Category Archives: high cholesterol

Could the DASH Diet be the Answer to Your Weight Loss Goals?

balanced diet, diet, healthy, haert health, fruits, veggies, proteinLike millions of other people, you may be hoping to lose some weight in this new year. However, the confusing part may be what eating plan, or shall I say “diet,” should you choose to follow?  There is so much information in the media today making all sorts of weight loss claims.  They may all seem promising, but not all may provide you the nutrients you need to succeed long-term.  However, a recent report found that the DASH diet may be the answer to get you to your weight loss goal.

What is the DASH Diet?

The DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet regimen, is a eating regimen promoted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It involves a flexible and balanced diet that focuses on using whole foods to meet daily and weekly nutritional goals. Basic tenets of the DASH diet include:

  • Eating plenty of fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • Consuming adequate protein daily from minimally processed sources such as fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
  • Limiting foods high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and certain oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
  • Reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets

Calorie and activity goals recommended will be a little different for each individual based upon your energy needs. Energy needs can be calculated using your BMR, or basal metabolic rate, multiplied by an activity factor.  A good BMR calculator is provided online by MyFitnessPal. To calculate your activity factor, multiply your BMR by the following activity factor based on your activity level. Exercises considered moderate versus active can be found in a variety of sources such as the American Heart Association website.

  • 1.0 if you are sedentary, or do little to no activity
  • 1.1-1.2 if you engage in light activity 1-3 times a week
  • 1.2-1.3 if you are active, or engage in moderate exercise for 150 minutes a week or vigorous activity 75 minutes a week
  • 1.4-1.5 if you are very active, or engage in moderate exercise  closer to 300 minutes per week , and vigorous activity closer to 150 minutes per week

For example, of your BMR is 1500 and you work out for 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week, then you would multiply 1500 by 1.2-1.3. Therefore, you would need to consume about 1800 to 1950 calories each day to maintain your current weight. As an estimate, subtract 500 calories for every pound you wish to lose per week.

Based on the example provided, if you wanted to lose one pound per week, then you would need to consume between 1300 to 1450 calories each day.  Be sure though, that within those calories that you are eating enough protein and fiber daily for optimal health.  Such specific nutrient goals can be found on the NIH website. You can visit your healthcare provider such as your doctor or dietitian for more specific macronutrient goals that are appropriate for you.

Diet Research

Studies such as the DASH-Sodium and PREMIER trials looked at the effects of the DASH diet on blood pressure. Both of these studies found decreases in blood pressure with either a low sodium diet or established treatment plan that included nutrition counseling, respectively. However, those who followed a DASH diet in addition to these factors had even greater reductions in blood pressure.

A recent study of 38 different diets by the U.S. News and World Report ranked the DASH diet the top diet for the eighth year in a row. The Mediterranean diet, which includes plenty of heart-healthy fruits and vegetables as well as healthy fats in the diet, was ranked second. Diets were scored according to:

  • How easy is the diet to follow
  • the nutritional quality of the diet
  • the safety of the diet long-term
  • the effectiveness of the diet for weight loss
  • the protective quality of the diet against diabetes and heart disease

The DASH diet was found to be rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, protein, and fiber. Also, this plan was found to adapt to any healthy lifestyle without deprivation or restriction of important nutrients.

Ways to Make Your New Year’s Goal Become a Reality

Finding a diet that you want to follow is one thing, but sticking to it is a whole other ballgame. Therefore, use the following tips to help you make your new year’s health goal a reality.

  • Make it a family affair: If you have others in your household that eat with you at meal time, include them in your healthy eating efforts.  This does not mean that everyone has to go on a diet with you. However, you can help instill healthy habits at meal time to benefit everyone. For example, you can include more vegetables at meals, limit the sugary and salty foods purchased, and reduce meals eaten out.
  • Get a healthy “buddy” for accountability: Since you are likely to have a co-worker, neighbor, or friend that also vows to be healthier in the new year, designate each other as your “buddy.” Basically, this means that you can help each other be accountable for your food choices and exercise.  You can do this by:
    • taking walks together during the week
    • attending exercise classes together
    • batch cooking or prepping healthy meals together on the weekend

In regards to exercise, studies have shown that those who have an exercise partner can have about twice the overall increased intensity and duration of exercise than those who work out alone.

