Eat a healthier diet for a smaller waist, bigger brain.

Everywhere you look you may see an ad for a new diet program that promises to help you lose weight.  Many people get sucked into the idea that they can lose weight fast on fad diets. However, these diets usually hard to stick with for the long term and may have long-term consequences. More and more research is finding that it is not necessarily the type of diet you are on that is good for health. However, the quality of food that you are eating is more important in health outcomes. And if you improve the quality of your diet, you may not only help your success with weight loss. New studies show that a healthier diet could also improve the strength and size of your brain.

What is a fad diet?

A fad diet is an eating regimen that promises big results, but may do so at the risk of your overall health. Such diets may involve:

  • A promise of rapid weight loss. It is important to remember that losing more than 1-2 pounds a week is not healthy long-term. Any more than this could also involve the loss of muscle, bone, and water.
  • Cutting out entire food groups or nutrients. A prime example of this is the low carbohydrate trend that continues on.  Although there are some benefits to this type of diet, some may not follow it healthfully and may restrict nutrient and fiber-rich vegetables and fruits too much. This could lead to nutrient deficiencies long term.  In addition, the lack of long-term studies on the effects of such popular diets can put your long-term health at risk. An example of this is the high-fat, moderate protein, very low carb keto diet.  Although there are some studies that show positive heart health benefits, there are also studies that show long-term negative health effects on insulin resistance and liver health. Until larger and more randomized, placebo-controlled studies are done on such eating regimens, they should not be taken lightly.
  • A diet that is hard to follow and limits the times you can eat. Many diets out there can help you lose weight. Of course cutting out food groups and severely restricting the foods you can eat can help you shed pounds. This is because they are basically just placing you on a low calorie diet hidden behind a shiny new veil.  However, many of these diets are also hard to follow. If a diet is so restrictive that you can’t stick to it long-term then it is not going to be effective in providing any health benefits that it could offer. And diets that limit the times you eat during the day may show some benefit such as helping you to limit snacking. However, long-term and larger studies need to be done before benefits of such limited eating times can be confirmed.

Effect of healthy diet on brain health

A dutch study of about 4200 people 45 years and older looked at quality of diet and brain health. Study results show that those with higher diet quality scores had brains about 2 millimeters bigger than those with lower scores. This may not seem like a lot, except when you consider that the brain shrinks 3.66 millimeters every year. This means that a healthier diet could help prevent 6 months of aging in the brain. Healthy-fat based diets such as the Mediterranean diet has found similar results. It is suggested that any diet good for the heart will be good for the brain since it will help improve blood flow in the body.

Improve your diet by taking care of your heart

Besides eating plenty of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, there are certain things you can do to improve the heart health of your diet. This can, in turn, improve the brain healthy components of your eating routine too.

  • Add more healthy fats from fish: A recent study has found that consuming two 3.5-ounce servings of fish each week can help lower heart disease risk. Oily fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids are the best. Examples of this type of fish include salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, lake trout, and sardines.
  • Eat more plant-based healthy fats:  Other sources of heart healthy fats include plant-based foods such as olives, avocado, and olive oil.  Nuts, nut butters, and seeds like flax seed or chia seed are also examples of heart healthy fats.
  • Exercise more. Regular aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping, may boost the size of your brain and improve memory, according to a British Columbia study. It is recommended to engage in moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Examples of such moderate exercise may include walking, light jogging, biking, or water aerobics. This 30 minutes a day can be broken up into 5 and 10 minute intervals if needed.
  • Take heart and brain healthy supplements. Adding supplements such as fish oil can help you get your daily dose of healthy fats even if you do not eat fish.  A quality fish oil is by Vita Sciences that provides 1000 milligrams of fish oil. This formula contains 400 milligrams of EPA and 300 milligrams of DHA. These components are well-known for their ability to support brain health.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

Godman, H. (April 9, 2014; updated April 5, 2018) “Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills.” Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School.

Gordon, S. (May 16, 2018) “Better Diet, Bigger Brain.” HealthDay. 

Kosinki, C. and Jornayvaz, F.R. (2017) “Effects of Ketogenic Diets on Cardiovascular Risk
Factors: Evidence from Animal and Human Studies.” Nutrients, 9: 517doi:10.3390/nu9050517

Norton, A. (May 17, 2018) “Eat Fish Twice a Week to Ward Off Heart Disease, Experts Say.” HealthDay.

Stockman, MC., Thomas, D., Burke, J. et al. Curr Obes Rep (2018) 7: 172. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-018-0308-9

Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, T. (January 2, 2017) “Staying Away from Fad Diets.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Could trans fats increase your heart disease risk?

You’ve probably heard of trans fats before. And I’m sure what you have heard was not good news. This new news is not much different, except that the World Health Organization just announced that it plans to eliminate synthetic trans fats completely from the food supply by the year 2023.

