Category Archives: cardiovascular

Learn about your heart during High Blood Pressure Education Month

heart, health, heart health, blood pressure, hypertensionThe National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has named May High Blood Pressure Education Month. And since heart disease is one of the leading killers of adults in the United States, it’s important that everyone learn how to care for their heart. Read below for information on blood pressure, how to reduce your risk for hypertension and heart disease, and how some supplements may help your heart.

All about blood pressure

Blood pressure is the measure of blood flow through your vessels. When you visit the doctor, your blood pressure reading may involve two numbers. The top number is called the systolic pressure. This number measures the pressure of blood against the artery walls in the body when the heart beats. Meanwhile, the bottom number is the diastolic pressure. This number measures the pressure of blood in the body between heart beats.

According to the American Heart Association, a normal blood pressure reading is less than 120 mmHg over 80 mmHg. Blood pressure is considered elevated if it is higher than 120 mmHg over 80 mmHg.  If you have a consistent blood pressure of 140 mmHg over 90 mmHg, then your doctor may diagnose you with high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Lower your heart health risk

It’s important to lower your blood pressure to lower your heart health risk. This is because having hypertension can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. If you have hypertension, your doctor will likely give you medicine(s) to help lower it. However, it’s also important to make the following lifestyle changes to help lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.

  • Eating a heart healthy diet: Consuming plenty of fiber and antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables in your diet can help your heart. This is because antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in the body. And since heart disease is an inflammatory disease, you can lower heart disease risk by eating such anti-inflammatory foods. Be sure to balance your plate with some lean protein from chicken, fish, legumes, or low-fat dairy products as well.
  • Exercise: Moving more can not only help to manage your weight, but can lower and control your blood pressure.  You don’t need a boot camp workout each day to stay healthy. Just move as much as possible for a total of at least 30 minutes a day to help manage weight and keep your heart strong.
  • Manage your weight: Experts suggest that losing just 3 to 5-percent of your body weight can help lower your blood pressure readings.
  • Lower stress:  Learn to manage stress better to help control your blood pressure and improve overall quality of life. You can do this by talking to a trusted counselor or loved one, doing yoga or meditation, exercising, or by relaxation breathing, to name a few ways.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking can constrict your blood vessels and in turn increase blood pressure. Therefore, if you don’t smoke, then don’t start. If you do smoke, try to quit by contacting your healthcare provider for help or using resources from Smokefree.gov.
  • Take care of your teeth: You may wonder what brushing your teeth has to do with heart health. However, experts say that those who have gum disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease. This is because bacteria from the gums in those with gum disease can seep into the blood stream and cause inflammation of the body. This can lead to inflammation in the blood vessels and increase risk of heart disease. Therefore, be sure to visit your dental care provider every six months and be sure to brush and floss daily.
  • Sleep enough: Research shows that those who sleep less than six hours a night are more likely to have a heart attack and stroke than those who slept more. Therefore, try to set a bedtime schedule, avoid screen time about an hour before bedtime, and avoid eating an hour or two before bed. If you still have trouble sleeping, visit your healthcare provider for tips or sleep treatments that may help.

Heart healthy supplements

Besides these heart health tips, it may be helpful to add a supplement to your routine to help your heart. Vita Sciences carries a wide array of heart health supplements that could help. Alestra is one supplement by Vita Sciences that contains niacin, plant sterols, and garlic to help support healthy cholesterol levels. Another supplement by Vita Sciences for heart health is Circova. Circova contains L-arginine, niacin, and hawthorne to help improve blood flow and blood pressure. Finally, Presura by Vita Sciences contains hawthorn berry, niacin, and garlic extract to help support a healthier heart and blood pressure.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

American Heart Association (last reviewed November 30, 2017) “Understanding Blood Pressure Readings.”

Cleveland Clinic (February 5, 2019) “5 Things to Do Every Day to Keep Your Heart Healthy.” health essentials

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

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (last updated November 30, 2018) “Keep Your Heart Healthy.” healthfinder.gov


  • Eat a plant-based diet for kidney health

    fruit, vegetable, plant, plant-based, diet, healthUnless you have kidney disease, you may not realize how important these small organs are to overall health. Although they are only about the size of a fist each, these bean-shaped organs do a lot for your body. Their main function is to filter the blood. However, they also work to remove wastes from the body as well as remove extra water to produce urine. The kidneys also make hormones to help with bone health and blood pressure health.

