Category Archives: exercise

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

 


  • Can cardio exercise boost metabolism better than strength training?

    exercise, healthAny kind of movement is good for health. Studies have shown time and again that sitting is bad for health. But, is one kind of exercise better than the other when it comes to weight loss? This is a controversial topic since some studies show that strength training can keep calories burning long after your workout. However, a recent study has shown that cardio exercise may actually be better than strength training in boosting metabolism.

    Cardio exercise versus strength training

    Cardio exercise, or aerobic activity, is a type of exercise that gets your heart rate up. It gets you to breathe faster and deeper, in turn getting more oxygen in your blood. Cardio exercise is best known for improving the overall health of your heart and lungs. Experts recommend that you engage in some cardio exercise for at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week.

    Types of cardio exercises include walking, running, cycling, swimming, team sports, and dancing, to name a few. Cardio exercises are known for burning more calories per minute than strength training and is also great for stress management. Not to mention that cardio training can help reduce risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

    On the other hand, strength training exercises aim to increase your bone and muscle strength. Examples of such exercises include free weight exercises or resistance training like push-ups, to name a few.

    Research has found that strength training can help you burn an additional 25-percent of calories you burned during your workout even after you have finished your workout. Therefore, if you burn 100 calories during your strength training workout, then you will burn an additional 25 calories in the hours after your workout for a total of 125 calories burned.

    Typically, it is recommended to balance out your fitness routine with both cardio and strength training exercises. This will ensure you can reap the benefits of both types of exercises.

    Cardio for faster metabolism

    Recent research looked at the effects of cardio and strength training exercises on certain health markers. Two groups of people had either a 60-minute cardio or 60-minute strength training workout to complete. After the workout, their blood was tested for lactic acid, blood sugar, bile, and hormone levels.  Study results show that those who did the cardio exercise had higher levels of the hormone FGF21. This hormone plays a role in boosting metabolism. Those who did the cardio workout had tripled their FGF21 level from baseline, while those who did strength training saw no increase.

    Other ways to boost metabolism

    Besides boosting your cardio routine, there are other small changes you can make to your lifestyle to speed up your metabolism.

    • Spice up your diet: Research shows that capsaicin, the active  component of chili peppers, can increase calorie burning by 50 calories a day.
    • Take a metabolism boosting supplement:  Sometimes a supplement that supports the thyroid may help boost metabolism. An example of this is Thyradol by Vita Sciences. Thyradol contains ashwagandha that helps enhance levels of the thyroid hormone T4. You should contact your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.
    • Eat more harder to digest foods: Foods that are more complex in their structure can help the body burn more calories during digestion. This is called diet-induced thermogenesis.  Foods higher in fiber and protein are examples of such foods. Foods that are more refined, like processed carbohydrates, will not have this same effect. Therefore, aim for eating lots of complex carbohydrates like high fiber fruits and vegetables that have a 20-percent thermic effect.  This means that for every 100 calories of these foods you eat, your body will use 20 calories to break down and digest these foods. Aim for at least 2 cups of fruits and vegetables each day. Also, be sure to consume plenty of protein from animal and/or plant-based sources., which have a 30-percent thermic effect.

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

    References:

    Healthline (accessed August 29, 2018) “Metabolism Boosters: Weight Loss Fact or Fiction?”

    Mayo Clinic (August 10, 2017) “Fitness training: elements of a well-rounded routine.” 

    Petter, O. (August 25, 2018) “Cardio Boosts Metabolism More Than Strength Training , Study Claims.” 

    Plosser, L. (accessed August 29, 2018) “Cardio vs. Strength Training: Which One is Most Effective?”

    Williams, J. (October 3, 2017) “How Many Calories Does Digestion Use Up?” 


  • Could it be that men have weight loss faster than women?

    Sometimes it may seem that over the same period of time, on the same diet and exercise regimen, that men lose weight quicker than women.  Some say that men have more muscle mass, so their metabolism is higher.  Others say that it has to do with hormones. So, what is the real reason behind this phenomenon, and is it even a real phenomenon?  A recent study found that men with prediabetes lost significantly more weight over eight weeks than women with prediabetes.  Let’s explore why this may be.

    What is prediabetes?

