Strolling down the vitamin isle of your favorite drug store is like taking a long walk off a short dock. If you aren’t careful, you might be all wet when it comes to having good health. This is especially true of so-called heart-healthy supplements.
Consumer Reports says in its July 2017 issue of “On Health, the Truth About What’s Good for You,” that most of those shelves loaded down with expensive dietary supplements touted to help you heart are a waste of money. These include omega-3 fish-oil pills, Q10 (or CoQ10) and red yeast rice.
Consuming foods — like sardines, tuna and mackerel — do contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are necessary for maintaining a healthy heart. But taking a pill as a substitute is extremely “iffy” based on numerous studies endorsed by the American Heart Association. People who have already had heart attacks or been diagnosed with heart failure might benefit from taking heavy doses of fish-oil supplement, but only reduce their chance of dying of heart disease by a mere 10 percent.
Coq10 is another supplement that is not all that it is hyped up to be. Supplements of this compound, produced by the body as well as some healthy foods, are touted as been good management tools in the prevention of heart failure and alleviating muscle aches associated with cholesterol-lowering statins. But here again, there is a significant lack of conclusive evidence that this supplement does what it is supposed to do.
Red yeast rice pills are the latest unproved heart-healthy supplement making the vitamin shelf rounds. Red yeast rice is said to lower LDL (or “bad’) cholesterol in the human body. However, Consumer Reports lists red yeast rice as one of 15 supplement ingredients to avoid.
Remember, with over-the-counter supplements, the user seldom knows what she is getting because there is little or no government regulation by the federal government. Although there are some high-quality supplements available, it is best to get them through your trusted health-care provider. Otherwise you might be wasting not only your money but also your health because some over-the-counter supplements interact badly with certain prescribed medications.
Now that we are in the holiday season, many of us resign ourselves to the weight gain that typically follows. Indeed, it is very hard to pass up holiday sweets that seem to be everywhere as well as extra servings of a traditional family dish. That’s why so many weight loss books are published at this time promising a “New Year, New You.”
So it’s no surprise that the No. 1 New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. But this year consider a broader approach to resolving the problem for more lasting success. Here are 10 points that my health-coaching clients have incorporated into their weight-management programs that you may want to consider:
1. Sleep better.
2. Work out more, whether it is outside, at the gym or home.
3. Begin a daily mindfulness or meditation practice.
4. Drink more water and get rid of diet sodas.
5. Eat more vegetables and less meat.
6. Organize your home, workspace or both.
7. Make new friends and/or spend more time with those you already have.
8. Improve work/life balance to allow more time to take better care of yourself.
9. Quit tolerating an uncomfortable situation at home or work out of fear. Define the problem and fix it.
10. Find an app or person to hold you accountable to whatever goal you are trying to achieve so you will create a lasting new habit.
There is a lot of help available, so take advantage of it now so 2017 can be your best year yet!
One of the things I look forward to each morning is a cup of fresh-brewed coffee. In fact, I enjoy it so much I often list it as one of the three things I am grateful for each week. My morning Joe helps me to ease into my routine; it is my time to be quiet and savor the beginning of a new day.
What I have learned is that I am not alone, 54 percent of all adults in the United States drink coffee daily. If you fall into that category, you may be happy to learn that coffee drinking is a healthy habit. Coffee is full of disease-fighting antioxidants, as are many other plants. Yes, we often forget that coffee is actually a plant. The coffee bean contains more than 1,000 naturally occurring substances called “phytochemicals.” They are antioxidants that protect cells from damage by free radicals in your body.
Drinking coffee has also been shown to reduce tooth cavities, boost athletic performance, improve mood, and stop headaches. It also can reduce your chance of getting Type 2 diabetes, lower cancer risk, prevent strokes, and fight off Parkinson disease. Coffee also improves cognitive function as we age.
So how much coffee do we need to drink each day to reap these wonderful benefits?
Researchers have found that for those who drink four to six cups per day, versus only two or fewer, their risk for Type 2 diabetes decreased by almost 30 percent. The number decreases by 35 percent for people who drink more than six cups per day. Of course, my first thought when I read this was four to six cups a day is too much. I’d be bouncing off the walls. The good news is the benefits are the same if you drink decaffeinated coffee.
