Category Archives: hypertension

Less fried foods for lower heart disease and stroke risk

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

Heart disease and stroke facts

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

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

Fried foods and heart disease

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

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

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

Other ways you can lower heart disease and stroke risk 

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

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

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • June is Alzheimer’s Brain Awareness Month

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

    Alzheimer’s basics

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

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

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

    Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s 

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

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

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

    Later symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

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

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

    Alzheimer’s research

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

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

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

    Future research

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

    How you can support research

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

    How you can keep your brain healthy

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

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

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

     


  • How to help your headaches- Headache Awareness Month 2019

    brain, headache, health, migraineTraffic, rude neighbors or co-workers, and financial stress are some the of common things in life that can cause stress. In turn, this stress can give you a headache. Besides literally being a pain, chronic headaches can reduce quality of life and lead to other health issues over time. In honor of June, which is Headache Awareness Month, let’s learn more about headaches and how you can manage them naturally.

    All about headaches

    When it comes to headaches, not all of them are created equal. This is because some can be worse than others, they can affect different sides of the head, and some last longer than others. The two major types of headaches are tension headaches and migraines.

    First of all, the most common type of headache is the tension headache. Tension headaches may stem from mental stress, or tension, as well as too little sleep, too much alcohol, or a mental health condition like anxiety or depression. And according to experts, tension headaches usually occur as a result of tight muscles in the shoulder, neck, scalp, and jaw.

    The second major type of headache is the migraine. And unlike tension headaches, migraines involve a whole different level of pain. This is because migraines cause more than just a head ache. In fact, other symptoms of a migraine can include:

    • moderate to severe throbbing often on one side of the head
    • sensitivity to light and sound
    • nausea
    • vision changes such as flashing lights or temporary loss of vision

    Headache management 

    Typical treatment of a headache may involve an over the counter pain reliever. However, if you deal with headaches often, you may want to find more natural ways to deal with your condition to avoid taking so much medicine. Some natural ways of dealing with headaches include:

    Acupuncture: This age-old technique of inserting thin needles in certain areas of the skin has been shown to help reduce headaches if the active points are targeted. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that you visit an acupuncturist who has experience and training in treating headaches to ensure you receive the most effective treatment.

    Massage: Through manipulation of soft tissues of the body, research shows that massage can help relieve tension-type headaches.

    Spinal manipulation: Healthcare providers like chiropractors can provide spinal manipulation treatment. This type of treatment involves applying a controlled force to a joint in the spine. By doing this, research shows that this type of treatment may help reduce the pain and intensity of migraine headaches. However, it’s important to note that such manipulation may cause side effects. Such side effects may include temporary headaches, tiredness, or discomfort in the area that was worked on. Therefore, be sure to talk with your doctor before opting for this headache treatment.

    Breathing exercises: Although there have been limited studies done, one study does show that breathing exercises, such as those involved with yoga, can help lessen headache intensity and frequency. Therefore, it may do your body and mind good to add yoga to your weekly routine. Other breathing-related exercises that may help include meditation, relaxation breathing, or tai chi.

    Losing weight or diet changes: Experts suggest that you can manage headaches by losing weight or taking a magnesium supplement daily. Also, adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet could help with headache treatment. Such foods include spinach, quinoa, nuts like almonds, cashews, and peanuts, as well as black beans, avocado, and tofu, to name a few.

    Certain dietary supplements: According to the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society, the supplement butterbur is effective in reducing the severity and frequency of migraine attacks. It’s important to note though that the effects of long-term use of this supplement are not known. Also, it’s thought that extended use could harm the liver. Therefore, be sure to have other options in your headache treatment routine and ask your doctor before starting this supplement.

    Instead of this supplement then, it may be worth it to try a more natural and safe supplement such as Migravent by Vita Sciences. Migravent contains natural ingredients like specialized PA free butterbur, CoQ10, magnesium, and riboflavin for advanced neurological support. PA free butterbur means that you receive the migraine health benefits of butterbur without the pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) that are unhealthy for your liver.

