Category Archives: medicine

Is there a link between diabetes and depression?

depression, mental health, anxiety, healthDepression on its own can be a very challenging condition to deal with. This diagnosis not only affects the mind, but can affect the body as well. It can make everyday tasks difficult to deal with such as sleeping, working, and even eating. Because of the effect of depression on eating behaviors, weight gain or loss can occur through appetite changes unrelated to diet.  Not only that, but because of the many lifestyle changes that come with a diabetes diagnosis, depression is seen two to three times more often in such patients than those without diabetes. A recent study looked at how diet and exercise factors can affect the relationship between depression and metabolic syndrome.

What is depression?

We all may feel depressed from time to time. However, a diagnosis of depression is a chronic display of such feelings that can affect daily life, relationships, and can cause both psychological and physical symptoms. If the following symptoms occur for two weeks or more, then you should see a doctor for possible diagnosis and treatment of depression.

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Slowed movements and speech
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Conditions related to the thyroid, nutrient deficiencies, or tumors of the brain can mimic symptoms of depression. Therefore, such underlying causes should be ruled out by a qualified healthcare provider.

Metabolic syndrome and depression

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that can increase a person’s risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and stroke.

  • A waist circumference of more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men
  • A triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or higher
  • An HDL cholesterol level of less than 50 mg/dL for women and less than 40 mg/dL for men
  • A blood pressure of 130/85 mmHg or higher
  • A fasting blood sugar level of 100 mg/dL or higher

Research shows that there is a relationship between those with depression and metabolic syndrome.  A recent study looked at this relationship to see what exactly is causing it. Researchers looked at data from over 64,000 adults. Study results show that those with depression are highly linked to a high fat, high sugar diet regimen and low levels of physical activity.

Researchers suggest that diet and exercise may link depression and metabolic syndrome. However, they also state that inflammation and genetic factors have a greater causal link between the two conditions. Inflammation can develop as a result of the stress on the brain due to depression that may cause an imbalance in gut microbiome. This link is a theory known as the gut-brain axis. This in turn, could cause inflammation in the body that could increase risk of chronic diseases like heat disease and diabetes.

How to lower risk of metabolic syndrome

Besides diet and exercise, you can use the tips below to help lower your risk of metabolic syndrome.

  • Add more fruit and vegetables to your diet: More fruits and vegetables means more antioxidants. And more antioxidants in your diet means more anti-inflammatory power. In turn, you can help reduce inflammation in your body by adding more colorful fiber sources to your plate at each meal.
  • Move more: Exercising at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week can help you manage your weight. It can also help you manage stress and strengthen your heart. All of these factors can help reduce inflammation in your body and lower chronic disease risk.
  • Stop smoking or never start: Smoking can constrict blood vessels and in turn can increase heart disease risk. Therefore, if you already smoke, visit Smokefree.gov to quit. If you have never started smoking, then don’t. Your body will thank you.
  • Take a daily supplement: If you are deficient in nutrients, then this could put you at risk for conditions like depression that have an inflammatory link.  Certain supplements can also help you gain better control over your blood glucose levels too. Glucarex by Vita Sciences is one such supplement that uses chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon to help support weight loss, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.

 

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

American Psychiatric Association (January 2017) “What is Depression?”  Physician Review By: Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.

Matta J, Hoertel N, Kesse-Guyot E, et al. (2019) Diet and physical activity in the association between depression and metabolic syndrome: Constances studyJ Affect Disord., 244:25-32.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (accessed November 6, 2018) “Metabolic Syndrome.”


  • Lower stroke risk with healthy living

    heart, health, stroke, cardiovascular, nutritionIt may seem like common sense that living a healthier lifestyle can lower your disease risk. but what exactly is a healthier lifestyle? With so much information on health and wellness in the media, it can be hard to know what healthy really is. From low carb to keto to fasting, each diet plan claims to be the best and healthiest. However, the healthiest eating regimen is going to be the one that makes your unique body feel its best and that you can stick with for the long term. Not to mention, that being healthy is about more than just diet. Staying active, managing stress, and sleeping well enough are just some behaviors that affect health. Recent research shows that leading a healthier lifestyle can reduce your stroke risk and in turn improve your quality of life.