  • Track your eating and exercise regularly: Food tracking can get cumbersome over time. However it can be really useful in the early stages of a healthy eating regimen to make sure you are meeting your nutrient needs.  Once you feel comfortable with your eating plan you can get away with tracking less frequently. However, it is useful to track every few weeks for the long term to make sure you are eating enough of important nutrients like protein and fiber. Some great examples of tracker apps include MyFitnessPal, LoseIt!, and MyPlate.
  • Don’t get caught up in the numbers:  Weighing yourself everyday or tracking every macro can get overwhelming. Such excessive tracking can cause you to lose sight of important non-scale goals. Focus more on losing weight to feel more energy, feeling less pain in your joints, or being able to be active in ways you have not been able to  because of your current health status. This is not to say that tracking such numbers is not important. However, these numbers are just one small part of the healthy lifestyle equation.
  • Add in vitamins and supplements to fill in any nutrition gaps: A balanced diet ideally should give you all of the vitamins and nutrients you need daily. However, no regimen is perfect. There may be days where you do not consume enough of certain vitamins or minerals due to sickness, travel, or other reasons. Therefore, it is important to have a multivitamin in your regimen to help fill in any nutrient gaps.  An example is Zestia by Vita Sciences, which contains Super Food compounds, probiotics, and 100% or more of 19 vitamins and minerals.
  • Take it one step at a time: A long-term goal is great, but can be daunting to accomplish. For example, saying you want to lose 50lbs this year may seem like an impossible task. However, if you break your long-term goal into shorter pieces then it becomes more practical. In this case, setting a goal of one pound each week seems more possible and allows you to celebrate each small progression towards your ultimate goal. Therefore, take your new year’s health goals one day at a time.  Each small success should be celebrated. For example, when you reach eight cups of water consumed each day or reach 5000 steps a day, you should be proud and treat yourself to a non-food reward. Examples of such rewards include a movie night at home, a relaxing bubble bath, or a massage. Before you know it, your new year’s goal will be accomplished and you can start off the next year with confidence and better health.

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

Sources:

American Heart Association (March 2014) “Moderate to Vigorous – What is your level of intensity?”

American Heart Association (February 2014) “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults.”

MedlinePlus (January 3, 2018) “What’s Your Best Diet for 2018? Experts Rate Them.”

MedlinePlus (January 1, 2018) “For a Healthier New Year, Try Making It a Family Affair.”

MedlinePlus (January 4, 2018) “Need Motivation to Exercise? Try the Buddy System.”

MyFitness Pal BMR calculator

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (accessed January 7, 2018) “DASH Eating Plan.”

National Institutes of Health (January 3, 2018) “DASH ranked Best Diet Overall for eighth year in a row by U.S. News and World Report.”

National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements (accessed January 8, 2018) “Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs).” 

 

 


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    Is Calories In, Calories Out the Key to Losing Weight?

    weight loss, apple, nutrition, orange, calorieIf you have ever tried to lose weight, then you probably have been told to track your calories. Most calorie trackers focus on keeping track of the calories you consume through food.  On the other hand, fitness trackers or workout machines may track how many calories you burn during the day. However, is there more to the story of weight loss, or is calories in and calories out the only key to success?  A recent report by health experts reveal that there may be more than simple math in the weight loss equation.

    What are is a calorie?

    A calorie is a unit of energy that is found in food and beverages. The four major macronutrients that consist of calories include:

    • protein at 4 calories per gram
    • carbohydrate at around 4 calories per gram
    • fat at 7 calories per gram
    • alcohol at 9 calories per gram

    Whatever calories you consume that are not used as energy are stored in the body as fat. In simple terms, you may lose fat stores if you consume less calories than you burn.  Calories can be burned by physical activity, but calorie expenditure may also increase in those who are growing, injured, or ill.  This is because your body will need more energy to support such processes that involve cell reproduction and other related processes.

    Are some calories healthier than others?

    Not all calories are created equal. The recent report reveals a growing trend of people focusing solely on the number of calories in and calories out, rather than the quality of calories consumed. Although this may lead to a calorie deficit, and in turn weight loss, it is not necessarily healthy.

