Category Archives: Mental Health

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.”


  • Can alcohol intake increase your appetite?

    After a long, hard week you may be reaching for a nice, cold beer or a glass of wine. Sure, an alcoholic drink can take the edge off and lower your stress for a bit. However, it could increase your appetite and make healthy eating very hard to do. A recent study shows that this overeating caused by alcohol could be due to a gene that is activated by alcohol consumption.

    wine, health, alcoholAbout alcohol

    Alcohol has been enjoyed for thousands of years since about the 5th century AD.  This type of drink comes in many forms and flavors, is a central nervous system depressant that can relax the mind and body upon consumption. It is absorbed quickly from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream. Drinking too much though can impair mobility and cognition in the short-term. If consumed in excess over many years can increase risk of liver disease.

    Ethanol is the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks. This substance is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugar, and starches into alcohol.  The way that ethanol affects you depends on a variety of factors including age, weight, how much you ate before drinking, and use of medications, to name a few. Regardless of these factors, the recommended maximum intake of alcohol for moderate consumption is 14 standard drinks a week for men and 7 standard drinks a week for women. One standard drink is equal to (ABV=alcohol by volume):

    • 12 ounces beer (5% ABV)
    • 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% ABV)
    • 5 ounces of wine (12% ABV)
    • 1.5 ounces of liquor (40% ABV)

    Alcohol and appetite

    Drinking alcohol often occurs in establishments which serve unhealthy fare as french fries, nachos, hot wings, and other fried foods.  This type of food is thought to help those who are drinking to sober up. Research has found that all types of protein, fat, and carbohydrates can help you sober up after drinking, as long as you eat something.

    So, what if you don’t feel like eating after drinking? A recent study has found that this is an unlikely outcome. This is because alcohol triggers a neuron signal found in both animals and humans that increases appetite.  Starvation normally activates this neuron, known as Agrp, to increase a person’s motivation for eating.  However, ethanol can also activate these neurons.  This can explain why you may be extra hungry after a few drinks at the bar.

    If this type of drinking and eating becomes a pattern, it could lead to weight gain and heart health issues over time. Therefore, it is important that if you do drink alcohol, that you do so in moderation and make sure you limit eating too many unhealthy foods while drinking.

    Staying healthy during social hour

    Since hunger seems to be inevitable after drinking, week after week of this behavior may impact your health in a not-so-healthy way. Therefore, use the following tips to have your drink and stay healthy too.

    • Choose healthier food to munch on while drinking: Instead of fried foods, opt for a veggie plate with celery, carrots, and salad dressing. Or you could get a turkey burger without a bun topped with tons of vegetables like lettuce and tomato. Other options like baked chips and salsa, grilled chicken wings, or fruit salad are found at some bars and could be healthier drinking snack options.
    • Drink lots of water:  Drinking alcohol can dehydrate you since it reduces the activation of the hormone known as ADH or anti-diuretic hormone. When it does this, the kidneys do not reabsorb as much water, so you urinate more. Over time, this can cause you to become dehydrated. Water is needed for many aspects of health, so if you do drink alcohol, drink plenty of water with it.
    • Find other ways to relax: If drinking wine or beer is a way for you to relax, perhaps try not to do it so much. Find other ways to relax such as walking, reading, yoga, meditation, or exercising, among other things.  You could also take a supplement such as Elevia by Vita Sciences that increases your “feel-good” hormone serotonin to help you relax. Elevia contains ingredients such as GABA and 5-htp to help calm your body and mind.

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

    References:

    Cains, S., Blomeley, C., Kollo, M., Racz, R., and Burdakov, D. (2017) “Agrp neuron activity is required for alcohol-induced overeating.” Nature Communications, 8:14014.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (March 29, 2018) “Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions.”

    Freudenrich, Ph.D., C. (accessed August 21, 2018) “How Alcohol Works.” How Stuff Works online.

