All Posts tagged heart health

Trans-Fats: What To Look Out For

Trans-fats (trans-fatty acids – TFA)

Trans-fats are probably the worst fats for you.  A trans-fat is a normal fat molecule that has been distorted during a process called hydrogenation. During this process, liquid vegetable oil is heated and combined with hydrogen gas.  If you eat trans-fat (which let’s face it, most of us do) and your diet doesn’t include enough of the good fats, your body will use the deformed trans-fats instead, which could possibly contribute to major health risks from heart disease to cancer.

So why are trans fatty acids (TFAs) so prevalent in commercial foods? Partially hydrogenated oils (from the hydrogenation process) are more stable (less likely to spoil), can be transported more easily, and can withstand repeated heating, which makes them perfect for frying up those French fries and burgers at your favorite fast food establishment.

Trans-fats may be found in foods like:

  • Baked Goods — cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and some breads like hamburger buns
  • Fried foods — doughnuts, French fries, fried chicken including chicken nuggets, and hard taco shells
  • Snack foods — potato, corn, and tortilla chips; candy; packaged or microwave popcorn.
  • Solid fats — Hard margarine (stick margarine) and semi solid vegetable shortening.
  • Pre-mixed products — cake mix, pancake mix, and chocolate drink mix.

Trans-fats tend to raise total LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and lower HDL (good cholesterol).  This can contribute to major health problems, from heart disease to cancer. No amount of trans-fat is healthy, and should be kept below 1 percent of your total calories.

Things to Look For When Shopping/Eating Out

  • When shopping, read the labels and watch out for “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredients. Even if the food claims to be trans-fat free, this ingredient tells you that the product is a trans-fat suspect.
  • When eating out, put fried foods, biscuits, and other baked goods on your “skip” list. Avoid these products unless you know that the restaurant has eliminated trans-fat
  • Most states have no labeling regulations for fast food, and it can even be advertised as cholesterol-free and cooked in vegetable oil. Eating one doughnut at breakfast (3.2 g of TFA) and a large order of french fries at lunch (6.8 g of TFA) adds 10 grams of TFA to one’s diet, according to the American Heart Association.
  • Some cities (i.e. NYC, Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston), as well as the state of California, have banned trans-fats in restaurants. This has caused some big chains to start to move away from using trans-fats.

Almonds: Go Nuts

Personally, I’m a big fan of having nuts for a snack.  It provides that saltiness, but not all of the carbohydrates and saturated fat of chips or other typical snack foods.  I’ve always heard that almonds were healthy for you, but I never realized how healthy until I started doing a little research.  They are high in protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, and they are considered one of my most nutritious nuts. The almond that we think of as a nut is technically the seed of the fruit of the almond tree, a medium-size tree that bears fragrant pink and white flowers.  Like its cousins, the peach, cherry and apricot trees, it bears fruits with stone-like seeds (or pits) within. The seed of the almond fruit is what we refer to as the almond nut. The almond is one of the healthiest snack foods you can eat.  Its health benefits are wide and varied.  Below are some of the health benefits that almonds have:

  1. Helps heart health:  A study showed those who consumed almonds five times a week had a 50% reduction in risk of heart attack.  They have large amounts of vitamin E that acts as an antioxidant and reduces the risk of heart diseases.  Almonds also help reduce C-reactive protein (CRP) which causes artery-damaging inflammation.
  2. Reduces bad cholesterol:  Almonds are a good source of monounsaturated fats and some polyunsaturated fats which help to lower the low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol).  A handful every day can lower your bad cholesterol level by 8 to 12 percent.
  3. Improves blood circulation:  Almonds are high in potassium and low in sodium, both are factors that regulate blood pressure.  The high level of magnesium in almonds has a very positive effect on our arteries and veins and helps to improve the overall flow of nutrients through our bodies.  It also contains iron, which helps carry oxygen to all of the body’s cells and organs.
  4. Good source of Protein:  Almonds provide one of the best plant sources of protein.  They provide high quality and highly absorbable protein. A quarter-cup (containing around 30 nuts) contains around 7.6 grams of protein.
  5. Strengthens the bones:  Almonds are a good source of calcium which prevents osteoporosis and strengthens the bones, teeth and muscles.  It also provides other nutrients that help to increase the bone mineral density, which helps to strengthen the skeletal system.
  6. Good for brain power:  The almond is a source of many nutrients which helps in development of the brain development.  I’ve heard it recommended having 5 almonds in the morning everyday for maximum brainpower.  They contain phenylalanine, a brain-boosting chemical, which aids in healthy development of our cognitive functions.
  7. Helps you lose weight:  Almonds have high fiber content, protein and the good type of fat which satisfies your appetite very soon therefore you are less likely to have cravings and overeat.  Studies have revealed that almond rich low calorie diet is good for obese people to assist in shedding their weight.
  8. Good for diabetic people: They are a low glycemic index (GI) food. When eaten with a high GI food, it helps in reducing the rise in sugar and insulin levels after meals.
  9. Reduces the risk of Cancer:  Being high in natural fiber, it improves the movement of food through the colon, thereby preventing colon cancer.  Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, phytochemicals and flavonoids which suppress the growth of cancer cells. It is also rich source of boron which helps to prevent prostate cancer.
  10. Prevents Gallstones: People eating at least 5 almonds a day have a 25% lower risk of developing gallstones, a study confirms.  Almond oil also possesses laxative properties and helps to produce soft stools and avoid any constipation.
  11. Good for skin:  An almond face pack prevents dry skin, pimples and black heads and is a good long term cure for acne.  It also improves skin complexion and premature aging. It nourishes the skin making it smooth and soft.
  12. Energy booster:  Nutrients present in almonds like Protein, Manganese, Copper & Riboflavin are all used to generate energy in our body.

So you can see, almonds are a nutritious snack that will have a positive effect on your overall health.  So Go Nuts on Almonds!!!!


What Does Your Pulse Say About Your Health?

I have a number of patients who like to exercise at home with videos.  My attitude has always been, whatever works best for you personally is what’s best.  However, the concern that I have with some of these videos is they tell you to check your heart rate, but they don’t tell you what you should be working towards.  I remember when I was in high school, my mother had a Richard Simmons video and he’d always say, “Ok, let’s check our heart rates.  If it’s too high, take it a little slower.”  I’d check my heartbeat, but I didn’t have a clue if it was too high or not high enough.  So if you’re anything like I was, here’s some information about a healthy pulse rate and what you should be striving towards in your exercise regime.

To begin with, pulse (or heart) rate is defined as the rate at which the heart beats in one minute.  As the heart pumps blood into the body, the blood vessels at the wrist, upper arm and neck start pulsating and throbbing.  While the normal pulse rate is usually between 60 to 100 beats per minute, there are certain medical conditions such as cardiac arrhythmia which may alter the normal pulse rate of an individual.  The factors that can influence your pulse rate are your age, gender and fitness level.  So a toddler’s pulse rate is significantly higher than an adult’s.  Similarly females tend to have faster heart rates than men.  Conditioned athletes may have heart rates as low as 40 beats per minute.

How To Calculate the Pulse Rate
You can check your pulse rate by placing the tips of your index, second and third fingers on the palm side of your other wrist, below the base of the thumb or on your lower neck, on either side of your windpipe.  Make sure you do not use your thumb because you can sometimes feel your heart beat in your thumb and that will skew your number.  Now count the beats for 10 seconds and multiply this number by six to get your pulse.  Checking your pulse rates when resting, during exercises or after it, can give information about the overall fitness.

Resting Pulse Rate Chart: The lower your resting heart rate, the healthier your heart tends to be.  To calculate your resting pulse, sit quietly for 10 minutes.  Here is a table to demonstrate the ideal resting heart rates.

Babies to age 1:100 -160
Children aged 1 to 10:60 -140
Children aged 10+ and adults:60 -100
Well-conditioned athletes:40 – 60

Heart Rate During Exercises: Strenuous exercise increases the pulse rates.  A heart beat calculator can help measure the increase in heart rates.  It should be noted, that exercising above 85 percent of your maximum heart rate increases both cardiovascular and orthopedic risk and does not add any extra benefit.  It is therefore advisable to check with your health care provider, before starting an exercise program. Check the heart beat chart below, to find whether you need to increase or decrease your rate of exercise.

