Archive for the ‘Healthy Living’ Category
April 9, 2015
Have you ever raised a teenager, bought a house, planned a wedding or had a deadline at work that you almost missed? Stress occurs more often than we think and can actually be a positive source of motivation – helping us complete deadlines or push harder across the finish line. Stress may also be brought on by life changes such as moving, financial strain, job satisfaction or loss of a loved one. When stress is prolonged over a period of time, or not managed properly it often becomes chronic, which can impact your overall health. The good news? There are activities that you can do to reduce the impact that stress has in your life.
Here are some effects that stress has on your body:
Unhealthy Food Cravings
Find yourself reaching for that pint of ice cream when you’re stressed? There’s a scientific reason for that! Cortisol, a hormone released by your body when it’s stressed, is linked to cravings for sugar and fat.
Stress can actually increase the amount of fat that your body stores and enlarges the size of fat cells. This can lead to weight gain and increase your risk for obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol – key risk factors for cardiovascular disease [link to health screening for heart disease). Exercise, however, can help combat fat storage, in addition to reducing your overall stress level. So find a regimen that works for you and stick to it.
If you suffer from chronic stress, it could be affecting your heart health. While an exact link between chronic stress and heart attacks isn’t clear, studies have shown that individuals who suffer from job related stress have a 23% more likely to have a first heart attack vs. people with no job related stress.
Stress may occasionally keep you up at night, but if you have long-term stress it can disrupt your sleep pattern and potentially cause a disorder.
Stress can cause everything from a minor headache to a migraine. This is due to “fight or flight” chemicals that your body releases, in addition to making your muscles tense up.
Severe stress can harm your locks. Stress can trigger hair loss from an autoimmune condition known as alopecia areata. If stress is coupled with anxiety, it can contribute to a mental disorder that gives people an urge to pull their own hair out.
Stress can raise blood sugar, and if you have type 2 diabetes, you may notice that your blood sugar levels are higher if you are stressed.
Stress can cause heartburn, stomach cramps and diarrhea or, if you have these conditions, make them worse.
Raises Blood Pressure
Being in a stressful situation can raise your blood pressure by constricting your blood vessels and speeding up your heart rate. While in most cases this is temporary, it’s unclear if chronic stress can cause long-lasting effects.
Research now shows that major stress can actually reduce the amount of brain tissue in areas that regulate emotions and self-control.
Stress causes your muscles to tense as a part of the “fight or flight” response system, which can cause short instances of pain and contribute to ongoing chronic pain.
Stress has been linked to an increased risk of stroke (link to carotid artery screening page). Even if you are generally healthy, suffering a stressful event within the past year increases your stroke risk.
Suffering stress chronically or from a traumatic event shortens telomeres, which are protective camps on the ends of chromosomes in cells, causing your cells to age more quickly.
Stress may amplify the immune response to asthma triggers such as pollen, animal dander, or dust.
Individuals who are sensitive to stress can experience seizure-like symptoms, including far-off staring and convulsions if they are in high stress situations.
Reducing Stress in Your Life
While this list of health complications from stress is long, the good news is that healthy habits can make a huge impact in combating them. Following an exercise routine in addition to a nutritionally balanced diet can make all the difference.
Don’t Let Stress Impact Your Health
If you have experienced one or more effects above, we invite you to take our health risk assessment. Our health risk assessment uses identifiable health information to help you determine your risk factors for chronic illnesses and what preventive health screenings can enable you to learn if you are at risk for vascular disease, peripheral arterial disease, and other chronic illnesses.
April 3, 2015
April is Stress Awareness Month, so we’re taking some time to spread the word about how stress can negatively impact your health. Stress can be highly personal, with one person’s unpleasant experience another’s exhilarating adventure. And a little bit of stress is thought to be good for memory and motivation. However, about 70% of doctor visits and 80% of serious illnesses may be exacerbated or linked to stress.
March 26, 2015
Picking healthy snacks at the grocery store can feel pretty confusing. There are thousands of foods, many touted as beneficial or nutritional, to choose from. We put two popular high-protein snacks—cottage cheese and plain Greek yogurt—head-to-head to find out. Which is healthier: this or that?
Winner: Greek yogurt. But when it comes to high-protein snacks, it’s close to a draw!
Greek yogurt, with fewer calories and sodium, and more calcium and probiotics, ultimately takes the win
Protein-Rich Snacks: They’re both rich in lean protein, with cottage cheese having slightly more. Nonfat cottage cheese has 24 g of protein per cup, while Greek yogurt comes in just under at 20 grams. Both the yogurt and cottage cheese are available in low-fat and fat-free versions.
Calcium: But Greek yogurt has a slight edge in calcium—a mineral most people need more of. A cup has 150 mg, while a cup of cottage cheese only has 125 mg.
Lower in Calories: Greek yogurt contains fewer calories—120 per cup, vs. 160 for cottage cheese. It’s also more likely to contain probiotics (live active cultures of gut-friendly bacteria).
But one clear distinction steers the choice: Cottage cheese can be loaded with sodium. Just 1 cup of cottage cheese can deliver more than 5 times the sodium found in Greek yogurt.
