Tag Archives: nutrition

Vitamin D for improved insulin sensitivity

vitamin d, sun, sunshine, health, vitaminYou may not realize it, but as you stand outside you are soaking up vitamin D. This is because the rays of sunshine beaming down on you help stimulate synthesis of this vitamin. Even with this natural source of vitamin D, some of us may still be deficient. Research shows that this may lead to issues with insulin sensitivity. Let’s learn a little more about this body’s need for the sunshine vitamin for optimal metabolic health.

How much vitamin D do I need?

Just 30 minutes of sun exposure in the late morning and early afternoon will fulfill your vitamin D needs. However, you need to make sure you expose either your face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen. Also, be sure to do this twice a week for optimal absorption.

But if you live in certain climates or have certain risk factors, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Those groups of people at risk for deficiency include:

  • Breastfed infants
  • Older adults
  • People with limited sun exposure
  • Dark-skinned persons
  • Those with fat malabsorption issues

Health benefits of the sunshine vitamin

Vitamin D is well-known for its important role in bone health. It helps the body absorb calcium better. This is turn, can promote strong, healthy bones. However, besides bone health, new research shows the importance of this sunshine vitamin in other aspects of health. For example, some experts suggest that vitamin D could help improve metabolic health.

Vitamin D and metabolic health

A recent study looked at a group of nearly 100 adults at least 25 years old with newly diagnosed diabetes. The adults received either placebo or 5000 IU of vitamin D daily. Glucose tolerance tests and insulin sensitivity tests were done at baseline and after six months. Study results show that vitamin D supplements can help improve insulin sensitivity in those with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. Those without type 2 diabetes did not see any significant improvement.

Because of this research, it shows the importance of having your vitamin D levels checked. If you can catch your deficiency, then you can start on a supplement to help protect your bone and metabolic health.

Other ways to improve metabolic health

Besides taking a vitamin D supplement, there are other things you can do to improve your  metabolic health.

Move more: According to recent research, exercise can help you better manage blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Therefore, try to move at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week for optimal heart and metabolic health. And don’t forget to add in some resistance training twice a week for about 15 minutes to help maintain lean muscle mass and healthy metabolism.

Eat more soluble fiber: Some research shows that eating more foods high in soluble fiber can help improve insulin sensitivity. Foods high in soluble fiber include oats, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and some fruits and vegetables. Not to mention that soluble fiber slow digestion and help your body absorb more nutrients from the food you eat.

Taking dietary supplements when needed: Besides vitamin D, experts also suggest that consuming probiotics or omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help improve insulin sensitivity in those with type 2 diabetes. Also, supplements like Glucarex by Vita Sciences may help improve the health of those with diabetes. Glucarex contains compounds like chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon. These natural compounds help promote healthy weight loss, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.

Take home message 

There are many ways to help improve metabolic health. But one way you may have never thought of is getting enough vitamin D. Now that you know, it’s important to have these vitamin levels checked at least once a year so you can stay on top of your numbers. And along with moving more and eating a healthier diet, you can ensure optimal health.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

Lemieux, P., et al. (2019) “Vitamin D supplementation increases insulin sensitivity, beta-cell function.” European Journal of Endocrinology, https://doi.org/10.1530/EJE-19-0156

Lillis, C. (March 29, 2019) “Natural ways to improve insulin sensitivity.” Medical News Today.

Medline Plus (last updated July 10, 2019) “Soluble vs. insoluble fiber.”

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (last updated July 9, 2019) “Vitamin D.”

 


  • Could a pet improve your mental health?

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

    Basics of mental health

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

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

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

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

    Pets for better mental health

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

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

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

    Recent pet research 

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

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

    Other ways to improve mental health 

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Take home message

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

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

    References:

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Less fried foods for lower heart disease and stroke risk

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

    Heart disease and stroke facts

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

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

    Fried foods and heart disease

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

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

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

    Other ways you can lower heart disease and stroke risk 

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

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

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • A plant-based diet may help those with Crohn’s disease

    Have you ever been told to eat your veggies? Many of us have been told as children that vegetables and other plant-based foods would help us grow strong. And as adults, you may have been told that eating more vegetables will help you manage your weight. But recent studies show that plant-based foods may also be good for your gut health, especially for those with Crohn’s disease.

