Category Archives: cardiovascular

Can One Day of Exercise Protect Your Heart for Days?

heart, heart health, exercise, cardiovascular, workout

If you have ever tried to lose weight, you have likely been told to move more and exercise.  This statement may sound pretty generic, however it is true.  Although the Health and Human Services suggests working out at moderate intensity for 150 minutes a week, a recent report has found that even just one high-quality session of pre-conditioning the heart could keep your heart healthy all week long.

What is moderate exercise?

According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate exercise is an intensity in which you can carry a conversation, but cannot sing. For example, if your breathing quickens, but you are not quite out of breath, then you are engaging in moderate exercise.  Examples of moderate exercise may include:

  • walking briskly
  • gardening
  • ballroom dancing
  • water aerobics
  • biking slower than 10 miles per hour

Exercise and Heart Health Research

Animal studies have shown that one session of exercise can protect the heart for the rest of the week. This is based on infarct size, or size of an area of necrosis in an organ caused by obstruction of blood circulation.  The pre-conditioning exercise studied has been shown to reduce infract size, in turn reducing risk of heart disease.  This pre-conditioning involves training the heart during periods of ischemia, or reduced blood flow. In turn, the training is expected to reduce infarct size during periods of occlusion, or vessel blockage.

These types of studies have not yet been done in humans. However, researchers feel that there is great promise for this type of therapy to be done with patients in the days before a scheduled heart surgery or procedure. It is thought that such “cardio protection” could help lower risk of complications or death and improve overall health outcomes.

Other Heart Healthy Things You Can Do Each Week

Besides exercise, there are plenty of things you can do each week to help improve your heart health.

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables: The fiber and nutrients found in fruits and vegetables has been shown to help lower risk of heart disease. Some examples of these nutrients include folate, magnesium, potassium, as well as vitamins A, C, and K. Also, non-starchy vegetables, or those vegetables other than corn, peas, and potatoes, are low in calories. Therefore, such foods can be eaten in great volumes to fill you up without putting you over your suggested calorie intake for the day.
  • Eat less processed foods: Boxed goods, frozen or prepackaged convenience meals, and canned soups are just some examples of processed foods that can hurt your heart. The reason you should limit such foods is because they can often be high in sodium, fat, and sugars that are used to make these products last longer in your pantry or refrigerator.  High sodium foods in particular can contribute to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
  • Manage stress: Stress can also contribute to high blood pressure.  In addition, when you are stressed, you may eat more sweets and other comfort foods more often. Over time, this emotional eating can lead to weight gain. In turn, weight gain can increase your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. You should find ways to manage stress such as:
    • talking to a friend or counselor
    • taking a yoga or meditation class
    • performing relaxation breathing
    • listening to music
    • using essential oils
    • engaging in some sort of “me time” every day. “Me time” involves some time each day in which you engage in an activity you enjoy that gives you time to yourself to breathe.
  • Take heart-healthy supplements: Besides a multivitamin each day, you may want to consider a heart healthy supplement such as Circova if you are at risk for heart disease. Circova is a supplement by Vita Sciences that contains Hawthorne extract as well as  antioxidants such as flavonoids and catechins that have been shown to improve blood flow and blood pressure.
  • Visit your doctor regularly: Be sure to visit your healthcare provider on a regular basis to get your blood pressure checked and to assess your heart disease risk. For most people, once a year is sufficient. However, if you have high blood pressure or a history of heart disease or diabetes, then you may want to visit more often such as every 6 months.

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

Sources:

American Heart Association (March 2014) “Moderate to Vigorous: What is Your Level of Intensity?”

American Heart Association (May 15, 2015) “Can antioxidants in fruits and vegetables protect you and your heart?”

Lou N. (November 30, 2017) “One Workout May Protect Heart from Ischemia for Hours or Days.” Medpage Today 

Mayo Clinic (May 19, 2017) “Exercise Intensity: How to Measure It”

Mayo Clinic (July 25, 2015) “Myocardial Ischemia”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary (accessed December 11, 2017) “Infarct”


  • Is Calories In, Calories Out the Key to Losing Weight?

    weight loss, apple, nutrition, orange, calorieIf you have ever tried to lose weight, then you probably have been told to track your calories. Most calorie trackers focus on keeping track of the calories you consume through food.  On the other hand, fitness trackers or workout machines may track how many calories you burn during the day. However, is there more to the story of weight loss, or is calories in and calories out the only key to success?  A recent report by health experts reveal that there may be more than simple math in the weight loss equation.

    What are is a calorie?

