Category Archives: heart health

Could chocolate be heart healthy?

chocolate, cacao, antioxidant, heart healthCould it be?  Could the delicious sweetness of chocolate actually be good for you? The answer is yes, but in moderation.  Chock full of antioxidants, this delicious treat may be able to help you combat heart disease.  A recent study has shown that moderate consumption of chocolate can reduce risk of heart disease.

Where does chocolate come from?

Chocolate has been enjoyed for thousands of years as far back as the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations. They revered this delicious treat as the “food of the gods” and Central American Mayan Indians drank a spicy drink made from roasted cacao beans. Chocolate was enjoyed exclusively in this liquid form until Victorian times when it was devised as a solid food treat.

The basic form of solid chocolate is made from cocoa, cocoa butter from the cocoa bean, and sometimes up to 5-percent vegetable fat. More processed and lesser quality products will usually contain more fat and sugar and less cacao.

Chocolate and heart health

A recent meta-analysis study looked at 23 studies with over 400,000 adults, with 35,000 cases of heart disease.  Study results show that eating chocolate in moderation may actually reduce heart disease risk. When talking about moderate consumption of chocolate, this study defines it as 100 grams of chocolate per week. This is equal to about 2 standard chocolate bars.  When chocolate consumption exceeded 100 grams per week, chronic disease risk such as stroke risk and heart disease risk started to increase.

When choosing to consume chocolate as part of a heart healthy diet, be sure to look at the ingredients label.  Try to choose chocolate foods that are lower in sugar and higher in cacao. This is because added fat and sugar can make chocolate higher in calories with no real added nutrient benefit.

A higher cacao content can increase the concentration of antioxidants in chocolate. Cacao beans contains antioxidants known as flavonoids that are also found in various fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants can help improve blood pressure as well as improve blood flow to the heart. This in turn can help reduce risk of heart disease and related chronic diseases. Therefore, lean towards higher cacao percentage (around 70-percent or higher) and lower sugar content for the most health benefit.

Other heart healthy tips

Besides eating chocolate for heart health reduction, which is perhaps the most delicious medicine ever, there are other steps you can take to reduce your risk.

  • Eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables every day. This is because fruits and vegetables contain a slew of different antioxidants that can lower oxidative stress in the body’s cells. when you reduce the oxidative stress in the body, then you lower the risk of cell damage. When less cells are damaged, you can lower your chronic disease risk. Therefore, you should try to get at least 2 cups each of fruits and vegetables each day (or more!) for optimal health benefit.  Also, add in more fruits and vegetables for in-between meal snacks instead of sweets to help increase your total fiber and nutrient intake daily.
  • Stay active every day. This doesn’t mean you have to train for a marathon or attend boot camp classes. Just try to get your muscles moving every day by taking walks, going outside and gardening, or visiting your local community center for aerobic or dance classes each week.  A healthy level of activity would be to get at least 30 minutes each day of moderate activity for at least 5 days a week. You can do this exercise in shorter segments. Five minutes here and ten minutes there all counts towards this 30 minutes. And moderate activity is any exercise that increases your rate of breathing a bit and where you can carry a conversation, but can’t sing.
  • Take a heart healthy supplement each day. Sometimes the food you eat does not provide all the nutrients you need to stay your healthiest. In some cases, you may have vitamin deficiencies such as vitamin D or B12 deficiency that could affect your overall health status and well-being. That is why a multivitamin may be the right choice for you to help fill in the nutrition gaps. An example of a great multivitamin is Zestia by Vita Sciences. Zestia provides a comprehensive formula of 45 fruits and vegetables, a daily dose of a variety of essential vitamins and nutrients, as well as probiotics.

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

References:

Cadbury (accessed August 15, 2018) “What is chocolate?”

Ren, Y., et al (2018) “Moderate consumption of chocolate may reduce CVD risk.” 


  • Could turmeric help prevent glaucoma?

    Tunnel vision is usually used to describe someone with a narrow point of view. Taken literally however, it can describe the type of vision that results with untreated glaucoma.  With eye injury prevention month coming to a close next week, it seemed right to talk about ways to prevent glaucoma. This is because those with eye injury are at a higher risk of developing this condition.  A recent study has found that turmeric, a natural spice, may be the golden ticket to potentially prevent glaucoma and preserve eye health.

    glaucoma, eye, vision, healthWhat is glaucoma?

