Brain Circuit Connects Feeding And Mood In Response To Stress

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Submitted by the Baylor College of Medicine….

stressMany people have experienced stressful situations that trigger a particular mood and also change certain feelings toward food. An international team led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine looked into the possibility of crosstalk between eating and mood and discovered a brain circuit in mouse models that connects the feeding and the mood centers of the brain. Published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, these findings may help explain some of the observations between changes in mood and metabolism and provide insights into future solutions to these problems by targeting this circuit.

“This study was initiated by first author Dr. Na Qu, a psychiatrist of Wuhan Mental Health Center, China, when she was visiting my lab,” said corresponding author Dr. Yong Xu, associate professor of pediatrics and of molecular and cellular biology at Baylor College of Medicine.

Qu, a practicing psychiatrist who also conducts basic brain research, was interested in investigating whether there was a neurological basis for the association between depression and other psychiatric disorders and alterations in metabolism, such as obesity or lack of appetite, she had observed in a number of her patients.

Xu, Qu and their colleagues worked with a mouse model of depression induced by chronic stress and observed that depressed animals ate less and lost weight. Then, they applied a number of experimental techniques to identify the neuronal circuits that changed activity when the animals were depressed.

“We found that POMC neurons in the hypothalamus, which are essential for regulating body weight and feeding behavior, extend physical connections into another region of the brain that has numerous dopamine neurons that are implicated in the regulation of mood,” said Xu, who also is a researcher at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital.We know that a decrease in dopamine may trigger depression.”

In addition to the physical connection between the feeding and the mood centers of the brain, the researchers also discovered that when they triggered depression in mice, the POMC neurons were activated and this led to inhibition of the dopamine neurons. Interestingly, when the researchers inhibited the neuronal circuit connecting the feeding and the mood centers, the animals ate more, gained weight and looked less depressed.

“We have discovered that a form of chronic stress triggered a neuronal circuit that starts in a population of cells that are known to regulate metabolism and feeding behavior and ends in a group of neurons that are famous for their regulation of mood,” Xu said. “Stress-triggered activation of the feeding center led to inhibition of dopamine-producing neurons in the mood center.”

Although more research is needed, Xu, Qu and their colleagues propose that their findings provide a new biological basis that may explain some of the connections between mood alterations and changes in metabolism observed in people, and may provide solutions in the future.

“Our findings only explain one scenario, when depression is associated with poor appetite. But in other cases depression has been linked to overeating. We are interested in investigating this second association between mood and eating behavior to identify the neuronal circuits that may explain that response,” Xu said.

Other contributors to this work include Yanlin He, Chunmei Wang, Pingwen Xu, Yongjie Yang, Xing Cai, Hesong Liu, Kaifan Yu, Zhou Pei, Ilirjana Hyseni, Zheng Sun, Makoto Fukuda, Yi Li and Qing Tian. The authors are affiliated with one or more of the following institutions: Baylor College of Medicine, Huazhong University of Science and Technology and China University of Geosciences.

This work received financial support from grants from the National Institutes of Health  (K99DK107008,606 R01DK111436, R01ES027544, R21CA215591), USDA/CRIS (6250-51000-059-04S), American Diabetes Association (1-17-PDF-138), American Heart Association awards  (17GRNT32960003, 16GRNT30970064 and 16POST27260254), National Natural Science Foundation of China (81400886), Hubei Province health and family planning scientific research project (WJ2015Q033) and Population and Family Planning Commission of Wuhan (WX14B34). Further support was provided by award and fellowships from Wuhan Young & Middle-Aged Talents, Health and Family Planning Commission of Wuhan Municipality and China Scholarship Council (File NO.201608420019).

Nutritious Back-To-School Meals

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Submitted by the Baylor College of Medicine…..

healthychoicePlanning children’s meals during the school week can be made simple when providing nutritious foods. Alicia Beltran, research dietitian at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital, maps out healthy meals and snacks to feed your child before, during and after school.

