Archive for Heart Health

Sleep Deprivation and Heart Health – A Serious Link

Our busy lifestyles often leave us little time for rest, which has resulted in a major change in sleep patterns. Now people sleep an hour to two hours less than they did just 50 years ago. While some people might consider this great for productivity, it’s not a good situation for our health. Recent research indicates there’s a link between those shorter hours of sleep and an increased potential to develop heart disease.

Man with sleep deprivationIn the United States, heart disease is reported to be the leading cause of death and disability, with strokes being the number 4 cause. A major threat factor in both cases is high blood pressure.

The lack of sleep—or prolonged sleep—isn’t necessarily the cause of heart disease, but it definitely affects the heart disease risk factors in terms of arrhythmia, stroke and heart failure.

These are the kinds of statistics that research has revealed about sleep deprivation:

  • A 48% increase in the risk of getting or dying from coronary heart disease (CHD);
  • A 15% risk increase in developing or dying from stroke;
  • Interestingly, there is also a 38% risk increase of CHD in people who sleep too much, such as nine or more hours a night!

Just like the rest of your body, your heart needs rest. It never stops beating, so resting that reduces the heart rate and blood pressure is essential to its health.

Sleep Regulates Your Health!

While you sleep, your body regulates insulin levels, hormone levels,including stress hormones, and blood pressure. When you don’t get enough sleep it throws all of those things out of sync.

It’s those hormone levels, in particular, which affect your appetite and energy. When those decrease because you’re tired, you have a greater chance for weight gain, the development of insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of physiological and biochemical abnormalities associated with initiating cardiovascular disease. This is because it triggers inflammation, and studies have shown that inflammation causes high blood pressure. This explains why the risk of stroke or heart attack shoots up when you don’t get enough sleep.

If you already have a heart problem, even short-term sleep deficit is shown to be harmful. The effect of daylight saving time, which strips away that extra hour of additional sleep in spring, is known to increase the risk for heart attacks by a surprising 4%!

The depth of your sleep is also important. Along with shorter sleep, shallow sleep can result in hypertension. Without long periods of deep rest, the important chemicals needed to keep the heart rate and blood pressure lowered, aren’t activated. So, the longer you sleep deeply, the better rested you are and the better your heart feels.

Sleep Apnea

Not everyone suffers from sleep apnea, but the manner in which the condition affects heart health is one of the reasons the “sleep and hearth health” link has been identified.

Sleep apnea causes snoring and gasping for breath while a person sleeps. That condition results in the heart rate increasing, a rise in blood pressure, and frequently disrupted sleep. All of the bodily functions that normally slow down at night are forced to continue operating at a higher rate of activity. Over time, the higher blood pressure carries over into the day. Some researchers believe at least one-third of identified cases of high blood pressure among adults are due to sleep apnea. As mentioned above, high blood pressure during the day increases the chance for cardiovascular issues.

Sleep Deprivation Catches Up with You

No one intentionally decides they just aren’t going to get enough sleep. Even night owls require down time to rejuvenate, and people who thrive on activity and long hours are forced to sleep whether they want to or not. But in many cases it’s simply difficult to fall asleep, or to stay asleep when you finally manage to drift off. That can be due to external factors, such as work, children, emergencies, a middle-of-the-night phone call, a restless partner or pet, an uncomfortable bed, or to internal factors such as worry, anxiety, bad dreams, depression, excitement, or sundry other mental intrusions.

A lack of sleep causes “sleep debt,” which isn’t unlike being overdrawn at your bank. It catches up with your body, and your body won’t let you go without repaying the debt. People don’t adapt to getting less sleep. Eventually all of your functions are impaired and you have to react.

Here are a few tips to help with sleep issues:

  • Get a little exercise during the day
  • Keep regular bedtime hours
  • Refrain from late night snacks; especially caffeine and alcohol
  • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet
  • Limit your use electronics such as a tablet or a cell phone

If you need extra help, a cup of soothing herbal tea, accompanied by a a small dose (1 to 3 mg.) of melatonin may help you fall asleep.