    Glaucoma is not just one eye condition. However, it is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and can cause vision loss and blindness. Research suggests that eye pressure is a major cause of the vision loss caused by glaucoma.

    Another risk factor of optic nerve damage, and in turn, glaucoma, is high blood pressure. Even though it may seem unrelated to eat healthy to keep your eye healthy, there are blood vessels in your eye that get their blood flow from the heart. When high blood pressure constricts blood flow, it can cause pressure in the eye. In turn, this can cause vision issues.

    Turmeric and glaucoma prevention

    When you consider the heart health component of vision health, then turmeric as a preventive treatment makes sense. This is because turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory agent.  Since heart health issues stem from increased inflammation, then turmeric may very well benefit such conditions.

    Turmeric is a root plant grown throughout Asia and Central America. It is an important part of ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for inflammatory-related conditions like pain, fatigue, arthritis, and breathing problems.  Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric due to its antioxidant properties which help prevent cell damage that can lead to chronic disease.  Although it is consumed as a spice in foods, turmeric can also be consumed in tablets, capsules, tea, or extracts.

    A recent study shows that eye drops containing curcumin may help treat or prevent glaucoma. A rat study found that twice-daily use of the curcumin drops for three weeks helped reduce retinal ganglion cell loss.  In other words, the eye drops helped preserve the cells in charge of delivering visual information from the eye to the brain.  This study suggests that curcumin eye drops may be a treatment or preventive treatment for those at risk for glaucoma upon further study.

    How to help eye health

    Besides curcumin, there are things you can do today to help improve eye health.

    • Eat right by consuming lots of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables every day.  This will help reduce inflammation in the body and in turn keep your eyes healthy.
    • Keep your weight in a healthy range since obesity can increase risk of diabetes, which can in turn increase risk of vision loss.
    • Protect your eyes with sunglasses or other eyewear like goggles or safety glasses. This is because you can prevent eye injury from sports or work accidents if your eyes are protected. Also, shielding your eyes from the UV rays of the sun can reduce eye damage.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start since it can constrict blood vessels. This can in turn negatively affect blood vessel health of the eye and increase risk of eye diseases.
    • Reduce screen time each day since looking at a computer, television, or phone screen too much without taking a break can put strain on the eyes. Therefore, experts suggest taking a break from the screen every 20 minutes by looking 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.
    • Take a eye health supplement daily like Ocutain by Vita Sciences. Ocutain contains antioxidants such as lutein and beta carotene that can benefit vision health.

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

    References:

    Boyd, K. (April 13, 2018) “Who is at risk for glaucoma?” American Academy of Ophthalmology Online.

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (accessed July 24, 2018) “Turmeric.”

    National Eye Institute (September 2015) “Facts About Glaucoma.”

    National Eye Institute (accessed July 24, 2018) “Eye Health Tips.”

    Science Daily (July 24, 2018) “Turmeric-derived eye drops could treat glaucoma: study.”

     

     

     

     

     

     


  • Could you work schedule be hurting your gut health?

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

    What is circadian rhythm?

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

    Circadian rhythm and gut health

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

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

    How to help your gut health

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

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

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

    References:

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

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

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

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

     


  • Eat more vegetables to improve diabetes health

    Now you may be saying to yourself, “Another article telling me to eat vegetables.” :sigh: However, this is not just another one of “those” articles. There are more reasons to eat your veggies than you may think.  Besides providing digestive-friendly fiber and antioxidants, a recent study has shown that eating a more plant-based diet can actually lower your heart and diabetes health numbers.

    What are your “numbers”?

    Your numbers are the markers that you and your healthcare provider can use to track your health progress. These numbers include cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels, to name a few. It is important that you have these numbers checked at least yearly. If you already have diabetes or another chronic disease, have labs checked more often as recommended by your doctor.

    Why are vegetables so important?

    Vegetables are important for many reasons.

