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Blog posts tagged with 'blood pressure'

Easily Accessible Mediterranean Diet Can Impact Your Health

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Easily Accessible Mediterranean Diet Can Impact Your HealthMetabolic syndrome is defined in the medical community as having three or more risk-related factors that can contribute to a variety of heart and blood sugar concerns. Some risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high glucose levels. Due to many elements such as a lack of exercise, poor diet, and genetics it is estimated that as many as 34% of adults in the US may have metabolic syndrome. However, what if there was a particular diet that could reverse the progression of these risk factors? A recent study in Spain sought to find the answer.

A Dive Into the Mediterranean

Prior studies on the Mediterranean diet have confirmed its positive benefits to cholesterol health and blood pressure, but researchers wanted to see how great an impact this diet could have on people already at risk with metabolic syndrome. The team of researchers analyzed adults, both men and women, ages 55–80 who were at risk for cardiovascular concerns. A total of 64% of the adults assessed for the study qualified as having metabolic syndrome. The subjects were then put onto one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, or a regular low-fat diet.

Following up after almost five years, the results showed that the patients who adhered to both types of Mediterranean diets saw a decrease in blood glucose levels as well as abdominal obesity. A total of 28.2% of the men and women who followed the Mediterranean diets also no longer met the criteria to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome at the end of the study period.

Add the Olive Oil and the Legumes

The Mediterranean diet eschews butters, trans fats, saturated fats, and unhealthy oils in favor of olive oils, omega fatty acids, and unsaturated fats. As one would expect, it also centers around a reduction in meat intake, replacing it with seafood—especially fish that are high in omegas such as salmon and tuna—at least twice a week. However, poultry, eggs, and dairy can also be consumed for meat and protein requirements. The Mediterranean diet also covers other nutrition groups by calling for high fruit and vegetable consumption.

For some people, the tricky part of the Mediterranean diet is getting the good fat content. Luckily, you can satisfy this part in a variety of ways. Apart from olive oil there are a number of foods that provide good fats including avocados, whole grains, nuts, and other various legumes.

An Easier Path Than You Think

Some may think that switching to a Mediterranean diet means having to use exotic ingredients for their meals that are both expensive and restrictive. Many of the foods required to follow this diet, however, are readily available in your grocery store—all you need to do is make a few crucial, yet simple, substitutions which will allow you to enjoy many tasty, healthy meals. And because there are actually many foods containing the good fats and nutrients required, the Mediterranean allows for plenty of variety and experimentation. Evidence continues to mount about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, so while many can get sucked into fad and crash diets, the Mediterranean diet can be a nutritious and fulfilling option out there to help support not only a healthy heart, but greater well-being.

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Finding Healthy Facts in Nutrition Labels as a Guide to Better Living

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Finding Healthy Facts in Nutrition Labels as a Guide to Better LivingSince the late 1800s the government has set standards which regulate how companies and industries can claim or market what is in their food products, paving the way for modern nutrition labels. Nutrition labels continually go through changes and updates as our knowledge about certain foods, ingredients, and what it means to be healthy evolves. These labels are designed to be a guideline so that you know the true health value of the foods you consume. But in spite of the availability of this information, do people actually read them?

A Study in Purchase Habits

To investigate how often people really look at nutritional labels, researchers at the University of Minnesota took 203 volunteers and gauged what information they looked at when making a food purchase. The test involved a computer-based-shopping program where participants were shown 64 different items—including products such as cereal, soup, crackers, cookies, and ice cream—posing the question of whether or not they would buy the item. Synced with the computer program was an eye-tracking device that monitored what the shopper was viewing, tracking up to 1,000 eye movements per second. Once the buying task portion of the study was done, participants were then asked to fill out a questionnaire about their usual real-world grocery shoppping and buying habits.

What the Numbers Really Say

What researchers discovered was that there was a big difference between consumers' viewing habits and what they self-purported in the questionnaire. Thirty-three percent of participants stated that they "almost always" look at product's calorie count, 31% said they looked at total fat content, 24% looked at sugar content, and 26% claimed they paid attention to serving size. However, the eye-tracking data showed that only 9% of people looked at calorie count for almost all items—while only 1% of the participants looked at each of the other components, including fat, trans fat, sugar, and serving size.