    Those with prediabetes have a higher than normal blood glucose level. However, they are not at the point where their blood glucose status qualifies as diabetes.  A diagnosis like this might be scary, but it can be a good thing.  When you are given a diagnosis of prediabetes, there is a chance to reverse your risk of diabetes by changing lifestyle factors.  With the guidance of a qualified health professional, you can tweak your diet and increase your physical activity to help you lose weight and lower your blood glucose levels.

    In most cases, after such a diagnosis, you will be asked to come back for a retest of your blood glucose labs in 3 to 6 months to make sure everything is moving in the right direction. Some doctors may put you on medications such as metformin to help with this if diet and exercise alone is not helping.

    Men weight loss faster than women?

    weight loss, weight, health, scaleA recent study of 2000 overweight men and women with prediabetes looked at the effects of a low-calorie diet. After eight weeks, the men in the study lost significantly more weight than women and had larger reductions in their metabolic score, which is a marker for diabetes.  In addition, the men had greater loss of fat mass and lower heart rate after eight weeks on the diet. However, women did have the upper hand on some health markers. In fact, women had a larger reduction in hip circumference, lean body mass, and pulse pressure than men.

    Researchers suggest that it is clear that men benefited more from this low calorie diet than women. However, longer term studies will need to be done to figure out exactly why. Theories suggest that women may have a harder time losing weight since they store fat more easily than men.  Also, women have less muscle mass than men, which can affect metabolism. Finally, women are more prone than men to yo-yo dieting, which can negatively affect long-term weight loss success.

    Strategies for weight loss 

    Just because the weight loss odds seem to be against women, that does not mean that successful long-term weight loss is impossible. Follow the strategies to help you lose weight, no matter your gender.

    • Eat enough fiber each day. Only one in ten Americans eat the minimum recommended amount of fruits and vegetables daily. This low fiber intake can impact digestive health, heart health, and overall quality of the diet. Fruits and veggies also contain antioxidants that can help lower risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease by reducing oxidative stress and related cell damage. Therefore, be sure to get plenty of veggies and fruits in your meals and snacks. You can add spinach or tomatoes to your eggs for breakfast, or throw in fruit and veggies into a morning smoothie. For meals, grab some frozen veggies that you can steam in less than 10-15 minutes, depending on the veggie.  For snacks, crunch on some baby carrots and apple slices, or enjoy some berries or grapes.
    • Move more each day.  Many of us have jobs that require sitting for most of the day. Therefore, make it a point to take the stairs, take a walk during lunch if you can, and/or make time in the evening to take a walk after dinner or take an aerobics class at your local community center. Every step will help you burn more calories, keep your heart strong, and help you lose weight.
    • Try a supplement regimen. Low vitamin D, B12, or iron can affect your health status, and in turn impact energy levels and weight loss.  You should have your labs tested to see if you may have a nutrient deficiency.  Also, if you have prediabetes, a supplement like Glucarex may help as well. Glucarex by Vita Sciences contains chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon, which can support healthy weight loss metabolism, and blood glucose levels.
    • Surround yourself with support. Long-term weight loss success is often seen in those with social support systems in place. Whether you engage your family in more healthy meals, have family walks, have a weight loss buddy at work, or join a support group, support can make the difficult act of losing weight a little easier. Not only that, but support can help you stay accountable and on track with your goals. Also, having a qualified healthcare team of doctors and dietitians can help you stay on the right path to health.

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

    References:

    Asian News International (August 8, 2018) “Low calorie diet, men tend to lose more weight than women.” 

    Centers for Disease Control (November 16, 2017) “Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables.”

    Joslin Diabetes Center (accessed August 8, 2018) “Diet Strategies for Women with Diabetes: Why Some Work and Some Don’t.”

    Mayo Clinic (August 2, 2017) “Prediabetes.” 

     

     


  • Could you work schedule be hurting your gut health?

    overtime, work, night shift, tired, nightNight shifts, or working from evening to morning, can be rough on your body and mind.  Your meal patterns can become confused. Sleeping patterns can become thrown off course. And in turn, weight gain and sleeping issues can develop over time. A recent study has found that night shifts can cause digestive problems over time by throwing off the body’s internal clock.

    What is circadian rhythm?