    A calorie is a unit of energy that is found in food and beverages. The four major macronutrients that consist of calories include:

    • protein at 4 calories per gram
    • carbohydrate at around 4 calories per gram
    • fat at 7 calories per gram
    • alcohol at 9 calories per gram

    Whatever calories you consume that are not used as energy are stored in the body as fat. In simple terms, you may lose fat stores if you consume less calories than you burn.  Calories can be burned by physical activity, but calorie expenditure may also increase in those who are growing, injured, or ill.  This is because your body will need more energy to support such processes that involve cell reproduction and other related processes.

    Are some calories healthier than others?

    Not all calories are created equal. The recent report reveals a growing trend of people focusing solely on the number of calories in and calories out, rather than the quality of calories consumed. Although this may lead to a calorie deficit, and in turn weight loss, it is not necessarily healthy.

    For example, a piece of candy and an apple may both contain 100 calories. However, the candy mostly contains empty calories because they contain little to no nutritional value. The calories in the candy are mainly from simple carbohydrates like sugar as well as fat.  However, in the apple, those same calories contain many nutrients such as fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Therefore, the calories from the apple will provide your body with more health benefits than the candy.

    Weighing in on the “Calories In, Calories Out” equation

    The latest diet craze known as CICO (Calories In, Calories Out), may lead to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies according to experts. If you are not looking at the nutrient quality of the calories you consume, then you may increase your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, anemia, to name a few. In addition, if you restrict yourself of too many calories, then you may develop fatigue and malnutrition, which does your body more harm than good. Contact a registered dietitian to help you determine how many calories you need to support your lifestyle, while still helping you to lose any excess weight.

    How to Work on Weight Loss

    There is no one size fits all plan to help everyone lose weight. However, there are several things you can do today to get on the right track towards healthy weight loss and maintenance.

    • Watch your portion sizes at meals and snacks. A simple way to determine how much food you need to eat at each meal involves your protein and fiber needs. Most adults should consume at least 25 grams of fiber a day through whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Your protein needs, in grams, can be determined by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.75.  Once you determine your fiber and protein needs, use a nutrition tracker to ensure you meet these needs with mostly whole foods, or foods that are minimally processed.  Also, chew your food more per bite, slow your pace of eating to 20-25 minutes per meal, and be mindful of the food choices you make by looking at nutrition labels before you make food purchases.
    • Stay active most days of the week.  Balance out each week with cardiovascular and resistance exercises. Cardio exercises include walking, jogging, swimming, or biking. These exercises work to increase calorie burn. Resistance exercises, on the other hand, such as lifting weights, doing push-ups, or using resistance bands, help to maintain lean muscle mass. Maintaining your muscle mass as you lose weight helps you to maintain calorie-burning power, also known as metabolism.
    • Get plenty of sleep.  Weight loss may be more difficult for those who do not sleep well.  This is because lack of sleep can disrupt the hormones that control hunger and appetite. Try to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble sleeping due to visiting the bathroom regularly, stop drinking fluids at least 2 hours before bedtime.  If pain is keeping you up, visit your doctor to get support.  If you are not sure what is causing your restless sleep, you may have sleep apnea. You can ask your doctor about getting a sleep study done to determine the cause of your sleepless nights.
    • Visit your doctor if diet and exercise are not leading to weight loss. If calories in and calories out are leading to weight plateaus or gains, then there may be an underlying health issue. Research has shown that some people who have a family history of obesity may have a harder time losing weight than those that don’t. This could be due to:
      • genetic factors.
      • increased risk of conditions like hypothyroidism or insulin resistance.
      • environmental factors such as growing up without knowledge of healthy eating behaviors.
    • Fill in your nutrient gaps with vitamins and supplements. At the very least, take a multivitamin such as Zestia by VitaSciences. Zestia contains a blend of Super Food extracts, probiotics, and digestive enzymes helps to support optimal health. If you live in a climate with little sunlight, you may also need to add a vitamin D3 supplement to your daily routine.  Low vitamin D levels can affect many aspects of health such as bone and immune health, to name a few.

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

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (November 16, 2016) “Finding a Balance” 

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (May 2014) “Eating fiber-rich foods helps keep the heart healthy”

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (updated April 11, 2017) “Why People Become Overweight” 

    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (accessed November 27, 2017) “Protein”

    Medline Health News (November 22, 2017) “It’s the Latest Diet Craze, But Is It Safe?”

    Medline Plus (accessed November 28, 2017) “Vitamin D” 

     

     


  • Are You Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables?

    fruits, vegetables, produce, fresh, colorful, antioxidantsDo you think you eat enough fruits and vegetables every day?  You may track your macronutrients, have an apple a day, and be free of digestive concerns but still be missing the mark.  A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has found that most adults in the United States could stand to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables each day.

    Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables

    Studies have shown that the more fruits and vegetables people eat, the less likely they are to have heart disease. This is because a diet rich in fruits and vegetables contains a lot of fiber and nutrients, which in itself can help many aspects of health including:

    • improvement of blood pressure
    • lowering cancer risk
    • decreasing risk of getting diabetes
    • prevention of constipation
    • keeping the digestive system healthy
    • maintaining eye health

    More recently, it has been found that the phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables provide many of its health benefits. For example, the carotenoids found in many brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and carrots have many health benefits. One of the carotenoids, lycopene, has shown potential for reducing risk of prostate cancer. Furthermore, research has shown that another phytonutrient, lutein, has been shown to reduce risk for cataracts. However, more studies need to be done to show the full health benefits of such phytonutrients.

    What is the recommended intake for fruits and vegetables daily?

    According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), most people should consume about 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables every day.  This amount of produce would help you to reach the recommended daily fiber intake of most adults, which is around 21 to 30 grams.  However, some may think that fiber supplements will do the job if they don’t want to eat fruits and vegetables. Although fiber supplements may be helpful for filling the gap of your daily fiber needs, they should not be relied upon for your full daily intake of fruits and vegetables. This is because the fiber supplements will not provide the many health nutrients that fruits and vegetables provide.

    CDC Fruit and Vegetable Intake Report

    A recent report from the CDC found that only 12-percent of Americans are eating enough fruits and vegetables. High cost and limited access to fruits and vegetables seem to be the biggest barriers to meeting daily recommended intakes.  However, a report by the USDA found that it is possible to meet such intakes for about $2.10 to $2.60 per day.

    Fresh apples, orange, and carrots were found to be some of the lowest cost produce. Also, frozen green beans, canned corn, romaine lettuce, and Roma tomatoes were some of the least pricey produce options.  However, this amount may still be a lot for more low-income families. In those cases, the following tips may be helpful in ensuring everyone can get in their daily dose of fruits and vegetables.

    • Buy produce when it is in season. This is because if more of a type of produce is being harvested, the cost will be less for you. An added bonus is that in-season produce will also be more flavorful.
    • Check to see what Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits provide.  Recent benefits provide funds to purchase produce at local farmer’s markets.  For this reason, such funds could help offset any produce costs you may incur at the supermarket.
    • Buy frozen produce in bulk. You can often find family size bags of frozen veggies at lower cost than their smaller size counterparts. In addition, frozen produce will not go bad as quickly, so you do not have to worry about any waste if you do not eat it right away.

    Fitting More Fruits and Veggies in Your Day

    Follow the tips below to get more fruits and vegetables into your daily routine.

    • Slice up some apples with a side of peanut butter for a sweet and salty treat.
    • Keep it simple with some salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss veggies in these simple ingredients, then bake on a cookie sheet for 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the produce you are cooking. This roasted cooking method will bring out the natural sweet and savory flavors of produce.
    • Pair a cup of baby carrots with some hummus or Greek yogurt dressing for a salty, crunchy snack.
    • Load up your lunch bowl with salad greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and top with nuts and seeds for extra fiber power.
    • Replace your nighttime chocolate piece with a cup of grapes or berries over Greek yogurt for a filling sweet treat.
    • Use veggies as a foundation for your favorite recipes to add fiber. Use spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini instead of spaghetti or riced cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes.

    If you are having trouble meeting your daily fruit and vegetable needs, add a daily multivitamin such as Zestia by Vita Sciences. Zestia contains a potent mix of superfood complexes, fruit and vegetable compounds, probiotics, and digestive enzymes to help support optimal overall health.

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

    Sources:

    Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (September 5, 2017) “Easy Ways to Boost Fiber in Your Daily Diet.”

    Centers for Disease Control (accessed on November 20, 2017) “Top 10 Reasons to Eat MORE Fruits and Vegetables.”

    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (accessed November 20, 2017) “Vegetables and Fruits.”

    Mayo Clinic (September 26, 2015) “I find it difficult to eat enough fruits and vegetables. Is there any harm in taking a fiber supplement every day?”

    Medline Health News (November 16, 2017) “CDC Wants America to Eat Its Fruits & Veggies.”

    United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (2017) “Fruit and Vegetable Recommendations Can Be Met for $2.10 to $2.60 per day.”

    United States Department of Agriculture (August 2, 2017) “SNAP and Farmer’s Markets.”


  • Could Excess Weight Shorten Your Life?

    age, healthy eating, apple, green, aging, healthAccording to the National Institutes of Health, the average American can live an average of 79 years.   However, did you know that a few small lifestyle changes could add years to your life? It was found that for every few pounds you lose you could be adding years to your life.

