Tag Archives: stroke

6 Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet

mediterranean_diet2-300x236If you’re looking for a healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet may be a good option for you. While this type of approach has many benefits, there are also several misconceptions about this healthy lifestyle.

First, let’s debunk the myths about the Mediterranean diet:

Myth 1: This diet is expensive.
The fact is the Mediterranean diet is less expensive than eating dishes of meat, cheese and processed foods. You’ll be creating meals of beans or lentils, as a source of protein, and eating more plants and whole grains.

Myth 2: Wine is always healthy.
Wine is good for your heart in moderation. For example, one glass a day for women and two for men. More than two glasses of wine can actually be bad for your heart.

Myth 3: You can eat all the pasta and bread you want.
Mediterraneans don’t eat heaping plates of pasta the way Americans do. Pasta is typically a side dish with only a 1/2 cup or 1 cup serving size. The rest of their plate contains salad, vegetables and a small portion of meat.

Myth 4: You’ll lose weight on this diet.
This diet alone may not lead to weight loss. The people of the Greek islands also include exercise in their daily lives, by walking up and down steep hills, tending gardens and living off what they can grow themselves.

Myth 5: The diet is only about food.
The Mediterranean diet has more to do with how the people live their lives. They sit down for meals, relax and eat leisurely while enjoying the meal with others. This approach to food may be as important to your health as what’s on your plate.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt for flavoring
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry twice a week or more
  • Drinking red wine in moderation

Here are 6 health benefits of eating in a Mediterranean style:

Prevent heart disease and stroke
One of the main reasons to follow a Mediterranean diet is to promote heart health. Refined breads, processed foods and red meat are discouraged. In addition, red wine is better for your heart than hard liquor.

Protect against type 2 diabetes
Rich in fiber, the Mediterranean diet slows down digestion and prevents huge swings in blood sugar. The diet also includes less sugar than the typical American diet.

Reduce risk of Alzheimer’s
Researchers believe the Mediterranean diet may improve cholesterol, blood sugar levels and overall blood vessel health. All of these factors may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Halve the risk of Parkinson’s disease
The risk of Parkinson’s disease can practically be cut in half. That’s because this diet contains high levels of antioxidants that prevent cells from undergoing a damaging process called oxidative stress.

Live longer
With a reduction in developing heart disease as well as cancer, there is a 20 percent reduction in the risk of death at any age.

Stay agile
The nutrients gained with a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of developing muscle weakness and other signs of frailty as we age by 70 percent.

While the Mediterranean diet may seem like a daunting change, it can be easier to adopt than you think. It follows the common sense approach to incorporating balance into your diet, by including lots of vegetables and fruits, cutting down on meat and eating more fish, chicken and good fats. You should also include physical activity and enjoy your meals with family and friends.

13 Top Heart Healthy Foods

puzzle-heart-1440817-3-mI lost my grandma to congestive heart failure 14 years ago. I worry that I could have heart issues someday.

I was surprised to read recently that heart disease is still the number one killer of Americans. Even though we have learned so much about the prevention of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, it seems we can still do more to stop this deadly condition.

It’s been proven that eating healthier and getting more exercise can make a huge difference in your risk for heart disease.

What you eat matters. Here are 13 top foods to help protect your heart and blood vessels:

Salmon
Salmon is super-rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can help reduce blood pressure and keep clotting at bay. Salmon also contains powerful antioxidants. Grill it up with a tasty rub or marinade. Save a chunk of salmon and chop it up for pasta or salad at another meal. To mix things up, you can also eat oily fish like mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines.

Oatmeal
A steaming bowl of oats is a great way to start the day and also gives you omega-3 fatty acids, folate, niacin, calcium and potassium. It’s rich in fiber and can help lower bad cholesterol and keep your arteries clear. Add raisins or fresh berries to boost this heart healthy dish.

Nuts
Walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids, along with mono- and polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium and fiber. Mix a few of these nuts with yogurt or berries, add them to salads, or make your own trail mix.

Avocado
A bit of avocado added to a sandwich or spinach salad can give you a serving of heart-healthy fats. Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fats and help lower bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol. Avocados also help in the absorption of beta-carotene and lycopene, which are both good for heart health.

Olive oil
Olive oil is also a source of monounsaturated fats and helps lower bad cholesterol. Use it in place of butter or other oils for cooking.

Flaxseed
Flaxseed is full of fiber and omega-3 as well as omega-6 fatty acids. Sprinkle flaxseed on oatmeal or whole-grain cereal for breakfast. You can also use flaxseed instead of eggs when making muffins, quick breads, pancakes or cookies.