What are trans fats?

trans fat, fat, fast food, unhealthy, burger, fries, pie

Trans fats are found in small amounts in whole fat dairy products and fatty meats. However, the majority of such fats is artificial.  This artificial trans fat is formed from a process called hydrogenation. This word may look familiar from food labels since a lot of processed products contain hydrogenated forms of certain oils. In other words, oils like vegetable oil have hydrogen added to it. This makes the oil become solid at room temperature.  This type of fat is less likely to spoil, which is likely why a lot of fast food restaurants use it for their fryers.

Over the years, research has shown that these types of fats increase risk of heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It can also decrease you HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and increase your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. These health risks are the major reason why the use of such fats in foods has gone down over the past several years.

What foods contain trans fats?

Fast foods like fries, doughnuts, or fried chicken commonly contain trans fats. However, baked goods like pies, or ready-made frostings are also a source of trans fats. Many companies though have already taken these types of fats out of their products. This is since the original statement from the Food and Drug Administration in 2013 that deemed trans fats no longer “generally recognized as safe.”

Trans Fat Ban by 2023

The World Health Organization (WHO) released on May 14, 2018, a guide called REPLACE. This step-by-step guide provides instructions on how to eliminate trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.  The six actions involved in this program includes:

REview  food sources of industrially-produced trans fats in the global landscape.

Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.

Legislate or enact regulations to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.

Assess and monitor the use of industrially-produced trans fats in the food supply as well as rates of consumption of such fats in the global diet.

Create widespread awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats.

Enforce compliance of policies and regulations involving industrially-produced trans fats.

Similar bans in Denmark and New York City in recent years have found that death rates from heart attacks went down significantly. Therefore, WHO hopes to eliminate trans fat from the food supply by the year 2023. This is part of the United Nation’s Sustainable Developmental Goals that hopes to reduce premature death from noncommunicable diseases by one-third by the year 2030.

Stick to healthy fats

Just because trans fats will be taken out of the food supply, that does not mean taste of foods will be affected. There are many healthier types of fats and oils that can replace artificial fats and will be better for your health. Such healthier fats and oils include:

  • Olive oils
  • Peanut oil
  • Fats from plant-based foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, and nut butters
  • Fats from fatty fish like salmon, albacore tuna, trout, or sardines

Other ways to reduce risk of heart disease

Besides replacing unhealthy fats with healthier fats, there are other ways to reduce your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes that include:

  • Staying active for at least 30-40 minutes a day most days with moderate activity like walking.
  • Reducing stress by talking out problems with a counselor, engaging in yoga or meditation, or performing relaxation breathing.
  • Quitting unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as drinking alcohol or smoking.
  • Taking heart healthy supplements such as Alestra by Vita Sciences. Alestra contains natural ingredients like niacin, plant sterols, and garlic that research shows may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and promote heart health.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

American Heart Association (March 29, 2018) “Lifestyle Changes for Heart Attack Prevention.”

Food and Drug Administration (June 16, 2015) “FDA Cuts Trans Fat in Processed Foods.”

Mayo Clinic (March 1, 2017) “Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health.”

Wolfram, T. (March 6, 2017) “Choose Healthy Fats.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eatright.org

World Health Organization (May 14, 2018) “WHO plan to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from global food supply.”

 

Is anxiety on the rise in America?

anxiety, stress, depression, health, mental healthWith ever-increasing demands in our work schedules and family obligations as well as financial stress and personal stresses it is no surprise that anxiety is on the rise. A recent report shows that from last year, more Americans say they are more anxious than ever.

What is anxiety?

Stress is a part of daily life. It is by definition the way the body reacts to any demands placed on it. However, anxiety is a whole different beast.  Anxiety is a response to the stress itself and involves tension and fear that can be so severe that it makes a person lose sleep, be afraid to enter social situations, and can affect their daily living.  Everyone encounters stress, but those with anxiety have difficulty managing it.

Having come from a family of anxious people with confirmed diagnoses, I can tell you that stress from sitting in traffic is much different than the feelings those with anxiety disorder experience. This disorder can take the form of panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, or complete avoidance of social situations, among other things. It can disrupt a person’s daily quality of life and can affect their relationships with others.

Anxiety on the Rise

Over 40 million people in America suffer from anxiety, but this number is getting higher. A recent report has found that between 2017 and 2018, about 57-percent of women and 38-percent of men between the ages of 18 and 49 years reported being more anxious.  In older Americans, 39-percent of women 50 years and older and 24-percent of men this age reported being more anxious than the year before. Overall, nearly 4 of 10 people surveyed reported being more anxious in 2018 than in 2017.

