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Lower Blood Pressure – How Celery Can Be Used to Lower Blood Pressure

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on August 10, 2009

When you think of celery, you probably immediately think “diet” and snacking on carrots and celery instead of the food you really crave!

Well, celery does much more for your heart than simply trimming your waistline. A Chinese study found blood pressure to fall significantly in 14 out of 16 individuals with high blood pressure when they were given celery.

Exactly how celery works to lower blood pressure is not completely understood. Scientists have found celery to contain apigenin. Apigenin is a substance known to help lower high blood pressure. Celery also exhibits properties similar to diuretics and ACE inhibitors, both effective medications to lower blood pressure. Celery has been used to treat a variety of conditions – congestive heart failure, fluid retention, anxiety, insomnia, gout, and diabetes.

Mark Houston, a well-known cardiac physician, recommends eating either 4 celery stalks daily, 8 teaspoons of celery juice 3 times a day, 1000 mg celery seed extract twice a day, or ½ to 1 teaspoon of celery oil 3 times a day in tincture form. I say go with the celery stalks. The cost is low, calories minimal, taste good, and potential benefit great.

The risk of excess celery is almost non-existent, so this is a safe treatment option if you are struggling to lower high blood pressure. However, don’t counteract the benefits by slathering your celery in a high fat dip or dressing. If you need added flavor, opt for a low fat dressing or possibly peanut butter. Peanut butter provides a good source of heart healthy unsaturated fats and protein.

FYI – Non-animal sources of protein, such as beans and soy, promote lower blood pressure levels. Studies have found that individuals who consume 30% higher than average protein intake (such as 1.0 – 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight) have reduced blood pressures. The average reduction was 3.0 mm Hg reduced systolic blood pressure and 2.5 mm Hg diastolic. So, added bonus to combine peanut butter with your daily celery intake!

Subscribe to The Heart of Health ezine to receive regular heart health and weight loss tips from dietitian Lisa Nelson. You’ll also receive the subscriber exclusive report: “Stop Wasting Money – Take Control of Your Health!”

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

Posted in heart health, high blood pressure | Tagged: , , , | 32 Comments »

Heart Disease – Does green tea lower heart disease risk?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on June 8, 2009

All right, this green tea article has been hanging over my head for at least a month now. I just couldn’t get motivated to wade through all the research to determine if yes, this is an effective way to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease, or no, it’s just a lot of hype.

Well, I sat down and sorted it all out today and here’s what I found.

Health Claim

The proposed health claim for green tea is that drinking at least 5 fluid ounces as a source of catechins may reduce risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.

What are catchins?

Green tea contains catechins, which are a type of flavenoid with antioxidant properties. Antioxidants slow the oxidation process. The oxidation of LDL molecules is what results in plaque formation. Therefore, increasing antioxidant intake should slow oxidation of LDL, resulting in less arterial plaque formation.

Also, when molecules are oxidized, free radicals are released that damage cells. These free radicals can increase inflammatory issues associated with cardiovascular disease.

How flavenoids work

The body recognizes flavenoids as foreign particles and works to eliminate them from the body. Flavenoids themselves do not act as an antioxidant and they are poorly absorbed by the body. However, the proposed benefit of extra flavenoids is that as the body eliminates the unwanted flavenoids, damaging free radicals are also eliminated.

Tea production

The various types of tea are produced differently. The leaves of oolong tea and black tea are allowed to oxidize (enzymes in the tea change catechins to larger molecules). Green tea is not oxidized, but produced by steaming fresh-cut leaves whereby enzymes are inactivated and little oxidation occurs. The least processed tea is white tea, which contains the highest levels of catechins. Green tea contains the second highest catechin level, approximately 125 mg catechins per serving (or ~25% dry weight of fresh tea leaves).

Here’s a little breakdown on tea oxidation:
Black tea – Highest oxidation; also, highest caffeine content and strongest flavor; 90% of all tea served in the West is black tea
Oolong tea – 10-70% oxidized
Green tea – Low oxidation
White tea – Minimal oxidation; Uncured, unfermented; Lower caffeine content that other teas

FDA Review

In 2005, the FDA did not approve the health claim for green tea, because the link between green tea and reduced cardiovascular disease risk was too weak and more conclusive evidence was needed.

Recent Research

This past June, 2008, a study was published that links green tea to reduced flow-mediated dilation of brachial arteries (major blood vessels in the upper arms). Flow-mediated dilation is related to coronary endothelial function and is an indicator for cardiovascular disease risk. Increased dilation is good. It means the heart has to do less work to move blood throughout circulation. (The endothelium is the inner layer of an artery, which blood flows against.)

