Category Archives: healthy fats

Less fried foods for lower heart disease and stroke risk

fried food, fried, unhealthy, heart attack, strokeAs you walk along the street during any summer carnival, it’s no doubt you’ll take in the sweet smell of cotton candy and the fragrance of fried foods like funnel cakes and fries. These fried foods can hold so many memories for many of us spending time with family and friends. Not to mention that such treats can taste delicious. However, recent studies show that the more you eat fried foods, the higher your heart disease and stroke risk.

Heart disease and stroke facts

Besides being one of the leading causes of death in the United States, diseases of the heart come in many forms. However, it’s cardiovascular disease or conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that are most dangerous. Such conditions include heart attack, angina (chest pain), or stroke.

Stroke is also in the top five leading causes of death in the United States and is also related to a vessel condition. It occurs when blood flow in the artery that supplies blood to the brain is blocked. Less commonly, a stroke can occur when this artery leaks or ruptures.

Fried foods and heart disease

Fried foods can taste good and can be purchased at a lower cost than healthier convenience food options. However, the long-term cost of eating such foods can be high. This is because eating such foods on a regular basis can place your heart health at risk.

Foods that are fried contain high amounts of saturated and sometimes trans fats. Research shows that when such fats in the diet are replaced with unsaturated fats, heart disease risk is reduced.

In fact, a recent study looked at the effect of fried food intake on heart disease and stroke risk. Study results show that those people who ate fried foods one to three times a week had a 7% higher risk of heart attack and stroke compared to those who ate fried foods less than once a week. Also, those people who ate fried foods daily had a 14% higher risk of such conditions.

Other ways you can lower heart disease and stroke risk 

Besides reducing fried food intake, there are other things you can do to lower your heart disease and stroke risk. Use the following tips to help your heart be at its healthiest.

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables: Consuming a colorful array of fruits and vegetables can help provide antioxidants to the body. Each color of the rainbow of produce contains different antioxidants that can provide varying health benefits to the body. Overall, having plenty of antioxidants in the diet can reduce inflammation in the body and lower risk of chronic diseases like heart disease.
  • Sleep enough each night: Research shows that poor sleeping patterns can increase risk of heart disease and stroke. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults sleep seven to nine hours each night. If you find you’re having trouble sleeping, it may be helpful to visit your doctor for treatment. They could recommend a sleep study to help identify any health issues that could be disturbing your sleep.
  • Manage stress: Too much stress can have an impact on your heart health. Therefore, be sure to manage your stress with some relaxation breathing, meditation, yoga, or talking to a counselor each week.
  • Visit your doctor regularly: It’s important to visit your doctor at least once a year to check your numbers. Your numbers include cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and body weight. These numbers can help identify any heart health risk factors you may have. The earlier you find such risk factors, the earlier you can receive treatment and prevent your risk of stroke.
  • Take supplements when necessary: If you are lacking certain vitamins or minerals in your diet, you may need a supplement such as a multivitamin or fish oil. Supplements could help your body receive the antioxidants you need to fight oxidative stress and lower chronic disease risk factors. One such supplement is Circova by Vita SciencesCircova contains ingredients like L-arginine, niacin, and hawthorne to help promote improved blood flow and blood pressure.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

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

Gordon, S. (July 11, 2019) “More evidence fried food ups heart disease, stroke risk.”

Houston, M. (February 2018) “The relationship of saturated fats and coronary heart disease: fa(c)t or fiction? A commentary.” Ther Adv Cardiovasc Dis., 12(2):33-37.

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

Mayo Clinic (March 22, 2018) “Heart Disease.”

Medline Plus (last reviewed December 26, 2017) “Antioxidants.”

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


  • June is Alzheimer’s Brain Awareness Month

    brain, health, alzheimer's, cognitiveWith so much focus on diet and exercise helping the heart, brain health may take a back seat in the wellness arena. However, the brain is the control center of the body, and in turn must not be neglected. During the month of June, it’s especially important to be aware of the brain disease known as Alzheimer’s. You may have heard of it before, but may not know what it entails. Let’s learn more about this disease and how you can be an advocate for this devastating brain health condition.

    Alzheimer’s basics

    Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive and irreversible brain health condition that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Although some memory loss may be a normal part of aging, the severity of symptoms in Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. More than 5 million people in the United States suffer from this type of dementia. And along with this number, there are countless other people, including loved ones and caregivers, that have to live everyday watching those they care about suffer from this disease.