There is an Irish proverb that says “A good laugh and good sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” An excellent perspective to embrace in order to keep your heart healthy!

Want to Protect Your Heart? Eat Red Meat Like Grandpa Used To

By now, if you follow the latest diet trends you might be a little confused. What’s the best way to eat if you want to be healthy? Should you follow a low fat, high carb diet or just the opposite? Should you eat like a caveman or live on protein shakes?

If you’ve always thought that Grandpa and Grandma ate what they wanted to and seemed to do just fine — you may be right.

image of a grilled steakOver the decades, many medical experts have led us to think that red meat, whole milk, eggs and bacon are enemies to good health and a healthy heart. But are these deeply ingrained beliefs really accurate?

It doesn’t seem so. A meta analysis (a review of research about previous research) of almost 400 studies indicate that saturated fat rich foods like beef and full fat dairy won’t increase your risk for heart disease..(1)

Another study, executed by the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Pennsylvania State University between 2007 and early 2009, showed that a daily serving (between 4 and 5.5 ounces of lean beef) actually reduced cholesterol levels when eaten alongside a healthy diet consisting of vegetables, fruit and whole grains.

Grass-fed beef delivers superior benefits

To ensure you’re getting the highest quality beef, look for grass fed and grass finished beef. The fat in cattle raised under these conditions delivers three to five times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a powerful fatty acid, than the CLA in grain feed cattle.

CLA is also found in raw, grass-fed dairy.

The proven benefits of conjugated linoleic acid include:

  • Improvements in long-term weight management
  • lowered inflammation within the body
  • improvements in insulin resistance
  • reduction of tumor size in patients who have cancer
  • lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels

In addition to CLA, grass feed beef has higher levels of certain vitamins including vitamin E, thiamin and riboflavin and is higher in omega 3 fatty acids.

As for whole fat dairy, a frothy glass of ice cold whole milk could also benefit your heart. That’s because the calcium in the milk helps to lower blood pressure and the vitamin K2, found in whole milk has artery protecting benefits. Organic whole milk is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. And if you eat raw cheese, you’ll tap into even more of the benefits of conjugated linoleic acid.

So back to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s diet. (For you twenty and thirty year olds, you may need to think back one more generation.) If you’re like me, you may remember a relative who lived to a ripe old age. In my case, it was my grandmother, who lived to be one month shy of 98. She was very healthy, never fussed over her cholesterol levels and ate what she wanted to.

So what was the difference with this generation of healthy 70, 80 and 90 year olds? The answer seems pretty simple.

Your Nana and PawPaw, and my grandmother, ate lots of home cooked food, including meats, vegetables and whole grains. My grandmother started off each morning with yogurt and fresh fruit.

What they didn’t do was eat a shopping carts worth of highly processed foods like potato chips and crackers each week. Neither did they supplement their daily meals with McDonalds and Taco Bell. And if you were to monitor their sugar consumption, you’d probably find that they drank less soda pop and ate fewer desserts.

Vegetables were a stable of their diet. And exercise was a natural part of their daily routines, whether it took the form of gardening, raking leaves or walking to the store.

We know that it’s hard to let go of long held beliefs, so If you’re still afraid that a steak might not be good for you, then follow the American Heart Association recommendations — 6 ounces of lean meat a day. Lean cuts include chuck, loin, sirloin or round. In the context of healthy eating, there’s nothing wrong with adding red meat and whole fat dairy in moderation to your diet.

So, if you’re craving a succulent grilled steak, go fire up the grill. And if you’re accompanying that steak with a baked potato you might try adding some grated raw milk cheddar cheese to the top.

Go ahead, live a little! You deserve it.

5 Little Known Ways to Lower Cholesterol Without Statins

High cholesterol is an all too common problem in our society. There are people whose genetic makeup predisposes them to unhealthy levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. But, for the vast majority of us, this condition is mainly caused by lifestyle choices.an image of junk food

So the solution would seem to better eating and more exercise. But what if those habits haven’t been enough to get your levels back into a normal range?