The leading causes of such feelings included paying the bills, health, and safety.  About 3 of 4 women and millennials as well as 4 of 5 Hispanic adults were most anxious about paying bills. Baby boomers had the highest jump in anxiety since last year. It is suggested that this rise is due to people in recent days being more vocal about their complaints, differences in the way we care for others, and perhaps less stress-tolerant behavior, especially of those younger people.

How to Reduce Anxiety

There are many effective treatments for anxiety, but not one treatment is effective for everyone. Here are several treatments that you can try if you need help managing this condition.

  • Psychotherapy is a treatment that is getting more and more coverage from insurance carriers everyday and can be the most effective at getting to the core of your disorder.  Talking about past and current traumas, family history, and the way you currently manage stress can take a huge weight off of your shoulders. Not only that, but the therapist can help you learn strategies to deal with your stresses in a more healthful manner.
  • Medication is often paired with psychotherapy since the medication tend to just treat imbalances in the brain, but does not deal with the root causes of certain stresses and behaviors.  Medication is not for everyone since certain anti-anxiety medications can have side effects.  Also, getting off of some medications can be very difficult. It is important to talk with your healthcare provider to see if medication treatment is appropriate for you.
  • Mindfulness can teach you how to live in the present moment so that you do not dwell too much on the past or the future. It can increase quality of life and teach people to worry less about everyday stresses.
  • Sleep Hygiene is important since lack of sleep can actually make stress more difficult to deal with. You should aim for 7 hours of sleep a night. If you have trouble falling asleep, ask your healthcare provider. You may need to visit a sleep center to make sure you do not have any underlying conditions that are affecting your sleep.
  • Improved Diet such as eating less sugar and drinking less caffeine can help reduce your anxious behavior.  These types of foods are stimulants that can make you feel more anxious if you consume them in excess. Also, if you consume these types of foods close to bedtime, it can make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Exercise can help you manage stress better. Not only will working out help you sleep better, but it can get the “feel good” hormones like serotonin flowing in your body. You should aim for some form of movement like walking most days of the week for at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Supplements like Passionflower tincture, kava, and valerian root can be effective for some anxiety symptoms.  Also, it is thought that some symptoms may be the result of a magnesium deficiency. Try a supplement like Sereneo from Vita Sciences. Sereneo contains magnesium, chamomile, and valerian root and can provide a serotonin boost and provide support for daily stress.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed May 9, 2018) “Exercise for Stress and Anxiety.”

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed May 9, 2018) “Stress.”

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed May 9, 2018) “What is Anxiety?”

Brooks, M. (May 7, 2018) “High Anxiety in America: APA Poll Highlights Nationwide Worries.”

Calm Clinic (accessed May 9, 2018) “Which Anti-Anxiety Supplements Work?”

Corliss, J. (January 8, 2014) “Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress.” Harvard Health Publications

Jovanovic, Ph.D., T., et al. (accessed May 9, 2018) “Anxiety- What is Anxiety?”

Besides tasting good, dark chocolate could help vision and memory health

chocolate, health, dark chocolate, cocoaYet another reason to eat chocolate, as if you needed one. Besides tasting delicious, chocolate has many health benefits. Recent studies show that eating a bit of dark chocolate each day may help to improve vision, memory, and lower stress.

About Chocolate

Chocolate, derived from the Theobroma cacao tree, has been used as a medicinal food for thousands of years.  It can stimulate the nervous system as well as improve digestion and elimination. This is because there are healing properties of chocolate in its rich concentration of antioxidants. The antioxidants in dark chocolate, such as the cocoa polyphenols, provide anti-inflammatory and heart health effects. Therefore, research shows that chocolate, in moderation, can improve health.

Chocolate Research

  • The Kuna Indians of Panama have been drinking chocolate for many years, around 30 ounces a day.  Likely due to this, they have some of the lowest rates of hypertension, or high blood pressure in the world, at 2.2-percent. A study at Harvard Medical School found that those people who drank two cups of hot chocolate a day may have improved blood flow to the brain. This may help improve brain function, such as memory.
  • A small study of 30 people looked at the health effects of dark versus milk chocolate. The study results show that those who ate dark chocolate versus milk chocolate had improved vision. They had small improvements in visual sharpness and large letter contrast two hours after eating the chocolate.  Researchers suggest these results may be due to improved blood flow to the retina or the brain’s cerebral cortex, or visual pathways. However, more studies should be done to confirm chocolate’s visual health potential.
  • More recent studies looked at the effects of 70-percent cacao dark chocolate on health.  These study results show that gamma frequencies were stimulated after 30 minutes and two hours. Since gamma waves are in charge of learning and memory function, chocolate may help brain health. However, more studies need to be done to confirm the cacao’s potential brain health benefits.

