Tag Archives: Brain health

Add nuts to your diet for better brain health

Bowl of mixed nuts on rustic wooden table in natural light.

Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and pistachios are all delicious nutrient-dense snacks. Nuts are often mentioned as healthy snacks for heart health. Not to mention that they taste great and can be a healthy replacement to chips as a salty and crunchy snack. But did you know that they can also help your brain health? A recent study shows that eating a little bit of nuts everyday can benefit brain health.

About nuts

Nuts come in many varieties, but they all provide rich health benefits. These tasty plant-based treats contain many important nutrients like:

  • healthy fats like monounsaturated (MUFA)  and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats
  • protein
  • soluble and insoluble fibers
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin K
  • folate
  • thiamine
  • minerals such as magnesium, copper, potassium, and selenium
  • antioxidants
  • phytosterols

Because of their antioxidant content, nuts are great for reducing the amount of inflammation in the body. This in turn can help lower risk of inflammatory related conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

In particular, eating just an ounce or two of almonds daily can reduce blood glucose levels after meal time. They can also increase satiety or fullness in those with type 2 diabetes. Also, eating an ounce or so of walnuts daily can help some people lose weight since they also help increase fullness and reduce insulin levels. Finally, research shows that eating an ounce and a half of pistachios daily can help improve lipid markers such as reducing LDL-C or “bad” cholesterol.

Nuts and brain health

A 2019 study looked at data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey over 22 years. Nut intake data was collected from over 4800 study participants in 1991, 1993, and during the years of cognitive function data collection in 1997, 2001, 2004, and 2006. Study results show that nut intake is associated with reduced levels of cognitive decline.

In particular, eating more than 10 grams or more of nuts daily, which equates to about 2 teaspoons a day, may benefit brain health. In fact, the researchers report that this small amount of nuts can improve thinking, reasoning, and memory. Also, they report that this same amount of nuts can improve the brain function of older adults by about 60-percent compared to those who didn’t eat nuts.

Interestingly enough, the same antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities that help improve heart health also benefits brain health. Therefore, make sure to add nuts to your daily routine to reap these awesome health benefits.

Other ways to help brain health

Now if you’re allergic to nuts, this talk of nuts and health benefits may be a bummer. However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t other ways you can improve brain health. Read below for tips on keeping your brain at its healthiest.

  • Keep your brain busy: As the saying goes “Use it or lose it.” The same concept works for brain health. Just like you exercise your body to stay fit, you should not forget to do the same for your brain. Crossword puzzles, reading, drawing, painting, and even crafts can help keep your brain strong.
  • Exercise your body: Like I mentioned before, exercise for your body is important for heart health, but also for brain health too. This is because your heart pumps all-important oxygen-rich blood to the brain to keep it healthy. Every step counts, so walk, jog, bike, dance, or do whatever movement you enjoy. Your brain will thank you.
  • Improve your diet: Eating lots of fiber-rich and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables can benefit brain health as well as overall health. This is because, just like nuts, these antioxidants reduce inflammation in the body that can increase chronic disease risk. Color your plate with a variety of fruits and vegetables each day to reap the benefits of the different antioxidants they contain that possess different healthful properties.
  • Limit alcohol intake and stop smoking: Smoking can constrict blood vessels , which means less oxygen reaches your brain. For help to quit smoking, visit Smokefree.gov for helpful resources. And as far as alcohol goes, research shows that more than two standard drinks a day can increase dementia risk. A standard drink is equal to 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine, or 1.5 ounces liquor.
  • Take a supplement for brain health:  If you don’t feel like you’re getting enough brain food in your diet, then you can add a brain health supplement like UltaMind to your daily routine. UltaMind by Vita Sciences contains innovative compounds like St. John’s Wort and Gingko biloba, to name a few that have been shown to support brain health, memory, focus, and concentration.

