Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Heart Disease 101

Heart Disease 101

Heart disease is a broad term used to describe a range of diseases that affect your heart. The various diseases that fall under the umbrella of heart disease include diseases of your blood vessels, such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); heart infections; and heart defects you're born with (congenital heart defects).
The term "heart disease" is often used interchangeably with "cardiovascular disease." Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as infections and conditions that affect your heart's muscle, valves or beating rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease.
Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices.

Heart disease risk factors include:
·         Your age. Simply getting older increases your risk of damaged and narrowed arteries and weakened or thickened heart muscle, which contribute to heart disease.
·         Your sex. Men are generally at greater risk of heart disease. However, the risk for a woman increases after menopause.
·         Family history. A family history of heart disease increases your risk of coronary artery disease, especially if a parent developed it at an early age (before age 55 for a male relative, such as your brother or father, and 65 for a female relative, such as your mother or sister).
·         Smoking. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, and carbon monoxide can damage their inner lining, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis. Heart attacks are more common in smokers than in nonsmokers.
·         Poor diet. A diet that's high in fat, salt and cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease.
·         High blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of your arteries, narrowing the vessels through which blood flows.
·         High blood cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol in your blood can increase the risk of formation of plaques and atherosclerosis. Plaques can be caused by a high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, known as "bad" cholesterol, or a low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as "good" cholesterol.
·         Diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease. Both conditions share similar risk factors, such as obesity and high blood pressure.
·         Obesity. Excess weight typically worsens other risk factors.
·         Physical inactivity. Lack of exercise also is associated with many forms of heart disease and some of its other risk factors, as well.
·         High stress. Unrelieved stress in your life may damage your arteries as well as worsen other risk factors for heart disease.
·         Poor hygiene. Not regularly washing your hands and failure to establish other habits that can help prevent viral or bacterial infections can put you at risk of heart infections, especially if you already have an underlying heart condition. Poor dental health also may contribute to heart disease.

Heart disease can be improved — or even prevented — by making certain lifestyle changes. The following changes can help anyone who wants to improve his or her heart health:
·         Stop smoking. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, especially atherosclerosis. Nicotine constricts blood vessels and forces your heart to work harder, and carbon monoxide reduces oxygen in your blood and damages the lining of your blood vessels. If you smoke, quitting is the best way to reduce your risk of heart disease and its complications.
·         Control your blood pressure. Ask your doctor for a blood pressure measurement at least every two years. He or she may recommend more frequent measurements if your blood pressure is higher than normal or you have a history of heart disease. Optimal blood pressure is less than 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, as measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
·         Check your cholesterol. Ask your doctor for a baseline cholesterol test when you're in your 20s and then at least every five years. If your test results aren't within desirable ranges, your doctor may recommend more frequent measurements. Most people should aim for an LDL level below 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 3.4 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). If you have other risk factors for heart disease, your target LDL may be below 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L). If you're at very high risk of heart disease - if you've already had a heart attack or have diabetes, for example - your target LDL level is below 70 mg/dL (1.8 mmol/L).
·         Keep diabetes under control. If you have diabetes, tight blood sugar control can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
·         Get moving. If you have heart disease, exercise helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight and control diabetes, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure — all risk factors for heart disease. If you have a heart arrhythmia or heart defect, there may be some restrictions on the activities you can do, so be sure to talk to your doctor first. With your doctor's OK, aim for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Even if you can't make time for one 30- to 60-minute exercise session, you can still benefit from breaking up your activity into several 10-minute sessions.
·         Eat healthy foods. A heart-healthy diet based on fruits, vegetables and whole grains — and low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium — can help you control your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. Eating one or two servings of fish a week also is beneficial.
·         Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease. Weight loss is especially important for people who have large waist measurements — more than 40 inches (101.6 centimeters, or cm) for men and more than 35 inches (88.9 cm) for women — because people with this body shape are more likely to develop diabetes and heart disease.
·         Manage stress. Reduce stress as much as possible. Practice healthy techniques for managing stress, such as muscle relaxation and deep breathing.
·         Practice good hygiene habits. Staying away from other people when they are sick and regularly washing your hands can not only prevent heart infections but also can help prevent viral or bacterial infections that can put stress on your heart if you already have heart disease. Also, brushing and flossing your teeth regularly can prevent germs in your mouth from making their way to plaques in your heart, which could worsen cardiovascular disease.
·         Get a flu shot. If you have cardiovascular disease, you're at a greater risk of having a heart attack should you catch the flu. Getting a flu shot decreases this risk.
In addition to healthy lifestyle changes, remember the importance of regular medical checkups. Early detection and treatment can set the stage for a lifetime of better heart health.
There are several alternative medicines that may be effective in lowering cholesterol and preventing some types of heart disease, including:
·         Blond psyllium
·         Coenzyme Q10
·         Flaxseed
·         Oats and oat bran
·         Omega-3 fatty acids
·         Plant stanols and sterols, such as beta-sitosterol and sitostanol
As with any alternative medicine, talk to your doctor before adding any new supplements to your treatment regimen. Even natural medicines and herbal supplements can interact with medications you're taking.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Healthy Food for the 4th of July