This was a study of 14 healthy individuals that consumed 6 grams of green tea, followed by a measure of flow-mediated dilation. The results showed an increased flow-mediated dilation with tea (peak at 30 minutes post consumption). There was no change to antioxidant status after consumption. It’s proposed that the improved flow-mediated dilation is how green tea reduces cardiovascular disease risk.

The Hype

I came across multiple articles with headlines screaming “Green Tea Protects Against Heart Disease” since this study was published in June. I think there is significant research that still needs to be completed before it can be determined for sure how tea works to prevent heart disease. A study of 14 individuals is a small study.

Drinking 6 grams of green tea, would equal about three – 6 ounce cups of green tea each day. (Based on making 1 six ounce cup of tea with 1 teaspoon or 2.25 grams of green tea.) However, the study results are based on consuming 6 grams of tea in one setting followed by improved flow-mediated dilation at peak levels 30 minutes after consumption. How likely is it for you to drink three cups of tea quickly, back-to-back to reproduce the short-term benefit shown in this study?

To me, that is not a very effective way to reduce heart disease risk. But, I will say that if you like green tea – drink it. Many studies are showing that green tea is beneficial to heart disease. The what, how, and how much is yet to be determined. Who knows what future studies will find?!

To receive regular heart health and weight loss tips for dietitian Lisa Nelson, sign up for The Heart of Health and grab your copy of the special report “Stop Wasting Money – Take Control of Your Health” today!

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

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Heart Health – How to increase physical activity to improve heart health

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on May 25, 2009

You want to be more physically active, but how do you find the time? And just how much activity do you have to do?

From Part 1, we’ve already identified time as the number one culprit most people are not more active. Did you implement any of the tips for getting more activity into your home and work routine? If not, you can review the tips – Boost Physical Activity with Twist on Daily Routine – Part 1.

Now, here are examples of how to boost your fitness when at traveling, caring for children, and running errands.

On the Road

Traveling doesn’t mean your fitness goals have to halt during your time on the road. There are simple activities that will increase your activity level and help decrease the discomforts that often accompany long periods on the road. When driving, schedule breaks every two to three hours to stop, stretch, and take a brisk walk around a roadside park. When behind the wheel, shift around as much as possible to assist circulation and ease stiffness. Traveling by plane or train means limited space, but you can stretch your arms and neck by reaching towards the luggage rack and completing shoulder/neck rolls in your seat. Get up every hour for a short walk to the restroom to stretch your legs. When navigating the airport choose the stairs and walk as much as possible versus using moving walkways, escalators, and elevators.

Travel does mean you leave behind your gym or treadmill, but you can pack some comfy shoes and take a walk just about anywhere. A convenient fitness tool for traveling is a resistance band. This piece of equipment takes up minimal space and provides a way to work on your flexibility and strength when your only option is your hotel room. Real Living Nutrition members will soon be able to access resistance band tips and techniques through “My Tools”. Many hotels have fitness rooms or swimming pools where you can stick with a fitness routine.

Fitness with Children

Has a new little one joined your family? Increase your activity by walking to soothe your infant or sit on the floor and rock back and forth while holding your infant instead of rocking in a rocker. Most little ones love the visual stimulation of the outdoors. Get a carrier and strap on your infant for a walk around the neighborhood. There are many options now for strollers and bike trailers that provide a variety of activity options. If finances are limited, improvise with baby overhead presses and arm curls. As you little one gains weight you will gain improved arm and shoulder strength. Turn on the tunes and dance around the living room with your baby, you may even be rewarded with some giggles.

Has your child hit the “do it myself” stage? At this point the intensity of your activity may decrease as you slow down for your child to keep pace with you. This is a good time to look into a fitness tradeoff with other moms in your neighborhood. Swap watching the kids while you each can get a much needed break and some physical activity. If you have slim pickings for another support mom, you will continue to get fitness benefits from all the bending, lifting, carrying, and putting down that a young child demands. As your child grows, they will be able to participate in more physical activities, such as fun games like “Mother May I?” and “Red Light, Green Light”. Get creative and make up a scavenger hunt that includes a walk around the neighborhood (search for a red car, a white flower, a green house, etc.). Not feeling creative, head to the park for playtime while you walk laps around the playground. Your child needs the activity just as much as you do.

