Who wants to slog away at the gym to ward off heart disease when you can be enjoying time with loved ones? Not us! Luckily, simple tricks lower cholesterol, tame blood pressure, boost blood flow and more. And that’s great news since keeping your heart healthy lowers the odds of COVID complications, and bringing your triglycerides, “bad” LDL cholesterol, and “good” HDL cholesterol into a healthy range can cut your risk of a heart attack or stroke. And it turns out some of your favorite holiday traditions improve your levels without leaving you feeling deprived.
Cranberries boost “good” HDL cholesterol.
Give Grandma’s famous cranberry recipe a place of pride among the holiday sides, and you’ll improve your cholesterol as you feast. University of Scranton scientists say the compounds that give cranberries their ruby-red hue (anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins) boost “good” HDL cholesterol by 10 percent. And though the uptick in artery-clearing cholesterol may sound small, it packs a big punch: It’s enough to lower your risk of heart disease by up to 40 percent. Best of all, related UK research suggests cranberries begin giving your cardiovascular system a boost in just two hours.
An after dinner stroll reduces “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Ahh…feels so good to take a post-feast ramble with your nearest and dearest in the crisp autumn air. And it turns out a pleasure walk is one of the most reliable ways to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Indeed, one study found that those who participated in a 12-week exercise program had a 17 percent drop in LDL. Not only does movement burn off bad cholesterol, blocking it from building up in the bloodstream, it actually changes the size of the LDL particles in blood so it’s tougher for them to stick to artery walls.
Exercising gratitude is good for your mind and body.
Sharing what you’re thankful for is a heartwarming holiday tradition. And a new study in Scientific Reports finds it lowers troublesome blood fats known as triglycerides too. Little moments of gratitude calm the type of everyday stress that triggers your liver to ramp up production of triglycerides. The payoff: Related Harvard research suggests that a sunnier outlook cuts heart attack risk by as much as 35 percent.
Savor candied pecans for a heart-healthy treat.
Digging into a handful of this classic holiday treat is a tasty way to keep heart trouble at bay. University of Georgia scientists say eating 2 ½ ounces of pecans (about two small handfuls) daily lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol significantly. The healthy fats and fiber block artery-clogging cholesterol formation. Tip: Walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, and peanuts provide similar heart-smart benefits.
Bonus tip: Don’t forget your flu shot.
Canadian scientists say a flu shot cuts heart attack and stroke risk. The flu can cause damaging heart inflammation, but annual vaccines keep youandyour heart healthy.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.