    What is stroke?

    A stroke occurs when something blocks blood flow to the brain, or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. As a result, part of the brain can become damage or die. This can lead to brain damage, disability, or death. Therefore, it is important to know if you are at risk for stroke. And if you are, it is important to know what you can do to lower your risk. This is because the brain is vital for such functions as thinking, feeling, breathing, and digestion. So to take care of your whole body health, you need to take care of your brain. And for brain health, you need to take care of your body in many ways. This is where healthy living comes in.

    Stroke risk and healthy living

    A 7-year research study looked at the impact of different lifestyle measures on stroke risk. Also, researchers looked at 90 gene variants in this group of over 300,000 people to determine their stroke risk. The stroke rate was 35-percent higher for those with a higher gene score versus one with a lower score. And when researchers looked at lifestyle factors, those who were healthier had a 66-percent lower risk of stroke than those who had an unhealthy lifestyle. In this study, those considered to have a healthy lifestyle were those that:

    • did not smoke.
    • were not overweight.
    • engaged in regular exercise.
    • consumed a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish.

    Furthermore, those who had a high genetic score and were considered unhealthy had a stroke risk score nearly double than that of those with the lowest scores and healthiest lifestyles.

    Ways you can live your healthiest life

    Besides eating right, staying active, and not smoking, there are several other things you can do to stay your healthiest.

    • Sleep enough each night: Research shows that short or too long sleep patterns as well as insomnia with short sleep patterns, can increase risk of stroke. Therefore, be sure to find a happy balance in your sleep time. the National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults sleep seven to nine hours each night. If you find you are having trouble sleeping, it may be helpful to visit your doctor for treatment. They could recommend a sleep study done to identify any health issues that could be disturbing your sleep.
    • Manage stress: Stress affects all of us to some degree. However, 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. This can 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 Sciences. Circova 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.”

    HealthDay (October 25, 2018) “Does Stroke Run in Your Family? Healthy Living Lowers the Risk.”

    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.

    Meschia, J.F., et al. (2014) “Guidelines for the Primary Prevention of Stroke.” Stroke, 45(12): 3754-3832.

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

     

     


  • Can intermittent fasting help those with diabetes?

    intermittent, fasting, health, weight loss, dietDiabetes can be a tough disease to manage. From doctor’s visits to medications to daily blood glucose checks, it can be a lot to juggle for anyone. Not only that, but having diabetes means diet changes that can make every meal or snack a challenge.  Counting carbohydrates and reading labels can become a new task to take on every time you buy groceries. This can be time-consuming and can also make social events stressful.

    But what if someone told you that by simply cutting back on the hours you eat, you could help control your diabetes better? A recent study shows that intermittent fasting may be a new treatment for type 2 diabetes control.

    What is intermittent fasting? 

    Intermittent fasting (IF) is a way of eating that involves extended periods of fasting coupled with periods of eating. The theory behind IF is that during fasting, your body will have time to heal.  In any case, cutting back on the hours you eat during the day can help reduce snacking and in turn total calorie intake. This can help with controlling weight and any conditions related to weight like diabetes and heart disease.

    There are several forms of intermittent fasting.  All forms of IF are focused on helping  your body adapt to less eating hours each day. The three major forms of IF include:

    • Alternate day fasting: This type of fasting consists of one day of no food restriction followed by a day of only eating one meal equal to 25-percent of your daily calorie needs. Your daily calorie needs would be the number of calories your body needs to maintain your current weight.
    • The 5:2 fasting regimen: This regimen involves 2 days of whole day fasting each week. On these non-consecutive fasting days, you would consume no more than 25-percent of daily calorie needs. The other five days would consist of no food restrictions. However, healthy eating within your daily calorie needs is suggested for the most benefit.
    • Time-restricted feeding: This regimen is most common with those following an IF lifestyle. It involves setting a fasting period as part of your daily routine. When you are starting out on this regimen, you may have just 12 hours of fasting. Therefore, if you stopped eating at 9 pm every night, you wouldn’t eat again until 9 am the next morning. This 12:12 regimen of fasting would help your body used to the idea of not eating as long.  Over time, you can extend your period of fasting as you choose. A popular form of this diet is the 16:8 diet, which involves 8 hours of eating and 16 hours of fasting.

