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  • Writer's pictureBeth Kitchin PhD RDN

Viewer Question: Can I Avoid Heart Medications If I Change My Diet?

Last week on Good Day Alabama we kicked off Heart Health Month by talking about the lipid panel. That’s the blood test that tells you what your blood fat and cholesterol levels are and where they should be to lower your risk of heart disease. I put the info in my blog and asked you to post any questions there. If you need to review that info, just take a look at last week's blog.


A viewer wrote a comment asking for foods to eat to get her numbers to a healthier place and avoid medications. Her triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL’s are too high. Her HDL’s, the good cholesterol carriers, are too low.


Can she avoid medications by changing some health habits? Maybe! Always talk to your doctor before stopping any medication. If your doctor is recommending a heart med and you'd like to avoid taking a medication, ask your doctor is she or he thinks it's feasible for you to try lifestyle changes first. Sometimes medications are necessary. j


Healthy Habits for a Healthy Heart:


1.    Move Your Body: Being more active can help lower triglycerides and increase HDL’s.

2.    Lose a Little Weight if You Need To: There’s no need to go on any extreme diets. Many studies have shown that a small amount of weight loss – 5 to 10 pounds – can have a big effect on lowering triglycerides and LDL’s (the bad cholesterol carriers).

3.    Focus on Fiber:

Fiber is helpful for weight loss. But soluble fiber in particular lowers blood fats. Where can you find soluble fiber? Here are the best sources of soluble fiber:

·      Oats and Oatmeal

·      Starchy Beans and Peas

·      Apples

·      Carrots

·      Psyllium Fiber Supplements

4.    Focus on Healthy Fats: Swap out animal fats and saturated fats for plant fats wherever you can.

·      Use oils like canola and olive oil instead of butter and shortening.

·      Don’t expect yourself to completely give up the saturated fats! Cooking oils do not work for pie crusts or biscuits!

5.    Add Nuts and Seeds:

They’re high in healthy fats and important nutrients like magnesium that help lower blood pressure.

6.    Cut Back on Added Sugar and Refined Grains.

·      Cutting back on added sugar can have a big impact on lowering triglycerides. If you drink sugary drinks like sweet tea and sodas, that’s a good place to start cutting back.

·      Choose whole grains where you can. Not every grain you eat has to be a whole grain but find the ones you like and make the switch. I love whole grain cereals and brown rice, but no way am I going to eat whole grain pasta!

7.    Eat Fatty Fish: Eat fatty fish like salmon, sardines, lake trout twice a week if you can. They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids that lower inflammation and your risk for heart disease.


You may need more information on the specifics of how to put these changes in action. My favorite website for exploring the various eating styles is the U.S. News and World Best Diets yearly rankings. You’ll find a lot of useful information to help you get started. Here’s the link:

I recommend the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet for lowering blood pressure and blood fats. But you will find other heart healthy eating styles here as well.


As always, post your comments or questions here!

Get Strong, Stay Strong!


Beth Kitchin PhD RDN

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