    Think of your circadian rhythm as a clock inside of your body telling you when to sleep, eat, and digest, among other things.  The internal clock in the body releases hormones at certain times to help you stay awake, provide energy, and help regulate processes such as digestion and blood pressure. Working night shift or traveling across time zones can disrupt this internal clock. This is because being awake when the body is programmed to sleep can confuse the body’s natural rhythms. Previous studies have found that those who work night shift have an increased risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

    Circadian rhythm and gut health

    A recent study looked at the effects of night shift work on various health markers. One group of people had a normal day shift and nighttime sleep schedule. The second group worked night shift three days in a row and slept during the day.  Hormones such as melatonin and cortisol were also measured. Melatonin usually increases at night to help you sleep. On the other hand, cortisol is normally higher in the day to help with metabolism and blood glucose regulation, among other things.

    Study results show that those who worked night shift had a shift in their brain’s internal clock by two hours.  Although significant, even more so is that the digestive system was thrown off course by 12 hours. These results suggest that night shift work can cause digestive problems over time.  Therefore, researchers will continue to study ways to help minimize this impact of night shifts on gut health. They hope that further studies will help identify ways to tailor meal time to minimize night shift’s impact on gut health.

    How to help your gut health

    In the mean time, there are several things you can do now to help improve your gut health, no matter what time of day you eat.

    • Eat smaller meals to help prevent heartburn or indigestion. Smaller meals will make it easier for your body to break down the nutrients from the food you eat.  Eating a large meal at one sitting can put a lot of pressure on your digestive system, especially if you have a job that involves a lot of sitting. Smaller meals can reduce bloating after meals and has been found to help reduce symptoms in those with a history of acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome.
    • Drink plenty of water to help improve the flow of waste out of the body and to help improve nutrient absorption from the foods you eat.
    • Stay active to help stimulate digestion and prevent constipation, which in turn can cause symptoms such as gas, discomfort, and bloating.
    • Take probiotics to help restore or maintain a healthy balance of bacterium in the gut to aid digestion.  Probiotics that are diverse and potent such as Biovia 30X by Vita Sciences can help boost the immune system and promote gut health.  Those with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome have especially found probiotics to be helpful in reducing symptoms. Consuming foods that contain probiotics such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir, to name a few, can also help improve gut health.
    • Eat plenty of fiber such as that found in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods.  This is because fiber can help bulk the stool and slow down digestion to help improve nutrient absorption from foods. Fiber-rich foods can also act as prebiotics. Prebiotics are compounds from certain fruits and vegetables such as bananas, asparagus, soybean-based foods, and whole grains that feed probiotics. In other words, the prebiotics help promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.

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

    References:

    Liverpool, L. (July 9, 2018) “Nightshifts disrupt rhythm between brain and gut, study shows.” The Guardian Online

    NIH News in Health (May 2017) “Keeping Your Gut in Check: Healthy Options to Stay on Tract.”

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

    Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, T. (February 27, 2018) “Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Online

     


  • Could exercise reduce inflammation in the body?

    exercise, inflammation, health, obesityWhether you walk, run, swim, cycle, or dance, exercise is a great way to keep your heart in tip top shape.  Exercise is also recommended for weight loss, controlling blood glucose levels, and even for helping reduce stress by releasing endorphins.  Recent research has shown that exercise may also be good for reducing inflammation in the body, and in turn reducing your risk for many chronic diseases.

    Inflammation and oxidative stress

    Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection that results in redness, swelling, and painful. It is part of the body’s immune response to such foreign bodies or substances. Inflammation can lead to oxidative stress, which can damage cells and in turn increase risk of chronic disease states.

    Exercise and Inflammation

    A recent study in the Journal of Physiology looked at the impact of exercise on the health of obese individuals.  Inflammation has been linked to many obesity-related conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Therefore, exercise therapy to reduce weight and improve heart health may reduce such inflammation.

    A group of young, obese adults participated in a six-week exercise program that involved three 60-minute bicycling or treadmill-running sessions each week. Blood samples taken at the start and end of the study. These samples reveal that the exercise regimen produced a decline in stem cells that create the blood cells responsible for inflammation.  This study shows promise that exercise may help obese individuals to reduce risk of chronic disease as well as others with inflammatory disease status. However, further study of the effects of blood changes on energy consumption, fat storage, and other inflammatory conditions is warranted.

    Other ways to decrease inflammation

    Besides exercise, inflammation can be reduced in the body in various ways. Oxidative stress, which is linked to inflammation, can be reduced by diet changes and improvements in gut health as well. Here are some ways you can reduce inflammation through your daily intake.

