Category Archives: cognitive function

Could a vegan diet improve your mood and your diabetes?

vegan, vegetarian, health, dietVegan diets have seemed to gain popularity over the years for several reasons. First of all, a plant-based diet full of fiber and antioxidants seems to improve heart health risk factors. Secondly, it’s a way for people to show they support animal rights. Also, it’s an eating regimen that can be fitting for those who may have dairy and or egg allergies. However, recent research shows that a vegan diet could also help improve the health of body and mind of those with type 2 diabetes. 

What is a vegan diet?

A vegan diet is one that avoids any animal products. This includes meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, as well as dairy products. No to mention, that this type of diet avoids ingredients like gelatin, honey, beeswax, casein, and whey that come from animals or insects.

Many vegan-certified products sit on store shelves. From meatless burgers, cookies, and dairy-free cheese, these products make this diet regimen easier to follow long-term. However, it’s important to remember that these foods are still processed. Since this diet’s health benefits stem from its plant-based nature, you should consume mostly whole foods for optimal health.

Vegan diet and diabetes

A recent study shows that eating a meat-free, dairy free diet full of plant-based foods can improve mood and overall health. This evidence review looked at studies of those with type 2 diabetes following a vegan diet.  Study results show that those with diabetes on such plant-based diets had better control of their diabetes and overall health.  These individuals had better control of their blood glucose levels, lipid levels, and cholesterol levels.

And if that wasn’t enough to convince you to eat plant-based, these individuals saw several other benefits too. In over half of the studies reviewed, those with diabetes were able to cut down or discontinue their diabetes medicines. Also, some individuals reported reduced diabetic nerve pain as well as improved mental health factors and quality of life.

Other ways to improve your diabetes

A plant-based diet is not the only way to help improve your diabetes. Read below for more tips on how to feel better in body and mind whether you have diabetes or not.

  • Stay active: It’s important for just about everyone to stay active for overall health. Exercise can help you manage stress, keep your heart string, help you to manage weight, and can also improve diabetes risk factors. When it comes to diabetes, staying active can help improve insulin resistance in the body. Therefore, try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day most days. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous. Just walking, gardening, or cleaning house can count towards your exercise. And you can split it up into smaller fragments of exercise like 5 or 10 minutes of exercise several times a day to make it more practical.
  • Sleep enough each night: It’s important for most adults to sleep at least seven and nine hours a night for your best health. This is especially true for those with diabetes. This is because a lack of sleep, which throws off hormone levels in the body, can  increase risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Manage stress: When you are stressed, your blood pressure can rise. Not only that, but stress can also increase blood glucose levels. Therefore, it’s important to find ways to manage your stress to help improve your diabetes or lower risk for diabetes. Some ways you can try to manage stress include relaxation breathing, yoga, talking to a counselor, or taking a walk when you feel stressed.
  • Add a supplement to your daily regimen: If you are deficient in any nutrients like iron or vitamin B12, you may feel fatigue which can make it hard to stay active an healthy. Therefore, be sure to have your nutrient levels checked each year and supplement if needed. You can also try a supplement made just for those trying to control diabetes like Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains compounds like chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon to help support weight loss, healthy metabolism, and healthy blood glucose levels.

References:

Kahleova, H., Levin, S., and Barnard, N.D. (May-June 2018) “Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Cardiovascular Disease.” Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 61(1): 54-61.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (January 2016) “4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life.”

National Sleep Foundation (accessed November 12, 2018) “The link between a lack of sleep and type 2 diabetes.”

Thompson, D. (October 30, 2018) “For Diabetics, Going Vegan May Boost Mood Along With Health.” HealthDay online

 

 


  • Is there a link between diabetes and depression?

    depression, mental health, anxiety, healthDepression on its own can be a very challenging condition to deal with. This diagnosis not only affects the mind, but can affect the body as well. It can make everyday tasks difficult to deal with such as sleeping, working, and even eating. Because of the effect of depression on eating behaviors, weight gain or loss can occur through appetite changes unrelated to diet.  Not only that, but because of the many lifestyle changes that come with a diabetes diagnosis, depression is seen two to three times more often in such patients than those without diabetes. A recent study looked at how diet and exercise factors can affect the relationship between depression and metabolic syndrome.

    What is depression?

    We all may feel depressed from time to time. However, a diagnosis of depression is a chronic display of such feelings that can affect daily life, relationships, and can cause both psychological and physical symptoms. If the following symptoms occur for two weeks or more, then you should see a doctor for possible diagnosis and treatment of depression.

    • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
    • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
    • Changes in appetite
    • Weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
    • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
    • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
    • Slowed movements and speech
    • Feeling worthless or guilty
    • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
    • Thoughts of death or suicide

    Conditions related to the thyroid, nutrient deficiencies, or tumors of the brain can mimic symptoms of depression. Therefore, such underlying causes should be ruled out by a qualified healthcare provider.

