All posts by Staci

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


  • Move more to fight depression …and diabetes

    depression. mental health, happy, mood, healthWhen most people start an exercise program, they may be trying to do one of a few things. Most people move more to lose weight, some exercise to gain muscle, and some just want to tone up. However, the benefit from exercise that most may not think of is improved mood. A recent study shows that moving more each day may have prevent depressive symptoms. Not to mention, that research also shows that preventing or improving such symptoms can help improve health outcomes in those with diabetes.

    What is depression?

    Depression is a mood disorder that can greatly impact daily life. It can make daily activities seem impossible by impacting the way you feel, think, sleep, eat, and work. There are various forms of depression such as persistent depressive disorder, which involves symptoms lasting two years or more.

    On the other hand, there are forms of depression that occur as a result of certain environmental changes such as in climate like with seasonal affective disorder, or after pregnancy like with postpartum depression. Some people with depression may also experience other serious mood symptoms like with bipolar disorder or psychotic depression.

    No matter what type of depression a person may have, they all share certain serious symptoms for more than two weeks at a time that may include:

    • persistent “empty” mood or sad feelings
    • irritability
    • hopelessness
    • loss of interest in hobbies or daily activities
    • decreased energy or fatigue
    • restlessness
    • moving or talking more slowly
    • difficulty concentrating
    • trouble sleeping or eating
    • digestive problems or headaches without a medical cause
    • thoughts of death or suicide

    Not everyone with depression experiences every symptom. However, if you have a few of these symptoms and you feel that daily life has become hard to handle, then it may be time to reach out to a healthcare professional for help.

    Antidepressant medications and psychotherapy, like talk therapy are typical primary treatments for depression. However, if these treatments alone are not helping all of your symptoms, then there are some other things you can try. Experts suggest asking for help from a trusted friend, family member, or counselor as well as taking steps to take part in your community for social support.

    Another treatment option is to join a study through the National Institutes of Health where new treatments will be tested. If you need help now, then reach out to someone today for advice through one of the resources found on this website. Exercise can also be something you can do now to help improve your depressive symptoms.

    Exercise and depression research 

    The American Heart Association suggests that most adults exercise at least 150 minutes a week. This means that for most days of the week, you should move at least thirty minutes a day. This doesn’t have to be all at once, but can be a few minutes at a time. And this exercise should be at a moderate pace. Therefore, if you walk briskly for a few minutes here and there for a total of thirty minutes a day, then you can keep your heart strong. Not only that, but you can also keep your mind healthy too.

    A recent study shows that exercise may help improve depressive symptoms. This study looked at data from over 600000 adults. Study results show that there is a protective relationship between exercise and risk for major depressive disorder. And what makes this finding stronger is that this data was taken from actual measured movement, not self-reported exercise. Therefore, experts suggest that exercise could be an effective adjunct strategy to help treat and prevent depressive symptoms.

    Exercise and diabetes research

    If you exercise to help improve your depressive symptoms, you could also help improve your diabetes risk. Experts report that depressive symptoms correlate strongly with a risk of incident diabetes. A study of data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) looked at whether positive behavior could help lower risk of type 2 diabetes in postmenopausal women.

    The study looked at data from over 100000 women over 14 years. Study results show that those who were the most optimistic had a 12-percent lower risk of developing diabetes versus those in the lowest quartile of optimism. Also, those who showed more hostile and negative behaviors, were at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Therefore, prevention strategies to help target such negative mood and personality traits may help lower risk of type 2 diabetes in these persons.

    Take home message

    If you suffer from depression, then there are many steps you can take to help improve your quality of life. The first step is to ask for help.  I know this is not an easy ask, but there are many resources out there where people want to help you take back your life.

    And if you have diabetes, it may be worth it to be screened for depression to see if such strategies listed above may help you not only feel better in your mind, but also help improve your diabetes symptoms.

    Changes in diet such as consuming more antioxidant-rich foods and taking supplements such as Elevia by Vita Sciences may also help. Elevia contains GABA and 5-HTP to help calm your mind and boost serotonin levels. This could be another tool in your belt to help you improve your depressive symptoms and start feeling better inside and out.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Heart Association (last reviewed April 18, 2018) “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids.”