Independence Day started on July 4th 1776, when the United States declared its independence from Great Britain. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made Independence Day an unpaid federal employee holiday. In 1938, Congress changed Independence Day to be a paid federal holiday.

This federal holiday has been a wonderful reason to celebrate, with friends and family, all that America stands for. While we usually indulge in some tasty foods, they are not always the healthiest for us. See below for a couple of patriotic recipes that are healthy and delicious!

1. Patriotic Popcorn:
Not to be corny, but this colorful snack is sure to win over the appetites of kids and adults alike. A sprinkle of sweet, touch of salty, and a whole lotta holiday flair (err, food coloring) makes this delicious kettle corn the star of the party. Tip: To avoid purple kernels, wipe your pot after cooking each batch.
2. Red, White, and Glue Granola:
As far as red, white, and blue recipes go, this one isn’t quite as vibrant as the rest. But what it lacks in color, this granola makes up for in the flavor department. Unsweetened coconut and sliced almonds provide some crunch while raisins and dried cranberries add sweetness. And instead of relying on the listed amount of honey, we suggest cutting it down to 1/4 cup and doubling the amount cinnamon.
3. Patriotic Parfait:
This Fourth of July, try one of our very own recipes for an easy patriotic breakfast or midday snack. Raspberries, cherries (which may help sore muscles recover after a tough workout), and blueberries make up the red and blue layers while vanilla-infused plain Greek yogurt creates the white stripes[1]. A little lemon zest on top, and you’re done! (Served in a mason jar, it’s picnic friendly too.)
4. Bare Naked Nachos:
Don’t let the name fool you: These nachos are anything but naked. Individually dressed with mozzarella cheese, chicken, and salsa,  no chip is left behind in this dish. (Unless you munch on some extras while baking—which we strongly support.)
5. Firecracker Smoothie:
We love a good smoothie, but this layered glass is almost too pretty to drink (almost). Stacked rows of raspberry, banana, and strawberry scream patriotism. Soy milk and hydrating coconut water add creaminess and a touch of sweetness. Top with unsweetened shredded coconut and extra fruit.
6. Grilled Blackberry, Strawberry, Basil, and Brie Pizza Crisps:
Brie mine, delicious pizza! It may not be Valentine’s Day, but we still think you should treat yo’self to at least a slice of this berry and basil heaven. Loaded with brie, it may not be the healthiest menu option, but each small piece delivers a dose of basil’s anti-inflammatory properties. We say dig in!
7. Betsy Ross Toast:
Here’s an ode to the famed flag maker herself, Miss Betsy Ross. There’s not a lot to making thesetoasts (beyond a steady hand and some precision), but kids and adults of all ages will love them. Layer a piece of whole-wheat toast with cream cheese and then spread with strawberry or raspberry jam. Now comes the fun part—create an American flag with blueberry stars and banana stripes. 
8. Red, White, and Blue-chetta:
This sweet and savory appetizer turns an old favorite into a blueberry-infused patriotic dish. All the normal bruschetta elements are there—bread (choose a whole-wheat loaf), tomatoes, olive oil,garlic, and cheese. The sweet blueberries balance out the saltiness from the feta for a totally satisfying starter.
9. Red, White, and Blue Sliders:
These baby turkey burgers have all sorts of good stuff. We love the idea of a sweet and sour dressing made from blueberries and vinegar. The turkey burgers (which are leaner than ground beef) topped with roasted red pepper and feta incorporate some Mediterranean flair for an American celebration. 
10. Chicken and Apple Sausages with Blueberry "Ketchup":
Now hold it… hold it right there. We know blueberry ketchup doesn’t sound appealing, but think of it as a sweet and spicy sauce (there are no tomatoes in this ketchup, don’t worry). With apples incorporated in the sausage and plums in the sauce, this main meal is extra fruity. To make the ketchup a tad healthier, cut back on the brown sugar (with all that sweet fruit, just one half-cup is plenty).
11. Watermelon and Feta Flag:
Grab a box of toothpicks and invite some friends over for this sweet, salty, and simple Fourth of July appetizer. Piles of blueberries, diced watermelon, and feta cubes create a no-hassle flag without all that finicky arranging of fruit.
12. Blueberry, Strawberry, and Jicama Salsa:
Why so blue, sweet salsa? Just the result of an abundance of juicy, fiber-filled blueberries. Pico de gallo may be a classic, but the ingredients in this salsa are heart-healthy and help prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Plus, it’s an excuse to eat more chips.
13. Festive Quinoa Salad:
We love quinoa for all its essential amino acids, but it's also extremely versatile and always delicious. This recipe (obvi) uses red quinoa, while blue cheese and blueberries provide the remaining patriotic hues.
14. Patriotic Chopped Salad:
Now that we’ve probably overdone it with the watermelon and strawberries, we’ve got two new red foods for you: pomegranate seeds (known to lower cholesterol and blood pressure) and red bell peppers. Jicama creates a light and refreshing white layer with some crunch, while chicken andcashews add protein as well as healthy fats. This dish is all about careful arrangement, so we suggest transferring each ingredient onto the serving dish from a drinking glass.
15. Red, Mint, and Blue Fruit Salad:
Full of hydrating watermelon and seasoned with cooling mint, this is the ideal salad recipe for a scorching hot day. It may be missing the white, but a handful or two of feta can solve that—or jicama if you’re dairy-free
16. Patriotic Quinoa Salad:
Quinoa is one of our favorite vegetarian proteins to add to salads. Its nutty flavor complements almost everything—fruits and veggies alike—and it’s high in fiber, iron, magnesium, and manganese. With a touch of lime and an unexpected tangy ingredient, this recipe is both light and flavorful. 
17. Red, White, and Blue Salad:
Lettuce turn up the beets before diving into this healthy salad. This is a party, after all! And more importantly, this dish can help ward off cancer and other diseases. Feeling fancy? Stack the salad on layers of goat cheese.
18. Patriotic Chopped Fruit Salad:
Avoid fruit salad overload by bringing this unique recipe to the table. Topped with poppy seeds, basil, and a tangy lime dressing, it’ll please everyone from food critics to children.
19. Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad:
Potato salads usually rely on heaps of mayo, but this version uses a mustardy oil-and-vinegar dressing instead. Blue potatoes—which get their hue from a high flavonoid content—are the star ingredient, while yellow and red potatoes play (equally important and tasty) supporting roles. 
20. Watermelon and Jicama Salad:
This salad is red, white, blue, and … green? Fresh basil and mint plus a little lime juice act as a super-light (and green) dressing. The watermelon and jicama—an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber—add a crisp, cool, and refreshing base.
21. Patriotic Salad with Quinoa:
Time to whip out the trusty star-shaped cookie cutter again! But this time, there are no cookies involved, just watermelon and a handful of other fresh and healthy ingredients. Greens, berries, and watermelon make up the base, while cooked and chilled quinoa adds protein and a slightly nutty flavor.
22. Overnight Coconut-Almond French Toast Casserole:
French toast is often classified as a breakfast food, but we like to save the best meals for last. Because, well… dessert. With coconut flakes, sliced almonds, and berries galore, this can almost be considered a healthy dish (keyword: almost). Just substitute the French bread for a whole-wheat variety and use coconut cream instead of half and half.  
23. Stars and Stripes Cheesecake Shots:
Shots, shot, shots (of cheesecake)! That’s right, these delicious desserts are served in shot glasses, offering built-in portion control. We suggest adding a layer of pomegranate or strawberry slices to the bottom for an extra boost of antioxidants.
24. Angel Food Cake-Berry Skewers with Cheesecake Dip:
Cubes of angel food cake nestle between strawberries and blueberries (raspberries and blackberries work too!) on these festive skewers. Pre-made cake would no doubt be easier, but feel free to make your own. Enjoy the skewers as-is or serve alongside this healthier cheesecake dip made with nonfat Greek yogurt and light cream cheese.
25. Red, White, and Blueberry Yogurt Popsicles:
Though these striped treats look complicated to make, they’re actually a piece of cake—and a great alternative to one too. Full of natural fruits and Greek yogurt, they could almost be considered a healthy breakfast
26. Marshmallow and Berry Skewers:
This recipe couldn’t be easier—no equipment required! Slice the strawberries (loaded with vitamin C and manganese) and layer between mini marshmallows and blueberries on wooden skewers. Snack on the skewers as is or pop them onto the grill for a healthier (slightly distant) relative of the s’more. (Just make sure to remove before the marshmallows melt completely.)
27. Buckwheat-Topped Trifles:
These trifles combine different textures with a silky smooth layer of coconut milk, cashews, and chia seeds, topped with crunchy buckwheat. The recipe also includes Irish moss (which is actually a type ofalgae—a superfood known for its high iron and protein content) that works as a thickening agent.
28. Double Berry and Coconut Pops:
These no-sugar-added popsicles have only five ingredients—strawberries, light coconut milk, vanilla extract, blueberries, and Stevia. All it takes is a blender (and a little patience to carefully layer each color into popsicle molds).
29. Vegan “Jell-O” Terrine:
This lighter dessert makes for a gorgeous red-white-and-blue centerpiece. All you need is fresh fruit juice (strawberry, banana, and blueberry) and agar powder (a vegan alternative to gelatin). This is a great recipe to make ahead since it needs time to gel in the fridge. 
30. Triple Berry Raw Cheesecake:
"Raw cheesecake” may not sound like the most appealing dessert, but this treat is totally dairy-free. Dates, pecans, hazelnuts, and tempeh—a slightly nutty plant-based protein made from fermented soybeans—come together for a crust that's packed with protein and healthy fats. The filling uses soaked cashews and berries for a creamy cheesecake-like consistency.
31. Coconutty Semiffreddo:
This dessert looks like it takes a lot of patience, but we swear it’s really straightforward. Made from whole ingredients such as berries and coconut milk, this dessert is relatively guilt-free too. Frozen berries will work just fine mixed into the semifreddo, though fresh ones will look much more appealing on top.
32. Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries:
Though this dessert requires a full block of cream cheese (feel free to sub plain Greek yogurt for half of the cream cheese), we love that just one doctored-up strawberry is plenty satisfying. Sliced almonds add some crunch to the oh-so creamy center.
33. Swirled Cheesecake Bars:
While a pre-made Graham cracker crust saves time and energy, a homemade one is surprisingly simple to create and saves you a lot of added sugars. The bar itself is made up of light ingredients, including reduced-fat cream cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, and egg whites (to keep things fluffy). Stevia—a plant-based sweetener that can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar—stands in for the white sugar normally used in baking. Feel free to choose homemade jam or low-sugar preservatives for the swirl. 