    Causes of Alzheimer’s include plaques and tangles in the brain. These plaques form from abnormal deposits of protein in the brain. Also, the damage caused by these deposits typically start in the hippocampus and entorhinal complex of the brain. And its these parts of the brain that are vital in forming memories. Over time, more neurons die and other parts of the brain begin to shrink.

    It is not fully understood why certain people may be more at risk for this disease. However, it’s thought that less than 1-percent is from genetic changes, while for most people it is likely a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors.

    Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s 

    The early symptoms of this disease may be things as simple as forgetting recent events or conversations. These memory problems are one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. However, other red flags of the disease may include:

    • repeating statements over and over again
    • forgetting appointments and events and not remembering them later
    • frequently losing things
    • getting lost in familiar places
    • forgetting the names of family members and everyday objects
    • having trouble thinking of words to describe common objects or hold a simple conversation

    If you, your family member ,or someone you know exhibits any of these symptoms, it may be time to visit the doctor. This is because a complete physical exam, detailed neurological exam, and mental status exam can help diagnose Alzheimer’s or whatever other condition may be causing symptoms.

    Later symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

    In the later stages of the disease, you may start to see some of the following symptoms:

    • inability to learn new things
    • trouble with simple activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, and eating.
    • Hallucinations
    • Paranoia
    • Impulsive behavior

    Alzheimer’s research

    Recent research shows that there are currently not many treatments for AD. One medicine is a cholinesterase inhibitor. This medicine is for those with mild, moderate, or severe AD.  This medicine is also give to those with Parkinson’s dementia. Memantine is another medicine that is approved in use for those with moderate and severe AD who show difficulty in attention and alertness.

    Besides such treatments, research shows an independent link between vitamin D deficiency and AD. Therefore, those with symptoms should have their vitamin D levels tested for this vitamin.

    Another nutrition-related link with AD has to do with omega-3 fatty acids. This is because research shows the heart health of individuals correlates with brain health. In fact, recent reviews show that those who eat a heart healthy diet based on the Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of cognitive decline compared to those on other eating regimens.

    Future research

    Future research of Alzheimer’s has to do with targeting the plaques and tangles in the brain. However, researchers cannot yet seem to agree on what abnormality has the most impact on cognitive decline. That is why it’s important now to support research efforts that will help find more effective treatment for this terrifying condition.

    How you can support research

    Be sure to visit the Alzheimer’s Association website for more ideas on ways you can help support Alzheimer’s research. Also, hashtag #endalz in your social media posts this month to show your support in Alzheimer’s disease awareness.

    How you can keep your brain healthy

    As mentioned before, some research is showing that lifestyle changes like diet may help brain health. Read below for specific things you can do to help keep your brain healthy.

    • Exercise your brain with puzzles and word games: This is thought to keep building connections between nerve cells and may even help generate new brain cells.
    • Exercise your body: Walking, jogging, swimming, and dancing, to name a few can help keep your heart and brain strong. Not only can it help create new nerve cell connections, but can improve blood pressure and cholesterol that can also help brain health.
    • Improve your numbers: Help keep your blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure in healthy ranges by eating healthier. This means more plant-based foods in the diet like fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Healthy fats can include olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and olives, to name a few.
    • Avoid tobacco and limit alcohol: Smoking can constrict blood vessels and increase heart health risk, while excessive alcohol intake is a major risk factor for dementia. Therefore visit your healthcare provider or websites like SAMHSA.gov to help you quit smoking and abusing alcohol.
    • Reduce stress and increase social support:  Those with a lower risk of dementia also have strong social ties. Also, people who are anxious or with depression tend to score lower on cognitive function tests. Therefore, be sure to keep a support system around you of friends, neighbors, loved ones, and healthcare providers to keep your brain healthy.
    • Take a daily supplement:  Vitamin deficiencies like vitamin D are often seen in those with cognitive health issues. Also, omega-3 fatty acids may help improve brain health. Therefore, if you don’t eat enough healthy fats and vitamins in your diet it may be time to add a dietary supplement to your daily routine. The fish oil supplement produced by Vita Sciences can be a great addition to your healthy lifestyle routine.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (updated January 16, 2018) “12 ways to keep your brain young.”