    What is Crohn’s disease?

    Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can greatly impact quality of life. Those with the condition have symptoms like abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, weight loss, malnutrition, and fatigue. Also, people with severe forms of the disease can also have inflammation in their skin, eyes, joints, and liver too.

    If you think you may have Crohn’s disease, there are certain tests that can help diagnose it. Such tests include a colonoscopy, a CT scan, an MRI scan, or certain blood tests like a fecal occult blood test. Once diagnosed, you can treat this condition with anti-inflammatory medicines, immune system suppressors, or antibiotics. Other medicines people may use to relieve symptoms of Crohn’s include:

    • anti-diarrheals
    • pain relievers
    • iron supplements
    • vitamin B-12 shots
    • calcium and vitamin D supplements

    People with Crohn’s disease may need some vitamin supplements since the disease can sometimes cause deficiencies. For example, the disease can cause B-12 deficiency in some or may cause anemia due to blood loss from blood in the stool. Also, those with the disease  may be at higher risk for the bone weakening condition osteoporosis which can make calcium and vitamin D supplements necessary to help strengthen bones.

    Why is a plant-based diet good for you?

    A diet rich in plant-based foods are healthy for you for many reasons. Plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds contain not only fiber, but also antioxidants. Antioxidants help reduce inflammation in the body, and therefore can help reduce risk of inflammatory diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and digestive conditions like IBD.

    In fact, research shows that a plant-based diet can improve weight, blood glucose levels, as well as mental health. In turn, such a diet can help increase quality of life of those with diabetes. Therefore, adding in at least 1.5 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables a day into your daily regimen can help enhance your health for many years to come in many ways.

    Plant-based diet and Crohn’s disease research

    A recent case study shows promise that a plant-based diet may help those with Crohn’s reduce symptoms. One man with Crohn’s disease started a plant-based diet with no animal-based products or highly processed foods after treatment for his disease was not fully working. Although he received IV infusions of medication every two months for a year to help his symptoms, he still had not achieved remission of his symptoms. He still suffered with abdominal pain, bloating, and fatigue.

    So, during his second year of using medication, he started a plant-based diet. After six months of sticking to this diet and exercising, a colonoscopy revealed “complete mucosal healing with no visible evidence of Crohn’s disease.” Now researchers are not sure if this type of diet would help everyone with the condition, but it does provide experts with the drive to do more research into this type of diet for those with the condition.

    Other ways you can improve gut health

    Besides eating a plant-based diet, there are other ways you can help your gut health including the following:

    • Eat more fermented foods: Foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, or drinking kombucha contain healthy bacteria. Therefore, they can provide the body with good bacteria that can help increase diversity in the gut, and in turn reduce inflammation.
    • Take a probiotic supplement daily. A probiotic supplement is another way to get more healthy bacteria into your gut. Be sure to take one daily that contains a diverse array of strains and at least 1 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) like Biovia30 by Vita Sciences. Biovia30 contains 10 probiotic strains with a total of 30 billion CFUs per serving to help promote digestive health.
    • Manage stress: Whether you use yoga, meditation, or talk therapy to help you manage stress, be sure to do something to help you stay calm. This is because stressors, even those like a lack of sleep, can disrupt the bacteria in the gut.
    • Exercise often: Research shows that those who exercise most days of the week have a greater diversity of gut bacteria than those who don’t. So, try to be active as often as you can to help your gut health.

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

    References:

    Centers for Disease Control (November 16, 2017) “Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables.”

    Leonard, J. (May 28, 2019) “10 ways to improve gut health.” Medical News Today.

    Mayo Clinic (June 26, 2019) “Crohn’s disease.”

