Maintaining LDL Cholesterol Levels to Prevent Heart Disease [Interview][Transcript]

dr_joanna_mcmillan_beta_heartGuest: Dr. Joanna McMillan
Presenter: Henry Acosta
Guest Bio: Dr Joanna is one of Australia’s favourite and most trusted health and wellbeing experts. She is a PhD qualified nutrition scientist and Accredited Practising Dietitian, and a former fitness instructor, giving her the sound credentials required to help us all make head or tail of the increasingly confusing nutrition and health messages in the media. Joanna is a regular on television, radio and in print media, and is the founder of Get Lean, an online lifestyle change program. She is a proud ambassador for Diabetes Australia, The Skin and Cancer Foundation and FoodBank.

Segment overview: In today’s Health Supplier Segment, we welcome Dr. Joanna McMillan here to share her insights on how we can reduce our cholesterol levels and maintain our heart health. She reminds us that eating well is crucial for heart health with some foods offering particular benefits. Among the foods she in encouraging us to include in our daily diet is Beta Heart, this is a great tasting healthy oats and barley drink rich in beta-glucan. A daily serve delivers over 3g beta-glucan, which when consumed as part of a healthy diet with healthy fats, is scientifically proven to reduce cholesterol.

Health Professional Radio – Maintaining LDL Cholesterol Levels


Henry Acosta: Hi and welcome to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Henry Acosta and today we have Dr. Joanna McMillan. She is one of Australia’s most trusted health and wellbeing experts, she is a PhD qualified nutrition scientist and an accredited practicing dietician. She was a former fitness instructor and because of her background with fitness she created Get Lean, an online lifestyle change program. She’s a spokesperson for Beta Heart and is a proud ambassador of Diabetes Australia, the Skin and Cancer Foundation and Foodbank. Today we’re here to talk about the raising issue in Australia about fitness, diet and heart ailment that’s been going on for a quite a while now. Hi Joanna and thanks for being on the show.

Dr. Joanna McMillan: Thank you for having me. So lovely to be here.

H: Can you give us a quick introduction about who you are and what you do?

M: Yeah, well as you’ve said in my lovely biodata, I am a dietician, I worked in the fitness industry and so I continue to work as an educator in the fitness industry for many, many years and have also previously studied psychology and really what I have been trying to do is to bring all of those worlds together to start to understand and see how much more holistic view of food health, weight control and reducing our risk of chronic diseases so things like heart disease, stroke and cancers and type 2 diabetes and so on that are things that ail most of the world actually now not just the developed countries. And these are diseases and conditions that have…in diet and lifestyle. So we know that if we shift our diets and lifestyle towards healthier ways of eating and living we can dramatically reduce our risk of these diseases. And so that’s essentially, I’ve dedicated my career to try to help people understand what those changes are and what they can do – the small changes that they can make to their daily lives that really will make a big difference to their health.

H: And what inspired you into getting into this field of work?

M: What inspired me, well I’ve always loved science but I love the application of science into everyday lives. So I understand the big difference that it makes when I work to people or to the corporations where I see the difference that it makes not just to people’s health but actually the difference that makes to their day to day life because when you eat well and you live well then you actually got more energy, you’re healthier, you’re happier and you’ve got better vitality. So you can get more and you can perform better at your work but you can also get more out of life in your family and your time with your friends and getting that balance in life I think is absolutely key.

H: What are the steps that we can take to lead a healthy lifestyle?

M: Well the key thing, first of all are understanding. I think the media has confused people over what a healthy diet is but actually when we look at the research, the research is actually pretty unanimous. We’re still arguing and debating and understanding some of the intricacies about diet and certainly about diet for particular group of people who might be slightly different but overall we do understand that a very plant-based diet and with whether or not you also choose to eat animal food, not only is that good for our health but it’s also good for our planet. So we understand that about diet and that we have to move, we’ve got to exercise and build more activity into our day so if you’re not a lover of going to the gym it doesn’t matter, you still got to find ways to move so that we limit our time sitting down particularly sitting at desks and sitting in cars actually building some work … into our life. And then we also have to be part of my ‘Get Lean Program’ also looks at sleep and it looks at stress and these are other very key factors that we have to sort of try to build into our everyday life in order to get the best out of it. And when we put all of those factors together and that’s when we then have not only feeling better from day to day but that’s how we reduce our risk of chronic disease long term and we manage better weight control.

H: I see that right now cholesterol levels and heart health is a growing concern in Australia. What are the certain steps or what can we do as people to help raise awareness and lower down our cholesterol levels?

