Category Archives: fiber

Could Probiotics Improve Health Outcomes After Injury?

probiotic, fermented food, yogurt, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, gut health, digestion

Fermented foods can provide natural sources of good bacteria.

From hearing your stomach grumble when it’s hungry to the gurgling sounds of indigestion, the gut reminds us everyday of its important presence in our health. Gut bacteria are vital to keeping balance in the body. Also, gut bacteria make sure that any food consumed is being used for energy.  However, recent research has shown that gut bacteria may also be crucial for positive health outcomes after injury.

What is gut bacteria?

Gut bacteria is part of a community of microorganisms such as fungi and viruses that live in the gut microbiome. Also, gut bacteria get along well with the cells of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and are not known for causing disease. Functions of gut bacteria include:

  • breaking down nutrients to be used for energy
  • protecting the body from toxic invaders
  • breaking down and eliminating drugs from the body

Imbalances of gut bacteria in the body can lead to conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  Also, gut bacteria live in harmony with the immune system and work together to keep the body safe from “bad” bacteria. However, an imbalance in “good” versus “bad” bacteria in the gut could have an impact on immune system function.

Gut bacteria and Injury

A study of 12 critically injured adults in the journal Trauma Surgery & Acute Care Open looked at the status of gut bacteria health over time. Stool samples were taken 24 hours and 72 hours after admission to the hospital.  After 72 hours, three types of bacteria had been depleted in the injured group, while two types of bacteria had risen.  More studies need to be done to explore this finding more. However, the researchers suggest that gut bacteria structure could affect patient outcomes after traumatic injury.  Furthermore, probiotics may be one future treatment to help improve patient outcomes in these cases.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics, which means “for life,” are live microorganisms meant to have positive health benefits.  You may see on store shelves many probiotic medicines containing bacteria from the groups Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.  However, since each strain of bacteria benefits a different function in the gut, the more types of strains in a probiotic, the potentially greater health impact. Probiotics may be helpful in preventing diarrhea caused by infections and antibiotics as well as in treatment of those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Basic functions of probiotics may include:

  • maintaining a diverse community of microorganisms
  • maintain a protective barrier for the gut to keep out pathogens
  • recover balance after infection, antibiotic treatment, or other disturbances
  • Stop growth of and fight off unwanted microorganisms
  • Nourish and strengthen the immune system

Biovia30 by VitaSciences provides 30 million colony forming units per dose of diverse strains to help restore balance in the gut and promote immune system strength. Furthermore,  Biovia30 contains various strains of Bacillus, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium to help you build up “good” bacteria stores and keep “bad” bacteria out.

Other ways to protect the gut

  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and other fiber-rich foods to help promote diversity of gut bacteria.
  • Stop smoking or don’t start since smoking can negatively affect gut bacteria and the immune system. Not only does smoking constrict blood vessels, but it also causes inflammation in the body which can cause cell damage.
  • Find healthy ways to manage stress such as yoga, meditation, or exercise since stress can alter gut bacteria populations. Stress is one of the contributing factors of IBS.
  • Lower saturated fat intake to help lower numbers of inflammatory microbes in the gut.
  • Consume phytonutrients such as polyphenols and tannins found in colorful berries, beans, nuts, seeds, and teas. These compounds can nourish microbes in the digestive tract.

Probiotics shown great promise for helping to treat various health conditions. However, potential benefits of probiotics must be confirmed by further research. Please contact your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.

Sources:

Conlon, M. A., & Bird, A. R. (2015). The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health. Nutrients, 7(1), 17–44. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu7010017

Jandhyala, S. M., Talukdar, R., Subramanyam, C., Vuyyuru, H., Sasikala, M., & Reddy, D. N. (2015). Role of the normal gut microbiota. World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG, 21(29), 8787–8803. http://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v21.i29.8787

Medline Plus (October 26, 2017) “Gut Bacteria May Change Rapidly After Severe Injury.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (October 2016) “Probiotics: In Depth”

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Could Excess Weight Shorten Your Life?

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

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

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

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

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

Other Ways to Add Years to Your Life

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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Poor Heart Health Can Increase Stroke and Dementia Risk

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

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

What are the Life’s Simple 7?