Authors of the study say that the biggest problem with food labels is their confusing nature and sometimes concealed placement on certain boxes and packaging.

"In the simulated shopping setting, participants could see Nutrition Facts labels without having to turn, rotate, or otherwise manipulate a food package. In contrast, Nutrition Facts labels on food packages tend to be in locations that cannot be seen by consumers looking at the front of a package (e.g., when viewing a shelf of items in a grocery store)," the authors wrote.

Monitoring Serving Size to Avoid Overeating

Many people desire a road map to better health, not realizing that every box, container, or bag of packaged food already provides insight into what you are eating, allowing you to monitor what your body is getting each day and align it with your daily needs. One of the main things people often misunderstand is what serving size means when it comes to individual food items. Serving sizes are determined by the FDA and USDA to provide an average calorie count of certain food items. However, many people don't take into account the serving sizes of snacks or foods such as cereal, crackers, or candy bars, which can lead to the consumption of excess calories.

Recognizing What to Avoid and What to Focus On

Another point to note is the fat content of food. Nutrition labels separate the fat content by total fat, trans fat, and saturated fat. If you are focusing on a heart-healthy diet, watching for foods that are both low in saturated and trans fat content is crucial.

Salt and sugar are other ingredients that warrant attention. Salt is associated with heart health; in particular, blood pressure. Balancing out your salt intake with nutrients such as potassium can help keep your blood pressure levels within healthy ranges. Sugar, in the form of high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners, can be a source of "empty calories", which are calories that provide little or no added nutritional value, so be on the lookout for these, too.

Giving the Label a Look

Nutrition labels are often misunderstood and underused resources for better nutrition. Utilizing the nutritional information that is already available to you can help you develop healthier eating habits day in and day out. Along with following daily exercise recommendations and supplementing your diet when needed, you can start seeing the results you always wanted.

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Why Knowing Your BMI can be the Beginning of Better Health

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Why Knowing Your BMI can be the Beginning of Better HealthBecause every person's body shape can vary in size, proportion, and weight distribution, having a particular set of measurements to calculate your ideal weight in relationship to your height can be helpful in assessing the current state of your overall health. The body mass index measurement, or BMI, can give you a specific idea of what your target weight should be. However, figuring out your BMI is only the beginning. Integrating the proper nutrition and exercise into your lifestyle - in manageable, realistic steps can help you reach your target BMI index and achieve the greater health you desire.

Your BMI and Its Importance

Your body weight is tied to many areas of overall well-being. From blood sugar to blood pressure to overall heart health—and even the internal pressure of your organs and other systems—weight is one of the single most important aspects of assessing how healthy you are. This is why the BMI can be a great tool. This formula can help determine whether your body type and size is putting you at a higher risk for serious health problems and allows you to pinpoint specific areas you need to target to set you on the path to better health.

To determine your BMI number, start with your weight (in pounds) divided by your height (in inches) squared, and multiply by 703. Once you get your BMI number you can look at the unhealthy and healthy ranges. For adults age 20 or older, if your BMI is 30 or higher, you are considered obese. BMI measurements 25-29 and beyond are categorized as "overweight", while numbers from 18.5 to 24.9 are considered "normal" weight. Anything less than 18.5 is considered to be "underweight", which also can put you at risk.

A Realistic View of Health

While it's always sensible to maintain a healthy weight for lifestyle reasons, fad diets and unattainable body images have led many astray in the process of attempting to lose weight. Health starts from within. Not everyone can or should want to look like models in TV commercials or magazines. With that in mind, knowing your BMI number and what your ideal range should be can help you set realistic goals when it comes to weight loss.

However, in addition to knowing your BMI number, you should also know what it doesn't take into account. BMI doesn't factor in age and gender, or differences between fat and muscle mass, Athletes or those with more muscles mass may have a higher BMI, but are not necessarily unhealthy. In the same respect, age and gender can skew your BMI reading. According to the CDC, women tend to have more body fat than men, on average. Also, as you get older your body tends to store more fat.

Another important factor to consider, therefore, is waist circumference. Abdominal fat has been linked to heart concerns and higher blood pressure. For women, a high waist circumference can mean anything above 35 inches, and for men, anything above 40 inches. Because each individual is different, including genetic history, nutrition, physical activity, and body type, your area of focus might not always be the same as another.