    Paddock, Ph.D., C. (June 27, 2019) “Could a plant-based diet be the answer to Crohn’s disease?” Medical News Today. 

    Toumpanakis, A., Turnbull, T., and Alba-Barba, I. (October 2018) “Effectiveness of plant-based diets in promoting well-being in the management of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review.” BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care., 6(1):e000534.

     

     


  • Diet and Exercise for Diabetes Prevention

    healthy, diet, diabetes, healthIf you have been told you are at risk for diabetes, then I’m sure you’ve been told to diet and exercise. This advice is nothing new to help lower your risk. However, new research confirms a method of diet and exercise that can prevent those with prediabetes from developing diabetes. Read below for more on this research and learn how you can lower your risk of this chronic condition today.

    What is prediabetes?

    Prediabetes occurs when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to meet type 2 diabetes criteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in three American adults have diabetes. And surprisingly, about 90-percent don’t even know that they have it. That is why it’s so important for everyone to have their numbers checked every year.

    These numbers include not only fasting blood glucose levels, but also cholesterol, trigycerides, blood pressure, and HgA1C. HgA1C tells you the average blood glucose levels in your body over the previous three months. Those with a HgA1C level below 5.7 are in the healthy range. However, those with a level between 5.7 and 6.4 are in the prediabetes range.  And if this level tests 6.5 or above two times in a row, then a person is given a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

    Prediabetes research

    A recent study looked at the effect of diet and exercise on the changeover from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes. The study looked at 962 patients with prediabetes and followed them for about three years.

    All patients were first placed on a 800-calorie diet with a meal replacement for two months. Then, patients were either placed on a high protein and low glycemic diet or a moderate protein and moderate glycemic diet. Patients were also asked to either engage in vigorous intensity exercise for 75 minutes a week or moderate intensity for 150 minutes a week.

    Study results show that only 62 of the 962 patients enrolled in this study progressed from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.  Both diet programs tested showed reduced risk of the condition. Therefore, researchers suggest that a period of meal replacement-induced weight loss followed by three years of weight maintenance is an effective strategy for preventing prediabetes progression to type 2 diabetes. So, just eat a balanced diet of lean proteins and plant-based foods and stay as active as possible to lower your risk.

    Other ways you can lower your risk of diabetes

    Besides diet and exercise, use the following tips to improve your health and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Just small changes made each week can over time lower your risk in a big way.

    • Manage stress through therapy, exercise, support groups, relaxation breathing, meditation, or yoga. Research shows that those who experience more perceived stress are more likely to be at risk for getting type 2 diabetes.
    • Be sure to sleep at least seven hours each night if possible to help your body regulate blood glucose levels better. According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, those who do not sleep enough each night are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Not to mention that these people are also at higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. So, be sure to reduce screen time before bed time and avoid eating less than two hours before bed time. These tips are just some ways you can improve bed time and avoid interrupted sleep.
    • Consume more fiber in your diet through whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. This will not only help you to improve gut health but can aid in weight management.
    • Take a daily supplement such as Glucarex by Vitasciences. Glucarex contains natural ingredients like chromium, vanadium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon. This supplement formula supports healthy weight, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last reviewed May 30, 2019) “Prediabetes: Your Chance to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes.”

    Healio Primary Care (June 11, 2019) “Weight loss, behavior change prevents changeover from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.”

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (April 2018) “The A1C Test & Diabetes.”


  • June is Alzheimer’s Brain Awareness Month

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

    Alzheimer’s basics

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

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

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

    Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s 

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

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

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

    Later symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

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

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

    Alzheimer’s research

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

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

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

    Future research

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

    How you can support research

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

    How you can keep your brain healthy

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

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

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

     


  • How to help your headaches- Headache Awareness Month 2019

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

    All about headaches

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

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

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

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

    Headache management 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Take home message

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

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

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

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

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

     

     


  • Learn about your heart during High Blood Pressure Education Month

    heart, health, heart health, blood pressure, hypertensionThe National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has named May High Blood Pressure Education Month. And since heart disease is one of the leading killers of adults in the United States, it’s important that everyone learn how to care for their heart. Read below for information on blood pressure, how to reduce your risk for hypertension and heart disease, and how some supplements may help your heart.

