All Posts tagged blood pressure

It’s NOT “Normal Aging”

Chronological age is not biological age. How do we know this? There are two main lines of evidence.

First, though average levels of many physical functions show a progressive decline with age, there is a wide variability within aged groups. Some individuals show no decline at all. The fact that these individuals exist indicates that chronological aging is not an inevitable cause of biological aging

Often a person will blame a health condition, such as a bad shoulder, a bad knee, etc on their age. But if age were to blame, then it would stand to reason that both shoulders and both knees would be degenerated and not just one limb. These problems are due to cumulative stress and traumas, not to the passage of time.

The second line of evidence that aging is in fact degeneration caused by abnormal stress is the continuing discoveries that aging process previously considered natural do not occur at all in some human populations. Blood pressure for example, rises with age in the American population, and it used to be considered an inevitable part of aging. Science knows now, however, that there are numerous populations, mostly isolated from Western society, in which the elderly have the same blood pressure as the young. Science has known that rising blood pressure is caused by complex factors in the environment of Western society.  When members of populations migrate to western society, their blood pressure begins to rise with a few years.  Also, osteoporosis is a major health concern for western women; however, women in other cultures around the world do not suffer from osteoporosis and similar degenerative disorders.

So the next time you think that some disease process or ache and pain that you have is part of the “normal aging process”, think again.

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Blueberries Protect Against Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Belly Fat

It is hard to hate a blueberry.  That small, sweet bead of a fruit is sweet and delicious, and now new research shows it is good for you as well. Blueberries have been known to be good for your heart and brain function, but emerging research is also showing them to help prevent diabetes, arthritis, and belly fat.

One study presented at a Dieticians of Canada conference showed that men who drank a cup of wild blueberry juice every day for 3 weeks had less inflammation and insulin sensitivity, two factors that, when abnormal, can contribute to arthritis and diabetes.  In fact, most of the men noticed a slight improvement in glucose and insulin control.  This is why a professor at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada suggests people eat half a cup of fresh or frozen wild blueberries a day.  Previous research from that same university found that feeding wild blueberries to rodents with high blood pressure helped lower their blood pressure.  It has not been determined if it has the same affect on humans.

Another study conducted by the University of Michigan and presented at Experimental Biology 2009 showed that rats who were bred to be obese had lost abdominal fat, lowered cholesterol, and improved glucose control and insulin sensitivity after eating blueberries for 3 months.  Fat in the belly area pads internal organs and releases inflammation-producing hormones.  More common in men than women, experts have long been convinced that those who carry excess weight in the belly region are at higher risk for some pretty serious health problems, even if they have a normal body mass index.

The most amazing thing about the University of Michigan study was the benefits occurred even when the diet was not all that heart healthy, though the benefits of the blueberries were higher in those that ate a low fat diet.  Besides all the other benefits to health, the group that ate a low fat diet had a lower body weight, lower total fat mass and reduced liver mass than those who consumed a high fat diet.  An enlarged liver is linked to obesity and insulin resistance, something lots of us deal with – fatty liver disease and metabolic syndrome are common because of diets high in fat.  The researchers believe that their results show blueberries may have an impact on how the body stores and processes glucose for energy; and this reduces the risks of developing diabetes or heart disease.

Another study that looked at how blueberries affected men who are at a risk for heart disease backs up the University of Michigan study.  A researcher at the Cardioprotection Research Laboratory found that blueberry intake affected the genes related to fat burning and storage.  By looking at muscle tissue, they were able to see genes that were altered in relation to glucose uptake.  It is believed that the naturally occurring phytonutrients in blueberries called anthocyanins are what makes them help ease these serious health conditions.