    1. Fiber: Vegetables and other plant-based foods contain the complex carbohydrate  known as fiber. The gut does not digest fiber. Because of this it doesn’t count towards your total carbohydrate intake, hence net carbs.  Net carbs are grams of total carbohydrate from grams of fiber from the nutrition label. In addition, fiber can help you stay fuller longer. This can aid weight loss efforts if eaten at meals and snacks. Finally, fiber is great for gut health. This is because it helps bulk stool and slows digestion to help the body absorb more nutrients from food consumed. Increased fiber intake can help lower cholesterol numbers and keep blood glucose levels more stable.
    2. Antioxidants: When people tell you to color your plate, antioxidants are the reasons why.  Antioxidants are compounds that help reduce cell damage in the body. In turn, they help lower your risk of chronic disease.  Every color of the rainbow in plant-based foods represents a different set of antioxidants. Each set of antioxidants provide different health benefits. Research has linked diabetes with oxidative stress-related cell damage. Therefore, eating a lot of them can help prevent  or improve diabetes health outcomes.
    3. Prebiotic quality: Probiotics, or “good” bacteria, are becoming all the rage these days and for good reason. Research shows that a good balance of bacteria in the gut may help reduce oxidative stress-related cell damage. In turn, this may help lower risk of chronic diseases linked to inflammation such as heart disease, diabetes, certain skin conditions, and digestive conditions, to name a few. Probiotics are living organisms like bacteria or fungi that can benefit health. They can be found in supplement form or in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, or sauerkraut. On the other hand, prebiotics are those foods that help feed probiotics. Just like when you are hungry, probiotics may not work as productively if they are not fed. Therefore, plant-based foods such as artichokes, asparagus, and bananas should be eaten everyday.

    Diabetes and plant-based food research

    A recent study looked at the effect of a vegetarian diet on health outcomes. An analysis of studies found that vegetarian dietary patterns were linked with significantly lower:

    • HbA1C
    • fasting glucose
    • LDL cholesterol
    • body weight
    • body mass index (BMI)
    • waist circumference

    This study suggests that a plant-based diet pattern may help improve the health of those with diabetes.  More studies will need to be done to confirm specific long-term health benefits for diabetes management. However, in the meantime, add in more plant-based foods to your diet like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds for other benefits.

    In addition to eating more plant-based foods, you can try diabetes supplements as well to help control your blood glucose levels. Glucarex by Vita Sciences contains ingredients like chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon that can support weight loss and healthy blood glucose levels.

    References:

    McMacken, M. and Shah, S. (May 2017) “A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.” Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, 14(5): 342-354.

    Nagpal, R., et al. (2012) “Probiotics, their health benefits and applications for developing healthier foods: a review.” FEMS Microbiology Letters, 334(2012): 1-15.

    The Diabetes Council (May 16, 2016) “Antioxidants for Diabetes.” thediabetescouncil.com/antioxidants-diabetes-what-you-need-to-know/

    Viguiliouk, E., et al. (2018) “Effect of vegetarian dietary patterns on cardiometabolic risk factors in diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Clinical Nutrition, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2018.05.032

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

     

     


  • Free your gut from inflammation with probiotics

    probiotic, fermented foods, health, gut healthProbiotics have become the talk of the town, and for good reason. Every day more research shows that taking probiotics can reduce inflammation in the gut, and in turn, may help reduce risk of inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, eczema, and inflammatory bowel disease. Therefore, adding a probiotic to your daily routine may be the answer to help free your gut, and in turn your body, from inflammation.

    What is inflammation?

    Inflammation is a response to injury, infection, or foreign bodies in the body. This process is often linked with redness, swelling, and pain. In the body, however, can be a good thing since inflammation helps to get rid of any toxins and help the body heal.  However, too much of just about anything can be a bad thing.

    Oxidative stress, along with inflammation, is often associated with chronic disease risk. When the body’s cells encounter oxidative stress, cell damage may occur, and in turn, chronic disease risk may increase.  Oxidative stress occurs, by definition, when there is an imbalance in prooxidant stress and antioxidant defense.  This occurs when free radicals, or any species with one or more unpaired electrons, steal electrons from other cells to become paired. In doing this, a chain reaction of free radical formation is set off. This  in turn can lead to cell damage.

    What are probiotics?

    Probiotics are living organisms such as bacteria or fungi, that have health benefits.  You may see probiotics in your local grocery store or health food market. It can be confusing to know which strain(s) will be most beneficial for you.  The key will be to find a probiotic product that is diverse in the amount of strains that it contains, so that you can benefit from a wide variety of bacterium.

    For example, one diverse probiotic product is Biovia 30 by Vita Sciences. This probiotic product contains 30 billion colony forming units of 10 important Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains.

    How can I benefit from probiotics?

    Probiotics can help restore balance of bacterium in the gut. This can help reduce inflammation in the body and reduce chronic disease risk.  The benefits of probiotics range from lowering cholesterol to strengthening the immune system.  In addition, probiotics can help improve symptoms in those with digestive conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease. Furthermore, there is evidence that those with skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and acne may benefit from probiotic treatment.