Breakfast

Protein fills you up for longer, so you should always include protein in your child’s breakfast. Eggs are a perfect and flexible meal that keep your child full, especially if you incorporate vegetables, which adds more fiber to the meal. Another simple morning meal is a quesadilla with chicken and cheese. Make this with a whole wheat flour or corn tortilla for more fiber and less fat. Serve this with a side of fruit and milk to give your child energy for school.

For a quick breakfast, you can give your child yogurt with fresh fruit and granola so they get their dairy and grains. You can also make them a fruit smoothie. According to Beltran, parents often serve their children orange juice, which is simple sugar since you are not incorporating the fiber of a fresh orange, and is not filling. Instead, make a fresh fruit smoothie with no added sugar to get more nutrients that will keep them full.

Lunch

Make sure you always include protein, whether it’s baked or grilled chicken or low-sodium deli meat. For adequate dairy intake, pack cheese, yogurt or milk in your child’s lunch. Be careful when purchasing yogurt, as many of them contain added sugars. Fruit flavored yogurt also can double as dessert for the meal. It’s important to always include fresh fruit or vegetables in their lunch – preferably both. Talk to your child to learn which produce they prefer, and pack them for lunch daily.

Parents often choose easy meals over nutritious foods for their children’s lunches. Buying processed foods seems easier, but you spend more money purchasing this instead of taking time to prepare healthier meals for lunch. Beltran suggests making tuna or chicken salad with Greek yogurt instead of the traditional fatty mayo. Children can enjoy this in a sandwich with whole wheat bread or in a whole wheat wrap. You can also change it up and serve it with crackers.

“You can use the same protein in different recipes, depending on what your kid prefers.”

Avoid packing sports beverages or juices that are not 100 percent juice, since they contain added sugars. Chocolate milk should not be their main source of dairy for the meal, but can be packed as a dessert or treat. Pack plain milk for dairy. Children should drink water throughout the day. If they want flavor, try adding fresh orange slices or other fruits to their water. Make sure your child always has water and can refill their bottle at school.

“Add a little treat or note for dessert. It’s ok to pack a small cookie or piece of chocolate from time to time. Just choose wisely,” Beltran said

After-school snacks

Children should eat a snack after school to keep energized for homework and extracurricular activities. Beltran lists nutritional snacks that will keep kids full until dinner:

  • Cheese sticks or string cheese
  • Cut up fruits and vegetables
  • Raisins
  • Trail mix
  • Plain popcorn
  • Fruits they can easily peel, such as citrus like mandarins or cuties
  • Carrots with hummus or low-fat ranch
  • Small peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a small amount of jelly

saladheartRefrain from giving children sugary cereal, candy or other snacks that are high in sugar after school. These snacks will not fill them up or hold them over for dinner. They will grow hungry and cranky quickly.

“Plan ahead. Making lunch doesn’t have to be a nightmare,” Beltran explains. “Take your kid to the grocery store and involve them in the preparation. This makes it fun for them, and they will enjoy it more.”

Common Fitness Mistakes And How To Correct Them

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Submitted by the Baylor College of Medicine….

stretchRegular exercise or sports participation is a great way to sustain a healthy lifestyle, but mistakes in your training could lead to injury or keep you from achieving your fitness goals. A sports medicine expert at Baylor College of Medicine discusses common mistakes that can result in injury.

Repetitive Stress Injuries

“Repetitive stress injuries are common when you are doing the same activity, such as running, swimming, throwing and lifting repeatedly, particularly without supportive cross-training, core conditioning and rest days,” said Dr. Theodore Shybut, associate professor in the Joseph Barnhart Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Baylor.

Often when people experience pain during their preferred activity, they try to push through it or rest for a minimal amount of time and resume the activity as soon as it starts to feel slightly improved. Shybut advises stepping back and looking at the big picture.

“It doesn’t make any sense to push back to activity too fast. If the stresses of a sport or exercise have resulted in injury, returning to that same activity too quickly may not allow for proper healing and recovery,” he said.

It’s important to identify issues early on, he said. For example, speaking from his own personal experience as a Boston and New York Marathon runner, people training for a marathon generally start training 15 to 24 weeks ahead of time. They can get too focused on their day-to-day workout goals, pushing through pain to complete a day of training, and lose sight of the overall goal of finishing the race.

