Category Archives: Mental Health

Could a pet improve your mental health?

dog, pet, mental health, health, happy, healthyAnxiety and depression can take a huge toll on quality of life. It can affect your work, relationships, and can also make it hard to take care of your yourself. However, recent research shows that having a pet may help reduce anxiety and depression. Therefore, let’s learn more about how a pet could improve mental health status as well as other ways to help yourself feel happier and healthier.

Basics of mental health

By definition, mental health involves your social, emotional, and psychological well-being. And a person may be more prone to such issues through factors like genetics, traumatic life experiences, or a family history of such issues.

There are many types of mental health issues, with the most commonly known being anxiety and depression. Some general signs of such issues include:

  • eating too much or too little
  • mood swings
  • Low energy
  • unexplained aches and pains
  • inability to perform daily tasks
  • feeling confused or on edge

These are just a few early warning signs of mental health issues. And if you notice such signs, it may be time to visit a healthcare professional. Also, you can visit the Mental Health America website for helpful resources.

Pets for better mental health

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that the “pet effect” may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Experts also report that pets and therapy animals can lower feelings of stress, loneliness, and isolation. Not only that, but research also shows that pets can spark biological changes that can help reduce anxiety and depression.

One of these changes is that having a pet encourages physical activity. Exercise can improve not only brain health, but also the health of your body. This in turn can help improve your quality of life.

Pets can also improve your social support networks. For example, when you take your dog to the park or in public, people will likely interact with you and your pet. This in turn could help you feel more connected to your community. Also, this connection could help you feel less lonely and isolated.

Recent pet research 

Also, the presence of a pet in the home could help you feel a sense of security and protection. A 2019 study looked at the impact of pets on physiology of college students. The study divided 249 students into four groups. One group had 10 minutes stroking and playing with cats and dogs. Then, another group observed those people interacting with the animals. Finally, the other two groups either looked at slideshows of animals or simply sat and waited in silence.

All the students had their saliva samples taken in the morning and after their interaction. Study results show that those who interacted with the animals had significantly lower cortisol, or “stress hormone,” levels as compared to baseline than the others. This early study shows promise that having a pet could help reduce mental stress in the body and mind. In turn, having a furry friend could help improve quality of life for their owners.

Other ways to improve mental health 

If you don’t want a pet or don’t have the time or money to care for a pet, there are other ways to improve mental health at home.

Improve your diet: Experts report that eating foods high in refined sugars, like sugary drinks and processed snacks, are harmful to the brain. In turn, they can impair brain function and lead to mental health disorders like depression. Therefore, try to limit such foods in the diet and focus on adding more antioxidant-rich foods like fruits and vegetables that can reduce inflammation in the body and mind.

Add a supplement: In addition to eating healthier foods, you can also add a supplement to help improve your mood. An example of such a supplement is Elevia by Vita Sciences. Elevia contains natural ingredients like GABA and 5-HTP that help calm the mind and body while boosting serotonin, or “feel good hormone” levels.

Move more: Exercise helps release endorphins that can reduce stress in the body and mind. Therefore, try to be active each day by walking, jogging, cleaning house, dancing, or swimming, to name a few ideas.

Get involved: Volunteering in your community or joining groups like a walking group or arts and crafts group can help you feel better. This is because it will help yo feel less isolated and will provide you a better sense of purpose in your life.

Find support: Talking to a counselor or joining a support group can help you talk about what is causing stress in your life. And by talking about it, you can obtain resources from others to help reduce stress in your life. However, always be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional first if you feel you may be depressed or anxious.

Take home message

Taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body. Therefore, whether it be a pet or gaining support from your community, there are plenty of small things you can do to help yourself. However, if you feel like you don’t know where to start, then visit your healthcare provider for resources.

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

References:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed July 22, 2019) “Tips.”

Feldman, S. (November 2018) “Alleviating Anxiety, Stress and Depression with the Pet Effect.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. 

Mental Health Foundation (accessed July 22, 2019) “Pets and mental health.”

MentalHealth.gov (last updated April 5, 2019) “What Is Mental Health?”

Sandoiu, A. (July 19, 2019) “More evidence that pets benefit mental health.” Medical News Today. 

Selhub, M.D., E. (November 16, 2015) “Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food.” Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School. 