    Choi KW, Chen C, Stein MB, et al. (Published online January 23, 2019) “Assessment of Bidirectional Relationships Between Physical Activity and Depression Among AdultsA 2-Sample Mendelian Randomization Study.” JAMA Psychiatry, doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.4175

    National Institute of Mental Health (February 2018) “Depression.”

    Sandoiu, A. (January 27, 2019) “Diabetes: How optimism may influence your risk.” Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324297.php

     


  • Could fish oil lower your risk of stroke?

    fish oil. stroke, healthy fat, health, heart healthStroke continues to be one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States.  And even if a person survives a stroke, they may face permanent disability from a stroke. In turn, having a stroke could greatly impact a person’s quality of life. This is why it’s so important to keep learning more about how this disease can be prevented. A recent study shows that taking a fish oil supplement each day may help lower risk of stroke.

    What is stroke?

    Stroke is a form of vascular disease that affects the arteries to and within the brain.  A stroke occurs when these vessels become blocked by a clot or bursts. A stroke caused by a blockage is called an ischemic stroke. On the other hand, a stroke called by a ruptured vessel is called a hemorrhagic stroke.

    Since these arteries normally carry oxygen and blood to the brain, this blockage can be deadly. If the brain, or the control center of your body, doesn’t receive oxygen or nutrients, then brain cells can die. This in turn can wreak havoc all over your body.

    Depending on what area of the brain the stroke occurs, different complications can occur. A right brain stroke can cause paralysis on the left side of the body, vision problems, and memory loss. On the other hand, a stroke on the left side of the brain can cause paralysis on the right side of the body, speech problems, and memory loss.

    Either way, these complications can greatly affect quality of life. However, by taking care of your heart health, you can lower your risk of stroke.

    What is fish oil?

    Fish oil is a supplement that contains omega-3 fatty acids. Two of the primary long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements are DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, and EPA, or eicosapentaenoic acid.  These fatty acids are marine-based, hence fish oil supplements.

    The omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are well-known for their role in heart health. Study results show that fish oil works well as a supportive treatment, along with statins, to help lower heart disease risk. The average fish oil supplement provides about 1000 milligram of fish oils, containing about 180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA or more.

    An example of a high quality fish oil supplement is the formula developed by Vita Sciences. This fish oil by Vita Sciences contains 400mg of EPA and 300mg of DHA in a 1000 milligram fish oil supplement.

    Stroke and fish oil research

    A recent study analyzed data from about 55,000 people enrolled in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health study. They completed dietary surveys and had baseline adipose tissue analysis completed. Then, the individuals had follow-up assessments after 13.5 years to check for ischemic stroke status events, if any.

    Study results show that those with higher adipose tissue content of EPA showed a lower risk of total ischemic stroke.  Also, lower rates of large artery atherosclerosis were seen with higher intakes of total marine n-3 PUFA, EPA, and DHA.

    Other ways to reduce stroke risk

    Besides taking a fish oil supplement each day, here are some other ways you can lower your stroke risk.

    • Quit smoking if you already do. This is because smoking can constrict blood vessels. This, in turn, can raise blood pressure and increase risk of stroke.
    • Maintain heart health by keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range. You can do this by eating a diet rich in fiber and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Also, be sure to move more on a regular basis to keep your heart muscle strong and maintain a healthy weight.
    • Keep your blood glucose levels in a healthy range. This is because those with diabetes are at higher risk for heart health issues than those without diabetes.
    • Visit your doctor regularly. By having your labs done at least yearly (or more often if you have a chronic disease risk), you can track your progress. Early detection of heart health issues can help lower your risk of stroke.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Stroke Association (accessed January 23, 2019) “About Stroke.”

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last reviewed November 28, 2017) “Stroke.” https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/index.htm

    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (accessed January 23, 2019) “Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution.” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/

    Hughes, S. (January 17, 2019) “Fish Oil, Particularly EPA, Linked to Reduced Ischemic Stroke.” https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/907950

    National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (last updated November 21, 2018) “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”

    Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (last updated October 29, 2018) “Reduce Your Risk of Stroke.”


  • A team approach may help diabetes health and your relationships

    diabetes, heart health, team, marriage, relationship, health, exerciseDiabetes can be a difficult condition to tackle on your own. The diet changes, doctor’s appointments, blood glucose checks, and other lifestyle changes that come along with treatment can be overwhelming. Also, in some cases weight loss may be recommended as part of treatment which can be more stressful. Therefore, you may not know where to begin. And in turn, you may be afraid you’re going to fail and make your condition worse. However, a recent study shows that taking a team approach to diabetes treatment may lead to better health outcomes.