    Because of these important functions, it’s important to eat healthy to take care of your kidneys. The Kidney Foundation endorses a DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet for kidney disease. This diet is rich in fruits and vegetables and lean proteins and is low in sodium and added sugar. A recent study confirms such recommendations by saying that a plant-based diet is key to kidney health. Let’s learn more about the plant-based diet and how it can help kidney health.

    About the plant-based diet

    A plant-based diet is well-known for its benefits to heart health and lowering risk of diabetes. If yo want to follow such a diet, you don’t need to eat just plants to reap the health benefits. However, just adding plant-based foods to meals and snacks each day can help you gain fiber and a variety of nutrients. Such nutrients include antioxidants that can reduce oxidative stress and lower risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

    Experts suggest that there are three types of plant-based diets that include:

    • An overall plant-based diet: This diet focuses mainly on plant-based fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, while limiting all types of animal products. These animal products include meats, fish, poultry, dairy products, and eggs.
    • A healthful plant-based diet: This diet focuses on consuming mostly plant-based whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. In addition, this diet limits less healthy plant-based foods like processed foods and also limits animal products.
    • An unhealthful plant-based diet: This type of diet consists mostly of unhealthy plant-based foods such as processed fruit juices, refined grains like pasta and white rice, as well as potatoes like french fries.

    It was found that those following the healthful plant-based diet had the lowest risk of heart disease. On the other hand, those who followed the unhealthful plant-based diet had the highest heart health risk.

    When it comes to kidney health, the plant-based diet can provide many health benefits.  One of the primary benefits is that it will hamper the development or progression of some complications of kidney disease like heart disease. Also, research shows that a plant-based diet can help improve blood pressure, and glomerular filtration rate (GFR), of which the latter describes the flow rate of fluid through the kidney.

    Kidney health diet recommendations

    Vegetarianism, full or part-time, is recommended for those with kidney health issues. Therefore, a healthful plant-based diet, as mentioned before,  could be beneficial to kidney health. In fact, a recent report by the American College of Physicians states that a plant-based diet could slow the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and improve symptoms.

    The plant-based diet is recommended since diets rich in vegetable proteins, rather than animal proteins, can improve acidosis and slow nephropathy in patients with CKD and poor renal function.  Examples of plant-based diets, such as the Mediterranean and DASH diet, are recommended to improve kidney health.

    Take home message

    If you want to keep your kidneys healthy or improve the health of diseased kidneys, then the plant-based diet is the way to go. You can start slow by adding a serving of fruits or vegetables each day to meals and snacks. Then, slowly weed out most high sodium and high sugar foods from your diet. Before you know it, your body will feel better inside and out and your kidneys will be able to do their job the best it can.

    If you still feel you need extra help with kidney health, try a supplement like Urivo by Vita Sciences. Urivo contains cranberry and probiotics, or healthy bacteria, that support immune system, bladder, and kidney health.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American College of Physicians Internal Medicine Meeting (April 17, 2019) “Best dietary practices for those with CKD.” Healio

    Gluba-Brzózka A, Franczyk B, Rysz J. (April 2017) “Vegetarian Diet in Chronic Kidney Disease-A Friend or Foe.” Nutrients. 9(4):374.

    Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School (January 2018) “The right plant-based diet for you.”

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (June 2018) “Your Kidneys & How They Work.”

    National Kidney Foundation (last reviewed February 2, 2017) “The DASH Diet.”

     

     

     

     


  • Could eating breakfast could lower your heart disease risk?

    breakfast, egg, vegetable, whole grain, fruit, milk, heart healthYou may have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, is this really true or just an old wives’ tale?  Recent research does show that a high-quality breakfast can improve health-related quality of life. However along with this finding, a new study shows that eating this meal could lower your heart disease risk. Let’s learn a little more about the importance of your morning meal for overall health and how you can make it healthier.

    Breakfast and quality of life

    In a study of adolescents, those who consumed a poor quality breakfast had higher levels of stress and depression than those who skipped or had a high quality morning meal.  Those who consumed a high quality breakfast had the lowest levels of stress and depression. Therefore, it’s not just about whether you eat breakfast or not, but if you eat a high quality meal.