    When following an IF regimen, your eating hours should still consist of healthy eating. If you continue to consume lots of high sugar and highly processed foods, then you will not gain the most health benefit. Therefore, during eating hours you should consume mostly whole foods and a balanced diet low in sugar and refined carbohydrates.

    Intermittent fasting and type 2 diabetes

    A recent study looked at the effect of IF on type 2 diabetes control. This small study involved three patients observed over several months.  Patients had six hours of diabetes education and insulin adjustments at the start of the study. They were then instructed to follow three 24-hour fasting periods each week. On fasting days the patients only consumed dinner.  Then on non-fasting days they consumed lunch and dinner. A low-carbohydrate eating regimen was recommended for all meals during the study period.

    Patients had an exam twice a month with labs, medication changes, and insulin adjustments completed as warranted. After several months, all of the patients were able to discontinue their insulin. Two of the patients were also able to discontinue their diabetes medication.  Also, all three patients had improvements in their body mass index, waist circumference, and HgA1C levels. This study warrants further research on a larger scale to see if IF could help those with type 2 diabetes.

    Other ways to control your type 2 diabetes

    Besides changing your diet, there are other things you can do to help control your type 2 diabetes. Read below for some simple steps you can make in your lifestyle today. These small steps can make a big difference in helping to control your type 2 diabetes.

    • Stay active: Moving more each day can help to keep your blood glucose levels stable and manage your weight. In turn, this can help you to better control your type 2 diabetes. Therefore, try to be active for 30 minutes total each day for most days of the week. This could involve walking, biking, aerobics, dancing, cleaning house, or swimming, among other things.
    • Visit your doctor regularly: Visiting your doctor every 3 to 6 months can help you stay healthy. Your doctor can also check your labs and adjust your medication as needed to help you control your diabetes better.
    • Take a daily diabetes-friendly supplement: Taking a daily supplement to help with blood sugar control may also be helpful. A supplement like Glucarex by Vita Sciences can naturally support metabolism, weight loss, and blood glucose control. It does this through natural ingredients like chromium, cinnamon, and alpha lipoic acid that have shown to help support healthy blood sugar levels.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    Furmli, S., Elmasry, R., Ramos, M., and Fung, J. (2018) “Therapeutic use of intermittent fasting for people with type 2 diabetes as an alternative to insulin.” BMJ Case Reports, doi:10.1136/bcr-2017-221854

    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (accessed October 14, 2018) “The Nutrition Source: Diet Review: Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss.”

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (May 2017) “Type 2 Diabetes: What is Type 2 Diabetes?”

     

     


  • Could diabetes increase risk of osteoporosis?

    osteoporosis, bone health, healthIf you have diabetes, you may or may not know that you are at higher risk for heart disease than those who don’t have diabetes. However, in addition to heart disease, you could also be at risk for bone health issues. This risk was discovered in a recent study that found those with diabetes were at higher risk for osteoporosis than those without diabetes. Therefore, this finding warrants further research on this risk. And in turn, standard diabetes diet and supplement treatments may need to be revised to account for this higher risk.

    What is osteoporosis?

    Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bone loss. It often occurs without any symptoms. Therefore, you may not know you have the condition until you fall and break a bone. The bone loss related to osteoporosis can be caused by the body losing too much bone, not making enough bone, or both.

    Literally, osteoporosis means “porous bone” which describes the honeycomb-like bone structure in those with the conditions. These spaces in the bone make it less dense, weaker, and more likely to break. It may be beneficial if you are 50 years of age or older, to get a bone density test.

    Height loss or curving of the spine may be serious symptoms of osetoporosis. Therefore, if you have such symptoms and have not yet been diagnose with osteoporosis, you should visit your doctor right away. If diganosed, treatment will likely include vitamin D and calcium supplements, an exercise program, and medications.

