Heart Health: Ways to Monitor

I am a huge proponent of being proactive and seeking to prevent problems before they develop. A healthy heart is critical to overall health and a long, active life. Most of us are familiar with checking blood pressure to stay on top of that cardiovascular marker. You can easily purchase a blood pressure monitor and keep track of it at home, which is what my husband does.

But are there any other ways to monitor your heart health at home? Here are two more ways. You can check your resting heart rate, which is the number of times your heart beats per minute while at rest. This is an indicator of how fit your heart muscle is, and how well it can handle stress. A normal resting heart rate for the average person ranges between 60-100 beats per minute. A rate on the lower end is generally considered a sign of better cardiovascular health.

You can check your resting heart rate with a wearable fitness tracker or an Apple Watch, though the accuracy can vary quite a bit. You can also check your own pulse with your fingers. The best time to do it is first thing in the morning, before you’ve had coffee or even gotten out of bed.

Place two fingers on the thumb side of your wrist between the bone and tendon, or on your neck at the side of your windpipe, until you can feel a pulse. Watch a clock with a minute hand, and count how many beats you feel over 15 seconds. Multiply that number by 4 to get your total beats per minute.You can also use a pulse oximeter, like this one, which is what I use. A plus with this one is it also measures oxygen saturation level.

One I’d not heard of before is called the stairs test, sort of an at-home version of an exercise stress test. While it isn’t totally scientific, it will give you some information and I’m all for that.

Participants in this study were asked to quickly climb four flights of stairs while their time was recorded.Climbing the stairs in under a minute was correlated with better exercise capacity scores. Those who took longer than a minute and a half to climb the stairs had lower exercise capacity scores and were twice as likely to have shown abnormal heart function during the traditional treadmill test.

So in order to test yourself, find a building with four flights of stairs and climb them as fast as you can, without running or stopping, while tracking your time. According to the researchers, if your time is under a minute, that’s a sign of a healthy heart. If it takes more than a minute and a half, you should probably get checked out by your doctor.

What do you think about these ways to monitor your cardiovascular health?

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Posted in Fitness, Heart Health, Intentional Exertion/Exercise, Overall Health and Wholeness | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Surprising Food for Brain Health

I wonder if this fact will surprise you as much as it did me: A study of 1,787 adults revealed that out of 49 whole foods, cheese was “by far” the most protective food when it comes to avoiding age-related cognitive problems. For cheese-lovers this is truly good news. Cheese is brain food! Who knew?

I did a newsletter and shared the research that showed that dairy, including cheese, was not associated with weight gain, increased cholesterol levels, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and overall mortality. Well it seems the news just keeps getting better.

According to the study referenced above, participants who ate cheese daily had better fluid intelligence scores over time. Red wine and lamb were also found to be protective. Including some of these foods in your meals is a simple way to help protect your brain health.

As is true of all foods quality matters as does the type of cheese you choose. What is being spoken of here is real, natural cheese, not processed “cheese food” or “cheese spread.” If you can choose cheeses from organic dairy that’s one step better. Those from grass-fed dairy are even healthier as they have been shown to be higher in many nutrients, including vitamin E, beta-carotene and the healthy fats omega-3 and CLA.

Are you surprised to learn that cheese is considered a healthy, brain food?

Posted in Brain health, Heart Health, Nutrition, Overall Health and Wholeness | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

3 Surprising Benefits of Niacin

Niacin, also called vitamin B3, is a water-soluble vitamin that is found naturally in certain foods, is added to processed foods and can also be bought as a supplement. All the B vitamins are important for health and I routinely recommend taking a B complex supplement that contains all the B vitamins, which is what I do. However, vitamin B3, also called niacin, has three important and perhaps surprising benefits.

Before we look at those three benefits, it’s important to know that a severe niacin deficiency, called pellagra, is ultimately a lethal disease which may result in the 4 D’s: diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and even death.

It was common in the early 20th century but uncommon in populations where processed foods are fortified with this vitamin. At this time, pellagra is limited to people living in poverty whose diets are low in niacin and protein. Now to the benefits.

First, it’s long been known that niacin can help in balancing blood fats, increasing HDL cholesterol and lowering triglycerides. Years after the conclusion of a 9-year long study, niacin continued to have a positive effect on the participants’ health, lowering all-cause mortality by 11% over the placebo group. I wouldn’t say taking niacin alone is the answer. Changing your diet would be #1 on my list and then possibly including niacin. We now know cholesterol isn’t the main culprit in heart disease it was once thought to be.

Second, one study suggests that a diet rich in niacin could protect your skin against ultraviolet (UV) radiation, protect against the effect of UV radiation on DNA damage and oxidative stress and help guard against the rising prevalence of skin cancer.