    • Plant-based diets have shown to decrease inflammation. A 2016 study found that a plant-based diet can help reduce levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein in the body.  Research suggests that plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts contain antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress in the body.  Therefore, be sure to add in plant-based foods in your diet at each meal to help reduce inflammation in the body.
    • Stay as natural as possible in your diet. Try to consume mostly whole plant-based foods versus processed foods so you can get the full antioxidant benefit.  In addition, additives and preservatives in processed foods may increase oxidative stress in the body.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start. Smoking of any kind can introduce chemicals into the body that can cause oxidative stress. Not to mention that smoking can increase blood pressure and heart disease risk by constricting blood vessels.
    • Reduce pollutant and other stress exposure. Staying out in the sun for too long without protective clothing or mineral-based sunscreen can increase oxidative damage to cells.  Also, exposure to pollutants such as car exhaust, industrial smoke, and other chemical-based substances can increase oxidative stress. Therefore, try to reduce your exposure to such things to decrease inflammation in the body.
    • Probiotics may help decrease inflammation. More and more research shows that taking probiotics daily can help reduce oxidative stress in the body. Different probiotic strains can have different impacts on health. However, many probiotic strains have proven to possess ant-inflammatory qualities. Inflammatory conditions like acne and eczema, inflammatory bowel disease, and high cholesterol can improve with probiotic use. An example of a probiotic with a diverse array of strains is Biovia 30 by Vita Sciences which contains 30 billion colony forming units (CFU) to help promote digestive health. Therefore, consider adding a probiotic to your daily routine to help improve your overall health inside and out.

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

    Sources:

    Biswas, S.K. (2016) “Does the Interdependence between Oxidative Stress and Inflammation Explain the Antioxidant Paradox?” Hindawi Publishing Corporation, Volume 2016, Article ID 5698931, 9pp.

    Bjorklund, MD, G. and Chirumbolo, Ph.D., S. (January 2017) “Role of oxidative stress and antioxidants in daily nutrition and human health.”

    Eichelmann, F., Schwingshackl, L., Fedirko, V., and Aleksandrova, K. (November 2016) “Effect of plant-based diets on obesity-related inflammatory profiles: a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention trials.” Obesity Reviews, 17(11): 1067-1079.

    Nagpal, R., et al. (2012) “Probiotics, their health benefits and applications for developing healthier foods: a review.”

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (accessed June 26, 2018) “Probiotics: In Depth.”

    NIH News in Health (May 2017) “Keeping Your Gut in Health.”

    Preidt, R. (June 20, 2018) “Exercise May Ease Inflammation Tied to Obesity.” HealthDay.


  • The Top 5 Ways to Lower Your Heart Disease Risk

    heart disease, heart health, fruits, vegetablesHeart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. It accounts for one in four deaths each year. However, yo can prevent heart disease by changing some lifestyle factors to lower your risk. Risk factors of heart disease include poor diet, physical inactivity, being overweight or obese, being a smoker, and having diabetes. Fortunately, by working to change a few things in your daily routine, you can lower your risk of heart disease. Here are the top five things you can do today to lower your risk of heart disease.

    1. Stop smoking or don’t start. Smoking can constrict your blood vessels and make it hard for oxygen-rich blood to get to your heart. In turn, this can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the percentage of smokers in the United States is at its lowest. However, there are still about 14-percent of Americans, or about 30 million people, who are still smoking. More and more young people are vaping instead of smoking, but experts worry that this is just another way for people to get addicted to nicotine. Therefore, no matter if its a cigarette, e-cigarette, or vaping device, stop smoking for your heart health. Contact Smokefree.gov to speak to an expert to help provide advice and resources to quit.
    2. Eat a more balanced diet. I’m sure you have been told time and time again to eat more fruits and vegetables. However, the fiber-rich quality and antioxidants in such foods can help reduce oxidative stress in the body, which can lower risk of chronic disease like heart disease and diabetes. Therefore, include fruits and vegetables with every meal, in a variety of colors to provide you with a diverse array of nutrients. Also, balance out your veggies with lean proteins like chicken, fish, nuts, seeds, and/or low-fat dairy products.  Stick to mostly whole, minimally processed foods to avoid unnecessary salt, sugar, and preservatives.
    3. Be more active. Try to move more each day to keep your heart strong. Walking, gardening, swimming, biking, or aerobics are some examples of ways you can incorporate some movement in your day. Try to get at least 30 minutes of activity at least 5 days a week. You can split this exercise into small segments of 5 and 10 minutes throughout the day if you need to for any reason.
    4. Manage stress. Stress can lead to poor sleep, high blood pressure, and lack of motivation to eat healthy or exercise. Therefore, stress can have a domino effect on your entire health status if not managed properly. If you feel you are unable to manage your stress, try talking with someone. A counselor or therapist can help you figure out strategies to manage your stress. You can also try yoga, meditation, relaxation breathing, and/or acupuncture to help you manage your stress and in turn lower your heart disease risk.
    5. Visit your healthcare provider regularly. Whether you have a history or family history of heart disease or not, you should visit your doctor regularly. You should have labs done at least once a year to check your cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. This is because life can change a lot in a year, and you can find yourself stuck in unhealthy lifestyle habits without even noticing unless an abnormal or high lab finding alerts you to it. Therefore, visit your doctor regularly, and even more often if you do have a history of heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic disease.