But according to Shybut, people training for a marathon should identify pain early and take a few days to a few weeks off to cross-train, work on corrective rehabilitation and let the issue resolve before pushing back into hard training. Evaluation by a sports medicine specialist and rehabilitation with a good physical therapist also may be beneficial and is recommended for any pain that persists.

The same is true for repetitive upper extremity workouts, such as swimming, throwing, Olympic lifting, rowing, etc. Shoulder pain can indicate rotator cuff injury, muscle strain, an impingement syndrome, and evaluation with an experienced sports medicine specialist can help diagnose the problem and optimal treatment.

Muscle pulls and tennis elbow also are common with repetitive workouts. Keep in mind tennis elbow does not only occur during tennis. It can be the result of any repetitive stress, including lifting weights, rowing, other racquet sports and may even occur in some professions such as butchers, plumbers and carpenters whose work involves repetitive wrist and forearm activities.

seniorjoggerIt is fine to rest for a few days and modify training to pain-free activities to see how your injury responds. Some training aches such as delayed onset muscle soreness will improve, and athletes may quickly resume high intensity training. If pain persists, see a sports medicine physician or physical therapist.

“It’s important to remember that when you see world-class or elite-level athletes, they have done a lot of extra work in training to get where they are. This includes cross-training, proper dynamic warmups, strengthening and flexibility work, preventative exercises, core fitness and corrective exercises focused on the weakest elements of their kinetic chains,” Shybut said.

It’s also important to understand your fitness program may have relative deficiencies, Shybut said. Common deficient areas include core strength, postural and small muscle groups, endurance and eccentric tolerances. The goal of a good corrective program is to find a way to strengthen the deficient muscles in a way that replicates the activity without the extreme level of stress and build the muscles up so that they are strong enough to handle the actual sport or movement, for example throwers performing a PEP (Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance) program or runners doing eccentric single leg squats.

Proper Technique

Understanding the proper technique for different workouts is key in injury prevention. Using bad form during activities such as squatting can aggravate your knees or strain your back if the body is not properly aligned.

Shybut suggested engaging with a fitness trainer with a strong rehabilitation background when starting a new workout routine.

Too Much To Soon

Shybut said that he often sees injuries when people do too much too soon in a new exercise routine. For example, if you’re starting high-intensity interval training that involves Olympic lifts and sprints, where muscles are maximally engaged, be aware of your baseline fitness first. If you haven’t been working out, start with basic cardiovascular fitness exercises, including walking, biking or swimming. Start weight training with light-resistance exercises to get comfortable with the proper form before you “max out.” Seek out coaching guidance.

“It’s important to know when to stop, and severe pain should be a red flag. While some soreness is normal, the amount of soreness you experience with workouts should decreases as your body adapts. See a sports medicine specialist for evaluation if you experience joint pain, swelling, painful popping or catching, or instability,” Shybut said. “Exercise is medicine, so do exercise and have fun.”

Kidney Stones: What You Need To Know

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Submitted by the Baylor College of Medicine…..

BaylorCollegeRoughly half a million people – both men and women – will head to the emergency room this year for issues related to kidney stones. A Baylor College of Medicine expert discusses symptoms, treatments and prevention of kidney stones.

 What are Kidney Stones?

“Kidney stones are hard crystalline deposits that are made from the chemicals in urine, and the size can range from a grain of sand to a golf ball,” said Dr. Wesley Mayer, assistant professor of urology at Baylor. He explains that urolithiasis, or kidney stones, is a catchall term used to indicate stones that may be located anywhere in the urinary tract, including the kidney, bladder or ureter.

 Symptoms

One of the most common signs of kidney stones is pain, ranging from mild to extreme. Areas of pain can be variable and can include the front and side of your lower torso, your back, beneath or below your ribs, groin, pelvis, and reproductive organs. The most common pattern, however, is pain that radiates from the back to the groin.