Some cottage cheese brands have 700 mg of sodium in 1 cup, which is almost one third of the recommended daily limit of 2,300 mg.
The same amount of Greek yogurt delivers just 85 mg. That’s a game-changer for us.
With fewer calories and sodium, more calcium and probiotics, Greek yogurt takes the win. Look for plain low-fat and nonfat varieties, though, as flavored Greek yogurt can contain a lot of added sugar.
© Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
March 23, 2015
Two out of three Americans over age 60 have hypertension (BP ≥ 140/90), which puts them at increased risk for health problems such as stroke. Always check with your doctor first, then try these foods to naturally reduce blood pressure.
Don’t just eat ’em, drink ’em too. When people with high blood pressure drank 8 ounces of beet juice, their blood pressure dipped an average of 10 points for up to 24 hours afterwards, notes a study published in Hypertension. While this study was relatively small (and beet’s long-term effects on blood pressure weren’t studied), research suggests that eating nitrate-rich foods like beets and green leafy vegetables could help people with hypertension by widening blood vessels and aiding blood flow.
Besides sipping beet juice, slice and roast beets to top a salad with goat cheese.
Research in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition now suggests walnuts, long touted as healthy, may lower blood pressure. When adults ate about ½ cup of walnuts daily for four months, they had better blood flow, lower blood pressure and smaller waists. Plus, they didn’t gain weight even though they added over 350 calories of walnuts daily. Walnuts deliver healthy fats, magnesium and fiber, which may be the reason they’re good for BP.
They’re yummy solo or try subbing walnuts for pine nuts in pesto.
Eating 3 tablespoons of these nutty seeds daily for 6 months helped people with hypertension lower their blood pressure by an average of 10 percent, says a study published in the journal Hypertension. People who didn’t eat flaxseed saw no change or even a slight increase. Researchers believe the anti-inflammatory effect of the omega-3 fats in combination with lignans (a phytoestrogen) and fiber may be the reason flax is good for blood pressure.
Sprinkle ground flaxseeds into your yogurt, smoothie or homemade granola.
Vegetarians had lower blood pressure compared to omnivores by an average of 7 points systolic (the top number) and 5 points diastolic in a JAMA Internal Medicine review.
Put a ring on it!
Married couples experienced lower dips in blood pressure readings overnight than single people, according to a new study in the Journal of Hypertension. Researchers chalk the drop up to better social support or the tendency for married couples to have better overall health.
© Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
March 13, 2015
In a recent study, the Mediterranean diet, when followed strictly, was shown to lower the risk of ischemic stroke in women, which can occur as a result of Carotid Artery Disease.
The Mediterranean diet includes fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts, whole grains, fish, lean poultry and a lot of olive oil. It restricts the consumption of red meats, dairy, sugar and saturated fats.
Following the diet strictly could help lower your ischemic stroke the most, which occurs as a result of carotid artery disease, as well as cardiovascular risk factors. So what should you pick up at your next trip to the grocery store? Here’s a quick guide to get you started:
Stock up on Plenty of Fruits and Veggies
Fresh, nonstarchy produce is the star of this diet. Eat 5 to 10 servings a day (a half-cup cooked or 1 cup raw equals one serving).
Choose Healthy Fats
Olives and their oil are cornerstones; go for four to six servings per day (a serving could be 1 tsp. of olive oil, 5 olives or 1/8 of an avocado). Olive oil delivers healthy monounsaturated fats and plant compounds called polyphenols.
Fill up on Seeds, Nuts & Legumes
These are a great source of fiber and protein; nuts and seeds also provide healthy fats and antioxidants. Eat a serving of legumes (1/2 cup, cooked)—found in hummus or lentil soup—at least twice a week and a small portion of nuts daily (about 1 Tbsp., or 10 to 12 almonds or walnut halves).
Focus on Eggs & Fish
Aim to eat a 4-oz. serving of fish (about the size of a checkbook) two to three times a week. Eggs are also on the menu: Whip them into a vegetable frittata. Lean meat and poultry are OK, too, in moderation.
Have (a little) Dairy
Work in dairy from cultured milk (kefir, yogurt, fresh curd cheeses like ricotta); it’s easier to digest and supplies beneficial bacteria that contribute to digestive health. Enjoy one to three servings daily (a serving is 1 cup of milk or yogurt or 1 oz. of cheese).
Opt for Whole Grains
Refined carbs lack nutrients and can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. Whole grains are best; have four small daily portions of whole-wheat bread, or try a pasta made from quinoa. And always eat grains with healthy fats and protein. Incorporate sprouted or fermented grains (hello, sourdough!) for easier digestion and better nutrient absorption. Or look for creative ways to swap out grains, such as using spaghetti squash in place of noodles.
Use Plenty of Herbs and Spices
They’re full of plant compounds with antioxidant and inflammation-fighting effects.
Make water a go-to. Many Mediterraneans sip espresso after meals to aid digestion. In North Africa, they choose antioxidant-rich green tea combined with mint for the same reason.