Monthly Archives: June 2019

Managing work hours could lower stroke risk

brain, health, stroke. headache, inflammationRecent statistics show that stroke is the number five cause of death and disability in the United States. This is why it’s so important to look into what factors may increase risk of this condition and work to reduce them. For example, a recent study shows that working long hours may increase one’s risk for stroke. Although this may not always be a factor that you can prevent, let’s learn more about this condition and ways you can lower your risk.

What is stroke?

In technical terms, a stroke occurs when there is a clot blocking a blood vessel to the brain or when that blood vessel bursts. Since such blood vessels carry oxygen and nutrients to the brain, this type of issue can cause brain cells to die. In turn, this can lead to a variety of health issues including brain health issues or even death.

Causes of stroke

As mentioned before, there are two major causes of stroke. The most common cause  occurs when arteries to the brain become narrow or blocked. This is called an ischemic stroke. About 80-percent of strokes are ischemic strokes.

The other cause is when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or ruptures. This type of stroke is called a hemorrhagic type. Hemorrhagic strokes can be caused by factors such as high blood pressure, overtreatment with blood thinners, or aneurysms. Aneurysms occur when there are weak spots in the blood vessel walls.

Warning signs

Although you may not be able to prevent all strokes, you may be able to see warning signs. When you notice such signs, you can contact emergency medical services right away to receive treatment. Such warning signs include:

  • trouble with speaking such as slurred speech
  • issues with understanding speech
  • paralysis or numbness of face, arm, or leg
  • vision issues in one or both eyes
  • a sudden, severe headache
  • sudden dizziness, loss of balance, or loss of coordination

If you notice any of these symptoms in someone, then it’s important to think fast. This is because after the onset of symptoms, brain health issues can quickly escalate. Therefore, as soon as you notice symptoms, be sure to use the acronym FAST, or:

  • Face: Ask the person to smile. If one side of their face starts to droop, then it may be a sign of a brain health issue.
  • Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. If one arm starts to drift downward, or if they are unable to raise their arm, then there may be a brain health issue.
  • Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase like “How are you?” Listen closely for any slurred speech that may indicate a brain health issue.
  • Time: It’s important not to waste any time if you notice any of these symptoms, since it doesn’t take long for brain health issues to escalate from time of symptom onset.

Work hours and stroke research

A recent French study looked at the effect of work hours on stroke risk. It was found that those people who worked more than ten hours on at least fifty days per year were at higher risk for this brain health condition. Those working such long hours had a 29-percent high risk, while those who worked like this for ten years or more had a 45-percent higher risk.

How to lower risk of a stroke

Besides reducing work hours, there are plenty of other things you can do to lower your risk of a stroke.  Several of these things include taking steps to live healthier such as:

  • Exercising more to help improve heart health and vessel health as well as to help manage weight.
  • Losing weight to help reduce the stress placed on the heart and blood vessels.
  • Stop smoking to help lower risk of high blood pressure.
  • Eat a healthier diet such as reducing intake of processed, sugary, calorie-laden foods and eating more fruits and vegetables. A healthier diet can help reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure risk, help you manage weight, and reduce risk of diabetes, to name a few.
  • Add a blood vessel health supplement to your daily regimen such as Circova by Vita Sciences. Circova contains ingredients like L-arginine and niacin that can help to naturally improve blood flow and blood pressure.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

American Stroke Association (accessed June 25, 2019) “About Stroke.”

BBC Health (June 20, 2019) “Long working hours ‘linked to stroke risk.'”

Mayo Clinic (last reviewed June 11, 2019) “Stroke.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (last modified January 31, 2019) “Brain Basics: Preventing Stroke.”


  • Diet and Exercise for Diabetes Prevention

    healthy, diet, diabetes, healthIf you have been told you are at risk for diabetes, then I’m sure you’ve been told to diet and exercise. This advice is nothing new to help lower your risk. However, new research confirms a method of diet and exercise that can prevent those with prediabetes from developing diabetes. Read below for more on this research and learn how you can lower your risk of this chronic condition today.