Regular black coffee only has two calories so it’s a great alternative beverage to soft drinks or energy drinks. The federal dietary guidelines state that up to five cups of coffee a day are in line with a healthy diet. But make sure you go easy on the cream, sugar and other additives… We don’t want to turn a healthy habit into something that negates the good!
Last week, we talked about the immediate benefits of exercising and how exercise is the new miracle drug. But, even better news is that so much of what we already do counts as exercise. Heavy gardening, like digging and raking, mowing the grass and washing the car all count as vigorous exercise. Physical activity and exercise include all types of movement not just playing an athletic sport.
In fact, emerging research is showing that it doesn’t take much movement to get benefits. Research is showing that an intensive work out for as little as 10 minutes has benefits, and doing it at high intensity has the same benefits of a standard 50-minute workout. Still, not everyone wants to do high intensity or interval training that is required in a shorter workout. However, if you are short on time, the #1 reason people say that don’t exercise, this type of exercising might be for you.
Interval workouts are also proving effective for people who already have a chronic disease such as Type 2 diabetes or heart failure. Any type of exercise that gets your heart rate up is the answer to seeing dramatic improvements in all chronic diseases. Getting your heart rate up through exercise is also known to improve depression, anxiety, and energy levels.
So since exercise can benefit nearly everyone, what are some of the types of workouts that don’t necessarily require a gym membership? The best type of workout is one that is a mix of cardio and strength training. Cardio will prevent you from being winded after climbing the stairs. Strength training will build muscle and bone, which protects against injury as we age.
Several examples would be:
1. Walking: It has the lowest “quit” rate of any exercise, improves your memory, well-being, heart health and creativity. In fact, today, after Hurricane Matthew had come and gone, I took a brisk walk with a friend. Not only did my energy increase, but the walk helped me focus so I could write this blog.
2. Cycling: Whether you do it indoors or out, cycling has been shown to increase brain connectivity. And doing it at high intensity improves a depressed mood.
3. Running: My personal favorite is running. Going for a run improves sleep and makes your bones stronger. Even doing it for 5-10 minutes a day, at a jogging pace, is linked to a longer life.
4. Yoga: Lifting your own body weight and flowing through intense poses will give you the strength training you need. Not to mention a bit of mindfulness and stress relief.
5. Weight training: I used to think weight training meant lifting dumbbells at a gym with a bunch of other sweating people. I now know that an inexpensive pair of light weights will build muscle and strengthen bone just by increasing the number of repetitions. Something else to try as an alternative to weights are resistance bands.
6. Tai Chi: These slow gentle movements might not look like you are doing much of anything. But, in fact, Tai Chi strengthens the back, abs, upper and lower body. It also relieves pain and improves posture. This is one workout I have never tried but am thinking it might be good one. Especially since my “frozen” shoulder is improving and I am working to regain strength in that area of my body.
As you can see, one exercise does “not fit all.” It’s extremely important to find one you like and will do on a regular basis. Why? So you can reap the immediate benefits today and create a lasting habit that will help you live a longer and healthier life.
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, especially after 50 years of age, you know it’s an extremely difficult challenge. You should also know that keeping off those extra pounds is even harder.
According to the International of Journal of Obesity, among overweight and obese adults, only 17 percent who lost at least 10 percent of what they started with were able to keep it off long term. And those who lost more are less likely to keep it off. So why is this?
The key to lasting change in any area of your life is developing healthy habits and sticking with them. So start now to develop good dietary choices. This makes managing the weight loss far easier. It’s also important to establish reasonable goals ahead of time. You can’t reach a goal if you don’t have one. When it comes to maintaining your body weight, keep that goal in mind and hold yourself accountable.
But don’t beat yourself up if you get off track occasionally. As I often tell my health-coaching clients, change is not linear. It’s OK to slip occasionally. Just get back on track as soon as you can and continue working toward becoming the best that you can be.
It’s also important to customize your diet to fit your lifestyle once you are in maintenance mode. The key is to find what works for you personally. One diet does not fit all, and neither does one diet-maintenance plan.