Besides chocolate, a healthy balanced diet rich in antioxidant fruits and vegetables can help improve health. To further enhance these health effects, you can also take supplements. Examples of a supplement that may improve blood flow include Circova by Vita SciencesCircova contains L-arginine, niacin, and hawthorne that support improved blood flow and blood pressure. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider before you start any new supplement regimen.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

Cone, A. (April 25, 2018) “Studies: Dark chocolate can lower stress and inflammation, improve memory.” UPI

Katz, D. L., Doughty, K., & Ali, A. (2011). Cocoa and Chocolate in Human Health and Disease. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling15(10), 2779–2811.

Mental Health Daily (accessed May 1, 2018) “5 Types of Brain Waves: Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta.”

Mundell, E.J. (April 26, 2018) “A Bit of Dark Chocolate Might Sweeten Your Vision.” HealthDay

Nordqvist, J. (February 12, 2018) “Health benefits and risks of chocolate.” Medical News Today

Could low vitamin D increase your diabetes risk?

It’s that time of year when the sun is shining more during the day and people are outdoors more often.  This fresh air and sunshine is not just good for your well being, but a study has also shown that without enough of the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D, you may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.

What is vitamin D?

vitamin D, egg, fish, cheese, cod liver oil, sun, health, dairy, milk, yogurtVitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is best know for its role in keeping bones healthy.  This vitamin helps improve calcium absorption in the gut, which helps with bone growth and bone remodeling. Without vitamin D, you may be at risk for weak bones, and in turn increase your risk of fractures.

The recommended intake of vitamin D is 600-800 IUs, or International Units, for most adults. You can find vitamin D in such foods as:

  • Fortified dairy products, orange juice, or cereal.
  • Eggs (vitamin D is in the yolk).
  • Fatty fish like salmon, tuna fish, swordfish, and cod liver oil.

You can also get your recommended vitamin D intake from getting about 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure in the day time between 10 AM and 3 PM.  You should do this at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen.

Those at risk for low vitamin D include those who do not go outdoors often such as the elderly, immobile, or disabled.  Breastfed infants, those with fat or vitamin absorption issues, and those with dark skin are also at risk for low vitamin D. Although sunlight exposure can be absorbed in cloudy weather, people living in these climates may be at greater risk for low vitamin D than those who live in sunny regions since they may not be outdoors as often due to the weather.

A normal vitamin D level is around 50 nmol/L.  If you are vitamin D-deficient, then your healthcare provider may give you a vitamin D supplement to take daily. The vitamin D lab may not be a standard lab taken at your physical, so you may have to ask your doctor to perform this lab separately.

Low vitamin D and diabetes risk

A study of people with diabetes and pre diabetes looked at the link between vitamin D and diabetes risk. Study results show that as vitamin D levels increased, the lower the risk of diabetes. In fact, those people with a vitamin D level less than or equal to 30 nmol/L were about three times more likely to have diabetes than those with a level higher than 30nmol/L.  Those people with a vitamin D level greater than 50nmol/L had the lowest risk of getting diabetes.

Other ways to lower your diabetes risk

Besides getting your vitamin D within normal levels, use the following tips to lower your risk of diabetes:

  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Even a 5-10-percent weight loss can help lower your diabetes risk.
  • Eat fewer calories each day. This does not mean starve or deprive yourself, since this will wreak havoc on your metabolism over time. Just control your portions each day by following the guidelines on the MyPlate website.  You can ask a registered dietitian or your healthcare provider for more information on how many calories you should be eating each day for optimal health.
  • Be more active each day. Walk whenever you can since every step counts. Staying active helps to keep your blood glucose levels more stable and keeps your heart strong. Staying active can surprisingly help you feel more energy and in turn, can help you manage your weight better.
  • Take a supplement to help lower your sugar.  Your healthcare provider can prescribe a medicine for your blood glucose levels if they feel it is needed to prevent diabetes. However, you can also try a supplement like Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains ingredients like cinnamon, chromium, and alpha lipoic acid that can naturally support weight loss, healthy metabolism, and healthy blood glucose levels.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

National Institutes of Health (March 2, 2018) “Vitamin D- Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.”

National Institutes of Health (November 2016) “Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes.”

Park, S.K., et al. (April 19, 2018) “Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration and risk of type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes: 12-year cohort study.” https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0193070

 

Drinking more alcohol than suggested could shorten life

alcohol, health, beer, wine, liquor, unhealthyIt’s Friday night and the weekend is just beginning.  After a long week of work, you may be thinking about that glass of wine or pint of beer to help you relax.  In moderation, there is nothing wrong with a few drinks on the weekend. However, a recent study has found that drinking more than the suggested amount each week can shorten your life.

What is the recommended alcohol intake for most adults?

