Category Archives for "Healthy Living"

December 20, 2018

Heart Attack Risk During the Holidays

heart attack risk goes up during the holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And also the most stressful! Given all of the hustle and bustle that comes with the holiday season, I guess it should come as no surprise, when I think about it more, that there is a higher risk of heart attack during this time of year.

I came across the article on wtop.com that quotes a cardiologist with MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute as saying that there is a spike in heart deaths on Christmas and New Year’s Day. Pretty interesting!

Why a Higher Risk of Heart Attack in the Winter?

I was curious about this topic when I first read the headline, so I had to click it and find the reason behind this. According to the article, the risk of heart attack increases by about 50 percent during the winter months in general. One factor that contributes to this is the colder temperature outside. In the wintertime, our blood clots differently.

On top of that, which likely contributes to the spike on those specific holiday days, is the amount of stress during this time of year. Whether it be traveling for the holidays, nervousness about gift-giving (what to get, and how to afford it), anxiety over family gatherings, etc., it can be a pretty stressful time.

Other reasons suggested in the article include:

  • Forgetting to take your medicine with everything else going on
  • Not getting enough rest due to all the holiday activities and travel
  • Changes in your diet with excessive eating over the holidays
  • More alcohol consumption during holiday gatherings, which can lead to heart rhythm problems called atrial fibrillation

How to Mitigate the Risk

They offer up the following tips to lower your risk factors of a heart attack during the wintertime and the holiday season in particular. These include being sure to take your medicine as prescribed, getting enough sleep, not deviating too far from your normal diet, eating heart-healthy foods, drinking alcohol in moderation, and minimizing stress as much as possible.

Warning Signs

Be aware of the following signals that may be an oncoming heart attack:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains
  • If you are older, feeling “not right” or tired

If you are symptomatic, don’t avoid the warning signs. If there is any concern whatsoever, if you just don’t feel yourself, you should meet with your doctor to get checked out before it becomes a more severe issue.

December 20, 2018

Exercise Just as Good as Pills for High Blood Pressure

exercise can be as effective as medicine to fight high blood pressure

If you are suffering from high blood pressure, the recommended course of action is probably to take some prescribed medications and to watch what you eat. There are a number of foods in your diet that can lead to hypertension, as well as foods that can help lower your blood pressure, so your diet is one thing that you should definitely be watching.

Similarly, there are many medications on the market that help to lower your blood pressure by opening up your blood vessels, putting less strain on your heart to be able to pump blood all around the body. Taking this medication is extremely important, as high blood pressure can increase the risk factors for many issues that can lead to premature death.

However, new research reveals that just as important as medicine is getting enough exercise.

Exercise to Combat High Blood Pressure

In what is believed to be the first study of its kind, researchers in the US and UK teamed up to examine the effect of exercise on hypertension. While it is recommended that more research is done to be conclusive, the early evidence suggests that exercise may be just as effective in fighting high blood pressure as a medication is.

After examining nearly 200 clinical trials that investigated drug impact on HBP, as well as nearly 200 trials on the effects of exercise (altogether there were 40,000 trial participants), the researchers came to the conclusion on the effectiveness of exercise in fighting HBP.

When isolating the data to only those that had high blood pressure at the outset of the studies, the researchers found that getting consistent exercise proved to be just as helpful in HBP than the results shown by those taking prescription drugs. The strongest results were found in those who combined endurance exercise with dynamic resistance training. This would be like running or jogging, combined with weightlifting.

getting more exercise can help with HBP

However, while the results are promising, it is too early to suggest that medication could be completely replaced with an exercise program. For the best results, it is suggested that increasing your activity levels along with undergoing drug treatment is the most effective course.

My Thoughts


I am not surprised in the least bit that they have uncovered yet another benefit of getting enough exercise. It is absolutely crucial for your health, your weight, your mood, etc., that it is not shocking news that it can also have an effect on hypertension.

I am curious to read the studies in more detail to see exactly how this effect occurs. Maybe it promotes more blood flow, makes circulation more efficient? Perhaps the rush of endorphins has a chemical effect? I don’t know, but I’d be curious to find out, and look forward to more research on this topic.

If you are afflicted with high blood pressure, by all means, continue to take your prescribed medication. But it is also time to take a look at how much exercise you’re getting. Are you active enough? With this newfound information, there is even more motivation to get off the couch to help with your HBP.

December 20, 2018

Healthiest States in America

what states are the healthiest?

As it comes to the end of the year, many of you are probably making New Year’s Resolutions. The most common resolutions have to d0 with diet and fitness – if that’s the case, avoid these diet resolutions. You may be looking at yourself and wanting to improve your physique and your health – which is great!

However, did you ever look around and wonder if your environment also has something to do with your weight? How do you measure up against your local peers? Just as they do every year, the United Health Foundation came out with their annual list of the healthiest, and the unhealthiest states in the country. How did your state fare? Find out below.

