Category Archives: heart health

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.”


  • Managing work hours could lower stroke risk

    brain, health, stroke. headache, inflammationRecent statistics show that stroke is the number five cause of death and disability in the United States. This is why it’s so important to look into what factors may increase risk of this condition and work to reduce them. For example, a recent study shows that working long hours may increase one’s risk for stroke. Although this may not always be a factor that you can prevent, let’s learn more about this condition and ways you can lower your risk.

    What is stroke?

    In technical terms, a stroke occurs when there is a clot blocking a blood vessel to the brain or when that blood vessel bursts. Since such blood vessels carry oxygen and nutrients to the brain, this type of issue can cause brain cells to die. In turn, this can lead to a variety of health issues including brain health issues or even death.

    Causes of stroke

    As mentioned before, there are two major causes of stroke. The most common cause  occurs when arteries to the brain become narrow or blocked. This is called an ischemic stroke. About 80-percent of strokes are ischemic strokes.

    The other cause is when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or ruptures. This type of stroke is called a hemorrhagic type. Hemorrhagic strokes can be caused by factors such as high blood pressure, overtreatment with blood thinners, or aneurysms. Aneurysms occur when there are weak spots in the blood vessel walls.

    Warning signs

    Although you may not be able to prevent all strokes, you may be able to see warning signs. When you notice such signs, you can contact emergency medical services right away to receive treatment. Such warning signs include:

    • trouble with speaking such as slurred speech
    • issues with understanding speech
    • paralysis or numbness of face, arm, or leg
    • vision issues in one or both eyes
    • a sudden, severe headache
    • sudden dizziness, loss of balance, or loss of coordination

    If you notice any of these symptoms in someone, then it’s important to think fast. This is because after the onset of symptoms, brain health issues can quickly escalate. Therefore, as soon as you notice symptoms, be sure to use the acronym FAST, or:

    • Face: Ask the person to smile. If one side of their face starts to droop, then it may be a sign of a brain health issue.
    • Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. If one arm starts to drift downward, or if they are unable to raise their arm, then there may be a brain health issue.
    • Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase like “How are you?” Listen closely for any slurred speech that may indicate a brain health issue.
    • Time: It’s important not to waste any time if you notice any of these symptoms, since it doesn’t take long for brain health issues to escalate from time of symptom onset.

    Work hours and stroke research

    A recent French study looked at the effect of work hours on stroke risk. It was found that those people who worked more than ten hours on at least fifty days per year were at higher risk for this brain health condition. Those working such long hours had a 29-percent high risk, while those who worked like this for ten years or more had a 45-percent higher risk.

    How to lower risk of a stroke

    Besides reducing work hours, there are plenty of other things you can do to lower your risk of a stroke.  Several of these things include taking steps to live healthier such as:

    • Exercising more to help improve heart health and vessel health as well as to help manage weight.
    • Losing weight to help reduce the stress placed on the heart and blood vessels.
    • Stop smoking to help lower risk of high blood pressure.
    • Eat a healthier diet such as reducing intake of processed, sugary, calorie-laden foods and eating more fruits and vegetables. A healthier diet can help reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure risk, help you manage weight, and reduce risk of diabetes, to name a few.
    • Add a blood vessel health supplement to your daily regimen such as Circova by Vita Sciences. Circova contains ingredients like L-arginine and niacin that can help to naturally improve blood flow and blood pressure.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Stroke Association (accessed June 25, 2019) “About Stroke.”

    BBC Health (June 20, 2019) “Long working hours ‘linked to stroke risk.'”

    Mayo Clinic (last reviewed June 11, 2019) “Stroke.”

    National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (last modified January 31, 2019) “Brain Basics: Preventing Stroke.”


  • Diet and Exercise for Diabetes Prevention

    healthy, diet, diabetes, healthIf you have been told you are at risk for diabetes, then I’m sure you’ve been told to diet and exercise. This advice is nothing new to help lower your risk. However, new research confirms a method of diet and exercise that can prevent those with prediabetes from developing diabetes. Read below for more on this research and learn how you can lower your risk of this chronic condition today.