    A recent study in Nature Communications looked at genetic data from 600,000 people in North America, Europe and Australia. Smoking, body fat, thought processes and the genes related to such can affect life span.

    Of all conditions observed, smoking and traits linked with lung cancer were found to have the greatest impact on reducing life span. Smoking one pack of cigarettes a day over a lifetime can lead to a loss of seven years of life.  However, if a person quits smoking, they can get back those years and live as long as someone who has never smoked.

    Obesity is a common risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. However, body fat percentage and other factors linked with diabetes were found to decrease life span. Two months of life can be lost for every 2.2 pounds of excess body fat. This could be related to the increased risk of obesity-related conditions related to excess weight, but the direct reason for this result is not confirmed.

    Finally, those with an open mind may live longer than those who were not. For every year of studying done beyond school, a year is added to a person’s life. This could be related to those studying more having sharper minds as they age, but it is not confirmed why. By maintaining mental sharpness, you are helping to keep the body’s software up to date which aids in overall wellness.

    Other Ways to Add Years to Your Life

    If you want to add years to your life, there are many things you can do.

    • Eat better:  A balanced diet of fruits and vegetables provide fiber that can help manage weight and keep blood glucose levels stable.
    • Stay active: A good balance of cardio, resistance, and flexibility exercises can help you stay young as you age. Resistance exercises such as lifting weights, working with resistance bands, or performing push-ups, can help maintain lean mass. Lean mass can help keep you more mobile as you age and in turn prevent injury. In addition, lean mass can keep bones and joints strong and improve insulin resistance.
    • Sleep more: While you sleep, the body regulates fluid, blood glucose, levels, and blood pressure. Therefore without the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep a night, you may be putting yourself at risk for chronic disease. If you have trouble sleeping, try  reducing screen time before bed, getting blackout blinds, stop eating and drinking two hours before bedtime, or get a white noise machine. Check with your healthcare provider if pain or other health issues that may be keeping you up at night.
    • Practice preventative health: Be sure to visit your doctor every year or more often to check for chronic disease risk factors. Knowing your numbers such as blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, and vitamin levels are important for health tracking. If any of your numbers are out of range, you could increase risk for chronic disease and decrease quality of life.
    • Take a multivitamin: To ensure you are getting your daily nutrients, try the Zestia multivitamin by Vita Sciences. Zestia contains a combination of fruit and vegetable extracts, probiotics, and digestive enzymes to help support an optimal quality of life.

    Sources:

    Harvard Health Publishing (accessed October 16, 2017) “Tips for  longer life”

    Medline Health News (October 13, 2017) “Good Lifestyle Choices Adds Years to Your Life” 

    National Institutes of Health News in Health (June 2016) “Can You Lengthen Your Life?” 


  • Could Hypertension Increase Dementia Risk in Women?

    Ifhypertension, blood pressure, brain, memory, dementia you have high blood pressure, heart disease may be the health concern most on your mind. However, high blood pressure can be a risk factor for more than just heart conditions.  A recent study has found that women in their 40’s with high blood pressure have an increased risk of dementia.

    What is high blood pressure?

    A systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher and a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher defines a diagnosis of high blood pressure, or hypertension.  Systolic blood pressure is a measure of the pressure when the heart contracts, while diastolic blood pressure is a measure of the pressure in between heart beats.

    Hypertension occurs when there is some sort of damage or blockage that causes a narrowing of the blood vessels.  This narrowing slows the flow of blood and oxygen to tissues and organs in the body. Over time, this delayed oxygen and blood flow can cause damage to cells in the body that can lead to disease. Therefore, high blood pressure can lead to increased risk of diabetes, kidney damage, stroke, and vision loss.

    Hypertension and Dementia

    A recent study in the journal Neurology looked at the medical records of about 5600 patients over 15 years to see who developed dementia.  Those women in their 40’s with hypertension had up to a 73-percent risk of developing dementia.  Although, the same was not true of women in their 30’s or of men in their 40’s.  However, further studies must be done to determine the reason for these results.

    Previous studies have found a link between high blood pressure and dementia, but it was not clear if hypertension before the age of 50 was a risk factor for the condition. However, it is clear that the brain is a metabolically active organ that requires oxygen to function properly. Without oxygen, brain cells starve and become damaged causing disease and dysfunction.  In order to get enough oxygen, blood flow to the brain must be healthy. Therefore, anything that prevents or delays blood flow, such as hypertension, could lead to cell damage in the brain as is seen in dementia.

    Hypertension Prevention

    To lower your risk of diseases such as dementia, take the following steps to prevent or control hypertension.