    All about blood pressure

    Blood pressure is the measure of blood flow through your vessels. When you visit the doctor, your blood pressure reading may involve two numbers. The top number is called the systolic pressure. This number measures the pressure of blood against the artery walls in the body when the heart beats. Meanwhile, the bottom number is the diastolic pressure. This number measures the pressure of blood in the body between heart beats.

    According to the American Heart Association, a normal blood pressure reading is less than 120 mmHg over 80 mmHg. Blood pressure is considered elevated if it is higher than 120 mmHg over 80 mmHg.  If you have a consistent blood pressure of 140 mmHg over 90 mmHg, then your doctor may diagnose you with high blood pressure, or hypertension.

    Lower your heart health risk

    It’s important to lower your blood pressure to lower your heart health risk. This is because having hypertension can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. If you have hypertension, your doctor will likely give you medicine(s) to help lower it. However, it’s also important to make the following lifestyle changes to help lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.

    • Eating a heart healthy diet: Consuming plenty of fiber and antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables in your diet can help your heart. This is because antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in the body. And since heart disease is an inflammatory disease, you can lower heart disease risk by eating such anti-inflammatory foods. Be sure to balance your plate with some lean protein from chicken, fish, legumes, or low-fat dairy products as well.
    • Exercise: Moving more can not only help to manage your weight, but can lower and control your blood pressure.  You don’t need a boot camp workout each day to stay healthy. Just move as much as possible for a total of at least 30 minutes a day to help manage weight and keep your heart strong.
    • Manage your weight: Experts suggest that losing just 3 to 5-percent of your body weight can help lower your blood pressure readings.
    • Lower stress:  Learn to manage stress better to help control your blood pressure and improve overall quality of life. You can do this by talking to a trusted counselor or loved one, doing yoga or meditation, exercising, or by relaxation breathing, to name a few ways.
    • Quit smoking: Smoking can constrict your blood vessels and in turn increase blood pressure. Therefore, if you don’t smoke, then don’t start. If you do smoke, try to quit by contacting your healthcare provider for help or using resources from Smokefree.gov.
    • Take care of your teeth: You may wonder what brushing your teeth has to do with heart health. However, experts say that those who have gum disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease. This is because bacteria from the gums in those with gum disease can seep into the blood stream and cause inflammation of the body. This can lead to inflammation in the blood vessels and increase risk of heart disease. Therefore, be sure to visit your dental care provider every six months and be sure to brush and floss daily.
    • Sleep enough: Research shows that those who sleep less than six hours a night are more likely to have a heart attack and stroke than those who slept more. Therefore, try to set a bedtime schedule, avoid screen time about an hour before bedtime, and avoid eating an hour or two before bed. If you still have trouble sleeping, visit your healthcare provider for tips or sleep treatments that may help.

    Heart healthy supplements

    Besides these heart health tips, it may be helpful to add a supplement to your routine to help your heart. Vita Sciences carries a wide array of heart health supplements that could help. Alestra is one supplement by Vita Sciences that contains niacin, plant sterols, and garlic to help support healthy cholesterol levels. Another supplement by Vita Sciences for heart health is Circova. Circova contains L-arginine, niacin, and hawthorne to help improve blood flow and blood pressure. Finally, Presura by Vita Sciences contains hawthorn berry, niacin, and garlic extract to help support a healthier heart and blood pressure.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Heart Association (last reviewed November 30, 2017) “Understanding Blood Pressure Readings.”

    Cleveland Clinic (February 5, 2019) “5 Things to Do Every Day to Keep Your Heart Healthy.” health essentials

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

    Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (last updated November 30, 2018) “Keep Your Heart Healthy.” healthfinder.gov


  • 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 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.