And finally, niacin is a precursor to NAD and may help prevent some of the worst COVID-19 outcomes from cytokine and bradykinin storms. NAD+ is a critical signaling molecule that naturally declines with age. Higher levels of NLRP3 inflammasomes are culprits in cytokines storms and are influenced by NAD+ levels. This could be especially important in people with underlying conditions and the elderly.

Getting niacin from food is always the best way. Foods that are good sources include poultry, grass fed beef (especially beef liver), fish (particularly sockeye salmon), brown rice, nuts and grains.

Do you take a vitamin B supplement or niacin and if so, why?

Posted in Heart Health, Nutrition, Overall Health and Wholeness, Supplements | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Exercise Timing and Cancer Protection

Clients ask me all the time if there is one time that’s better than another to exercise. For fitness and weight loss my answer is always the same: whenever you will do it is the best time for you. Personally, I have always tried to get my exercise session in first thing in the morning. My rationale is that this way nothing that comes up during the day can interfere with my plans. Also it is when I have the most energy so it is my optimal time.

For many years, my husband found it best to go straight to the gym after work. He found it gave him that time to decompress before coming home. (As a high school teacher dealing with teenagers all day, I think that was a very wise move!) Now that he is semi-retired, he goes to the gym first thing in the morning. So at different times of your life, a different time may work better. It’s all good – whatever works for you is fine.

However if you have a specific goal in exercising, such as preventing cancer, you will find this recent study very interesting.

The researchers found exercising in the morning, particularly between 8 and 10 am, could lower your risk of cancer. The reason is that exercising at that time of the day seems to boost the circadian rhythm (our internal body clock), which helps suppress cancer.

Here’s the link to the timing: When it is dark, our bodies produce melatonin, a chemical that regulates sleep and affects other functions related to our circadian rhythm. Melatonin stops the spread of cancer and it is known that working out late or being up late (including shift work) slows the body’s production of it. One potential cause of cancer is circadian disruption. The two most powerful environmental cues affecting the circadian rhythm are food consumption and light.

It’s a well established fact that regular physical activity throughout lifetime can reduce cancer risk. So if working out in the afternoon works best for you, go for it. According to this new research, this cancer protective effect could be most beneficial when physical activity is done in the morning.

When is your preferred time to exercise?

Want to see more articles like this?   Subscribe to this blog (just click on “Follow”) and get each new post delivered to your email or feed reader.  To follow me and get even more tips on how to live your life in 3-D, including improving your diet, choosing cutting edge nutritional products and effective weight loss strategies be sure to like me on Facebook here and here, sign up for my FREE weekly No-Nonsense Nutrition Report (and get a free gift!), follow me on Pinterest and Twitter!

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Posted in Cancer, Fitness, Intentional Exertion/Exercise, Overall Health and Wholeness | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Strong Legs, Long Life

What does lower body strength have to do with brain health and healthy aging? More than you may have realized. One study of 1,280 people, 55 years old or older found leg strength to be one of the biggest predictors of physical ability later in life. This was regardless of age or gender. In another study keeping mice from using their back legs for almost a month, the findings reveal their reduced lower body muscle mass decreased brain cells 70%! That’s incredibly important as this could increase risk of developing all sorts of brain disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

So walking daily whenever possible and doing exercises like lunges and squats to strengthen your lower body should be on your short fitness to-do list.

Here is an easy way to test your lower body strength:

Sit down on the floor crosslegged. 

Stand up using only leg strength. Keep your hands in prayer pose or across your chest to avoid the temptation of using your arms for momentum or to touch the ground to help yourself get up. Repeat this five times in a row.

For older adults or anyone with a balance disorder, do the test from a chair.

How strong are your legs?

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Posted in Brain health, Fitness, Intentional Exertion/Exercise, Overall Health and Wholeness | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Surprising Stress Reliever

For many years now the very first thing I do every morning after scraping my tongue and rinsing my mouth, is to drink 16 oz of water with ¼ tsp of Himalayan Crystal salt. It hydrates me after a long overnight fast and is my way of getting the first part of my salt allotment for the day. I’ve written quite a few blog posts about the benefits of salt and water. You can read a few here:

To Salt or Not to Salt

Weight Loss: Another Reason for Adding Salt to Your Water

Healthy Blood Pressure: Is Salt Really the Problem?

Connection Between Salt and Autoimmune Disease

So, as you can tell, I am totally convinced of the benefits of natural, unprocessed salt. However, this was new information I had never heard before. Biohacker, Dave Asprey, recommends having Himalayan salt in water first thing in the morning to shortcircuit stress. He explained:

The stress hormone cortisol (which affects blood pressure and sugar as well as inflammation) is at its peak when you wake up in the morning. Its purpose is to wake you up and give you the energy to get things going. This is how the body is created to work. Unfortunately all too many people are chronically stressed so they are living with elevated cortisol levels constantly, which is damaging. For all too many people this causes them to feel especially agitated and anxious in the morning.