General recommendations in the United States suggest that men consume no more than 2 standard alcoholic drinks a day and women consume no more than one daily. A standard drink is equal to:

  • 12 ounces beer (5% alcohol content)
  • 8 ounces malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
  • 5 ounces wine (12% alcohol content)
  • 1.5 ounces liquor (40% alcohol content)

Any more than this recommendation is heavy drinking and can have negative health effects. More than 4 drinks at one occasion for a woman or 5 drinks for a man is considered binge drinking. Negative health effects of such heavy drinking include:

  • short term effects such as increased risk of falls, injuries, car crashes if driving while intoxicated, and increased likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or violent behavior.
  • if pregnant and drinking, your unborn child could have increased risk of fetal alcohol syndrome, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
  • increased risk of heart disease, stoke, liver disease, and digestive problems
  • increased risk of anxiety and depression
  • learning and memory problems

In addition to such health problems, long term drinking could lead to problems with family and friends if you become dependent on alcohol. Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for resources on how to get help if you think you may have a drinking problem.

Alcohol and life span

A recent study in the medical journal Lancet found that for each alcoholic drink over 6 standard glasses of wine or 7 standard 12 oz beers a week could shorten your life by 30 minutes. This may not seem like a lot, but every minute can add up over time. This recommended amount is equal to about 12.5 units of alcohol.

You may ask, “How did they come up with this number?”  The answer to this comes in the form of a study of about 600,000 current drinkers included in 83 studies from 19 countries. It was found that a 40-year old drinking just 2-3 standard drinks a week more than the suggested tipping point can lower their life expectancy by about 2 years.  This is likely due to the health effects listed above such as increased risk of heart disease, among other things.  This study helped support the United Kingdom’s proposed reduction in alcoholic drink recommendations. When following these guidelines, people had a 20-percent lower heart disease risk. Also, there was no increase in harm to health seen in terms of death rate in those who were compliant with the guidelines.

Although some studies show that moderate drinking may help heart health, this study reports different results. Researchers suggest that a glass of red wine now and then may reduce the risk of a non-fatal heart attack. However, this positive health effect is offset against the increased risk of other health issues.

Other ways to relax

If drinking alcohol is a method you use to relax, then perhaps it is time to try healthier methods of lowering stress. Try a few of the methods below to replace happy hour, so you can live out the highest quality, and quantity of life possible.

  • Exercise each day with something as simple as a short walk. Just getting fresh air and sunshine on your face can help you feel better and more relaxed. Try to walk at least 3 to 5 times a week.
  • Breathe. Taking five deep breaths when you are stressed and practicing relaxation breathing before bed can help you to reduce stress.
  • Meditate and focus on all of the positive things in your life such as those things you have accomplished, what you are grateful for, to name a few.
  • Take breaks throughout the day. Even just a 5 minute break here and there during your work day can help. Rub some relaxing essential oil scents on your wrist or neck, go to the bathroom stall, sit down, and take several deep breaths. Release the stress from your mind and focus on your breath and the scent. You can also do this at home when you are feeling overwhelmed or just want to decompress after a long day.
  • Detox your life in a variety of ways to lighten your load of stress. You can do this by:
    • giving away clothes you don’t wear anymore.
    • cleaning your house and reorganizing your belongings.
    • self care such as a hot bath with relaxing essential oils like lavender, getting a massage, or getting your hair done.
    • writing in a journal or talking with a trusted friend, family member, or counselor. Talking can help you to unload your brain of any fears, anxieties, or stress that may be bogging you down.
    • taking a supplement such as Sereneo by Vita Sciences to relax your mind. Sereneo contains ingredients such as valerian root, magnesium, and chamomile to help increase your levels of feel good serotonin.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

Boseley, S. (April 13, 2018) “Extra glass of wine a day ‘will shorten your life by 30 minutes.'” 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (January 3, 2018) “Fact Sheets- Alcohol Use and Your Health.”

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (updated April 18, 2018) “SAMHSA’s National Helpline.”

Tartakovsky, M.S., M. (May 23, 2013) “20 Ways to Relax & Unwind.” 

Exercise to lower high blood pressure is not a popular idea

blood pressure, heart health, hypertension, doctor, healthNearly half of all Americans have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Having hypertension can put you at increased risk for heart disease and stroke, which are two of the top five leading causes of death in the United States. Therefore, it is important that if you have high blood pressure that you should work to be more heart healthy to prevent chronic disease. This usually includes eating a heart healthy diet and exercising. However, a recent survey shows that exercise is the last thing people want to do to try and lower their blood pressure.

About High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure occurs when the force of blood through your blood vessels is too high.  When you go to the doctor to get your blood pressure checked, they look at two different numbers:

  • Systolic blood pressure, which is the top number of your blood pressure reading. This number is the force of the blood at each heart beat, or contraction.
  • Diastolic blood pressure, which is the bottom number of your blood pressure reading. This number is the force of blood through your vessels in between contractions.

High blood pressure reading is 130 over 80 mmHg.  It used to be 140 over 90 mmHg, but was changed last year since it was found that those people who were at the time considered borderline hypertensive would be more likely to start helpful treatment for their blood pressure if diagnosed at this stage of hypertension.