Overall, it is important to realize how diet can have a tremendous impact on your health.  Fruits and vegetables can do wonders for our health, and they don’t come with a two-page list of side effects. To me, with low calories and no side effects, blueberries seem to be an easy, natural way to improve your health, especially if you are at risk for heart disease.  There are a lot of ways to enjoy this delicious fruit.  Fresh out of the container, in juice or on cereal, in muffins, even distilled into a compote.  The great thing about blueberries is that they keep their nutritional value, even after being frozen.  When you buy blueberries, look for ones that are fresh, locally or organically grown, with a firm feeling and lively color.  The deeper the color, the more antioxidants the fruit brings to the body.  To get the best bang for your buck, grab the wilder variety of blueberry whenever you can.  The berries come in two types – ones grown out in fields or existing in the wild (low bush variety), or those grown in greenhouses (high bush variety).  The wild variety are smaller, tend to taste better, and have more antioxidants than the greenhouse variety.  Because they are grown in the wild, they are exposed to more environmental challenges, so they produce more bioactive compounds that benefit people when they eat them.  If wild blueberries aren’t in season or available at your store, consider looking for unprocessed wild blueberry juice at a health food store.  You can often find wild blueberries in your store’s freezer section as well.   Try to buy organic blueberries.  A study looking at berries grown in New Jersey found that those grown organically were sweeter and contained up to 50 percent more antioxidants than those treated with chemicals.  Another study published in the journal Free Radical Biology & Medicine found that eating blueberries with milk impairs the fruit’s antioxidant power.  Enjoy the fruit with a cup of water instead.  So the next time you go to the farmer’s market or other fruit store, buy a container of blueberries, your body will thank you.

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Metabolic Syndrome: Are you at risk?

Metabolic Syndrome (also called Syndrome X) has become one of the most widely talked about health conditions in recent years.  Although it’s only been identified in the past 20 years, according to the American Heart Association, nearly 1 out of every 6 Americans have it (that’s about 47 million people).  That statistic is a little lower than the National Institutes of Health estimate which is 25% of Americans.  But why it is getting so much press lately is because it is being shown to double your risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.  It also increases your risk of diabetes by 5 times.  Metabolic syndrome is not really a disease by itself but a collection of unhealthy risk factors.  According to the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are 5 risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome:

  • Large Waist Size – For men, this means a waist of 40 inches or more.  For women, a waist of 35 inches or more.
  • High TriglyceridesEither 150 mg/dL or higher or using a cholesterol medicine
  • Low Good CholesterolEither less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women or using a cholesterol medicine
  • High Blood PressureEither having blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or greater or using a high blood pressure medicine.
  • Elevated Fasting Blood Glucose – Having a fasting blood glucose level of 100 mg/dL or higher

To be diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome you need to have at least 3 of these factors.

Metabolic Syndrome is becoming more widely diagnosed, but the good news is it can be easily controlled with lifestyle changes.  In fact, one 2005 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed how well lifestyle changes could prevent metabolic syndrome.  Researchers looked at more than 3,200 people who already had impaired glucose tolerance, a pre-diabetic state.  One group was instructed to make lifestyle changes. They exercised 2.5 hours a week and ate a low-calorie, low-fat diet.  After three years, people in the lifestyle group were 41% less likely to have metabolic syndrome than those who got no treatment.  The lifestyle changes were also about twice as effective as using a diabetes medicine, Glucophage.

Experts say you prevent and treat metabolic syndrome the same way.  Here are the primary ways that it is treated:

  • Exercise. Start slowly. The American Heart Association recommends, if possible, that you gradually step up to exercising on most days of the week for 30-60 minutes.  Exercise such as walking daily even in the absence of significant weight loss may normalize triglycerides.
  • Eat a healthy dietYou should follow a heart-healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and few saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, and salt.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.  Emerging evidence indicates that individuals who sleep fewer than six hours per night may face an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight. In order to prevent metabolic syndrome, it’s important to maintain a body mass index (BMI) lower than 25.  Women should maintain a waist measurement of less than 35 inches, while men should aim for a waist measurement of less than 40 inches.  For those with elevated blood glucose weight loss may not only return the sugar to normal levels, but in the Diabetes Prevention Study in individuals with slight elevations of blood sugar and a family history of diabetes, 20 pounds of weight loss decreased the risk for developing diabetes by 60 percent.
  • Quit smoking if you smoke — now.
  • Schedule regular checkups with your doctor. Since metabolic syndrome doesn’t have symptoms, you need regular doctor visits to check your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.  However, research is showing that diet and lifestyle changes are more effective in reversing the condition than taking multiple medications.