  • Exercise more to decrease risk of diabetes-related depression

    yoga, exercise, health, mental health, depressionWhen you receive a diabetes diagnosis, it can be a life-changing time. This is because diabetes treatment can involve a change in diet, new medications, and checking blood glucose levels at home. Not to mention, that is can be scary to know that you have a condition that will be with you for life. It can be overwhelming and for some can cause depression. Fortunately, a recent study shows that adding exercise to your daily routine may help those with diabetes-related depression improve quality of life in body and mind.

    What is depression?

    Depression is a condition in which a person feels some of the symptoms listed below for a period of two weeks or more. These symptoms negatively impact quality of life at work, home, and in relationships. Such symptoms include:

    • Feeling sad
    • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
    • Changes in appetite with weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
    • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
    • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
    • Slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
    • Feeling worthless or guilty
    • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
    • Thoughts of death or suicide

    Depression is typically treated with medications and psychotherapy. Also, in severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy may be used. However, recent studies show that exercise may be helpful in decreasing symptoms of depression, especially in cases of diabetes-related depression.

    Exercise and diabetes-related depression

    Experts report that those people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop depression as those without the condition. Therefore, this group of people is of major interest to researchers. In fact, a recent study looked at the impact of various treatments on those with diabetes and depression. Over 12 weeks, 140 people received either cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exercise, or a combo of both treatments. Those receiving exercise treatment were encouraged to stay active with moderate exercise for 150 minutes a week.

    Study results show that those in the exercise group had the highest odds of major depressive disorder depression than those not receiving this treatment. Also, those who received the combo treatment of exercise and CBT had a twice as likely chance to go into remission from their depression. Although this study shows promise that exercise is helpful for depressive symptoms, you should not stop your usual care plan. Use exercise only as a part of your treatment plan and not the entire treatment plan.

    About moderate exercise

    In order to reap the benefits of exercise, it’s important to stay active at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week. Moderate exercise is defined as exercise that makes your breath quicken, but you’re not out of breath. Also, moderate exercise may make you break out into a light sweat after about 10 minutes. Finally, this type of exercise may be done while you talk, but not while you sing. Examples of moderate exercises include brisk walking, swimming, or mowing the lawn.

    Other ways to reduce depression

    Besides exercise, other ways to reduce depression symptoms include:

    • Meeting with a qualified therapist or psychologist to talk on a regular basis. Health professionals in this field can help you to manage depressive symptoms. Also, they can recommend you to a psychiatrist that can assist with any medicines that may be helpful to you in treating symptoms.
    • Performing daily relaxation exercises like yoga, meditation, or relaxation breathing. Research shows that such exercises can help reduce depressive symptoms. Therefore, in addition to cardio exercise, be sure to practice such relaxing workouts at least once a week or more.
    • Eating a balanced diet with plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Such foods can help reduce inflammation in the body and in turn may help reduce depressive symptoms. Therefore, be sure to add a variety of brightly-colored produce to your meals and snacks to improve the health of your body and mind.
    • Taking a daily supplement. A supplement like Elevia by Vita Sciences may help improve mood in those with depression. Elevia contains compounds like GABA and 5-HTP which can calm the mind and boost the “feel-good” hormone serotonin. Also, if you are low in certain vitamins like B-12, B-6, or folate then you may experience symptoms of depression. Therefore, a supplement to replenish such vitamins may help improve your quality of life. So, be sure to have your labs tested for such vitamins to see if you are deficient.

    References:

    American Psychiatric Association (accessed May 29, 2019) “What is Depression?”

    de Groot, M., et al. (2019) “Program ACTIVE II: Outcomes From a Randomized, Multi-State Community-Based Depression Treatment for Rural and Urban Adults With Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes Care, https://doi.org/10.2337/dc18-2400

    LaChance LR, Ramsey D. (September 2018) “Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression.” World J Psychiatry, 8(3):97-104.

    Mayo Clinic (May 15, 2019) “Exercise intensity: How to measure it.”

    Mayo Clinic (June 1, 2018) “Vitamin B-12 and depression: Are they related?”

    Streeter CC, et al. (March 2017) “Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder with Iyengar Yoga and Coherent Breathing: A Randomized Controlled Dosing Study.” J Altern Complement Med., 23(3):201-207.


  • Lower your stress to lower diabetes risk

    Stress is an inevitable part of life. Whether you’re stuck in traffic, running late for work, juggling a heavy workload, or dealing with family issues, everyone deals with stress in some way on a daily basis. However, since it can be hard to avoid stress, how you deal with it can impact the way it affects your health. A recent study has found that those with more reported stress had a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who had less reported stress.