    What is prediabetes?

    Prediabetes occurs when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to meet type 2 diabetes criteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in three American adults have diabetes. And surprisingly, about 90-percent don’t even know that they have it. That is why it’s so important for everyone to have their numbers checked every year.

    These numbers include not only fasting blood glucose levels, but also cholesterol, trigycerides, blood pressure, and HgA1C. HgA1C tells you the average blood glucose levels in your body over the previous three months. Those with a HgA1C level below 5.7 are in the healthy range. However, those with a level between 5.7 and 6.4 are in the prediabetes range.  And if this level tests 6.5 or above two times in a row, then a person is given a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

    Prediabetes research

    A recent study looked at the effect of diet and exercise on the changeover from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes. The study looked at 962 patients with prediabetes and followed them for about three years.

    All patients were first placed on a 800-calorie diet with a meal replacement for two months. Then, patients were either placed on a high protein and low glycemic diet or a moderate protein and moderate glycemic diet. Patients were also asked to either engage in vigorous intensity exercise for 75 minutes a week or moderate intensity for 150 minutes a week.

    Study results show that only 62 of the 962 patients enrolled in this study progressed from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.  Both diet programs tested showed reduced risk of the condition. Therefore, researchers suggest that a period of meal replacement-induced weight loss followed by three years of weight maintenance is an effective strategy for preventing prediabetes progression to type 2 diabetes. So, just eat a balanced diet of lean proteins and plant-based foods and stay as active as possible to lower your risk.

    Other ways you can lower your risk of diabetes

    Besides diet and exercise, use the following tips to improve your health and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Just small changes made each week can over time lower your risk in a big way.

    • Manage stress through therapy, exercise, support groups, relaxation breathing, meditation, or yoga. Research shows that those who experience more perceived stress are more likely to be at risk for getting type 2 diabetes.
    • Be sure to sleep at least seven hours each night if possible to help your body regulate blood glucose levels better. According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, those who do not sleep enough each night are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Not to mention that these people are also at higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. So, be sure to reduce screen time before bed time and avoid eating less than two hours before bed time. These tips are just some ways you can improve bed time and avoid interrupted sleep.
    • Consume more fiber in your diet through whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. This will not only help you to improve gut health but can aid in weight management.
    • Take a daily supplement such as Glucarex by Vitasciences. Glucarex contains natural ingredients like chromium, vanadium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon. This supplement formula supports healthy weight, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last reviewed May 30, 2019) “Prediabetes: Your Chance to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes.”

    Healio Primary Care (June 11, 2019) “Weight loss, behavior change prevents changeover from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.”

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (April 2018) “The A1C Test & Diabetes.”


  • 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


  • Eat a plant-based diet for kidney health

    fruit, vegetable, plant, plant-based, diet, healthUnless you have kidney disease, you may not realize how important these small organs are to overall health. Although they are only about the size of a fist each, these bean-shaped organs do a lot for your body. Their main function is to filter the blood. However, they also work to remove wastes from the body as well as remove extra water to produce urine. The kidneys also make hormones to help with bone health and blood pressure health.

    Because of these important functions, it’s important to eat healthy to take care of your kidneys. The Kidney Foundation endorses a DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet for kidney disease. This diet is rich in fruits and vegetables and lean proteins and is low in sodium and added sugar. A recent study confirms such recommendations by saying that a plant-based diet is key to kidney health. Let’s learn more about the plant-based diet and how it can help kidney health.

    About the plant-based diet

    A plant-based diet is well-known for its benefits to heart health and lowering risk of diabetes. If yo want to follow such a diet, you don’t need to eat just plants to reap the health benefits. However, just adding plant-based foods to meals and snacks each day can help you gain fiber and a variety of nutrients. Such nutrients include antioxidants that can reduce oxidative stress and lower risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

    Experts suggest that there are three types of plant-based diets that include:

    • An overall plant-based diet: This diet focuses mainly on plant-based fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, while limiting all types of animal products. These animal products include meats, fish, poultry, dairy products, and eggs.
    • A healthful plant-based diet: This diet focuses on consuming mostly plant-based whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. In addition, this diet limits less healthy plant-based foods like processed foods and also limits animal products.
    • An unhealthful plant-based diet: This type of diet consists mostly of unhealthy plant-based foods such as processed fruit juices, refined grains like pasta and white rice, as well as potatoes like french fries.