    For example, a piece of candy and an apple may both contain 100 calories. However, the candy mostly contains empty calories because they contain little to no nutritional value. The calories in the candy are mainly from simple carbohydrates like sugar as well as fat.  However, in the apple, those same calories contain many nutrients such as fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Therefore, the calories from the apple will provide your body with more health benefits than the candy.

    Weighing in on the “Calories In, Calories Out” equation

    The latest diet craze known as CICO (Calories In, Calories Out), may lead to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies according to experts. If you are not looking at the nutrient quality of the calories you consume, then you may increase your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, anemia, to name a few. In addition, if you restrict yourself of too many calories, then you may develop fatigue and malnutrition, which does your body more harm than good. Contact a registered dietitian to help you determine how many calories you need to support your lifestyle, while still helping you to lose any excess weight.

    How to Work on Weight Loss

    There is no one size fits all plan to help everyone lose weight. However, there are several things you can do today to get on the right track towards healthy weight loss and maintenance.

    • Watch your portion sizes at meals and snacks. A simple way to determine how much food you need to eat at each meal involves your protein and fiber needs. Most adults should consume at least 25 grams of fiber a day through whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Your protein needs, in grams, can be determined by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.75.  Once you determine your fiber and protein needs, use a nutrition tracker to ensure you meet these needs with mostly whole foods, or foods that are minimally processed.  Also, chew your food more per bite, slow your pace of eating to 20-25 minutes per meal, and be mindful of the food choices you make by looking at nutrition labels before you make food purchases.
    • Stay active most days of the week.  Balance out each week with cardiovascular and resistance exercises. Cardio exercises include walking, jogging, swimming, or biking. These exercises work to increase calorie burn. Resistance exercises, on the other hand, such as lifting weights, doing push-ups, or using resistance bands, help to maintain lean muscle mass. Maintaining your muscle mass as you lose weight helps you to maintain calorie-burning power, also known as metabolism.
    • Get plenty of sleep.  Weight loss may be more difficult for those who do not sleep well.  This is because lack of sleep can disrupt the hormones that control hunger and appetite. Try to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble sleeping due to visiting the bathroom regularly, stop drinking fluids at least 2 hours before bedtime.  If pain is keeping you up, visit your doctor to get support.  If you are not sure what is causing your restless sleep, you may have sleep apnea. You can ask your doctor about getting a sleep study done to determine the cause of your sleepless nights.
    • Visit your doctor if diet and exercise are not leading to weight loss. If calories in and calories out are leading to weight plateaus or gains, then there may be an underlying health issue. Research has shown that some people who have a family history of obesity may have a harder time losing weight than those that don’t. This could be due to:
      • genetic factors.
      • increased risk of conditions like hypothyroidism or insulin resistance.
      • environmental factors such as growing up without knowledge of healthy eating behaviors.
    • Fill in your nutrient gaps with vitamins and supplements. At the very least, take a multivitamin such as Zestia by VitaSciences. Zestia contains a blend of Super Food extracts, probiotics, and digestive enzymes helps to support optimal health. If you live in a climate with little sunlight, you may also need to add a vitamin D3 supplement to your daily routine.  Low vitamin D levels can affect many aspects of health such as bone and immune health, to name a few.

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

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (November 16, 2016) “Finding a Balance” 

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (May 2014) “Eating fiber-rich foods helps keep the heart healthy”

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (updated April 11, 2017) “Why People Become Overweight” 

    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (accessed November 27, 2017) “Protein”

    Medline Health News (November 22, 2017) “It’s the Latest Diet Craze, But Is It Safe?”

    Medline Plus (accessed November 28, 2017) “Vitamin D” 

     

     


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    Poor Heart Health Can Increase Stroke and Dementia Risk

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

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

    What are the Life’s Simple 7?

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

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

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

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

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

    Sources:

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


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    Can Skipping Breakfast Impact Your Health?

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

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

    What is a healthy breakfast?

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

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

    Recent research

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

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

    Filling in the Nutrient Gaps

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

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

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

    Sources:

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

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

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


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    Are healthy fats as effective as statins in lowering cholesterol?

    High cholesterol is a common risk factor for heart disease. Over 31 million Americans have high cholesterol. The common treatment for this condition has been medicines known as statins. However, a recent study by the American Heart Association has found that eating foods containing cholesterol, statin, healthy fatshealthy fats may work to lower cholesterol as well as statins.