    • Eat a well-balanced diet of lean proteins, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado, and plant-based oils.  Be sure to limit your intake of sugary and salty processed foods which can increase hypertension risk.
    • Stay active most days of the week.  Walking, jogging, biking, dancing, and swimming are some ways you can stay active to keep your heart healthy. Try to be active for 30 minutes a day for most days of the week to help manage your weight and blood pressure.
    • Limit alcohol intake to no more than one drink a day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men.  Over this limit, alcohol can raise blood pressure and can also make it difficult to manage a healthy weight.
    • Control weight since those who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for hypertension than those of a healthy weight.
    • Don’t smoke since smoking can deprive your body of oxygen since it constricts blood vessels. In turn, smoking can increase risk of hypertension and related health issues.
    • Take all prescribed medications to help manage hypertension so that damage to the body’s cells can be limited.
    • Add in heart-healthy vitamins and supplements to your routine such as Presura by Vita Sciences. Presura contains a combination of hawthorn berry, niacin, and garlic extract to help support healthy blood pressure levels. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen. It is important to make sure that any new supplements will not interact with your current prescribed medicines.

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

    Sources:

    American Heart Association (October 2016) “Changes You Can Make to Manage Blood Pressure”

    American Heart Association (October 2016) “Understanding Blood Pressure Readings”

    Medline Plus (October 4, 2017) “High Blood Pressure in 40’s a Dementia Risk for Women?”

    National Institute on Aging (March 1, 2015) “High Blood Pressure” 


  • Coffee may reduce diabetes complications

    coffee, caffeine, diabetes, heart healthNothing says “Good Morning” like a hot cup of coffee. Coffee can be healthy as a part of your morning routine or a pick-me-up on your way to work.  Moderate coffee intake has been shown to improve cognitive health and depression. Also, a 2014 study showed that those who drank three to five cups of coffee daily had lower heart disease risk. Furthermore, a recent study has shown women who drink coffee to have lower diabetes risk.

    Diabetes and Caffeine

    A study in Portugal looked at the caffeine intake of patients with diabetes over a period of 11 years.   Women who consumed 1-2 cups of coffee had a 57-percent lower risk of dying over the study period than those who did not consume caffeine. For women who drank more than 2 cups of coffee, the death risk was two-thirds less. Further, women who drank the most tea had over three-fourths less chance of dying from cancer than those who drank none.

    It is thought that the phytochemicals and antioxidants in coffee and tea can improve health outcomes. Also, older research shows that coffee and tea can improve the way insulin uses glucose for energy.  It is not known why improved outcomes were seen in women and not men. However, it is thought that hormonal or non-hormonal factors related to heart health may have something to do with it.

    How Can I Reduce Diabetes Health Risks?

    Besides caffeine, there are many ways you can lower your risk of diabetes-related health risks.

    • Eat a balanced diet: A balanced diabetes-friendly diet contains rich sources of lean proteins and fiber-rich foods.  Also, be sure to limit high-sugar and high-sodium processed foods and drinks to keep blood glucose levels stable. Finally, be sure to eat three meals a day and healthy snacks in between.  You should balance meals and snacks with protein and a source of fiber. This balance helps to lower your chances of having blood sugar highs and lows.
    • Stay active: Walking, biking, swimming, jogging, and dancing are just some ways you can stay active to control diabetes.  Being active at least 30 minutes a day five times a week can help manage weight and improve blood glucose levels.
    • Managing stress: Stress can cause a person to engage in poor eating habits and being inactive. Therefore, using stress management techniques such as relaxation breathing, yoga, and prayer can improve energy levels, sleep, and overall well-being.
    • Quit Smoking:  Smoking can narrow blood vessels. In turn, narrow vessels make it harder for blood to get to the body’s tissues and organs. Therefore, smoking can damage nerves and increase blood pressure. Both of these health factors can increase risk of diabetes health issues.
    • Take diabetes-friendly supplements: The Vitamin D Council reports that vitamin D can improve the way insulin uses energy in the body.  Yet, there are also supplements such as Glucarex that can help improve diabetes outcomes. Chromium, cinnamon, and alpha-lipoic acid can also help improve blood glucose levels.  Glucarex by Vita Sciences contains natural compounds such as these which can help with weight loss, metabolism, and managing blood glucose levels.

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

    Sources:

    American Heart Association (August 2015) “Living Healthy With Diabetes” 

    Ding, M., et al. (2014) “Long-Term Coffee Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease” Circulation

    Medline Plus (September 14, 2017) “Can Coffee or Tea Extend the Survival of Diabetes?”

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (November 2016) “Diabetes Diet, Eating, and Physical Activity” 

    Vitamin D Council (July 2013) “Type II Diabetes”

     

     


  • Poor Heart Health Can Increase Stroke and Dementia Risk

    healthy eating, health, food, healthy fats, fish, fruits, vegetables, avocado, olive oilWhen you hear about brain health, you may think of lowering stress and anxiety. However, having a healthy brain also involves reducing risk of stroke as well as memory conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia.  A recent report has found that keeping your body healthy is vital to keeping your brain healthy.