References:

de Souza, R., Schincaglia, R. M., Pimentel, G. D., & Mota, J. F. (2017). Nuts and Human Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Nutrients9(12), 1311. doi:10.3390/nu9121311

Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School (accessed April 4, 2019) “12 ways to keep your brain young.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/12-ways-to-keep-your-brain-young

Li, Ming and Shi, Z. (February 2019) “A Prospective Association of Nut Consumption with Cognitive Function in Chinese Adults Aged 55+ – China Health and Nutrition Survey.” The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging, 23(2): 211-216.

Roche, Ph.d., B. (July 17, 2014) “10 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health.” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/iq-boot-camp/201407/10-ways-improve-your-brain-health

 


  • Could weight loss help lower risk of migraine?

    anxiety, stress, depression, health, mental health, headache, migraineWith summer on the horizon, weight loss efforts are in full bloom. However, weight loss can provide more than just body confidence. The Centers for Disease Control report that just losing 5-percent of your body weight, which is equal to about 10 pounds for a 200 lb. person, can lower your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Not to mention that a recent study shows that losing weight can also lower risk of migraines.

    What is a migraine?

    A migraine is a recurring type of headache that causes a throbbing or pulsing pain along with other uncomfortable symptoms. Other symptoms of a migraine may include:

    • nausea
    • weakness
    • sensitivity to light and sound

    Migraines can be triggered by a variety of different things such as:

    • stress
    • anxiety
    • hormonal changes in women
    • loud noises
    • bright or flashing lights
    • lack of sleep
    • tobacco
    • skipped meals
    • certain medicines
    • caffeine
    • too much activity (overexertion)

    Women and those with a family history of migraines are at greater risk of developing migraines. Treatment usually includes certain pain relievers, resting with your eyes closed in a quiet, dark room, as well as placing an eye pack on your forehead and drinking plenty of fluids.

    Migraines and weight loss

    A recent study analyzed data from 10 different studies regarding migraine occurrence. Study results show that those who lost weight had a reduction in the days per month they had migraines. Also, pain severity and duration of the headache was reduced with weight loss. The results seemed to be the same in adults and kids. Also, results were similar for anyone who lost weight, no matter how the weight was lost (i.e. surgery, diet and exercise).

    It is thought that those who are overweight or obese may be more at risk for migraine headaches due to inflammation. Researchers suggest that certain proteins released by fat tissue, obesity-related health problems such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes, as well as psychological risk factors, stroke, and respiratory conditions may also increase risk of headaches in those who are overweight or obese.

    If you have migraines, but have not found success with any medications over-the-counter, then you may want to visit your doctor for suggestions. Another option is to try a natural supplement like Migravent by Vita Sciences. Migravent contains ingredients like CoQ10, magnesium, and riboflavin, among others to help promote migraine relief and provide neurological support.

    Tips on losing weight 

    There are many ways to approach weight loss. It will vary according to the individual. Your current health status will determine your nutrient needs and exercise tolerance. Also, your food allergies or intolerances and daily schedule will help determine the eating plan that will work best for you. The key is to start changing unhealthy habits one at a time. Over time, you will create the healthy lifestyle that helps you meet your health goals and that is easy for you to stick with for the long term.

    Here are some tips to help you start planning your weight loss program.

