Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Heart Disease Fact or Fantasy?

In just a couple of weeks the American Heart Association will be having their annual heart walk in our area, much like they are around the country this time of year.  I walk in the walk for all those who can not walk for themselves however my family tree is no stranger to this deadly disease. 

My mother survived her heart attack however; my grandmother and grandfather did not. My husband’s father survived his 1st heart attack at 52 years old, lived long enough to survive a second one.

When I worked as a nurse in our local hospital's Cardiac Care Unit we had many patients who had heart attacks just like their parents did; just about the same time in their life as their parents.  However we had just as many who neither of their parents experienced a heart attack at any time in their life. They were the first person in their family. 

Some people who have heart attacks lead healthy lives, including good food choices and exercise daily. Others live unhealthy lives, smoking, have high blood pressure and cholesterol, uncontrolled diabetes, eating salted, fried foods at every meal. My grandfather was the latter.  As they say he worked hard, lived heard, and died at almost 90 years old of a heart attack. Some would say he had good genes, others would say it’s just luck. For me, I say it’s a gamble. I’m leveraging my bet by eating healthy, exercising most days of the week, and taking care of myself. To feel great each and every day is what I’m striving for. How about you?

Here we go … Fact or Fantasy?

No one in my family died of a heart attack so I don’t need to know about it. (fantasy)

The #1 Cause of is Death is Heart Disease.
7.1 million have suffered a heart attack.
100 million have been diagnosed with heart disease.
500 million women & 450 million men died of heart disease.
1 in 3 people will die from complications of hardening of the arteries.
23% of Americans have high blood pressure.

According to the latest statistics gathered by the World Health Organization 2011, 63% of us will experience a heart attack in our lifetime.  The Journal of the American College of Cardiology just published (2012) a new study reporting if you had a family member under 60 years old have a heart attack, you are 5 times more likely to have one. Even at that, there is no guarantee or proof positive evidence if your family member has an heart attack you will. At best, heredity only plays 30% in your disease risks. So you have 70% chance it won't happen.

Men are much more likely to have a heart attack than women. (fantasy)

Did you know heart disease is the # 1 cause of death for women. Heart attack is more likely to kill women than men. Women are 6 times more likely to die of a heart attack than breast cancer. And
1 in 9 Women 45 – 64 years old and 1 in 3 - Over 65 years old will be effected. Back in the 1960's when women started living like men; smoking, drinking excessively, eating unhealthy restaurant foods, increasing stress (women can do it all, work and have a family), we began to see an increased incidence of heart attacks. So I guess not.

Heart disease is a disease of middle age and older yrs? (fantasy)

Oh, no. Thanks to all those "hurry up eateries" with the cute toys and the snack food and sugary beverage industry by age 3, children have fatty deposits in their arteries.By age 12, 70% of the kids have developed beginning stages of hardening of the arteries. By age 18 30.2% high blood pressure 17.3% high cholesterol. Children are now developing diabetes at an alarming rate. Some scientists think at the current rate of incidence 50% of the kids born after year 2000 will have diabetes in their lifetime. In fact, pediatricians are now challenged with the task of taking care of kids with increase cardiac risks. Something they don't learn in medical school. After all who ever heard of kids having heart attacks? Just wait. It's on the way!

No Pain, No Gain. You need to get sweaty & out of breath for it to count. (fantasy)

It’s all about activity. Activity is the only way to develop collateral circulation in the heart, any level of activity will improve circulation and increase oxygen (aerobic) to your heart. Although cardio exercise is the best, any activity will build your heart muscle. That's why older people survive heart attacks in better health, than younger ones. In fact, if you exercise too hard you will be taking oxygen (anaerobic) away from your heart causing damage. A rule of thumb is exercise hard enough to break a sweat, sing happy birthday or have a steady conversation. Any harder is too hard for you.

The stress is killing me. (fact)

OnHealth Consumer Reports 2007 reported “Treating depression and curbing anger my be nearly as important for preventing heart attack as much as diet and exercise”.  A Mayo Clinic Study reported heart circulation Increased 22 % during laughter and decreased 35% during stress. In fact, there is now proof stress can cause DNA mutation which contributes and sometimes caused disease. Scientists can now prove what we have known all along, stress even the perception of stress can literally kill you.

Why are we so unhealthy? 

As the famous line goes, "there are many roads to Rome."  Well, there are many roads to sickness, disease and poor health. Here are the top 6.