    Having a healthy body involves more than just eating healthy and exercising. American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 provides simple guidelines to help you develop a healthy body and healthy brain.

    What are the Life’s Simple 7?

    • Manage blood pressure– A healthy blood pressure is one where the systolic, or top number is 120 or less, and the diastolic, or bottom number, is 80 or less.  The systolic pressure measures the pressure during contraction of your heart, while the diastolic measures the pressure in between heart beats.  You should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year at your annual doctor’s visit.  If you have hypertension, or a blood pressure of 140/90 or higher,  you should see your doctor at least every 6 months to monitor your blood pressure.
    • Control cholesterol– You should keep track of your cholesterol numbers at least once a year to stay healthy. This includes not only total cholesterol, but also your LDL, HDL, and triglycerides.  If you already have high cholesterol or triglycerides, be sure to visit your healthcare provider every 6 months to keep track of your numbers.
    • Keep blood sugar normal– When you visit your health care provider, be sure to take a look at your fasting blood glucose and HgA1C numbers. The fasting blood glucose will give you an idea of your current blood level of glucose. However, your HgA1C will give you a three month average of your blood glucose levels. Your HgA1C provides a long term picture of your blood glucose levels and is a better diagnostic tool. A prediabetes diagnosis would occur at an HgA1C of 5.7 to 6.4.  If your HgA1C is 6.5 or higher, you may have diabetes. Be sure to get your numbers checked every year. Check your numbers more often if you have a family history or diagnosis of diabetes or prediabetes.
    • Get physically active– The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week for optimal health. Moderate exercise can include walking, swimming, gardening, biking, or dancing.  You can split this 30 minutes up into five or ten minutes here and there throughout the day.
    • Eat a healthy diet– A healthy diet contains plenty of protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich foods. Protein can come from lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and healthy plant-based proteins such as legumes, nuts, and seeds. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like oats and quinoa. Also, healthy fats from plant-based oils like olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish can improve brain health and improve heart health.
    • Lose extra weight– It is important to maintain a healthy weight to lower risk of chronic conditions. Obesity-related conditions like heart disease and diabetes can increase risk of brain health conditions.  Therefore, losing weight can improve both heart and brain health.
    • Don’t start smoking or quit– Smoking can constrict blood vessels and increase risk of hypertension. Therefore, if you don’t already smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, contact smokefree.gov for resources on how to quit.

    A recent report by the American Heart Association (AHA) has found that brain health is linked to healthy lifestyle factors.  For example, increased blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and high cholesterol can increase risk of atherosclerosis, or narrowed blood vessels. Narrow blood vessels can restrict blood flow to the tissues and organs.  This can lead to increased risk of stroke. Over time, multiple strokes or mini strokes can lead to cognitive impairment, or vascular dementia.

    The risk factors for stroke as listed in the Life’s Simple 7, are the same for Alzheimer’s disease.  The Life’s Simple 7 are risk factors that can be measured, modified, and monitored.  Therefore, healthcare providers can use the knowledge gained from observing such factors to help better treat their patients.  Scientists hope that such data can also lead to expanding research. They hope they may be able to detect genetic or brain markers that could lower the number of people who get dementia.  Nearly 75 million people are expected to have dementia by the year 2030.  However, this number may be lowered if steps are taken now to provide brain health prevention guidelines. Therefore, take steps to improve your lifestyle today to keep a healthy brain for life.

    Other ways to create a healthy life include taking nutrient-rich supplements such as Livrio by Vita Sciences. Livrio contains natural compounds such as milk thistle that have been shown to support a healthy liver.  This supplement helps cleanse and detoxify your liver, in turn providing you with improved energy, glowing skin, and overall well-being.

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

    Sources:

    American Heart Association (September 7, 2017) “Seven Steps to Keep Your Brain Healthy from Childhood to Old Age” http://newsroom.heart.org/news/seven-steps-to-keep-your-brain-healthy-from-childhood-to-old-age


  • Could common painkillers cause high blood pressure?

    pain, over the counter, medicineWhen you take a medicine over the counter, you likely focus mostly on the  benefits it can provide you.  However, it’s possible to experience some harmful health effects from use of over-the-counter medicines.  A recent study has found that some common painkillers used by those with arthritis may cause high blood pressure.

    What is arthritis?