    What is diabetes?

    Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body either does not produce any or enough insulin, or your body is having trouble using the insulin it has. Insulin helps the body use glucose as energy. Therefore, when someone has the condition, the blood often contains more glucose than it should. This is because the insulin is either not present or not able to use the glucose for energy very well.

    There are two major types of the condition. Type 1, which is often diagnosed in children, involves an autoimmune reaction. This reaction stops the body from making insulin. Therefore, people who have this type have to take insulin injections every day to survive.

    On the other hand, type 2 can be diagnosed at any age, but is mostly seen in adults. This type occurs when the body can’t use insulin well. In turn, the glucose levels in the blood are difficult to control.

    Common treatment options

    Treatment options will depend on the type of diabetes you have. For those with type 1, you will need to take insulin every day in the form of an injection or through an insulin pump. However, for those with type 2, weight loss along with healthy eating and exercise is just as important as medication treatment. Furthermore, if someone has prediabetes, which is borderline type 2, these lifestyle changes can prevent a person from developing the full-blown condition.

    Other parts of type 2 treatments may include non-insulin medications. These medications help your blood glucose from becoming too high after you eat. Regardless of what type of diabetes you have, you will likely have to check your blood glucose levels often.

    This is because it will help you and your healthcare provider to keep track of your progress. It will also help your doctor figure out how much insulin or other medications you need to control your blood glucose levels. And for some people, they may have to check their blood glucose levels multiple times a day.

    Team approach to treatment

    Diabetes treatment involves a lot of different lifestyle changes that can be overwhelming for anyone. Therefore, a recent study looked at the impact of a team approach to treatment.

    Researchers looked at the effect of couples calls on health outcomes. The couples calls involved ten calls focusing on partner communication, collaboration, and support. Each couple had one partner with type 2 diabetes. This intervention was compared with those that received individual calls or diabetes education calls.

    Study results show that those who received couples calls had:

    • greater reductions in diabetes distress
    • higher increases in marital satisfaction (at four and eight months)
    • some improvements in diastolic blood pressure.

    Researchers found that “involved partners benefited emotionally” and also felt better about their relationship. This is because the challenges of the disease brought an opportunity for them to work together to deal with the challenges.

    Summary

    Diet, exercise, medications, and blood glucose testing are all necessary for optimal diabetes treatment. But it goes without saying that having a support system through your journey can be very helpful as well.  Also, you could benefit from a supplement like Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains ingredients like chromium, cinnamon, and alpha lipoic acid that can promote weight loss, improved metabolism, and healthier blood glucose levels.  Here’s to improved health this new year and for years to come.

    References:

    Centers for Disease Control (June 1, 2017) “About Diabetes.”

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (November 2016) “Insulin, Medicines, & Other Diabetes Treatments.”

    Physician’s Briefing (January 14, 2019) “Couples Intervention May Aid Partners of Diabetes Patients.”

     


  • Eat less red meat in your diet for better heart health this new year

    red meat, health, heart health, beef, pork, processed meatWhen you’re planning your healthy diet this year, don’t forget the protein. However, if you’re following a low carbohydrate, paleo, or keto diet this year, be sure to plan your protein in a healthful way. Many people trying to cut carbs often just eat whatever protein they crave. This can sometimes mean lots of burgers, sausage, and bacon. This type of red meat is ok in moderation. But too much red meat can be harmful to heart health. Recent studies show that red meat can release a chemical in the body that can put you at greater risk for heart disease.

    What is considered red meat?

    Red meat is just as it sounds. A protein is considered red meat when it has red-colored flesh. The reddish color comes from the amount of the protein myoglobin found in the meat. This protein is purplish in color and is fixed in the tissue cells. When it is exposed to oxygen, it becomes oxymyoglobin and produces a bright red color. The protein hemoglobin found in small amounts in raw meat can also contribute to some of the red color of red meat.

    Beef as well as lamb, pork, and veal are red meat animal proteins. Also, any processed products made from such meats count toward your red meat intake. These products can include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meats like roast beef, salami, and ham.

    Red meat and heart health

    For many years, health experts have been telling us to limit red meat in the diet. Red meat intake can lead to an increase in risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. In fact, a 2017 report shows that the more processed red meat you consume, the greater risk you will be at developing colorectal cancer.