    You can add probiotics in your diet by consuming more fermented food or by taking a probiotic supplement. You can add some probiotic-containing foods to your diet such as:

    • sauerkraut
    • kimchi
    • kefir
    • yogurt
    • miso
    • tempeh

    It is also beneficial that if you consume probiotics in any form, that you also consume prebiotics, or foods to help feed the probiotics in your gut.  Examples of prebiotic foods include:

    • fruits such as bananas
    • vegetables such as asparagus, soybeans, garlic onion, leeks, and artichokes
    • whole-grain foods such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, and bran cereal
    • Flaxseeds

    Therefore, free yourself from inflammation in your body today by adding some pre- and probiotics to your daily routine.

    References:

    Baek, J. and Lee, M-G. (2016) “Oxidative stress and antioxidant strategies in dermatology.” Redox Report, 21(4): 164-169.

    Biswas, S.K. (2016) “Does the Interdependence between Oxidative Stress and Inflammation Explain the Antioxidant Paradox?” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, Volume 2016(Article ID 5698931): 9 pages.

    Nagpal, R., et al. (2012) “Probiotics, their health benefits and applications for developing healthier foods: a review.” FEMS Microbiology Letters, 334(2012): 1-15.

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

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

     


  • The Top 5 Ways to Lower Your Heart Disease Risk

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

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

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

     

     

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

    Sources:

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

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

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


  • Could your sleep patterns affect your mental health?

    sleep, mental health, stress, anxiety, depressionSleep. Work. Eat. Repeat. Does that sound like your day, or something like it?  Sleep is often set aside as just something that a person does at the end of the day. It is often overlooked as a very important part of optimal health. A recent study found that it is so important in fact, that not getting enough sleep may increase your risk for mental health disorders.

    The Importance of Sleep

    The average adult needs at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.  This may seem like a lot if you live a busy life which many of us do. And you may shrug it off and say, “Who needs sleep. I don’t need sleep.” The fact is that sleep is more important than you think, and without it your health could suffer.

    So many things happen while you sleep. For example, at rest your body conserves energy, regulates blood pressure, and restores tissues and muscles.  Furthermore, your body regulates fluids and controls hormone levels in the body while you sleep.  Without enough sleep, your circadian rhythm can go off course. In turn, this can lead you to eat when you’re not hungry, which can lead to weight gain and increased chronic disease risk over time.

    And if these weren’t enough reasons to hit the snooze button, sleep also has an impact on the immune system.  Lack of sleep can cause yo to get sick more often, which in turn could put more stress on your body and mind.

    Sleep and Mental Health

    A recent study looked at about 90,000 residents from the United Kingdom in regards to sleep patterns.  Study subjects between the age of 37 and 73 years wore accelerometers for 24 hours a day for 7 days.  In other words, these devices measured the rest and activity levels of participants. Those with reduced activity during the day or increased activity at night were described as having a disrupted circadian rhythm, or lower amplitude.  Comparing these patterns with questionnaires filled out by participants found links between lower amplitudes and health measures such as:

    • higher risk of unstable moods
    • lower levels of unhappiness
    • lower health satisfaction
    • greater reported loneliness

    Among other findings, it is clear that this study shows that lack of sleep can greatly impact mental health measures, and in turn quality of life.

    Ways to Help You Get More Sleep

    There may not be enough hours in the day to get everything done.  However, it is really important to make sure sleep gets a priority on your to-do list. Therefore, if you have trouble sleeping, try some of the methods below to help.

    • Stick to a sleep schedule: Just like your other daily tasks, put sleep on your daily planner. Although it can be hard to do sometimes, setting a time to prepare for bed each night can help you develop a new healthy sleeping pattern over time.
    • Start a bedtime ritual: When it is coming close to that time of night, start a bedtime ritual that will help your body prepare for bed. Whether it is drinking a cup of herbal tea after dinner, or diffusing some lavender essential oils to relax your body, this type of ritual can reduce your risk of tossing and turning into the night. It is also helpful to reduce caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake in the latter part of the day as well as turning off any screens during your bedtime ritual to help your eyes and mind rest.
    • Exercise each day: Any type of movement for at least 30 minutes each day can tire your body out a bit, so you can rest better in the evening. Otherwise, your body will have energy to expend with no outlet to provide it with. In turn, you will likely stay up late and have trouble sleeping. Besides that, exercise is good for keeping your body and mind healthy.
    • Take a supplement for sleep like Somnova by Vita Sciences. Somnova contains melatonin and l-theanine to help relax your mind, feel refreshed, and get more peaceful sleep. Add a sleep supplement to your bedtime routine about 30 minutes before you plan on going to sleep.
    • Visit your healthcare provider: If you have tried all of the above, or feel particularly tired upon waking, you may need to see your healthcare provider. This is because your sleep problems may be related to other conditions such as pain issues, sleep apnea, or other health conditions and should be treated under medical supervision.