A trip to the doctor will often result in a prescription statin medication. Unfortunately, these popular drugs can have serious side effects like muscle pain and weakness. However, there are other natural alternatives to lower cholesterol without Statins.

1. Eat Healthy Fats

Cholesterol has gotten a bad rap because researchers believe it to be linked to heart disease and strokes. However, cholesterol is actually a naturally occurring, fatty substance produced by the liver. It is a vital to our overall health. The trouble starts when cholesterol levels get too high. This can lead to the build up of plaque in the arteries and deprive the heart, brain and other vital organs of adequate blood flow.

One way to keep cholesterol levels in check is by incorporating healthy fats into your diet. Olive oil, coconut oil, peanuts and avocados are all sources of healthy fats that will actually work to reduce “bad” fats in your bloodstream. So will many fish oils.

2. Cut out Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates

One of the biggest misconceptions about high cholesterol levels is that they are caused by eating fat. This pervasive logic lead to the demonization of the egg. Now we now know the egg is one of the few perfect proteins that exist in nature.

Recent studies have also revealed that high cholesterol levels, as well high triglycerides, are often the result of eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrates.

If you’ve switched to a low-fat diet in an effort to achieve normal cholesterol levels, you’ve missed the target. Low fat diets often dish up increased servings of pastas and breads.

The key to reducing high triglyceride levels is to limit your sugar intake, eat plenty of vegetables (5 to 7 servings per day), legumes and healthy fats. The Mediterranean diet is a good model of one such diet.

Many people have had great success with the Paleo Diet as well. Contrary to popular belief, this way of eating is not about stuffing yourself with huge servings of meat.

The primary focus of the Paleo Diet is to eliminate grains and legumes, as many people have difficulty digesting these food sources. Use of vegetable oils, oils, soybean and canola oils are discouraged, as these oils are often derived from genetically modified crops, while conventional processing leaves them rancid.

Proponents of the Paleo diet eat healthy fats, such as nuts and seeds, olive, coconut and palm oils. The focus is upon large quantities of vegetables, healthy animal proteins, such as pastured-raised eggs and chickens and grass-fed beef as well as sustainable seafood choices.

3. Take Natural Cholesterol lowering Supplements

Biolipotrol from Biogensis is one example of a professional-grade supplement that uses natural ingredients to return your cholesterol and triglyceride levels back to a safe level. This special formula contains red rice yeast, green tea and CoQ10, which work together to help your body metabolize fat. Using this supplement in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle enables your body to process and dispose of fats instead of allowing them to build up in your blood stream and cause blockages.

Cardio Edge by Douglas Labs is another powerful supplement that can help reduce cholesterol. This special blend contains vitamins and concentrated plant sterols, powerful cholesterol lowering chemicals that naturally occur in small doses in certain foods.

4. Eat More Fiber

Not only does fiber help you stay regular and keep your digestive system in working order, it also acts as a natural cleansing system for cholesterol. Fiber can work to soak up excess cholesterol and allow your body to dispose of excess fats.

Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet is a simple and easy way to increase fiber intake and send a all-natural maid to tidy up your bloodstream and vessels.

5. Drink Green Tea

If you take a close look at the ingredients in a lot of metabolism boosting and cholesterol lower supplements, you will notice that many of them contain green tea. This super drink is full of antioxidants and has been proven to lower levels of bad cholesterol. If you are eating well, exercising and taking plant sterol based supplements, drinking a few cups of green tea everyday will provide another boost in the fight against high cholesterol. Look for green teas that are naturally decaffeinated to enjoy the full benefits.

With heart disease there are very few symptoms and warning signs. Even subtle symptoms are easy to dismiss and chalk up to other causes like fatigue. If you eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and don’t smoke, it may not even occur to you that an increase in high cholesterol levels could be putting you at risk.

Take the first step and get your levels tested. Once you are aware of your own cholesterol levels, you can take proper precautions, by adding natural cholesterol supplements to your daily healthy regimen. If you’d like more information about our Nutritional medicine programs, contact us by clicking the link, or by calling (972) 840-2520.