    Metabolic syndrome and depression

    Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that can increase a person’s risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and stroke.

    • A waist circumference of more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men
    • A triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or higher
    • An HDL cholesterol level of less than 50 mg/dL for women and less than 40 mg/dL for men
    • A blood pressure of 130/85 mmHg or higher
    • A fasting blood sugar level of 100 mg/dL or higher

    Research shows that there is a relationship between those with depression and metabolic syndrome.  A recent study looked at this relationship to see what exactly is causing it. Researchers looked at data from over 64,000 adults. Study results show that those with depression are highly linked to a high fat, high sugar diet regimen and low levels of physical activity.

    Researchers suggest that diet and exercise may link depression and metabolic syndrome. However, they also state that inflammation and genetic factors have a greater causal link between the two conditions. Inflammation can develop as a result of the stress on the brain due to depression that may cause an imbalance in gut microbiome. This link is a theory known as the gut-brain axis. This in turn, could cause inflammation in the body that could increase risk of chronic diseases like heat disease and diabetes.

    How to lower risk of metabolic syndrome

    Besides diet and exercise, you can use the tips below to help lower your risk of metabolic syndrome.

    • Add more fruit and vegetables to your diet: More fruits and vegetables means more antioxidants. And more antioxidants in your diet means more anti-inflammatory power. In turn, you can help reduce inflammation in your body by adding more colorful fiber sources to your plate at each meal.
    • Move more: Exercising at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week can help you manage your weight. It can also help you manage stress and strengthen your heart. All of these factors can help reduce inflammation in your body and lower chronic disease risk.
    • Stop smoking or never start: Smoking can constrict blood vessels and in turn can increase heart disease risk. Therefore, if you already smoke, visit Smokefree.gov to quit. If you have never started smoking, then don’t. Your body will thank you.
    • Take a daily supplement: If you are deficient in nutrients, then this could put you at risk for conditions like depression that have an inflammatory link.  Certain supplements can also help you gain better control over your blood glucose levels too. Glucarex by Vita Sciences is one such supplement that uses chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon to help support weight loss, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.

     

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Psychiatric Association (January 2017) “What is Depression?”  Physician Review By: Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.

    Matta J, Hoertel N, Kesse-Guyot E, et al. (2019) Diet and physical activity in the association between depression and metabolic syndrome: Constances studyJ Affect Disord., 244:25-32.

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (accessed November 6, 2018) “Metabolic Syndrome.”


  • Lower stroke risk with healthy living

    heart, health, stroke, cardiovascular, nutritionIt may seem like common sense that living a healthier lifestyle can lower your disease risk. but what exactly is a healthier lifestyle? With so much information on health and wellness in the media, it can be hard to know what healthy really is. From low carb to keto to fasting, each diet plan claims to be the best and healthiest. However, the healthiest eating regimen is going to be the one that makes your unique body feel its best and that you can stick with for the long term. Not to mention, that being healthy is about more than just diet. Staying active, managing stress, and sleeping well enough are just some behaviors that affect health. Recent research shows that leading a healthier lifestyle can reduce your stroke risk and in turn improve your quality of life.

    What is stroke?

    A stroke occurs when something blocks blood flow to the brain, or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. As a result, part of the brain can become damage or die. This can lead to brain damage, disability, or death. Therefore, it is important to know if you are at risk for stroke. And if you are, it is important to know what you can do to lower your risk. This is because the brain is vital for such functions as thinking, feeling, breathing, and digestion. So to take care of your whole body health, you need to take care of your brain. And for brain health, you need to take care of your body in many ways. This is where healthy living comes in.

    Stroke risk and healthy living

    A 7-year research study looked at the impact of different lifestyle measures on stroke risk. Also, researchers looked at 90 gene variants in this group of over 300,000 people to determine their stroke risk. The stroke rate was 35-percent higher for those with a higher gene score versus one with a lower score. And when researchers looked at lifestyle factors, those who were healthier had a 66-percent lower risk of stroke than those who had an unhealthy lifestyle. In this study, those considered to have a healthy lifestyle were those that:

    • did not smoke.
    • were not overweight.
    • engaged in regular exercise.
    • consumed a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish.

    Furthermore, those who had a high genetic score and were considered unhealthy had a stroke risk score nearly double than that of those with the lowest scores and healthiest lifestyles.

    Ways you can live your healthiest life

    Besides eating right, staying active, and not smoking, there are several other things you can do to stay your healthiest.