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

    Sources:

    Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (December 18, 2007) “Why Do We Sleep, Anyway?”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed May 16, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

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

    Paddock, Ph.D., C. (May 16, 2018) “Sleep-wake disruption strongly linked to mood disorders.”


  • Could trans fats increase your heart disease risk?

    You’ve probably heard of trans fats before. And I’m sure what you have heard was not good news. This new news is not much different, except that the World Health Organization just announced that it plans to eliminate synthetic trans fats completely from the food supply by the year 2023.

    What are trans fats?

    trans fat, fat, fast food, unhealthy, burger, fries, pie

    Trans fats are found in small amounts in whole fat dairy products and fatty meats. However, the majority of such fats is artificial.  This artificial trans fat is formed from a process called hydrogenation. This word may look familiar from food labels since a lot of processed products contain hydrogenated forms of certain oils. In other words, oils like vegetable oil have hydrogen added to it. This makes the oil become solid at room temperature.  This type of fat is less likely to spoil, which is likely why a lot of fast food restaurants use it for their fryers.

    Over the years, research has shown that these types of fats increase risk of heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It can also decrease you HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and increase your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. These health risks are the major reason why the use of such fats in foods has gone down over the past several years.

    What foods contain trans fats?

    Fast foods like fries, doughnuts, or fried chicken commonly contain trans fats. However, baked goods like pies, or ready-made frostings are also a source of trans fats. Many companies though have already taken these types of fats out of their products. This is since the original statement from the Food and Drug Administration in 2013 that deemed trans fats no longer “generally recognized as safe.”

    Trans Fat Ban by 2023

    The World Health Organization (WHO) released on May 14, 2018, a guide called REPLACE. This step-by-step guide provides instructions on how to eliminate trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.  The six actions involved in this program includes:

    REview  food sources of industrially-produced trans fats in the global landscape.

    Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.

    Legislate or enact regulations to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.

    Assess and monitor the use of industrially-produced trans fats in the food supply as well as rates of consumption of such fats in the global diet.

    Create widespread awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats.

    Enforce compliance of policies and regulations involving industrially-produced trans fats.

    Similar bans in Denmark and New York City in recent years have found that death rates from heart attacks went down significantly. Therefore, WHO hopes to eliminate trans fat from the food supply by the year 2023. This is part of the United Nation’s Sustainable Developmental Goals that hopes to reduce premature death from noncommunicable diseases by one-third by the year 2030.

    Stick to healthy fats

    Just because trans fats will be taken out of the food supply, that does not mean taste of foods will be affected. There are many healthier types of fats and oils that can replace artificial fats and will be better for your health. Such healthier fats and oils include:

    • Olive oils
    • Peanut oil
    • Fats from plant-based foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, and nut butters
    • Fats from fatty fish like salmon, albacore tuna, trout, or sardines

    Other ways to reduce risk of heart disease

    Besides replacing unhealthy fats with healthier fats, there are other ways to reduce your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes that include:

    • Staying active for at least 30-40 minutes a day most days with moderate activity like walking.
    • Reducing stress by talking out problems with a counselor, engaging in yoga or meditation, or performing relaxation breathing.
    • Quitting unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as drinking alcohol or smoking.
    • Taking heart healthy supplements such as Alestra by Vita Sciences. Alestra contains natural ingredients like niacin, plant sterols, and garlic that research shows may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and promote heart health.

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

    Sources:

    American Heart Association (March 29, 2018) “Lifestyle Changes for Heart Attack Prevention.”

    Food and Drug Administration (June 16, 2015) “FDA Cuts Trans Fat in Processed Foods.”

    Mayo Clinic (March 1, 2017) “Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health.”

    Wolfram, T. (March 6, 2017) “Choose Healthy Fats.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eatright.org

    World Health Organization (May 14, 2018) “WHO plan to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from global food supply.”