    • Write down short-term and long-term goals: Although the term goals may make some people sigh in frustration, they are important for keeping you on track with your weight loss regimen. Start by writing out your ultimate goal for the year, then break it down into smaller goals such as monthly goals. For example, your yearly goal may be to lose 50 pounds. Since this can seem overwhelming to approach, break this goal down into smaller monthly goals. These goals should be S.M.A.R.T., or specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. A goal of this kind will help you track your progress since it’s measurable. Therefore, instead of just saying “I want to eat more vegetables,” instead you could make one of your monthly goals “I will eat at least one cup of vegetables at each meal over the next four weeks.”
    • Make time for planning and prepping meals: Your busy schedule may have you pressed for time. However, in order to have the best chance of weight loss success, you need to make time for meal planning and prepping. Just an hour a week can give you plenty of time to write a shopping list and meal calendar. These tools can help you know what foods you need to stay on track with your diet. A registered dietitian may be helpful to get you started on such as meal plan. Once you have the foods you need in stock, then just take another hour or so a week to wash, chop, dice, and portion out fruit and vegetables for meals and snacks. This can provide convenient meal and snack options that can make it easier for you to stay on track throughout the week.
    • Be active whenever possible: Every step counts, so move whenever possible. Take the stairs when you can, or walk your dog or take a walk after meals. You can also take a walk at lunch at work or home to help get some steps in and aid digestion.
    • Visit your doctor regularly: You should visit your doctor at least once a year to check your numbers. These numbers include blood pressure, weight, and labs like cholesterol and blood glucose. However, if you have a chronic condition or are at risk for such conditions like heart disease or diabetes, then you should visit twice a year or more to keep track of your numbers and risk factors.
    • Be accountable: Besides going to the doctor, it’s important to stay accountable in other ways as well to stay on track with your weight loss. This means weekly weigh-ins, having a weight loss buddy, and/or having a health coach to support you and provide motivation along the way.

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

    References:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last reviewed February 13, 2018) “Losing Weight.” https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html

    Mayo Clinic Medline Plus (Last updated on February 7, 2019) “Migraine.” https://medlineplus.gov/migraine.html

    MindTools (accessed March 27, 2019) “SMART Goals: How to Make Your Goals Achievable.” https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/smart-goals.htm

    Preidt, R. (March 25, 2019) “Fewer Excess Pounds May Mean Fewer Migraines.” https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2019-03-23/fewer-excess-pounds-may-mean-fewer-migraines

     


  • Could sugary drinks reduce life expectancy?

    soda, cola, sugar, sugary drinkAnyone who has been on a healthy lifestyle plan knows that you should try not to drink your calories. This is because you want to cut calories wherever you can to lose weight. However, cutting out those sugary drinks are not only helpful in weight loss, but also in cutting your disease risk. In fact, a recent study found that those who drank less sugary drinks had a lower risk of chronic diseases and early death as compared to those who drank sugary drinks often.

    What is considered a sugary drink?

    A sugary drink can be anything from processed colas to fresh squeezed juices. Here are some examples of sugary drinks you should limit in your daily routine.

    • cola
    • milkshakes
    • coffee drink blends
    • orange, apple, or other fruit juices
    • certain kinds of smoothies
    • flavored milks
    • sports drinks
    • sweetened waters
    • energy drinks

    These sugary drinks can be sweetened with plain sugar or one of many forms of sugar used in processed goods. Some examples of added sugars include:

    • brown sugar
    • corn sweetener
    • corn syrup
    • dextrose
    • fructose
    • glucose
    • high-fructose corn syrup
    • honey
    • lactose
    • malt syrup
    • maltose
    • molasses
    • raw sugar
    • sucrose

    Sugary drinks and health outcomes research

    Sugary drink intake has been linked to cognitive impairment, obesity in children and adults as well as dental caries.   Also, some research shows that sugar-sweetened beverage intake may be linked to heart health issues.

    One recent study looked at the impact of sugary-sweetened beverage intake on health. Study results show that those women who drank sugary drinks more than two servings a day had a 63-percent higher risk of early death than those who drank less than one serving a month. Also, by looking at the same factors in men, those who drank more sugary drinks had a 29-percent higher risk of premature death than those who drank less.

    Researchers suggest that this risk of premature death comes from chronic diseases linked with sugary drink intake. For example, those who drink more sugary drinks may have overall poorer diets. In turn, this may lead to a greater risk of obesity. Then this increase in body weight may increase risk of obesity-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Therefore, it’s these chronic diseases that increase the risk of early death in those that drink a lot of sugary drinks.