Your diet is one of the most important factors in treating Metabolic Syndrome so here are some dietary recommendations:

  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Eat whole grains (rather than refined grains, like white rice and white bread)
  • Eat foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol
  • If you eat dairy, choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Have a low intake of salty foods
  • Eat few foods and beverages with added sugar

There are also some natural substances you can take that have shown positive results in improving metabolic syndrome.

Antioxidants

In a 2009 study of 374 adults, researchers found that consumption of carotenoids (a type of antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables) may help improve certain risk factors involved in metabolic syndrome. For instance, higher carotenoid intake was linked to smaller waistlines, less belly fat, and lower levels of triglycerides.  Carotenoids are naturally abundant in a number of foods, including spinach, sweet potato, red peppers, tomatoes, kale, pumpkin, carrots, papaya, and collards.

Grape Seed Extract

In a small study published in 2009, four weeks of treatment with grape seed extract appeared to decrease blood pressure in people with metabolic syndrome.  However, there were no significant changes in cholesterol levels.

Kudzu

The herb kudzu shows promise in metabolic syndrome treatment, according to preliminary research published in 2009. In tests on rats with metabolic syndrome, scientists discovered that kudzu-fed animals experienced less weight gain and had healthier levels of blood pressure, insulin, and cholesterol after two months (compared to animals that weren’t fed kudzu).

Basically, what metabolic syndrome comes down to is it is the result of an unhealthy lifestyle.  Poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and stress eventually has an effect on your body.  The only way it  can be remedied is to change your lifestyle and diet to adapt more healthy habits.

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Garlic, From Heart Disease to the Common Cold

Garlic is good for more than just repelling people with your breath.  It’s actually one of the healthiest foods you can eat.  Its key medicinal ingredient is allicin, which is known to have wonderful anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-oxidant properties.  So here are just a few of the health benefits of garlic:

Acne – Garlic can be used in conjunction with other treatments for acne.  Because acne can be caused by numerous things including hormones, diet, and stress, garlic alone may not be as effective.  However, it has been known to help kill the bacteria that that causes acne so it is a good addition to any acne treatment protocol.

High Cholesterol – Studies have shown that taking 600-900 mg of garlic per day lowers cholesterol levels and reduces arterial plaque formation by 5-18%

Antioxidant – Allicin naturally increases antioxidant enzymes in your blood.  It can also help against the damaging effects of nicotine and slows the aging process of your liver.

Anti-Bacterial – Garlic has 1% of the potency of penicillin and can ward off a number of bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, Candida albican, and Staphylococcus.  In addition, bacteria don’t develop resistance to it like they do antibiotics.  This benefit was first realized back in the early 19th century when English priests caught infectious fevers, and the French priests who ate garlic didn’t.

High Blood Pressure – Clinical trials showed that blood pressure can be reduced by 1-5% after taking garlic supplements.  This may not sound a lot but this small reduction can reduce the chance of a stroke by 30-40% and heart disease by 20-25%.  Another clinical study showed that people with high blood pressure who took garlic capsules daily for up to two months lowered their blood pressure levels as effectively as patients taking prescription blood pressure drugs. A suggested dosage is 600-900mg capsules once daily.

Sore Throat/Cough – Garlic’s antibacterial properties make it a wonderful treatment for coughs and other throat irritations. It may also reduce the severity of upper respiratory tract infections.

Diabetes – Garlic is considered to regulate blood sugar levels by increasing the release of insulin in diabetics.  Therefore an effective remedy is to take one clove or one supplement every day.

Toothaches – Garlic’s antibacterial, analgesic, and anesthetizing properties can help cure toothaches. Simply put some garlic oil or a piece of crushed garlic clove directly onto the affected tooth and the gum for instant relief.

Warts – Garlic’s ability to fight infections and bacteria makes it an effective cure for warts and other skin problems.  Take a fresh clove and cut its tip off.  Rub the cut area of the clove directly onto the wart for a few seconds.  Repeat this each night before going to bed until the wart disappears.  If you feel any kind of irritation or strong burning sensation, simply rinse the area with water.

Make sure you join us back tomorrow for how to use garlic as part of your health care regime.

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