Health Care

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Cholesterol Does Not Predict Stroke Risk in Women

Cholesterol and other lipids (fats), attached to proteins, form globules that circulate in our blood stream. As a graduate student, I studied the proteins in these fat globules to elucidate their role in disease. One of these globules, LDL (low density lipoprotein) and total cholesterol are routinely measured to predict stroke risk.

But a new study suggests that neither high levels of total cholesterol or LDL are predictive of stroke risk in postmenopausal women, whereas triglycerides, a relatively ignored measurement, are highly predictive.

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are the main fats stored in our bodies. If you are overweight, your belly or hips are loaded with triglycerides. When we eat food, the large fat molecules are broken down in our gut into triglycerides. Any excess food, such as carbohydrates, is also chemically converted by our bodies to triglycerides. Chemically, triglycerides are made up of three molecular chains of fatty acids, attached to a “head”, a glycerol molecule.

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Triglycerides clump together and travel to the liver, where they are packaged into lipoprotein globules. The lipoprotein globule, called VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) contains about 90 percent triglycerides, while LDL, the bad cholesterol, only contains about 10 percent triglycerides. After eating dietary fat, the gut produces fat globules, called chylomicrons, that are almost 100 percent triglycerides.

Stroke risk

About 800,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although stroke risk increases with age, about 25 percent of strokes occur in people under 65 years of age. Most strokes (about 87 percent) are caused by a blood clot, according to the CDC. The blood clot clogs an artery in the brain, causing a “brain attack”. The stroke risk for women increases dramatically after menopause.

Study: triglycerides vs. cholesterol

Researchers looked at 972 women, who experienced a stroke during the 15-year long Women Health Initiative (WHI) study. They compared the data from the blood tests of these women to those of another 972 women in the WHI study, who never had a stroke. The study found no linkage between high levels of total cholesterol and LDL, the bad cholesterol, and stroke, but instead found that high triglyceride levels at the beginning of the study were predictive of stroke risk in postmenopausal women.

The belief that high LDL (the bad cholesterol) is predictive of stroke risk may be due to the fact that people with high triglyceride levels, also often have high LDL levels. It is not known yet if triglycerides also are a risk factor for premenopausal women or men.

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Why do statins reduce stroke?

Statins reduce death and the incidence of heart disease and stroke. Statins inhibit an enzyme in the body that makes cholesterol, but statins also have anti-inflammatory effects. The Jupiter trial, run by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, showed that statins also reduced C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation. With statins now widely used, more side effects emerge. Women may be especially susceptible to muscle weakness caused by statins.

How to reduce triglycerides

A major way to reduce triglycerides and stroke risk is to change your lifestyle. Reducing your weight, moderate exercise or physical activity and a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and reduced amounts of saturated and trans fats go a long way toward reducing triglycerides in your body. Omega-3s in food or supplements and niacin and fibrate medication may also help to lower triglycerides.

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Natural Products Expo West Full of Goodness

What if nearly ever booth at Comic-Con gave away a free comic book or other piece of cool swag? And what if it was nothing but food that you’d also feel good about eating?

Well, you would get the Natural Products Expo West, held at the Anaheim Convention Center March 7-10, 2013.

My first time at the mega show, I was instantly amazed by the expanse of the show. Shows that I’ve been to at the Anaheim Convention Center haven’t used the entire acreage, adjoining hotels, and outdoor areas. During the OC Auto Show and the upcoming WonderCon, other unrelated events are occurring at the same time. Even D23 Expo 2011 didn’t utilize all the real estate available.

As the attendee walked toward the convention center, a flurry of outdoor pavilions offered free product samples. Many were not the skimpy bite-size samples that dissolve the instant it hits one’s tongue. Companies were putting their best foot forward so even before stepping inside, stomachs were getting filled with Naked Juice and Go Raw.

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In the lobby of the convention center, one couldn’t walk very far before coming upon a table or pop tent offering food. French’s Mustard debuted its Natural Truth mustard just outside registration while Odwalla and Natural Factors Nutritional Products offered free samples of PGX. I overheard several attendees plan to return to the bowl at regular intervals to stock up on their supply.

