Monthly Archives: February 2019

Could preventing or treating hypertension protect your mind?

hypertension, blood pressure, heart health, healthWhen you think of high blood pressure, or hypertension, your heart health may be the first thing that comes to mind. But what many may not realize is that blood pressure also relates to the health of your mind. It makes sense if you think about it. All the body’s tissues and organs require oxygen from the blood that flows from the heart. If something is affecting blood flow, then this can affect the health of many parts of your body. Let’s look a bit more at blood pressure and how controlling it can improve the health of your heart and mind.

About hypertension

Hypertension happens when the blood flow in your vessels has to use extra force to travel though the body. There are several different causes of blood pressure. Some of these causes include high sodium intake, obesity, thyroid problems, or sleep apnea, to name a few.

A person has hypertension if their blood pressure consistently reads at or above 140 mm Hg over 90 mmHg. The top number is the systolic blood pressure, or the pressure of the blood in the arteries during contraction. On the other hand, the bottom number is the pressure of the blood in the vessels at dilation, or in between contractions.

It’s important to see your doctor on a regular basis so you can track your blood pressure. This is because untreated high blood pressure can lead to complications like heart attack, heart failure, or stroke, to name a few.

Blood pressure and brain health

By keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy, you ensure healthy blood flow all over the body, This includes healthy blood flow to the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control, taking care of your heart can help reduce your risk of stroke and dementia.

A recent study looked at a group of older adults at risk for heart disease but had no history of stroke or diabetes. Researchers looked at whether intensive or standard treatment for hypertension could improve cognitive health outcomes.

Intensive blood pressure control would involve a goal of a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 mm Hg. On the other hand, standard treatment would merely try to lower the systolic blood pressure below 140 mm Hg.

Study results show that the intensive treatment helped reduce mild cognitive impairment risk by 20-percent. Because of this finding, researchers suggest that intensive blood pressure treatment could lower risk of dementia. However, more studies will need to be done to see if this theory holds true.

How can you improve your blood pressure?

When it comes to heart health, here are several steps you can take to help control your blood pressure and in turn help the health of your mind.

  • Eat a heart healthy diet: Cut back on sodium, fatty red meats, alcohol, and sugary processed foods for better heart health. Instead, swap out these foods for lean animal or plant-based proteins like chicken, fish, nuts, or seeds. Also, load up on antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits that also provide gut- and heart-healthy fiber.
  • Move more: Every step counts when it comes to heart health. Try to walk, swim, bike, dance, or do whatever moves you to exercise. Try to move at least thirty minutes total a day most days of the week to help keep your weight within a healthy range and your heart strong.
  • Sleep enough: During sleep, your body takes care of a lot of internal business. One piece of business is regulating fluid and hormones in the body. If interrupted this can have a negative impact on blood pressure. This is why most adults should sleep at least seven to nine hours a night most nights for optimal health.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking can constrict blood vessels and in turn narrow them and increase risk of blood pressure. Therefore, if you smoke, be sure to visit smokefree.gov for resources on how you can quit today to help your heart and brain health.
  • Take a heart healthy supplement:  Along with these lifestyle changes, it also never hurts to add a heart healthy supplement to give your heart health the upper hand. One such supplement is Circova by Vita Sciences. Circova contains ingredients like L-arginine, niacin, and hawthorne that help to naturally improve blood pressure and blood flow.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (March 26, 2018) “Brain Health Is Connected to Heart Health.” https://www.cdc.gov/features/heart-brain-health/index.html

Mayo Clinic (January 9, 2019) “10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication.”

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (accessed February 18, 2019) “High Blood Pressure.”

NIH Research Matters (February 12, 2019) “Intensive blood pressure control may lessen cognitive loss.”

 

 


  • Could eating processed foods increase risk of death?

    processed, processed foods, ultraprocessed, unhealthy, canned, packaged, convenienceIf you read just about any healthy eating plan, you may see the phrase “eat less processed foods.” This can seem like a difficult task since many foods in the grocery store aisles seem to contain long lists of ingredients. Therefore, it can be hard to figure out what to eat for optimal health while still staying within your food budget. However, recent research shows that eating too many ultraprocessed foods can increase risk of death. Let’s learn a  bit about these foods and how you can clean up your diet.

    What are ultra processed foods?

