Category Archives: Health News

Could eating processed foods increase risk of death?

processed, processed foods, ultraprocessed, unhealthy, canned, packaged, convenienceIf you read just about any healthy eating plan, you may see the phrase “eat less processed foods.” This can seem like a difficult task since many foods in the grocery store aisles seem to contain long lists of ingredients. Therefore, it can be hard to figure out what to eat for optimal health while still staying within your food budget. However, recent research shows that eating too many ultraprocessed foods can increase risk of death. Let’s learn a  bit about these foods and how you can clean up your diet.

What are ultra processed foods?

Ultra processed foods are those processed foods that are mass produced, packaged foods. They often contain ingredients such as flavoring agents, colors, emulsifiers, humectants, non-sugar sweeteners, and other cosmetic additives. These compounds are used to imitate natural flavors. Examples of ultra processed foods include:

  • packaged breads and buns
  • sweet or savory packaged snacks
  • prepackaged candies and desserts
  • sodas and sweetened drinks
  • pre-made meat products that are packaged such as meat balls, poultry, and fish nuggets
  • instant noodles and soups
  • frozen or shelf stable ready meals

These foods are different from other processed food products like canned vegetables and preserved meat products that only contain added salt. This salt merely helps to preserve the food product. Other foods in this group include cheeses and freshly made un-packaged breads.

On the other hand, minimally processed to unprocessed foods include fresh, dried, ground, chilled, frozen, pasteurized, or fermented staple foods. Such foods may include packaged fresh fruits, vegetables, rice, pasta, eggs, meat, fish, or milk products such as milk or yogurt.

Ultra processed foods and health research

Research is showing a lot of health risks from consuming too many ultra processed foods (UPF). One study shows that those who consumed more UPF had higher body mass index (BMI) and waist cicrcumference than those who didn’t eat such foods.  Another study shows that those who consumed more UPF had overall poor diet quality compared to those who ate less of these foods.

A recent study also found that increased intake of UPF increased a person’s risk of death. This was a seven-year long study that looked at food intake data from over 40000 people. Study results show that intake of UPF was linked with a mean age of 45 to 64 years old, living alone, lower physical activity level, and higher body mass index, among other demographics.  Therefore, researchers will need to conduct more studies to figure out the mechanisms which these UPF directly affect health.

How to clean up your diet

It can be hard to eat less ultra processed foods and stay healthy. Or so you may think. Here are some tips on how to eat a healthier diet while not breaking the bank.

  • Buy in bulk. Although it may just be you or a few of you in your home, buying in bulk can save money. Choose family packs of meats to save money on these protein-rich food products. Separate the bulk pack into smaller servings in freezer bags and put in the freezer for later use. This way you can have a few meals from one bulk pack.
  • Buy manager’s special or discontinued items. Find out what day your grocery store puts out manager’s special items. This items in the meat, produce, and dairy sections will likely have brightly colored stickers on them with reduced prices to help sell items that may be a week away from being past their sell-by date. These foods are perfectly safe food items. However, you will just need to use them in your meals and snacks soon after purchasing.
  • Stock up on frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables without added sauces, batters, or butter can be healthy and cheap ways to eat your veggies. Buy in bulk to save even more money. These vegetables are typically flash frozen, so they retain many nutrients from their fresh form and will produce less waste since they are good in the freezer for eight to ten months.
  • Do a  little prep work. Some low-cost healthy food items like fresh carrots, potatoes, celery, and salad greens may require some prep work. Rinsing, drying, and chopping such produce may be necessary to make them ready to eat. However, they are much cheaper than already washed and chopped veggies.
  • Eat out less. Eating out and ordering takeout may be convenient, but the cost can add up fast. Not to mention that such foods are high in sodium, unhealthy fats, and preservatives. Therefore, try to limit eating out to a treat once a week to help improve your health and save money.
  • Take a multivitamin to fill in the gaps. If you feel like your current diet is not meeting your nutrition needs, then a multivitamin may be in order. Although it’s best to consume your nutrients from food, a supplement can help if your healthy diet still has a few gaps. The multivitamin Zestia from Vita Sciences fills your nutrient gaps and then some. Zestia contains a comprehensive vitamin and mineral profile as well as a superfood complex and probiotics to enhance gut health.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

Fiolet, T., et al. (2018). “Consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer risk: results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.)360, k322.

Schnabel L, Kesse-Guyot E, Allès B, et al. (2019) “Association Between Ultraprocessed Food Consumption and Risk of Mortality Among Middle-aged Adults in France. “JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 11, 2019.

Silva, F.M., et al. “Consumption of ultra-processed food and obesity: cross sectional results from the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil) cohort (2008-2010).” Public Health Nutrition, 21(12): 2271-2279.

Vandevijvere, S., De Ridder, K., Fiolet, T., Bel. S., and Tafforeau, J. (December 2018) “Consumption of ultra-processed food products and diet quality among children, adolescents and adults in Belgium.” European Journal of Nutrition, doi: 10.1007/s00394-018-1870-3. 


  • Heart Health Month: How to protect yourself from heart attack

    heart, health, heart attack, heart diseaseYou may know that many people suffer from heart disease. However, you may not know that heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in the United States. Therefore, it’s important to know what puts you at risk for heart disease. This way you can work to prevent such risk factors and in turn lower your risk of heart disease. So, read below and find out how you can lower your risk of heart disease including reducing your risk of heart attack.