    Other ways to reduce sugar in your diet

    Besides cutting down on sugary drinks, you can cut out sugar in your diet by following the tips below.

    • Have healthy snacks on hand: If you’re not prepared with healthy snacks in tow, then you are more likely to walk to the vending machine for a snack. However, most convenience snacks are full of added sugar and sodium. Therefore, grab some portable fruit like bananas, apples, or oranges before you leave the house for work. Fruit may also contain sugar, but it’s natural sugar. Not to mention, that fruit also contains fiber and antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body and keep your gut healthy.
    • Find alternatives to sugary drink options: Instead of energy drinks, reach for a cup of coffee with some almond milk. Or instead of a soda, try drinking a seltzer water infused with fruit like lemon or limes. Also, if you enjoy your coffee blended drink, just opt for sugar-free flavorings, skim or plant-based milk options, and skip the whipped cream and chocolate or caramel drizzle on top.
    • Take a sugar control supplement: If you’re in the midst of trying to cut down on sugar in your diet, but need a little help, then try a glucose control supplement. Glucarex by Vita Sciences is one example of a natural supplement that can help you control your blood glucose levels. This is because Glucarex contains ingredients like chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon to help naturally support weight loss, metabolism, and healthy blood glucose levels. Therefore, such a supplement could support any healthy lifestyle habits you are trying to make to improve your health.
    • Know your numbers: By keeping track of your blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides you can detect health problems before they start. Just be sure to visit your doctor often to have your labs checked at least once a year. However, you may have to visit more often if you have a family history of or diagnosis of chronic disease(s) already.

    References:

    Anjum, I., Jaffery, S. S., Fayyaz, M., Wajid, A., & Ans, A. H. (2018). “Sugar Beverages and Dietary Sodas Impact on Brain Health: A Mini Literature Review.” Cureus10(6), e2756. doi:10.7759/cureus.2756

    Bleich, S. N., & Vercammen, K. A. (2018). “The negative impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on children’s health: an update of the literature.” BMC obesity5, 6. doi:10.1186/s40608-017-0178-9

    Bracho-Sanchez, E. (March 18, 2019) “Sugary drinks linked to higher risk of premature death, especially for women, study says.”  https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/18/health/sugary-drinks-premature-death-women-study/

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last reviewed February 27, 2017) “Get the Facts: Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Consumption.”

    Deshpande, G., Mapanga, R. F., & Essop, M. F. (2017). “Frequent Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption and the Onset of Cardiometabolic Diseases: Cause for Concern?” Journal of the Endocrine Society1(11), 1372-1385. doi:10.1210/js.2017-00262

    Luger, M., Lafontan, M., Bes-Rastrollo, M., Winzer, E., Yumuk, V., & Farpour-Lambert, N. (2017). “Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Weight Gain in Children and Adults: A Systematic Review from 2013 to 2015 and a Comparison with Previous Studies.” Obesity facts10(6), 674-693.

     


  • Could preventing or treating hypertension protect your mind?

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

    About hypertension

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

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

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

    Blood pressure and brain health

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

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

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

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

    How can you improve your blood pressure?

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

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

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

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

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

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

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

     

     


  • 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

     


  • Could fish oil lower your risk of stroke?

    fish oil. stroke, healthy fat, health, heart healthStroke continues to be one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States.  And even if a person survives a stroke, they may face permanent disability from a stroke. In turn, having a stroke could greatly impact a person’s quality of life. This is why it’s so important to keep learning more about how this disease can be prevented. A recent study shows that taking a fish oil supplement each day may help lower risk of stroke.

    What is stroke?

    Stroke is a form of vascular disease that affects the arteries to and within the brain.  A stroke occurs when these vessels become blocked by a clot or bursts. A stroke caused by a blockage is called an ischemic stroke. On the other hand, a stroke called by a ruptured vessel is called a hemorrhagic stroke.