    Another study looked more closely at the quality of breakfast that can bring about health benefits. This study found that a high-quality morning meal will be balanced with protein, fiber, and vitamins and nutrients like vitamins A, C, and D as well as calcium and iron.

    Breakfast and heart health 

    Not only may breakfast improve quality of life, but it could also extend your life. This is because a recent study found that eating breakfast could lower your risk of heart disease. This study looked at a sample of health data from over 6000 adults aged 40 to 75 years old over 17 to 23 years. Study results show that skipping your morning meal was linked with an increased risk of death from heart disease.

    As previous studies have found though, this doesn’t mean that eating doughnuts and pastries with sugary coffee drinks each morning is healthy. Therefore, to make the most of your morning meal and have it benefit health, make it balanced.

    How to create a healthy breakfast

    Breakfast is not just good for heart health and mental health, but can also lower risk of chronic disease like diabetes. Because of its many potential health benefits, be sure to make your morning meal its best by using the following tips.

    • Start with a healthy protein. Cook up a few eggs, turkey bacon, and/or low sodium Canadian bacon for heart healthy proteins. And if you follow a meatless diet, then enjoy scrambled soft tofu with or without some black beans. Another meatless breakfast option is protein-rich Greek yogurt or oatmeal with chopped walnuts.
    • Add in gut-friendly fiber. Once you’ve chosen your protein base, add in some antioxidant and fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. Throw some spinach in your omelette or top your oatmeal or yogurt with berries or sliced apples.  Other ideas include blending your yogurt with fruit for a drinkable balanced breakfast or sprinkling some chia seeds on your oatmeal, yogurt, or avocado toast.
    • Don’t forget healthy fats. Sliced avocado with eggs or spread on toast, or using olive oil to cook your eggs can add healthy fats to your morning meal. Other healthy fats you can add include nuts, seeds, and salmon (like smoked salmon on toast or a whole grain bagel).
    • Limit sugar intake. It can be tempting to enjoy a doughnut on the way to work or from the break room. Also, it can be just as easy to grab a whipped cream topped coffee drink to start your day. However, a sugary start can lead to unhealthy eating habits throughout the day. Therefore, stick to low sugar options. If you crave sugar in the morning, try instead a Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey or a delicious low sugar protein shake flavored with peanut butter, vanilla, or cocoa to help satisfy your sweet tooth.
    • Don’t drink your calories. Instead of sugary coffee drinks, stick to sugar-free options like coffee with sugar-free creamer and/or sweetener. Other low-calorie breakfast drinks include hot or iced tea with low-calorie sweetener, lemon or cucumber-infused water, unsweetened almond milk, or just plain water.

    And just to be sure you consume your daily dose of nutrients, a supplement for heart health may also help. Circova by Vita Sciences contains natural ingredients like niacin, L-arginine, and hawthorne to help improve blood flow and blood pressure. Improvements like these can help lower heart health risk, along with a healthy diet of course.

    References:

    Ferrer-Cascales R, Sánchez-SanSegundo M, Ruiz-Robledillo N, Albaladejo-Blázquez N, Laguna-Pérez A, Zaragoza-Martí A. (August 2018) “Eat or Skip Breakfast? The Important Role of Breakfast Quality for Health-Related Quality of Life, Stress and Depression in Spanish Adolescents.”  Int J Environ Res Public Health. 15(8):1781.

    Gibney MJ, Barr SI, Bellisle F, Drewnowski A, Fagt S, Livingstone B, Masset G, Varela Moreiras G, Moreno LA, Smith J, Vieux F, Thielecke F, Hopkins S. (May 2018) “Breakfast in Human Nutrition: The International Breakfast Research Initiative.” Nutrients. 10(5):559.

    Rong, S., et al. (April 2019) “Association of Skipping Breakfast With Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality.” 

  • Reduce carbs at breakfast to lower blood sugar

    breakfast, carbohydrate, diabetes, health, dietWhen you first wake up in the money, it may be easy to grab something quick like a donut, pastry, or a quick bowl of cereal. However, what you choose to eat for breakfast could very well set the tone for what you eat the rest of the day. In fact, research shows that if you reduce carbohydrate intake at breakfast, then you could help control your blood glucose levels. Let’s learn a little more about this study, about blood glucose levels, as well as ways you can reduce carbs at your next morning meal.