    Risk factors for heart attack 

    A heart attack can occur when blood flow to the heart is blocked for one reason or another. Blockages in the blood vessels are usually caused by fat or cholesterol that form plaques. These plaques are like roadblocks that prevent blood from flowing to the heart well enough to deliver oxygen to the heart and in turn other tissues in the body.

    It’s when a plaque breaks off from the vessel and forms a clot that you can have a heart attack. This is because the clot stops blood flow in a vessel. Without blood flowing to the heart, this can cause muscle damage in the heart.  That is why it’s so important to try and prevent risk factors of a heart attack to prevent this from happening. Here are some of the major risk factors that you can work on preventing today.

    • High blood pressure: High blood pressure, or hypertension, can damage blood vessels over time, and in turn put you at higher risk for heart disease.
    • High blood cholesterol and blood fats: High blood fats, also know as triglycerides, as well as high cholesterol can narrow arteries and increase risk of heart disease.
    • Diabetes: Those with diabetes are have an increased risk of blood glucose levels rising. In turn, this puts them at higher risk for heart disease than those who do not have diabetes.
    • Obesity: Since those who are obese are at higher risk for high blood fats, cholesterol, and diabetes, then they are in turn at higher risk for heart disease.
    • Family history of heart attack: If your sibling, parent, or grandparent has had a heart attack by the age of 55 years of age for men and 65 years of age for women, then you may be at increased risk yourself.
    • Illicit drug use: Stimulant drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine can cause coronary artery spasms that can trigger a heart attack.
    • An autoimmune condition: Those with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus are at higher risk for heart disease than those without such conditions.
    • Lack of physical activity: Exercise, in particular cardio exercise like walking, running, or biking, can help to strengthen the heart. If you don’t exercise much, then your heart may weaken over time.  Even if you can’t do a whole lot at once, start with a few minutes of walking here and there. Over time, try to work up to a total of thirty minutes most days of the week can be great for your heart health.
    • Stress: When you’re stressed, this can increase your blood pressure. When you have increased blood pressure, it can cause damage to your blood vessels. Over time this can put you at increased risk for heart attack. However, it’s important to know that high blood pressure is not an accurate predictor for having a heart attack.

    Warning signs of a heart attack 

    If you notice any of the following signs of heart attack, be sure to call 911 right away. Notice that some signs and symptoms of women can be different from the common signs. Therefore, it’s important not to ignore any symptoms in which you just don’t feel right since they may be signs of a heart attack or other health condition taking place.

    • chest pain or discomfort
    • upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach (women may be more likely to experience back or jaw pain in lieu of chest pain)
    • shortness of breath (women are more likely to experience this symptom than men)
    • nausea and/or vomiting (women are more likely to experience this symptom than men)
    • lightheadedness
    • cold sweats
    • upper back pressure

    How to prevent a heart attack 

    You may not be able to prevent all heart attacks. However, there are some steps you can take today to lower your risk.

    • Know your numbers: Visit the doctor at least once a year to check your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood fats, so you can assess your risk of heart disease. When you know your numbers, you can take steps to prevent or treat a chronic condition.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start: Smoking can narrow the arteries, increase blood pressure, and damage blood vessels over time. Therefore, if you smoke, visit smokefree.gov for resources to help you quit and in turn lower your heart disease risk.
    • Start moving: Exercise more to help strengthen your heart and to manage your weight. Both of these benefits can help lower heart disease risk.
    • Add a heart healthy supplement to your routine: If you are having trouble lowering your cholesterol, then try a heart healthy supplement like Alestra by Vita Sciences. With ingredients like niacin and plant sterols, this vegan supplement helps promote healthy cholesterol levels and overall heart health.
    • Change your diet: Along with any changes you make in your lifestyle to prevent heart disease, you should definitely look at your diet. Make sure you are eating enough antioxidant and fiber rich fruits and vegetables. These foods can help improve gut health, reduce inflammation in the body, and provide nutrient-dense, low calorie foods in your diet that can help to manage weight. The Mediterranean diet in particular has been shown to help reduce heart disease risk and prolong life.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Heart Association (last reviewed on July 31, 2015) “Heart Attack Symptoms in Women.”

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last reviewed November 28, 2017) “Heart disease facts.” https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

    Mayo Clinic (May 30, 2018) “Heart Attack.”

    NIH News in Health (February 2019) “”Control Your Cholesterol: Protect Yourself From Heart Attack and Stroke.” https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2019/02/control-your-cholesterol


  • Move more to fight depression …and diabetes

    depression. mental health, happy, mood, healthWhen most people start an exercise program, they may be trying to do one of a few things. Most people move more to lose weight, some exercise to gain muscle, and some just want to tone up. However, the benefit from exercise that most may not think of is improved mood. A recent study shows that moving more each day may have prevent depressive symptoms. Not to mention, that research also shows that preventing or improving such symptoms can help improve health outcomes in those with diabetes.

    What is depression?

    Depression is a mood disorder that can greatly impact daily life. It can make daily activities seem impossible by impacting the way you feel, think, sleep, eat, and work. There are various forms of depression such as persistent depressive disorder, which involves symptoms lasting two years or more.