Apparently “morning anxiety” is a thing. I had no idea.

According to Asprey, a little salt in your morning water potentially lowers cortisol levels enough to let you get the benefit of an energy boost without the anxiety. Studies have shown that increasing salt intake lowers cortisol levels.

Obviously, more is not necessarily better – so you don’t need a huge amount, and quality matters. Table salt will not give you the same result. Choose a high quality, natural, unprocessed salt like Himalayan Crystal, Celtic sea or Redmond that have the full complement of minerals, not just sodium. It just might help you feel calmer throughout the day. It’s a simple thing to do, so why not give it a try? We can all use more calm right about now.

How do you feel about a bit of natural salt in your water to combat anxiety?

Want to see more articles like this?   Subscribe to this blog (just click on “Follow”) and get each new post delivered to your email or feed reader.  To follow me and get even more tips on how to live your life in 3-D, including improving your diet, choosing cutting edge nutritional products and effective weight loss strategies be sure to like me on Facebook here and here, sign up for my FREE weekly No-Nonsense Nutrition Report (and get a free gift!), follow me on Pinterest and Twitter!

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Posted in Detoxification, Digestive Health, Heart Health, Nutrition, Weight loss | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Maybe You’re Just Hungry

begging

I happened to read a scripture recently and saw it in a distinctly different way. I was reading 1 Kings 19 and in the first verses Elijah had just been threatened by Queen Jezebel and was running for his life. He actually was discouraged, depressed and at the end of his rope. He actually prayed to die!!

What caught my attention when I read it this time was that twice, God sent an angel and encouraged him to eat, drink and sleep! During this past year when we have all had so much more stress than usual this really jumped out at me.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that no matter what the problem is, all you need is a good meal, a glass of water and a nap. If only life was that simple. But what I am saying is that sometimes we need to do something to change our perspective and often eating a healthy meal, or drinking some water or a soothing cup of tea and resting can help us better deal with what we are facing.

Choosing good, real, clean food is important. If you default to cookies or a candy bar, it will only cause a sugar crash and you’ll feel worse rather than better. You can’t even process emotions effectively if you are dehydrated, so staying hydrated is definitely helpful in more ways than one. And sometimes you just need to unplug and take a nap!

So I guess my overall message is – listen to your body. Take time to give yourself what you need. Sometimes it could just be as simple as that.

How do you change your perspective when you realize you are going down a negative path?

Want to see more articles like this?   Subscribe to this blog (just click on “Follow”) and get each new post delivered to your email or feed reader.  To follow me and get even more tips on how to live your life in 3-D, including improving your diet, choosing cutting edge nutritional products and effective weight loss strategies be sure to like me on Facebook here and here, sign up for my FREE weekly No-Nonsense Nutrition Report (and get a free gift!), follow me on Pinterest and Twitter!

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Posted in Brain health, Digestive Health, Emotional Health, Nutrition, Overall Health and Wholeness, Soul Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Surprising Connection Between Obesity and Vitamin D

Vitamin D3 has been in the news a lot over the last year as it is one of the best ways to protect yourself against COVID-19. It is an important nutrient for so many reasons including strong bones, immune function overall, cancer protection, longevity, energy, mood, mental clarity, blood sugar regulation, healthy blood pressure levels, vision and macular health and muscular strength. So getting your levels tested and being sure you are in the healthiest range is critical.

Something you may not be aware of is that Vitamin D levels tend to be lower in obese people in general and that obesity may inhibit vitamin D’s benefits. People with a healthy weight received a 38% reduced risk for metastatic cancer and death compared to 17% overall, suggesting your body weight may play a significant role in whether vitamin D supplementation will provide you with the anticancer benefits you expect.

Why would body weight have this effect? Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble nutrient and the understanding is that when you are obese, the vitamin D is “volumetrically diluted.” This is the explanation for that from a paper published in 2017:

Serum vitamin D is lower in obese people; it is important to understand the mechanism of this effect and whether it indicates clinically significant deficiency … Vitamin D is fat soluble, and distributed into fat, muscle, liver, and serum.

All of these compartments are increased in volume in obesity, so the lower vitamin D likely reflects a volumetric dilution effect and whole body stores of vitamin D may be adequate … Obese people need higher loading doses of vitamin D to achieve the same serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D as normal weight.”

Another study found that for every 10% increase in body-mass index, there’s a 4.2% reduction in blood levels of vitamin D, leading the authors of that particular study to conclude that obesity may in fact be a causal factor in the development of vitamin D deficiency. It does make sense that there is a connection since both obesity rates and vitamin D deficiency have both increased.