    You may think if you lower cholesterol in your diet, then you can lower blood cholesterol. However, it is saturated fat intake that has an impact on your cholesterol levels. There are two main types of cholesterol: High-density lipoproteins (HDL) and Low-density lipoproteins (LDL). The HDL, or “good” cholesterol, carries LDL, the “bad” cholesterol away from the heart to the liver to be broken down and used by the body for energy.  Also, LDL  can build up in the arteries causing plaques. This in turn can increase risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

    Statins work to lower cholesterol by preventing cholesterol from forming in the liver. Therefore, this reduces the amount of cholesterol that circulates in the blood.  Furthermore, statins also work to increase HDL cholesterol in the blood. Recent studies have shown that consuming healthy fats in the diet can provide these same benefits.

    The American Heart Association has found that replacing saturated fats with healthier plant-based fats in the diet can be just as effective in lowering cholesterol as statin drugs. These healthy fats, or unsaturated fats,  help improve cholesterol.  Fatty fish like salmon or trout, nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, and olive oil contain such healthy fats.  In particular, clinical trials have found that replacing saturated fats in the diet with healthier polyunsaturated fats can reduce cholesterol by 30-percent.  It is important to note that this reduction is similar to the effect of statins on cholesterol levels.

    Therefore, in order to lower cholesterol, swap out saturated fat foods such as fried foods, fatty meats, and processed food products with healthier fat options.  This small swap can make a world of difference in your heart health.

    In addition to diet changes, you can add in a supplement such as Vita Sciences’ AlestraAlestra contains heart-healthy compounds such as niacin, plant sterols, and garlic. These compounds have been found to support healthy cholesterol levels and promote heart health. However, be sure to ask your healthcare provider before adding any new supplements to your routine.

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

    Sources:

    American Heart Association (April 2017) “HDL (Good), LDL (Bad) Cholesterol and Triglycerides,” “The Skinny on Fats” &”Cholesterol Medications” http://www.heart.org

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (March 17, 2015) “High Cholesterol Facts” https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/facts.htm

    Medline Plus (June 15, 2017) “Healthy Dietary fats Help Beat High Cholesterol” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_166625.html


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    Top Three Tips for Keeping your Heart Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sources:

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

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

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


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    Can Exercise Prevent Stroke Complications?

    stroke, heart disease, health

    Knowing these signs and symptoms of stroke can help save a life; perhaps even your own.

    I’m sure you have heard many times before how exercising is great for keeping your heart strong. Therefore, it may come as no surprise that exercise has been found to prevent complications after someone has a stroke.

     

    What is a stroke?

    A stroke is essentially a brain attack of which there are two major types.

    A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel bursts.  An ischemic stroke is caused by restricted blood flow to the brain as a result of a vessel being blocked.

    According to the National Stroke Association, these brain attacks are the fifth leading cause of death in America and one of the leading causes of adult disabilities in the country.  Unlike what was previously though, it is estimated that 80-percent of strokes can be prevented by such controllable lifestyle factors as:

    • Eating a healthy diet. To consume a heart and brain healthy diet, you can:
      • Limit saturated fats in the diet such as those from fatty meats, whole fat dairy products, and fried foods.
      • Limit sodium in the diet to 2300 milligrams a day.  You can limit sodium by reducing the amount of processed food products you consume each day.  Try to  limit intake of high sodium foods such as canned soups, chips, deli meats, and adding salt to your food.
      • Limit added sugars at meal and snack time.  Try to stick to foods that contain less than 15 grams of sugar per serving and limit intake of sugary drinks such as juice, cola, milkshakes, and dessert coffee drinks.
    • Stay active. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week. This doesn’t mean you have to attend boot camp classes. Just walking at a brisk pace is enough to keep your heart strong.
    • Limit alcohol intake. For healthy living, you should consume no more than 1 standard drink a day for women and no more than 2 standard drinks a day for men. Alcohol has been associated with increased blood pressure, which can increase risk of stroke. One standard drink is equal to 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine, or 1.5 ounces liquor.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start. Smoking constricts the blood vessels, therefore restricting blood flow to the organs and tissues.
    • Visit your doctor regularly. You and your healthcare provider should work to control any chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes since these conditions can increase your risk of having a stroke.