    Since these arteries normally carry oxygen and blood to the brain, this blockage can be deadly. If the brain, or the control center of your body, doesn’t receive oxygen or nutrients, then brain cells can die. This in turn can wreak havoc all over your body.

    Depending on what area of the brain the stroke occurs, different complications can occur. A right brain stroke can cause paralysis on the left side of the body, vision problems, and memory loss. On the other hand, a stroke on the left side of the brain can cause paralysis on the right side of the body, speech problems, and memory loss.

    Either way, these complications can greatly affect quality of life. However, by taking care of your heart health, you can lower your risk of stroke.

    What is fish oil?

    Fish oil is a supplement that contains omega-3 fatty acids. Two of the primary long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements are DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, and EPA, or eicosapentaenoic acid.  These fatty acids are marine-based, hence fish oil supplements.

    The omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are well-known for their role in heart health. Study results show that fish oil works well as a supportive treatment, along with statins, to help lower heart disease risk. The average fish oil supplement provides about 1000 milligram of fish oils, containing about 180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA or more.

    An example of a high quality fish oil supplement is the formula developed by Vita Sciences. This fish oil by Vita Sciences contains 400mg of EPA and 300mg of DHA in a 1000 milligram fish oil supplement.

    Stroke and fish oil research

    A recent study analyzed data from about 55,000 people enrolled in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health study. They completed dietary surveys and had baseline adipose tissue analysis completed. Then, the individuals had follow-up assessments after 13.5 years to check for ischemic stroke status events, if any.

    Study results show that those with higher adipose tissue content of EPA showed a lower risk of total ischemic stroke.  Also, lower rates of large artery atherosclerosis were seen with higher intakes of total marine n-3 PUFA, EPA, and DHA.

    Other ways to reduce stroke risk

    Besides taking a fish oil supplement each day, here are some other ways you can lower your stroke risk.

    • Quit smoking if you already do. This is because smoking can constrict blood vessels. This, in turn, can raise blood pressure and increase risk of stroke.
    • Maintain heart health by keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range. You can do this by eating a diet rich in fiber and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Also, be sure to move more on a regular basis to keep your heart muscle strong and maintain a healthy weight.
    • Keep your blood glucose levels in a healthy range. This is because those with diabetes are at higher risk for heart health issues than those without diabetes.
    • Visit your doctor regularly. By having your labs done at least yearly (or more often if you have a chronic disease risk), you can track your progress. Early detection of heart health issues can help lower your risk of stroke.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Stroke Association (accessed January 23, 2019) “About Stroke.”

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last reviewed November 28, 2017) “Stroke.” https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/index.htm

    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (accessed January 23, 2019) “Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution.” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/

    Hughes, S. (January 17, 2019) “Fish Oil, Particularly EPA, Linked to Reduced Ischemic Stroke.” https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/907950

    National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (last updated November 21, 2018) “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”

    Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (last updated October 29, 2018) “Reduce Your Risk of Stroke.”


  • Could a Mediterranean diet improve your brain health?

    heart, cardiovascular, brain, heart healthy, omega-3, vessel, cholesterol, diabetesYou can’t talk about a heart healthy lifestyle without at least referring to the Mediterranean diet. That’s because this Greek-style eating plan is full of heart healthy foods and other healthful tips. But did you know that this diet is also good for brain health? Recent research shows that certain nutrients found in the Mediterranean diet can help with brain health aging in older adults.

    What is the Mediterranean diet?

    The Mediterranean diet is a heart healthy diet based on healthy fats like olive oil. Along with olive oil, healthy fat-containing foods like fatty fish, avocado, olives, nuts, and seeds make up the largest portion of the diet. The omega-3 fatty acids in these foods can help lower blood fats, also known as triglycerides. In addition, these fats can also help improve blood pressure and blood vessel health.