Smaller Steps to Greater Health

When targeting your ideal BMI, experts say your initial weight loss goal should be losing 10% of your total weight. It's also important to set a realistic target date; you're not going to change your lifestyle or general health in one week or even one month. True and lasting change takes time and repetition. Introducing the appropriate amount of calories into your daily diet will take trial and error. Experts suggest it can be helpful to start by eliminating one unhealthy meal or food item from your diet a time instead of trying to totally change your diet at once.

Checking with your physician to know your limits as far as physical activity is concerned is important, as is maintaining consistency. Again, smaller steps can help ease you into the lifestyle change you desire. Trying to not be inactive can be easier than trying to immediately go from not exercising to trying to exercise five days a week. Walking three times a week or small forms of aerobic exercise a few times a week is a good starting point on the road to greater well-being.

Information Equals Better Decisions

People are motivated and driven by different things when it comes to health. For some of them it's realizing that they can't perform a physical activity as easily as they once could; others see something on TV that speaks to them in a way that hits home. No matter where your motivation comes from, it's important to get all the information you can before you set out and try and enact your healthy change.

Start by seeking the proper expert advice and using the tools that are available to you—such as BMI, blood pressure, and waist circumference measurements. There are also a number of technological applications that can help you track your weight, remind you to exercise, or figure out how to properly structure your diet. All of these can be valuable resources when it comes to making the small changes that lead to a world of difference.

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Changing Needs: A Focus on Age and Proper Nutrition

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Changing Needs: A Focus on Age and Proper NutritionMany people can recite the names of the most popular vitamins and prominent minerals such as vitamin A, D, calcium, and potassium. But are you getting enough each day? Many people are, in fact, missing some of the main nutrients needed to sustain healthy living—especially older adults. As diets change, the number of calories older adults absorb can drop. This can lead to a deficiency in some of the more vital nutrients that are needed for good health and increased longevity. To help you sustain ongoing health, here are some of the top nutrients you should look out for to help ensure that you’re getting the proper amounts.

Bones, Cells and Heart Health

Calcium is essential to supporting healthy bones and teeth. Bone development continues throughout adulthood, which is why your body needs a steady supply of calcium. Not getting enough calcium can lessen your bone density over time, leaving them brittle and making you more susceptible to falling and incurring injuries. Besides dairy products, broccoli and kale are also rich sources of calcium. You can also turn calcium supplementing into a treat by making a smoothie out of yogurt, fruit, and vegetables.

Along with helping maintain healthy nerve function, vitamin B12 helps in the formation of DNA, RNA, and red blood cells. B12 is especially important for older adults because they can’t absorb it as easily as younger people can. To get enough B12, eat plenty of fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and milk.

Folate, or folic acid, is another B vitamin (vitamin B9). Folic acid supplementation is recommended in pregnant women because adequate folate levels during pregnancy may help reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in babies. It has also been connected to protecting heart health and reducing risks of heart concerns later on in life. As one of the eight B-complex vitamins, folic acid helps convert the body’s food into fuel and is a crucial part of overall wellness.

Essential Nutrients for Internal Conditioning

Much has been written and debated about vitamin D. At its core it helps the body absorb calcium and is important to bone density, skin health, immune function, and many other processes in the body. While your skin is capable of producing some vitamin D when you’re exposed to the sun, many people do not spend enough time outdoors to satisfy the recommended daily value. Vitamin D amounts can vary by gender and age, but adults ages 19–70 should get, on average, at least 600 IU each day by remembering to step out in the sun or eating cereals, milk, and juices fortified with vitamin D.

Potassium is an electrolyte that helps your cells, tissues, and organs function properly. It is also connected to the electrical activity of the heart, and aids healthy blood pressure and kidney function. The daily requirement for potassium is 4,700 mg, which can be obtained from bananas, prunes, potatoes, dairy products, soy, and some fish.

While the body doesn’t need much magnesium, it still plays a crucial role in some 300 different processes in your body. Often associated with heart health, magnesium is also pertinent to a high-functioning immune system and bone health as 66% of the magnesium your body needs is stored in the bones. Although magnesium is found in many common foods such as grains and nuts, it is still estimated that people only get 66% of the necessary daily value. You can help make up for this deficit by eating more unprocessed foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans, and seeds.