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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Can Skipping Breakfast Impact Your Health?

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

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

What is a healthy breakfast?

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

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

Recent research

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

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

Filling in the Nutrient Gaps

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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Could You Be at Risk for Diabetes?

Could you be one of the nearly 30-percent of people with diabetes that are not diagnosed? Symptoms may not always be present if you are at risk for diabetes.  A diabetes, prediabetes, blood glucoserecent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that over 100 million people in the United States have diabetes or prediabetes.

Know Your Number

Your hemoglobin A1C level, or HgA1C, measures your diabetes risk. You may have never heard about it if it has been in normal range so far.  However, this number is one that can slowly creep up over time, so it is important to track.

So what does this test mean? Your HgA1C is your average blood glucose level from over the past three months.  A healthy HgA1C level is 5.6% or less, whereas 5.7% to 6.4% means that you have prediabetes.  If you have a HgA1C over 6.5%, you may have diabetes.

Recent Stats

A recent report states that nearly one in four people do not know they have diabetes. Just as alarming, over 80-percent of people who have prediabetes do not know that they have it. Untreated prediabetes can lead to diabetes within five years. Also, diabetes can lead to later problems with heart health, vision, and nerve function. Therefore, you should take steps to try and prevent this disease.

Small Steps for Health

Losing just 7-percent of your body weight can help lower your risk of diabetes by nearly two-thirds. Other ways to lower your risk include:

  • Staying active at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week. This does not mean you have to go to boot camp or run. Walking, gardening, swimming, and climbing stairs can be great ways to stay active.
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet. A balance of lean protein and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables is important for overall health.  On the same note, you should eat mostly whole, fresh foods. Also, you should limit intake of high-sodium, high-sugar processed foods.
  • Visiting your doctor often to make sure your health is on track.  You should visit your doctor at least once a year no matter what your health status.  If you have a condition such as diabetes or heart disease, you should visit the doctor more often.
  • Keeping track of your numbers such as blood glucose, HgA1C, and blood pressure can help prevent or treat chronic disease. These numbers can be checked when you visit your doctor.
  • Taking supplements such as Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains vanadium and cinnamon.  Research shows that these compounds can support healthy blood glucose levels.

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

Sources:

American Diabetes Association (November 21, 2016) “Diagnosing Diabetes and Learning About Prediabetes” http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diagnosis/?loc=db-slabnav

CDiabetes (September 5, 2016) “Strategies for Balancing Blood Sugar Levels” http://cdiabetes.com/strategies-for-balancing-blood-sugar-levels/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (May 15, 2015) “2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report” https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/data/statistics/2014statisticsreport.html

Medline Plus (July 18, 2017) “More Than 100 Million Americans Have Diabetes or Prediabetes: CDC” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_167270.html

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Could Heartburn Meds Lessen Life Years?

It may be like second nature popping a heartburn medicine at the first sign of acid reflux. However, what may seem like a habit could be shaving years off of your life. A recent study has found that long-term use of heartburn medications could lessen life years.

Gastroesophageal reflux, or acid reflux, occurs when your stomach contents come back through your esophagus. Furthermore, heartburn occurs when acid from your stomach lining comes back through the esophagus. GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux, is when acid acid reflux, heartburn, GERDreflux occurs for twice a week for more than a few weeks. Uncontrolled GERD can lead to respiratory problems or conditions such as esophagitis, which is an inflammation of the esophagus.

A recent study in the British Medical Journal Open looked at the medical records of thousands of people who use proton pump inhibitors (PPI). PPI’s include such medications like Nexium, Prilosec, or Prevacid.  The study found that those who used the drugs for more than a year had a 51-percent increased risk of premature death as compared to those who did not take them.  Short-term use of 90 days or less did not reveal any health risk.

PPI’s work by blocking the system that produces stomach acid. In turn, long term use of such medicines can increase risk of kidney disease, heart disease, pneumonia, bone fractures and dementia. This is not to say that such medicines are not useful. PPI’s can aid people with acid reflux. However, use of this medicine should be supervised by a healthcare professional. In addition, use of such medicines should not be used longer than truly needed for treatment of acid reflux.