    Kumar, A. and Tsao, J.W. (last updated December 18, 2018) “Alzheimer disease.” StatPearls

    Mayo Clinic (December 8, 2018) “Alzheimer’s disease.”

    National Institute on Aging (accessed June 12, 2019) “Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.”

    Weller, J and Budson, A. (July 2018) “Current understanding of Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and treatment.”  F1000Res., 7:F1000 Faculty Rev-1161.

     

     

     


  • Learn about your heart during High Blood Pressure Education Month

    heart, health, heart health, blood pressure, hypertensionThe National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has named May High Blood Pressure Education Month. And since heart disease is one of the leading killers of adults in the United States, it’s important that everyone learn how to care for their heart. Read below for information on blood pressure, how to reduce your risk for hypertension and heart disease, and how some supplements may help your heart.

    All about blood pressure

    Blood pressure is the measure of blood flow through your vessels. When you visit the doctor, your blood pressure reading may involve two numbers. The top number is called the systolic pressure. This number measures the pressure of blood against the artery walls in the body when the heart beats. Meanwhile, the bottom number is the diastolic pressure. This number measures the pressure of blood in the body between heart beats.

    According to the American Heart Association, a normal blood pressure reading is less than 120 mmHg over 80 mmHg. Blood pressure is considered elevated if it is higher than 120 mmHg over 80 mmHg.  If you have a consistent blood pressure of 140 mmHg over 90 mmHg, then your doctor may diagnose you with high blood pressure, or hypertension.

    Lower your heart health risk

    It’s important to lower your blood pressure to lower your heart health risk. This is because having hypertension can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. If you have hypertension, your doctor will likely give you medicine(s) to help lower it. However, it’s also important to make the following lifestyle changes to help lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.

    • Eating a heart healthy diet: Consuming plenty of fiber and antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables in your diet can help your heart. This is because antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in the body. And since heart disease is an inflammatory disease, you can lower heart disease risk by eating such anti-inflammatory foods. Be sure to balance your plate with some lean protein from chicken, fish, legumes, or low-fat dairy products as well.
    • Exercise: Moving more can not only help to manage your weight, but can lower and control your blood pressure.  You don’t need a boot camp workout each day to stay healthy. Just move as much as possible for a total of at least 30 minutes a day to help manage weight and keep your heart strong.
    • Manage your weight: Experts suggest that losing just 3 to 5-percent of your body weight can help lower your blood pressure readings.
    • Lower stress:  Learn to manage stress better to help control your blood pressure and improve overall quality of life. You can do this by talking to a trusted counselor or loved one, doing yoga or meditation, exercising, or by relaxation breathing, to name a few ways.
    • Quit smoking: Smoking can constrict your blood vessels and in turn increase blood pressure. Therefore, if you don’t smoke, then don’t start. If you do smoke, try to quit by contacting your healthcare provider for help or using resources from Smokefree.gov.
    • Take care of your teeth: You may wonder what brushing your teeth has to do with heart health. However, experts say that those who have gum disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease. This is because bacteria from the gums in those with gum disease can seep into the blood stream and cause inflammation of the body. This can lead to inflammation in the blood vessels and increase risk of heart disease. Therefore, be sure to visit your dental care provider every six months and be sure to brush and floss daily.
    • Sleep enough: Research shows that those who sleep less than six hours a night are more likely to have a heart attack and stroke than those who slept more. Therefore, try to set a bedtime schedule, avoid screen time about an hour before bedtime, and avoid eating an hour or two before bed. If you still have trouble sleeping, visit your healthcare provider for tips or sleep treatments that may help.

    Heart healthy supplements

    Besides these heart health tips, it may be helpful to add a supplement to your routine to help your heart. Vita Sciences carries a wide array of heart health supplements that could help. Alestra is one supplement by Vita Sciences that contains niacin, plant sterols, and garlic to help support healthy cholesterol levels. Another supplement by Vita Sciences for heart health is Circova. Circova contains L-arginine, niacin, and hawthorne to help improve blood flow and blood pressure. Finally, Presura by Vita Sciences contains hawthorn berry, niacin, and garlic extract to help support a healthier heart and blood pressure.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Heart Association (last reviewed November 30, 2017) “Understanding Blood Pressure Readings.”

    Cleveland Clinic (February 5, 2019) “5 Things to Do Every Day to Keep Your Heart Healthy.” health essentials

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (accessed May 18, 2019) “High Blood Pressure.”

    Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (last updated November 30, 2018) “Keep Your Heart Healthy.” healthfinder.gov


  • Reduce carbs at breakfast to lower blood sugar

    breakfast, carbohydrate, diabetes, health, dietWhen you first wake up in the money, it may be easy to grab something quick like a donut, pastry, or a quick bowl of cereal. However, what you choose to eat for breakfast could very well set the tone for what you eat the rest of the day. In fact, research shows that if you reduce carbohydrate intake at breakfast, then you could help control your blood glucose levels. Let’s learn a little more about this study, about blood glucose levels, as well as ways you can reduce carbs at your next morning meal.

    Reducing carbs at breakfast to lower blood glucose levels

    A recent study looked at the impact of a high-fat, low carbohydrate breakfast meal on blood glucose levels over 24 hours. Study results show that post-meal, or postprandial, hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) were reduced with this diet as compared to standard diet (55% calories from carbohydrate, 30% calories from fat, 15% calorie from protein). Also, this higher fat, lower carbohydrate breakfast helped keep blood glucose levels more stable throughout the day than the standard diet.

    How to eat a low-carb breakfast meal

    The following low to no-carb foods can be used to build a delicious low-carb breakfast meal.

    • Eggs
    • Bacon
    • Ham
    • Turkey
    • Chicken
    • Cottage cheese
    • Low carb vegetables like peppers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, kale, mushrooms, and spinach
    • Cheese
    • Plain Greek yogurt
    • Low carb fruits like strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries

    Use this reference as a guide to other low-carb produce that can be added to your low carb meal.

    Other ways to lower blood glucose levels

    Besides making changes in your diet, read below for ways you can manage your blood glucose levels.

    • Stay active: Every step counts when it comes to your health. Therefore, be sure to stay active every day to help manage your blood glucose levels and keep your heart healthy. Staying active can help control blood glucose levels by making insulin more sensitive. Exercise will also help you to manage your weight and use the blood glucose you have for energy.
    • Manage stress: Stress can release hormones in the body that can raise blood glucose levels. Therefore, be sure to find ways to manage your stress levels. Walking, talking to a counselor, relaxation breathing, and yoga are some ways you can manage stress.
    • Drink plenty of water each day: The body is mostly made up of water, so its important for many processes in the body. When it comes to blood glucose, water can prevent dehydration and in turn help the body remove extra sugars from the body through your urine. Try to drink at least 8 cups of water or low to no calorie fluids per day. You may need more fluid each day depending on your height, weight, and activity level.
    • Check your blood glucose often:  If you have diabetes, then you should check your blood glucose levels often. This will help you track your progress and find areas of your diet or medication routine that may need to be tweaked. This will help you manage blood glucose levels better. Be sure to to visit your doctor at least once or twice a year to have labs checked and adjust your meds if needed.
    • Take a blood glucose control supplement: If you’re already eating a healthy diet and exercising, then the next step in lowering your blood glucose levels would be to add a blood glucose-lowering supplement if needed. Glucarex by Vita Sciences is an example of a blood glucose support supplement that could help you. Glucarex contains ingredients like chromium, alpha-lipoic acid, and cinnamon to naturally support healthy weight loss, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD of LighttrackNutrition.com

    References:

    Chang, C.R., Francois, M.E., and Little, J.P. (April 2019) “Restricting carbohydrates at breakfast is sufficient to reduce 24-hour exposure to postprandial hyperglycemia and improve glycemic variability.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

    Fletcher, J. (last reviewed January 26, 2018 by Maria Prelipcean, M.D.) “How can you lower your blood sugar levels?” Medical News Today.

    University of California, San Francisco (accessed April 17, 2019) “Diabetes Education Online: Controlling Blood Sugar.”


  • Add nuts to your diet for better brain health

    Bowl of mixed nuts on rustic wooden table in natural light.

    Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and pistachios are all delicious nutrient-dense snacks. Nuts are often mentioned as healthy snacks for heart health. Not to mention that they taste great and can be a healthy replacement to chips as a salty and crunchy snack. But did you know that they can also help your brain health? A recent study shows that eating a little bit of nuts everyday can benefit brain health.