Everyday Errands

There are even little ways to boost your activity level when running errands. When you go to the mall or grocery store don’t circle the lot for the closest parking space, park farther away and take advantage of those extra steps to reach your destination. Do you live near the bank or post office? Leave the car parked and take a walk or ride your bike. When driving to the school, park a few blocks from the school and walk with your children the rest of the way. By doing this you have the added bonus of avoiding the traffic jam of school buses and parents dropping off students, it might even take less time. Add extra steps at the mall by being a mall walker and complete a lap before you start your shopping. Once again, take the stairs instead of the escalator.

Like I’ve already stated, achieving your fitness goals does not require a fancy gym membership or expensive exercise machine. Be creative! For more everyday activity tips check out Fitting in Fitness: Hundreds of Simple Ways to Put More Physical Activity into Your Life by the American Heart Association. Stick with an increased fitness level and you’ll reap the rewards of more energy, weight management, heart and bone health, and an overall improved quality of life.

If you want support achieving your fitness and health goals, sign up for
The Heart of Health for regular heart health and weight loss tips from dietitian Lisa Nelson. Now get moving!

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

Posted in heart health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 56 Comments »

Triglycerides – How to Lower Triglycerides

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 27, 2009

I’ve recently answered several questions related to triglycerides. These questions range from “What are triglycerides?” to “My triglycerides are 400, do I need to worry?” on to “Help, my triglycerides are 1200, how do I fix this?”

So, I’m going to answer all these questions here for those of you who are wondering, but haven’t asked.

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a type of fat. Actually, they’re the most common type of fat in foods and in your body. When you eat foods containing fat and oil, such as butter, French fries, and chocolate chip cookies, the body takes the fat and stores it in your body as triglycerides. So, all those “fat cells” in your body are made up of triglycerides.

What do triglycerides have to do with cholesterol?

When you see your MD, he or she may order a “lipid panel” (lipid is a fancy term for fat). From the lipid panel you will learn your total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Total cholesterol = HDL + LDL + VLDL

Well, what in the world is VLDL? Not something you’ve probably seen or heard of before. VLDL is an acronym for Very Low Density Lipoproteins, another “bad” type of cholesterol. Triglycerides are used to calculate VLDL levels in your blood.

Triglycerides x 20% = VLDL (bad) cholesterol

Also, the liver uses triglycerides as fuel for cholesterol production. So, if you eat a high fat (triglyceride) diet, the liver will increase its’ production of cholesterol and put more cholesterol out into your blood.

What is a normal triglyceride level?

You want your triglycerides to be below 200 mg/dL. Borderline high triglycerides are from 200-500 mg/dL. Triglycerides are high risk above 500 mg/dL.

Some experts argue that 200 mg/dL is too high and that a normal level should be less than 150 mg/dL. The numbers I’ve listed above are the current guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program Expert’s Panel.

If your triglycerides are high your heart disease risk increases.

What you can do to lower triglycerides?

1. Limit simple sugars.

Unlike other types of cholesterol, triglycerides are affected by sugars you eat. You need to limit foods such as soft drinks, candy, baked goods, syrup, table sugar, jelly, and honey. A high intake of fruit juice can also raise triglyceride levels since juice contains a high content of natural sugars.

2. Limit alcohol.

If your triglycerides are borderline high or high risk, discuss your alcohol intake with your MD. My recommendation for borderline high (200-500 mg/dL) is to limit alcohol to no more than 1 drink per day for women, 2 drinks per day for men. One drink equals 12 ounces beer, 4 oz wine, or 1 ½ ounces liquor. If your triglyceride level is high risk (great than 500 mg/dL) I recommend NO alcohol. Again, discuss your situation with your MD.

3. Lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight.

Many times weight loss alone will lower your triglycerides. Losing as little as 10% body weight could drop your triglycerides back to the normal range.

4. Choose a low-fat diet.

To achieve lower triglyceride levels, maintain a dietary intake of 30% or less of total calories coming from fat. A healthy diet for normal triglyceride levels should consist of whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and lean meat.

5. Increase your physical activity.

Boosting your activity can lower your triglycerides up to 40%. If you’re not currently active, talk to your MD before starting an activity program. To reduce triglycerides, be physically active at least 30 minutes on 3 or more days each week. The more activity the better.

Triglycerides aren’t all bad. They provide efficient energy storage, cushion your organs, transport certain vitamins, and keep you warm by providing insulation. What’s important is to keep them under control!