Fun times, vacations, dinners out, etc. are important. It’s fine to enjoy these times. They are a part of enjoying life. So plan accordingly. Keep your overall diet healthy and practical for your lifestyle. Here’s a time-tested rule of thumb: If you eat healthy 80 percent of the time, you can splurge for the other 20 percent.
Of course, no article on maintaining weight loss would be complete without reference to exercise. Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. Exercise is a great way to break through weight loss plateaus and help you manage your weight once you have reached your goals. Whether you prefer a leisurely walk around the block, an intense 10k race, or anything in between, exercise is great for maintaining your weight, your energy and a critical can-do attitude.
Once you have hit your weight-loss goal, it’s wise to continue to build muscle mass with exercise such as resistance training. As we age, we lose muscle mass. But many women don’t want to build muscle, only lose fat. Unfortunately, you can’t have one without the other. Muscle burns fat and it important for maintaining your weight and keeping your metabolism revved up. The best way to lose fat is to build lean muscle with exercise and the right amount of protein, plant based protein counts too.
If you find you are struggling with losing weight, or keeping it off, accountability may be the missing piece for you. Give me a call for a free, 30-minute optimal health breakthrough session to see how I might be able to help.
Summer has arrived in the South Carolina lowcountry, and along with it comes fresh tomatoes, sweet and spicy peppers and rich, leafy spinach — the makings of a perfect sandwich. All you need to add is two slices of whole grain bread and cheese, and you have the main course for a healthy midday meal.
Let’s take a closer look at my favorite summer sandwich:
— Use sprouted whole-grain bread, which might be hard to find but is oh so worth the effort. Breads that are made with sprouted grains are not the same as what you typically find in a grocery store bread section. The sprouting process breaks down proteins and carbohydrates in the grain, thus increasing the availability of vitamin and mineral content. Sprouted whole-grain breads offer the consumer a consistent flow of energy for several hours, often eliminating a late-afternoon crash.
The grains are pre-soaked in water until they begin to sprout. Next they are carefully drained, mixed and ground up to produce living enzymes, which readily break down proteins and carbohydrates. The result is bread that is low in glucose (blood sugar), and easier to digest than standard grain breads. Most sprouted grain breads are considered kosher, with increased antioxidants as well as vitamin C and vitamin B. These breads also lower the risk of obesity and heart disease.
— A sandwich needs a good spread, right? I enjoy the flavor of mayonnaise, which is a combination of egg whites and vegetable oil, and my favorite mayo is made with olive oil. A dry sandwich is a boring sandwich. Just remember to spread sparingly.
— My favorite summer sandwich has two medium slices of a deep red, ripe tomato fresh from our family farm. Tomatoes are a source of vitamin C and lycopene, and the riper the tomato, the more umami — or savoriness — it contains.
— I also include a thin slice of a fresh red onion. The potent flavor and deep purple color of these onions comes from quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant that fights allergies and helps prevent cancer, heart disease and obesity.
— You can’t beat fresh baby spinach for a perfect sandwich. The deep-green richness of spinach typically provides more vitamin K, vitamin A and calcium than an average leaf of lettuce.
— Add a couple of rings of a sweet yellow pepper. Fresh banana peppers are plentiful this time of year, and they are especially good for you. One banana pepper produces almost half of your daily vitamin C requirement, and it contributes to your body’s vitamin A, iron, protein and potassium intakes. Banana peppers improve blood circulation throughout your body too.
— A protein? That’s a good question. I stay away from meats — especially the processed variety. I choose a solid cheese instead, and not always the low-fat kind, which typically is higher in sodium and calories. Different cheeses contain different nutrients. If you want to boost your calcium and vitamin B-12, select Swiss cheese or a Gruyere cheese. My husband’s favorite for the perfect summer sandwich is Colby Jack with bits of jalapeño peppers mixed in. Nothing like a little “heat” from the inside out to counteract the drag produced by the sun’s summer rays.
If you’ve been meaning to clean up your diet, there is no time better than right now to get started. Farm-fresh spring vegetables are hitting the Lowcountry, S.C., and you’d be very smart — health wise — to buy them.