 Other symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • Painful urination, urgency, frequency and pelvic pressure
  • Blood in your urine
  • Fever (see your doctor or an emergency room immediately if fever is accompanied by urinary tract obstruction)
  • Nausea or vomiting

Tests and Treatments

doctorIf you are experiencing the symptoms above, consult your doctor. Imaging methods to test for kidney stones include CT scan, ultrasound and X-ray.

Some urine and blood tests can be used to determine whether you have too much of a particular substance, such as calcium or uric acid in your blood or urine, which can cause kidney stones.

 There are multiple treatment options. One is passing the stone through urination, but there are a few points you must ensure before attempting this:

Good renal function

No infections

Well-controlled pain

Reasonable likelihood of spontaneous stone passage

Able to keep down liquids without vomiting

If you do not pass the checkpoints, you may need surgery to remove the stone. If you have a small stone (less than 1.5 to 2 centimeters), there is shockwave or laser lithotripsy, which breaks up the stone with shockwaves or lasers so the pieces can then be removed. If you have a bigger stone (more than 1.5 to 2 centimeters), there is PCNL (percutaneous lithotomy), a minimally-invasive procedure that allows access to the kidney directly through a small incision in the back and breaks the stone into smaller pieces to be vacuumed out.

Causes and Prevention

According to Dr. Mayer, some medicines can increase the risk of stone formation, including high-dose Vitamin C, Airborne, Emergen-C and Topomax (migraine relief medicine), among others. There also are common dietary causes such as an excessive amount of salt and animal protein consumption, processed foods, underconsumption of fruits and vegetables, and being dehydrated. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking at least 80-100 fluid ounces of water a day.

Other important tips regarding prevention include:

  • Drink lemon water to help reduce the risk of developing kidney stones.
  • Don’t cut out calcium-rich foods but talk to your doctor before taking a calcium supplement.
  • Consume salt, animal protein and processed food in moderation; target less than 3,000 milligrams of sodium per day. Read food labels to help stay on track.

The 31st Anniversary Of Project ACES

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The 31st anniversary of Project ACES (All Children Exercise Simultaneously) will be taking place on May 1st, 2019.  Come join the fun.

Project ACES is a signature program of the Youth Fitness Coalition, Inc. Project ACES was created by physical education teacher Len Saunders in 1989 as a method of motivating children to exercise. ACES takes place on the first Wednesday in May as part of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month along with National Physical Education Week. It has been labeled as “the world’s largest exercise class” by the media. Since 1989, millions of children from all over the world exercise together to promote proper health and fitness habits. With the obesity epidemic facing the youth of the world, children’s fitness plays a major role in fighting heart disease. Project ACES hopes to address these issues with its big event in May, as well as schools that participate in daily Project ACES Clubs throughout the year.

To learn more, visit the Project ACES website at:  projectaces.com

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To Fish Oil Or Not To Fish Oil

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Submitted by the Baylor College of Medicine….

didyouknow?We’ve all heard the advice to take a fish oil with omega-3 fatty acids to improve heart health, but are you actually getting the benefits they claim to provide? One Baylor College of Medicine cardiologist says probably not, and that goes for most over-the-counter supplements.

“They may not be bad for you, but you also may not know exactly what you are getting. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and the benefits haven’t been fully investigated,” said Dr. Christie Ballantyne, professor of medicine and chief of the section of cardiology at Baylor. “If you are at high risk for heart attack or stroke and decide to add an over-the-counter fish oil pill to your diet and you think you are getting a benefit, there is a good chance you are not.”

Ballantyne is lead researcher on the REDUCE-IT trial that investigated the effects of icosapent ethyl, a highly purified eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) ethyl ester, which is an omega-3 fatty acid purified from fish oil. People who were at high risk of cardiovascular events despite being on a statin treatment were given a dosage of 4000 mg daily and the results (read more about REDUCE-IT here) did show a decrease in cardiovascular events; however, Ballantyne said an important distinction is the amount and the type of omega-3 fatty acid used and the amount.

“What we use in the REDUCE-IT trial is prescription grade and FDA approved. It is a highly refined form, not what you find in a dietary supplement capsule,” Ballantyne said. “Even if the amount listed on the supplement label is, for example, 1000mg, you should read the ingredients. 1000mg doesn’t mean pure fish oil; there are other elements included and the usual amount of omega 3 fatty acids – EPA and docosahexanoic acid, or DHA – is usually only a total of 300 mg. So, to get the benefits we saw in the trial, you would have to take an enormous number of capsules.” 