    What is stress? 

    You may know what stress feels like, but do you actually know what it is? By definition, stress is the body’s natural defense against danger. Stress often occurs when a person is overwhelmed by the demands they face at any given time. In times of stress, the body releases certain hormones that prepare the body to deal with stress. Also, in times of stress, digestion slows, breathing quickens, and heart rate increases. This fight or flight response provides the body with the resources it needs to face any dangers.

    Stress and diabetes

    During the fight or flight response, the hormones released create a lot of energy that the cells can use. This energy comes in the form of glucose and fat. In those with diabetes, this fight or flight response may not always work so well.  This is because insulin may not always be working well or be present at all to help the cells use energy. In turn, the glucose can build up in the blood.

    Not to mention that stress can also increase blood glucose levels directly. Research shows that those with type 2 diabetes often have higher blood glucose levels when they experience stress. Also, those who experience stress may not deal with it in a healthy way. For example, some people may drink alcohol, smoke, or eat unhealthy foods when they feel stress. This in turn can increase blood glucose levels and negatively impact health.

    Stress and diabetes research

    A recent study by Chinese researchers looked at data from around 500,000 adults. This data included blood glucose levels, reported stress, and other related health data. Study results show that those who reported one stressful event had a 10-percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who reported none.

    This risk went up to 33-percent when a person reported two or more stressful events. Personal stress seemed to produce the highest levels of diabetes risk. This type of stress especially affected diabetes risk when it involved losing a job, retiring, or death of a loved one.

    How to manage stress and diabetes

    From these study results, it’s clear to see that stress has a direct link with diabetes risk. Now since you can’t control the stress that enters your life, but you control how you deal with it. Experts suggest that by better managing stress, you can lessen the impact it has on your health. Some examples of ways to cope with stress include:

    • deep breathing
    • gardening
    • walking
    • yoga
    • meditating
    • listening to your favorite music
    • talking with a counselor or trusted friend or loved one

    When you are better able to handle stress, you will be better able to handle your health. In other words, when you can manage stress better, you will likely be better able to take care of your health in other ways. You will likely move more, make healthier food choices, sleep better, and keep better track of your blood glucose levels.  In turn, these healthy habits will help you better deal with your diabetes.

    If you still feel like stress is keeping you up at night though, then try Somnova by Vita Sciences. Using natural ingredients like L-theanine and melatonin, Somnova works to relax your mind, produce peaceful sleep, and in turn help you feel refreshed. This improved sleep can help you to better manage stress in your life, and in turn lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.

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

    References:

    American Diabetes Association (last reviewed June 7, 2013) “Stress.” http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/mental-health/stress.html

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (November 2016) “Managing Diabetes.”

    Nordqvist, C. (last updated November 28, 2017 by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP) “Why stress happens and how to manage it.” Medical News Today

    Wang, M., et al. (February 2019) “Associations between stressful life events and diabetes: Findings from the China Kadoorie Biobank study of 500,000 adults.” Journal of Diabetes Investigation, https://doi.org/10.1111/jdi.13028

     


  • A plant-based diet may help treat diabetes

    fruit, vegetable, nuts, seeds, healthy, dietIf you’ve ever tried to eat healthy, which I’m sure most of us have, then you may have been told to eat more vegetables. This is a tried and true statement that is vital to every healthy lifestyle. This is because plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables are full of gut-healthy fiber and antioxidants.  In turn, this helps to lower your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. That is why it may not be surprising that a recent study shows that a plant-based diet may help diabetes treatment.

    What is a plant-based diet?

    There are several ways you may view a plant-based diet. And you don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to reap the benefits of this eating plan. In fact, the definition of a plant-based diet is a group of eating habits that avoid eating most or all animal products and support mostly intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, whole grains and nuts. Therefore, all you have to do is include a plant-based food to each meal or snack time. So try to pick a variety of colors of plant-based foods to reap the benefits of the vast array of antioxidants.

    Plant-based diet research

    There is a lot of research supporting the benefits of a plant-based diet. Research shows that such a diet can help improve mental health, heart health, quality of life, HbA1c levels, and body weight. It can also help people manage their diabetes. It’s thought that these health benefits stem from the antioxidants in produce that help improve gut health and decrease oxidative stress and related inflammation. Also, plant-based foods provide a ton of nutrients like fiber, potassium, magnesium, folate, iron, and vitamins A and C.

