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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

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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!

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Heart Health – Take Control of Your Health

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on February 16, 2009

Special Report – Article Excerpt

Stop Wasting Money – Take Control of Your Health

Ensure your success with lowering
cholesterol, controlling high blood pressure,
and weight loss by knowing how to achieve change.

Did you come across a treadmill for a great discount price and decide – I need to exercise more; I’m not going to find a better price, why not? So, you now have this piece of equipment in a corner of your living room or bedroom collecting dust or acting as an expensive clothes rack.

Why is it that your good intentions led no where? Sure, that first week or two you hopped on several times, but then your progress came to a screeching halt. Well, you may not have had everything in place to be successful.  You need to make sure all your “ducks are in a row” to ensure your success.  If you jump from Contemplation into Action you are skipping the critical Preparation phase. Huh? You will begin to understand what I mean as you read on.

For the purpose of this article, I will focus on the critical action step.  The goal I use is increasing physical activity. You can use the Stages of Change model to work on any area you are trying to change, such as eating habits to lose weight, lowering cholesterol levels, and/or controlling high blood pressure.

The Stages of Change model was first developed by psychologists James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente in the late 1970’s. They focused on changing addictive behaviors, specifically smoking. The Stages of Change model identifies the phases we go through when we change our habits.  The five stages are called – 1. Pre-contemplation, 2. Contemplation, 3. Preparation, 4. Action and 5. Maintenance.  Tailoring your actions based on the stage you are in will propel you forward.

>No need to waste time dwelling on the science behind the method.  Just know it has been proven a useful tool.  Now, let’s dive into how you can use it to your benefit. 

In this stage you are performing the behavior regularly, but for less than 6 months.  This means you have established a plan of action and have implemented that plan.  You are actively modifying your behaviors, experiences, and environment to overcome obstacles and achieve success.  The action phase is the most difficult and requires a considerable commitment of time and energy.  Change does not happen overnight.  It will take persistence for a new behavior to become an established habit.

The following four strategies are used to move through this stage of change:

Counter-conditioning

Substitute alternate positive behaviors for the negative behavior.  It can take up to 30 days for a new behavior to become a habit. Be aware of this and put safety guards in place.  Stick with your action plan and continue to replace old sedentary behaviors with new physically active ones. You may feel some loss.  You actually miss your old behaviors.  These behaviors are like old friends you felt comfortable with and change moves you out of your comfort zone.  Review your reasons for wanting to be physically active and the long-term benefits you will gain if you stick with your plan.

Reinforcement Management

Change the events that determine or sustain the problem behavior.  Reward yourself for achieving your goals, such as a new outfit, book, or running shoes.  Recognize your progress and reward yourself.  This will provide you with an incentive to stick with your new plan.

 

Helping Relationships

Turn to your support system.  Don’t get overconfident and think you do not need family and friends behind you.  Keep them in the loop with the progress you’ve made and identify new ways they can help you move towards your goals.  Now is a time to consider signing a “contract” with yourself to reinforce your commitment to change.  Have your family and friends be witnesses!

 

Stimulus Control

Be aware of triggers for reverting to your old habits.  What safety mechanisms can you put in place to negate these triggers?  Start replacing old behavior triggers with something positive.  For example, place your goals where you will see them daily – like the refrigerator.  Keep gym shoes by the front door.  Create reminders at work, such as tennis shoes under your desk for a lunch time walk.  Always be on the lookout for stumbling blocks and be prepared to brainstorm ways to overcome the hurdles.

You are doing great!  Maintenance is just around the corner.

Bottom Line:

During the action phase, you make your goals a reality.  Now is not a time to get cocky.  Hurdles will frequently pop up and you need to be ready with strategies to overcome them.  You will have some bad weeks.  Step back, evaluate what is keeping you from regular activity, and figure out a solution.  It may take some trial and error before you find the right solution for you.  Now about that treadmill – you have it and it is dust-free!

Tackling change is hard and determining exactly what steps you need to take can be confusing.  By recognizing that change has identifiable steps and strategies, you can use this knowledge to move forward and achieve your goals!

Are you tired of throwing away hard earned dollars on fitness equipment you don’t use?  Get your FREE copy of Stop Wasting Money – Take Control of Your Health now!  

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