Blood Pressure Survey

Researchers at Yale University performed a survey to find out what lifestyle interventions people were most likely to engage in to lower their blood pressure. Those people taking the survey had to choose from four options: taking a pill, drinking one cup of tea each day, exercising or getting a monthly or semi-annual injection. It was found that most people, about 79-percent would be willing to take a pill to get one extra month of life, while 78-percent would be willing to drink a cup of tea daily.  Furthermore, about 96-percent of people were willing to do either of these activities to gain five years of life. Exercising was one of the least popular interventions, slightly above taking a monthly injection, to lower blood pressure.

Other Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

Although exercise is a great way to gain and maintain heart health, there are other lifestyle factors you can tweak to improve your blood pressure.

  • Lose weight: Losing weight is not an easy thing to do. However, just a small amount of weight loss, like 10 pounds, could help lower your blood pressure.
  • Eat a heart healthy diet full of fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and lean proteins. Also, lower your intake of processed, salty and sugary foods to help improve your heart health.
  • Lowering alcohol intake to no more than one standard drink a day for women or two standard drinks a day for men can help your blood pressure. One standard drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
  • Quit smoking or don’t start since smoking can narrow blood vessels. In turn, this can make it harder for the heart to get the oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the rest of the body. Therefore, smoking not only puts your heart at risk, but the health of your entire body.
  • Reduce stress to help lower your blood pressure. Relaxation breathing, yoga, meditation, or simply talking to a counselor or trusted friend or colleague can help. In turn, this can help lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.
  • Take a heart healthy supplement each day such as Presura by Vita Sciences. Presura contains natural ingredients such as hawthorn berry, niacin, and garlic extract that have been found to promote healthy blood pressure levels. However, it is important to always talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement to make sure it is safe to take with any other medications you may take.

Sources:

American Heart Association (November 2017) “The Facts About High Blood Pressure.”

American Heart Association News (November 13, 2017) “Nearly half of U.S. adults could now be classified with high blood pressure, under new definitions.”

Centers for Disease Control (March 17, 2017) “Fast Stats: Leading Causes of Death.”

HealthDay (April 7, 2018) “Exercise for High Blood Pressure? Most Not Keen on Idea.”

Mayo Clinic (May 30, 2015) “10 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure Without Medication.”

 

Could probiotics improve gut health?

yogurt, probiotics, fermented, gut health, fruit, fiberDo you get cramps in your side after eating certain foods? Do you feel bloated, gassy, or suffer from constipation?  If so, then you may have an imbalance in your gut bacteria.  Probiotics may be able to help you improve your digestive health.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria strains found in fermented foods or in supplement form. They help to balance levels of good as well as bad bacteria in the gut.  Examples of fermented foods and drinks include:

  • yogurt (fermented milk)
  • sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
  • kefir (fermented cow’s milk normally consumed as a beverage)
  • kombucha (fermented black or green tea)
  • miso (paste made from fermented soybeans)
  • tempeh (fermented soybeans)

A diverse ecosystem of bacteria in the gut may reduce inflammation in the body. In fact, animal studies show that probiotics could lower levels of inflammation in the body related to such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.  However, you should take probiotics on a regular basis for the most health benefit.

If taken in a supplement form, try to get a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria since each strain provides different benefits.  Also, those found in a refrigerated form, such as those found in health food stores, may provide a more potent formula. For example, there is a quality probiotic called Biovia 30X made by Vita Sciences. Biovia 30X  contains 30 billion colony forming units (CFUs) in 10 different strains of probiotics.

Other ways to improve gut health

Besides probiotics, there are other ways you can help improve your digestive health with just a few tweaks in your healthy lifestyle.

  • Avoid foods that can cause inflammation. Examples of foods to limit in your diet include red meat, high-fat dairy, fried foods, and foods high in additives.  Also, processed foods such as sausage and candy that contain advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs should be limited since they can reduce the number of healthy bacteria in the gut.
  • Eat more fiber since it helps to feed the healthy bacteria. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as oats, quinoa, brown and wild rice, and bran, to name a few.
  • Live a balanced lifestyle.  Getting enough sleep, staying active, and staying hydrated is important to keep your gut happy.  Most adults should get about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to help regulate a healthy blood pressure and healthy blood glucose levels.  Also, exercise at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week. This is because studies show that exercise can help enrich the growth of a diverse population of bacteria in the gut. Finally, when you add in more fiber to your diet, drinking enough water each day is important to lower risk of constipation. Aim for about half of your body weight in ounces. If you are 200 pounds, then this means you should drink about 100 ounces, or 12.5 cups of unsweetened fluid each day.
  • Manage stress.  Meditation, yoga, relaxation breathing, talking to a counselor, or just finding time each day to relax and do something you enjoy can help lower stress.  It is important to manage stress not just to sleep better, but for gut health as well.  For example, studies have shown a potential link between the brain and gut health. For example, if you get stressed or depressed, studies show that this could trigger gut health issues.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

Harvard Health Publishing- Harvard Medical School (October 2016) “Can gut bacteria improve your health?”