    Take your health journey one step at a time. In addition to the steps listed, you can also try adding supplements to your routine if you feel there are any nutrient gaps in your diet.  Try a heart healthy supplement like Presura or a multivitamin like Zestia by Vita Sciences. Changing your lifestyle may not be easy. However, the improvements in your quality of life you will be rewarded with will be worth it.

     

     

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

    Sources:

    Associated Press (June 19, 2018) “Smoking Hits New Low Among U.S. Adults.” 

    American Heart Association (updated May 17, 2018) “The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations.” 

    Centers for Disease Control (November 28, 2017) “Heart Disease Facts.” 


  • 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.”


  • 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.” 


  • Exercise to lower high blood pressure is not a popular idea

    blood pressure, heart health, hypertension, doctor, healthNearly half of all Americans have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Having hypertension can put you at increased risk for heart disease and stroke, which are two of the top five leading causes of death in the United States. Therefore, it is important that if you have high blood pressure that you should work to be more heart healthy to prevent chronic disease. This usually includes eating a heart healthy diet and exercising. However, a recent survey shows that exercise is the last thing people want to do to try and lower their blood pressure.

    About High Blood Pressure

    High blood pressure occurs when the force of blood through your blood vessels is too high.  When you go to the doctor to get your blood pressure checked, they look at two different numbers:

    • Systolic blood pressure, which is the top number of your blood pressure reading. This number is the force of the blood at each heart beat, or contraction.
    • Diastolic blood pressure, which is the bottom number of your blood pressure reading. This number is the force of blood through your vessels in between contractions.

    High blood pressure reading is 130 over 80 mmHg.  It used to be 140 over 90 mmHg, but was changed last year since it was found that those people who were at the time considered borderline hypertensive would be more likely to start helpful treatment for their blood pressure if diagnosed at this stage of hypertension.

    Blood Pressure Survey

    Researchers at Yale University performed a survey to find out what lifestyle interventions people were most likely to engage in to lower their blood pressure. Those people taking the survey had to choose from four options: taking a pill, drinking one cup of tea each day, exercising or getting a monthly or semi-annual injection. It was found that most people, about 79-percent would be willing to take a pill to get one extra month of life, while 78-percent would be willing to drink a cup of tea daily.  Furthermore, about 96-percent of people were willing to do either of these activities to gain five years of life. Exercising was one of the least popular interventions, slightly above taking a monthly injection, to lower blood pressure.

    Other Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

    Although exercise is a great way to gain and maintain heart health, there are other lifestyle factors you can tweak to improve your blood pressure.

    • Lose weight: Losing weight is not an easy thing to do. However, just a small amount of weight loss, like 10 pounds, could help lower your blood pressure.
    • Eat a heart healthy diet full of fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and lean proteins. Also, lower your intake of processed, salty and sugary foods to help improve your heart health.
    • Lowering alcohol intake to no more than one standard drink a day for women or two standard drinks a day for men can help your blood pressure. One standard drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start since smoking can narrow blood vessels. In turn, this can make it harder for the heart to get the oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the rest of the body. Therefore, smoking not only puts your heart at risk, but the health of your entire body.
    • Reduce stress to help lower your blood pressure. Relaxation breathing, yoga, meditation, or simply talking to a counselor or trusted friend or colleague can help. In turn, this can help lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.
    • Take a heart healthy supplement each day such as Presura by Vita Sciences. Presura contains natural ingredients such as hawthorn berry, niacin, and garlic extract that have been found to promote healthy blood pressure levels. However, it is important to always talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement to make sure it is safe to take with any other medications you may take.