Most plentiful at the moment are nutrient-loaded greens — turnips, kales, lettuces, chards and collards. Asparagus, peas and Spring onions are ready as well. Here’s a quick rundown on some of my favorites:
— Turnip Greens: The green, leafy tops of the turnip plant are among the most nutritious veggies in the world. Turnip greens are excellent sources of essential vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants that can offer protection from vitamin A deficiency, osteoporosis, iron-deficiency anemia.
Most folks say turnip greens are fall and winter crops. But the ones you find for sale right now are superb. Try the small Japanese variety called Hakurei, or Tokyo, turnips. The greens are extremely tasty, and the peppery roots — no larger that a golf ball in size — are excellent cooked, or sliced and eaten raw. Simply wash them and serve as you would water chestnuts. No need to peel the skins.
Turnip roots should be stored unwashed in a sealed plastic bag in the hydrator drawer of your refrigerator. Store greens separately wrapped in damp towel or in a plastic bag, but use them as soon as possible.
— Asparagus: Asparagus is freshest and tastiest in spring. One stalk contains only four calories and delivers healthy doses of foliate, potassium and fiber. Buy the fat ones whose buds have yet to spread. They will keep for a couple of days if you stand the spears upright in a glass of water. Eat them raw or sautéed in vegetable or regular olive oil.
— Peas: Take advantage of tasty peas now because 95 percent grown nationally are either frozen or canned. Choose sugar snaps if you’re looking for tasty edible pods to throw in a salad or to simply sauté. Choose shelled varieties if fresh and simply shell them yourself. Peas are a good source of vitamin K, manganese, vitamin C, iron, fiber, vitamin B1 and foliate.
Select peas that are bright in coloring without brown, bruised or withering ends. Peas hold up well in plastic bags. Try to squeeze out as much air as you can before sealing them. They’ll stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to four days.
— Salad Greens: Seasonal salad greens including lettuces, spinach, kale, watercress and arugula are peaking here now. But no need in wasting time and money on iceberg lettuce, which has little or no health value other than water.
Salad greens are almost calorie free, but provide lots of foliate, vitamin C, fiber, potassium and carotene, which help neutralize cell-damaging free radicals.
Buy triple-washed greens singularly or mixed in bags and plastic tubs. Or get them fresh, and clean them yourself. Avoid greens that are brown, yellow, wilted, blemished, bruised or slimy. A good place to check is the stems. If they’re whole and firm, they’re probably fresh. Be sure each leaf is dry before storing in the plastic bags in your refrigerator crisper. You should get up to five days of freshness that way.
— Spring Onions: Also known as scallions, spring onions are in fact very young onions, harvested before the bulb has had a chance to swell. Both the long, slender green tops and the small white bulb are edible, either raw or cooked. They have a similar flavor to onions, but milder.
Look for firm bulbs and bright green, perky leaves. Avoid those that are slimy or wilting. The skin covering a spring onion bulb can be either white or deep red fading to white at the roots. The bulb can be quite pronounced or more like a leek in shape, with no noticeable swelling.
Store spring onions in a perforated bag in the fridge. They do not last as long as onions, about five days at the most.
So do yourself and your family a healthy favor. Stop by your favorite grocery store and roadside stand, and load up on all sorts of spring vegetables. They are currently available almost everywhere, and soon there will be lots of fresh, local tomatoes too. Find out more benefits of tomatoes here.
Plant based diets can be very beneficial to your health. Switching to a plant-based diet does not necessarily mean you must give up meat all together. But for most people, it does mean a change in food priorities.
In other words, when planning your menu, build meals around fruits and veggies, and not meats. This simple shift will do more to ward off chronic disease, spark energy and keep you in shape more than any other diet plan. Such a plant-based diet allows for lots of fish and some lean meat, but the focus is on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
A type 2 diabetes time bomb has already been set off in the United States, especially here in the South, and it is doing more damage than any terrorist attack thus far. The best defense for contracting diabetes? Change your diet so that the emphasis in on fresh vegetables and whole grains instead of fatty meats.
Americans especially are subject to heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States. One in three American adults have high blood pressure. The best way to protect yourself? Change your diet. Emphasize fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead of fatty meats. Fact: The higher your intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, the lower your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Eating eight or more servings of fruits and veggies a day (most of us eat only 1.5 servings), cuts your risk of a heart attack or stroke by 30 percent.