    You may be at risk for osteoporosis if you have:

    • certain autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis
    • certain cancers like breast or prostate cancer
    • digestive conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease
    • a history of weight loss surgery
    • liver disease
    • and eating disorder
    • certain thyroid or hormone-related conditions

    You may also be at risk for osteoporosis if you take certain medications such as:

    • certain heartburn medicines like  Nexium®, Prevacid® and Prilosec®
    • some antidepressants like Lexapro®, Prozac® and Zoloft®
    • steroids
    • certain diabetes medicines like thiazolidinediones

    Osteoporosis and Diabetes

    Using data from the 2013 Danish National Health Survey, researchers looked at the connection between bone health conditions and other health factors.  This analysis found that those people with diabetes were one-third more likely to have osteoarthritis than those without diabetes. These same people were also more likely to have bone related conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.

    Likely related to such bone conditions, those with diabetes were more nearly 30-percent more likely to have back, shoulder, and neck pain as well. Researchers suggest that the link between bone health and diabetes may be inflammation. Diabetes is an inflammatory condition as is arthritis. Therefore, those with one condition may have an increased risk of developing other inflammation-related conditions. This research warrants further research on this connection of inflammatory health conditions.

    Ways to help your bone health

    If you feel you may be more at risk for bone health conditions, read below for ways you can help improve your bone health.

    • Consume plenty of calcium: Calcium is used in many parts of the body such as helping blood clot and muscles to contract. And when the body does not have enough calcium to do these things, it takes the calcium from the bones. Over time, this can make the bones weak. Therefore, be sure to have plenty of calcium in your daily diet. Foods high in calcium include milk, yogurt, fortified breakfast cereals and juices, as well as leafy greens like kale and spinach.
    • Go outside every once in while: Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin since the body can absorb it from the sun. This vitamin helps the body absorb calcium, so it is very important to bone health. Therefore, be sure to get outside at least 10-15 minutes a day with some of your arms, legs, and face showing. During the winter, consume plenty of fatty fish like salmon, eggs, mushrooms, and fortified dairy products for vitamin D. Ask your doctor to have your vitamin D levels checked each year and take a daily supplement if your levels are low.
    • Stay active: Exercise is great for not only keeping blood glucose levels stable if you have diabetes, but it is also good for bone health.  Weight-bearing exercises like walking, hiking, jogging, dancing, and weight training are good for strengthening bones. Be sure to engage in some sort of physical activity most days of the week. You should engage in strength training such as weight exercises or resistance training at least 2 times a week.
    • Eat a plant-based diet: Not only does a plant-based diet contain calcium-rich leafy greens, but is also antioxidant-rich. Antioxidants can reduce the inflammation that can lead to oxidative stress and increased chronic disease risk. Therefore, eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack.
    • Take a bone health supplement: If you are having trouble consuming enough calcium and vitamin D, a supplement may be for you. Find a supplement that combines calcium and vitamin D, or take them separate. One such supplement is Osteovent by Vita Sciences. Osteovent contains 400IU vitamin D3 and 1000mg calcium along with other important bone health nutrients like magnesium as well as antioxidants like vitamin C and bromelain.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    National Osteoporosis Foundation (accessed October 10, 2018) “What is osteoporosis and what causes it?”

    National Osteoporosis Foundation (accessed October 10, 2018) “Calcium/Vitamin D.”

    NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center (February 2017) “Osteoporosis Overview.”


  • Could vitamin D be the key to preventing obesity?

    vitamin D, supplement, health, obesity, heart healthObesity is a growing problem around the world today. Along with these growing statistics is also the growing amount of diet and exercise programs trying to help people lose weight. Recent research shows though that diet and exercise may not be the whole solution to the obesity issue. Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, may be the key to helping people lose weight and lower risk of chronic disease.

    What is vitamin D?

    Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that you can soak in from the sun as well as from a few food items. Since it is not found in many foods, it is important to get this vitamin from the sun. Therefore, if you do not go outside often for any reason or if you live in an area that is very cloudy, you may have to take a supplement.

    Foods you can eat to get this sunshine vitamin include fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel. You can also get small amounts in beef liver, egg yolks, or cheese.  Also, some milks or orange juices may be fortified with the vitamin.