AgeTarget Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60-85%) Predicted Maximum Heart Rate
20120 – 170200
25117 – 166195
30114 – 162190
35111 – 157185
40108 – 153180
45105 – 149175
50102 – 145170
5599 – 140165
6096 – 136160
6593 – 132155
7090 – 128150
Your actual valuesTarget HRMax. HR

Checking your pulse rates, using these healthy pulse rate charts, can indicate good health while an irregular pulse is a symptom of heart disease such as a blocked artery.  Consult a health care provider in case of any unusual observation.


How to Add More Fiber to Your Diet

Fiber’s an important part of your diet.  Fiber is basically the parts of plants that your body cannot digest.  There are two categories of dietary fiber:  soluble (fiber that can be absorbed in water) and insoluble (fiber that can’t be absorbed in water).  Insoluble fiber is what bulks up your stool and increases the ease and speed of digestive material traveling through your colon.  Everyone needs insoluble fiber in their diet, but it is especially helpful for those with constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and irregular stools.  Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gelatinous substance that can lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

Getting enough fiber in the diet can help to lower the risk of developing certain health conditions.  Evidence is now growing to support the notion that foods containing soluble fiber such as oats, rye, barley and beans can have a positive influence on cholesterol, triglycerides, and other particles in the blood that affect the development of heart disease.  Some people believe that fiber can help protect against colon cancer because it speeds up the passage of food through the body, thus preventing harmful substances from being absorbed.  Others believe that cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer that are linked with over-nutrition can also be prevented by a fiber-rich diet.  Adding fiber to the diet helps lower blood sugar levels, which is important in avoiding diabetes.  In addition, some people with diabetes can achieve a significant reduction in their blood sugar levels and may be able to reduce their medication.  In addition, rapid digestion leads to a rapid release of glucose into the bloodstream.  To cope with this, the body has to release large amounts of insulin into the bloodstream, and this can make a person more likely to develop gall stones and kidney stones as well as diabetes and high cholesterol.

The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine recommends that adult males under 50 consume 38 grams of fiber a day (men 50+ should eat around 30 grams daily), and adult women should include about 25 grams (for 50+: 21 grams) in their diet. That may sound like a lot by itself, but there are some simple ways to ensure you are getting your fair share of fiber.  Choose whole-grain breads and pasta over processed products.  Eat more of your fruits and vegetables raw, leaving the skin on whenever possible.  Replace juices with whole fruit to feel fuller and get more nutrition for the same number of calories.  Snack on nuts instead of chips; the healthy omega-3 fatty acids will help you feel full, with the added benefit of fiber.

Here are some suggestions from the Mayo Clinic on how to add more fiber into your diet:

  1. Eat a high-fiber cereal for breakfast (5 or more grams of fiber per serving). You can also add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.
  2. Add crushed bran cereal of unprocessed what bran to baked products such as meatloaf, breads, muffins, casseroles, cakes and cookies.  You can also use bran products as crunchy topping for casseroles, salads or cooked vegetables.
  3. Switch to whole-grain breads. These breads list whole wheat, whole-wheat flour or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label. Look for a brand with at least 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving.
  4. Substitute whole-grain flour for half or all of the white flour when baking bread. Whole-grain flour is heavier than white flour. In yeast breads, use a bit more yeast or let the dough rise longer. When using baking powder, increase it by 1 teaspoon for every 3 cups of whole-grain flour.
  5. Eat more whole grains and whole-grain products. Experiment with brown rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta and bulgur.
  6. Take advantage of ready-to-use vegetables. Mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce. Snack on baby carrots.
  7. Eat more beans, peas and lentils. Add kidney beans to canned soup or a green salad. Or make nachos with refried black beans, baked tortilla chips and salsa.
  8. Eat fruit at every meal. Apples, bananas, oranges, pears and berries are good sources of fiber.
  9. Make snacks count. Fresh and dried fruit, raw vegetables, and low-fat popcorn and whole-grain crackers are all good choices.