    It was found that those following the healthful plant-based diet had the lowest risk of heart disease. On the other hand, those who followed the unhealthful plant-based diet had the highest heart health risk.

    When it comes to kidney health, the plant-based diet can provide many health benefits.  One of the primary benefits is that it will hamper the development or progression of some complications of kidney disease like heart disease. Also, research shows that a plant-based diet can help improve blood pressure, and glomerular filtration rate (GFR), of which the latter describes the flow rate of fluid through the kidney.

    Kidney health diet recommendations

    Vegetarianism, full or part-time, is recommended for those with kidney health issues. Therefore, a healthful plant-based diet, as mentioned before,  could be beneficial to kidney health. In fact, a recent report by the American College of Physicians states that a plant-based diet could slow the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and improve symptoms.

    The plant-based diet is recommended since diets rich in vegetable proteins, rather than animal proteins, can improve acidosis and slow nephropathy in patients with CKD and poor renal function.  Examples of plant-based diets, such as the Mediterranean and DASH diet, are recommended to improve kidney health.

    Take home message

    If you want to keep your kidneys healthy or improve the health of diseased kidneys, then the plant-based diet is the way to go. You can start slow by adding a serving of fruits or vegetables each day to meals and snacks. Then, slowly weed out most high sodium and high sugar foods from your diet. Before you know it, your body will feel better inside and out and your kidneys will be able to do their job the best it can.

    If you still feel you need extra help with kidney health, try a supplement like Urivo by Vita Sciences. Urivo contains cranberry and probiotics, or healthy bacteria, that support immune system, bladder, and kidney health.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American College of Physicians Internal Medicine Meeting (April 17, 2019) “Best dietary practices for those with CKD.” Healio

    Gluba-Brzózka A, Franczyk B, Rysz J. (April 2017) “Vegetarian Diet in Chronic Kidney Disease-A Friend or Foe.” Nutrients. 9(4):374.

    Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School (January 2018) “The right plant-based diet for you.”

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (June 2018) “Your Kidneys & How They Work.”

    National Kidney Foundation (last reviewed February 2, 2017) “The DASH Diet.”

     

     

     

     


  • Could eating breakfast could lower your heart disease risk?

    breakfast, egg, vegetable, whole grain, fruit, milk, heart healthYou may have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, is this really true or just an old wives’ tale?  Recent research does show that a high-quality breakfast can improve health-related quality of life. However along with this finding, a new study shows that eating this meal could lower your heart disease risk. Let’s learn a little more about the importance of your morning meal for overall health and how you can make it healthier.

    Breakfast and quality of life

    In a study of adolescents, those who consumed a poor quality breakfast had higher levels of stress and depression than those who skipped or had a high quality morning meal.  Those who consumed a high quality breakfast had the lowest levels of stress and depression. Therefore, it’s not just about whether you eat breakfast or not, but if you eat a high quality meal.

    Another study looked more closely at the quality of breakfast that can bring about health benefits. This study found that a high-quality morning meal will be balanced with protein, fiber, and vitamins and nutrients like vitamins A, C, and D as well as calcium and iron.

    Breakfast and heart health 

    Not only may breakfast improve quality of life, but it could also extend your life. This is because a recent study found that eating breakfast could lower your risk of heart disease. This study looked at a sample of health data from over 6000 adults aged 40 to 75 years old over 17 to 23 years. Study results show that skipping your morning meal was linked with an increased risk of death from heart disease.

    As previous studies have found though, this doesn’t mean that eating doughnuts and pastries with sugary coffee drinks each morning is healthy. Therefore, to make the most of your morning meal and have it benefit health, make it balanced.