    The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 800 IUs, or international units. When you go to the doctor, you can ask to have your levels of the vitamin checked.  It is not usually a part of the standard lab tests.  Your blood level of vitamin D should be at least 30nmol/L, but ideally around 50 nmol/L.  If it is less than this number, your doctor may put you on a supplement regimen to help bring up your levels of the vitamin.

    You can also buy vitamin D supplements on your own such as Maxasorb by Vita Sciences. Maxasorb provides 2000 IU’s of vitamin per dose. This formula provides vitamin D3 as well as vitamin E and moisturizing aloe in an easy to apply cream to help support immunity and well-being.

    Those at risk for vitamin D deficiency include:

    • older adults
    • those with limited exposure to the sun
    • people with dark skin
    • those with fat malabsorption conditions like inflammatory bowel disease
    • those who have had gastric bypass surgery
    • breastfed infants

    Those who are deficient may be at risk for bone health issues like osteoporosis. Also, as current research shows, vitamin D deficient individuals may also be at risk for developing obesity.

    Vitamin D and obesity

    A recent study looked at the effect of vitamin D on overweight and obese children and adolescents. Study results show that those children who were given vitamin D supplements daily for 12 months had lower body mass index (BMI), body fat, and improved cholesterol levels as compared to those who were not supplemented. Researchers suggest that vitamin D supplements may be able to help youth reduce their risk of chronic disease as adults.

    Other ways to reduce disease risk

    Besides keeping your vitamin D levels healthy, there are other things you can do now to help reduce your chronic disease risk.

    • Stay active: You should try to be active most days of the week for at least 30 minutes a day. This can include walking, gardening, cleaning house, swimming, cycling, or any other movement that gets your heart rate up a bit. Exercise is not only great for heart health, but can also help you expend energy to help you sleep better at night and also can help you manage stress and anxiety.
    • Get plenty of sleep: The average adult should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night for optimal health. This is because during bedtime your body works to regulate hormones, fluids, blood pressure, and many more processes.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start: Smoking can constrict blood vessels and in turn increase your risk of heart disease. Therefore, if you don’t already smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, visit smokefree.gov for resources to help you quit.
    • Limit drinking alcohol: Research has shown that alcohol can increase triglycerides, or fat, in the blood. It can also increase risk of high blood pressure and other heart health issues. Therefore, limit your alcohol intake to no more than the recommendation of one standard drink a day for women or two a day for men. One standard drink is equal to about 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
    • Manage stress: Stress and anxiety can get your blood pressure high and can also impact other healthy lifestyle choices you want to make. Therefore, work on getting your stress levels down. You can do this by talking to a counselor, doing some yoga or meditation, or practicing relaxation breathing. Reducing stress can also reduce emotional eating, increase your energy, and can make you feel better overall.

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

    References:

    American Heart Association (August 15, 2014) “Alcohol and Heart Health.”

    American Heart Association (accessed October 3, 2018) “Be Healthy for Good with Life’s Simple 7 Infographic.”

    Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed October 3, 2018) “Physical Activity Reduces Stress.”

    Hindustan Times (September 28, 2018) “Vitamin D supplements can help obese children lose weight.”

    National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (September 18, 2018) “Vitamin D.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed October 3, 2018) “Why Do We Need Sleep?”


  • Can healthy fats help your anxiety?

    healthy fat, heart health, health, salmon, olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocadoAn essential part of  a heart healthy diet is plenty of plant-based unsaturated fats.  Not only do plant-based foods provide heart-healthy fiber, but they are also rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in the body, and in turn reduce chronic disease risk. One such group of antioxidants are the omega-3 fatty acids found in such foods as avocado, plant-based oils and fatty fish. Recent research shows that these healthy fats may be able to help with mental health. A recent study shows that by increasing the amount of healthy fats in your diet, you could help reduce symptoms of anxiety.

     

    What are healthy fats?

    Healthy fats typically describe the group of fats known as unsaturated fats. These fats can be found in plant-based foods such as avocado, nuts, and seeds. They can also be found in plant-based oils like olive oil and fatty fish like salmon and trout. Research shows that by replacing some of your saturated fat intake with unsaturated fats, you can benefit heart health. The cause of this is still unknown, but it is suggested that it may be due to the fiber and antioxidants in such unsaturated food sources.