    • Sleep enough each night: Research shows that short or too long sleep patterns as well as insomnia with short sleep patterns, can increase risk of stroke. Therefore, be sure to find a happy balance in your sleep time. the National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults sleep seven to nine hours each night. If you find you are having trouble sleeping, it may be helpful to visit your doctor for treatment. They could recommend a sleep study done to identify any health issues that could be disturbing your sleep.
    • Manage stress: Stress affects all of us to some degree. However, too much stress can have an impact on your heart health. Therefore, be sure to manage your stress with some relaxation breathing, meditation, yoga, or talking to a counselor each week.
    • Visit your doctor regularly: It’s important to visit your doctor at least once a year to check your numbers. Your numbers include cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and body weight. These numbers can help identify any heart health risk factors you may have. The earlier you find such risk factors, the earlier you can receive treatment and prevent your risk of stroke.
    • Take supplements when necessary: If you are lacking certain vitamins or minerals in your diet, you may need a supplement such as a multivitamin or fish oil. This can help your body receive the antioxidants you need to fight oxidative stress and lower chronic disease risk factors. One such supplement is Circova by Vita Sciences. Circova contains ingredients like L-arginine, niacin, and hawthorne to help promote improved blood flow and blood pressure.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (May 3, 2018) “About Stroke.”

    HealthDay (October 25, 2018) “Does Stroke Run in Your Family? Healthy Living Lowers the Risk.”

    Koo, D. L., Nam, H., Thomas, R. J., & Yun, C. H. (2018). Sleep Disturbances as a Risk Factor for Stroke. Journal of stroke20(1), 12-32.

    Meschia, J.F., et al. (2014) “Guidelines for the Primary Prevention of Stroke.” Stroke, 45(12): 3754-3832.

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed October 30, 2018) “National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times.”

     

     


  • Can healthy fats help your anxiety?

    healthy fat, heart health, health, salmon, olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocadoAn essential part of  a heart healthy diet is plenty of plant-based unsaturated fats.  Not only do plant-based foods provide heart-healthy fiber, but they are also rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in the body, and in turn reduce chronic disease risk. One such group of antioxidants are the omega-3 fatty acids found in such foods as avocado, plant-based oils and fatty fish. Recent research shows that these healthy fats may be able to help with mental health. A recent study shows that by increasing the amount of healthy fats in your diet, you could help reduce symptoms of anxiety.

     

    What are healthy fats?

    Healthy fats typically describe the group of fats known as unsaturated fats. These fats can be found in plant-based foods such as avocado, nuts, and seeds. They can also be found in plant-based oils like olive oil and fatty fish like salmon and trout. Research shows that by replacing some of your saturated fat intake with unsaturated fats, you can benefit heart health. The cause of this is still unknown, but it is suggested that it may be due to the fiber and antioxidants in such unsaturated food sources.

    Healthy fat intake and anxiety

    A recent meta-analysis study looked at research done on omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and mental health.  Study results show that those with clinically diagnosed anxiety may benefit from treatment with omega-3 fatty acids.  This is because treatment with such fats seemed to reduce symptoms of anxiety under stressful situations. Even those who suffered from other diagnosed mental health conditions outside of clinical anxiety showed reduced anxiety symptoms after such treatment.

    Although more research needs to be done to confirm such findings, these results are promising for future potential treatment options for anxiety. In the meantime, it can’t hurt to add in more healthy fats to your daily diet.  Also, an omega-3 fatty acid supplement could be helpful to healthy of the body and mind.  An example of such a supplement is fish oil like that by Vita Sciences.  This formula by Vita Sciences provides 400 milligrams of EPA and 300 milligrams of DHA, which are omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish.  This supplement is a great way to get your healthy fats if you don’t think you will be able to get them in every day in your diet.

    Other ways to help reduce anxiety

    Besides increasing healthy fats in your diet, there are other ways you can work to reduce anxiety in your daily routine.

    • Make sure to sleep enough each day: The average adult should receive at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep is important not just for energy levels, but for regulating fluid, hormones, and blood pressure in the body. Lack of sleep can also increase risk of anxiety and stress levels, especially in those that already suffer from anxiety. If you have trouble sleeping, visit the National Sleep Foundation website for tips. You should also visit your healthcare provider if you find that your sleep problems become a long-term problem. This is because you may be suffering from a condition known as sleep apnea that can affect quality of sleep and breathing. A healthcare provider can also help you manage pain, urinary incontinence, or insomnia that can impact sleep quality and quantity.
    • Talk to someone: Talking to a health care professional like a therapist or counselor can help you come up with strategies for dealing with your stress or anxiety. Even just talking to a friend or loved one may be helpful to get worries off your mind.
    • Find time to relax: Try to set aside at least 15 minutes a day to relax. This relaxing could include relaxation breathing, diffusing calming essential oils like lavender, or engaging in activities like yoga or meditation.
    • Volunteer in your community: Helping others in your community may be able to increase your sense of purpose and help you meet others with similar interests. In turn, these factors may help lower your stress and anxiety levels over time.
    • Stay active: Regular exercise each day can help reduce anxiety levels. This may be due to the vitamin D you get from working out in the sunshine. Also, it could be from the serotonin your body releases when you exercise. Either way, get moving each day and it can make you feel better inside and out.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (August 13, 2018) “The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good