Here are some ways you can naturally lessen your risk of getting heartburn:

  • Eating smaller meals throughout the day versus larger meals. A lot of pressure can be placed on the stomach when eating a lot of food at one sitting. This can cause food particles to be pushed back up through the esophagus.  This can throw acid from the stomach into your esophagus, thus causing heartburn. Therefore, eat more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day to allow time for your body to fully digest your food, and to prevent any stomach acid from causing discomfort.
  • Wear looser clothes. Wearing tight fitting clothes can place pressure on your digestive system, which can increase risk of acid reflux.  Therefore, if last year’s jeans are feeling a bit snug, stop by the store to invest in a looser pair.
  • Exercise more often.  Staying active can help improve digestion and can also lead to better weight management, which both can assist in preventing acid reflux.  Therefore, find ways to get your steps in everyday. Walking, water aerobics, biking, or gardening are just a few ways to stay active. Every movement is one step closer to improved health.
  • Start taking a probiotic such as Biovia 30 by Vita Sciences. Biovia 30 contains a blend of probiotic strains that help to support improved digestive health. This particular probiotic helps to build good bacteria and rid of bad bacteria that may be wreaking havoc on your digestive system.

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

Sources:

Medline Health News (July 3, 2017) “Can Your Heartburn Meds Shorten Your Life?” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_167005.html

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (November 2014) “Symptoms and Causes of GER & GERD”

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Top Three Tips for Keeping your Heart Young

Heart disease risk increases as you age. Vessels can become more narrow and damaged, while the heart can become thickened and weak. However, a recent study has found that with a little hard work, keeping a young heart into your golden years is possible.

The American Heart Association states that “Life’s Simple 7” rules can help decrease heart heart, cardiovascular, vessel, cholesterol, diabetesdisease risk.  These rules include:

  • Keeping blood pressure normal
  • Maintaining low cholesterol levels
  • Keeping blood glucose levels down
  • Staying active
  • Eating healthy
  • Losing weight
  • Stopping smoking (or never starting if you don’t smoke)

A recent review of the Framingham Study found that those individuals who met six out of seven of “Life’s Simple 7” were ten times more likely to maintain healthy blood vessels into old age than those who met none of the goals. Also, out of the 3200 adults aged 50 years and older reviewed, those who maintained the healthiest vessels did the following three things:

  • maintained a healthy weight
  • did not develop diabetes
  • kept cholesterol levels within healthy levels

Furthermore, those individuals who had healthy blood vessels had more than a 50-percent lower risk of getting heart disease or stroke.  Subjects were thought to have healthy blood vessels if they had normal blood pressure and supple blood vessels as measured by pulse-wave velocity.

Nearly 20-percent of those who had healthy blood vessels were in the younger end of the group, while only 1-percent were 70 years of age or older. Therefore, it is easy to see that maintaining healthy blood vessels into older age is not easy, but not impossible.

Follow these tips to help keep young and healthy blood vessels for life:

  • Eat a low sodium and high fiber diet.  Consume mostly fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables for more fiber. In addition, reduce intake of processed foods such as deli meats, boxed goods, packaged snacks, and canned soups. Also, limit fried foods, whole fat dairy products, and fatty meats in your diet. Instead, replace such unhealthy fats with healthier fats such as plant-based oils, avocado, fatty fish such as salmon, nuts, and seeds.
  • Stay active for most days of the week. It is thought that moderate exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days a week can lower risk of getting heart disease or having a stroke. Moderate exercise does not mean boot camp or running. However, simply walking, dancing, gardening, or riding a bike can count as moderate exercise.
  • Take supplements such as Alestra by Vita Sciences. Alestra contains niacin, plant sterols, & garlic that has been found to support healthy cholesterol levels. Also, niacin and plant sterols are vegan-friendly for those who are following a plant-based diet.

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

Sources:

American Heart Association (February 2014) “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults” http://www.heart.org

Mayo Clinic (July 29, 2014) “Heart Disease: Risk Factors” http://www.mayoclinic.org

MedlinePlus (May 30, 2017) “Can a 70-Year-Old Have the Arteries of a 20-Year-Old?” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_166076.html

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