    Ultra processed foods are those processed foods that are mass produced, packaged foods. They often contain ingredients such as flavoring agents, colors, emulsifiers, humectants, non-sugar sweeteners, and other cosmetic additives. These compounds are used to imitate natural flavors. Examples of ultra processed foods include:

    • packaged breads and buns
    • sweet or savory packaged snacks
    • prepackaged candies and desserts
    • sodas and sweetened drinks
    • pre-made meat products that are packaged such as meat balls, poultry, and fish nuggets
    • instant noodles and soups
    • frozen or shelf stable ready meals

    These foods are different from other processed food products like canned vegetables and preserved meat products that only contain added salt. This salt merely helps to preserve the food product. Other foods in this group include cheeses and freshly made un-packaged breads.

    On the other hand, minimally processed to unprocessed foods include fresh, dried, ground, chilled, frozen, pasteurized, or fermented staple foods. Such foods may include packaged fresh fruits, vegetables, rice, pasta, eggs, meat, fish, or milk products such as milk or yogurt.

    Ultra processed foods and health research

    Research is showing a lot of health risks from consuming too many ultra processed foods (UPF). One study shows that those who consumed more UPF had higher body mass index (BMI) and waist cicrcumference than those who didn’t eat such foods.  Another study shows that those who consumed more UPF had overall poor diet quality compared to those who ate less of these foods.

    A recent study also found that increased intake of UPF increased a person’s risk of death. This was a seven-year long study that looked at food intake data from over 40000 people. Study results show that intake of UPF was linked with a mean age of 45 to 64 years old, living alone, lower physical activity level, and higher body mass index, among other demographics.  Therefore, researchers will need to conduct more studies to figure out the mechanisms which these UPF directly affect health.

    How to clean up your diet

    It can be hard to eat less ultra processed foods and stay healthy. Or so you may think. Here are some tips on how to eat a healthier diet while not breaking the bank.

    • Buy in bulk. Although it may just be you or a few of you in your home, buying in bulk can save money. Choose family packs of meats to save money on these protein-rich food products. Separate the bulk pack into smaller servings in freezer bags and put in the freezer for later use. This way you can have a few meals from one bulk pack.
    • Buy manager’s special or discontinued items. Find out what day your grocery store puts out manager’s special items. This items in the meat, produce, and dairy sections will likely have brightly colored stickers on them with reduced prices to help sell items that may be a week away from being past their sell-by date. These foods are perfectly safe food items. However, you will just need to use them in your meals and snacks soon after purchasing.
    • Stock up on frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables without added sauces, batters, or butter can be healthy and cheap ways to eat your veggies. Buy in bulk to save even more money. These vegetables are typically flash frozen, so they retain many nutrients from their fresh form and will produce less waste since they are good in the freezer for eight to ten months.
    • Do a  little prep work. Some low-cost healthy food items like fresh carrots, potatoes, celery, and salad greens may require some prep work. Rinsing, drying, and chopping such produce may be necessary to make them ready to eat. However, they are much cheaper than already washed and chopped veggies.
    • Eat out less. Eating out and ordering takeout may be convenient, but the cost can add up fast. Not to mention that such foods are high in sodium, unhealthy fats, and preservatives. Therefore, try to limit eating out to a treat once a week to help improve your health and save money.
    • Take a multivitamin to fill in the gaps. If you feel like your current diet is not meeting your nutrition needs, then a multivitamin may be in order. Although it’s best to consume your nutrients from food, a supplement can help if your healthy diet still has a few gaps. The multivitamin Zestia from Vita Sciences fills your nutrient gaps and then some. Zestia contains a comprehensive vitamin and mineral profile as well as a superfood complex and probiotics to enhance gut health.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    Fiolet, T., et al. (2018). “Consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer risk: results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.)360, k322.

    Schnabel L, Kesse-Guyot E, Allès B, et al. (2019) “Association Between Ultraprocessed Food Consumption and Risk of Mortality Among Middle-aged Adults in France. “JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 11, 2019.

    Silva, F.M., et al. “Consumption of ultra-processed food and obesity: cross sectional results from the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil) cohort (2008-2010).” Public Health Nutrition, 21(12): 2271-2279.

    Vandevijvere, S., De Ridder, K., Fiolet, T., Bel. S., and Tafforeau, J. (December 2018) “Consumption of ultra-processed food products and diet quality among children, adolescents and adults in Belgium.” European Journal of Nutrition, doi: 10.1007/s00394-018-1870-3. 


  • Heart Health Month: How to protect yourself from heart attack

    heart, health, heart attack, heart diseaseYou may know that many people suffer from heart disease. However, you may not know that heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in the United States. Therefore, it’s important to know what puts you at risk for heart disease. This way you can work to prevent such risk factors and in turn lower your risk of heart disease. So, read below and find out how you can lower your risk of heart disease including reducing your risk of heart attack.