    On the other hand, there are forms of depression that occur as a result of certain environmental changes such as in climate like with seasonal affective disorder, or after pregnancy like with postpartum depression. Some people with depression may also experience other serious mood symptoms like with bipolar disorder or psychotic depression.

    No matter what type of depression a person may have, they all share certain serious symptoms for more than two weeks at a time that may include:

    • persistent “empty” mood or sad feelings
    • irritability
    • hopelessness
    • loss of interest in hobbies or daily activities
    • decreased energy or fatigue
    • restlessness
    • moving or talking more slowly
    • difficulty concentrating
    • trouble sleeping or eating
    • digestive problems or headaches without a medical cause
    • thoughts of death or suicide

    Not everyone with depression experiences every symptom. However, if you have a few of these symptoms and you feel that daily life has become hard to handle, then it may be time to reach out to a healthcare professional for help.

    Antidepressant medications and psychotherapy, like talk therapy are typical primary treatments for depression. However, if these treatments alone are not helping all of your symptoms, then there are some other things you can try. Experts suggest asking for help from a trusted friend, family member, or counselor as well as taking steps to take part in your community for social support.

    Another treatment option is to join a study through the National Institutes of Health where new treatments will be tested. If you need help now, then reach out to someone today for advice through one of the resources found on this website. Exercise can also be something you can do now to help improve your depressive symptoms.

    Exercise and depression research 

    The American Heart Association suggests that most adults exercise at least 150 minutes a week. This means that for most days of the week, you should move at least thirty minutes a day. This doesn’t have to be all at once, but can be a few minutes at a time. And this exercise should be at a moderate pace. Therefore, if you walk briskly for a few minutes here and there for a total of thirty minutes a day, then you can keep your heart strong. Not only that, but you can also keep your mind healthy too.

    A recent study shows that exercise may help improve depressive symptoms. This study looked at data from over 600000 adults. Study results show that there is a protective relationship between exercise and risk for major depressive disorder. And what makes this finding stronger is that this data was taken from actual measured movement, not self-reported exercise. Therefore, experts suggest that exercise could be an effective adjunct strategy to help treat and prevent depressive symptoms.

    Exercise and diabetes research

    If you exercise to help improve your depressive symptoms, you could also help improve your diabetes risk. Experts report that depressive symptoms correlate strongly with a risk of incident diabetes. A study of data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) looked at whether positive behavior could help lower risk of type 2 diabetes in postmenopausal women.

    The study looked at data from over 100000 women over 14 years. Study results show that those who were the most optimistic had a 12-percent lower risk of developing diabetes versus those in the lowest quartile of optimism. Also, those who showed more hostile and negative behaviors, were at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Therefore, prevention strategies to help target such negative mood and personality traits may help lower risk of type 2 diabetes in these persons.

    Take home message

    If you suffer from depression, then there are many steps you can take to help improve your quality of life. The first step is to ask for help.  I know this is not an easy ask, but there are many resources out there where people want to help you take back your life.

    And if you have diabetes, it may be worth it to be screened for depression to see if such strategies listed above may help you not only feel better in your mind, but also help improve your diabetes symptoms.

    Changes in diet such as consuming more antioxidant-rich foods and taking supplements such as Elevia by Vita Sciences may also help. Elevia contains GABA and 5-HTP to help calm your mind and boost serotonin levels. This could be another tool in your belt to help you improve your depressive symptoms and start feeling better inside and out.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Heart Association (last reviewed April 18, 2018) “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids.”

    Choi KW, Chen C, Stein MB, et al. (Published online January 23, 2019) “Assessment of Bidirectional Relationships Between Physical Activity and Depression Among AdultsA 2-Sample Mendelian Randomization Study.” JAMA Psychiatry, doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.4175

    National Institute of Mental Health (February 2018) “Depression.”

    Sandoiu, A. (January 27, 2019) “Diabetes: How optimism may influence your risk.” Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324297.php

     


  • Could fish oil lower your risk of stroke?

    fish oil. stroke, healthy fat, health, heart healthStroke continues to be one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States.  And even if a person survives a stroke, they may face permanent disability from a stroke. In turn, having a stroke could greatly impact a person’s quality of life. This is why it’s so important to keep learning more about how this disease can be prevented. A recent study shows that taking a fish oil supplement each day may help lower risk of stroke.

    What is stroke?

    Stroke is a form of vascular disease that affects the arteries to and within the brain.  A stroke occurs when these vessels become blocked by a clot or bursts. A stroke caused by a blockage is called an ischemic stroke. On the other hand, a stroke called by a ruptured vessel is called a hemorrhagic stroke.

    Since these arteries normally carry oxygen and blood to the brain, this blockage can be deadly. If the brain, or the control center of your body, doesn’t receive oxygen or nutrients, then brain cells can die. This in turn can wreak havoc all over your body.

    Depending on what area of the brain the stroke occurs, different complications can occur. A right brain stroke can cause paralysis on the left side of the body, vision problems, and memory loss. On the other hand, a stroke on the left side of the brain can cause paralysis on the right side of the body, speech problems, and memory loss.

    Either way, these complications can greatly affect quality of life. However, by taking care of your heart health, you can lower your risk of stroke.

    What is fish oil?

    Fish oil is a supplement that contains omega-3 fatty acids. Two of the primary long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements are DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, and EPA, or eicosapentaenoic acid.  These fatty acids are marine-based, hence fish oil supplements.