    A more recent study looked at the effect of red meat intake on the health of healthy adults. For one month, these adults consumed either a diet providing protein from white meat, red meat, or non-meat sources. Those on the red meat diet were provided the equivalent of about eight ounces of red meat each day. Study results show that after one month, the blood levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) in the blood of those on the red meat diet were about three times higher than those on the other diets.

    During digestion, TMAO forms in the gut after intake of red meat. Researchers suggest that TMAO may increase heart disease risk. When researchers placed the adults on different levels of saturated fat within the groups, those consuming higher levels of saturated fat had similar TMAO levels. Therefore, this research suggests that saturated fat intake is not linked with the heart disease risk associated with TMAO.

    When study subjects switched diets, those switched from a red meat diet to another diet were able to lower their TMAO levels after one month. This shows that it is never too late to make small changes to your diet to help improve your health and lower your heart disease risk.

    Other ways to improve your diet this new year

    Now that you know something that can increase your heart disease risk,  let’s talk about how you can lower your risk. Here are few dietary and lifestyle changes you can make today to help lower your heart health risk this new year.

    • Add more antioxidant fruits and vegetables to your diet. Not only will these foods add gut-friendly fiber to your diet, but the antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in your body. When you reduce inflammation, you lower chronic disease risk. So, load up at least half of your meal plates with these fiber-rich foods.
    • Lower alcohol intake and stop smoking. These new year resolutions can also help your heart health. This is because smoking can constrict blood vessels and increase blood pressure. Also, drinking too much alcohol can lead to weight gain, increased blood pressure, and higher levels of blood fats. So try not to drink more than one standard drink a day for women and no more than two a day for men. A standard drink is either 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
    • Add a heart health supplement each day. If you are deficient in vitamins and minerals, this can impact overall health. See your doctor on a regular basis to see if you are deficient in anything. If so, you may need to add in a supplement like iron, vitamin B12, or vitamin D to help you feel better. You could also add a heart specific supplement like Alestra by Vita Sciences. Alestra contain ingredients like plant sterols and niacin that help promote healthy cholesterol levels and improved heart health.
    • Move more. This is a no-brainer. If you move more each day, at least thirty minutes a day most days, you can lower your heart disease risk. This thirty minutes can be split into two minute portions throughout the day or all together. It doesn’t matter when it comes to your health. The key is to move so you can strengthen your heart, lower your weight, and improve your overall health.
    • Stress less. It may not seem like a key to weight loss or healthy lifestyle success, but you must manage stress. This is because stress can lead to less energy to exercise, more emotional eating, and higher blood pressure. All of these factors can lead to poor heart health and overall health. So find ways to stress less such as doing yoga, relaxation breathing, meditation, or talking to a counselor weekly.

    References:

    American Institute for Cancer Research (September 20, 2017) “Processed Meats Increase Colorectal Cancer Risk, New Report.” http://www.aicr.org/cancer-research-update/2017/09_20/cru_processed-meats-increase-colorectal-cancer-risk-new-report.html

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (June 6-7, 2013) “Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes.” https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-healthy-lifestyle-changes

    NIH Research Matters (January 8, 2019) “Eating red meat daily triples heart disease-related chemical.” https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/eating-red-meat-daily-triples-heart-disease-related-chemical

    NIH Research Matters (March 26, 2012) “Risk in Red Meat?” https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/risk-red-meat

    United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (August 6, 2013) “The Color of Meat and Poultry.”

     

     

     

     

     


  • Could sleep help you meet your New Year’s weight loss goals?

    sleep, weight loss, eating, nutrition, healthAs the new year begins, many of us may have weight loss goals on our mind. Diet and exercise are the key areas of focus for many in helping to meet these goals. And although healthy eating and moving more are important in weight management,  sleep is important too. When you’re sleeping, a lot happens in the body that can impact your weight and overall health. In fact, a recent study shows that even one night of sleep deprivation can lead to unhealthy eating. This can make weight loss difficult and could lead to weight gain in the long-term.

    Why do I need to sleep?

    Although some of us may think it is a badge of honor to make it through each day on little sleep, it’s nothing to brag about. That is because while you may feel ok, your body is suffering from your lack of sleep.  And in the long run, you are doing more harm than good when you sacrifice sleep for more work or play.