While there were clear signs stating that the show limits attendees to one bag of samples to take home, there was no one enforcing the rule. And with over 2400 exhibitors, stomachs would be engorged after several hours. There were actually pavilions that encouraged attendees to spend a significant amount of time in their space to learn about their multitude of different products, and some companies even served a full lunch.

Some attendees set up a camp in front of booths, tasting away. Daiya was a popular pavilion especially for those frozen pizzas which are sans gluten, soy, and dairy. But they were anything but delicious free.

The exhibitor floor was a daunting, but oh-so pleasurable paradise for those abstaining from an allergen. Those who were gluten-intolerant were met with bars, baked goods, pasta, sauces, breads, and snacks that were certified gluten free. For those who have gone on so long without, to have that many choices brought on a deep emotional gratitude.

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After much snacking, I had to cease stuffing things in my mouth and concentrate on booths that had take-home samples. Because nearly every booth had health bars of some iteration, one’s mouth tended to get very dry in sampling them.

And even though there are plenty of beverages, there were very few companies offering drinks not imbued with vitamins or nutrients like probiotics. This, and the possibility of some gluten free items not being entirely gluten free or being cross contaminated in the demonstration process, led me to spend a lot of time in the restroom.

Exhibitors without the time to navigate the exhibition floor frequented the concession stand which sold pricey food that was not very analogous to the expo’s focus. Stamina is an issue, no matter if the samples turn the stomach the wrong way or not. Even though sustenance was available, albeit in small portions, another booth’s offerings quickly grabbed one’s attention.

How can one turn down Non GMO, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, casein free, nut free chocolate chip cookies specked with nutrients that help hangovers? But oh wait, there’s Grass Fed beef, and it’s right beside smoked fish.

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Spoiled by all the events at the LA Convention Center, the jaunt to Anaheim wasn’t too much of a hassle. The show offered free parking at Anaheim Stadium with transportation to the show on Disneyland shuttles. It was disappointing that it was further away from me as I discovered I completely missed several venues including the Hot Products Pavilion and the Fresh Ideas Marketplace which was in a tent at the adjoining Marriot. Free breakfasts and nighttime parties complemented conference sessions, tours, award ceremonies, and networking events.

With a full plate of events and food offerings, a day was not enough to enjoy oneself. The Natural Products Expo West is definitely worth spending more time at.

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High Cholesterol? 5 Foods to Eat and 5 to Avoid

As a health advocate, I’m careful to watch my diet to prevent increases in my cholesterol. High cholesterol levels are among the leading risk factors for serious forms of heart disease, but they’re something millions of Americans live with. Treatments for high cholesterol and its consequences form an expansive industry of pharmaceutical drugs including statins, bile-acid-binding resins, and cholesterol absorption inhibitors.

While these drugs arguably have their place, a healthy diet is absolutely necessary for both preventing and treating high cholesterol–and that’s why I’m careful about what I put into my body.
Here are the foods I eat to keep my cholesterol in check — and the foods I avoid like the plague.

Eat These

1.Whole-Grain Pasta

Whole-wheat pasta is my favorite way to improve my heart health, because it is so affordable and delicious. Pasta also combines easily with other heart-healthy foods, like olive oil and vegetables.

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2.Wild Alaskan Salmon

The American Heart Association recommends a diet rich in wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovy, mackerel and herring. Omega-3 fats in these fish reduce triglycerides and the overall risk of heart disease. I’m specifically a fan of Alaskan salmon because it is abundant and sustainable.

3.Beans

Beans, they’re good for your heart! Beans can help to reduce your cholesterol levels, and they’re a healthier source of protein than red meat. Since I’m predominantly vegetarian, beans — especially soy — are my primary protein source.

4.Fruits and Vegetables

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: fruits and vegetables are the backbone of a heart-healthy diet. Antioxidant compounds in fruits and veggies can prevent oxidation, or molecular damage, to deposits of LDL cholesterol, making complications like heart attack less likely.

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5.Olive Oil

I eat olive oil like I’m Mediterranean — meaning it goes on virtually everything I eat, in copious amounts. Along with canola and peanut oil, olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, which can reduce LDL cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. Use olive oil as your primary source of dietary fat.

Avoid These

1.Dairy Products

I tend to shy away from full-fat dairy products on general principle. Eat only low-fat dairy products if you have high cholesterol. Full-fat dairy products are among the most concentrated sources of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat, both of which increase LDL cholesterol.