    Arthritis is the inflammation of the tissue lining the joints. It can cause pain, redness, and swelling as well as joint damage, if not treated.  These symptoms can arise due to the rubbing of bone to bone together when the tissue lining the joints is worn down.The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Osteoarthritis affects mostly the fingers, knees, and hips, while RA is an autoimmune disorder that affects hands, feet, as well as internal systems. Many people with arthritis find relief with common pain medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

    NSAIDs, help to decrease pain by blocking the production of body chemicals that cause inflammation and swelling. Some side effects of taking NSAIDs can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gas, and bloating. However, in some people, long-term use of NSAIDs can also cause high blood pressure.

    High blood pressure occurs when the systolic pressure of the contraction is around 140 or higher and the diastolic pressure, or the pressure in between heart beats, is above 90. A study in the European Heart Journal looked at over 400 patients with arthritis.  Study subjects were given either the prescription pain reliever Celebrex, the NSAIDS naproxen or ibuprofen, or placebo.  With the use of NSAIDs, both systolic and diastolic pressure were increased.

    Other ways to reduce arthritis pain

    • Keep your weight down since extra weight can place unnecessary pressure on your joints. Losing weight through diet and exercise can release some of this pressure and prevent damage to joints that may occur with prolonged pressure.
    • Exercise can reduce joint pain caused by arthritis. Low-impact exercises such as walking and water aerobics can aid in such pain relief.
    • See your doctor regularly. Your healthcare provider can adjust medications or supplements as necessary to help reduce any symptoms you may have.
    • Use pain-reducing supplements such as Flexova by Vita Sciences. Flexova contains powerful ingredients such as glucosamine and chondroitin, which can help support joint flexibility and ease of movement.

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

    Sources:

    Cleveland Clinic (2016) “Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)” https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-medicines-nsaids

    Dallas, M.E. (August 30, 2017) “Common Painkillers May Boost Blood Pressure in Arthritis Patients” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_168117.html

    National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (April 2017) “Living With Arthritis: Health Information Basics for You and Your Family” https://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/arthritis/default.asp


  • Could hypertension affect your brain health?

    Do you check your blood pressure often? Do you know what your blood pressure numbers vegetables, nutrition, hypertension, high blood pressure, heart healthare?  If you are a young adult, it is very likely that these questions have not been at the forefront of your mind when it comes to your health. A recent study showed that in 2013-2014, only half of the 6.7 million young adults from 18 to 39 years old were treated for high blood pressure. Meanwhile, only 40-percent got their blood pressure under control.  However, blood pressure control is not only important for heart health, but for brain health as well. Recent studies have linked normal blood pressure levels with improved cognition in older adults.

    What  is blood pressure and what is considered a healthy level?

    The American Heart Association defines high blood pressure, or hypertension, as 140/90.  The top number is the systolic pressure, or pressure at contraction. Furthermore, the bottom number is the diastolic pressure, or pressure in between beats. A normal blood pressure level is 120/80.

    Risks of hypertension

    You may think that hypertension is only related to heart health. However, a high blood pressure can increase risk of stroke, which affects the vessels in the brain. In addition, those with diabetes may have a higher risk of heart attack or stroke. Over time, high blood glucose levels can damage the blood vessels as well as the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. Therefore, those with diabetes should be extra careful to keep track of their blood pressure numbers to make sure they are in a healthy zone.

    In addition to heart-related conditions, hypertension can affect brain health. A recent study has found that older adults whose systolic blood pressure was above 150 mmHg had higher levels of mental decline than those below 120 mmHg.  This study looked at 1700 adults from 70-79 years old over a 10-year period. These individuals in the study were being treated for hypertension, but initially had no mental decline. Those highest numbers in mental decline were seen in African-American older adults. Such declines were linked to health conditions such as kidney disease, stroke, and heart health.

    How to improve heart health

    Besides medications, there are many ways you can work towards improving your heart health.

    • Limit processed food intake such as packaged and canned foods. Crackers, chips, canned soups, sauces, gravies, deli meats, sausages, and hot dogs, as well as frozen meals are all high in sodium. Stick to fresh foods whenever possible. Also, frozen fruits and veggies without added sauces and sugars are good choices for a heart-healthy diet.
    • Stay active often by engaging in moderate activity most days. Walking, biking, dancing, gardening, or swimming are some moderate activities to try. An activity is moderate if you can hold a conversation, but cannot sing while performing it. Stay active for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week for great heart health benefits.
    • Eat a fiber-rich diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, and whole grain breads.  Consume at least 2 cups of vegetables a day at meal times. Also, add in some low-glycemic fruits such as apples, oranges, and berries for snacks.
    • Stop smoking if you smoke, and don’t start if you don’t. Smoking constricts the blood vessels, which makes it hard for oxygen to flow to your body’s tissues and organs.  Quitting smoking is not easy, so visit Smokefree.gov on resources to help you quit.
    • Keep track of your heart health numbers. Your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood glucose are all important numbers to check each year.  Check more often if you have a family history of diabetes or heart disease. Also, check your numbers at least every 6 months if you have a diagnosis of prediabetes, diabetes, or heart disease.
    • Add a heart healthy supplement to your regimen such as Presura by Vita SciencesPresura contains heart-healthy compounds such as Hawthorn Berry, Niacin, and Garlic extract. These compounds have been found to support healthy blood pressure levels.  Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen.