    The body uses sleep as a time when it can reboot and strengthen itself. Not to mention all of the vital bodily processes that occur during sleep. Short-term memory is converted to long-term memory while you sleep, and many important functions are regulated. While you are grabbing some shut-eye, your body is hard at work regulating blood pressure, body temperature, blood glucose levels, fluid, and hormones. Not to mention that, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, even one night of missed sleep can create a pre-diabetic state in an otherwise healthy person.

    How much do I need to sleep?

    The average adult should try to sleep between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Growing children require even more sleep, with babies needing 11 to 14 hours, school age children needing 9 and 11, and teens needing between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night.

    Sleep and weight loss 

    The United States Centers for Disease Control report that one in three Americans does not sleep enough each night. Experts suggest that not sleeping at least seven hours each night can increase risk of obesity and related conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

    A recent study looked at the impact of sleep on healthy, nonsmoking men. The men had blood samples and MRI scans completed after a normal night of sleep at home and after a night kept awake in a laboratory.  The next morning after each night, the study subjects were asked to choose snacks and non-food trinkets. Study results show that only after sleep deprivation were the men willing to spend money on food items even though their self-reported hunger levels were the same after both nights.

    Also, after the night of sleep deprivation, researchers saw increased activity in the brain between the amygdala and hypothalamus. These areas of the brain are involved in food intake. Therefore, these findings suggest that sleep loss increased the desire for food. More research needs to be done to confirm the cause and effect of such brain signals. However, experts suggest that these findings show that sleep can greatly impact behaviors that can impact health.  Therefore, sleep can increase chances of engaging in unhealthy eating patterns that can prevent you from reaching your weight loss goals.

    How can I improve my sleep?

    Since sleep is so crucial to healthy living in so many ways, you may ask how you can improve your sleep. Here are a few tips to help you sleep better at night so you can feel better and have a greater chance at meeting your weight loss goals.

    • Limit screen time. Looking at your phone, computer, or the television before bedtime can throw off your body’s circadian rhythm due to the light emitted from the screen. Therefore, try to turn off the screen about 30 minutes or more before you plan to go to bed.
    • Create a bedtime routine. Just like you set up a time to workout or eat your healthy meals and snacks, a routine can help you sleep better too. Therefore, decide what time you want to wake up. Subtract about 8 hours from that time. Then, at that time, start turning down the lights and screens, stop working, start relaxing, and prepare yourself for bed. This way, you will give your body plenty of time to settle down to sleep and catch your recommended seven hours each night.
    • Try a sleep supplement. If you have trouble falling asleep, a sleep supplement may help. An example of a sleep supplement is melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the body, with increased production in the evening when its usually time to sleep. If your body does not produce enough melatonin, or if your circadian rhythm is off a bit due to stress, work schedules, etc., then you may have trouble sleeping. Somnova by Vita Sciences is an example of a supplement that can help you improve your sleep patterns. Somnova contains ingredients like melatonin and L-theanine that help promote peaceful sleep and relaxation.
    • Limit drinking and eating before bedtime. If you eat or drink too soon before bedtime, it can disturb sleep. This is because eating a meal less than two hours before bed can increase risk of indigestion or heartburn. Also, drinking fluids too soon before bed can wake you up out of bed to use the bathroom. Therefore, try to stop drinking and eating two hours before bedtime to prevent such sleep disturbances.
    • See your doctor if sleeping problems persist. If none of these strategies work, then you may have an medical issue that is disturbing your sleep. Sleep apnea and pain are common medical issues that can greatly impact sleep.  In fact, sleep apnea has been linked with obesity, with weight loss helping this medical issue.  Therefore, address your sleep issues with your doctor so you can receive the proper treatment. This is because receiving treatment for sleep issues can help you lose weight, which in turn can further improve weight-related health conditions like sleep apnea.

    So, sweet dreams and may the new year bring you much success in becoming the healthiest YOU that you can be.

    References:

    Cleveland Clinic (September 18, 2015) “What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep.”

    Johns Hopkins Medicine (accessed January 1, 2019) “The Science of Sleep: Understanding What  Happens When You Sleep.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed January 1, 2019) “Why Do We Need Sleep?”

    Salamon, M. (December 17, 2018) “Sleepless Night Could Make Morning Pastries Tougher to Resist.” HealthDay. 