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2.Eggs

Eggs have a bad reputation for contributing to high cholesterol, but the American Heart Association contends that one or two eggs per week can be part of a heart-healthy diet. Eat no more than this amount, though, to avoid jumps in your LDL cholesterol. I personally try to eat eggs no more than a few times per month.

3.Red Meat

I don’t eat red meat, largely because I want to avoid the risk of heart disease associated with it. Red meat can arguably be included in a healthy, balanced diet, but you should be eating it no more than once per week to keep your cholesterol in check. Avoid organ meats entirely, since they contain massive amounts of dietary cholesterol.

4.Trans Fats

Found in hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oil, trans fats both increase LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while reducing HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Steer clear of any food that contains hydrogenated oil in any amount, even if the label claims it is free of trans fat — this label only means that it contains less than .5 grams per serving.

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5.Alcohol

A little alcohol here and there may boost your HDL, or “good” cholesterol, but too much alcohol can be seriously detrimental to your health. Drink no more than 7-10 drinks per week, and no more than three drinks per occasion, to maintain your general health.

High cholesterol is not a death sentence, but it is a sign that you need to take steps to preserve your health and well-being — up to and including changes in your dietary habits. By altering your diet and abiding by your health care provider’s guidelines, you can help to prevent this condition from turning into something more serious.

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The road to good health is just a click away!

The road to good health is just a click away! Learn how to prevent heart disease and stroke as you travel on the Heart Highway. Each stop on your journey will provide you with helpful information about nutrition, physical activity, and other prevention tactics. Learn how to read the road signs (risk factors) for early detection of cardiovascular disease. Prepare yourself and your family for the road trip through life. This web site will help you pave the way.

To ‘cruise’ the Heart Highway, click on blog in the top menu. Stop at any of the locations to learn more about heart health. If your destination takes you to the old hospital in Park City, you will be equipped with information on the prevention of heart disease and stroke. Take the road to the recreation center for helpful hints on physical activity.

If you steer towards the restaurant you must have an appetite for ideas on diet and nutrition. You might want to stop at the newsstand for the latest news and information from the State of Utah and around the world. The old school house in Spring City will send you in the direction of information on the Gold Medal School program and teacher and student resources.

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5 Herbs for Cleansing and Detoxification

Toxins and pollutants are unavoidable. They may be in the air, food or water. As an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist I have found that engaging in a cleanse at least once per year has many health benefits. Consult with your health care provider prior to starting a cleanse to ensure that you are in good health, since cleansing can stress your internal organs.

Furthermore, talk to a naturopath, herbalist or nutritionist to get the best advice on how to properly engage in a cleansing regime. These herbs may help support your body through the cleansing process and help your body get rid of excess toxins more quickly and easily.

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1.Dandelion

Dandelion is a popular herb for cleansing and detoxificaton. This herb has high antioxidant content and diuretic properties. Dandelion root may help detoxify the liver and gallbladder, which can help your body more efficiently eliminate built up toxins and chemicals. Dandelion leaves support the kidneys and can help your body efficiently eliminate toxins through urination.

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2.Milk Thistle

Milk thistle has been used for 2,000 years and contains a flavonoid called silymarin that can help support your liver. Milk thistle enhances liver and gallbladder detoxification and also supports your kidney function. An added benefit of this herb is that it can help your body re-grow liver cells, can treat viral hepatitis and may have anti-cancer effects.

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3.Burdock Root

Burdock root can be used for a variety of ailments such as digestive problems, sore throats and colds. This herb helps support detoxification because it is a natural blood purifier. Burdock can help clear your bloodstream of toxins and, because of its diuretic effect, can help rid your body of these toxins through urination. Because this herb can also enhance digestive functions, it may also help remove toxins through digestiion and elimination.

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4.Black Walnut

Black walnut hulls can help detoxify and cleanse your body in a variety of ways. This herb can support digestive functions, help flush toxins and impurities from your system, oxygenate your blood and even kill parasites. An added benefit of black walnut is that it has a gentle laxative effect, which makes it more capable of clearing toxins from your body through elimination.

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5.Parsley

Parsley contains vitamins A and C and has anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties. This herb can help support your kidneys to process and eliminate excess toxins from your body.Parsley also helps purify your bloodstream and can even help naturally freshen your breath. You can eat fresh parsley or blend and drink fresh parsley juice to enjoy its cleansing benefits.

