When it comes to heart health, two of the most important things to pay attention to are your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. If these levels are too high, you are at significantly high risk for developing heart disease and may soon experience a heart attack or stroke.
High cholesterol and high blood pressure are often misunderstood by people who live with them, believing it’s not serious or that there’s not much to do about it. But these conditions are indeed life-threatening, and fortunately, you can do something about them.
Reversing these conditions is not a big medical mystery. Extensive research has shown that what you eat has a profound impact on your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Saturated Fats Raise Your Cholesterol
Perhaps the biggest culprit when it comes to ruining your heart health is saturated fats. Saturated fats are found in animal products such as:
- red meat
- processed meats (hot dogs, sausages)
The fatty acids in these foods are closely associated with elevated cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that’s needed in all the cells in your body. Usually, your liver will regulate cholesterol circulation in your blood and keep things at the right levels. But when you eat foods high in saturated fats, the cholesterol receptor sites in your liver become clogged, meaning cholesterol can’t be removed from your bloodstream as effectively, and a buildup ensues.
High Cholesterol Raises Your Blood Pressure
When cholesterol builds up in your bloodstream, it sticks to the walls of your arteries. This narrows the space through which blood can flow and raises your blood pressure.
It also damages the artery walls, forming blood clots and plaque, which stiffens your arteries, raising blood pressure even more.
High Blood Pressure Damages Your Arteries and Organs
The tissues in your blood vessels and the vital organs they connect to are incredibly sensitive to changes in blood pressure. When blood pressure is high, the overly-forceful pulses of the blood can damage those delicate tissues. Over time, this damage can lead to several severe problems with your digestive and respiratory organs.
That powerful force of blood pressure can also cause one of those arterial blood clots to break off and block blood flow. If this happens in the arteries that supply blood to your heart, it’s called a heart attack. If it happens in your brain, it’s a stroke.
How To Lower Your Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Continue to eat foods that are high in saturated fats. Those cholesterol receptor sites will get more and more clogged, and your cholesterol and blood pressure will continue to rise, putting you at an ever-increasing risk for heart disease and stroke.
So the first step in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure is to minimize your intake of saturated fats. You don’t need to eat meat and dairy every day.
Replace some of those animal products with plant-based proteins such as:
- leafy greens
- high-fiber vegetables
Not only will these foods give you a high density of vitamins and minerals, but they’re also packed with antioxidants that help protect your cells and tissues from damage.
Also, instead of cooking with butter, use vegetable oil like olive oil, grapeseed oil, or avocado oil. These oils are high in healthy unsaturated fats, which will not raise cholesterol levels like saturated fats. These unsaturated fats in plant-based foods also activate cholesterol seven alpha-hydroxylase, an enzyme that breaks down cholesterol and helps clear out those clogged receptor sites.
Talk to your doctor about the relationship between your diet and heart health. They can help you understand what is wrong with your current diet and help you discover healthier and tastier foods to eat.