    Take home message

    Headaches can literally be a pain in the neck. Therefore, it’s always good to have an array of remedies up your sleeve. This way you can deal with them effectively when you need to. For ways you can help support research on headache treatment as well as for resources and events to advocate for those who suffer from such health issues, be sure to visit the American Headache Society website today.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Headache Society (accessed June 4, 2019) “How to Participate in Migraine and Headache Awareness Month.”

    Goldman, R. (last updated July 26, 2017) “Ten foods high in magnesium.” Medical News Today.

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (last modified May 16, 2019) “Headaches: In Depth.”

     

     


  • 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


  • 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.” 

  • 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

     


  • Could your yo-yo diet lifestyle be hurting your heart?

    vegetables, nutrition, hypertension, high blood pressure, heart healthWith new year’s resolutions perhaps on their second wind, and summer approaching, you may be considering a new diet. Maybe this is a reboot of the diet you started at the beginning of January. Or maybe you saw a new fad diet online that promises quick results just in time for bathing suit season. But before you fall into this trap, you should know that current research shows that yo-yo dieting could hurt your heart.

    What is yo-yo-dieting?

    Yo-yo dieting is a pattern of losing weight and gaining it  back repeatedly.  There is inconclusive evidence to show that yo-yo dieting impacts future weight gain and metabolic health. In fact, a 2017 study shows that weight loss efforts, no matter how many times they are repeated, should continue to be encouraged in those who are overweight or obese.

    However, this does not mean though that you should strive to be a yo-yo dieter. This is because recent research shows that yo-yo dieting could impact heart health. A 2019 study looked at 500 women with an average age of 37 years old.

    Study results show that women who lost 10 pounds and gained that weight back within a year were more likely to have heart health problems. Also, the more they yo-yo dieted, the more at risk they were for heart disease. Researchers suggest that this may happen because when a person loses weight, they lose some lean muscle mass. And when they gain weight back, they often  gain fat in place of this muscle. Over time, this may cause a build-up of fat in the abdomen, which can increase heart health risk.

    About a heart healthy diet 

    Instead of yo-yo dieting, you can protect your heart by following a heart healthy diet. This means lots of fiber-rich and antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like oats, quinoa, nuts, and seeds. In addition, this means consuming lean protein at meals and snacks, eating plenty of healthy plant-based fats like avocado and olive oil, as well as limiting alcohol intake. Focusing more on consuming a balanced diet that is nutrient-dense is better for your heart than countless cycles of fad diets and weight gain.

    Other ways to help your heart

    Besides a heart healthy diet, read below for other things you can do to help your heart.

    • Move more: Exercise is not only good for helping you to manage weight, but is also great for your heart. You should try to move at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week for the most benefit. This movement should be of moderate intensity. This means that when you move, your breathing quickens, but you’re not out of breath. This includes brisk walking, gardening, or light aerobics for example.
    • Stress less and quit smoking: Stress and smoking are two lifestyle behaviors that can contribute to increased blood pressure. This is because they can constrict blood vessels and make it harder for blood to flow in the body. Therefore, if you smoke, use resources such as those on Smokefree.gov to try to quit. And if you’re stressed, try to talk to someone like a friend, loved one, or counselor. You can also use relaxation breathing, yoga, or meditation to help with stress.
    • Visit your doctor often: It’s important to visit your doctor at least once a year, or more if you have a chronic health condition. This will help you keep track of your numbers like blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels. In turn, this can help you catch any heart health problems in the early stages and treat them before they cause serious issues.
    • Add a heart healthy supplement: If you are already following a low stress, smoke-free, heart healthy eating and lifestyle plan, then that’s great. However, if you want to further enhance the benefits of such a lifestyle, you can try a heart healthy supplement like Alestra by Vita Sciences. Alestra contains ingredients like niacin, plant sterols, and garlic to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and promote heart health.

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

    References:

    American Heart Association (August 15, 2015) “The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations.”

    Dictionary.com (accessed March 11, 2019) “Yo-yo dieting.”

    Gordon, S. (March 7, 2019) “Yo-Yo Dieting Can Take a Toll on Your Heart.” HealthDay

    Mackie, G.M., Samocha-Bonet, D., and Tam, C.S. (March-April 2017) “Does weight cycling promote obesity and metabolic risk factors? Obesity Research and Clinical Practice, 11(2): 131-139.