     

     


  • Could a Mediterranean diet improve your brain health?

    heart, cardiovascular, brain, heart healthy, omega-3, vessel, cholesterol, diabetesYou can’t talk about a heart healthy lifestyle without at least referring to the Mediterranean diet. That’s because this Greek-style eating plan is full of heart healthy foods and other healthful tips. But did you know that this diet is also good for brain health? Recent research shows that certain nutrients found in the Mediterranean diet can help with brain health aging in older adults.

    What is the Mediterranean diet?

    The Mediterranean diet is a heart healthy diet based on healthy fats like olive oil. Along with olive oil, healthy fat-containing foods like fatty fish, avocado, olives, nuts, and seeds make up the largest portion of the diet. The omega-3 fatty acids in these foods can help lower blood fats, also known as triglycerides. In addition, these fats can also help improve blood pressure and blood vessel health.

    The majority of foods in this eating plan are plant-based. In other words, this means eating plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. These foods will also provide fiber and important nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. This also means switching to whole grains if you’re going to eat breads or pastas.  Also, it encourages consuming fiber and protein-rich plant foods like beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.

    Other eating guidelines of this diet include limiting whole-fat dairy products, red meat, processed foods, and foods high in sodium. This eating plan also encourages use of spices to flavor food instead of using table salt.  Finally, to maintain a balanced healthy lifestyle, this diet encourages exercise and eating meals with family and friends.

    Mediterranean diet and brain health

    A recent study looked at healthy, older adults and how a Greek-style diet affected brain health. MRI scans and cognitive function tests measured brain health. These tests were done throughout the study and two years after the study to assess the diet’s impact on brain health.

    The researchers focused on 32 nutrients found in this diet. These nutrients included folate, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and vitamin D. Also, the researchers looked at antioxidants found in the Greek-style diet like omega-3 fatty acids, lycopene, and carotenoids. Study results show that such nutrients, along with omega-6 fatty acids, were involved in biomarker patterns. Also, those people who ate foods with such nutrients had better results on cognitive function tests of general intelligence, memory, and executive functions like attentional and inhibition control.

    Take home message

    So, if the heart healthy benefits of this eating plan haven’t convinced you to go Greek-style in your eating, hopefully the brain health factors did. This is because this diet has shown time and again that it ranks on top for health benefits.  Therefore, take small steps towards such an eating plan. You can do this by starting to eat more vegetables one day. Then maybe trying new recipes that use olive oil to roast or stir-fry those vegetables. Finally, you can add in nuts and/or seeds as snacks for even more healthy fats and fiber.

    If you feel like a supplement would help you at first, then try an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. An example of a high quality omega-3 fatty acid is the fish oil supplement by Vita Sciences. This fish oil supplement contains a healthy balance of EPA and DhA, which are two important omega-3 fatty acids for brain health. Not to mention that this supplement is burpless and ensures optimal purity.

    Therefore, if you’re thinking about starting a healthy lifestyle this new year, consider the Greek-style diet. Not only will it help you work towards just about any health goal you have, but it will taste fresh and delicious in the process.

    References:

    Mayo Clinic (November 3, 2017) “Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan.”

    Paddock, Ph.D., C. (December 21, 2018) “Mediterranean diet nutrients tied with healthy brain aging.” Medical News Today.

    Romagnolo, D. F., & Selmin, O. I. (2017). “Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases.” Nutrition today52(5), 208-222.

    Zwilling, C.E., Talukdar, T., Zamroziewicz, M.K., and Barney, A.K. (March 2019) “Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and fMRI measures of network efficiency in the aging brain.” NeuroImage, Volume 188, 239-251.


  • Drinking less alcohol could help weight loss goals this new year

    holiday, drinking, alcohol, cocktail, beer, wine, health, weightWhen you think of celebrating the holidays, sweet treats, comfort foods, and holiday-flavored spirits may come to mind. Although it’s definitely ok to indulge a little during the holidays, too much of anything can sabotage your healthy lifestyle efforts. And with the new year rolling around soon, you should think ahead and make a plan. Because once this holiday season is over, the new year will surely bring about new celebrations with more food and drink temptations.  And recent research shows that by drinking less alcohol, you could increase your chances for weight loss success.

    What is a standard drink?