    The majority of foods in this eating plan are plant-based. In other words, this means eating plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. These foods will also provide fiber and important nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. This also means switching to whole grains if you’re going to eat breads or pastas.  Also, it encourages consuming fiber and protein-rich plant foods like beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.

    Other eating guidelines of this diet include limiting whole-fat dairy products, red meat, processed foods, and foods high in sodium. This eating plan also encourages use of spices to flavor food instead of using table salt.  Finally, to maintain a balanced healthy lifestyle, this diet encourages exercise and eating meals with family and friends.

    Mediterranean diet and brain health

    A recent study looked at healthy, older adults and how a Greek-style diet affected brain health. MRI scans and cognitive function tests measured brain health. These tests were done throughout the study and two years after the study to assess the diet’s impact on brain health.

    The researchers focused on 32 nutrients found in this diet. These nutrients included folate, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and vitamin D. Also, the researchers looked at antioxidants found in the Greek-style diet like omega-3 fatty acids, lycopene, and carotenoids. Study results show that such nutrients, along with omega-6 fatty acids, were involved in biomarker patterns. Also, those people who ate foods with such nutrients had better results on cognitive function tests of general intelligence, memory, and executive functions like attentional and inhibition control.

    Take home message

    So, if the heart healthy benefits of this eating plan haven’t convinced you to go Greek-style in your eating, hopefully the brain health factors did. This is because this diet has shown time and again that it ranks on top for health benefits.  Therefore, take small steps towards such an eating plan. You can do this by starting to eat more vegetables one day. Then maybe trying new recipes that use olive oil to roast or stir-fry those vegetables. Finally, you can add in nuts and/or seeds as snacks for even more healthy fats and fiber.

    If you feel like a supplement would help you at first, then try an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. An example of a high quality omega-3 fatty acid is the fish oil supplement by Vita Sciences. This fish oil supplement contains a healthy balance of EPA and DhA, which are two important omega-3 fatty acids for brain health. Not to mention that this supplement is burpless and ensures optimal purity.

    Therefore, if you’re thinking about starting a healthy lifestyle this new year, consider the Greek-style diet. Not only will it help you work towards just about any health goal you have, but it will taste fresh and delicious in the process.

    References:

    Mayo Clinic (November 3, 2017) “Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan.”

    Paddock, Ph.D., C. (December 21, 2018) “Mediterranean diet nutrients tied with healthy brain aging.” Medical News Today.

    Romagnolo, D. F., & Selmin, O. I. (2017). “Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases.” Nutrition today52(5), 208-222.

    Zwilling, C.E., Talukdar, T., Zamroziewicz, M.K., and Barney, A.K. (March 2019) “Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and fMRI measures of network efficiency in the aging brain.” NeuroImage, Volume 188, 239-251.


  • Drinking less alcohol could help weight loss goals this new year

    holiday, drinking, alcohol, cocktail, beer, wine, health, weightWhen you think of celebrating the holidays, sweet treats, comfort foods, and holiday-flavored spirits may come to mind. Although it’s definitely ok to indulge a little during the holidays, too much of anything can sabotage your healthy lifestyle efforts. And with the new year rolling around soon, you should think ahead and make a plan. Because once this holiday season is over, the new year will surely bring about new celebrations with more food and drink temptations.  And recent research shows that by drinking less alcohol, you could increase your chances for weight loss success.

    What is a standard drink?

    You may hear health experts urge you to keep your drinking to so many standard drinks a week. When this term is used, a standard drink is equal to:

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

    So, when you order that tall beer at the bar and grill, keep in mind that 22 ounces is nearly equal to two standard drinks. And experts recommend that women should consume no more than 7 standard drinks a week.  Also, men should consume no more than 14 standard drinks per week. Any more than this is considered heavy drinking.

    Also, if you consume more than 4 standard drinks for women or 5 standard drinks for men in a two hour occasion, then you are binge drinking. So, if you feel like this describes your holiday or social events, then it may be time to visit you health care provider or call for resources in your area that can help you control or stop your drinking.