     


  • Drinking more alcohol than suggested could shorten life

    alcohol, health, beer, wine, liquor, unhealthyIt’s Friday night and the weekend is just beginning.  After a long week of work, you may be thinking about that glass of wine or pint of beer to help you relax.  In moderation, there is nothing wrong with a few drinks on the weekend. However, a recent study has found that drinking more than the suggested amount each week can shorten your life.

    What is the recommended alcohol intake for most adults?

    General recommendations in the United States suggest that men consume no more than 2 standard alcoholic drinks a day and women consume no more than one daily. A standard drink is equal to:

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

    Any more than this recommendation is heavy drinking and can have negative health effects. More than 4 drinks at one occasion for a woman or 5 drinks for a man is considered binge drinking. Negative health effects of such heavy drinking include:

    • short term effects such as increased risk of falls, injuries, car crashes if driving while intoxicated, and increased likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or violent behavior.
    • if pregnant and drinking, your unborn child could have increased risk of fetal alcohol syndrome, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
    • increased risk of heart disease, stoke, liver disease, and digestive problems
    • increased risk of anxiety and depression
    • learning and memory problems

    In addition to such health problems, long term drinking could lead to problems with family and friends if you become dependent on alcohol. Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for resources on how to get help if you think you may have a drinking problem.

    Alcohol and life span

    A recent study in the medical journal Lancet found that for each alcoholic drink over 6 standard glasses of wine or 7 standard 12 oz beers a week could shorten your life by 30 minutes. This may not seem like a lot, but every minute can add up over time. This recommended amount is equal to about 12.5 units of alcohol.

    You may ask, “How did they come up with this number?”  The answer to this comes in the form of a study of about 600,000 current drinkers included in 83 studies from 19 countries. It was found that a 40-year old drinking just 2-3 standard drinks a week more than the suggested tipping point can lower their life expectancy by about 2 years.  This is likely due to the health effects listed above such as increased risk of heart disease, among other things.  This study helped support the United Kingdom’s proposed reduction in alcoholic drink recommendations. When following these guidelines, people had a 20-percent lower heart disease risk. Also, there was no increase in harm to health seen in terms of death rate in those who were compliant with the guidelines.

    Although some studies show that moderate drinking may help heart health, this study reports different results. Researchers suggest that a glass of red wine now and then may reduce the risk of a non-fatal heart attack. However, this positive health effect is offset against the increased risk of other health issues.

    Other ways to relax

    If drinking alcohol is a method you use to relax, then perhaps it is time to try healthier methods of lowering stress. Try a few of the methods below to replace happy hour, so you can live out the highest quality, and quantity of life possible.

    • Exercise each day with something as simple as a short walk. Just getting fresh air and sunshine on your face can help you feel better and more relaxed. Try to walk at least 3 to 5 times a week.
    • Breathe. Taking five deep breaths when you are stressed and practicing relaxation breathing before bed can help you to reduce stress.
    • Meditate and focus on all of the positive things in your life such as those things you have accomplished, what you are grateful for, to name a few.
    • Take breaks throughout the day. Even just a 5 minute break here and there during your work day can help. Rub some relaxing essential oil scents on your wrist or neck, go to the bathroom stall, sit down, and take several deep breaths. Release the stress from your mind and focus on your breath and the scent. You can also do this at home when you are feeling overwhelmed or just want to decompress after a long day.
    • Detox your life in a variety of ways to lighten your load of stress. You can do this by:
      • giving away clothes you don’t wear anymore.
      • cleaning your house and reorganizing your belongings.
      • self care such as a hot bath with relaxing essential oils like lavender, getting a massage, or getting your hair done.
      • writing in a journal or talking with a trusted friend, family member, or counselor. Talking can help you to unload your brain of any fears, anxieties, or stress that may be bogging you down.
      • taking a supplement such as Sereneo by Vita Sciences to relax your mind. Sereneo contains ingredients such as valerian root, magnesium, and chamomile to help increase your levels of feel good serotonin.

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

    Sources:

    Boseley, S. (April 13, 2018) “Extra glass of wine a day ‘will shorten your life by 30 minutes.'” 

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (January 3, 2018) “Fact Sheets- Alcohol Use and Your Health.”

    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (updated April 18, 2018) “SAMHSA’s National Helpline.”

    Tartakovsky, M.S., M. (May 23, 2013) “20 Ways to Relax & Unwind.” 


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

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

    About High Blood Pressure

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

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

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

    Blood Pressure Survey

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

    Other Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

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

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

    Sources:

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

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

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

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

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