    Exercise and stroke

    In the journal Neurology, researchers followed individuals with no history of stroke for 12 years.  Over 7-percent of those individuals suffered a stroke and survived during the course of the study.  It was found that three years after this major health event, survivors who had exercised regularly before their stroke were 18 percent more likely to be able to perform basic tasks such as bathing themselves. Furthermore, those individuals who were more fit were 16 percent more likely to be able to perform more complex tasks, such as managing money on their own, compared to those who did not exercise.

    Surprisingly, a person’s body mass index, or estimate of fat mass, was not a predicting factor in their level of disability after having a stroke. Therefore, it is suggested that doctors should stress the importance of leading an active lifestyle for not only prevention of the condition, but also to improve chances of survival if a stroke occurs.

    Another way to help prevent stroke is to take a heart healthy supplement such as Circova by Vita SciencesCircova contains a powerful blend of Hawthorne extract which has been found to assist in the dilation of blood vessels, in turn increasing blood flow to the heart.

    Visit the National Stroke Association website for more information on how you can prevent stroke.

    -Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    National Stroke Association (accessed 2017 April 10) “What is Stroke?” http://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/what-stroke

    Preidt, R. (2017 April 5) “Fitness, Not Fat, Is Key to Post-Stroke Recovery” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_164476.html


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    Could Breakfast Improve Your Heart Health?

    Are you one of the 30-percent of the American adults that skips breakfast? Time and time again you may have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  A recent study has found that breakfast may improve heart health by reducing risk of heart disease.

    Breakfast and Heart Disease Risk

    According to the American Heart Association, eating more in the morning and less at night may reduce the odds for a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiac and blood vessel diseases. This is because those who skip breakfast tend to snack more throughout the day. Furthermore, such snack options may not be the healthiest choices. When people eat breakfast, they have been found less likely to have high cholesterol and high blood pressure. In addition, breakfast eaters tend to have less risk factors for heart disease such as obesity, diabetes, and overall poor nutrition.

    It is thought that meal timing may be the primary reason for this correlation between breakfast eating and lower heart disease risk.  It is thought that humans do not process sugars as well in the night time hours as in the morning. Therefore, a person that eats breakfast will most likely in turn eat a sensibly-sized dinner. This sensible dinner, as opposed to snacking or overeating, will contain less sugar than the latter.  Therefore, breakfast eaters will likely have less chance of elevated blood glucose levels and excessive caloric intake that could lead to obesity and related conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.  However, there is a chance that some individuals that add breakfast could actually gain weight. This is likely related to the food choices and portion sizes that are being made during each meal time.

    What is a healthy breakfast?

    A healthy breakfast, or any healthy meal for that matter, should consist of a good balance of protein and fiber. Protein from lean meats, dairy products, eggs, or plant-based protein such as nuts, seeds, or beans would be balanced along with a fiber-rich serving of whole grains, fruits, or veggies. In addition, limiting salt intake, red meat, as well as high-sugar foods can also reduce risk of heart disease.

    What else can I do to improve heart health?

    Other lifestyle changes that can be made to improve heart health include:

    • planning and prepping meals ahead of time so you do not rely on convenience foods
    • having grab-and-go healthy snacks available if you have a busy schedule; examples include smoothies, portable fruit like apples, oranges, or bananas, or healthy non-perishable protein-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, and low-sodium turkey jerky
    • stopping “kitchen hours” at a certain time to prevent overeating at night and mindless snacking

    Finally, you can also add a heart-healthy supplement to your daily regimen such as Alestra. Alestra is a plant-based supplement containing Gugulipid, niacin, garlic bulb herb powder, cayenne, and phytosterol concentrate.  It works to support healthy cholesterol levels and support heart health. Visit the Vitasciences website for more information on Alestra, or one of their other heart-healthy supplement products.

    Be sure to visit the American Heart Association website at Heart.org for more information on the latest research and other helpful information on ways you can improve your heart health.

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

    Sources:

    Rapaport, Lisa (2017 Jan 31) “Skipping breakfast may be bad for your health, doctors say” Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-cardiovascular-meal-timing-idUSKBN15F2GW

    St.-Onge, M-P, et al. (2017 Jan 30) “Meal Timing and Frequency: Implications for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association.” Circulation, Volume 135: Issue 7.

     

     

     


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