Now, if you like this information and want to receive regular heart health and weight loss tips from dietitian Lisa Nelson, subscribe to The Heart of Health today!

Posted in heart health, lower cholesterol | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Reduce Heart Disease – What are the benefits of supplementing CoQ10?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 3, 2009

The benefits of CoQ10 are numerous:

  • Prevent heart disease
  • Slows the aging process
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Boosts energy
  • Increases strength
  • Builds up the immune system
  • Improves the nervous system
  • Protects against gum disease
  • Counteracts negative side effects of some cholesterol medications

Consult your MD to determine if supplementing CoQ10 is the right treatment option for your situation.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

Posted in heart health, high blood pressure, lower cholesterol | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Heart Disease – Link between Temperament, Personality, and Heart Disease Risk

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 2, 2009

Lisa Nelson RD: What role does temperament/personality play in a person’s heart disease risk?

Dr. Shelby-Lane: Temperament and personality have a definite effect on blood pressure and on heart disease. This is a great question and it has been studied by the experts, as you will note in the following excerpts. Heart disease consists of congenital abnormalities, arrhthymias, lipid abnormalities acquired and congenital, functional and physiologic problems, risk factors such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome, structural disease and valvular problems, heart failure, acquired disease such as coronary artery disuse, and infectious diseases along with diseases related to blood vessel structure. Again, anxiety, stress, and stress related disorders can have an effect on major hormones, heart rate and heart health and heart disease. Nutritional abnormalities can also affect heart performance.

New research suggests that people who suffer from panic attacks are at increased risk of developing heart disease.

Why people who suffer from panic attacks should be at increased risk of developing heart disease is unclear. According to the study, authors put forward several theories, one being that panic disorders might trigger nervous system changes which could promote the clogging of arteries. Another theory is that people may have been misdiagnosed as having panic attacks when they actually have coronary heart disease. “Clinicians should be vigilant for this possibility when diagnosing and treating people presenting with symptoms of panic,” said Dr Walters.

Study results have shown that people with depression are at increased risk of heart attack and heart failure because they are less likely to be active.

Scientists have known for some years that people who are depressed are at increased risk of heart attack and other cardiac events, however the reason why this should be has remained unclear. However, according to results of a study by Mary A Wooley and colleagues, the increased risk is due to behavioral factors.

The researchers analyzed data obtained from 1,017 people with heart disease, 199 of which had symptoms of depression. Results showed that 10% of depressed participants had a cardiac event (e.g. heart attack, heart failure, stroke, transient ischemic attack) during the study period, compared to just 6.7% of non-depressed participants, meaning that depressed participants were 50% more likely to have a cardiac event. However, results also showed that depressed participants were more likely to smoke, were less likely to take their medications as prescribed, and were less physically active. After the researchers factored these behaviors into their calculations the risk of a cardiac event in depressed participants was similar to that in non-depressed participants.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD
Be Heart Healthy and Lose Weight

Posted in heart health | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Reduce Heart Disease – Do you know the signs of a CoQ10 deficiency?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 2, 2009

Symptoms associated with a CoQ10 deficiency develop gradually over time, so it’s very easy to miss the signs.

Symptoms include: aches and pains, fatigue, sore muscles, weakness, malaise, and shortness of breath

Our bodies are designed for CoQ10 to be formed from a variety of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. If your intake of vitamin C, B-12, B-6, pantothenic acid, and various other minerals and nutrients is deficient, the production of CoQ10 is compromised. Conditions and medications, such as hyperthyroidism, antidepressants, gum disease, and advanced age will also cause lower than adequate levels of CoQ10.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

Posted in heart health, high blood pressure, lower cholesterol | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

High Blood Pressure and Magnesium

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 2, 2009

Magnesium is not a mineral that tops discussions very often; however, magnesium is critical to over 300 bodily functions.  Magnesium maintains normal muscle and nerve function, helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure and heart rhythm, maintains bone strength, and supports a healthy immune system. 

Many people consume a diet low in magnesium receiving less than two-thirds of the recommended dietary allowance. Good magnesium sources include whole grains, spinach, broccoli, squash, beans, popcorn, nuts, pork, and seeds. Fair sources of magnesium include dairy products, chocolate, and meats.
 