Harvard Health Publishing- Harvard Medical School (accessed April 3, 2018) “The gut-brain connection.”

Monda, V., Villano, I., Messina, A., Valenzano, A., Esposito, T., Moscatelli, F., … Messina, G. (2017). Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity2017, 3831972. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3831972

Mayo Clinic (August 20, 2016) “How much should the average adult exercise each day?”

National Sleep Foundation (accessed April 2, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

NIH News in Health (May 2017) “Keeping Your Gut in Check: Healthy Options to Stay on Tract.”

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (accessed April 3, 2018) “Healthy Gut: Prebiotics and Probiotics.”

Seven ways to improve long term weight loss and management

weight loss, weight, health, diet, nutritionWith the summer months approaching and weather warming, weight loss may be on your mind.  With every click of the remote, there are commercials advertising weight loss plans, exercise equipment, and fat burning supplements claiming to help you manage your weight. However, a recent study has shown that regular eating versus dieting may be the answer to long term weight loss and management.

Dieting Versus Regular Eating

A study at the University of Helsinki looked at the factors of weight and weight change in 4900 young men and women. The study involved the participants taking surveys at age 24 and 34, and weight measurements at the time the surveys were conducted. Study results show that most people gained weight in the decade in between. The factors that affected such weight gain include:

  • dieting and irregular eating habits
  • giving birth to two or more children
  • regular intake of sweetened beverages
  • poor contentment with life
  • smoking

The results show that those who were protected from weight gain and had weight maintenance or weight loss had similar characteristics such as:

  • physical activity in women
  • higher level of education in men
  • greater weight at the start of the study in men

Therefore, the study suggests that eating healthy foods on a regular basis and avoiding dieting is the first step to long term weight management.

Seven Ways to Manage Your Weight Long Term

The findings of this recent study show that the following five ways are the cornerstone to managing your weight for the long term.

  • Eating on a regular basis such as every 3 to 4 hours can help prevent overeating. You should consume a balanced diet of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables as well as adequate lean proteins each day. Such proteins may include animal products such as eggs, poultry, fish, seafood, and lean beef. However, if you are vegetarian, you can get plenty of protein from low fat dairy, soybeans and soy based products such as tofu, nuts, and seeds. Furthermore, you should limit your intake of processed products to reduce your total daily intake of sodium and sugar.
  • Reducing intake of sugary beverages is the logical next step to help manage your weight.  This means limiting sugary colas, juices, and pretty much any processed foods with added sugars. You can find the amount of added sugar on the nutrition label of most products. Stick to water, unsweetened tea and lemonade, or other low-calories beverages for your fluid intake. You should drink about half of your body weight in pounds in fluid each day. Therefore, if you weigh 200 lbs, then you should drink about 100 ounces of low-to no calorie fluid each day, or about 12.5 cups of fluid each day.
  • Staying active is vital for managing weight. You should engage in at least 30 minutes total of moderate activity daily such as walking, gardening, light biking, or other activities that increase heart rate to a point where you can still hold a conversation, but not sing. This 30 minutes does not have to be all at once, but can be in 5 to 10 minute intervals throughout the day. Exercise is important for providing a calorie deficit to help lose weight and is also important for heart health.
  • Not smoking and limiting other unhealthy lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol is important for managing weight since these factors affect heart health and overall health status. Smoking can narrow blood vessels and increase blood pressure. It can also sap your energy since it makes it harder for your heart to get oxygen to your body’s tissues and affects lung health. Drinking alcohol is full of unnecessary calories and if consumed in excess can affect liver health. Your liver is in charge of breaking down fat and getting toxins out of the body. If your liver will rid of toxins before anything, so if you drink too much, your liver will not have much time for fat metabolism. This can lead to fat storage and weight gain, especially in the abdominal area.
  • Managing stress can help you manage weight and gain a more positive perspective on your life. Relaxation breathing, yoga, or talking with a counselor can help you better manage stress and in turn lower your risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

Two other important factors that can affect weight management are:

  • Sleep. Most adults are recommended to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Lack of sleep can increase risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  Also,  lack of sleep can make it difficult to manage stress and stick to a healthy eating and exercise plan.
  • Nutrient status.  Vitamin deficiencies, such as iron, vitamin D, or B12, can impact health by reducing energy. In fact, obese patients commonly have these vitamin deficiencies before weight loss intervention.  You should get a lab test for these vitamins and nutrients at your annual doctor visit. Also, if you are low in such nutrients, you should start on a regular vitamin regimen. One supplement that may be helpful in getting your weight back on track is Kolonex by Vita Sciences. Kolonex is an advanced colon cleanser and detox supplement that contains psyllium husk and probiotics to help promote weight loss, less bloating, and more energy.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control (September 8, 2016) “Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine (September 14, 2015) “Nutritional Deficiencies Common Before Weight Loss Surgery.”