    Gowin, Ph.D., J. (September 15, 2013) “What’s the Best Meal to Sober up after drinking?” Psychology Today online.


  • A lonely mood could be worse for your health than obesity

    depression, lonely, mental health, healthSo much focus is placed on diet and exercise to stay healthy, that sometimes mental health care can be forgotten. However, the health of both mind and body is important to be in your best state of health. In fact, a recent report has found that being lonely may be a greater hazard to public health than obesity.

    What is mental health?

    Mental health considers the well-being of the emotional, social, and psychological parts of one’s life.  Although mental health issues can affect the mood of a person, it can also impact important life factors.  The way we feel can affect the way we think, act, make decisions, and how we handle relationships with others, among other things.  Therefore, it mental health should be taken just as seriously as physical health.

    How can being lonely affect your health?

    A recent report has found that being lonely is a serious public health issue. The health insurance company Cigna reports that most American adults consider themselves lonely, or feel disconnected from the world and people around them.  Younger American, such as those in Generation Z and millennials, report being the most lonely.

    Since loneliness is not necessarily a condition on your diagnosis sheet, health care providers may overlook it. However, left untreated, loneliness can lead to more serious mental health conditions such as depression. Experts suggest “social cognitive retraining”  to combat loneliness. This is because the brains of lonely people can make the negative feelings worse if left untreated.  A qualified psychologist or psychiatrist can perform this type of brain retraining.

    Ways to help improve your mood

    If you feel that your lonely mood is starting to affect your daily life and relationships, then you should contact a health care provider or counselor to get proper treatment. However, if you feel that your lonely feeling is in its early stages, then you may be able to take steps to improve this feeling on your own.

    • Extend yourself in the community: By volunteering or attending social events, you can feel more engaged in your community. This can help you feel less lonely and perhaps make some new friends and contacts.
    • Find groups to join that involve your hobbies: Whether you like to read, run, or play music, find local groups in your community to join. These groups can help you meet like-minded people that like the same things that you do. This can help you get out of your comfort zone at home a little and find others to talk with that you have something in common with. One app to help with this is Meetup, which provides you access to local clubs and events in your community.
    • Take a mood lifter supplement: Elevia by Vita Sciences is a mood lifting supplement. It contains compounds such as GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) and 5-HTP that research shows to calm the mind and body, while boosting levels of the feel good hormone serotonin.
    • Stay positive: As the saying goes, energy creates energy. If you exude negative energy, then that negative energy will likely remain within you. However, if you go into life and situations with a positive attitude, then it is likely that before long, that positive energy will become a part of you. Certain mental health issues may make staying positive nearly impossible. However, with the help of a mental health professional, counselor, and a network of family and friends to reach out to, you can start to create more positive energy in your life and mind.

    Be sure to call the following hotlines if you are experiencing a mental health crisis or have questions about getting started on treatment for your mental health condition.

    Sources:

    Loria, K. ( June 3, 2018) “Loneliness may be a greater public health hazard than obesity- here are 4 psychology-backed tips to combat it.” Business Insider,  http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-feel-less-lonely-2018-5

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (August 29, 2017) “What is Mental Health?”


  • Could your sleep patterns affect your mental health?

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

    The Importance of Sleep

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

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

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

    Sleep and Mental Health

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

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

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

    Ways to Help You Get More Sleep

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

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

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

    Sources:

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

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

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

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


  • Drinking more alcohol than suggested could shorten life

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

    What is the recommended alcohol intake for most adults?

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

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

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

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

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

    Alcohol and life span

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

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

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

    Other ways to relax

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

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

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

    Sources:

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

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

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

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


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

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

    About High Blood Pressure

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

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

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

    Blood Pressure Survey

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

    Other Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

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

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

    Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

     


  • Could a walk in the park lower stress levels?

    walk, park, exercise, stress, relaxStaying active has many benefits. In particular, you may have been told by a healthcare provider to move more to help manage weight or improve heart health. However, a recent study has found that a walk in the park may also reduce stress levels in the body.