    A recent study looked at how the vegan diet may help those with diabetes. Researchers looked at the effects of vegetable-based foods on health versus animal-based foods. For sixteen weeks, 20 people with type 2 diabetes were fed either veggie-based burgers or meat-based burgers.

    Study results show that the tofu burgers enhanced post-meal insulin secretion more than the meat burger. This means that after meals, blood glucose levels did not rise as much in those on the plant-based diet.  Also, the vegan meal improved beta-cell function, which produces, holds, and releases insulin. This is important since diabetes usually damages the beta-cell function in those who have the condition. Therefore, this study shows that a plant-based diet could help those with diabetes control their condition.

    Other ways to help control diabetes

    Besides eating a plant-based diet, there are other things you can add to your healthy lifestyle to help control diabetes.

    • Stay active: Exercise can help increase how sensitive insulin is and can help the body use blood glucose better for energy. Therefore, be sure to move as much as you can each day. This can be walking, cleaning house, walking around the market, or aerobics, to name a few. Every step counts, so just because you can’t work out at the gym, that doesn’t mean you can’t find other ways to stay active and control your blood glucose levels.
    • Take medications: Many people with type 2 diabetes benefit from taking daily medications that help lower blood glucose levels. Some people may also have to take insulin to assist with diabetes treatment. Your diabetes healthcare team will look at your health history and current health status to find the medicine regimen that will work best for you.
    • Add a daily supplement: A supplement like Glucarex by Vita Sciences can help control blood glucose levels naturally. Glucarex contains  compounds like chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon that can support healthy weight, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.
    • See your doctor often: If you have a chronic disease like diabetes, it’s vital to visit your doctor more than once a year. During these visits, have your labs checked and have your medicines adjusted if needed. This can help you stay on top of your diabetes and lower risk of complications.

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

    References:

    Hever, J., & Cronise, R. J. (2017). “Plant-based nutrition for healthcare professionals: implementing diet as a primary modality in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease.” Journal of geriatric cardiology : JGC14(5), 355-368.

    Kahleova, H., et al. (2019) “A Plant-Based Meal Stimulates Incretin and Insulin Secretion More Than an Energy- and Macronutrient-Matched Standard Meal in Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Crossover Study.” Nutrients, 11(3): 486.

    Kerley C. P. (2018). “A Review of Plant-based Diets to Prevent and Treat Heart Failure.” Cardiac failure review4(1), 54-61.

    McMacken, M., & Shah, S. (2017). “A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.” Journal of geriatric cardiology : JGC14(5), 342-354.

    Toumpanakis, A., Turnbull, T., & Alba-Barba, I. (2018). “Effectiveness of plant-based diets in promoting well-being in the management of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review.” BMJ open diabetes research & care6(1), e000534.


  • Move more to fight depression …and diabetes

    depression. mental health, happy, mood, healthWhen most people start an exercise program, they may be trying to do one of a few things. Most people move more to lose weight, some exercise to gain muscle, and some just want to tone up. However, the benefit from exercise that most may not think of is improved mood. A recent study shows that moving more each day may have prevent depressive symptoms. Not to mention, that research also shows that preventing or improving such symptoms can help improve health outcomes in those with diabetes.

    What is depression?

    Depression is a mood disorder that can greatly impact daily life. It can make daily activities seem impossible by impacting the way you feel, think, sleep, eat, and work. There are various forms of depression such as persistent depressive disorder, which involves symptoms lasting two years or more.

    On the other hand, there are forms of depression that occur as a result of certain environmental changes such as in climate like with seasonal affective disorder, or after pregnancy like with postpartum depression. Some people with depression may also experience other serious mood symptoms like with bipolar disorder or psychotic depression.

    No matter what type of depression a person may have, they all share certain serious symptoms for more than two weeks at a time that may include:

    • persistent “empty” mood or sad feelings
    • irritability
    • hopelessness
    • loss of interest in hobbies or daily activities
    • decreased energy or fatigue
    • restlessness
    • moving or talking more slowly
    • difficulty concentrating
    • trouble sleeping or eating
    • digestive problems or headaches without a medical cause
    • thoughts of death or suicide

    Not everyone with depression experiences every symptom. However, if you have a few of these symptoms and you feel that daily life has become hard to handle, then it may be time to reach out to a healthcare professional for help.

    Antidepressant medications and psychotherapy, like talk therapy are typical primary treatments for depression. However, if these treatments alone are not helping all of your symptoms, then there are some other things you can try. Experts suggest asking for help from a trusted friend, family member, or counselor as well as taking steps to take part in your community for social support.