    Healthy fat intake and anxiety

    A recent meta-analysis study looked at research done on omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and mental health.  Study results show that those with clinically diagnosed anxiety may benefit from treatment with omega-3 fatty acids.  This is because treatment with such fats seemed to reduce symptoms of anxiety under stressful situations. Even those who suffered from other diagnosed mental health conditions outside of clinical anxiety showed reduced anxiety symptoms after such treatment.

    Although more research needs to be done to confirm such findings, these results are promising for future potential treatment options for anxiety. In the meantime, it can’t hurt to add in more healthy fats to your daily diet.  Also, an omega-3 fatty acid supplement could be helpful to healthy of the body and mind.  An example of such a supplement is fish oil like that by Vita Sciences.  This formula by Vita Sciences provides 400 milligrams of EPA and 300 milligrams of DHA, which are omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish.  This supplement is a great way to get your healthy fats if you don’t think you will be able to get them in every day in your diet.

    Other ways to help reduce anxiety

    Besides increasing healthy fats in your diet, there are other ways you can work to reduce anxiety in your daily routine.

    • Make sure to sleep enough each day: The average adult should receive at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep is important not just for energy levels, but for regulating fluid, hormones, and blood pressure in the body. Lack of sleep can also increase risk of anxiety and stress levels, especially in those that already suffer from anxiety. If you have trouble sleeping, visit the National Sleep Foundation website for tips. You should also visit your healthcare provider if you find that your sleep problems become a long-term problem. This is because you may be suffering from a condition known as sleep apnea that can affect quality of sleep and breathing. A healthcare provider can also help you manage pain, urinary incontinence, or insomnia that can impact sleep quality and quantity.
    • Talk to someone: Talking to a health care professional like a therapist or counselor can help you come up with strategies for dealing with your stress or anxiety. Even just talking to a friend or loved one may be helpful to get worries off your mind.
    • Find time to relax: Try to set aside at least 15 minutes a day to relax. This relaxing could include relaxation breathing, diffusing calming essential oils like lavender, or engaging in activities like yoga or meditation.
    • Volunteer in your community: Helping others in your community may be able to increase your sense of purpose and help you meet others with similar interests. In turn, these factors may help lower your stress and anxiety levels over time.
    • Stay active: Regular exercise each day can help reduce anxiety levels. This may be due to the vitamin D you get from working out in the sunshine. Also, it could be from the serotonin your body releases when you exercise. Either way, get moving each day and it can make you feel better inside and out.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (August 13, 2018) “The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good

    Lattari, E., Budde, H., Paes, F., Neto, G. A. M., Appolinario, J. C., Nardi, A. E., … Machado, S. (2018). Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Anxiety Symptoms and Cortical Activity in Patients with Panic Disorder: A Pilot Study. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health : CP & EMH14, 11–25. http://doi.org/10.2174/1745017901814010011

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed September 18, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

    Nauert, PhD, R. (accessed September 18, 2018) “Sleep Loss Increases Anxiety-Especially Among Worriers.” https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/06/27/sleep-loss-increases-anxiety-especially-among-worriers/56531.html

    Su K, Tseng P, Lin P, et al. Association of Use of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids With Changes in Severity of Anxiety SymptomsA Systematic Review and Meta-analysisJAMA Network Open.2018;1(5):e182327. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.2327

     

     

     


  • Could turmeric help prevent glaucoma?

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

    glaucoma, eye, vision, healthWhat is glaucoma?

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

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

    Turmeric and glaucoma prevention

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

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

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

    How to help eye health

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

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

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

    References:

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

     

     

     

     


  • Eat more vegetables to improve diabetes health

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

    What are your “numbers”?

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

    Why are vegetables so important?

    Vegetables are important for many reasons.