    Mayo Clinic (June 9, 2018) “Is yo-yo dieting making you fat.” Mayo Clinic online

    Mayo Clinic (June 12, 2018) “Exercise intensity: how to measure it.” Mayo Clinic online

    University of Michigan: Michigan Medicine (June 28, 2018) “Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation.” https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2255

     

     


  • Could preventing or treating hypertension protect your mind?

    hypertension, blood pressure, heart health, healthWhen you think of high blood pressure, or hypertension, your heart health may be the first thing that comes to mind. But what many may not realize is that blood pressure also relates to the health of your mind. It makes sense if you think about it. All the body’s tissues and organs require oxygen from the blood that flows from the heart. If something is affecting blood flow, then this can affect the health of many parts of your body. Let’s look a bit more at blood pressure and how controlling it can improve the health of your heart and mind.

    About hypertension

    Hypertension happens when the blood flow in your vessels has to use extra force to travel though the body. There are several different causes of blood pressure. Some of these causes include high sodium intake, obesity, thyroid problems, or sleep apnea, to name a few.

    A person has hypertension if their blood pressure consistently reads at or above 140 mm Hg over 90 mmHg. The top number is the systolic blood pressure, or the pressure of the blood in the arteries during contraction. On the other hand, the bottom number is the pressure of the blood in the vessels at dilation, or in between contractions.

    It’s important to see your doctor on a regular basis so you can track your blood pressure. This is because untreated high blood pressure can lead to complications like heart attack, heart failure, or stroke, to name a few.

    Blood pressure and brain health

    By keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy, you ensure healthy blood flow all over the body, This includes healthy blood flow to the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control, taking care of your heart can help reduce your risk of stroke and dementia.

    A recent study looked at a group of older adults at risk for heart disease but had no history of stroke or diabetes. Researchers looked at whether intensive or standard treatment for hypertension could improve cognitive health outcomes.

    Intensive blood pressure control would involve a goal of a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 mm Hg. On the other hand, standard treatment would merely try to lower the systolic blood pressure below 140 mm Hg.

    Study results show that the intensive treatment helped reduce mild cognitive impairment risk by 20-percent. Because of this finding, researchers suggest that intensive blood pressure treatment could lower risk of dementia. However, more studies will need to be done to see if this theory holds true.

    How can you improve your blood pressure?

    When it comes to heart health, here are several steps you can take to help control your blood pressure and in turn help the health of your mind.

    • Eat a heart healthy diet: Cut back on sodium, fatty red meats, alcohol, and sugary processed foods for better heart health. Instead, swap out these foods for lean animal or plant-based proteins like chicken, fish, nuts, or seeds. Also, load up on antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits that also provide gut- and heart-healthy fiber.
    • Move more: Every step counts when it comes to heart health. Try to walk, swim, bike, dance, or do whatever moves you to exercise. Try to move at least thirty minutes total a day most days of the week to help keep your weight within a healthy range and your heart strong.
    • Sleep enough: During sleep, your body takes care of a lot of internal business. One piece of business is regulating fluid and hormones in the body. If interrupted this can have a negative impact on blood pressure. This is why most adults should sleep at least seven to nine hours a night most nights for optimal health.
    • Quit smoking: Smoking can constrict blood vessels and in turn narrow them and increase risk of blood pressure. Therefore, if you smoke, be sure to visit smokefree.gov for resources on how you can quit today to help your heart and brain health.
    • Take a heart healthy supplement:  Along with these lifestyle changes, it also never hurts to add a heart healthy supplement to give your heart health the upper hand. One such supplement is Circova by Vita Sciences. Circova contains ingredients like L-arginine, niacin, and hawthorne that help to naturally improve blood pressure and blood flow.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (March 26, 2018) “Brain Health Is Connected to Heart Health.” https://www.cdc.gov/features/heart-brain-health/index.html

    Mayo Clinic (January 9, 2019) “10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication.”

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

    NIH Research Matters (February 12, 2019) “Intensive blood pressure control may lessen cognitive loss.”

     

     


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

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

    Risk factors for heart attack 

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

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

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

    Warning signs of a heart attack 

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

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

    How to prevent a heart attack 

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

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

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

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

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

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

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