Reading the ingredient list is important on all supplements. Not all items are listed on the front label, so make sure to check the small print. In some cases, the added items might actually hurt your health, Ballantyne said. For example, losing weight is a way to improve heart health, but there have been effective weight loss supplements that include ingredients that have been known to increase the risk of cardiovascular events. Also make sure that you purchase a reputable brand as there are some protein powders that claim to be all natural and enhance muscle strength, but include synthetic steroids.

“The ingredients might not be harmful, but if you already have some type of health issue, it could add complications. You should know what you are putting in your body, and you should talk to your doctor about any type of supplements you are taking,” he said. “And if you still want to add certain supplements to your body, the best way to start is to eat healthy and get your required vitamins and health benefits from whole foods.”

Ballantyne also is the director of the Maria and Alando J. Ballantyne Atherosclerosis Clinical Research Laboratory at Baylor, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center and co-director of the Lipid Metabolism and Atherosclerosis Clinic at Houston Methodist. He also holds the J. S. Abercrombie Chair in Atherosclerosis and Lipoprotein Research at Baylor.

The Benefits Of Using Aloe Vera

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Submitted by the Baylor College of Medicine…..

didyouknow?Aloe Vera gel is typically used when you get a little too much sun and need some relief. However, an expert at Baylor College of Medicine says Aloe Vera has multiple benefits for your skin.

“Aloe Vera has lots of uses,” said Kim Chang, aesthetician with the Baylor Aesthetics Studio. “It contains antioxidants, enzymes, Vitamins A and C, and it is highly anti-inflammatory. It can help treat burns, acne and dry skin.”

Chang added that when it comes to acne, Aloe Vera works best on superficial surface acne rather than cystic or deeper acne.

“The enzymes in it can also help exfoliate the skin to make it smoother, but if you are looking for something stronger I would recommend using a grainy exfoliator paired with a pure moisturizer,” she said.

Although Aloe Vera can help moisturize, Chang said when overused, it can dry out the skin. She says that the enzymes in the plant act like an exfoliator and any time you exfoliate the skin too much it will begin to become too oily or too dry depending on your skin type.

Another benefit to Aloe Vera is that it can help with future lines and wrinkles. “One popular question is, can it help get rid of my wrinkles, and the simple answer is no. A big thing to differentiate is that it doesn’t reverse your skin from aging , but helps prevent you from getting deeper wrinkles and lines,” Chang added.

Aloe Vera can also be used on the hair to treat dandruff by rubbing it into your hair and scalp.

Chang says the best way to use Aloe Vera is to carefully cut open a plant’s leaf, scoop out the gel-like insides and apply that to the affected area. If you don’t have a plant at home, Chang says that products containing Aloe work just as well. Although a fresh plant is better to use, the benefit of using products containing aloe is that the product will typically contain other ingredients that will help with what you are trying to treat.

If you are looking to go the extra mile, Chang says you can even find drinks that contain Aloe Vera. “Some people believe that Aloe Vera drinks might help support collagen in your skin which prevents the signs of aging, but there has been little research to support this claim,” she said.

Are Grains Healthy? Important Myths Debunked

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By Kelly Newman

grainWhat once used to be an ordinary food item has now become the talk of the town. Yes, I am talking about the fantastic grains whose nutritional goodness is now a point of disagreement. Years ago before the Paleo and Ketogenic diets came to light grains were a staple ingredient. However, campaigns such as clean eating have given the grains a bad rap and turned them into a dreaded food. In this article, I’ll try to reveal some facts about how favorable grains are! But first, let’s discuss the basics!

What Are Grains?