    What is prediabetes?

    Prediabetes occurs when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to meet type 2 diabetes criteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in three American adults have diabetes. And surprisingly, about 90-percent don’t even know that they have it. That is why it’s so important for everyone to have their numbers checked every year.

    These numbers include not only fasting blood glucose levels, but also cholesterol, trigycerides, blood pressure, and HgA1C. HgA1C tells you the average blood glucose levels in your body over the previous three months. Those with a HgA1C level below 5.7 are in the healthy range. However, those with a level between 5.7 and 6.4 are in the prediabetes range.  And if this level tests 6.5 or above two times in a row, then a person is given a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

    Prediabetes research

    A recent study looked at the effect of diet and exercise on the changeover from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes. The study looked at 962 patients with prediabetes and followed them for about three years.

    All patients were first placed on a 800-calorie diet with a meal replacement for two months. Then, patients were either placed on a high protein and low glycemic diet or a moderate protein and moderate glycemic diet. Patients were also asked to either engage in vigorous intensity exercise for 75 minutes a week or moderate intensity for 150 minutes a week.

    Study results show that only 62 of the 962 patients enrolled in this study progressed from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.  Both diet programs tested showed reduced risk of the condition. Therefore, researchers suggest that a period of meal replacement-induced weight loss followed by three years of weight maintenance is an effective strategy for preventing prediabetes progression to type 2 diabetes. So, just eat a balanced diet of lean proteins and plant-based foods and stay as active as possible to lower your risk.

    Other ways you can lower your risk of diabetes

    Besides diet and exercise, use the following tips to improve your health and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Just small changes made each week can over time lower your risk in a big way.

    • Manage stress through therapy, exercise, support groups, relaxation breathing, meditation, or yoga. Research shows that those who experience more perceived stress are more likely to be at risk for getting type 2 diabetes.
    • Be sure to sleep at least seven hours each night if possible to help your body regulate blood glucose levels better. According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, those who do not sleep enough each night are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Not to mention that these people are also at higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. So, be sure to reduce screen time before bed time and avoid eating less than two hours before bed time. These tips are just some ways you can improve bed time and avoid interrupted sleep.
    • Consume more fiber in your diet through whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. This will not only help you to improve gut health but can aid in weight management.
    • Take a daily supplement such as Glucarex by Vitasciences. Glucarex contains natural ingredients like chromium, vanadium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon. This supplement formula supports healthy weight, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last reviewed May 30, 2019) “Prediabetes: Your Chance to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes.”

    Healio Primary Care (June 11, 2019) “Weight loss, behavior change prevents changeover from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.”

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (April 2018) “The A1C Test & Diabetes.”


  • June is Alzheimer’s Brain Awareness Month

    brain, health, alzheimer's, cognitiveWith so much focus on diet and exercise helping the heart, brain health may take a back seat in the wellness arena. However, the brain is the control center of the body, and in turn must not be neglected. During the month of June, it’s especially important to be aware of the brain disease known as Alzheimer’s. You may have heard of it before, but may not know what it entails. Let’s learn more about this disease and how you can be an advocate for this devastating brain health condition.

    Alzheimer’s basics

    Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive and irreversible brain health condition that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Although some memory loss may be a normal part of aging, the severity of symptoms in Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. More than 5 million people in the United States suffer from this type of dementia. And along with this number, there are countless other people, including loved ones and caregivers, that have to live everyday watching those they care about suffer from this disease.

    Causes of Alzheimer’s include plaques and tangles in the brain. These plaques form from abnormal deposits of protein in the brain. Also, the damage caused by these deposits typically start in the hippocampus and entorhinal complex of the brain. And its these parts of the brain that are vital in forming memories. Over time, more neurons die and other parts of the brain begin to shrink.

    It is not fully understood why certain people may be more at risk for this disease. However, it’s thought that less than 1-percent is from genetic changes, while for most people it is likely a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors.

    Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s 

    The early symptoms of this disease may be things as simple as forgetting recent events or conversations. These memory problems are one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. However, other red flags of the disease may include:

    • repeating statements over and over again
    • forgetting appointments and events and not remembering them later
    • frequently losing things
    • getting lost in familiar places
    • forgetting the names of family members and everyday objects
    • having trouble thinking of words to describe common objects or hold a simple conversation

    If you, your family member ,or someone you know exhibits any of these symptoms, it may be time to visit the doctor. This is because a complete physical exam, detailed neurological exam, and mental status exam can help diagnose Alzheimer’s or whatever other condition may be causing symptoms.

    Later symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

    In the later stages of the disease, you may start to see some of the following symptoms:

    • inability to learn new things
    • trouble with simple activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, and eating.
    • Hallucinations
    • Paranoia
    • Impulsive behavior

    Alzheimer’s research

    Recent research shows that there are currently not many treatments for AD. One medicine is a cholinesterase inhibitor. This medicine is for those with mild, moderate, or severe AD.  This medicine is also give to those with Parkinson’s dementia. Memantine is another medicine that is approved in use for those with moderate and severe AD who show difficulty in attention and alertness.

    Besides such treatments, research shows an independent link between vitamin D deficiency and AD. Therefore, those with symptoms should have their vitamin D levels tested for this vitamin.

    Another nutrition-related link with AD has to do with omega-3 fatty acids. This is because research shows the heart health of individuals correlates with brain health. In fact, recent reviews show that those who eat a heart healthy diet based on the Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of cognitive decline compared to those on other eating regimens.

    Future research

    Future research of Alzheimer’s has to do with targeting the plaques and tangles in the brain. However, researchers cannot yet seem to agree on what abnormality has the most impact on cognitive decline. That is why it’s important now to support research efforts that will help find more effective treatment for this terrifying condition.

    How you can support research

    Be sure to visit the Alzheimer’s Association website for more ideas on ways you can help support Alzheimer’s research. Also, hashtag #endalz in your social media posts this month to show your support in Alzheimer’s disease awareness.

    How you can keep your brain healthy

    As mentioned before, some research is showing that lifestyle changes like diet may help brain health. Read below for specific things you can do to help keep your brain healthy.

    • Exercise your brain with puzzles and word games: This is thought to keep building connections between nerve cells and may even help generate new brain cells.
    • Exercise your body: Walking, jogging, swimming, and dancing, to name a few can help keep your heart and brain strong. Not only can it help create new nerve cell connections, but can improve blood pressure and cholesterol that can also help brain health.
    • Improve your numbers: Help keep your blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure in healthy ranges by eating healthier. This means more plant-based foods in the diet like fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Healthy fats can include olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and olives, to name a few.
    • Avoid tobacco and limit alcohol: Smoking can constrict blood vessels and increase heart health risk, while excessive alcohol intake is a major risk factor for dementia. Therefore visit your healthcare provider or websites like SAMHSA.gov to help you quit smoking and abusing alcohol.
    • Reduce stress and increase social support:  Those with a lower risk of dementia also have strong social ties. Also, people who are anxious or with depression tend to score lower on cognitive function tests. Therefore, be sure to keep a support system around you of friends, neighbors, loved ones, and healthcare providers to keep your brain healthy.
    • Take a daily supplement:  Vitamin deficiencies like vitamin D are often seen in those with cognitive health issues. Also, omega-3 fatty acids may help improve brain health. Therefore, if you don’t eat enough healthy fats and vitamins in your diet it may be time to add a dietary supplement to your daily routine. The fish oil supplement produced by Vita Sciences can be a great addition to your healthy lifestyle routine.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (updated January 16, 2018) “12 ways to keep your brain young.”

    Kumar, A. and Tsao, J.W. (last updated December 18, 2018) “Alzheimer disease.” StatPearls

    Mayo Clinic (December 8, 2018) “Alzheimer’s disease.”

    National Institute on Aging (accessed June 12, 2019) “Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.”

    Weller, J and Budson, A. (July 2018) “Current understanding of Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and treatment.”  F1000Res., 7:F1000 Faculty Rev-1161.