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How I Reduced My Cholesterol Levels Fast Without Exercise

About two years back I took a routine blood test at work for measuring the blood lipid levels. It turned out that my cholesterol levels were over the 200 normal limits. I knew I had to do something about it but kept procrastinating.

Well, about eight months into the year I realized I needed to do something about my lipid levels before I take the test in the following year. But then I was also going on a vacation soon. So I decided I will start some kind of aerobic exercise soon after my vacation. I went on a nice three week vacation with family, came back mentally relaxed and recharged but with a minor problem. I had fractured my toe on my left foot! I had not been doing anything super challenging in the vacation. I just tripped on my suitcase and broke my toe.

The podiatrist insisted that I do not walk or do any aerobic activity involving the foot, to help heal my toe faster. Though now I had a valid excuse for my bad lipid levels, I was determined to do something by diet alone.

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I just did two simple things. The first was that I just eliminated sugar from my diet. No sugary drinks, no added sugar to food, no sweets. However, I did allow myself to eat foods with naturally inherent sugar in them like fruits.

The second thing I did was, everyday, I replaced one main meal of the day with oats and vegetables. I usually did this for lunch. I experimented with all sorts of oats dishes – oats with spices, oats with fruits, and oats with veggies. This I did for just one meal of the day and the rest of the meals were like usual. Nothing cut back except the sugar.

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I did this for about a month and half and then it was time for my annual blood screening at work again. I had my blood test done and the results came. Whoa!! The cholesterol and the triglyceride levels were reduced to half of last year’s readings.

Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol/CL00002). If oatmeal and no sugar combination can bring this kind of impact to the lipid levels in my blood, I am sure if I combine this with regular aerobic activity I can do wonders for my cholesterol levels and my heart health.

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5 Surprising Foods Containing Probiotics

I’m not a big fan of yogurt– but I am a big fan of probiotics, both for myself and my family members. Probiotics are forms of bacteria that are helpful, rather than harmful, to the human body. Our bodies are loaded with natural probiotics: they keep our digestive systems, urinary tracts, and reproductive systems safe from harmful bacteria.

The National Institutes of Health acknowledges the many therapeutic and health-boosting benefits of L. acidophilus, a form of probiotic most famously found in yogurt… But yogurt isn’t the only food that contains probiotics! Here are five sources of probiotics you may not know about.

1.Breast Milk

Breast milk is the first and most important source of probiotics we encounter in life. Studies have found that these friendly bacteria are extremely important to the health of infants and toddlers, especially during times of illness. If you have a young child who could benefit from probiotics, consider increasing the amount of breast milk in his diet.

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2.Tempeh

A fermented product made from soy, tempeh is an excellent alternative to tofu for people who want a delicious meat substitute that also offers a boost of friendly bacteria. Because it’s fermented in friendly bacteria like L. acidophilus, it has many of the same health benefits traditionally associated with yogurt.

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3.Kefir

Very similar to yogurt, kefir is a dairy beverage extremely rich in probiotics. Traditionally made with sheep or goat’s milk, this rich drink contains more probiotics than most yogurt and is delicious when mixed into granola or consumed as a small-serving drink.

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4.Kimchi

Kimchi is a flavorful Korean dish made from cabbage cultured in probiotics. Often made with fish oil, peppers and garlic, kimchi is so alive with friendly bacteria that its juices tend to be fizzy and tart-a result of the fermentation process caused by L. acidophilus and other friendly bacteria found in the food. Add a little kimchi to your diet if you want to boost your probiotic intake.

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5.Kombucha

A fermented tea containing a culture of friendly bacteria and yeast compounds, kombucha has a delightful flavor that combines tartness, sweetness and the gentle, familiar taste of tea. Many forms of kombucha tea offer higher levels of health-supporting probiotics than yogurt and other more common sources of probiotics.

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Unfortunately, not all foods containing probiotics are entirely safe. Mayo Clinic notes, for example, that homemade kombucha tea is sometimes made in unsterile environments, where it can be contaminated with bad bacteria. The same problem exists for other homemade cultured foods. As a precaution, buy your probiotic foods from a trusted source and talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have regarding your health or diet.