Grains or Cereals are the edible seeds of certain grasses. These can be further categorized, common types of grains are:

  • Wheat
  • Millets
  • Corn
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa

Nutrients Contained In Grains

Grains are famous for their carbohydrate content. Although carbs are a vital source of energy, yet the term connected with grains gives a somewhat negative impact. If we go a little into details we find out that there are two types of grains:

  • Whole grains/ the unprocessed ones
  • Processed grains

Are Grains Unhealthy? Understanding Refined and Whole Grains

The seed in its original form consists of:

  • Bran– It is a source of Fiber, minerals, vitamin B, and antioxidants
  • Endosperm– It contains starchy carbohydrates and proteins
  • Germ– This is the most nutritious part that includes not just carbs but fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

During processing of the grains, the bran and germ of the kernel are cut off. This means most of the nutrition is eliminated hence refined grains are unhealthy whereas whole grains are beneficial for health.

Grains Contain Phytates, So They Are Harmful!

Another common belief is that grains contain phytates which combine with minerals in the body and prevent them from getting absorbed. For this reason, maybe grains should be avoided? Well, that isn’t true either!

Like nuts and seeds, whole grains also contain phytic acid. However, it only poses a danger if such foods are consumed continuously in large amounts along with a poor diet. So they are perfectly healthy, and you can eat them as much as you’d like.

Carbs Will Make Me Fat!

I have seen a lot of people avoid carbs as they believe it will make them fat and will cause blood sugar to increase. Again I’d like to point out that these characteristics vary with the type of carb you consume. As whole grains contain complex carbohydrates, the digestion takes time, and thus they do not cause the blood sugar to spike.

Low Carb Diets Are Better For Weight Loss!

healthywordsFat was the macronutrient that always considered as the enemy, but the belief began to change. A lot of people now prefer low carb diets as they think they are healthier and efficient. Well, there is a twist; low carbohydrate diets can have beneficial results in the more extended run. A low carb diet can help shed pounds as quickly as some natural cleanse for weight loss.

In a nutshell, carbs aren’t the real enemy; it is the processing that makes them unhealthy. Remember that eating a balanced diet is imperative for good health so don’t give up on them entirely.

– Kelly Newman is a Fitness Trainer and blogger. She loves to write about everything related to fitness and diet and wants to help people adopt a healthier lifestyle. She works with the team behind healthlisted.com and does extensive research to provide people actionable health and nutrition information.

Simple Dietary Changes To Keep Your Heart Healthy

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Submitted By Richard Adams

healthyheartIt’s been said that the human heart is the most important muscle in the body. Bearing in mind the fact that heart disease is currently the number one killer in the developed world this might not be far from the truth. The good news is that keeping your heart in good condition needn’t be rocket science.

Two of the biggest changes we can all make are to eat better and to exercise more. While they’re both important, it is arguably our diets that are most easily changed. In this guide we’ll therefore be looking at some simple and efficient changes you can make to protect your cardiovascular system…

Reduce Your Intake of Saturated Fats

One factor that virtually every cardiologist can agree on is that saturated fat can raise your cholesterol levels, which in turn puts you at greater risk of heart disease. Studies comparing diet with the risk of heart disease have shown that every additional 10 grams of saturated fat consumed per day leads to a 0.03mm increase in the thickness of artery walls; a well-known metric used to measure the appearance of atherosclerosis.

Luckily, not all fats are bad, and many experts believe that unsaturated fats are positively beneficial in your diet. Generally speaking most saturated fats are solid at room temperature, so to keep your heart healthy aim to reduce your consumption of fatty meat, butter, cream and cheese. Some plant oils such as coconut oil and palm oil are also high in saturated fats.

In contrast great sources of healthy unsaturated fats include oily fish, avocados and many nuts and so these should be incorporated regularly into your diet.

Increase Your Fiber Intake

Fiber doesn’t just “keep you regular” – it has also been found to help control your cholesterol levels, and in doing so to help protect you from heart problems. Scientists think that it does this by binding to cholesterol in the food that you eat, so that it is excreted rather than being absorbed into the blood.

This positive impact of fiber on heart disease has been shown time and again in rigorous scientific analysis. For example, one group of scientists followed over 300,000 people for a period of ten years, cross-referencing their intake of fiber with cardiac events. They found that consuming an additional 10 grams of fiber per day was associated with a 14% decrease in the risk of serious heart problems. Indeed, some studies have found evidence that fiber consumption has an even bigger effect on heart health than diets that are high in saturated fats.