    About nuts

    Nuts come in many varieties, but they all provide rich health benefits. These tasty plant-based treats contain many important nutrients like:

    • healthy fats like monounsaturated (MUFA)  and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats
    • protein
    • soluble and insoluble fibers
    • vitamin E
    • vitamin K
    • folate
    • thiamine
    • minerals such as magnesium, copper, potassium, and selenium
    • antioxidants
    • phytosterols

    Because of their antioxidant content, nuts are great for reducing the amount of inflammation in the body. This in turn can help lower risk of inflammatory related conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

    In particular, eating just an ounce or two of almonds daily can reduce blood glucose levels after meal time. They can also increase satiety or fullness in those with type 2 diabetes. Also, eating an ounce or so of walnuts daily can help some people lose weight since they also help increase fullness and reduce insulin levels. Finally, research shows that eating an ounce and a half of pistachios daily can help improve lipid markers such as reducing LDL-C or “bad” cholesterol.

    Nuts and brain health

    A 2019 study looked at data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey over 22 years. Nut intake data was collected from over 4800 study participants in 1991, 1993, and during the years of cognitive function data collection in 1997, 2001, 2004, and 2006. Study results show that nut intake is associated with reduced levels of cognitive decline.

    In particular, eating more than 10 grams or more of nuts daily, which equates to about 2 teaspoons a day, may benefit brain health. In fact, the researchers report that this small amount of nuts can improve thinking, reasoning, and memory. Also, they report that this same amount of nuts can improve the brain function of older adults by about 60-percent compared to those who didn’t eat nuts.

    Interestingly enough, the same antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities that help improve heart health also benefits brain health. Therefore, make sure to add nuts to your daily routine to reap these awesome health benefits.

    Other ways to help brain health

    Now if you’re allergic to nuts, this talk of nuts and health benefits may be a bummer. However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t other ways you can improve brain health. Read below for tips on keeping your brain at its healthiest.

    • Keep your brain busy: As the saying goes “Use it or lose it.” The same concept works for brain health. Just like you exercise your body to stay fit, you should not forget to do the same for your brain. Crossword puzzles, reading, drawing, painting, and even crafts can help keep your brain strong.
    • Exercise your body: Like I mentioned before, exercise for your body is important for heart health, but also for brain health too. This is because your heart pumps all-important oxygen-rich blood to the brain to keep it healthy. Every step counts, so walk, jog, bike, dance, or do whatever movement you enjoy. Your brain will thank you.
    • Improve your diet: Eating lots of fiber-rich and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables can benefit brain health as well as overall health. This is because, just like nuts, these antioxidants reduce inflammation in the body that can increase chronic disease risk. Color your plate with a variety of fruits and vegetables each day to reap the benefits of the different antioxidants they contain that possess different healthful properties.
    • Limit alcohol intake and stop smoking: Smoking can constrict blood vessels , which means less oxygen reaches your brain. For help to quit smoking, visit Smokefree.gov for helpful resources. And as far as alcohol goes, research shows that more than two standard drinks a day can increase dementia risk. A standard drink is equal to 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine, or 1.5 ounces liquor.
    • Take a supplement for brain health:  If you don’t feel like you’re getting enough brain food in your diet, then you can add a brain health supplement like UltaMind to your daily routine. UltaMind by Vita Sciences contains innovative compounds like St. John’s Wort and Gingko biloba, to name a few that have been shown to support brain health, memory, focus, and concentration.

    References:

    de Souza, R., Schincaglia, R. M., Pimentel, G. D., & Mota, J. F. (2017). Nuts and Human Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Nutrients9(12), 1311. doi:10.3390/nu9121311

    Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School (accessed April 4, 2019) “12 ways to keep your brain young.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/12-ways-to-keep-your-brain-young

    Li, Ming and Shi, Z. (February 2019) “A Prospective Association of Nut Consumption with Cognitive Function in Chinese Adults Aged 55+ – China Health and Nutrition Survey.” The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging, 23(2): 211-216.

    Roche, Ph.d., B. (July 17, 2014) “10 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health.” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/iq-boot-camp/201407/10-ways-improve-your-brain-health

     


  • 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.”


  • 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.


  • 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

     

     

     

     


  • Nuts can be your heart’s best friend

     

    From peanuts to pistachios, or almonds to macadamias, nuts can be a delicious, healthy snack any time of day. Nuts provide a plant-based food full of fiber, protein, and antioxidants that can add flavor and health to any dish. Not only that, but research shows that adding nuts to your daily routine can improve heart health and weight management, to name a few health benefits. Let’s learn a little more about nuts and how you can make them a staple in your healthy lifestyle routine.