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

    Sources:

    Medline Plus (August 21, 2017) “Lower Blood Pressure Best for Seniors’ Minds” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_167931.html

    Medline Plus (August 28, 2017) “Young Adults may be ignoring high blood pressure” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_168063.html

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (February 2017) “Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke” https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/heart-disease-stroke


  • Can Skipping Breakfast Impact Your Health?

    breakfast, egg, vegetable, whole grain, fruit, milkDo you skip breakfast? Does your busy schedule make it hard to eat in the morning? Are you just not hungry in the early hours of the day? You may have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Recent research has found that this may be true. Skipping your morning meal can deprive your body of many important nutrients vital to overall health.

    Health benefits linked with eating a morning meal include better focus, more energy, lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, among other things. However, a 2011 study found that it is not just important that you eat breakfast, but what you eat at breakfast.

    What is a healthy breakfast?

    A 2011 study by the Institute of Health and Society in Worcester, UK found that it is lower glycemic and higher protein foods at breakfast that will provide the most health benefits. Therefore, swap out your coffee cake or sugary cereal for more nutrient-dense foods. Recommended morning breakfast protein sources include eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and poultry. Also, protein from soy, hemp, and pea protein powders can provide a great non-dairy source of protein.  In addition, cottage cheese and protein-rich Greek yogurt are great morning meal options. It is suggested that 30 grams of protein should be eaten at your morning meal to provide an adequate energy source.

    Along with protein, you should balance out your morning meal with complex carbohydrates for fiber.  Such fiber-rich foods may include high-fiber cereals such as bran or oatmeal. Other fiber-rich carbohydrates may include low-glycemic fruits such as berries, grapes, or citrus fruits.  Also, you could add non-starchy vegetables to your breakfast such as peppers, onions, or leafy green vegetables in your omelette. You could also add spinach leaves, kale, or carrots to your morning smoothie with a scoop of plant-based protein powder and some berries.

    Recent research

    A more recent study in the British Journal of Nutrition has found that those young people who skipped breakfast were more likely to be low in nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron, and iodine. Nearly a third of students who skipped breakfast had low iron intake versus 4-percent who did eat in the morning. Similar findings were found for calcium intake. One-fifth of students who did not eat breakfast had low calcium intake versus 3-percent of those who did eat a morning meal.

    The Centers for Diseases Control have found that students who eat a morning meal have improved performance in school. Students who eat breakfast tend to have better focus, attendance, grades, and memory compared to those who skip.  It is likely that adults would have the same benefits from eating breakfast. However, more studies would need to be done in such age groups to confirm this theory.

    Filling in the Nutrient Gaps

    If you find that you are not getting a morning meal in each day, here are some ways to ensure you are getting all of your nutrients during the day.

    • Have healthy snacks available with you at all times. Fiber-rich nuts and seeds, protein-rich jerky and protein bars, as well as freeze-dried fruit are healthy snacks that do not need refrigeration. Keep these snacks in your car, purse, backpack, or at work to make sure you always have nutritious sources of energy on hand.
    • Carry an emergency protein shake with you on-the-go. Pre-prepared protein shakes and waters can provide portable nutrition.  If you don’t have time to sit down and eat a solid meal in the morning, you can at least sip your meal while sitting in traffic or during your morning class or meeting. There are many non-dairy sources of protein drinks for those who may have a dairy intolerance.
    • Take a multivitamin daily to fill in the nutrition gaps. Ask your doctor to test for such important vitamins as B12, vitamin D, and iron.  If you are low in any of these vitamins, taking supplements may be necessary to get your health up to speed.  In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to take a multivitamin daily. A great multivitamin choice is Zestia by VitaSciences.  Zestia contains a comprehensive vitamin profile, 45 fruits and vegetables, a superfood complex, and probiotics to help support optimal health.

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

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control (May 2014) “Health and Academic Achievement” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4017414/

    Kamada, I., et al. (2011) “The impact of breakfast in metabolic and digestive health.” Gastroenterology and Hepatology from Bed to Bench, 4(2):76-85.

    Medline Health News (August 17, 2017) “Young Breakfast Skippers Lack Vital Nutrients” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_167879.html