    How Much Exercise Do I Need?

    The Department of Helath and Human Services recommends that most adults exercise 30 minutes a day for most days of the week. In particular, it is suggested that most adults should engage in:

    • 150 minutes of moderate activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week, or a combination of both levels of activity.
    • 2 days each week of resistance or strength training that involves a single set of exercises that includes 12 to 15 repetitions at a weight that will tire the muscles by the end of the set.

    This thirty minutes does not have to be all at once. Five minutes here and ten minutes there is enough as long as it adds up to 30 minutes by the end of the day. Also, you may be wondering what moderate activity is. Moderate activity is any exercise that allows you to hold a conversation, but does not allow you enough breath to sing. In addition, you should break a light sweat within 10 minutes of a moderate activity, while vigorous activity will have you breaking a sweat in a few minutes or less. Moderate activities include:

    • walking
    • water aerobics
    • gardening
    • light dancing
    • slow bicycling

    Walking to Lower Stress

    A study by researchers at the Center for Nature and Health at the University of California San Francisco looked at the effects of exercise on a group of 78 parents and children.  This group of parents and children were encouraged to visit local parks as often as possible over the course of the study period. They were either provided maps to local parks and bus schedules or invited to group outings at local parks.

    Follow-ups were done at one month and three months after the start of the study. During these follow-ups, self reports, journalling, and salivary cortisol levels were used to measure stress levels.  It was found that every increase in park visits each week was linked to decreases in stress.  In addition, it was found that those who visited the parks often saw:

    • increased physical activity
    • decreased loneliness
    • increased interest in nature

    Other Ways to Lower Stress

    Besides getting fresh air and exercising, there are many ways you can try to lower your stress levels.

    • Deep breathing can help relax the mind during stressful times and can also help improve sleep. This type of breathing involves breathing from the diaphragm, which means your stomach should inflate as you inhale and deflate as you exhale. Inhale for several seconds, hold your breath for several seconds, and exhale for several seconds. You may feel a bit lightheaded when starting this practice, so do not perform deep breathing when driving a car or operating machinery.
    • Simplifying your life by donating items in your home that you do not use such as clothes, excess furniture, or decorative items. Also, delegate tasks when possible at both home and work if possible to lighten your load. Finally, write upcoming events on a calendar and keep a running shopping list so you can lighten the burden on your mind.
    • Getting enough sleep is important not only for lowering stress, but for overall health. The average adult should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
    • Eating a balanced diet that is low in sugar, high in fiber, and high in other nutrients such as iron, B12, and vitamin C will help your body perform better in many ways. Some benefits of a healthy, balanced diet include improved cognitive function, better heart health, and an enhanced ability to handle stress. This balanced diet also includes lowering caffeine, increasing water intake, and reducing alcohol intake as well as eating a minimally processed diet. 
    • Spending more time with others in your family, circle of friends, and/or community since social engagement can help boost “feel good” serotonin levels in the body.
    • Taking mood-boosting supplements like Elevia by Vita Sciences. Elevia contains GABA, chamomile, and 5-HTP. These compounds can calm the mind and boost serotonin levels.

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

    Sources:

    Burton, M.D., N. (February 11, 2017) “How to Reduce Stress.” 

    Healthline (accessed March 5, 2018) “Parl Prescriptions Can Help Lower Stress Levels.”

    Laskowski, M.D., E.R. (August 20, 2016) “How much should the average adult exercise each day?” Mayo Clinic.com 

    Mayo Clinic (May 19, 2017) “Exercise intensity: how to measure it.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed March 5, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

    Razani, N., et al (2018) “Effect of park prescriptions with and without group visits to parks on stress reduction in low-income parents: SHINE randomized trial.”

    Watson, S. (June 18, 2014) “Caffiene and a healthy diet may boost memory, thinking skills; alcohol’s effect uncertain.”