    Lattari, E., Budde, H., Paes, F., Neto, G. A. M., Appolinario, J. C., Nardi, A. E., … Machado, S. (2018). Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Anxiety Symptoms and Cortical Activity in Patients with Panic Disorder: A Pilot Study. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health : CP & EMH14, 11–25. http://doi.org/10.2174/1745017901814010011

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed September 18, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

    Nauert, PhD, R. (accessed September 18, 2018) “Sleep Loss Increases Anxiety-Especially Among Worriers.” https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/06/27/sleep-loss-increases-anxiety-especially-among-worriers/56531.html

    Su K, Tseng P, Lin P, et al. Association of Use of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids With Changes in Severity of Anxiety SymptomsA Systematic Review and Meta-analysisJAMA Network Open.2018;1(5):e182327. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.2327

     

     

     


  • Could the Meditterranean diet provide longer life?

    healthy fats, mediterranean diet, diet, health, fat, unsaturatedThe Greek-style diet has long been touted as one that is full of heart healthy benefits. These benefits are thought to stem from the vast array of healthy fats from plant-based sources and limiting of saturated fats from red meats as well as the rich source of fruits and vegetables in this Mediterranean regimen. However, the health benefits may extend much further than initially realized. A recent study shows that the Mediterranean diet may help to lengthen life of older adults.

    What is the Mediterranean diet?

    The Mediterranean diet is a heart healthy eating regimen that has been linked with such benefits as low LDL cholesterol and improved overall heart health. These benefits are suggested to be from the emphasis of fruit and vegetable intake on this regimen as well as the following diet guidelines.

    • Consuming plenty of fiber-rich legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
    • Limiting salt intake, and instead using herbs and spices to flavor food.
    • Only eating red meat a few times a month, and instead loading up on lean proteins, fatty fish, and plant-based protein and fat sources.
    • Eating fish or poultry like chicken or turkey at least twice a week.
    • Focusing on whole grains versus refined grains and cutting out trans fats from the diet.
    • Drinking antioxidant-rich beverages like grape juice or wine, about five ounces a day (optional).
    • Staying active most days of the week.

    Health benefits of the Greek-style diet 

    The heart health benefits of the Greek-style diet are the most well-known. However research shows that health benefits of this eating regimen may extend beyond heart health. Other health benefits that come as a result of the Greek-style diet include:

    • improved digestive health
    • enhanced cognitive function
    • lower risk of certain cancers
    • improved blood glucose levels

    Mediterranean diet and longer life

    A recent meta-analysis study in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on length of life in older adults. This long term study observed data of over 5000 people aged 65 years or older. These individuals were observed for around 8 years or more on average. Study results show that those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet had prolonged survival as compared to those who did not follow such a diet. Researchers suggest that the Mediterranean-style eating regimen could be beneficial to older adults to help reduce chronic disease risk factors, and in turn potentially lengthen their life.

    Other ways to improve health

    Besides eating a diet full of health fats, there are also other lifestyle changes that could lengthen your life.

    • Get plenty of sleep: Sleep can impact blood pressure regulation and hormone regulation, to name a few. Therefore, be sure to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.  If you have trouble sleeping, try such strategies as blackout curtains, limiting screen time at night, or natural supplements like Somnova. Somnova by Vita Sciences contains melatonin, which is a non-habit forming supplement that can help promote better sleep.
    • Drink enough water every day: Staying hydrated is an important part of any healthy lifestyle. Check your urine daily to make sure you are staying hydrated. If your urine is darker than lemonade, then it is time to drink more water. A good rule of thumb to follow is about half of your body weight (in lbs.) in ounces per day of fluid. For example, someone who is 200 pounds, should drink about 100 ounces, or 12.5 cups of fluid each day. Fluid can be any unsweetened beverage like water, low calorie drinks, flavored water, tea, or decaf coffee, to name a few.
    • Take heart healthy supplements to fill in the nutritional gaps: If you don’t think you are getting enough healthy fats from your diet, then add in a supplement. One such supplement is fish oil, which has been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels. The fish oil from Vita Sciences in particular is a pure, burpless brand with 1000 milligrams of EPA and DHA shown to support brain, heart, and immune health.
    • Reduce stress: It will be important to keep your stress levels low for optimal health. This is because not only can stress affect blood pressure, but it can also lead to emotional eating and poor sleep, which can affect overall health. Therefore, talk to a friend, family member, or professional for stress management strategies. Also, engage in meditation, yoga, relaxation breathing, or other relaxing activities like walking to help manage stress.