So what fiber should you be eating? Much of the research to date has focused on wholegrains, which are known to not only be high in fat but also lead to a slow, steady release of glucose into the bloodstream, meaning more balanced blood sugar. One group of scientists, for example, found that people who consumed 2 servings of wholegrains per day were 21% less likely to suffer from heart disease than people not regularly consuming them. Other great sources of fiber include brown bread and whole meal pasta, together with a whole host of different fruits and vegetables.

At the same time, it isn’t always easy to consume enough fiber with today’s hectic lifestyles. For these individuals the easiest solution is to consider a fiber supplement. Popular options with impressive results demonstrated include psyllium husk, inulin and guar gum that can be bought in powder or tablet form.

Eat More Garlic

healthywordsCholesterol is a normal part of life, and in moderation it is crucial to our survival. Among other things, for example, cholesterol is a key component that makes up the walls of every cell in our bodies.

Problems arise either when the delicate balance between LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and HDL (“good”) cholesterol fails, or when LDL cholesterol is attacked by free radicals in the environment around us.

Experts believe that garlic plays an important role in preventing this chemical reaction that turns LDL cholesterol into OxLDL – a far more dangerous version – which can lead to atherosclerosis and, ultimately, heart disease. In doing so, garlic helps to protect our cardiovascular system.

Focus on Oily Fish

Omega 3 oils are positively associated with reduced inflammation and, as a result, a lessened chance of circulatory problems.

A study tracked almost 85,000 nurses for a period of 14 years. During this time regular questionnaires were completed on diet, while health checks recorded any cardiovascular risk. The study found that the more fish the women consumed, the lower their odds of suffering from coronary heart disease.

The impacts of dietary omega 3 oils have been borne out in numerous other experiments. One experiment provided healthy male volunteers with either 14 grams of fish oil per day or a placebo for a period of six weeks. The experts found cholesterol levels fell by an average of 22% in those participants supplementing with omega 3.

Most health experts recommend that to keep your heart healthy we should all be eating at least two portions of fish per week, with at least one of these being “oily” fish like mackerel or salmon. For people who don’t have the time or inclination to regularly cook fresh fish, studies suggest that fish oil in supplement form offers similar benefits to the heart, though these do of course omit some of the other beneficial nutrients found in whole fish.

Take Plant Sterols

Plant sterols are naturally-occurring compounds that mimic the overall shape of cholesterol in the body. As a result, plant sterols compete with cholesterol in the body, cutting down the amount of cholesterol that binds to cholesterol receptors. The impact of plant sterols can be considerable. Studies have shown, for example, that an intake of just 2 grams of sterols reduces LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels by an average of 10%. Even better, plant sterols are regularly available in supplement form, so it is easy to top up your levels on a daily basis.

Reduce Salt Intake

healthyheartThe human body maintains a careful balance of sodium and potassium – two chemicals that we think of more commonly as “salt”. This balance is crucial as it allows your kidneys to draw excess water out of the body and dispose of it in the form of urine. Excess salt in your diet, however, upsets this balance. As the kidneys are unable to extract water efficiently the end result can be raised blood pressure (hypertension). As you might imagine, this effect can also damage the kidneys when taken to excess.

High blood pressure is known to be a factor in all sorts of unpleasant health conditions. For example, one study on the impact of high blood pressure found that it was responsible for 62% of strokes and 49% of heart disease.

At the same time, studies have looked at the impact of reducing salt intake on the risk of cardiovascular disease. One investigation involved 744 participants who reduced the salt intake by roughly 25% for a period of 18 months. Comparing those patients that had reduced their salt intake with the control group who had not, the risk of developing heart disease reduced by a quarter simply by controlling salt. In other words you want to protect your heart; it therefore makes sense to minimize your salt intake.

