I think it’s safe to say we are well past the cold weather months of being locked inside. Being stranded in your house with nothing to do can lead one to pick up bad habits that may be difficult to break once the weather does. Changing bad habits alone can be challenging even for the highly motivated, however our work does not end here. Most people are really just concerned with the fear of wearing their summer wardrobe. As geeky as it sounds how many of us think about what our next lipid profile will reflect? How will those results effect our lifestyle, because they can dramatically!
The warmer weather can be an inspiration to shed our winter fat and to start healthy lifestyle improvements. With temperatures rising and days getting longer motivation and exercise time increase. Aerobic exercise has been shown to significantly improve HDL (good cholesterol) while also decreasing blood triglycerides . The higher a persons aerobic capacity is the higher HDL levels. We should aim for a minimum of 120 minutes of aerobic activity per week. An early morning or after dinner walk of 20 minutes six days a week is a modest investment with great returns. Greater durations will lead to greater improvements in HDL. Keep in mind a vigorous pace is required to reap the benefits of exercise.
Summertime is barbecue time, with that comes plenty of food and alcoholic beverages. I have found that barbecue can be a nutritional disaster or a Garden of Eden. To improve HDL the American Heart Association (2011) recommends a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium, and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole-grain and high fiber foods, and fat-free and low fat dairy. A healthy Mediterranean barbecue menu that includes grilled omega -3 rich fish such as salmon, trout and mackerel accompanied by salads made of green leafy vegetables and walnuts for some added crunch can be very satisfying. Seasonal fruit can be a great substitute for calorically dense deserts.
Moderate alcohol intake has been shown to increase HDL, heavy alcohol use has been shown to increase fatty acid accumulation in the blood and impair triglyceride removal. A good way to avoid overindulging is to drink double handed. One hand holds your alcoholic beverage and the other a bottle of mineral water and go sip for sip!
One good habit often leads to another, if you smoke please stop. The more you smoke the lower your HDL; by quitting HDL will rise within two weeks.
Hopefully, when the leaves fall once again you will have established a heart healthy lifestyle to survive another winter.