    Another treatment option is to join a study through the National Institutes of Health where new treatments will be tested. If you need help now, then reach out to someone today for advice through one of the resources found on this website. Exercise can also be something you can do now to help improve your depressive symptoms.

    Exercise and depression research 

    The American Heart Association suggests that most adults exercise at least 150 minutes a week. This means that for most days of the week, you should move at least thirty minutes a day. This doesn’t have to be all at once, but can be a few minutes at a time. And this exercise should be at a moderate pace. Therefore, if you walk briskly for a few minutes here and there for a total of thirty minutes a day, then you can keep your heart strong. Not only that, but you can also keep your mind healthy too.

    A recent study shows that exercise may help improve depressive symptoms. This study looked at data from over 600000 adults. Study results show that there is a protective relationship between exercise and risk for major depressive disorder. And what makes this finding stronger is that this data was taken from actual measured movement, not self-reported exercise. Therefore, experts suggest that exercise could be an effective adjunct strategy to help treat and prevent depressive symptoms.

    Exercise and diabetes research

    If you exercise to help improve your depressive symptoms, you could also help improve your diabetes risk. Experts report that depressive symptoms correlate strongly with a risk of incident diabetes. A study of data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) looked at whether positive behavior could help lower risk of type 2 diabetes in postmenopausal women.

    The study looked at data from over 100000 women over 14 years. Study results show that those who were the most optimistic had a 12-percent lower risk of developing diabetes versus those in the lowest quartile of optimism. Also, those who showed more hostile and negative behaviors, were at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Therefore, prevention strategies to help target such negative mood and personality traits may help lower risk of type 2 diabetes in these persons.

    Take home message

    If you suffer from depression, then there are many steps you can take to help improve your quality of life. The first step is to ask for help.  I know this is not an easy ask, but there are many resources out there where people want to help you take back your life.

    And if you have diabetes, it may be worth it to be screened for depression to see if such strategies listed above may help you not only feel better in your mind, but also help improve your diabetes symptoms.

    Changes in diet such as consuming more antioxidant-rich foods and taking supplements such as Elevia by Vita Sciences may also help. Elevia contains GABA and 5-HTP to help calm your mind and boost serotonin levels. This could be another tool in your belt to help you improve your depressive symptoms and start feeling better inside and out.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Heart Association (last reviewed April 18, 2018) “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids.”

    Choi KW, Chen C, Stein MB, et al. (Published online January 23, 2019) “Assessment of Bidirectional Relationships Between Physical Activity and Depression Among AdultsA 2-Sample Mendelian Randomization Study.” JAMA Psychiatry, doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.4175

    National Institute of Mental Health (February 2018) “Depression.”

    Sandoiu, A. (January 27, 2019) “Diabetes: How optimism may influence your risk.” Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324297.php

     


  • A team approach may help diabetes health and your relationships

    diabetes, heart health, team, marriage, relationship, health, exerciseDiabetes can be a difficult condition to tackle on your own. The diet changes, doctor’s appointments, blood glucose checks, and other lifestyle changes that come along with treatment can be overwhelming. Also, in some cases weight loss may be recommended as part of treatment which can be more stressful. Therefore, you may not know where to begin. And in turn, you may be afraid you’re going to fail and make your condition worse. However, a recent study shows that taking a team approach to diabetes treatment may lead to better health outcomes.

    What is diabetes?

    Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body either does not produce any or enough insulin, or your body is having trouble using the insulin it has. Insulin helps the body use glucose as energy. Therefore, when someone has the condition, the blood often contains more glucose than it should. This is because the insulin is either not present or not able to use the glucose for energy very well.

    There are two major types of the condition. Type 1, which is often diagnosed in children, involves an autoimmune reaction. This reaction stops the body from making insulin. Therefore, people who have this type have to take insulin injections every day to survive.

    On the other hand, type 2 can be diagnosed at any age, but is mostly seen in adults. This type occurs when the body can’t use insulin well. In turn, the glucose levels in the blood are difficult to control.

    Common treatment options

    Treatment options will depend on the type of diabetes you have. For those with type 1, you will need to take insulin every day in the form of an injection or through an insulin pump. However, for those with type 2, weight loss along with healthy eating and exercise is just as important as medication treatment. Furthermore, if someone has prediabetes, which is borderline type 2, these lifestyle changes can prevent a person from developing the full-blown condition.

