6 Little Lies That Can Ruin Your Health
Diet, Drinking, and Cholesterol
Is it so bad to have a second piece of cake or to skip a week of exercising when you feel overwhelmed by work, kids, life? The experts say no, as long as you don't convince yourself that it's always okay. "We all need an occasional break from being 'good,'" says Carol Kauffman, PhD, a coaching psychologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "If rationalizing that you can be 'bad' here and there becomes a pattern, though, it can sabotage all your stay-well efforts." To help you counter these "little killers," we've dissected six common self-deceptions. Here's how to defy denial and keep your health on course for the long run.You tell yourself...I can have two glasses of red wine -- research shows it's healthy.
Reality check: One drink a day can slightly reduce your chances of heart disease, but make that two glasses daily and your breast cancer risk can rise 25 percent. Your odds of ovarian and esophageal cancer go up as well, according to the National Cancer Institute. Plus, one study found that women who had two to four drinks a day took in nearly 30 percent more calories overall than nondrinkers. Keep tabs on how much you're pouring: Experts consider 4 ounces to equal one serving -- about one-fourth to one-half of a big goblet.You tell yourself...It's low-carb so it must be healthy.
Reality check: Foods labeled "low-carb" aren't lower in calories or fat than the regular versions; in fact, some have more calories than the originals. If you do go low-carb, watch serving sizes and calorie counts. "People lose weight on low-carb diets because they're eating fewer calories," says Holly Wyatt, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Health Science Center in Denver.You tell yourself...My "bad" cholesterol is high, but I don't have to worry because my "good" cholesterol is high, too.
Reality check: "A really high LDL (bad) cholesterol reading can outweigh the benefits of high HDL (good) cholesterol," says Christie Mitchell Ballantyne, MD, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center in Houston. LDL cholesterol should be less than 100 and HDL cholesterol should be higher than 50 -- preferably in the 80s. "The further you are from that optimal LDL cholesterol level, the less likely a high HDL cholesterol level will protect you," Dr. Ballantyne says.
To lower LDL cholesterol, eat lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, nonfat dairy, and lean protein. One study found that adding plant foods (salad, vegetables, beans) to a low-saturated-fat diet reduced LDL cholesterol more than simply cutting saturated fat alone. And don't cut out all fats: Eliminating unsaturated fats can cause both good and bad cholesterol to drop. Aim to get about 20 to 25 percent of your calories from unsaturated fats and less than 10 percent from saturated fat.
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