Keeping Well Fed and Watered

Your digestive tract has a lot of responsibilities that include nutrient absorption, waste elimination, and immune health. Fiber, which is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be digested by the body, aids the digestive system. It is also known for supporting heart health. The national recommendation for fiber is 30–38 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women ages 18–50.

The last area of nutrition that is often overlooked is hydration. Fluids are an important part of your diet; water being the most crucial. As you get older your sense of thirst can decline, but no matter what age you are, hydration is important for every process mentioned in the above paragraphs. It is often said that if food is your body’s fuel, then fluid is the coolant. Nutritionists recommend drinking 3–5 large glasses of water each day, or 8 glasses if you’re physically active.

Covering Your Bases of Nutrients

Sometimes keeping track of what your body needs can seem overwhelming. However, if you’ve already made the decision to eat healthier by managing your food groups and portions, you can easily figure out what vitamins and minerals you are getting enough of, and what areas you may need to focus on. Supplementation for many vitamins and minerals is always a viable option due to the various nature of different diets. Getting a wide variety of what you need, at each point in the aging process, however, is crucial to continued healthy living, and it starts with what you know.

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Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Dreaming

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Facts You Probably Didn't Know About DreamingEvery night you venture from this world into an entirely different one where the rules of physics, time, and mortality may not apply. It sometimes doesn't help that while you're inhabiting this world, you are unable to exercise any control over your dream land. However, that can be part of the fun. Where does this all occur? In the mind, of course.

Dreams as a Means of Memory Processing

Sleep and dreaming helps your mind process, sort, and store each day's events. Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in integrative sleep and dream medicine at the University of Arizona, likens dreaming to being a digestive system for your brain. "At night, the brain metaphorically swallows, digests, and sifts through information, and, just like the gut, eliminates," he says. "What the brain keeps becomes a part of who we are. Dreaming, is like the brain's digestive system."

Dreams are often said to occur only during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycles of sleep. But according to Dr. Naiman, dreams actually happen all night long; it's just that you're more tuned in to them during the REM cycles. Interestingly, mammals, reptiles, and birds are the only animals that experience REM sleep.

The process of sleep also helps the brain rid itself of toxic proteins that may potentially affect neurological function. The brain has its own plumbing system—known as the glymphatic system—that carries waste material out of the brain nightly. During sleep, brain cells shrink, allowing fluids to wash out the brain.

Want to Remember Your Dreams?

Trying to remember some dreams can be like catching smoke with a butterfly net. Sometimes the more you chase after it the more elusive it can become. The best way to try and remember your dream is to wake up slowly, lying in bed for a few moments and staying with your grogginess. By contrast, getting jolted awake by your alarm or any sudden sound can cause you to immediately forget what you were just doing in your dream. The shock of going from one state of mind to the next can leave you with only the vague residual memory of your night's adventures.

People who tend to remember their dreams have been found to have more spontaneous brain activity in a part of the brain called the temporo-parietal junction, when compared to those who more easily forget their dreams. These differences in recalling dreams don't just occur during sleep; people who remember dreams also seem to be more sensitive to sounds while they're asleep, too.

The Connection from Dream Land to the Waking World

Your body reacts the same way in your dreams biologically as it does to reality, says Dr. Naiman. "The experience we have in the dream registers in the body and in the brain in almost exactly the same way," he says. "Your blood pressure or heart rate might spike, for example, like in a real-life stressful scenario, helping to cement those emotional experiences of the dream." Contrary to popular belief, dreams also register in real time and can span anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.

The realistic feel of dreams can extend to your awake self. A 2014 study found that many bad dreams elicited feelings of worry, confusion, and guilt. However, dreams never feel "weird" no matter how preposterous the situation you're in. "It's only after you wake up and step into the waking world and look at the dream that it seems weird," Dr. Naiman says.

A Good Night's Rest for a Multitude of Benefits

A good night's sleep will take you to imaginative realms but also gives your brain time to digest, sift and sort through information, while leaving you well rested for the morning. Sleep is also connected to other bodily functions such as your immune system, blood pressure, and even weight. Getting the proper amount of sleep, and enjoying the fantastical world of your dreams can keep you living healthy and happy during the day.

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