    Other parts of type 2 treatments may include non-insulin medications. These medications help your blood glucose from becoming too high after you eat. Regardless of what type of diabetes you have, you will likely have to check your blood glucose levels often.

    This is because it will help you and your healthcare provider to keep track of your progress. It will also help your doctor figure out how much insulin or other medications you need to control your blood glucose levels. And for some people, they may have to check their blood glucose levels multiple times a day.

    Team approach to treatment

    Diabetes treatment involves a lot of different lifestyle changes that can be overwhelming for anyone. Therefore, a recent study looked at the impact of a team approach to treatment.

    Researchers looked at the effect of couples calls on health outcomes. The couples calls involved ten calls focusing on partner communication, collaboration, and support. Each couple had one partner with type 2 diabetes. This intervention was compared with those that received individual calls or diabetes education calls.

    Study results show that those who received couples calls had:

    • greater reductions in diabetes distress
    • higher increases in marital satisfaction (at four and eight months)
    • some improvements in diastolic blood pressure.

    Researchers found that “involved partners benefited emotionally” and also felt better about their relationship. This is because the challenges of the disease brought an opportunity for them to work together to deal with the challenges.

    Summary

    Diet, exercise, medications, and blood glucose testing are all necessary for optimal diabetes treatment. But it goes without saying that having a support system through your journey can be very helpful as well.  Also, you could benefit from a supplement like Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains ingredients like chromium, cinnamon, and alpha lipoic acid that can promote weight loss, improved metabolism, and healthier blood glucose levels.  Here’s to improved health this new year and for years to come.

    References:

    Centers for Disease Control (June 1, 2017) “About Diabetes.”

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (November 2016) “Insulin, Medicines, & Other Diabetes Treatments.”

    Physician’s Briefing (January 14, 2019) “Couples Intervention May Aid Partners of Diabetes Patients.”

     


  • Every step of exercise counts towards brain and heart health

    exercise, health, heart, step, pedometerExercise is an important part of any healthy lifestyle. Along with healthy eating, managing stress, and sleeping enough, exercise is vital for heart health. However, starting an exercise program can be hard.

    You may think you have to start going to the gym every day and take intense classes each week to see results. The truth is though that you can reap the benefits of exercise with every step. Switch your focus from trying to fit in long bouts of activity each day. Instead, just try to focus on moving more through the day. This is because research shows that even just two minutes of activity at a time can help heart and brain health.

    How much exercise do I need?

    For most adults, 30 minutes of moderate exercise is recommended each day for most days  of the week. This moderate exercise can include brisk walking, water aerobics, or dancing, to name a few. During moderate exercise, your heart will beat faster and it will be harder to breathe. However, with moderate intensity you should still be able to talk.

    A recent report released by the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans showed that any amount of activity can improve health.  Older guidelines stated that a person had to exercise for at least ten minutes or longer for it to count towards daily exercise. However, research now shows that any decrease in sedentary behavior can help.

    This is because being inactive causes about 10-percent of premature death in the United States. Therefore, any single bout of exercise, even just a few minutes, can improve sleep, blood pressure, and sharpen the mind. The weekly recommended amount of exercise of 150 minutes remains the same. However, this total can come from any small bout of activity during your day.

    How can exercise help brain health?

    The heart health benefits of exercise are widely known. First of all, it helps lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Secondly, it has shown to improve sleep, lower risk of obesity, and improve mental health. However, what may be lesser known is the impact of exercise on brain health.

    When it comes to brain health, exercise has found to have several benefits. First of all, being active can help improve mental health factors like anxiety and depression. Also, being active can improve brain function in those with dementia or multiple sclerosis. Finally, keeping your body active can help just about anyone improve memory, attention, and processing speed.

    How can I add exercise in my day?

    You don’t have to have a membership to a gym to stay active. In fact, just a comfortable pair of walking shoes and a little motivation can help you meet your exercise goals. Here are some tips you can use to add more activity in your day.

    • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Although this may not be ideal for those with joint issues, some may benefit from taking the stairs to grab a few more steps in during the day.
    • Park a bit further out from your destination. When you are going to the store or market, park a little but further out so you can have a few extra exercise minutes during your daily routine. During this same trip, you could also walk a few extra laps of the store or market to collect even more exercise minutes.
    • Take a walk after dinner with your family, dog, or friends. Not only will this help your food digest a little better, but you can collect some exercise minutes at the end of your day.
    • Walk during commercials. If the only down time you find during your day is at night, then use your TV time to stay active. During commercial breaks, no matter how short, use this time to walk around the house or walk in place. This will help you collect your exercise minutes before you go to bed.