Berries
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries and blackberries are all full of anti-inflammatories, which reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. They also contain vitamins and nutrients as well as fiber. Mix berries in your salads, muffins or trail mix.

Red wine
A glass of red wine can improve your good cholesterol. Red wine contains both catechins and reservatrol, also known as flavonoids.

Legumes
You can fill up on fiber with lentils, chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans. These legumes are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and soluble fiber.

Leafy greens
Spinach can help your heart with lutein, folate, potassium and fiber. Spinach can make nutrient-packed salads and sandwiches. Other leafy greens include kale, collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, romaine lettuce and cabbage.

Soy
Soy is low in saturated fat and is a great source of lean protein for a heart-healthy diet. Try natural sources of soy, such as edamame, tempeh or tofu. Soy milk is good with a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal, or even in smoothies.

Fruits and veggies
It’s important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet. You should even try to make them half your plate. You can buy fresh fruits and veggies that are in season, frozen or canned (just be sure it’s 100% fruit juice and not syrup). Some heart healthy veggies include carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, asparagus and squash. In addition to berries, add these fruits to your diet: oranges, apples, apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, grapefruit, kiwi, peaches and papaya.

Tomatoes
I’m never sure if a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, but it deserves its own category anyway. Tomatoes are a super food packed with beta- and alpha-carotenes, lycopene, lutein, vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber. You can add tomatoes to salads, pasta dishes, pizza and more. You even eat them in ketchup.

Adding these heart healthy foods to your diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. See if you can eat a few of the foods listed above today!

9 health benefits of drinking coffee

Cup of coffee health benefitsI am not a morning person. My family knows it’s best not to talk to me until I’ve been up for at least an hour, possibly two hours.

Otherwise, you might get your head bitten off. Don’t expect me to make any decisions. And, if you tell me anything important in that first hour that I’m awake, it’s very likely that I won’t remember it at all.

I love my morning cup of coffee. I only have one cup – but it’s a gigantic 16-ounce cup of coffee. I love the smell. I love the warmth. And I love the taste. I have probably started every day with a cup of coffee for over 20 years. I honestly don’t think I could do without it.

You hear all sorts of bad things about coffee. For instance, it will stunt your growth. My dad used to tell me when I was a kid and wanted to drink his coffee that it would “put hair on my knees.” There have even been claims that it can cause heart disease and cancer.

More recent research has shown that coffee has many health benefits when you drink it in moderate amounts. Here are 9 health benefits of drinking coffee:

Live longer
A few recent studies have shown that drinking coffee can actually help you live longer. During one study, men who drank 2 or 3 cups of coffee a day were 10% less likely to have died during the study. Women who drank the same amount were 13% less likely to have died.

Fight cancer
The likelihood of getting some kinds of cancer – including prostate, oral and liver cancer or breast cancer recurrence – may be lessened by drinking coffee. While scientists aren’t sure how coffee helps lessen the chances of these types of cancer, it’s worth it to keep drinking coffee.

Prevent Parkinson’s
Coffee may lower the chances of developing Parkinson’s disease as well as lessen the symptoms of the disease. Drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day can reduce the risks of developing the disease by as much as 25%.

Protect against diabetes
Consuming 3 to 4 cups of coffee a day may lower your chances of developing type II diabetes by 25%. Each additional cup of coffee lowered the risk even further.

Reduce dementia and Alzheimer’s
Coffee not only gives us a short-term caffeine boost to sharpen our minds, it can also give us a similar affect for the long-term. Coffee drinkers have up to a 60% lower risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Lower risk of heart disease and stroke
Coffee has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. In one study, those who drank 1 to 3 cups of coffee a day were 20% less likely to be hospitalized for heart-related concerns.

Take in antioxidants
Coffee is rich in antioxidants. When present in your bloodstream, antioxidants can build up your immune system and help you fight off sickness. Coffee also serves as a source for several vitamins and minerals, such as riboflavin, niacin, potassium and manganese.

Protect your skin
Drinking coffee may also help protect you against developing basal cell carcinoma – the most common type of skin cancer. It may be the caffeine found in coffee that helps reduce the risk of this cancer.

Combat depression
Drinking coffee may help fight depression. If you drink 4 or more cups of coffee a day, you are 10% less likely to be depressed than those who didn’t drink coffee. Researchers believe that the antioxidants found in coffee may provide mood-lifting benefits.

So, relax and enjoy a few cups of coffee. But, keep in mind that moderation is still the key. Too much of a good thing can still be harmful.

Do you start your day off with a good cup of coffee? What is your favorite thing about drinking coffee?