    Sources:

    American Heart Association (November 2017) “The Facts About High Blood Pressure.”

    American Heart Association News (November 13, 2017) “Nearly half of U.S. adults could now be classified with high blood pressure, under new definitions.”

    Centers for Disease Control (March 17, 2017) “Fast Stats: Leading Causes of Death.”

    HealthDay (April 7, 2018) “Exercise for High Blood Pressure? Most Not Keen on Idea.”

    Mayo Clinic (May 30, 2015) “10 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure Without Medication.”

     


  • Could probiotics improve gut health?

    yogurt, probiotics, fermented, gut health, fruit, fiberDo you get cramps in your side after eating certain foods? Do you feel bloated, gassy, or suffer from constipation?  If so, then you may have an imbalance in your gut bacteria.  Probiotics may be able to help you improve your digestive health.

    What are probiotics?

    Probiotics are live bacteria strains found in fermented foods or in supplement form. They help to balance levels of good as well as bad bacteria in the gut.  Examples of fermented foods and drinks include:

    • yogurt (fermented milk)
    • sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
    • kefir (fermented cow’s milk normally consumed as a beverage)
    • kombucha (fermented black or green tea)
    • miso (paste made from fermented soybeans)
    • tempeh (fermented soybeans)

    A diverse ecosystem of bacteria in the gut may reduce inflammation in the body. In fact, animal studies show that probiotics could lower levels of inflammation in the body related to such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.  However, you should take probiotics on a regular basis for the most health benefit.

    If taken in a supplement form, try to get a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria since each strain provides different benefits.  Also, those found in a refrigerated form, such as those found in health food stores, may provide a more potent formula. For example, there is a quality probiotic called Biovia 30X made by Vita Sciences. Biovia 30X  contains 30 billion colony forming units (CFUs) in 10 different strains of probiotics.

    Other ways to improve gut health

    Besides probiotics, there are other ways you can help improve your digestive health with just a few tweaks in your healthy lifestyle.

    • Avoid foods that can cause inflammation. Examples of foods to limit in your diet include red meat, high-fat dairy, fried foods, and foods high in additives.  Also, processed foods such as sausage and candy that contain advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs should be limited since they can reduce the number of healthy bacteria in the gut.
    • Eat more fiber since it helps to feed the healthy bacteria. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as oats, quinoa, brown and wild rice, and bran, to name a few.
    • Live a balanced lifestyle.  Getting enough sleep, staying active, and staying hydrated is important to keep your gut happy.  Most adults should get about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to help regulate a healthy blood pressure and healthy blood glucose levels.  Also, exercise at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week. This is because studies show that exercise can help enrich the growth of a diverse population of bacteria in the gut. Finally, when you add in more fiber to your diet, drinking enough water each day is important to lower risk of constipation. Aim for about half of your body weight in ounces. If you are 200 pounds, then this means you should drink about 100 ounces, or 12.5 cups of unsweetened fluid each day.
    • Manage stress.  Meditation, yoga, relaxation breathing, talking to a counselor, or just finding time each day to relax and do something you enjoy can help lower stress.  It is important to manage stress not just to sleep better, but for gut health as well.  For example, studies have shown a potential link between the brain and gut health. For example, if you get stressed or depressed, studies show that this could trigger gut health issues.

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

    Sources:

    Harvard Health Publishing- Harvard Medical School (October 2016) “Can gut bacteria improve your health?”

    Harvard Health Publishing- Harvard Medical School (accessed April 3, 2018) “The gut-brain connection.”

    Monda, V., Villano, I., Messina, A., Valenzano, A., Esposito, T., Moscatelli, F., … Messina, G. (2017). Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity2017, 3831972. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3831972

    Mayo Clinic (August 20, 2016) “How much should the average adult exercise each day?”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed April 2, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

    NIH News in Health (May 2017) “Keeping Your Gut in Check: Healthy Options to Stay on Tract.”

    Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (accessed April 3, 2018) “Healthy Gut: Prebiotics and Probiotics.”