    Alcohol health effects

    Drinking too much in one night or over time can have serious health effects. Not only does alcohol impair mobility and speech in the short-term, but can also impact brain, heart, and liver health. Even short term, drinking too much can impair your immune system for up to 24 hours after becoming drunk. This puts you at higher risk for catching illnesses than others during this time. Also, long-term alcohol intake can lead to increased risk for inflammation of the pancreas and heart disease. Both of these conditions can place you at higher risk for hospitalization and serious illness.

    Alcohol and weight loss

    When it comes to weight loss, alcohol can stall your best efforts. First of all, alcoholic beverages contain unnecessary calories. No matter how low in carbs certain concoctions may be, you are still drinking your calories when consuming alcohol. Not to mention that alcohol can lower your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the food you eat and can slow your body’s fat burning abilities. The latter is because the liver is in charge of tasks like fat burning and removing toxins from the body. It considers alcohol a toxin.

    Therefore, when you drink, it has to stop fat-burning to focus on ridding of the alcohol toxins from your body. In turn, your body burns less fat while you drink. It takes about one hour for your body to break down one standard drink of alcohol.

    A recent study looked at alcohol and its impact on long-term weight loss in those with diabetes. Study results show that those who did not drink during the four year study lost more weight than those who drank any amount. Heavy drinkers had even worse long-term weight loss than others. Therefore, researchers suggest that patients with type 2 diabetes especially should not drink alcohol if they are trying to lose weight.  Needless to say, this study shows that anyone, regardless of health status, would benefit from drinking less alcohol.

    Other ways to be healthier in the new year

    Besides cutting down on drinking alcohol, there are also other ways you can be healthier this coming new year.

    • Sleep more: Most adults should sleep at least seven hours a night for optimal health.
    • Move more: Experts suggest that moving more each day, even in two minute spurts, for at least 150 minutes total each week, can benefit overall health.
    • Manage stress: Yoga, meditation, or just talking with a counselor can help you manage stress better and lower risk for emotional eating that can lead to weight management issues.
    • Eat more fruits and veggies: Antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies can provide inflammation-fighting compounds that can help lower your risk of diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Not to mention that the fiber from such foods is vital to gut health.
    • Take a supplement: If you don’t feel you are getting enough nutrients in your diet, then take a supplement like Zestia by Vita Sciences. Zestia not only contains whole food vitamin and mineral sources, but also digestive enzymes and probiotics for digestive health.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    1. Bertoia, M. L., et al. (2015). “Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies.” PLoS medicine12(9), e1001878. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001878
    2. Centers for Disease Control (last reviewed March 29, 2018) “Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions.” https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm#heavyDrinking
    3. National Health Service (last reviewed July 26, 2018) “How long does alcohol stay in your blood?” https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-blood/
    4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (accessed December 18, 2018) “Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.” https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body
    5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (accessed December 18, 2018) “What Is a Standard Drink?” https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/what-standard-drink
    6. ScienceDaily (December 3, 2018) “Alcohol intake may be key to long-term weight loss for people with Diabetes.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181203115449.htm
    7. Sinha, R., & Jastreboff, A. M. (2013). “Stress as a common risk factor for obesity and addiction.” Biological psychiatry73(9), 827-35.
    8. Traversy, G., & Chaput, J. P. (2015). “Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update.” Current obesity reports4(1), 122-30.
    9. Watson, N. F., Badr, M. S., Belenky, G., Bliwise, D. L., Buxton, O. M., Buysse, D., Dinges, D. F., Gangwisch, J., Grandner, M. A., Kushida, C., Malhotra, R. K., Martin, J. L., Patel, S. R., Quan, S. F., … Tasali, E. (2015). “Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society.” Sleep38(6), 843-4. doi:10.5665/sleep.4716

     


  • 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

     

     

     


  • 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.”