    Risk factors for heart attack 

    A heart attack can occur when blood flow to the heart is blocked for one reason or another. Blockages in the blood vessels are usually caused by fat or cholesterol that form plaques. These plaques are like roadblocks that prevent blood from flowing to the heart well enough to deliver oxygen to the heart and in turn other tissues in the body.

    It’s when a plaque breaks off from the vessel and forms a clot that you can have a heart attack. This is because the clot stops blood flow in a vessel. Without blood flowing to the heart, this can cause muscle damage in the heart.  That is why it’s so important to try and prevent risk factors of a heart attack to prevent this from happening. Here are some of the major risk factors that you can work on preventing today.

    • High blood pressure: High blood pressure, or hypertension, can damage blood vessels over time, and in turn put you at higher risk for heart disease.
    • High blood cholesterol and blood fats: High blood fats, also know as triglycerides, as well as high cholesterol can narrow arteries and increase risk of heart disease.
    • Diabetes: Those with diabetes are have an increased risk of blood glucose levels rising. In turn, this puts them at higher risk for heart disease than those who do not have diabetes.
    • Obesity: Since those who are obese are at higher risk for high blood fats, cholesterol, and diabetes, then they are in turn at higher risk for heart disease.
    • Family history of heart attack: If your sibling, parent, or grandparent has had a heart attack by the age of 55 years of age for men and 65 years of age for women, then you may be at increased risk yourself.
    • Illicit drug use: Stimulant drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine can cause coronary artery spasms that can trigger a heart attack.
    • An autoimmune condition: Those with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus are at higher risk for heart disease than those without such conditions.
    • Lack of physical activity: Exercise, in particular cardio exercise like walking, running, or biking, can help to strengthen the heart. If you don’t exercise much, then your heart may weaken over time.  Even if you can’t do a whole lot at once, start with a few minutes of walking here and there. Over time, try to work up to a total of thirty minutes most days of the week can be great for your heart health.
    • Stress: When you’re stressed, this can increase your blood pressure. When you have increased blood pressure, it can cause damage to your blood vessels. Over time this can put you at increased risk for heart attack. However, it’s important to know that high blood pressure is not an accurate predictor for having a heart attack.

    Warning signs of a heart attack 

    If you notice any of the following signs of heart attack, be sure to call 911 right away. Notice that some signs and symptoms of women can be different from the common signs. Therefore, it’s important not to ignore any symptoms in which you just don’t feel right since they may be signs of a heart attack or other health condition taking place.

    • chest pain or discomfort
    • upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach (women may be more likely to experience back or jaw pain in lieu of chest pain)
    • shortness of breath (women are more likely to experience this symptom than men)
    • nausea and/or vomiting (women are more likely to experience this symptom than men)
    • lightheadedness
    • cold sweats
    • upper back pressure

    How to prevent a heart attack 

    You may not be able to prevent all heart attacks. However, there are some steps you can take today to lower your risk.

    • Know your numbers: Visit the doctor at least once a year to check your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood fats, so you can assess your risk of heart disease. When you know your numbers, you can take steps to prevent or treat a chronic condition.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start: Smoking can narrow the arteries, increase blood pressure, and damage blood vessels over time. Therefore, if you smoke, visit smokefree.gov for resources to help you quit and in turn lower your heart disease risk.
    • Start moving: Exercise more to help strengthen your heart and to manage your weight. Both of these benefits can help lower heart disease risk.
    • Add a heart healthy supplement to your routine: If you are having trouble lowering your cholesterol, then try a heart healthy supplement like Alestra by Vita Sciences. With ingredients like niacin and plant sterols, this vegan supplement helps promote healthy cholesterol levels and overall heart health.
    • Change your diet: Along with any changes you make in your lifestyle to prevent heart disease, you should definitely look at your diet. Make sure you are eating enough antioxidant and fiber rich fruits and vegetables. These foods can help improve gut health, reduce inflammation in the body, and provide nutrient-dense, low calorie foods in your diet that can help to manage weight. The Mediterranean diet in particular has been shown to help reduce heart disease risk and prolong life.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Heart Association (last reviewed on July 31, 2015) “Heart Attack Symptoms in Women.”

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last reviewed November 28, 2017) “Heart disease facts.” https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

    Mayo Clinic (May 30, 2018) “Heart Attack.”

    NIH News in Health (February 2019) “”Control Your Cholesterol: Protect Yourself From Heart Attack and Stroke.” https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2019/02/control-your-cholesterol