    How to create a healthy breakfast

    Breakfast is not just good for heart health and mental health, but can also lower risk of chronic disease like diabetes. Because of its many potential health benefits, be sure to make your morning meal its best by using the following tips.

    • Start with a healthy protein. Cook up a few eggs, turkey bacon, and/or low sodium Canadian bacon for heart healthy proteins. And if you follow a meatless diet, then enjoy scrambled soft tofu with or without some black beans. Another meatless breakfast option is protein-rich Greek yogurt or oatmeal with chopped walnuts.
    • Add in gut-friendly fiber. Once you’ve chosen your protein base, add in some antioxidant and fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. Throw some spinach in your omelette or top your oatmeal or yogurt with berries or sliced apples.  Other ideas include blending your yogurt with fruit for a drinkable balanced breakfast or sprinkling some chia seeds on your oatmeal, yogurt, or avocado toast.
    • Don’t forget healthy fats. Sliced avocado with eggs or spread on toast, or using olive oil to cook your eggs can add healthy fats to your morning meal. Other healthy fats you can add include nuts, seeds, and salmon (like smoked salmon on toast or a whole grain bagel).
    • Limit sugar intake. It can be tempting to enjoy a doughnut on the way to work or from the break room. Also, it can be just as easy to grab a whipped cream topped coffee drink to start your day. However, a sugary start can lead to unhealthy eating habits throughout the day. Therefore, stick to low sugar options. If you crave sugar in the morning, try instead a Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey or a delicious low sugar protein shake flavored with peanut butter, vanilla, or cocoa to help satisfy your sweet tooth.
    • Don’t drink your calories. Instead of sugary coffee drinks, stick to sugar-free options like coffee with sugar-free creamer and/or sweetener. Other low-calorie breakfast drinks include hot or iced tea with low-calorie sweetener, lemon or cucumber-infused water, unsweetened almond milk, or just plain water.

    And just to be sure you consume your daily dose of nutrients, a supplement for heart health may also help. Circova by Vita Sciences contains natural ingredients like niacin, L-arginine, and hawthorne to help improve blood flow and blood pressure. Improvements like these can help lower heart health risk, along with a healthy diet of course.

    References:

    Ferrer-Cascales R, Sánchez-SanSegundo M, Ruiz-Robledillo N, Albaladejo-Blázquez N, Laguna-Pérez A, Zaragoza-Martí A. (August 2018) “Eat or Skip Breakfast? The Important Role of Breakfast Quality for Health-Related Quality of Life, Stress and Depression in Spanish Adolescents.”  Int J Environ Res Public Health. 15(8):1781.

    Gibney MJ, Barr SI, Bellisle F, Drewnowski A, Fagt S, Livingstone B, Masset G, Varela Moreiras G, Moreno LA, Smith J, Vieux F, Thielecke F, Hopkins S. (May 2018) “Breakfast in Human Nutrition: The International Breakfast Research Initiative.” Nutrients. 10(5):559.

    Rong, S., et al. (April 2019) “Association of Skipping Breakfast With Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality.” 

  • 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 weight loss help lower risk of migraine?

    anxiety, stress, depression, health, mental health, headache, migraineWith summer on the horizon, weight loss efforts are in full bloom. However, weight loss can provide more than just body confidence. The Centers for Disease Control report that just losing 5-percent of your body weight, which is equal to about 10 pounds for a 200 lb. person, can lower your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Not to mention that a recent study shows that losing weight can also lower risk of migraines.

    What is a migraine?

    A migraine is a recurring type of headache that causes a throbbing or pulsing pain along with other uncomfortable symptoms. Other symptoms of a migraine may include:

    • nausea
    • weakness
    • sensitivity to light and sound

    Migraines can be triggered by a variety of different things such as:

    • stress
    • anxiety
    • hormonal changes in women
    • loud noises
    • bright or flashing lights
    • lack of sleep
    • tobacco
    • skipped meals
    • certain medicines
    • caffeine
    • too much activity (overexertion)

    Women and those with a family history of migraines are at greater risk of developing migraines. Treatment usually includes certain pain relievers, resting with your eyes closed in a quiet, dark room, as well as placing an eye pack on your forehead and drinking plenty of fluids.