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

    References:

    Bonaccio, M., Di Castelnuovo, A., Costanzo, S., Gialluisi, A., Persichillo, M., Cerletti, C., . . . Iacoviello, L. (n.d.). Mediterranean diet and mortality in the elderly: A prospective cohort study and a meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition, 1-14. doi:10.1017/S0007114518002179

    Mayo Clinic (November 3, 2017) “Mediterranean diet: a heart-healthy eating plan.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed September 12, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

    Romagnolo, D. F., & Selmin, O. I. (2017). Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases. Nutrition Today52(5), 208–222. http://doi.org/10.1097/NT.0000000000000228

     


  • A lonely mood could be worse for your health than obesity

    depression, lonely, mental health, healthSo much focus is placed on diet and exercise to stay healthy, that sometimes mental health care can be forgotten. However, the health of both mind and body is important to be in your best state of health. In fact, a recent report has found that being lonely may be a greater hazard to public health than obesity.

    What is mental health?

    Mental health considers the well-being of the emotional, social, and psychological parts of one’s life.  Although mental health issues can affect the mood of a person, it can also impact important life factors.  The way we feel can affect the way we think, act, make decisions, and how we handle relationships with others, among other things.  Therefore, it mental health should be taken just as seriously as physical health.

    How can being lonely affect your health?

    A recent report has found that being lonely is a serious public health issue. The health insurance company Cigna reports that most American adults consider themselves lonely, or feel disconnected from the world and people around them.  Younger American, such as those in Generation Z and millennials, report being the most lonely.

    Since loneliness is not necessarily a condition on your diagnosis sheet, health care providers may overlook it. However, left untreated, loneliness can lead to more serious mental health conditions such as depression. Experts suggest “social cognitive retraining”  to combat loneliness. This is because the brains of lonely people can make the negative feelings worse if left untreated.  A qualified psychologist or psychiatrist can perform this type of brain retraining.

    Ways to help improve your mood

    If you feel that your lonely mood is starting to affect your daily life and relationships, then you should contact a health care provider or counselor to get proper treatment. However, if you feel that your lonely feeling is in its early stages, then you may be able to take steps to improve this feeling on your own.

    • Extend yourself in the community: By volunteering or attending social events, you can feel more engaged in your community. This can help you feel less lonely and perhaps make some new friends and contacts.
    • Find groups to join that involve your hobbies: Whether you like to read, run, or play music, find local groups in your community to join. These groups can help you meet like-minded people that like the same things that you do. This can help you get out of your comfort zone at home a little and find others to talk with that you have something in common with. One app to help with this is Meetup, which provides you access to local clubs and events in your community.
    • Take a mood lifter supplement: Elevia by Vita Sciences is a mood lifting supplement. It contains compounds such as GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) and 5-HTP that research shows to calm the mind and body, while boosting levels of the feel good hormone serotonin.
    • Stay positive: As the saying goes, energy creates energy. If you exude negative energy, then that negative energy will likely remain within you. However, if you go into life and situations with a positive attitude, then it is likely that before long, that positive energy will become a part of you. Certain mental health issues may make staying positive nearly impossible. However, with the help of a mental health professional, counselor, and a network of family and friends to reach out to, you can start to create more positive energy in your life and mind.

    Be sure to call the following hotlines if you are experiencing a mental health crisis or have questions about getting started on treatment for your mental health condition.

    Sources:

    Loria, K. ( June 3, 2018) “Loneliness may be a greater public health hazard than obesity- here are 4 psychology-backed tips to combat it.” Business Insider,  http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-feel-less-lonely-2018-5

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (August 29, 2017) “What is Mental Health?”


  • Could your sleep patterns affect your mental health?

    sleep, mental health, stress, anxiety, depressionSleep. Work. Eat. Repeat. Does that sound like your day, or something like it?  Sleep is often set aside as just something that a person does at the end of the day. It is often overlooked as a very important part of optimal health. A recent study found that it is so important in fact, that not getting enough sleep may increase your risk for mental health disorders.

    The Importance of Sleep

    The average adult needs at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.  This may seem like a lot if you live a busy life which many of us do. And you may shrug it off and say, “Who needs sleep. I don’t need sleep.” The fact is that sleep is more important than you think, and without it your health could suffer.

    So many things happen while you sleep. For example, at rest your body conserves energy, regulates blood pressure, and restores tissues and muscles.  Furthermore, your body regulates fluids and controls hormone levels in the body while you sleep.  Without enough sleep, your circadian rhythm can go off course. In turn, this can lead you to eat when you’re not hungry, which can lead to weight gain and increased chronic disease risk over time.

    And if these weren’t enough reasons to hit the snooze button, sleep also has an impact on the immune system.  Lack of sleep can cause yo to get sick more often, which in turn could put more stress on your body and mind.