A magnesium deficiency takes a long time to develop. Magnesium deficiency symptoms include irregular heartbeat, weakness, fatigue, numbness, muscle pain, disorientation, and seizures. Conditions related to increased risk for magnesium deficiency include alcoholism, poorly controlled diabetes, intestinal disorders (Crohn’s disease), and intake of certain medications (diuretics). Sup-optimal levels of magnesium intake have been linked with diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and pregnancy discomfort.
 
Diabetes
 
When someone has type II diabetes they are making adequate insulin levels. The problem with type II diabetes is that the cells do not recognize the insulin. When cells do not recognize insulin they do not let sugar from the blood enter the cell and blood sugar levels remain elevated. This leads to sugar spilling over into the urine, organ damage, and other complications. Magnesium is a factor in this because it’s the “key” that opens the door for insulin to get into the cell.  If magnesium levels are low there are no keys to open the door and insulin is unable to do its job resulting in continued high blood sugar levels.  When diabetes is poorly controlled the loss of magnesium in the urine is even greater.
 
Hypertension
 
Blood levels of potassium, calcium, and magnesium are closely connected and all influence blood pressure. Studies have linked low magnesium levels with elevated blood pressure. As an aside, if you have ever been told to eat a banana by your doctor, you should also increase your magnesium intake. FYI – Bananas are not the best source of potassium – potatoes are!
 
Osteoporosis
 
Magnesium is a major component of the matrix (middle) of bones. Low magnesium levels cause fragile bones that are less flexible and have a slower recovery rate if injured.
 
Pregnancy
 
Adequate levels of magnesium are related to decreased leg cramps during pregnancy. A magnesium deficiency is also a risk factor for gestational diabetes.
 
Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for Magnesium:
 
Men 350 mg per day
Women 280 mg
Pregnancy 300 mg
Lactation 355 mg first 6 months; 340 mg next 6 months
 
You do NOT want to take megadoses of magnesium – more is not better in this case.  You just want enough to meet the RDA. If you feel your intake of magnesium from foods is low, taking a basic multivitamin is a simple way to ensure you meet your needs. Read the multivitamin label carefully because not all multivitamins include magnesium. Always check with your doctor before altering your medications or supplements.
 
Bottom Line:
 
Magnesium may not be an exciting mineral, but it is critical.  Ensure you are eating adequate sources of magnesium rich foods and/or consider a supplement to promote optimum health.
 

Tired of burning hard earned cash on fitness gadgets you don’t use? End the vicious "cycle" now! Get your FREE report: "Stop Wasting Money – Take Control of Your Health" at http://www.lisanelsonrd.com.

Posted in heart health, high blood pressure | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Reduce Heart Disease – How does CoQ10 work?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 1, 2009

The powerhouse of your cells is the mitochondria. The mitochondria convert the foods you eat into energy your body can use. The form of energy the body uses is called ATP. ATP is produced within the mitochondria by taking needed electrons from foods. CoQ10 is responsible for carrying the electrons back and forth between enzymes in the production of ATP.

If that was a little too much science for you, let me make it much simpler.

Without CoQ10 your cells can not produce energy for your body to function, including the heart muscle. The heart uses an enormous amount of energy to function and maintain blood circulation 24/7.

Numerous studies have shown patients with heart disease to have a CoQ10 deficiency. Individuals suffering from cardiomyopathy or heart failure appear to have the greatest deficiencies. Improvements have been seen when individuals suffering from cardiomyopathy or heart failure receive supplemental CoQ10. Benefits of supplementing CoQ10 are seen in individuals experiencing angina, coronary artery disease, post-operative heart surgery, and heart attack recovery.

CoQ10 is especially beneficial if you have narrowed arteries and reduced blood flow to the heart. CoQ10 uses what little oxygen and nutrients the heart receives to increase production of ATP and boost the hearts energy levels.

The physician’s routinely using CoQ10 as part of their treatment plan for heart patients often refer to CoQ10 as “the miracle supplement” due to the drastic improvements to patient heart function.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

Posted in heart health, high blood pressure, lower cholesterol | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Reduce Heart Disease – Have you heard of CoQ10?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 31, 2009

The benefits of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) have been known since the 1970’s. Unfortunately, many doctors do not routinely recommend CoQ10 to their heart patients. Are you using this supplement?

CoQ10 is a fat-soluble vitamin and powerful antioxidant. CoQ10 not only fuels energy production, but it removes many free radicals from circulation. Free radicals lead to the oxidation of LDL and the subsequent chain of events that result in arterial plaque formation and narrowed arteries.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD
http://www.lisanelsonrd.com

Posted in heart health, high blood pressure, lower cholesterol | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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