    Migraines and weight loss

    A recent study analyzed data from 10 different studies regarding migraine occurrence. Study results show that those who lost weight had a reduction in the days per month they had migraines. Also, pain severity and duration of the headache was reduced with weight loss. The results seemed to be the same in adults and kids. Also, results were similar for anyone who lost weight, no matter how the weight was lost (i.e. surgery, diet and exercise).

    It is thought that those who are overweight or obese may be more at risk for migraine headaches due to inflammation. Researchers suggest that certain proteins released by fat tissue, obesity-related health problems such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes, as well as psychological risk factors, stroke, and respiratory conditions may also increase risk of headaches in those who are overweight or obese.

    If you have migraines, but have not found success with any medications over-the-counter, then you may want to visit your doctor for suggestions. Another option is to try a natural supplement like Migravent by Vita Sciences. Migravent contains ingredients like CoQ10, magnesium, and riboflavin, among others to help promote migraine relief and provide neurological support.

    Tips on losing weight 

    There are many ways to approach weight loss. It will vary according to the individual. Your current health status will determine your nutrient needs and exercise tolerance. Also, your food allergies or intolerances and daily schedule will help determine the eating plan that will work best for you. The key is to start changing unhealthy habits one at a time. Over time, you will create the healthy lifestyle that helps you meet your health goals and that is easy for you to stick with for the long term.

    Here are some tips to help you start planning your weight loss program.

    • Write down short-term and long-term goals: Although the term goals may make some people sigh in frustration, they are important for keeping you on track with your weight loss regimen. Start by writing out your ultimate goal for the year, then break it down into smaller goals such as monthly goals. For example, your yearly goal may be to lose 50 pounds. Since this can seem overwhelming to approach, break this goal down into smaller monthly goals. These goals should be S.M.A.R.T., or specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. A goal of this kind will help you track your progress since it’s measurable. Therefore, instead of just saying “I want to eat more vegetables,” instead you could make one of your monthly goals “I will eat at least one cup of vegetables at each meal over the next four weeks.”
    • Make time for planning and prepping meals: Your busy schedule may have you pressed for time. However, in order to have the best chance of weight loss success, you need to make time for meal planning and prepping. Just an hour a week can give you plenty of time to write a shopping list and meal calendar. These tools can help you know what foods you need to stay on track with your diet. A registered dietitian may be helpful to get you started on such as meal plan. Once you have the foods you need in stock, then just take another hour or so a week to wash, chop, dice, and portion out fruit and vegetables for meals and snacks. This can provide convenient meal and snack options that can make it easier for you to stay on track throughout the week.
    • Be active whenever possible: Every step counts, so move whenever possible. Take the stairs when you can, or walk your dog or take a walk after meals. You can also take a walk at lunch at work or home to help get some steps in and aid digestion.
    • Visit your doctor regularly: You should visit your doctor at least once a year to check your numbers. These numbers include blood pressure, weight, and labs like cholesterol and blood glucose. However, if you have a chronic condition or are at risk for such conditions like heart disease or diabetes, then you should visit twice a year or more to keep track of your numbers and risk factors.
    • Be accountable: Besides going to the doctor, it’s important to stay accountable in other ways as well to stay on track with your weight loss. This means weekly weigh-ins, having a weight loss buddy, and/or having a health coach to support you and provide motivation along the way.

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

    References:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last reviewed February 13, 2018) “Losing Weight.” https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html

    Mayo Clinic Medline Plus (Last updated on February 7, 2019) “Migraine.” https://medlineplus.gov/migraine.html

    MindTools (accessed March 27, 2019) “SMART Goals: How to Make Your Goals Achievable.” https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/smart-goals.htm

    Preidt, R. (March 25, 2019) “Fewer Excess Pounds May Mean Fewer Migraines.” https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2019-03-23/fewer-excess-pounds-may-mean-fewer-migraines