Recipes from: http://greatist.com/health/4th-of-july-recipes

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Why should we eat fruit?

Why is it Important to Eat Fruit?
Eating fruit provides health benefits — people who eat more fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Fruits provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body.

            Health Benefits

o    Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.
o    Eating a diet rich in some vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may protect against certain types of cancers.
o    Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as some vegetables and fruits, may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
o    Eating vegetables and fruits rich in potassium as part of an overall healthy diet may lower blood pressure, and may also reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and help to decrease bone loss.
o    Eating foods such as fruits that are lower in calories per cup instead of some other higher-calorie food may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake.

o    Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories. None have cholesterol.
o    Fruits are sources of many essential nutrients that are underconsumed, including potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid).
o    Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Fruit sources of potassium include bananas, prunes and prune juice, dried peaches and apricots, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and orange juice.
o    Dietary fiber from fruits, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis. Fiber-containing foods such as fruits help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.Whole or cut-up fruits are sources of dietary fiber; fruit juices contain little or no fiber.
o    Vitamin C is important for growth and repair of all body tissues, helps heal cuts and wounds, and keeps teeth and gums healthy.
o    Folate (folic acid) helps the body form red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should consume adequate folate from foods, and in addition 400 mcg of synthetic folic acid from fortified foods or supplements. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly during fetal development.