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (accessed March 26, 2018) “Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency.” 

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (accessed by March 26, 2018) “Some Myths about Nutrition and Physical Activity.”

National Sleep Foundation (accessed March 26, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

Science Daily (March 23, 2018) “Searching for long-term success in weight management? Forget dieting and eat regularly.”

Could a new diabetes medicine help you lose weight?

nutrition, dietitian, health, diabetes, diet, weight lossWhen you have diabetes and are overweight, your doctor may say that a small amount of weight loss could help control your condition. However, if you have to take insulin to control your blood glucose levels, weight loss can be very difficult. Therefore, it is encouraging to report that a new diabetes medicine may help those with diabetes who are obese to lose weight.

Insulin and Weight Gain

According to Joslin Diabetes Center, those with diabetes on insulin may have a challenging time losing weight. This is because when people with diabetes first start taking insulin, the body is finally getting the glucose in the cells where it was previously low. In turn, this energy that the cells start taking in lead to weight gain. It is important to note though, that an initial weight gain with the start of insulin treatment is a good sign that the body is working to get your blood glucose levels back in control. However, weight loss is not impossible for those with diabetes on insulin. With the proper supervision and treatment plan by your diabetes health care provider, those with diabetes can lose weight.

Diabetes Medicine and Weight Loss Research

A recent study found that a new diabetes medicine may help those who are obese without diabetes to lose weight. This new diabetes medicine, semaglutide, has a similar chemical structure to the hormone glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). GLP-1 helps to regulate secretion of insulin as well as appetite. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the semaglutide injection Ozempic as a once-weekly supplement to diet and exercise to help those with type 2 diabetes control their blood glucose levels.

The one-year study done on semaglutide looked at nearly 1000 participants with obesity and without diabetes. Study results found that this treatment was effective as a weight loss treatment.  Different study groups were given different dosages of the treatment (.05-.4 milligrams injection daily).  Comparison groups were given  a placebo or a different diabetes medicine called liraglutide. All groups were provided monthly diet and exercise counseling.

  • All groups that received semaglutide lost significantly more weight than those in the placebo group.
  • The highest dose group (.4 milligram injection daily) lost the most weight, nearly 5 times more than the placebo group.
  • Researchers suggest that more studies could help fully explore the weight loss potential of semaglutide.

Other Ways to Lose Weight With Diabetes

Outside of prescription medicines, there are several lifestyle factors that can be adjusted to help those with diabetes lose weight.

  • Eat a healthier diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), those with diabetes should work with their doctor and a dietitian. They can help you learn how to create a healthy, balanced meal plan.  A diabetes-friendly meal plan should focus on healthy carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, fiber-rich whole grain foods, and low-fat dairy.  Learning appropriate portion sizes and limiting eating out are other strategies to help you lose weight.
  • Exercise more.  When you exercise, insulin becomes more sensitive. In other words, exercise helps your muscle cells to better use the available insulin. In turn, the insulin works to better take up glucose into the cells and use it as energy during and after activity. This helps lower your blood glucose levels. However, it is important to note that those taking insulin to help control their blood glucose levels should adjust their insulin dosage and carbohydrate intake around the time they exercise to avoid a glucose low, or hypoglycemia.  Check out the American Diabetes Association site or talk to your healthcare provider about ways to avoid hypoglycemia during and after exercise.
  • Drink plenty of water each day to help prevent drinking your calories from sugary drinks. Most of your body is made up of water. Therefore, drinking plenty of water each day can help you maintain optimal health. In addition, people with diabetes need more water when blood glucose levels are high.  Studies show that increased water intake can help those with diabetes better control blood glucose levels.  The average adult should drink about half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, then you should drink 100 ounces of fluid each day, or about 12.5 cups of water. Increased water intake can also help you feel fuller longer and prevent dehydration. In turn, increased water intake can help you manage you weight and increase energy over time.
  • Take diabetes-friendly supplements such as Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains compounds such as chromium, alpha lipoic aicd and cinnamon to help support blood glucose levels. Such ingredients can help support weight loss and a healthy metabolism.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

American Diabetes Association (last edited September 25, 2017) “Blood Glucose and Exercise.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (December 18, 2017) “Eat Well!”

Diabetes.co.uk (accessed March 19, 2018) “Water and Diabetes.”

Joslin Diabetes Center (accessed March 19, 2018) “Insulin and Weight Gain.”

Science Daily (March 18, 2018) “New diabetes drug may help people with obesity lose weight.”