    If you find that joint pain is getting in the way of your exercise goals, try a supplement like turmeric. Turmeric, like that from Vita Sciences, helps to reduce inflammation in the body which can help support a healthy heart and joints. This formula contains 95% curcuminoids as well as bioperine black pepper extract to help improve the bioavailability of curcumin.

    References:

     American Heart Association (April 18, 2018) “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids.” https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults

    Thompson, D. (November 12, 2018) “Even a 2-Minute Walk Counts in New Physical Activity Guidelines.” https://consumer.healthday.com/fitness-information-14/misc-health-news-265/even-a-2-minute-walk-counts-in-new-physical-activity-guidelines-739584.html

     

     

     


  • Nuts can be your heart’s best friend

     

    From peanuts to pistachios, or almonds to macadamias, nuts can be a delicious, healthy snack any time of day. Nuts provide a plant-based food full of fiber, protein, and antioxidants that can add flavor and health to any dish. Not only that, but research shows that adding nuts to your daily routine can improve heart health and weight management, to name a few health benefits. Let’s learn a little more about nuts and how you can make them a staple in your healthy lifestyle routine.

    About nuts and heart health

    Nuts are a plant-based food that for many years was avoided by many due to its high calorie content. However, research now shows that this calorie dense food is also nutrient dense and could benefit heart health. This is due to the healthy mixture of unsaturated and omega-3 fats as well as protein and fiber.

    The highest protein nuts are almonds, and pistachios at about 6 grams per ounce. Cashews are not far behind at five grams of protein per ounce. When it comes to fiber, almonds, pistachios, pecans, and hazelnuts top the list of tree nuts at 3 grams of fiber per ounce. Furthermore, pecans and walnuts provide the most omega-3 fatty acids of the tree nuts at 278 and 2565 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, respectively.

    Nuts and metabolic health

    Two recent studies looked at the health benefits of adding nuts to your daily routine. The first study looked at the impact of nut intake on weight gain. Study results show that by replacing a serving of unhealthy food with an ounce of nuts, a person could lower risk of weight gain and obesity. Such unhealthy foods that could be replaced include red meat, processed meat, French fries, desserts, or potato chips. Research suggests that by doing this you could help counteract the gradual weight gain many adults have with aging. This in turn could help reduce risk of obesity-related conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

    A second study looked at the impact of Brazil nut intake on overall health in healthy people. People in the study groups were given either a serving of Brazil nuts or pretzels with similar calorie and sodium content. Study results show that those given the Brazil nuts had an increased feeling of fullness. Also, nut intake prevented an increase in blood glucose and insulin levels after eating. These increases occurred with those eating pretzels about forty minutes after eating. Researchers suggest that this positive metabolic impact of Brazil nuts is likely due to its rich selenium content.

    Other ways to improve metabolic health

    Besides eating nuts, there are other ways you can help improve your health that include:

    • Sleeping enough at night. Most adults require at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night for your best health. Experts suggest that if you don’t receive enough sleep, your risk for type 2 diabetes can increase. Therefore, if you have trouble sleeping, be sure to visit your healthcare provider for tips. They can also see if you may have pain or sleep apnea that is preventing you from sleeping well.
    • Moving more. Staying active can help you reduce your risk of heart disease or diabetes. It does this by helping you to manage weight and improve insulin resistance. Therefore, try to engage in moderate activity for a total of 30 minutes a day most days. Such activities inlcude walking, biking, swimming, gardening, or other aerobic activity.
    • Managing stress. Stress can sap your energy levels and can also increase blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Therefore, find ways to manage your stress like relaxation breathing, yoga, or talking to a counselor. Also, taking a walk outside can  help refresh your mind so you manage stress better. Make time in your schedule for “me-time” that can help you improve your health.
    • Taking supplements when needed.  If you are B12-, iron-, or vitamin D-deficient, you can feel fatigued. This can make you not feel like being active and healthy. Therefore, be sure to have your nutrient levels checked each year. If you are low, you can take a supplement if needed to put your health on track. An example of such a supplement is Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains compounds like alpha-lipoic acid, cinnamon, and chromium. Along with antioxidant vitamins C and E, this supplement can help support healthy weight loss, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.