    Reducing carbs at breakfast to lower blood glucose levels

    A recent study looked at the impact of a high-fat, low carbohydrate breakfast meal on blood glucose levels over 24 hours. Study results show that post-meal, or postprandial, hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) were reduced with this diet as compared to standard diet (55% calories from carbohydrate, 30% calories from fat, 15% calorie from protein). Also, this higher fat, lower carbohydrate breakfast helped keep blood glucose levels more stable throughout the day than the standard diet.

    How to eat a low-carb breakfast meal

    The following low to no-carb foods can be used to build a delicious low-carb breakfast meal.

    • Eggs
    • Bacon
    • Ham
    • Turkey
    • Chicken
    • Cottage cheese
    • Low carb vegetables like peppers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, kale, mushrooms, and spinach
    • Cheese
    • Plain Greek yogurt
    • Low carb fruits like strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries

    Use this reference as a guide to other low-carb produce that can be added to your low carb meal.

    Other ways to lower blood glucose levels

    Besides making changes in your diet, read below for ways you can manage your blood glucose levels.

    • Stay active: Every step counts when it comes to your health. Therefore, be sure to stay active every day to help manage your blood glucose levels and keep your heart healthy. Staying active can help control blood glucose levels by making insulin more sensitive. Exercise will also help you to manage your weight and use the blood glucose you have for energy.
    • Manage stress: Stress can release hormones in the body that can raise blood glucose levels. Therefore, be sure to find ways to manage your stress levels. Walking, talking to a counselor, relaxation breathing, and yoga are some ways you can manage stress.
    • Drink plenty of water each day: The body is mostly made up of water, so its important for many processes in the body. When it comes to blood glucose, water can prevent dehydration and in turn help the body remove extra sugars from the body through your urine. Try to drink at least 8 cups of water or low to no calorie fluids per day. You may need more fluid each day depending on your height, weight, and activity level.
    • Check your blood glucose often:  If you have diabetes, then you should check your blood glucose levels often. This will help you track your progress and find areas of your diet or medication routine that may need to be tweaked. This will help you manage blood glucose levels better. Be sure to to visit your doctor at least once or twice a year to have labs checked and adjust your meds if needed.
    • Take a blood glucose control supplement: If you’re already eating a healthy diet and exercising, then the next step in lowering your blood glucose levels would be to add a blood glucose-lowering supplement if needed. Glucarex by Vita Sciences is an example of a blood glucose support supplement that could help you. Glucarex contains ingredients like chromium, alpha-lipoic acid, and cinnamon to naturally support healthy weight loss, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD of LighttrackNutrition.com

    References:

    Chang, C.R., Francois, M.E., and Little, J.P. (April 2019) “Restricting carbohydrates at breakfast is sufficient to reduce 24-hour exposure to postprandial hyperglycemia and improve glycemic variability.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

    Fletcher, J. (last reviewed January 26, 2018 by Maria Prelipcean, M.D.) “How can you lower your blood sugar levels?” Medical News Today.

    University of California, San Francisco (accessed April 17, 2019) “Diabetes Education Online: Controlling Blood Sugar.”


  • Add nuts to your diet for better brain health

    Bowl of mixed nuts on rustic wooden table in natural light.

    Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and pistachios are all delicious nutrient-dense snacks. Nuts are often mentioned as healthy snacks for heart health. Not to mention that they taste great and can be a healthy replacement to chips as a salty and crunchy snack. But did you know that they can also help your brain health? A recent study shows that eating a little bit of nuts everyday can benefit brain health.

    About nuts

    Nuts come in many varieties, but they all provide rich health benefits. These tasty plant-based treats contain many important nutrients like:

    • healthy fats like monounsaturated (MUFA)  and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats
    • protein
    • soluble and insoluble fibers
    • vitamin E
    • vitamin K
    • folate
    • thiamine
    • minerals such as magnesium, copper, potassium, and selenium
    • antioxidants
    • phytosterols

    Because of their antioxidant content, nuts are great for reducing the amount of inflammation in the body. This in turn can help lower risk of inflammatory related conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

    In particular, eating just an ounce or two of almonds daily can reduce blood glucose levels after meal time. They can also increase satiety or fullness in those with type 2 diabetes. Also, eating an ounce or so of walnuts daily can help some people lose weight since they also help increase fullness and reduce insulin levels. Finally, research shows that eating an ounce and a half of pistachios daily can help improve lipid markers such as reducing LDL-C or “bad” cholesterol.