Conclusion

Keeping your heart healthy doesn’t need to be rocket science. While you should also consider including regular exercise in your weekly regime there are a host of simple dietary changes that can be made. Cut down on salt and unhealthy fats while bulking up on fiber and oily fish and you’ll be well on your way to long-term heart health. Lastly, as we have seen, supplements like plant sterols, psyllium or cod liver oil capsules can give you a little extra boost when you need it.

– This guest post was written by the expert nutritionists at Simply Supplements, who provide a wide range of different supplements including psyllium husk capsules. Click the link to learn more about fiber supplements.

Common Caregiver Injuries And How To Prevent Them

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By Monica Mendoza

grandparentchildCaregivers come from all walks of life. There are professional caregivers and family caregivers. They work hard to care for those who cannot care for themselves. And yet, too often, it is the caregivers themselves who forget their own well-being. Some caregivers even find themselves encumbered with their own health issues and injuries.

Studies show that in 2015, over 170,000 incidents of documented illness or injury happened in the private nursing and caregiver industry. This translates to roughly 6.8 incidents per 100 workers. Clearly, caregiver injuries have become common and affect a significant percentage of healthcare workers. The most common injuries recorded are sprains and strains, cuts and punctures, fractures, soreness or pain, bruises, and multiple trauma.

These injuries are classified as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). They affect the body’s joints, muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons, particularly the bone structures that support limbs, which are the back and the neck. In order to address these injuries, The Hospital Patient and Healthcare Worker Injury Protection Act was created. It requires healthcare facilities to adopt practices that will reduce the injuries of healthcare workers, especially for those who have to move and lift patients.

Employers of healthcare workers need to make sure that they create measures to avoid injuries. These are some of the activities and situations caregivers should try to steer clear from:

1. Doing Heavy Lifting

Caregivers need to support heavy weights whenever transferring supplies or moving a resident. MSDs occur when caregivers pull or strain their muscles or injure their tendons, ligaments, cartilage, or joints. Employers should make sure that caregivers are equipped with proper gear, like a back brace or weight belt to assist them with the load. Often, healthcare workers are discouraged from wearing these items because putting them on and taking them off can take up a bit of time and effort. However, employers can reinforce this policy to make sure that caregivers follow this rule. Employers can also provide the facility with patient lifts and slings to help lessen the impact of transferring patients or changing their position.

Another precaution that can be employed is to give caregivers the proper training and techniques for lifting. If the caregiver needs to bend down to assist a senior when eating or bathing, advise them to place themselves in a more comfortable position, such as squatting or sitting. They can also be taught to stretch every day to relieve muscle tightness and to make them more flexible.

2. Contact with Illness

Those that need care are often sick or weak. Caregivers often risk constant exposure to bacteria and viruses that may make them more susceptible to contracting illnesses. Also, exposure to blood and other bodily fluids increases a caregiver’s risk of getting sick.

One of the best ways to prevent the spread of diseases is to practice frequent hand washing. Microbes and bacteria may be minimized, if not eliminated, through proper hand hygiene practices such as washing with water and soap and using hand sanitizer. Also, to prevent viruses from entering their bodies, workers may be required to wear surgical masks. Make sure that all staff are vaccinated regularly. And see to it that they get shots for common illnesses such as flu to prevent the occurrence of these diseases.

3. Overworking

It is a reality that communities or homes that provide care may be understaffed due to limited budget. This means caregivers are often overworked — a state that could lead to health issues and illnesses caused by stress. These issues can take a toll on the employees’ physical and mental health, which could then result to lack of sleep, poor eating habits, and increased vulnerability to illnesses.

If it is not at all possible to increase the number of caregivers, one way to avoid overworking the employees is to provide them with regular breaks to rejuvenate themselves. They should be working regular shifts of 8 to 10 hours, and should not be required to be on call outside of the residence. If the caregiver works for over 10 hours, they may make more mistakes since they are too tired. When this happens, employees and residents become susceptible to injury or harm. Make sure that the caregivers are well-rested and ready for their shift.

Choosing a career in the healthcare industry may entail health risks. However, issues that come from heavy lifting, exposure to illnesses, and understaffing can be addressed to prevent further complications and burn outs. Policy enforcement, proper training and equipment, and care for caregivers can go a long way in preventing these common injuries.