What State is Healthiest in the US?

When you get to the list below, the rankings indicate that the states that placed above you are considered to be healthier than your state, while those below you are less healthy. These rankings are made up of a number of factors, and just because you place in the top it doesn’t necessarily mean you have high marks all across the board. There are things that the top states perform poorly in, and likewise, there are things that the bottom states do well. The aggregate is what makes up the final ranking.

Ranking Factors

They take a total of 35 different factors when putting together these rankings. These 35 factors are split into a variety of categories:

  • Behaviors that are chosen in your lifestyle
  • Community and environmental factors
  • Public policy at the state level
  • Level of clinical care
  • Hospital quality

These factors for each state are examined by a scientific advisory board, which then assigns a rank to each state within each factor. These 35 rankings are then aggregated to make the overall list rank.

Most Healthy States

This year, the top rankings are as follows:

  • 1
    Hawaii
  • 2
    Massachusetts
  • 3
    Connecticut
  • 4
    Vermont
  • 5
    Utah

This is the same five that made the top of the list last year, though they were in a different order.

Most Unhealthy States

These are the 5 worst states for health, with the top state listed below being the 50th ranked overall, then the 49th, and so on.

  • 1
    Louisiana
  • 2
    Mississippi
  • 3
    Alabama
  • 4
    Oklahoma
  • 5
    Arkansas

Is it a coincidence that all of these lie in the South, particularly the Southeast? Does it have anything to do with their diet – lots of fried food? Is the level of health care not as strong in that region? Is there a lack of exercise compared to other regions of the country? I’d be curious to find out why this particular region is so strongly represented at the bottom of the list.

Key Takeaways

The most concerning finding in this study is that obesity has hit an all-time high. It rose more than 5% from the prior year, and now nearly one in three (31.3%) of Americans can be considered obese.

rank of healthiest states

On top of that, and probably related given that obesity can lead to many risk factors for your health, another eye-opener is that the premature death rate rose 3% from the prior year. This is defined as death before the age of 75.

My Thoughts

It is kind of the nature vs. nurture thing. Does having unhealthy people around you make you more likely to be unhealthy yourself? Whatever the environment, it is important for everyone to take care of themselves with smart diet choices and a healthy and active lifestyle.

December 20, 2018

Americans Getting Fatter, Not Taller

American adults are growing wider and shorter

According to a new federal report released from the CDC, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the health of American adults is on the decline. Not only is the average adult in the US overweight, but our height has seen a decline in the last few decades as well.

This is particularly concerning, given that the average weight is going up, while the average height is going down, it means we are getting fatter. This trend was recorded in all population groups, though the strongest indicators were seen in whites and Hispanics.

Americans Getting Shorter and Fatter

One theory for this shift in body metrics is that it is a result of a population change in our country. With the influx of Mexican Americans, which are estimated to be around two-thirds of all Hispanics in the US, this could lead to a change in these measurables. On average, this cultural group tends to be shorter than other Americans who come from European or another ancestry.

A sample of 5,000 Americans comprised the results in this study that was conducted in a 2015-2016 health survey which measured height and weight, among other statistics. The records for the CDC date back to the early 1960s. At that time, the average man had a height of 5 feet 8 inches and weight around 165 pounds. In the newest survey, men grew about 1 inch taller than the early surveys, though they are weighing more than 30 pounds heavier. While 5 feet 9 inches is an increase in height relative to the studies conducted 50 years ago, it represents a 0.1-inch decrease as compared to a decade ago.

Maybe Americans today need to start taking a supplement to help them grow taller, like Growth Factor Plus!

As for the women, the average height in the early studies in the 60s was 5 feet 3 inches and an average weight of 140 pounds. In the new study, women are now about 0.5 inches taller though they are also about 30 pounds heavier.

A gain of over 30 pounds in both genders, as compared to 50 years ago, is quite striking. However, the most astonishing statistics come when looking at data from just the last decade. The average weight for an adult male rose 2 pounds in the last decade, to 198 pounds. Women saw an even larger increase in the last decade, with weight rising by 6 pounds to nearly 171 pounds on average. The average waistlines are 40 inches and 39 inches for men and women, respectively.

What This Means


I would have to agree with the assertion that a shift in the makeup of our population has a lot to do with the changes in these body metrics. I would say that nutritionally we are so much more well-equipped to stay in good health – whether those adopted into healthy lifestyle habits or not remains to be seen. It is said that Mexican Americans are roughly 3 inches shorter than white and African American people, so that could help explain the changes in these statistics.

Particularly for the stats to change so much in such a short time, over the last decade, I can’t think of anything biologically or evolution-wise that could explain the shift in the short-term.