    About nuts and heart health

    Nuts are a plant-based food that for many years was avoided by many due to its high calorie content. However, research now shows that this calorie dense food is also nutrient dense and could benefit heart health. This is due to the healthy mixture of unsaturated and omega-3 fats as well as protein and fiber.

    The highest protein nuts are almonds, and pistachios at about 6 grams per ounce. Cashews are not far behind at five grams of protein per ounce. When it comes to fiber, almonds, pistachios, pecans, and hazelnuts top the list of tree nuts at 3 grams of fiber per ounce. Furthermore, pecans and walnuts provide the most omega-3 fatty acids of the tree nuts at 278 and 2565 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, respectively.

    Nuts and metabolic health

    Two recent studies looked at the health benefits of adding nuts to your daily routine. The first study looked at the impact of nut intake on weight gain. Study results show that by replacing a serving of unhealthy food with an ounce of nuts, a person could lower risk of weight gain and obesity. Such unhealthy foods that could be replaced include red meat, processed meat, French fries, desserts, or potato chips. Research suggests that by doing this you could help counteract the gradual weight gain many adults have with aging. This in turn could help reduce risk of obesity-related conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

    A second study looked at the impact of Brazil nut intake on overall health in healthy people. People in the study groups were given either a serving of Brazil nuts or pretzels with similar calorie and sodium content. Study results show that those given the Brazil nuts had an increased feeling of fullness. Also, nut intake prevented an increase in blood glucose and insulin levels after eating. These increases occurred with those eating pretzels about forty minutes after eating. Researchers suggest that this positive metabolic impact of Brazil nuts is likely due to its rich selenium content.

    Other ways to improve metabolic health

    Besides eating nuts, there are other ways you can help improve your health that include:

    • Sleeping enough at night. Most adults require at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night for your best health. Experts suggest that if you don’t receive enough sleep, your risk for type 2 diabetes can increase. Therefore, if you have trouble sleeping, be sure to visit your healthcare provider for tips. They can also see if you may have pain or sleep apnea that is preventing you from sleeping well.
    • Moving more. Staying active can help you reduce your risk of heart disease or diabetes. It does this by helping you to manage weight and improve insulin resistance. Therefore, try to engage in moderate activity for a total of 30 minutes a day most days. Such activities inlcude walking, biking, swimming, gardening, or other aerobic activity.
    • Managing stress. Stress can sap your energy levels and can also increase blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Therefore, find ways to manage your stress like relaxation breathing, yoga, or talking to a counselor. Also, taking a walk outside can  help refresh your mind so you manage stress better. Make time in your schedule for “me-time” that can help you improve your health.
    • Taking supplements when needed.  If you are B12-, iron-, or vitamin D-deficient, you can feel fatigued. This can make you not feel like being active and healthy. Therefore, be sure to have your nutrient levels checked each year. If you are low, you can take a supplement if needed to put your health on track. An example of such a supplement is Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains compounds like alpha-lipoic acid, cinnamon, and chromium. Along with antioxidant vitamins C and E, this supplement can help support healthy weight loss, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.

     References:

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (June 2017) “Why nutritionists are crazy about nuts.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/why-nutritionists-are-crazy-about-nuts

    Mayo Clinic (September 9, 2016) “Diabetes prevention: 5 tips for taking control.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-prevention/art-20047639

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed November 13, 2018) “The link between a lack of sleep and type 2 diabetes.” https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems-list/the-link-between-lack-sleep-and-type-2-diabetes

    Sandoiu, A. (November 5, 2018) “Daily serving of nuts may stave off weight gain.” Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323577.php

    Today’s Dietitian (accessed November 13, 2018) “Nutritional Profiles of Tree Nuts.” https://www.todaysdietitian.com/pdf/webinars/treenuts/NutritionalProfilesofTreeNuts.pdf

     

     


  • Could healthy fats help promote healthier aging?

    healthy fats, omega-3, heart health, healthy, unsaturatedIt’s well-known that healthy fats can help improve heart health. But did you know that they could also help you stay healthy all over as you get older? Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of unsaturated healthy fats. You can find these fatty acids in plant-based oils and vegetables like avocado. However, you can also find healthy fats in seafood like fatty fish. It’s this latter form of fatty acids that has been studied recently in connection with aging.  Let’s take a look at what omega-3 fatty acids are, where you can find them, and how they can help you stay healthy as you age.