    Sleep and Mental Health

    A recent study looked at about 90,000 residents from the United Kingdom in regards to sleep patterns.  Study subjects between the age of 37 and 73 years wore accelerometers for 24 hours a day for 7 days.  In other words, these devices measured the rest and activity levels of participants. Those with reduced activity during the day or increased activity at night were described as having a disrupted circadian rhythm, or lower amplitude.  Comparing these patterns with questionnaires filled out by participants found links between lower amplitudes and health measures such as:

    • higher risk of unstable moods
    • lower levels of unhappiness
    • lower health satisfaction
    • greater reported loneliness

    Among other findings, it is clear that this study shows that lack of sleep can greatly impact mental health measures, and in turn quality of life.

    Ways to Help You Get More Sleep

    There may not be enough hours in the day to get everything done.  However, it is really important to make sure sleep gets a priority on your to-do list. Therefore, if you have trouble sleeping, try some of the methods below to help.

    • Stick to a sleep schedule: Just like your other daily tasks, put sleep on your daily planner. Although it can be hard to do sometimes, setting a time to prepare for bed each night can help you develop a new healthy sleeping pattern over time.
    • Start a bedtime ritual: When it is coming close to that time of night, start a bedtime ritual that will help your body prepare for bed. Whether it is drinking a cup of herbal tea after dinner, or diffusing some lavender essential oils to relax your body, this type of ritual can reduce your risk of tossing and turning into the night. It is also helpful to reduce caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake in the latter part of the day as well as turning off any screens during your bedtime ritual to help your eyes and mind rest.
    • Exercise each day: Any type of movement for at least 30 minutes each day can tire your body out a bit, so you can rest better in the evening. Otherwise, your body will have energy to expend with no outlet to provide it with. In turn, you will likely stay up late and have trouble sleeping. Besides that, exercise is good for keeping your body and mind healthy.
    • Take a supplement for sleep like Somnova by Vita Sciences. Somnova contains melatonin and l-theanine to help relax your mind, feel refreshed, and get more peaceful sleep. Add a sleep supplement to your bedtime routine about 30 minutes before you plan on going to sleep.
    • Visit your healthcare provider: If you have tried all of the above, or feel particularly tired upon waking, you may need to see your healthcare provider. This is because your sleep problems may be related to other conditions such as pain issues, sleep apnea, or other health conditions and should be treated under medical supervision.

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

    Sources:

    Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (December 18, 2007) “Why Do We Sleep, Anyway?”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed May 16, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

    NIH News in Health (April 2018) “Tick Tock: Your Body Clocks.”

    Paddock, Ph.D., C. (May 16, 2018) “Sleep-wake disruption strongly linked to mood disorders.”


  • Eat a healthier diet for a smaller waist, bigger brain.

    Everywhere you look you may see an ad for a new diet program that promises to help you lose weight.  Many people get sucked into the idea that they can lose weight fast on fad diets. However, these diets usually hard to stick with for the long term and may have long-term consequences. More and more research is finding that it is not necessarily the type of diet you are on that is good for health. However, the quality of food that you are eating is more important in health outcomes. And if you improve the quality of your diet, you may not only help your success with weight loss. New studies show that a healthier diet could also improve the strength and size of your brain.

    What is a fad diet?

    A fad diet is an eating regimen that promises big results, but may do so at the risk of your overall health. Such diets may involve:

    • A promise of rapid weight loss. It is important to remember that losing more than 1-2 pounds a week is not healthy long-term. Any more than this could also involve the loss of muscle, bone, and water.
    • Cutting out entire food groups or nutrients. A prime example of this is the low carbohydrate trend that continues on.  Although there are some benefits to this type of diet, some may not follow it healthfully and may restrict nutrient and fiber-rich vegetables and fruits too much. This could lead to nutrient deficiencies long term.  In addition, the lack of long-term studies on the effects of such popular diets can put your long-term health at risk. An example of this is the high-fat, moderate protein, very low carb keto diet.  Although there are some studies that show positive heart health benefits, there are also studies that show long-term negative health effects on insulin resistance and liver health. Until larger and more randomized, placebo-controlled studies are done on such eating regimens, they should not be taken lightly.
    • A diet that is hard to follow and limits the times you can eat. Many diets out there can help you lose weight. Of course cutting out food groups and severely restricting the foods you can eat can help you shed pounds. This is because they are basically just placing you on a low calorie diet hidden behind a shiny new veil.  However, many of these diets are also hard to follow. If a diet is so restrictive that you can’t stick to it long-term then it is not going to be effective in providing any health benefits that it could offer. And diets that limit the times you eat during the day may show some benefit such as helping you to limit snacking. However, long-term and larger studies need to be done before benefits of such limited eating times can be confirmed.

