing push-ups is the ‘saggy back,’ which I see in almost all of my clients when they first start doing the exercise.” Stacy recommends you start with modified push-ups on your knees in the proper form – which is hands placed shoulder-width apart and lowering your body until your chest nearly touches the floor, keeping your head, neck and back aligned. “Once you are comfortable doing modified push-ups, start adding just a few ‘regular’ ones into your routine until you are strong enough to completely replace the modified ones,” says Stacy.

One final point from Stacy: working out should be fun and leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated, not in pain. Don’t feel pressure to show off at the gym or get ahead of yourself – slow and steady wins the race!

Looking for more info about Stacy visit http://www.stacysbootcamp.com/

Looking for more heart healthy info visit www.heart-strong.com