December 20, 2018

Causes of Weight Gain Other Than Your Diet

other factors that contribute to weight gain besides your diet

Even if you are eating well, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to lose weight or keep from gaining weight. There are a number of factors that come into play in regards to your body weight that can make it a struggle to reach an ideal size. However, there are a number of solutions to help you break through the plateau and hit your goals.

What Are the Reasons for Weight Gain?

Outside of your diet, there a variety of things that can affect your weight. You could be eating well, getting a lot of physical activity, counting your daily steps, and still not see any improvement on the scale. Below are a few of the things that could be causing this.

Medications


There are certain medications, with antidepressants in particular, that affect your metabolism and lead to weight gain as an adverse side effect. This is especially seen when medications like these are taken for a few months or longer. Luckily, information is available online that will advise if weight gain is a potential side effect of a medication you are considering. In most cases, there is likely an alternative medicine you can take.

Birth Control


Weight gain is sometimes a side effect of certain forms of contraception.

As many forms of birth control affect the hormones, these contraceptives can slow down your metabolism or make you retain more water.

what are the causes of weight gain?

While birth control pills are lower in hormonal content, other forms such as Depo-Provera has been recorded in some cases to lead to a gain of over 10 pounds of weight in a year.

Hormonal Imbalance


For similar reasons as described above in regards to birth control, you may naturally have an imbalance in hormones that can lead to an increase in size. If you’ve ruled out other causes and can’t find any reason why you may be gaining weight, it is likely that hormones are the culprit. The main hormones that can cause this are insulin, estrogen, leptin, testosterone, progesterone, as well as thyroid-produced hormones.

Genetics


Take a look around at your family – your parents, grandparents, other blood relatives. If they are overweight, it may be that you are genetically predisposed to have a tougher time to lose weight. However, this can be overcome be adopting better lifestyle habits, you’ll just have to be even more disciplined than others. Make smart choices in the kitchen and be sure to get enough exercise.

Age


As we get older, our bodies are more prone to lose muscle mass and store extra fat. Our metabolism naturally slows down as we age, estimated at 2% slower every couple years or so. This makes it more difficult to lose weight as we get older. However, just like with the genetics discussed above, this can be overcome with a more disciplined effort with diet and exercise.

Lack of Sleep


Getting enough sleep is crucially important for overall body health. I go into further detail in this post about sleep and weight gain. Sleep resets our system and makes all processes run more efficiently, including our metabolism. In addition, being awake at night gives more opportunity for eating, which includes unhealthy late night snacking.

December 19, 2018

Don’t Make These Diet New Year’s Resolutions

don't make this diet goals part of your New Year's resolutions

Are you making any New Year’s Resolutions this year? Good luck! According to a study over a 200-year period, less than 20% of people have actually followed through on their resolutions. That’s not the greatest batting average. Less than one out of five. However, on the other hand, it was found that those who set goals for themselves enacted positive change during the new year, even if they ultimately fell short of the initial goal.

Some of the most common resolutions have to do with diet and weight loss. It is why you see such a rise in gym memberships (and attendance) at the beginning of the year. Though, given the 1 out of 5 referenced above, it isn’t long until those gyms go back to their normal attendance.

If you are setting diet goals this year with your resolutions – great! Positive thinking is wonderful. However, be careful of falling into some of the pitfalls I list below.

Diet Resolutions You Shouldn’t Make

Here are a few of the most common resolutions related to diet, and why you should avoid making these a priority in the new year.

Lose X Number of Pounds


It is common that you’ll hear someone say they want to lose 5 pounds, 10 pounds, 20 pounds, or whatever the number may be. While these are great goals and give you something to work towards, be mindful that your weight fluctuates based on a lot of factors. Hormones, stress, body composition (fat versus muscle) all go into what makes up your weight.

While it is a good goal to lose weight, focus on the process instead. The goal should be getting healthier, shedding fat, and maintaining lean muscle mass. The end result will be a much healthier body with a lower fat composition, whatever that weight may be.

Going Keto on January 1


The Keto Diet is one of the biggest diet fads of the last year or so, and many have resolved to start with this diet beginning on January 1st.

However, this diet requires a dramatic change in your body’s processes. It doesn’t just happen overnight. It requires an entire lifestyle change.

Your diet will dramatically change. Of course, the end result is burning more fat by eating fewer carbs. However, don’t think that you can just jump right into it. Instead, make smaller, more incremental changes to your diet and ease yourself into it. If you jump right in, you will find it too much of an adjustment and increase your chances of quitting.

Abstaining From Alcohol in January


It is a noble goal to go dry for a month, but it is a lot of pressure. The focus should instead be on a healthier lifestyle and making a longer-term habit of consuming less alcohol. By setting a time period of just January, after all that holiday binging, it compartmentalizes it into a short-term change and you’re more likely to go back to your old ways come February. Instead, make a goal to reduce your alcohol intake, and make it part of your lifestyle beyond just the first month of the year.