  1. Poor food choices
  2. Eating too much “BAD” foods
  3. Not eating enough “GOOD” foods
  4. Not drinking enough water
  5. Lack of exercise
  6. Stressful lifestyles
The recommendation from the AmericanHeart Association, American Cancer Society and the USDA (our government) is to Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, on average 7 – 13 servings (1 serving 1/2 cup)

Start with what's on your plate .. Eat MORE Fruits and Vegetables:  

Packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
Anti – inflammatory
Enhance immune function
Reduces DNA damage
Improves circulation

For those of us who can’t, won’t or don’t know how to eat enough fruits and veggies to maintain their health I recommend Juice Plus+ (http://www.yourjuiceplus.com)

The American Heart Association also recommends adding the Omega 3’s heart healthy fats such as fish and nuts plus adding a fish oil supplement to assist in the reduction of inflammation. For those who don’t like fish, I recommend a fish oil supplement. (http://www.nordicnaturals.com)

Once you have a heart attack it’s all downhill, no recovery. (fantasy)

Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease (1976) reports “It is easier to PREVENT heart disease than it is to REVERSE heart disease.” However with strict lifestyle changes heart disease can be reduced by 60%.

If I wait a minute my chest pain will go away, and I will be ok. (fantasy)

Call 911, fast. If you get to the hospital fast enough, there are procedures that can minimize the damage to the heart muscle. 

Heart attack and stroke are life-and-death emergencies -- every second counts.

Your partner in health,
Health Coach
Wellness Consultant

Monday, August 20, 2012

Neutral Foods for Kids. Really?

When my kids were little I used to think there were some foods I could "classify" as neutral; not that good but not really bad for you either.  For example, hotdogs.  Everyone knows hotdogs are not on the healthy food list, but are they really that unhealthy? 

The truth is ... as much as we would like to think differently, foods are either healthy or unhealthy.  There are no neutral foods. Let’s take a look at those hotdogs for a minute.
On July 3, 2012 the Daily News reported the 20 member Washington, D.C.- based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine  (PCRM) made this statement “We want to let people know that processed meats have been closely linked to colorectal cancer,” said PCRM’s Dr. Ulka Agarwal.  In fact, PCRM thinks hotdogs are so unhealthy they compare them to the same health danger as smoking cigarettes. You wouldn't think of giving your 2 year old a cigarette, maybe you should reconsider that hotdog.

Oh wait there’s more …

Back in 2009 BMC Cancer found "children who consume cured meats, like hotdogs and bacon, were 74% more likely to develop leukemia. It’s believed nitrites, which build up in cured and smoked meats, amplify cancer-risk.” 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a thing or two to say about hotdogs too. They recommend hotdogs come with a "warning label" related to the choking hazards not because of their nutritional risks.  Do you find it is as strange as I do; the AAP is more concerned with dying from choking than they are from dying from cancer? Just checking.
That's the short list of hotdog health hazards. A quick internet search will fill you in with dozens more. In my mind and I'm sure yours too, this certainly moves hotdogs from the neutral list right over to the top of the super unhealthy never to pass my lips again list.

But wait a minute. What about all those kid friendly, adult yummy advertisements you see about healthy hotdogs? For example, did you see the story in Health Magazine "The Best and the Worst Dogs, A Healthier Dog?" Forget about them. They are just that, advertisements. And what are those advertising companies up to? There are paid to sell their product, to convince you to buy them, whether they are good or bad for you. In this case they're selling the magazine and the hotdogs. You won't be hearing about cancer and choking. After all what could be great about that? 

If this is what’s going on with hotdogs, it makes me wonder what’s going on with the other foods.  I’m thinking and maybe you are too.  It's not that I'm crazy about hotdogs, what I'm crazy about is ... the misconception we share about food and how healthy the food is or is not for us. Hotdogs are just an example. There are many foods we're thinking are neutral, safe or not that bad to eat. Really? Neutral foods? No. 

My kids are not little anymore and they're making food decisions for their families, so I’m not making those decisions for them now. When I was making them, I wish I knew what I know today. You now know. If you are making food choices for your family, be sure to remember there really are no, “neutral foods”. 

If you think a food is neutral, then put it back; it’s most likely not only unhealthy, it could kill you over time. 

You partner in health,

Cindy Cohen RN, BS BA
Wellness Consultant

Monday, August 13, 2012

Processed Foods Mixed Messages

Confused about the mixed messages about what food is good for you? The ads you are bombarded with on TV, radio, newspaper and now the internet make your favorite "junk" food seem "nutritious".  Cherry soda with antioxidants,  whole wheat sugary cereals, water with energy, fresh frozen, nutrition fortified,  antioxidant loaded, ready in minutes, and that’s just the beginning. What does all this processing mean to your health?  Does it really make the food better for you? These days it's hard to be a savvy shopper. You carefully look for manufactures you can trust, food labels,  ingredient lists, front and back of the package for foods you can identify, searching for health and wondering if you found it. 