    You may hear health experts urge you to keep your drinking to so many standard drinks a week. When this term is used, a standard drink is equal to:

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

    So, when you order that tall beer at the bar and grill, keep in mind that 22 ounces is nearly equal to two standard drinks. And experts recommend that women should consume no more than 7 standard drinks a week.  Also, men should consume no more than 14 standard drinks per week. Any more than this is considered heavy drinking.

    Also, if you consume more than 4 standard drinks for women or 5 standard drinks for men in a two hour occasion, then you are binge drinking. So, if you feel like this describes your holiday or social events, then it may be time to visit you health care provider or call for resources in your area that can help you control or stop your drinking.

    Alcohol health effects

    Drinking too much in one night or over time can have serious health effects. Not only does alcohol impair mobility and speech in the short-term, but can also impact brain, heart, and liver health. Even short term, drinking too much can impair your immune system for up to 24 hours after becoming drunk. This puts you at higher risk for catching illnesses than others during this time. Also, long-term alcohol intake can lead to increased risk for inflammation of the pancreas and heart disease. Both of these conditions can place you at higher risk for hospitalization and serious illness.

    Alcohol and weight loss

    When it comes to weight loss, alcohol can stall your best efforts. First of all, alcoholic beverages contain unnecessary calories. No matter how low in carbs certain concoctions may be, you are still drinking your calories when consuming alcohol. Not to mention that alcohol can lower your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the food you eat and can slow your body’s fat burning abilities. The latter is because the liver is in charge of tasks like fat burning and removing toxins from the body. It considers alcohol a toxin.

    Therefore, when you drink, it has to stop fat-burning to focus on ridding of the alcohol toxins from your body. In turn, your body burns less fat while you drink. It takes about one hour for your body to break down one standard drink of alcohol.

    A recent study looked at alcohol and its impact on long-term weight loss in those with diabetes. Study results show that those who did not drink during the four year study lost more weight than those who drank any amount. Heavy drinkers had even worse long-term weight loss than others. Therefore, researchers suggest that patients with type 2 diabetes especially should not drink alcohol if they are trying to lose weight.  Needless to say, this study shows that anyone, regardless of health status, would benefit from drinking less alcohol.

    Other ways to be healthier in the new year

    Besides cutting down on drinking alcohol, there are also other ways you can be healthier this coming new year.

    • Sleep more: Most adults should sleep at least seven hours a night for optimal health.
    • Move more: Experts suggest that moving more each day, even in two minute spurts, for at least 150 minutes total each week, can benefit overall health.
    • Manage stress: Yoga, meditation, or just talking with a counselor can help you manage stress better and lower risk for emotional eating that can lead to weight management issues.
    • Eat more fruits and veggies: Antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies can provide inflammation-fighting compounds that can help lower your risk of diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Not to mention that the fiber from such foods is vital to gut health.
    • Take a supplement: If you don’t feel you are getting enough nutrients in your diet, then take a supplement like Zestia by Vita Sciences. Zestia not only contains whole food vitamin and mineral sources, but also digestive enzymes and probiotics for digestive health.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    1. Bertoia, M. L., et al. (2015). “Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies.” PLoS medicine12(9), e1001878. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001878
    2. Centers for Disease Control (last reviewed March 29, 2018) “Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions.” https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm#heavyDrinking
    3. National Health Service (last reviewed July 26, 2018) “How long does alcohol stay in your blood?” https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-blood/
    4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (accessed December 18, 2018) “Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.” https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body
    5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (accessed December 18, 2018) “What Is a Standard Drink?” https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/what-standard-drink
    6. ScienceDaily (December 3, 2018) “Alcohol intake may be key to long-term weight loss for people with Diabetes.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181203115449.htm
    7. Sinha, R., & Jastreboff, A. M. (2013). “Stress as a common risk factor for obesity and addiction.” Biological psychiatry73(9), 827-35.
    8. Traversy, G., & Chaput, J. P. (2015). “Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update.” Current obesity reports4(1), 122-30.
    9. Watson, N. F., Badr, M. S., Belenky, G., Bliwise, D. L., Buxton, O. M., Buysse, D., Dinges, D. F., Gangwisch, J., Grandner, M. A., Kushida, C., Malhotra, R. K., Martin, J. L., Patel, S. R., Quan, S. F., … Tasali, E. (2015). “Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society.” Sleep38(6), 843-4. doi:10.5665/sleep.4716