So if you are overweight or obese, definitely have your levels checked and it may require you to increase the dosage you take while you are working to get to a healthier weight. Yet another reason to take steps now to get to your healthiest weight.

Does the obesity-vitamin D connection surprise you at all?

Want to see more articles like this?   Subscribe to this blog (just click on “Follow”) and get each new post delivered to your email or feed reader.  To follow me and get even more tips on how to live your life in 3-D, including improving your diet, choosing cutting edge nutritional products and effective weight loss strategies be sure to like me on Facebook here and here, sign up for my FREE weekly No-Nonsense Nutrition Report (and get a free gift!), follow me on Pinterest and Twitter!

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Posted in Brain health, Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Health, Nutrition, Overall Health and Wholeness, Weight loss | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Health and Fitness: Mindset and Perception

As this new year is in full swing, most people have begun and already left their resolutions to eat healthier and exercise more by the wayside. There is an aspect to creating healthier habits I wanted to really highlight here because it affects your success more than you may realize. Your mindset and perceptions,what you say to yourself about what you do have a huge impact on whether you stay the course or default to your old habits.

Most of us think our genes run everything, but that’s been proven to be false. For instance, when people were told they have genes that predispose them to respond poorly to exercise, their bodies start to respond accordingly, even when they don’t have those genes. When exercising on a treadmill, those people got tired more quickly than they did before and actually experienced decreased oxygen uptake and lung capacity. Just from being told they were not going to be effective exercisers – and believing that!

Here’s another powerful example of this principle. Researchers recruited 84 hotel maids and divided them into two groups. At the start of the study, none of them knew that they were already meeting or exceeding the U.S. guidelines for exercise simply by doing their work each day. Sixty-seven percent of the maids told the researchers that they “didn’t get any exercise.”

Group #1 was told that just by doing their job, they burned a lot of calories and got more than enough exercise. Group #2 was not told this. Thirty days later researchers found that those maids in Group #1 lost an average of 2 pounds, lowered their body fat percentage, and reduced systolic blood pressure by 10 points. All this was accomplished without doing any additional “exercise” besides their work or changing their diet at all. The other group did not experience any of these positive results.

Are you convinced of the power of your beliefs, mindset, perception, awareness and what you tell yourself? This may be a powerful piece of the puzzle you have been overlooking.

So how you perceive what you’re doing, the words you use to talk about it, how you assign meaning to what you’re doing, and the intention behind it all matter. I go into detail about the importance of this and share powerful ways to address this in Today is Still the Day. Speaking positive confessions over yourself, practicing intentionally perceiving your efforts as being effective will help you be consistent and successful in your efforts.

Are your thoughts, words and perceptions aligned in order to achieve success in your health goals?

Posted in Emotional Health, Fitness, Intentional Exertion/Exercise, Nutrition, Overall Health and Wholeness, Soul Health, Weight loss | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Immune Function: Cold Water Therapy

I share some powerful immune supporting and boosting strategies in my book, Natural Tips for Staying Healthy, including ways to support your lymphatic system, which is key in immune function. One of the most effective ways to do this is by alternating between hot and cold showers.

According to a 2014 study, cold showers have been documented to increase natural killer cells, which is a marker of how resilient your immune system is. The study found that cold water caused a release of epinephrine, which in turn caused an increase in an anti-inflammatory cytokine known to regulate your body’s response to infection, IL-10. This 2016 trial found that those participants who alternated between hot and cold showers, reduced their sickness-related work absences by 29%.

Besides improved immune function, cold therapy has been found to have anti-aging benefits as well as improving sleep, reducing inflammation, easing pain and alleviating anxiety and depression.

There’s no need to take a long, cold shower. The benefits are increased when you alternate short bursts and you don’t need to be cold for long. You can simply end your hot shower with cold water for 30 seconds. As you feel able you can increase to a minute or two. If you are pregnant or have heart issues, you should avoid this practice. But for the rest of us, it’s a pretty fast and simple way to give your immune system some extra support.

How do you feel about ending your shower with a blast of cold water?

Want to see more articles like this?   Subscribe to this blog (just click on “Follow”) and get each new post delivered to your email or feed reader.  To follow me and get even more tips on how to live your life in 3-D, including improving your diet, choosing cutting edge nutritional products and effective weight loss strategies be sure to like me on Facebook here and here, sign up for my FREE weekly No-Nonsense Nutrition Report (and get a free gift!), follow me on Pinterest and Twitter!

Make gradual changes. Boost health, vitality and energy. Become your best YOU

Posted in Emotional Health, Overall Health and Wholeness, Soul Health | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments