If you have coronary artery disease (CAD), remember these two things: “L” for lousy — as in LDL cholesterol — and the number 60.
In a major study, Steven Nissen, MD, chief of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, showed that if you can get your LDL cholesterol level to 60 or below, the plaque buildup that’s clogging your arteries starts to reverse. In other words, the goal of treatment isn’t to simply make sure your coronary artery disease doesn’t get worse, but to actually reverse the plaque buildup at the root of the problem.
Most people can lower their LDL level by 10 to 20 percent through diet alone, Dr. Nissen says. While that’s not enough to reverse CAD in most patients, food plays a major part in the success of treatment, and a heart-healthy diet can help you get powerful results with less medication.
Roasted Portobello Sandwiches
Coat 4 portobello mushrooms with olive oil spray. Combine 1 T. balsamic vinegar, 1 T. Dijon mustard, 3 T. chopped fresh basil, 1 finely chopped scallion and ½ t. garlic powder. Marinate mushrooms in mixture for 15 minutes. Spray mushrooms with oil again; spray 4 thin slices of red onion. Roast vegetables in a 450-degree oven for 5 minutes. Toast 8 slices of whole-grain bread. Combine 1 T. light mayo, 2 t. balsamic vinegar and 1 t. Dijon mustard; spread on 4 of the toast slices. Make 4 sandwiches, each with 2 slices of toast, 1 mushroom, 1 onion slice, 1 oz. reduced-fat Swiss, ½ oz. jarred roasted red pepper, 1 tomato slice and 1 fresh basil leaf. (Adapted from the Cleveland Clinic Healthy Heart Lifestyle Guide and Cookbook.)
Cut Out the Coronary Culprits
A diagnosis of coronary artery disease usually comes with the direction to cut the saturated fat and trans fat from your diet. The reason: Both raise your LDL cholesterol. The chief sources of saturated fat are red meat, processed meats (think bacon and salami) and full-fat dairy products.
Trans fat is found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and makes its ugly appearance in many baked goods and fried foods. Aim for 7 percent or less of your calories to come from saturated fat. If you eat a fairly standard American diet, about 16 percent of your calories come from saturated fat, so cut that by roughly half.
To get more precise, you’ll have to read Nutrition Facts labels on food packages and do some calculating. (We don’t mean to torture you with flashbacks to math class, but here’s the equation if you’re interested: Look for the number of grams of saturated fat in a serving of anything you eat. Then add your total saturated fat grams for the day. Multiply that number by nine to find out how many calories come from saturated fat. Now divide by the total number of calories you consume. Finally, multiply by 100 to get the saturated fat percentage.)
You should also make sure to get your trans fat intake down to zero. Check the labels of packaged foods for even a trace of the stuff, or go to nutritiondata.com, which provides breakdowns for packaged and whole foods, as well as chain restaurant menu items.
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