    Effect of healthy diet on brain health

    A dutch study of about 4200 people 45 years and older looked at quality of diet and brain health. Study results show that those with higher diet quality scores had brains about 2 millimeters bigger than those with lower scores. This may not seem like a lot, except when you consider that the brain shrinks 3.66 millimeters every year. This means that a healthier diet could help prevent 6 months of aging in the brain. Healthy-fat based diets such as the Mediterranean diet has found similar results. It is suggested that any diet good for the heart will be good for the brain since it will help improve blood flow in the body.

    Improve your diet by taking care of your heart

    Besides eating plenty of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, there are certain things you can do to improve the heart health of your diet. This can, in turn, improve the brain healthy components of your eating routine too.

    • Add more healthy fats from fish: A recent study has found that consuming two 3.5-ounce servings of fish each week can help lower heart disease risk. Oily fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids are the best. Examples of this type of fish include salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, lake trout, and sardines.
    • Eat more plant-based healthy fats:  Other sources of heart healthy fats include plant-based foods such as olives, avocado, and olive oil.  Nuts, nut butters, and seeds like flax seed or chia seed are also examples of heart healthy fats.
    • Exercise more. Regular aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping, may boost the size of your brain and improve memory, according to a British Columbia study. It is recommended to engage in moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Examples of such moderate exercise may include walking, light jogging, biking, or water aerobics. This 30 minutes a day can be broken up into 5 and 10 minute intervals if needed.
    • Take heart and brain healthy supplements. Adding supplements such as fish oil can help you get your daily dose of healthy fats even if you do not eat fish.  A quality fish oil is by Vita Sciences that provides 1000 milligrams of fish oil. This formula contains 400 milligrams of EPA and 300 milligrams of DHA. These components are well-known for their ability to support brain health.

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

    Sources:

    Godman, H. (April 9, 2014; updated April 5, 2018) “Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills.” Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School.

    Gordon, S. (May 16, 2018) “Better Diet, Bigger Brain.” HealthDay. 

    Kosinki, C. and Jornayvaz, F.R. (2017) “Effects of Ketogenic Diets on Cardiovascular Risk
    Factors: Evidence from Animal and Human Studies.” Nutrients, 9: 517doi:10.3390/nu9050517

    Norton, A. (May 17, 2018) “Eat Fish Twice a Week to Ward Off Heart Disease, Experts Say.” HealthDay.

    Stockman, MC., Thomas, D., Burke, J. et al. Curr Obes Rep (2018) 7: 172. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-018-0308-9

    Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, T. (January 2, 2017) “Staying Away from Fad Diets.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


  • Besides tasting good, dark chocolate could help vision and memory health

    chocolate, health, dark chocolate, cocoaYet another reason to eat chocolate, as if you needed one. Besides tasting delicious, chocolate has many health benefits. Recent studies show that eating a bit of dark chocolate each day may help to improve vision, memory, and lower stress.

    About Chocolate

    Chocolate, derived from the Theobroma cacao tree, has been used as a medicinal food for thousands of years.  It can stimulate the nervous system as well as improve digestion and elimination. This is because there are healing properties of chocolate in its rich concentration of antioxidants. The antioxidants in dark chocolate, such as the cocoa polyphenols, provide anti-inflammatory and heart health effects. Therefore, research shows that chocolate, in moderation, can improve health.

    Chocolate Research

    • The Kuna Indians of Panama have been drinking chocolate for many years, around 30 ounces a day.  Likely due to this, they have some of the lowest rates of hypertension, or high blood pressure in the world, at 2.2-percent. A study at Harvard Medical School found that those people who drank two cups of hot chocolate a day may have improved blood flow to the brain. This may help improve brain function, such as memory.
    • A small study of 30 people looked at the health effects of dark versus milk chocolate. The study results show that those who ate dark chocolate versus milk chocolate had improved vision. They had small improvements in visual sharpness and large letter contrast two hours after eating the chocolate.  Researchers suggest these results may be due to improved blood flow to the retina or the brain’s cerebral cortex, or visual pathways. However, more studies should be done to confirm chocolate’s visual health potential.
    • More recent studies looked at the effects of 70-percent cacao dark chocolate on health.  These study results show that gamma frequencies were stimulated after 30 minutes and two hours. Since gamma waves are in charge of learning and memory function, chocolate may help brain health. However, more studies need to be done to confirm the cacao’s potential brain health benefits.

    Besides chocolate, a healthy balanced diet rich in antioxidant fruits and vegetables can help improve health. To further enhance these health effects, you can also take supplements. Examples of a supplement that may improve blood flow include Circova by Vita SciencesCircova contains L-arginine, niacin, and hawthorne that support improved blood flow and blood pressure. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider before you start any new supplement regimen.

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

    Sources:

    Cone, A. (April 25, 2018) “Studies: Dark chocolate can lower stress and inflammation, improve memory.” UPI

    Katz, D. L., Doughty, K., & Ali, A. (2011). Cocoa and Chocolate in Human Health and Disease. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling15(10), 2779–2811.