14 secrets to living longer

living longerMy husband and I have very different views on aging. He wants to live as long as possible – on the condition that he is in good health. He has made it clear to me that if he were on life support and there was no chance of regaining quality of life, he wants me to pull the plug.

I, on the other hand, want to live forever. Since that’s not possible, I at least want to live to 100. I have told him he is – under no circumstances – to pull the plug. I could be one of those miraculous survivors who beat the odds.

I know this is a rather morbid subject, but if you are like me and want to live your longest life, you want to know what you can do to make it to 100. After reviewing studies, research and even tips from centenarians, here are some secrets to longevity:

Be conscientious
Having a conscientious personality and attributes like attention to detail and persistence may help you live longer. Studies have shown that conscientious people do more things to protect their health  – such as exercise, eat healthy and avoid bad habits – and make choices that lead to stronger relationships and better careers.

Make friends
Be grateful for your friends. As we mentioned in our blog, 7 Reasons We Need Friends, your friends may help you live longer. But, be picky. You want to have friends with good habits, such as exercising and healthy eating. Otherwise, a friend’s bad habits, like smoking or overeating, can rub off on you.

Take naps
This may be one of my favorite secrets on the list. I now have permission to take naps! There’s scientific evidence that napping may help increase longevity. A recent study suggests that by taking naps you are 37% less likely to die from heart disease. So, go take a siesta!

Get married
There is some debate about whether being married will help you live longer, but having a partner in life may have its benefits. With marriage, you have a friend and your own support system. In addition, being married may mean you are more financially stable, which can make you feel more secure and give you more opportunities to do things you enjoy.

Eat a Mediterranean diet
A Mediterranean diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish. Studies have shown that this type of diet can help reduce obesity, lower blood sugar, decrease blood pressure, and help lower your chances of heart disease and diabetes.

Lose weight
Belly fat seems to be particularly bad for your health and longevity. So, work on slimming down and deflating the spare tire. The health benefits can include protecting against diabetes, heart disease and other life-shortening conditions. One way to lose weight is to eat less. Stop eating when you’re 80% full. Eat less meat and eat twice as many fruits and vegetables. We know we need to eat better, so add living longer to the reasons you should adopt a healthy diet.

Keep moving
According to studies, regular physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some forms of cancer and depression. Exercise may even help you stay mentally sharp as you age. You should aim for 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week. You can break that down to 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Even if you can only get in 10 minutes at a time, it all adds up to increase your lifespan. Here are some tips to Get Motivated to Exercise in 2013.

Drink in moderation
Yes, heart disease is less common in people who have a drink or two a day than those who don’t drink at all. However, you need to remember that alcohol is also empty calories that add to that belly bulge. The American Heart Association recommends that if you drink alcohol, the limit should be one drink a day for women and one or two for men. If you don’t drink currently, you shouldn’t start.

Quit smoking
We all know that smoking is bad for your health. Not only is there a greater risk of cancer, you’re also taking years off of your life. So, if you haven’t already, now is the time to quit smoking.

Have faith
Having faith seems to help you live longer. By having strong spiritual beliefs, you are able to better deal with stress and difficult times. It may also offer protection against heart, respiratory and digestive problems. In addition, the strong social network that you create when you worship with others may contribute to overall health.

Manage stress
We always hear that stress is bad for you, but moderate stress can be a good thing. It means you are probably busy, active and involved. Rather than being sedentary and ambivalent, you are persistent and dedicated to getting things done. However, too much stress can be harmful if it causes anxiety, insomnia or digestive issues. Are you too stressed? Read our blog Do You Have Chronic Stress? 6 Major Signs.

Sleep more
As you may have read in our blog, 10 Reasons Get More Sleep, getting plenty of rest can help you fight disease, lose weight, look better and build your brain. Getting enough good quality sleep can even lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease and mood disorders. Sleep will also help you recover from illness faster.

Offer forgiveness
Just let it go. Offering forgiveness has surprising physical health benefits. Forgiveness can help you reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and help you to breathe more easily. These benefits tend to increase as you get older.

Have a sense of purpose
There is something to doing what you love. We all have days when we need a reason to get out of bed. Having a sense of purpose leads to a higher quality of life. You may love your work and look forward to it every day. You may have hobbies and activities that have meaning for you. You may find that volunteering makes you feel fulfilled. For more benefits of volunteering, see our blog, 5 Surprising Benefits of Giving Back. Basically, doing what you love may contribute to a longer life.

So, now you know what you need to do to live your longest life! Do you know someone who is 100 or older? What are their secrets to longevity?