M: Yes, we’ve had a problem in Australia here that there has been some misunderstanding about whether cholesterol is still important and it’s crucial to emphasize that although recent heart health research has shown that yes there are a number of different factors but high cholesterol particularly high LDL cholesterol is still a risk factor for heart disease and the good thing is that there’s actually a lot that we can do to help ourselves and from a nutshell perspective to lower our cholesterol levels and get the better profile. In general terms you want to have high HDL, lower LDL and lower triglycerides and diet has a big impact on that. So one of the key factors is fiber and that’s why I am involved and I’m a spokesperson for a … product called ‘Beta Heart’ and it’s just the fiber you may have heard of oats being great for lowering cholesterol and that’s correct. It’s the fiber that’s found in oats called beta-glucan that has the cholesterol lowering effect but you’ve actually got to eat quite a lot of oats so oatmeal in order to get enough beta-glucans to make a clinical effect. So that’s what’s so great about Beta Heart, it’s taken that fiber out of oats and barley supplement drink that you just have one sachet a day and then you know that you’re getting more than the 3 grams of beta-glucan that has been shown clinically to make a difference and help lower LDL. So that’s one factor but then you want to combine that with making sure you have good fats in your diet, so that things like extra-virgin olive oil, having a handful of nuts every day, sprinkling some seeds on your salads or on your breakfast and then having food like avocado and hummus and so on and instead of some less healthy fats. So by manipulating your diet, having lots of fiber, good fats and then eating plenty of fresh vegetables in particular is where Australians are falling short, very few people are eating the recommended five serves of veggies a day, so we really need to work on boosting our plant food content. And then lastly exercise also have an influence on your cholesterol, so getting your weight under control and building daily exercise into your life are all going to help.

H: What do you think is the biggest issue that everyone’s facing right now with regards to their own health in Australia?

M: So the big one’s really are, I mean heart disease is still up there but type 2 diabetes is at the moment the fastest growing chronic disease in Australia and that’s related to our rising levels of overweight and obesity. So although yo0u can be overweight and be metabolically, healthy the reality is that being overweight puts you at far greater risk particularly of type 2 diabetes, so we’re seeing those 2 issues raising and along with that comes the rate risk of heart disease, the rate risk of stroke, the rate risk of several types of cancer. So I think it comes down to weight control as being our key problem and it’s a problem that is of course worldwide but here in Australia we are seen as a healthy sporty nation from overseas and the truth is that when you get down to it a lot of people are simply eating far too much junk foods, far too much many of we dieticians called discretionally foods, these are foods that we don’t need to eat, they don’t offer as much nutrition and they’re taking up more than a third of the average kilojoules than any of the Australian diet and so that’s really where we have to put our focus instead of arguing over is it fats, is it sugar, is it carbs and all these things that go on in the media, the bottom line is that’s the elephant in the room we’re just eating too much junk foods. So we’ve got to change that and we’ve got to start moving more and then we’ll start to see our health statistics turning around.

H: And can you tell us about the biggest misconception that you usually face with regards to fitness and with health in general?

M: I think probably the biggest misconception is that you have to be going to the gym and doing some sort of really intense workout and so a lot of people think exercise is too hard or they start on, or they think that they’ll have a dramatic weight loss when they start an exercise regime and then 6 weeks down the line when they haven’t seen the scales changed terribly much they get disheartened and they think the exercise isn’t doing them any good. It’s really important to stress to people that exercise is rule and weight control is over the long term and it’s absolutely a necessity to do that for term weight control. So if you just exercise only on the results that you get in 6 weeks, then you’re going to be disheartened. What we’ve got to get the message out to people is that it’s not about having to go and slog yourselves and keeping what you’re doing and going for a run at 6 o’clock every morning or whichever it is that I think would be apparent to most people it’s actually just about simple changes can make a big difference. Breaking up your desk by having short 10 minute walks every so often and going to a yoga class a couple of times a week, finding an exercise that you really love it might be playing tennis or joining a football team or whatever it might be, it’s finding what brings you some joy, brings you some social contact often is really helpful. Have a walking buddy or a workout buddy, that’s a great way to get yourself more active and stop judging exercises based on the amount of energy you burn or how many kilograms you lose, it’s actually simply about becoming more active in your daily life and I can promise you when you do that you’re still a whole lot better. You’re probably more motivated to eat better, you’ll manage your stress better and you’ll sleep better and that putting all those things together gives you optimal results.

H: And to the listeners out there right now interested in reaching out to you and wanting to know more about your program and Beta Heart, how can they reach you or where can they find you?

M: So come to my website which is and you’ll find details there on my Get Lean Program. My book, Get Lean, Stay Lean comes out in January 2017 in Australia. You’ll also find lots of old videos and information that are all free on the website regarding BetaHeart and you can find more about the product itself by going to

H: Awesome. Well thank you for your time and we appreciate you going on the show today.

M: Thank you so much.

H: Again that was Dr. Joanna McMillan, she’s a fitness expert and a spokesperson for BetaHeart. She’s also a proud ambassador of Diabetes Australia, The Skin and Cancer Foundation and Foodbank. We just finished talking about ways to improve your health and the growing health concerns in Australia. I’m Henry Acosta and you’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. If you want to listen to this interview again or want to listen to other interviews, you can go on or on You can also reach us on Soundcloud and iTunes. Thank you for listening.

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