Get Heart Healthy The Maui Way

June 7, 2011, 4:35 PM HST
* Updated June 8, 7:41 AM
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By Laura Greene

We live on a beautiful island, rich in its options for living a healthy outdoor lifestyle but still, coronary heart disease is rife.

In fact, CHD is the number one cause of death in Hawaii and the United States, responsible for 25% of all deaths in the islands. The chances of developing it are very high. The National Health Institute states that ‘one out of every two men and one of every three females aged 40 or younger will develop CHD in their lifetime.’

So what can we do to give ourselves healthier hearts and better prospects for reducing CHD in the future? Lifestyle changes are the best place to start and we need look no further than our own island to make these changes possible.

Our main enemy is LDL (low-density lipoprotein) also know as ‘bad’ cholesterol. These LDLs are the main vehicles your body has for transporting cholesterol and they are the key culprit for causing your arteries to clog up.


But cholesterol isn’t all bad. LDL has a nicer, health-friendly cousin called HDL. This is high-density lipoprotein, or ‘good’ cholesterol. When LDL tries to clog your arteries, HDL does the opposite – taking cholesterol out of your arteries and delivering it to the liver, to be flushed out of the body. The more HDL your body has, the better.


We’ve compiled a list of ten ways to increase your HDL, Maui style, to get you on the path to a healthier heart and a healthier you!

Macadamia nuts contain 'good' fats and plenty of protein. Image by Mauna Loa's online store.

1. Go Nuts
An island staple, macadamia nuts may be high in calories but they also have the highest amount of unsaturated fat of all nuts and are rich in proteins. They raise the body’s HDL and they make a tasty snack too. Just limit your portion to a handful a day.

2. Eat Fresh Fish


Available on Maui year-round, fish is rich in Omega 3s. Fatty fish like salmon or tuna is especially heart healthy and The American Heart Association recommends two servings of salmon or other oily fish a week.

3.  Have A Fruit Fix
There can never be an excuse for not finding fresh fruit on Maui. Rich in cholesterol-busting fiber, fruits can reduce your risk of heart disease. Eat as much as you can but if you simply don’t have time, grab a smoothie, an acai bowl or a freshly-squeezed juice to up your daily intake.

Outrigger canoe paddling is a great way to get fit on Maui. Image by Adam Quinn.

4. Get Physical

Maui is a hotbed of exercise options and research has shown that, as well as getting you fit, physical activity helps to raise HDLs. Being overweight only helps to raise LDLs. Water lovers can go surfing, outrigger canoe paddling, Stand Up Paddling, swimming or kite surfing – the options are endless. Or if you’re more of a land-dweller go for a run, a bike ride or even a brisk walk. 30-60 minutes a day of your favorite sport is an ideal target to aim for.

5. Don’t Light That Cigarette
Smoking is bad for you. Period. Quitting the nicotine can increase your HDL and the stats are incredible: 20 minutes after your very last smoke, your blood pressure starts to decrease. Within a day, the risk of heart attack decreases. Within a year, the risk of heart disease is halved. In the space of 15 years, the risk of heart disease is similar to someone who has never smoked.

6. Chill Out
Start taking yoga classes, meditate, take a nap, go for that sunset surf session. Whatever it takes to de-stress you, do it! A study by the University of Hawaii found that the ability to keep calm can increase the body’s HDLs and, let’s face it, no-one likes to be stressed.

7. Ditch The Triple Vanilla Latte
Drinking too much coffee can definitely be bad for your heart but in moderation coffee and tea may help to protect your heart. Studies show that people who drink 3-4 cups a day may help irregular heartbeats and cut the risk of type 2 diabetes. Try switching to black coffee or non-fat lattes to cut down on fats and sugars.

8. Up Your Fiber Intake
Fiber leaves you feeling fuller longer and can help you to lose weight. Eating the right types of fiber can slow cholesterol and raise your HDL levels. Try eating oatmeal for breakfast or snacking on edamame, which are packed with soy protein. Raid those bananas in your back-yard, not only are they jam-packed with fiber but they are a great source of potassium, which helps to maintain heart health and normal blood pressure.

9. Go Easy On The Beer
We all know how nice a pau hana beer tastes and alcohol can give a small boost to HDLs. However it’s all about moderation. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to weight gain and serious health problems including heart failure, liver failure and stroke. Men should limit their average daily intake to two servings of alcohol a day and women should limit it at one. Try swapping your beer for red wine, which contains antioxidants that are believed to protect artery walls.

10. Know Your Fats
Unfortunately, the main fats we eat are saturated, trans, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. Saturated and trans fats are found in animal products like fatty meats, whole milk, ice cream, butter and cheese. They all raise your ‘bad’ cholesterol and increase your risk of CHD.  Try substituting these bad fats for monounsaturated or polyunsaturated ‘good’ fats including olive, canola, soybean, and sunflower oils. Avocadoes, olives, nuts and pumpkin and sesame seeds are all good options too.

Make the most of your Maui vacation with these top-rated activities: Maui Top 20: Maui Visitor & Tourism Information
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