    Mental Health Daily (accessed May 1, 2018) “5 Types of Brain Waves: Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta.”

    Mundell, E.J. (April 26, 2018) “A Bit of Dark Chocolate Might Sweeten Your Vision.” HealthDay

    Nordqvist, J. (February 12, 2018) “Health benefits and risks of chocolate.” Medical News Today


  • Drinking more alcohol than suggested could shorten life

    alcohol, health, beer, wine, liquor, unhealthyIt’s Friday night and the weekend is just beginning.  After a long week of work, you may be thinking about that glass of wine or pint of beer to help you relax.  In moderation, there is nothing wrong with a few drinks on the weekend. However, a recent study has found that drinking more than the suggested amount each week can shorten your life.

    What is the recommended alcohol intake for most adults?

    General recommendations in the United States suggest that men consume no more than 2 standard alcoholic drinks a day and women consume no more than one daily. A standard drink is equal to:

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

    Any more than this recommendation is heavy drinking and can have negative health effects. More than 4 drinks at one occasion for a woman or 5 drinks for a man is considered binge drinking. Negative health effects of such heavy drinking include:

    • short term effects such as increased risk of falls, injuries, car crashes if driving while intoxicated, and increased likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or violent behavior.
    • if pregnant and drinking, your unborn child could have increased risk of fetal alcohol syndrome, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
    • increased risk of heart disease, stoke, liver disease, and digestive problems
    • increased risk of anxiety and depression
    • learning and memory problems

    In addition to such health problems, long term drinking could lead to problems with family and friends if you become dependent on alcohol. Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for resources on how to get help if you think you may have a drinking problem.

    Alcohol and life span

    A recent study in the medical journal Lancet found that for each alcoholic drink over 6 standard glasses of wine or 7 standard 12 oz beers a week could shorten your life by 30 minutes. This may not seem like a lot, but every minute can add up over time. This recommended amount is equal to about 12.5 units of alcohol.

    You may ask, “How did they come up with this number?”  The answer to this comes in the form of a study of about 600,000 current drinkers included in 83 studies from 19 countries. It was found that a 40-year old drinking just 2-3 standard drinks a week more than the suggested tipping point can lower their life expectancy by about 2 years.  This is likely due to the health effects listed above such as increased risk of heart disease, among other things.  This study helped support the United Kingdom’s proposed reduction in alcoholic drink recommendations. When following these guidelines, people had a 20-percent lower heart disease risk. Also, there was no increase in harm to health seen in terms of death rate in those who were compliant with the guidelines.

    Although some studies show that moderate drinking may help heart health, this study reports different results. Researchers suggest that a glass of red wine now and then may reduce the risk of a non-fatal heart attack. However, this positive health effect is offset against the increased risk of other health issues.

    Other ways to relax

    If drinking alcohol is a method you use to relax, then perhaps it is time to try healthier methods of lowering stress. Try a few of the methods below to replace happy hour, so you can live out the highest quality, and quantity of life possible.

    • Exercise each day with something as simple as a short walk. Just getting fresh air and sunshine on your face can help you feel better and more relaxed. Try to walk at least 3 to 5 times a week.
    • Breathe. Taking five deep breaths when you are stressed and practicing relaxation breathing before bed can help you to reduce stress.
    • Meditate and focus on all of the positive things in your life such as those things you have accomplished, what you are grateful for, to name a few.
    • Take breaks throughout the day. Even just a 5 minute break here and there during your work day can help. Rub some relaxing essential oil scents on your wrist or neck, go to the bathroom stall, sit down, and take several deep breaths. Release the stress from your mind and focus on your breath and the scent. You can also do this at home when you are feeling overwhelmed or just want to decompress after a long day.
    • Detox your life in a variety of ways to lighten your load of stress. You can do this by:
      • giving away clothes you don’t wear anymore.
      • cleaning your house and reorganizing your belongings.
      • self care such as a hot bath with relaxing essential oils like lavender, getting a massage, or getting your hair done.
      • writing in a journal or talking with a trusted friend, family member, or counselor. Talking can help you to unload your brain of any fears, anxieties, or stress that may be bogging you down.
      • taking a supplement such as Sereneo by Vita Sciences to relax your mind. Sereneo contains ingredients such as valerian root, magnesium, and chamomile to help increase your levels of feel good serotonin.

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

    Sources:

    Boseley, S. (April 13, 2018) “Extra glass of wine a day ‘will shorten your life by 30 minutes.'” 

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (January 3, 2018) “Fact Sheets- Alcohol Use and Your Health.”

    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (updated April 18, 2018) “SAMHSA’s National Helpline.”

    Tartakovsky, M.S., M. (May 23, 2013) “20 Ways to Relax & Unwind.”