    What are omega-3 fatty acids?

    Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid you can find in plant-based oils like olive and flaxseed oils and other plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, avocado, and olives. These healthy fats can also be found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, and sardines. The most common forms of omega-3 fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  You may see the names of such fatty acid types on the label of fish oil supplements.

    You can find ALA in the plant-based oils, and EPA and DHA in fish, fish oils, and krill oils. Fish oils come about when fish consume phytoplankton that eat microalgae. The fish then accumulates omega-3 fatty acids in their tissues.

    How much omega-3 fatty acids should you eat each day?

    Most adults should have about 1.1 grams of omega-3 fatty acids a day, whereas those who are pregnant should have about 1.4 grams a day. Recommendations for children range from 0.5 grams to 1.0 grams, with younger children requiring less.

    To give you an idea of how much omega-3 fatty acids are in certain foods, here are a few examples.

    • Flaxseed oil contains 7.26 grams of ALA fatty acids per tablespoon.
    • Chia seeds contain 5.06 grams of ALA fatty acids per ounce.
    • English walnuts contain 2.57 grams of ALA fatty acids per ounce.
    • Flaxseeds contain 2.35 grams of ALA fatty acids per ounce.
    • Three ounces of cooked Atlantic farmed salmon contains 1.24 grams of DHA fatty acids and 0.59 grams of EPA fatty acids.
    • Three ounces of cooked Atlantic wild caught salmon contains 1.22 grams of DHA fatty acids and 0.35 grams of EPA fatty acids.

    Fish oil supplements are another option for fulfilling your daily fatty acid needs. A typical fish oil supplement contains about 1000 milligrams of fish oil that consists of 180 milligrams of EPA and 120 milligrams of DHA. An example of a high quality fish oil supplement is produced by Vita Sciences. The Vita Sciences Fish Oil contains 1000 milligrams of fish oil with 400 milligrams of EPA and 300 milligrams of DHA.

    Omega-3 fatty acids and aging

    So, what is healthy aging anyway? According to researchers at Tufts University at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science, healthy aging is a “meaningful lifespan without chronic diseases and with intact physical and mental function.”  To see if omega-3 fatty acids could help promote healthy aging, these researchers looked at data from over 2600 people. They looked at the blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids in of adults enrolled in the United States Cardiovascular Health Study.

    This study observed these levels of the people in the study over about 13 years. Study results show that people who consumed more DHA-rich seafood were 24-percent less likely to experience unhealthy aging than those who consumed the least. Researchers suggest that these results likely stem from the ability of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and improve heart health.

    Other ways you can age healthier

    Besides eating plenty of healthy fats in your diet, there are other lifestyle factors that can help promote healthy aging.

    • Stay active at least 30 minutes each day for most days of the week by walking, swimming, or engaging in other physical activities.
    • Sleeping at least 7 hours each night. Although you may not think sleep is more important than your daily tasks, it is more important than you think. This is because while you sleep, your body helps to regulate many processes. These processes include blood pressure, hormones, fluids, and body temperature, to name a few. Therefore, be sure to add a good night’s sleep to your daily to-do list.
    • Managing stress well through yoga, meditation, prayer, relaxation breathing, or talking to a counselor. This is because by managing stress, you can reduce inflammation in the body and in turn reduce risk of chronic disease. Therefore, be sure to make time to relax so your health can be at its best.
    • Drinking plenty of water each day to stay hydrated. This is because water is needed for many processes in the body. For example, water helps prevent constipation so waste can leave the body and it helps carry nutrients and oxygen to cells.
    • Consuming a plant-based diet with plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.  A plant-based diet is important because the antioxidants found in such foods help reduce inflammation. Not only that, but fruits and vegetables can help provide heart healthy fiber and other heart healthy nutrients like potassium.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    Mayo Clinic (accessed October 21, 2018) “Nutrition and healthy eating: Functions of water in the body.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/multimedia/functions-of-water-in-the-body/img-20005799

    National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (June 6, 2018) “Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed October 21, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

    Sandoiu, A. (October 18, 2018) “Seafood rich in omega-3 may promote healthy aging.” Medical News Today online.