     References:

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (June 2017) “Why nutritionists are crazy about nuts.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/why-nutritionists-are-crazy-about-nuts

    Mayo Clinic (September 9, 2016) “Diabetes prevention: 5 tips for taking control.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-prevention/art-20047639

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed November 13, 2018) “The link between a lack of sleep and type 2 diabetes.” https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems-list/the-link-between-lack-sleep-and-type-2-diabetes

    Sandoiu, A. (November 5, 2018) “Daily serving of nuts may stave off weight gain.” Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323577.php

    Today’s Dietitian (accessed November 13, 2018) “Nutritional Profiles of Tree Nuts.” https://www.todaysdietitian.com/pdf/webinars/treenuts/NutritionalProfilesofTreeNuts.pdf

     

     


  • Could a vegan diet improve your mood and your diabetes?

    vegan, vegetarian, health, dietVegan diets have seemed to gain popularity over the years for several reasons. First of all, a plant-based diet full of fiber and antioxidants seems to improve heart health risk factors. Secondly, it’s a way for people to show they support animal rights. Also, it’s an eating regimen that can be fitting for those who may have dairy and or egg allergies. However, recent research shows that a vegan diet could also help improve the health of body and mind of those with type 2 diabetes. 

    What is a vegan diet?

    A vegan diet is one that avoids any animal products. This includes meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, as well as dairy products. No to mention, that this type of diet avoids ingredients like gelatin, honey, beeswax, casein, and whey that come from animals or insects.

    Many vegan-certified products sit on store shelves. From meatless burgers, cookies, and dairy-free cheese, these products make this diet regimen easier to follow long-term. However, it’s important to remember that these foods are still processed. Since this diet’s health benefits stem from its plant-based nature, you should consume mostly whole foods for optimal health.

    Vegan diet and diabetes

    A recent study shows that eating a meat-free, dairy free diet full of plant-based foods can improve mood and overall health. This evidence review looked at studies of those with type 2 diabetes following a vegan diet.  Study results show that those with diabetes on such plant-based diets had better control of their diabetes and overall health.  These individuals had better control of their blood glucose levels, lipid levels, and cholesterol levels.

    And if that wasn’t enough to convince you to eat plant-based, these individuals saw several other benefits too. In over half of the studies reviewed, those with diabetes were able to cut down or discontinue their diabetes medicines. Also, some individuals reported reduced diabetic nerve pain as well as improved mental health factors and quality of life.

    Other ways to improve your diabetes

    A plant-based diet is not the only way to help improve your diabetes. Read below for more tips on how to feel better in body and mind whether you have diabetes or not.

    • Stay active: It’s important for just about everyone to stay active for overall health. Exercise can help you manage stress, keep your heart string, help you to manage weight, and can also improve diabetes risk factors. When it comes to diabetes, staying active can help improve insulin resistance in the body. Therefore, try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day most days. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous. Just walking, gardening, or cleaning house can count towards your exercise. And you can split it up into smaller fragments of exercise like 5 or 10 minutes of exercise several times a day to make it more practical.
    • Sleep enough each night: It’s important for most adults to sleep at least seven and nine hours a night for your best health. This is especially true for those with diabetes. This is because a lack of sleep, which throws off hormone levels in the body, can  increase risk of type 2 diabetes.
    • Manage stress: When you are stressed, your blood pressure can rise. Not only that, but stress can also increase blood glucose levels. Therefore, it’s important to find ways to manage your stress to help improve your diabetes or lower risk for diabetes. Some ways you can try to manage stress include relaxation breathing, yoga, talking to a counselor, or taking a walk when you feel stressed.
    • Add a supplement to your daily regimen: If you are deficient in any nutrients like iron or vitamin B12, you may feel fatigue which can make it hard to stay active an healthy. Therefore, be sure to have your nutrient levels checked each year and supplement if needed. You can also try a supplement made just for those trying to control diabetes like Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains compounds like chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon to help support weight loss, healthy metabolism, and healthy blood glucose levels.

    References:

    Kahleova, H., Levin, S., and Barnard, N.D. (May-June 2018) “Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Cardiovascular Disease.” Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 61(1): 54-61.

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (January 2016) “4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed November 12, 2018) “The link between a lack of sleep and type 2 diabetes.”

    Thompson, D. (October 30, 2018) “For Diabetics, Going Vegan May Boost Mood Along With Health.” HealthDay online

     

     


  • 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.”