    The omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are well-known for their role in heart health. Study results show that fish oil works well as a supportive treatment, along with statins, to help lower heart disease risk. The average fish oil supplement provides about 1000 milligram of fish oils, containing about 180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA or more.

    An example of a high quality fish oil supplement is the formula developed by Vita Sciences. This fish oil by Vita Sciences contains 400mg of EPA and 300mg of DHA in a 1000 milligram fish oil supplement.

    Stroke and fish oil research

    A recent study analyzed data from about 55,000 people enrolled in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health study. They completed dietary surveys and had baseline adipose tissue analysis completed. Then, the individuals had follow-up assessments after 13.5 years to check for ischemic stroke status events, if any.

    Study results show that those with higher adipose tissue content of EPA showed a lower risk of total ischemic stroke.  Also, lower rates of large artery atherosclerosis were seen with higher intakes of total marine n-3 PUFA, EPA, and DHA.

    Other ways to reduce stroke risk

    Besides taking a fish oil supplement each day, here are some other ways you can lower your stroke risk.

    • Quit smoking if you already do. This is because smoking can constrict blood vessels. This, in turn, can raise blood pressure and increase risk of stroke.
    • Maintain heart health by keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range. You can do this by eating a diet rich in fiber and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Also, be sure to move more on a regular basis to keep your heart muscle strong and maintain a healthy weight.
    • Keep your blood glucose levels in a healthy range. This is because those with diabetes are at higher risk for heart health issues than those without diabetes.
    • Visit your doctor regularly. By having your labs done at least yearly (or more often if you have a chronic disease risk), you can track your progress. Early detection of heart health issues can help lower your risk of stroke.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Stroke Association (accessed January 23, 2019) “About Stroke.”

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last reviewed November 28, 2017) “Stroke.” https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/index.htm

    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (accessed January 23, 2019) “Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution.” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/

    Hughes, S. (January 17, 2019) “Fish Oil, Particularly EPA, Linked to Reduced Ischemic Stroke.” https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/907950

    National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (last updated November 21, 2018) “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”

    Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (last updated October 29, 2018) “Reduce Your Risk of Stroke.”


  • A team approach may help diabetes health and your relationships

    diabetes, heart health, team, marriage, relationship, health, exerciseDiabetes can be a difficult condition to tackle on your own. The diet changes, doctor’s appointments, blood glucose checks, and other lifestyle changes that come along with treatment can be overwhelming. Also, in some cases weight loss may be recommended as part of treatment which can be more stressful. Therefore, you may not know where to begin. And in turn, you may be afraid you’re going to fail and make your condition worse. However, a recent study shows that taking a team approach to diabetes treatment may lead to better health outcomes.

    What is diabetes?

    Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body either does not produce any or enough insulin, or your body is having trouble using the insulin it has. Insulin helps the body use glucose as energy. Therefore, when someone has the condition, the blood often contains more glucose than it should. This is because the insulin is either not present or not able to use the glucose for energy very well.

    There are two major types of the condition. Type 1, which is often diagnosed in children, involves an autoimmune reaction. This reaction stops the body from making insulin. Therefore, people who have this type have to take insulin injections every day to survive.

    On the other hand, type 2 can be diagnosed at any age, but is mostly seen in adults. This type occurs when the body can’t use insulin well. In turn, the glucose levels in the blood are difficult to control.

    Common treatment options

    Treatment options will depend on the type of diabetes you have. For those with type 1, you will need to take insulin every day in the form of an injection or through an insulin pump. However, for those with type 2, weight loss along with healthy eating and exercise is just as important as medication treatment. Furthermore, if someone has prediabetes, which is borderline type 2, these lifestyle changes can prevent a person from developing the full-blown condition.

    Other parts of type 2 treatments may include non-insulin medications. These medications help your blood glucose from becoming too high after you eat. Regardless of what type of diabetes you have, you will likely have to check your blood glucose levels often.

    This is because it will help you and your healthcare provider to keep track of your progress. It will also help your doctor figure out how much insulin or other medications you need to control your blood glucose levels. And for some people, they may have to check their blood glucose levels multiple times a day.

    Team approach to treatment

    Diabetes treatment involves a lot of different lifestyle changes that can be overwhelming for anyone. Therefore, a recent study looked at the impact of a team approach to treatment.

    Researchers looked at the effect of couples calls on health outcomes. The couples calls involved ten calls focusing on partner communication, collaboration, and support. Each couple had one partner with type 2 diabetes. This intervention was compared with those that received individual calls or diabetes education calls.

    Study results show that those who received couples calls had:

    • greater reductions in diabetes distress
    • higher increases in marital satisfaction (at four and eight months)
    • some improvements in diastolic blood pressure.

    Researchers found that “involved partners benefited emotionally” and also felt better about their relationship. This is because the challenges of the disease brought an opportunity for them to work together to deal with the challenges.

    Summary

    Diet, exercise, medications, and blood glucose testing are all necessary for optimal diabetes treatment. But it goes without saying that having a support system through your journey can be very helpful as well.  Also, you could benefit from a supplement like Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains ingredients like chromium, cinnamon, and alpha lipoic acid that can promote weight loss, improved metabolism, and healthier blood glucose levels.  Here’s to improved health this new year and for years to come.

    References:

    Centers for Disease Control (June 1, 2017) “About Diabetes.”

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (November 2016) “Insulin, Medicines, & Other Diabetes Treatments.”

    Physician’s Briefing (January 14, 2019) “Couples Intervention May Aid Partners of Diabetes Patients.”

     


  • Could a Mediterranean diet improve your brain health?

    heart, cardiovascular, brain, heart healthy, omega-3, vessel, cholesterol, diabetesYou can’t talk about a heart healthy lifestyle without at least referring to the Mediterranean diet. That’s because this Greek-style eating plan is full of heart healthy foods and other healthful tips. But did you know that this diet is also good for brain health? Recent research shows that certain nutrients found in the Mediterranean diet can help with brain health aging in older adults.

    What is the Mediterranean diet?

    The Mediterranean diet is a heart healthy diet based on healthy fats like olive oil. Along with olive oil, healthy fat-containing foods like fatty fish, avocado, olives, nuts, and seeds make up the largest portion of the diet. The omega-3 fatty acids in these foods can help lower blood fats, also known as triglycerides. In addition, these fats can also help improve blood pressure and blood vessel health.

    The majority of foods in this eating plan are plant-based. In other words, this means eating plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. These foods will also provide fiber and important nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. This also means switching to whole grains if you’re going to eat breads or pastas.  Also, it encourages consuming fiber and protein-rich plant foods like beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.

    Other eating guidelines of this diet include limiting whole-fat dairy products, red meat, processed foods, and foods high in sodium. This eating plan also encourages use of spices to flavor food instead of using table salt.  Finally, to maintain a balanced healthy lifestyle, this diet encourages exercise and eating meals with family and friends.

    Mediterranean diet and brain health

    A recent study looked at healthy, older adults and how a Greek-style diet affected brain health. MRI scans and cognitive function tests measured brain health. These tests were done throughout the study and two years after the study to assess the diet’s impact on brain health.

    The researchers focused on 32 nutrients found in this diet. These nutrients included folate, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and vitamin D. Also, the researchers looked at antioxidants found in the Greek-style diet like omega-3 fatty acids, lycopene, and carotenoids. Study results show that such nutrients, along with omega-6 fatty acids, were involved in biomarker patterns. Also, those people who ate foods with such nutrients had better results on cognitive function tests of general intelligence, memory, and executive functions like attentional and inhibition control.

    Take home message

    So, if the heart healthy benefits of this eating plan haven’t convinced you to go Greek-style in your eating, hopefully the brain health factors did. This is because this diet has shown time and again that it ranks on top for health benefits.  Therefore, take small steps towards such an eating plan. You can do this by starting to eat more vegetables one day. Then maybe trying new recipes that use olive oil to roast or stir-fry those vegetables. Finally, you can add in nuts and/or seeds as snacks for even more healthy fats and fiber.

    If you feel like a supplement would help you at first, then try an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. An example of a high quality omega-3 fatty acid is the fish oil supplement by Vita Sciences. This fish oil supplement contains a healthy balance of EPA and DhA, which are two important omega-3 fatty acids for brain health. Not to mention that this supplement is burpless and ensures optimal purity.

    Therefore, if you’re thinking about starting a healthy lifestyle this new year, consider the Greek-style diet. Not only will it help you work towards just about any health goal you have, but it will taste fresh and delicious in the process.

    References:

    Mayo Clinic (November 3, 2017) “Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan.”

    Paddock, Ph.D., C. (December 21, 2018) “Mediterranean diet nutrients tied with healthy brain aging.” Medical News Today.

    Romagnolo, D. F., & Selmin, O. I. (2017). “Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases.” Nutrition today52(5), 208-222.

    Zwilling, C.E., Talukdar, T., Zamroziewicz, M.K., and Barney, A.K. (March 2019) “Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and fMRI measures of network efficiency in the aging brain.” NeuroImage, Volume 188, 239-251.


  • Drinking less alcohol could help weight loss goals this new year

    holiday, drinking, alcohol, cocktail, beer, wine, health, weightWhen you think of celebrating the holidays, sweet treats, comfort foods, and holiday-flavored spirits may come to mind. Although it’s definitely ok to indulge a little during the holidays, too much of anything can sabotage your healthy lifestyle efforts. And with the new year rolling around soon, you should think ahead and make a plan. Because once this holiday season is over, the new year will surely bring about new celebrations with more food and drink temptations.  And recent research shows that by drinking less alcohol, you could increase your chances for weight loss success.

    What is a standard drink?

    You may hear health experts urge you to keep your drinking to so many standard drinks a week. When this term is used, a standard drink is equal to:

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

    So, when you order that tall beer at the bar and grill, keep in mind that 22 ounces is nearly equal to two standard drinks. And experts recommend that women should consume no more than 7 standard drinks a week.  Also, men should consume no more than 14 standard drinks per week. Any more than this is considered heavy drinking.

    Also, if you consume more than 4 standard drinks for women or 5 standard drinks for men in a two hour occasion, then you are binge drinking. So, if you feel like this describes your holiday or social events, then it may be time to visit you health care provider or call for resources in your area that can help you control or stop your drinking.

    Alcohol health effects

    Drinking too much in one night or over time can have serious health effects. Not only does alcohol impair mobility and speech in the short-term, but can also impact brain, heart, and liver health. Even short term, drinking too much can impair your immune system for up to 24 hours after becoming drunk. This puts you at higher risk for catching illnesses than others during this time. Also, long-term alcohol intake can lead to increased risk for inflammation of the pancreas and heart disease. Both of these conditions can place you at higher risk for hospitalization and serious illness.

    Alcohol and weight loss

    When it comes to weight loss, alcohol can stall your best efforts. First of all, alcoholic beverages contain unnecessary calories. No matter how low in carbs certain concoctions may be, you are still drinking your calories when consuming alcohol. Not to mention that alcohol can lower your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the food you eat and can slow your body’s fat burning abilities. The latter is because the liver is in charge of tasks like fat burning and removing toxins from the body. It considers alcohol a toxin.

    Therefore, when you drink, it has to stop fat-burning to focus on ridding of the alcohol toxins from your body. In turn, your body burns less fat while you drink. It takes about one hour for your body to break down one standard drink of alcohol.

    A recent study looked at alcohol and its impact on long-term weight loss in those with diabetes. Study results show that those who did not drink during the four year study lost more weight than those who drank any amount. Heavy drinkers had even worse long-term weight loss than others. Therefore, researchers suggest that patients with type 2 diabetes especially should not drink alcohol if they are trying to lose weight.  Needless to say, this study shows that anyone, regardless of health status, would benefit from drinking less alcohol.

    Other ways to be healthier in the new year

    Besides cutting down on drinking alcohol, there are also other ways you can be healthier this coming new year.

    • Sleep more: Most adults should sleep at least seven hours a night for optimal health.
    • Move more: Experts suggest that moving more each day, even in two minute spurts, for at least 150 minutes total each week, can benefit overall health.
    • Manage stress: Yoga, meditation, or just talking with a counselor can help you manage stress better and lower risk for emotional eating that can lead to weight management issues.
    • Eat more fruits and veggies: Antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies can provide inflammation-fighting compounds that can help lower your risk of diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Not to mention that the fiber from such foods is vital to gut health.
    • Take a supplement: If you don’t feel you are getting enough nutrients in your diet, then take a supplement like Zestia by Vita Sciences. Zestia not only contains whole food vitamin and mineral sources, but also digestive enzymes and probiotics for digestive health.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    1. Bertoia, M. L., et al. (2015). “Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies.” PLoS medicine12(9), e1001878. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001878
    2. Centers for Disease Control (last reviewed March 29, 2018) “Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions.” https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm#heavyDrinking
    3. National Health Service (last reviewed July 26, 2018) “How long does alcohol stay in your blood?” https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-blood/
    4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (accessed December 18, 2018) “Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.” https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body
    5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (accessed December 18, 2018) “What Is a Standard Drink?” https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/what-standard-drink
    6. ScienceDaily (December 3, 2018) “Alcohol intake may be key to long-term weight loss for people with Diabetes.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181203115449.htm
    7. Sinha, R., & Jastreboff, A. M. (2013). “Stress as a common risk factor for obesity and addiction.” Biological psychiatry73(9), 827-35.
    8. Traversy, G., & Chaput, J. P. (2015). “Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update.” Current obesity reports4(1), 122-30.
    9. Watson, N. F., Badr, M. S., Belenky, G., Bliwise, D. L., Buxton, O. M., Buysse, D., Dinges, D. F., Gangwisch, J., Grandner, M. A., Kushida, C., Malhotra, R. K., Martin, J. L., Patel, S. R., Quan, S. F., … Tasali, E. (2015). “Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society.” Sleep38(6), 843-4. doi:10.5665/sleep.4716

     


  • Do you have good metabolism? If not, try this

    metabolism, health, weightNow if you’ve ever tried to lose weight, which many of us have, then I’m sure you’ve heard the term metabolism. Usually you are told you either have “good” or “bad” metabolism. The only thing you may be sure of is that if you have a “bad” one then it will be harder for you to lose weight. But have you ever wondered what exactly this term means? If so, read below for some background on metabolism and a surprising look into how many of us have metabolic issues and what to do about it.

    What is metabolism?

    Metabolism is simply the way your body breaks down foods and uses them for energy. As you grow older, your metabolic rate naturally slows down. Not only that, but natural aging also leads to reduced levels of lean muscle mass. In turn, this will cause a further drop in your metabolic rate.

    Metabolic health and inflammation

    Besides aging, research is starting to see a possible connection between inflammation and metabolic health.  Evidence shows that regulators of the immune system and metabolic interactions include genetics and gut health. Inflammation and metabolic signals may also be closely related. Therefore, further research is warranted to see if an anti-inflammatory approach may be effective in treatment of insulin resistance and other metabolic-related health issues.

    What is good metabolic health?

    Having a “good” metabolic health means that you have healthy levels of the following five measures without the help of medication.

    • Fasting blood glucose: should be at or below 100 mg/dL
    • Triglycerides: should be at or below 150 mg/dL
    • High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol: should be at or above 40 mg/dL for men or 50 mg/dL and above for women
    • Blood pressure: should be at or under 120 mm Hg systolic pressure over 80 mm Hg diastolic pressure
    • Waist circumference: should be less than 35 inches for women and less than 40 inches for men

    Any of these measures above the healthy ranges would indicate a less than optimal metabolic health. This in turn could put your at risk for conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

    The metabolic state of the union

    A recent report looks at the latest results of the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The report looked at data from between 2009 and 2016 of about 8700 adults. This study is used often to look at data trends that represent the average U.S. population.

    Current data results reveal that only about 12-percent of the U.S. population has “good” metabolic health. Factors linked with “good” metabolic health include being physically active, younger, and a non-smoker, among other things. Obesity was a leading factor of “poor” metabolic health, with less than 1-percent of those who are obese being considered of “good” metabolic health.

    How can I improve my metabolic health?

    By looking at what increases risk of metabolic health issues, then you can see what lifestyle changes can help. Here is a list of some healthy lifestyle behavior changes you can make to help improve your metabolic health.

    • Exercise often: Stay active as much as possible with both cardio and strength training. This will help you to maintain muscle mass and heart health.
    • Eat a healthy, balanced diet: Try to consume a heart healthy diet full of antioxidant and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables as well as lean proteins and plenty of water. Be sure to portion out food into appropriate servings throughout the day to prevent eating too many calories daily. Also, limit processed food intake such as packaged snacks, meals, and sugary drinks and snacks. This will also help to lower your total calorie and sugar intake that can impact metabolic health.
    • Manage your weight: Diet and exercise, along with sleeping at least seven hours a night and managing stress can help manage your weight. Since obesity is a risk factor for poor metabolic health, managing weight can improve your metabolic health.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start: Since being a non-smoker is a marker for “good” metabolic health, then quitting smoking if yo smoke would help improve your metabolic health.
    • Take supplements when necessary: If you have any nutrient deficiencies, then this could impact your energy or ability to be at your best. Therefore, in some cases, a supplement such as Glucarex by Vita Sciences may be helpful. Glucarex contains natural ingredients like chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon to help naturally support weight loss as well as healthy metabolism and blood glucose levels.
    • Visit your healthcare provider often: If you visit your doctor at least once a year to check your lab numbers, then you can better track your progress. This can help yo to catch any unhealthy trends in lab values early before they cause any major health issues.

    References:

    1. NIH News in Health (July 2015) “Minding Your Metabolism.”
    2. Medline Plus (April 23, 2018) “Can you boost your metabolism?” https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000893.htm
    3. HealthDay (December 4, 2018) “Few Americans Have Optimal ‘Metabolic Health.'”
    4. Zmora, N., Bashiardes, S., Levy, M., and Elinav, E. (March 2017) “The Role of the Immune System in Metabolic Health and Disease.” Cell Metabolism, 25(3): 506-521.
    5. Johns Hopkins Medicine (accessed December 12, 2018) “Metabolic Syndrome.”

     

     


  • Can triglycerides affect your diabetes health?

    triglyceride, fat, cholesterol, diabetesKnowing your numbers is more important to your health than ever. And when I say numbers, I don’t mean your age or waist size. The numbers you should always be aware of are your lab numbers. These labs include cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and triglycerides. This is because these numbers help your doctor assess your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Also, a recent study shows that high triglycerides can make it hard for those with type 2 diabetes to control their blood glucose levels. Therefore, let’s talk about these blood fats and how you can keep them in control to improve your health.

    What are triglycerides?

    Triglycerides, also known as blood fats, are a marker for heart disease. High levels of blood fats are linked with heart disease, diabetes, and fatty liver disease. Research shows that independent of total cholesterol and other cholesterol lab values, blood fat values can predict heart disease risk. Therefore, you should do what you can to lower your blood fats. This can help you lower your risk of heart disease and related chronic conditions.

    Experts suggest that you should try to keep your blood fat levels below 150 mg/dL for optimal health. A high blood fat level is found if your lab values are 200 mg/dL or above.  It’s important to check your blood fats levels at least each year so you can stay on top of staying heart healthy.

    Triglycerides and type 2 diabetes

    Not only can blood fats increase risk of heart disease, but they can also increase risk of diabetes-related health issues.  A recent study looked at a large group of people with type 2 diabetes and the impact of blood fats on blood glucose control. Study results show that high blood fat levels were linked with high HgA1C levels. Therefore, this finding suggests that high blood fat levels could work as a marker for poor blood glucose control. So, it’s important for everyone to work on keeping blood fats in normal range. And it’s especially important for those with type 2 diabetes to do so.

    How to keep blood fats in a healthy range

    Prevention is the best medicine. Therefore, let’s talk about ways you can keep your blood fats in a healthy range. This way you can lower your risk of not only heart disease, but also other health issues if you have diabetes.

    • Lower your saturated fat intake: Although fats from whole fat dairy sources and red meats are not all bad for you, they can impact blood fats. Therefore, try to limit your intake of such foods to a few times a week. Also, try to focus mostly on healthier fat options for most meals.
    • Eat more healthy fats: Eating more healthy fats like those from plant-based food sources can be good for blood fat health. Healthy fats come from foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon and trout that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These types of fatty acids help keep inflammation at bay and in turn lower chronic disease risk.
    • Consume plenty of fiber: You may know that fruits and vegetables are good for you. However, the reason for this recommendation may not be clear. The fiber from such foods as well as the fiber from whole grains like oats, quinoa, and whole-wheat are good for your heart. Not only that, but these foods also help lower inflammation and in turn chronic disease risk in the body.
    • Limit alcohol intake: Not only is alcohol low in nutritional value, but it can also harm those at risk for high blood fats. Therefore, keep your alcohol intake to the recommended level. This level is one standard drink a day for women or two standard drinks maximum a day for men. One standard drink is equal to about 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
    • Stay active: It’s vital to stay active to lower chronic disease risk. Therefore, try to stay active with moderate exercise at least 30 minutes a day for about 5 days a week. Walking, dancing, water aerobics, and biking all count towards this. And you can break it up into smaller segments throughout the day. The total minutes per week is all that matters when it comes to your health.
    • Take medicines when necessary: If your blood fats are too high, you may have to take medicines to keep them lower. This medicine should be taken along with diet and exercise. If your blood fats are not too high, or are still in normal range, then you may control them without medicine. Therefore, diet and exercise may help keep your blood fats low in such cases. However, these same people may also benefit from a supplement like Alestra by Vita Sciences. Alestra helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels and promote heart health with natural compounds like plant sterols, niacin, and garlic.
    • Visit your doctor often: It’s important to visit your doctor at least once a year to have your labs checked. This will help you keep track of your numbers and stay on top of your health.

    References:

    American Heart Association (April 15, 2011) “Triglycerides: Frequently Asked Questions.” http://my.americanheart.org/idc/groups/ahamah-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_425988.pdf

    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (accessed December 4, 2018) “What Is A Standard Drink?” https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/what-standard-drink

    Nelson, BSN, RN, R. (November 30, 2018) “Elevated Triglyceride Levels Affect Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetes.” https://www.endocrinologyadvisor.com/type-2-diabetes/hypertriglyceridemia-associated-with-high-hba1c-t2d/article/817360/

    Toth P. P. (2016). “Triglyceride-rich lipoproteins as a causal factor for cardiovascular disease.” Vascular health and risk management12, 171-83. doi:10.2147/VHRM.S104369

    University of Rochester Medical Center (accessed December 4, 2018) “The Truth About Triglycerides.” https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=56&contentid=2967

     

     

     

     


  • Every step of exercise counts towards brain and heart health

    exercise, health, heart, step, pedometerExercise is an important part of any healthy lifestyle. Along with healthy eating, managing stress, and sleeping enough, exercise is vital for heart health. However, starting an exercise program can be hard.

    You may think you have to start going to the gym every day and take intense classes each week to see results. The truth is though that you can reap the benefits of exercise with every step. Switch your focus from trying to fit in long bouts of activity each day. Instead, just try to focus on moving more through the day. This is because research shows that even just two minutes of activity at a time can help heart and brain health.

    How much exercise do I need?

    For most adults, 30 minutes of moderate exercise is recommended each day for most days  of the week. This moderate exercise can include brisk walking, water aerobics, or dancing, to name a few. During moderate exercise, your heart will beat faster and it will be harder to breathe. However, with moderate intensity you should still be able to talk.

    A recent report released by the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans showed that any amount of activity can improve health.  Older guidelines stated that a person had to exercise for at least ten minutes or longer for it to count towards daily exercise. However, research now shows that any decrease in sedentary behavior can help.

    This is because being inactive causes about 10-percent of premature death in the United States. Therefore, any single bout of exercise, even just a few minutes, can improve sleep, blood pressure, and sharpen the mind. The weekly recommended amount of exercise of 150 minutes remains the same. However, this total can come from any small bout of activity during your day.

    How can exercise help brain health?

    The heart health benefits of exercise are widely known. First of all, it helps lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Secondly, it has shown to improve sleep, lower risk of obesity, and improve mental health. However, what may be lesser known is the impact of exercise on brain health.

    When it comes to brain health, exercise has found to have several benefits. First of all, being active can help improve mental health factors like anxiety and depression. Also, being active can improve brain function in those with dementia or multiple sclerosis. Finally, keeping your body active can help just about anyone improve memory, attention, and processing speed.

    How can I add exercise in my day?

    You don’t have to have a membership to a gym to stay active. In fact, just a comfortable pair of walking shoes and a little motivation can help you meet your exercise goals. Here are some tips you can use to add more activity in your day.

    • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Although this may not be ideal for those with joint issues, some may benefit from taking the stairs to grab a few more steps in during the day.
    • Park a bit further out from your destination. When you are going to the store or market, park a little but further out so you can have a few extra exercise minutes during your daily routine. During this same trip, you could also walk a few extra laps of the store or market to collect even more exercise minutes.
    • Take a walk after dinner with your family, dog, or friends. Not only will this help your food digest a little better, but you can collect some exercise minutes at the end of your day.
    • Walk during commercials. If the only down time you find during your day is at night, then use your TV time to stay active. During commercial breaks, no matter how short, use this time to walk around the house or walk in place. This will help you collect your exercise minutes before you go to bed.

    If you find that joint pain is getting in the way of your exercise goals, try a supplement like turmeric. Turmeric, like that from Vita Sciences, helps to reduce inflammation in the body which can help support a healthy heart and joints. This formula contains 95% curcuminoids as well as bioperine black pepper extract to help improve the bioavailability of curcumin.

    References:

     American Heart Association (April 18, 2018) “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids.” https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults

    Thompson, D. (November 12, 2018) “Even a 2-Minute Walk Counts in New Physical Activity Guidelines.” https://consumer.healthday.com/fitness-information-14/misc-health-news-265/even-a-2-minute-walk-counts-in-new-physical-activity-guidelines-739584.html