A smorgasbord of recent dietary studies have shown that vegetarians consume fewer calories, and thus weigh less and have lower body mass indexes, than non-vegetarians. So why not shift your entrée priority from meat to fruits, veggies and whole grains? You will feel fuller on fewer calories, weigh less and have a lower body-mass index. Hello? Can you hear me?
Another fact: Fiber keeps you regular by aiding in digestion and preventing constipation. It also helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Consuming mostly plant-based meals packs your system with fiber, thus helping it run clean.
Worried about failing vision? Eat carrots, which are loaded with vitamin A. But don’t stop there. Your eyes also benefit from a plant-based diet rich in spinach, kale, squash, kiwi and grapes. The lutein and zeaxanthin pigments in these foods combat cataracts and macular degeneration.
How’s you skin? Dry and itchy? You need oil. By cutting back on saturated fats from animal products, there will be less chance of your skin pores clogging with the wrong stuff. Focusing on a plant-based diet means consuming more vitamins, pigments and phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables. Lycopene in tomatoes, for example, helps protect your skin from sun damage, and the vitamin C in sweet potatoes smoothes wrinkles by stimulating the production of collagen.
You have your blood tested, your “bad” cholesterol is high and your doctor prescribes a statin to cut plaque buildup on the walls of your arteries, thus reducing the risk of angina, heart attack and stroke. Which, of course, is good. But should you worry about side effects of this potent drug?
Although proper diet and exercise is critical in the fight against heart disease — the nation’s leading cause of death — most health experts agree that the benefits of statins largely outweigh the risks associated with this prescription medication. That’s why more than one in four residents of the United States have increasingly been using statin drugs since it was introduced in 1987. It’s also interesting to note that about twice as many men than women 65 and older are currently prescribed this medicine.
Statin drugs block the action of a chemical in the liver that is necessary for making both high-and low-density cholesterol. Even though cholesterol is necessary for normal cell and body function, very high levels of it can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition where cholesterol-containing plaques build up in arteries and block blood flow. A high-density cholesterol level is the most common reason that a person is prescribed a statin.
Most people who take this drug do not experience side effects. Those who do have a reaction report headaches, a feeling of pins and needles in their arms and legs, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea or a rash. Only a few experience memory loss, cataracts, liver failure and skeletal muscle damage, so it is very important for users to report ill effects to their doctors.
Meanwhile, studies indicate that statins may play a role in slowing the aging process. As we get older, our cells do not divide and multiply as quickly as they used to. Statins delay cell deterioration, a recent study in Naples, Italy, has found.
Regular exercise is not only a young person’s game. Studies show that as your age, getting a regular workout affects the brain in such a way that strengthens cognitive abilities.
How long do you exercise daily? Do you wear a tracking device that records the number of steps you take each day? If not, then consider buying one. Fitbits and other brands are now available where ever sporting goods are sold. An investment of $100 to $150 for an easy-to-use tracker worn on your wrist is well worth the time and expense. You establish a goal — say, 10,000 steps (or about 5 miles) — and get going. By the end of the day, your tracker tells you where you stand. But, remember, check with your doctor or health-care provider first to determine your daily goal.
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to keep your body — and especially your brain — in good working order. New studies show that people 65 and older who stay active, don’t smoke and eat healthy have less trouble remembering things. And the more intense your daily exercise, the more your brain works as it should. Again, be sure to check with your health-care provider to determine your maximum limit.
“Physical activity is an attractive option to reduce the burden of cognitive impairment in public health because it is low cost and doesn’t interfere with medications,” said Clinton B. Wright, MD, MS, of the University of Miami in Miami, Fla., and member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Our results suggest that moderate to intense exercise may help older people delay aging of the brain, but more research from randomized clinical trials comparing exercise programs to more sedentary activity is needed to confirm these results.”
Exercise in older people is associated with a slower rate of decline in thinking skills that occurs with aging. People who reported light to no exercise experienced a decline equal to 10 more years of aging as compared to people who reported moderate to intense exercise, according to Dr. Wright’s population-based observational study.