Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Nicole McClain Shares Lipid Profile for Heart Month

Fitness Model Nicole McClain Asks You to Know Your Score

Heart Month, sponsored by the American Heart Association, is an excellent time to take a closer look at your cholesterol, nutrition and fitness habits. Heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.

Here are some tips to help save your life and the lives of your loved ones.

1. Stop Smoking. I've never tried smoking, not even once. I realize this isn't the case for many people and it can be extremely difficult to quit once you've started. Smoking affects your entire cardiovascular system. Combine smoking with obesity, high blood pressure and/or diabetes, and you have a heart recipe disaster.  

2. Eat Better. Start looking at food as "Plates of Points" with a budget. It works similarly to your financial budget when you make purchases. "Do I really need to buy this purse? Or should I save my money for an airline ticket to San Francisco?" When reading a menu, it's an opportunity to see each entree as a chance to splurge or save. I ask myself, "Is this something I really want to eat, that I need to have, or should I save these points (calories) for something I really want in the future?" And by future, I mean two days from now or even two weeks from now.

I don't have a limited number of points per day, which is the key to success. So many diets fail because people "cold turkey diet" and cut out everything they love and the cravings become unbearable to stifle.

Saving points is easier than you think. Cut out all unnecessary extras (oil) and use a healthier substitute (lemon). Choose grilled instead of fried with a side of steamed broccoli with lemon, hold the butter and oil please. I use water, lemons or pineapple juice when I cook instead of oil and butter. If I'm baking an entree, I'll use coconut oil to grease the pan but only if absolutely necessary. I look for soups that aren't cream-based and skip pasta completely. When I eat healthier and cut out the unnecessary calories, I don't feel guilty "spending more points" when I really want a slice of key lime pie once in a while. I can eat salads and vegetables any hour of the day, add spices to my grilled chicken, herbs to fish, and venison is almost the healthiest meat next to bison and ostrich.

3. Get Moving. After a 13 hour day, it's difficult to hit the gym. If I can't muster the energy to lift, I force myself to walk outside and get some fresh air. Often times, the breeze and noises of nature motivate me to walk Sir Mogs or take a light jog. Any extra steps you take each day, even 50, get you that much closer to losing weight and that much further away from the couch.

4. Know Your Blood Pressure. About one in three adults have high blood pressure. It's important to know your numbers and take steps to control them if yours are high. I have my blood pressure checked routinely four times a year and track my numbers in a journal, noting whether I had coffee that morning (which can alter the numbers) or if I fasted the night before. This way, I can track any changes, either increases or decreases, before my doctor might ever notice a difference.

5. Reduce Your Blood Sugar. Diabetes is a major controllable risk factor for heart disease. In my last profile my sugar was normal at 84. Ideal levels are between 70 and 100. I've eliminated Starbucks from my diet and take no sugar in my coffee. I save my sugar "points" for menu items I love like key lime pie, chocolate mousse, or a fancy martini. For summer parties, I use Stevia, a natural, sweet-leafed herb that has 300 times the sweetness of sugar and has almost no effect on blood glucose, which means it's great for those with a low-carbohydrate diet, diabetes or diabetes prevention. It is not a chemical, not human-produced, and has been used for hundreds of years in Brazil as  "sweet treat." For you chem nerds, Stevia is heat stable, pH stable, and non-fermentable.

6. Monitor and Understand Your Cholesterol. There are several different components that make up your numbers = Total Cholesterol, HDL, LDL, Triglycerides.

My Total Cholesterol Score = 179. Total Cholesterol should be less than 200 to be considered ideal.  179 means I have low total cholesterol which is good. In fact, it's so good, my physician says I don't need to have the test repeated for five years (I'll be back next year though).

My HDL Score = 86. The ideal HDL range for women is greater than 55. HDL is the "good" cholesterol believed to remove excess cholesterol from the body tissues. It is desirable for this to be in the normal or high range. Exercise helps to increase the HDL cholesterol.

My LDL Score = 83. The ideal range is less than 100, though anything under 130 is considered normal. LDL is the "bad" cholesterol because it tends to deposit cholesterol and fat on the artery walls, or atherosclerosis. My level is in the ideal range.

My Triglycerides Score = 50. The normal range is under 150. Triglycerides are the major form of fat in the blood. 

7. Heart 411. When researching heart-healthy information, make sure your source is trusted and true. Friends Drs. Gillinov and Nissen, two of America's most respected doctors at Cleveland Clinic, have written a new book, Heart 411. Learn how to sort facts from fiction, about stents and surgery, and the tools you need to live a long and healthy life.

Nicole McClain's Music of the Moment: Ending by Rafter