     

     

     


  • How to help your headaches- Headache Awareness Month 2019

    brain, headache, health, migraineTraffic, rude neighbors or co-workers, and financial stress are some the of common things in life that can cause stress. In turn, this stress can give you a headache. Besides literally being a pain, chronic headaches can reduce quality of life and lead to other health issues over time. In honor of June, which is Headache Awareness Month, let’s learn more about headaches and how you can manage them naturally.

    All about headaches

    When it comes to headaches, not all of them are created equal. This is because some can be worse than others, they can affect different sides of the head, and some last longer than others. The two major types of headaches are tension headaches and migraines.

    First of all, the most common type of headache is the tension headache. Tension headaches may stem from mental stress, or tension, as well as too little sleep, too much alcohol, or a mental health condition like anxiety or depression. And according to experts, tension headaches usually occur as a result of tight muscles in the shoulder, neck, scalp, and jaw.

    The second major type of headache is the migraine. And unlike tension headaches, migraines involve a whole different level of pain. This is because migraines cause more than just a head ache. In fact, other symptoms of a migraine can include:

    • moderate to severe throbbing often on one side of the head
    • sensitivity to light and sound
    • nausea
    • vision changes such as flashing lights or temporary loss of vision

    Headache management 

    Typical treatment of a headache may involve an over the counter pain reliever. However, if you deal with headaches often, you may want to find more natural ways to deal with your condition to avoid taking so much medicine. Some natural ways of dealing with headaches include:

    Acupuncture: This age-old technique of inserting thin needles in certain areas of the skin has been shown to help reduce headaches if the active points are targeted. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that you visit an acupuncturist who has experience and training in treating headaches to ensure you receive the most effective treatment.

    Massage: Through manipulation of soft tissues of the body, research shows that massage can help relieve tension-type headaches.

    Spinal manipulation: Healthcare providers like chiropractors can provide spinal manipulation treatment. This type of treatment involves applying a controlled force to a joint in the spine. By doing this, research shows that this type of treatment may help reduce the pain and intensity of migraine headaches. However, it’s important to note that such manipulation may cause side effects. Such side effects may include temporary headaches, tiredness, or discomfort in the area that was worked on. Therefore, be sure to talk with your doctor before opting for this headache treatment.

    Breathing exercises: Although there have been limited studies done, one study does show that breathing exercises, such as those involved with yoga, can help lessen headache intensity and frequency. Therefore, it may do your body and mind good to add yoga to your weekly routine. Other breathing-related exercises that may help include meditation, relaxation breathing, or tai chi.

    Losing weight or diet changes: Experts suggest that you can manage headaches by losing weight or taking a magnesium supplement daily. Also, adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet could help with headache treatment. Such foods include spinach, quinoa, nuts like almonds, cashews, and peanuts, as well as black beans, avocado, and tofu, to name a few.

    Certain dietary supplements: According to the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society, the supplement butterbur is effective in reducing the severity and frequency of migraine attacks. It’s important to note though that the effects of long-term use of this supplement are not known. Also, it’s thought that extended use could harm the liver. Therefore, be sure to have other options in your headache treatment routine and ask your doctor before starting this supplement.

    Instead of this supplement then, it may be worth it to try a more natural and safe supplement such as Migravent by Vita Sciences. Migravent contains natural ingredients like specialized PA free butterbur, CoQ10, magnesium, and riboflavin for advanced neurological support. PA free butterbur means that you receive the migraine health benefits of butterbur without the pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) that are unhealthy for your liver.

    Take home message

    Headaches can literally be a pain in the neck. Therefore, it’s always good to have an array of remedies up your sleeve. This way you can deal with them effectively when you need to. For ways you can help support research on headache treatment as well as for resources and events to advocate for those who suffer from such health issues, be sure to visit the American Headache Society website today.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Headache Society (accessed June 4, 2019) “How to Participate in Migraine and Headache Awareness Month.”

    Goldman, R. (last updated July 26, 2017) “Ten foods high in magnesium.” Medical News Today.

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (last modified May 16, 2019) “Headaches: In Depth.”