The generally accepted definition of processed foods are foods that has been altered from its natural state and condition. To spot a processed food on your grocery shelf, look for ones that come in a package, in a can, and from the freezer section.  They also have wild claims that seem too good to be true. Soda with antioxidants, really? Another way to think about food is to consider this ...  the easier it is to prepare the more processed it is. Those tasty pasta dinners you spotted in the freezer section, yep that's one.

The International Food Information Council Foundation defines process foods as “Food processing that has deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s available for us to eat. It can be as simple as freezing or drying food to preserve nutrients and freshness, or as complex as formulating a frozen meal with the right balance of nutrients and ingredients.” Here's a little more help from them.
The International Food Information Council Foundation listed these 
examples of processed foods (www.foodinsight.org/
  • Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables
  •  Packaged foods labeled “natural” or “organic,” such as cereals, fresh meat and poultry, and jarred baby foods
  • Foods with health and nutrition claims on the label, such as “may reduce risk of heart disease,” “low in fat” or “high in calcium”
  • Foods fortified with nutrients such as fiber, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Foods prepared in quick-service and fine-dining restaurants, cafeterias and food courts, arenas, coffee shops and other locations.

What’s the problem with processed foods?  They contribute in some way to making you sick and keeping you unhealthy over time.   It’s no coincidence the medical community has identified the top 5 deadly diseases; heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and cancer have increase right along with increased consumption of processed foods. 

If this way of food preparation is bad for you why do food manufactures process food? That’s easy.  So the food lasts longer.  For example, if you sit a hamburger meat on the counter in your kitchen, in just a few days the fresh hamburger meat will become rotten and not be suitable for eating.  However, it you take hamburger meat from your local fast food restaurant or freezer  section (defrosted) of your supermarket shaped in those cute little circles, the time it takes for hamburger meat to begin to rot takes quite a bit longer.  This is due to the “process” they use in the meat preparation, making it last longer, not healthier.  Good for the meat but not so good for you.

The experts are weighing in; the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association have these ingredients on their foods to avoid lists. If any of these ingredients are in the food it meets the requirement to be classified as processed no matter what else is said on the ingredient list or on the front of the package. It you see these put it back on the shelf and walk away.

The 4 Worst Processed Food Ingredients 
  • Trans fats – Partially/Fully Hydrogenated Oils
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Refined Grains
  • Salt

Jamie Oliver from Food Revolution educates children, and the rest of us on what good healthy food choices look like. On his website you will find this list from October 27, 2010 .

Jamie Oliver’s Top 10 Worse Process Foods (www.jamieoliver.com)
  • Chicken Nuggets 
  • Hot Dogs
  • Fake Cheese 
  •  Lunchables
  • Spam
  • Twinkies
  •  Soda
  • Artificial Sweeteners 
  •  Diet Anything
  • French Fries
About now you might be asking yourself, “What can I eat?” 

Good question.   

The less processed food you eat the better, and the less they are processed the healthier it is for you to eat.  Food in its most natural form will support good health, assist in healing your body of sickness and reduce your risk of all major chronic diseases. 

You will sleep better, wake up better, look better and feel energetic.  When you are good to your body by giving it what it needs, whole food in its most natural form, your body will be good to you. Isn’t that what you really want? 

Your partner in health,


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Is That Coffee Buzz Good For You?

As I sit here enjoying my first cup of coffee for the day, I see right from the headlines of the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter "Coffee Drinkers Live Longer". Surprise! Finally the research we all have been waiting for or is it? 

Tufts reported the research completed in a large longevity study 400,000 people over a 13 year period of both men and women by National Cancer Institute. They chose regular and decaf varieties, "the more coffee people drank - up to six cups per day - the less likely there were to die during the study period." Living longer isn't the only advantage. Coffee drinkers were "less likely to develop heart or respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, infections and even injuries and accidents."That's quite the line up!

What is it in coffee that has the most nutritional benefit remains unclear, however as with all "whole food" the health benefits that we would like to know may be beyond the our science to find out at this time.  For now, just like all the other foods you consume, coffee is loaded with toxic herbicides and pesticides so when possible choose organic.

So what are the risks of that coffee buzz?

Nothing is all good. So here are some of the risks to consider ...

Coffee contains caffeine has stimulant and a diuretic qualities. As a stimulant it has been known to raise the heart rate and blood pressure. As a diuretic, may cause dehydration, so remember to drink lots of water when drinking coffee.

Have digestive issues knows by some as "acid stomach"? Coffee will irritate your stomach, causing more acid, nausea and a burning sensation.

Too much coffee decaf or regular near bed time will interrupt a good quality sleep. A side from the annoyance of tossing and turning and lying awake, not getting enough sleep leads to various medical conditions to develop or get worse.   

Caffeine causes systemic inflammation. We now know heart disease, cancer, arthritis, autism and many degenerative diseases are caused by long term inflammation.

So before you pour up your next cup of Joe ... is that buzz really that good for you?

Your partner in health,