    Nuts and brain health

    A 2019 study looked at data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey over 22 years. Nut intake data was collected from over 4800 study participants in 1991, 1993, and during the years of cognitive function data collection in 1997, 2001, 2004, and 2006. Study results show that nut intake is associated with reduced levels of cognitive decline.

    In particular, eating more than 10 grams or more of nuts daily, which equates to about 2 teaspoons a day, may benefit brain health. In fact, the researchers report that this small amount of nuts can improve thinking, reasoning, and memory. Also, they report that this same amount of nuts can improve the brain function of older adults by about 60-percent compared to those who didn’t eat nuts.

    Interestingly enough, the same antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities that help improve heart health also benefits brain health. Therefore, make sure to add nuts to your daily routine to reap these awesome health benefits.

    Other ways to help brain health

    Now if you’re allergic to nuts, this talk of nuts and health benefits may be a bummer. However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t other ways you can improve brain health. Read below for tips on keeping your brain at its healthiest.

    • Keep your brain busy: As the saying goes “Use it or lose it.” The same concept works for brain health. Just like you exercise your body to stay fit, you should not forget to do the same for your brain. Crossword puzzles, reading, drawing, painting, and even crafts can help keep your brain strong.
    • Exercise your body: Like I mentioned before, exercise for your body is important for heart health, but also for brain health too. This is because your heart pumps all-important oxygen-rich blood to the brain to keep it healthy. Every step counts, so walk, jog, bike, dance, or do whatever movement you enjoy. Your brain will thank you.
    • Improve your diet: Eating lots of fiber-rich and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables can benefit brain health as well as overall health. This is because, just like nuts, these antioxidants reduce inflammation in the body that can increase chronic disease risk. Color your plate with a variety of fruits and vegetables each day to reap the benefits of the different antioxidants they contain that possess different healthful properties.
    • Limit alcohol intake and stop smoking: Smoking can constrict blood vessels , which means less oxygen reaches your brain. For help to quit smoking, visit Smokefree.gov for helpful resources. And as far as alcohol goes, research shows that more than two standard drinks a day can increase dementia risk. A standard drink is equal to 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine, or 1.5 ounces liquor.
    • Take a supplement for brain health:  If you don’t feel like you’re getting enough brain food in your diet, then you can add a brain health supplement like UltaMind to your daily routine. UltaMind by Vita Sciences contains innovative compounds like St. John’s Wort and Gingko biloba, to name a few that have been shown to support brain health, memory, focus, and concentration.

    References:

    de Souza, R., Schincaglia, R. M., Pimentel, G. D., & Mota, J. F. (2017). Nuts and Human Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Nutrients9(12), 1311. doi:10.3390/nu9121311

    Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School (accessed April 4, 2019) “12 ways to keep your brain young.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/12-ways-to-keep-your-brain-young

    Li, Ming and Shi, Z. (February 2019) “A Prospective Association of Nut Consumption with Cognitive Function in Chinese Adults Aged 55+ – China Health and Nutrition Survey.” The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging, 23(2): 211-216.

    Roche, Ph.d., B. (July 17, 2014) “10 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health.” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/iq-boot-camp/201407/10-ways-improve-your-brain-health

     


  • Could sugary drinks reduce life expectancy?

    soda, cola, sugar, sugary drinkAnyone who has been on a healthy lifestyle plan knows that you should try not to drink your calories. This is because you want to cut calories wherever you can to lose weight. However, cutting out those sugary drinks are not only helpful in weight loss, but also in cutting your disease risk. In fact, a recent study found that those who drank less sugary drinks had a lower risk of chronic diseases and early death as compared to those who drank sugary drinks often.

    What is considered a sugary drink?

    A sugary drink can be anything from processed colas to fresh squeezed juices. Here are some examples of sugary drinks you should limit in your daily routine.

    • cola
    • milkshakes
    • coffee drink blends
    • orange, apple, or other fruit juices
    • certain kinds of smoothies
    • flavored milks
    • sports drinks
    • sweetened waters
    • energy drinks

    These sugary drinks can be sweetened with plain sugar or one of many forms of sugar used in processed goods. Some examples of added sugars include:

    • brown sugar
    • corn sweetener
    • corn syrup
    • dextrose
    • fructose
    • glucose
    • high-fructose corn syrup
    • honey
    • lactose
    • malt syrup
    • maltose
    • molasses
    • raw sugar
    • sucrose

    Sugary drinks and health outcomes research

    Sugary drink intake has been linked to cognitive impairment, obesity in children and adults as well as dental caries.   Also, some research shows that sugar-sweetened beverage intake may be linked to heart health issues.

    One recent study looked at the impact of sugary-sweetened beverage intake on health. Study results show that those women who drank sugary drinks more than two servings a day had a 63-percent higher risk of early death than those who drank less than one serving a month. Also, by looking at the same factors in men, those who drank more sugary drinks had a 29-percent higher risk of premature death than those who drank less.

    Researchers suggest that this risk of premature death comes from chronic diseases linked with sugary drink intake. For example, those who drink more sugary drinks may have overall poorer diets. In turn, this may lead to a greater risk of obesity. Then this increase in body weight may increase risk of obesity-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Therefore, it’s these chronic diseases that increase the risk of early death in those that drink a lot of sugary drinks.

    Other ways to reduce sugar in your diet

    Besides cutting down on sugary drinks, you can cut out sugar in your diet by following the tips below.

    • Have healthy snacks on hand: If you’re not prepared with healthy snacks in tow, then you are more likely to walk to the vending machine for a snack. However, most convenience snacks are full of added sugar and sodium. Therefore, grab some portable fruit like bananas, apples, or oranges before you leave the house for work. Fruit may also contain sugar, but it’s natural sugar. Not to mention, that fruit also contains fiber and antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body and keep your gut healthy.
    • Find alternatives to sugary drink options: Instead of energy drinks, reach for a cup of coffee with some almond milk. Or instead of a soda, try drinking a seltzer water infused with fruit like lemon or limes. Also, if you enjoy your coffee blended drink, just opt for sugar-free flavorings, skim or plant-based milk options, and skip the whipped cream and chocolate or caramel drizzle on top.
    • Take a sugar control supplement: If you’re in the midst of trying to cut down on sugar in your diet, but need a little help, then try a glucose control supplement. Glucarex by Vita Sciences is one example of a natural supplement that can help you control your blood glucose levels. This is because Glucarex contains ingredients like chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon to help naturally support weight loss, metabolism, and healthy blood glucose levels. Therefore, such a supplement could support any healthy lifestyle habits you are trying to make to improve your health.
    • Know your numbers: By keeping track of your blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides you can detect health problems before they start. Just be sure to visit your doctor often to have your labs checked at least once a year. However, you may have to visit more often if you have a family history of or diagnosis of chronic disease(s) already.

    References:

    Anjum, I., Jaffery, S. S., Fayyaz, M., Wajid, A., & Ans, A. H. (2018). “Sugar Beverages and Dietary Sodas Impact on Brain Health: A Mini Literature Review.” Cureus10(6), e2756. doi:10.7759/cureus.2756

    Bleich, S. N., & Vercammen, K. A. (2018). “The negative impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on children’s health: an update of the literature.” BMC obesity5, 6. doi:10.1186/s40608-017-0178-9

    Bracho-Sanchez, E. (March 18, 2019) “Sugary drinks linked to higher risk of premature death, especially for women, study says.”  https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/18/health/sugary-drinks-premature-death-women-study/

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last reviewed February 27, 2017) “Get the Facts: Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Consumption.”

    Deshpande, G., Mapanga, R. F., & Essop, M. F. (2017). “Frequent Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption and the Onset of Cardiometabolic Diseases: Cause for Concern?” Journal of the Endocrine Society1(11), 1372-1385. doi:10.1210/js.2017-00262

    Luger, M., Lafontan, M., Bes-Rastrollo, M., Winzer, E., Yumuk, V., & Farpour-Lambert, N. (2017). “Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Weight Gain in Children and Adults: A Systematic Review from 2013 to 2015 and a Comparison with Previous Studies.” Obesity facts10(6), 674-693.

     


  • Could your yo-yo diet lifestyle be hurting your heart?

    vegetables, nutrition, hypertension, high blood pressure, heart healthWith new year’s resolutions perhaps on their second wind, and summer approaching, you may be considering a new diet. Maybe this is a reboot of the diet you started at the beginning of January. Or maybe you saw a new fad diet online that promises quick results just in time for bathing suit season. But before you fall into this trap, you should know that current research shows that yo-yo dieting could hurt your heart.

    What is yo-yo-dieting?

    Yo-yo dieting is a pattern of losing weight and gaining it  back repeatedly.  There is inconclusive evidence to show that yo-yo dieting impacts future weight gain and metabolic health. In fact, a 2017 study shows that weight loss efforts, no matter how many times they are repeated, should continue to be encouraged in those who are overweight or obese.

    However, this does not mean though that you should strive to be a yo-yo dieter. This is because recent research shows that yo-yo dieting could impact heart health. A 2019 study looked at 500 women with an average age of 37 years old.

    Study results show that women who lost 10 pounds and gained that weight back within a year were more likely to have heart health problems. Also, the more they yo-yo dieted, the more at risk they were for heart disease. Researchers suggest that this may happen because when a person loses weight, they lose some lean muscle mass. And when they gain weight back, they often  gain fat in place of this muscle. Over time, this may cause a build-up of fat in the abdomen, which can increase heart health risk.

    About a heart healthy diet 

    Instead of yo-yo dieting, you can protect your heart by following a heart healthy diet. This means lots of fiber-rich and antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like oats, quinoa, nuts, and seeds. In addition, this means consuming lean protein at meals and snacks, eating plenty of healthy plant-based fats like avocado and olive oil, as well as limiting alcohol intake. Focusing more on consuming a balanced diet that is nutrient-dense is better for your heart than countless cycles of fad diets and weight gain.

    Other ways to help your heart

    Besides a heart healthy diet, read below for other things you can do to help your heart.

    • Move more: Exercise is not only good for helping you to manage weight, but is also great for your heart. You should try to move at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week for the most benefit. This movement should be of moderate intensity. This means that when you move, your breathing quickens, but you’re not out of breath. This includes brisk walking, gardening, or light aerobics for example.
    • Stress less and quit smoking: Stress and smoking are two lifestyle behaviors that can contribute to increased blood pressure. This is because they can constrict blood vessels and make it harder for blood to flow in the body. Therefore, if you smoke, use resources such as those on Smokefree.gov to try to quit. And if you’re stressed, try to talk to someone like a friend, loved one, or counselor. You can also use relaxation breathing, yoga, or meditation to help with stress.
    • Visit your doctor often: It’s important to visit your doctor at least once a year, or more if you have a chronic health condition. This will help you keep track of your numbers like blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels. In turn, this can help you catch any heart health problems in the early stages and treat them before they cause serious issues.
    • Add a heart healthy supplement: If you are already following a low stress, smoke-free, heart healthy eating and lifestyle plan, then that’s great. However, if you want to further enhance the benefits of such a lifestyle, you can try a heart healthy supplement like Alestra by Vita Sciences. Alestra contains ingredients like niacin, plant sterols, and garlic to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and promote heart health.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD of LighttrackNutrition.com

    References:

    American Heart Association (August 15, 2015) “The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations.”

    Dictionary.com (accessed March 11, 2019) “Yo-yo dieting.”

    Gordon, S. (March 7, 2019) “Yo-Yo Dieting Can Take a Toll on Your Heart.” HealthDay

    Mackie, G.M., Samocha-Bonet, D., and Tam, C.S. (March-April 2017) “Does weight cycling promote obesity and metabolic risk factors? Obesity Research and Clinical Practice, 11(2): 131-139.

    Mayo Clinic (June 9, 2018) “Is yo-yo dieting making you fat.” Mayo Clinic online

    Mayo Clinic (June 12, 2018) “Exercise intensity: how to measure it.” Mayo Clinic online

    University of Michigan: Michigan Medicine (June 28, 2018) “Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation.” https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2255

     

     


  • A plant-based diet may help treat diabetes

    fruit, vegetable, nuts, seeds, healthy, dietIf you’ve ever tried to eat healthy, which I’m sure most of us have, then you may have been told to eat more vegetables. This is a tried and true statement that is vital to every healthy lifestyle. This is because plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables are full of gut-healthy fiber and antioxidants.  In turn, this helps to lower your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. That is why it may not be surprising that a recent study shows that a plant-based diet may help diabetes treatment.

    What is a plant-based diet?

    There are several ways you may view a plant-based diet. And you don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to reap the benefits of this eating plan. In fact, the definition of a plant-based diet is a group of eating habits that avoid eating most or all animal products and support mostly intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, whole grains and nuts. Therefore, all you have to do is include a plant-based food to each meal or snack time. So try to pick a variety of colors of plant-based foods to reap the benefits of the vast array of antioxidants.

    Plant-based diet research

    There is a lot of research supporting the benefits of a plant-based diet. Research shows that such a diet can help improve mental health, heart health, quality of life, HbA1c levels, and body weight. It can also help people manage their diabetes. It’s thought that these health benefits stem from the antioxidants in produce that help improve gut health and decrease oxidative stress and related inflammation. Also, plant-based foods provide a ton of nutrients like fiber, potassium, magnesium, folate, iron, and vitamins A and C.

    A recent study looked at how the vegan diet may help those with diabetes. Researchers looked at the effects of vegetable-based foods on health versus animal-based foods. For sixteen weeks, 20 people with type 2 diabetes were fed either veggie-based burgers or meat-based burgers.

    Study results show that the tofu burgers enhanced post-meal insulin secretion more than the meat burger. This means that after meals, blood glucose levels did not rise as much in those on the plant-based diet.  Also, the vegan meal improved beta-cell function, which produces, holds, and releases insulin. This is important since diabetes usually damages the beta-cell function in those who have the condition. Therefore, this study shows that a plant-based diet could help those with diabetes control their condition.

    Other ways to help control diabetes

    Besides eating a plant-based diet, there are other things you can add to your healthy lifestyle to help control diabetes.

    • Stay active: Exercise can help increase how sensitive insulin is and can help the body use blood glucose better for energy. Therefore, be sure to move as much as you can each day. This can be walking, cleaning house, walking around the market, or aerobics, to name a few. Every step counts, so just because you can’t work out at the gym, that doesn’t mean you can’t find other ways to stay active and control your blood glucose levels.
    • Take medications: Many people with type 2 diabetes benefit from taking daily medications that help lower blood glucose levels. Some people may also have to take insulin to assist with diabetes treatment. Your diabetes healthcare team will look at your health history and current health status to find the medicine regimen that will work best for you.
    • Add a daily supplement: A supplement like Glucarex by Vita Sciences can help control blood glucose levels naturally. Glucarex contains  compounds like chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon that can support healthy weight, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.
    • See your doctor often: If you have a chronic disease like diabetes, it’s vital to visit your doctor more than once a year. During these visits, have your labs checked and have your medicines adjusted if needed. This can help you stay on top of your diabetes and lower risk of complications.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD of LighttrackNutrition.com

    References:

    Hever, J., & Cronise, R. J. (2017). “Plant-based nutrition for healthcare professionals: implementing diet as a primary modality in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease.” Journal of geriatric cardiology : JGC14(5), 355-368.

    Kahleova, H., et al. (2019) “A Plant-Based Meal Stimulates Incretin and Insulin Secretion More Than an Energy- and Macronutrient-Matched Standard Meal in Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Crossover Study.” Nutrients, 11(3): 486.

    Kerley C. P. (2018). “A Review of Plant-based Diets to Prevent and Treat Heart Failure.” Cardiac failure review4(1), 54-61.

    McMacken, M., & Shah, S. (2017). “A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.” Journal of geriatric cardiology : JGC14(5), 342-354.

    Toumpanakis, A., Turnbull, T., & Alba-Barba, I. (2018). “Effectiveness of plant-based diets in promoting well-being in the management of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review.” BMJ open diabetes research & care6(1), e000534.


  • 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.”

     

     


  • 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