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

    Diabetes and plant-based food research

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

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

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

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

    References:

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

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

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

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

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

     

     


  • The Top 5 Ways to Lower Your Heart Disease Risk

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

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

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

     

     

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

    Sources:

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

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

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


  • Is eight hours of sleep enough for your health?

    sleep, healthWhen you don’t get enough sleep, it can affect your whole day. You may move slower, have less energy, your mind may have a hard time learning or remembering things, and you may be more easily stressed and irritated.  In turn, these factors can affect your productivity during the day and the way you get along with others. Therefore, it is super important to get enough rest at night. And just when you thought that you were reaching your health goals, a new report states that eight hours a night of rest may not be enough.

    Why is sleep important?

    Besides feeling better and having more energy, getting more rest at night impacts many aspects of your health. Harvard University reports that getting enough Zzz’s helps to regulate many body functions such as:

    • keeping the immune system healthy
    • muscle growth
    • tissue repair
    • protein synthesis
    • growth hormone release

    Also, lack of sleep can increase risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.  One cause of such risk is the impact of poor sleep on the circadian rhythm. Furthermore, your risk for such conditions is higher if your circadian rhythm is thrown off.  Late nights, jet lag, shift work, medications, or medical conditions can impact circadian rhythm.

    New sleep recommendations

    Previous recommendations say that most adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. However, a recent report reveals that eight hours may not be enough for optimal health. Scientists say that while in bed, only about 90-percent of that time is spent actually sleeping. Therefore, if you are in bed for eight hours, you may only be getting less than 7 hours and 12 minutes of rest.  If you go to bed for 8.5 hours, then you will be getting closer to the recommended eight hours each night.

    How to get better sleep

    If you have trouble even getting your eight hours of rest each night, then use the tips below to help you. If these tips still do not work, then be sure to see a qualified medical provider to help you identify the reason for your sleep troubles.

    • Meditation can help increase theta waves in the brain. These waves are the same kind that the brain produces during a nap.  If you have a hard time falling asleep, then try meditation to let your brain rest.
    • Get blackout curtains for your room to help stimulate rest. This is because the circadian rhythm is controlled largely by environmental cues like sunlight. On the other end of that spectrum, cut screen time and turn lights out by a certain time each night to get your body and brain ready for bedtime. Researchers recommend a cold, quiet environment for optimal sleep quality.
    • Try a supplement such as melatonin to help you fall asleep.  Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the body’s pineal gland. Usually, at sundown the body produces melatonin to prepare the body for rest. The body may not produce enough melatonin due to exposure to artificial light in the evening, or conditions such as mood disorders, insomnia, dementia, or stress-related conditions.  This can lead to problems falling asleep as well as low energy in waking hours. Melatonin supplements have been found to help those who may have trouble falling asleep.  Another supplement option is Somnova by Vita Sciences, which contains melatonin along with L-theanine, which both show promise for providing restful and refreshing sleep.
    • See a specialist. If you snore or have trouble breathing at night, then you may need to see a specialist. A sleeping study could help them see if there is a medical condition that is causing you to wake up tired or have trouble falling asleep at all.  Treatment, such as a CPAP machine, could help improve your breathing, and in turn help improve your sleep.
    • Manage stress: Regardless of your situation, it is important to manage stress during the day so you can rest better at night. If you have a stressful day, then your blood pressure may increase and your mind may be racing. This can make it very hard to rest. Therefore, try relaxation breathing exercises, meditation (as mentioned above), diffuse essential oils like lavender or frankincense in your home, or talk to someone that can help calm your mind.  Acupuncture, massages, or counseling sessions with a therapist are other ways you can help manage stress in your health routine, and in turn improve your sleep patterns.

    References:

    Hardeland, R. (2012) “Neurobiology, Pathophysiology, and Treatment of Melatonin Deficiency and Dysfunction.” Scientific World Journal, 2012: 640389.

    Hirshkowitz, Ph.D., M., et al. (March 2015) “National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary.” Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, 9(1): 40-43.

    King, G.F. (June 10, 2018) “Why eight hours a night isn’t enough, according to a leading sleep scientist.” Quartz. 

    National Institute of General Medicine Sciences (May 30, 2018) “Circadian Rhythms.”

    National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (May 22, 2017) “Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed June 13, 2018) “Melatonin and Sleep.”

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