Sunday, October 30, 2011

5 Smart Ideas for Controlling Your Blood Pressure Naturally

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is called the “silent killer” because you can have no symptoms while the pressure builds up to dangerous levels in your blood vessels. The first time you might realize that you have a serious problem is when you have a stroke.

While a stroke is a common outcome of high blood pressure, it is not the only consequence. It can also lead to a heart attack, vision loss and kidney disease. But these outcomes are not inevitable. You have the power to make changes in your diet and lifestyle that can reduce your blood pressure and minimize the risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other serious outcome.

Needless to say, ‘Prevention is better than cure.” So, here are a few things that you can do to lower your health risks:

Know your family history. If a parent or sibling suffers from high blood pressure, you may be at increased risk. So, monitor your blood pressure regularly and take steps to reduce your chances of developing high blood pressure.

Watch your weight. Being obese is a risk factor for high blood pressure. You can lower that risk by losing weight. If you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, losing as little as 5 to 7 percent of your body weight could help to reduce your risk.

Modify your diet. Studies show that what you eat can affect your blood pressure. In particular, if you are salt-sensitive, eating foods that are high in salt or sodium can cause a potentially serious increase in your blood pressure. Keep your sodium intake low to prevent a potentially fatal outcome.

Try the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. This diet emphasizes foods that are high in fiber, magnesium and potassium and limits foods that are high in refined carbohydrates, trans fats and saturated fats. Fruits and vegetables are at the core of the DASH diet.

Be active. Physical activity can help to control your blood pressure several ways. One way is by promoting weight loss if you are overweight. Exercise also helps to open the blood vessels to allow oxygen-rich blood to flow to the vital organs to boost performance.

Note: The information provided on this blog is for education and information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your personal healthcare provider before making any major changes to your treatment protocol. And consult a registered dietitian for guidance regarding changes to your diet.

Can Pumpkin Help You Control Your Diabetes?

Have you carved your Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween? If you did, surely, it must have been fun, particularly if children were involved. But pumpkins aren't just for making Jack-O-Lanterns. They make an amazing contribution to the diet. Whether you eat pumpkin in soup, as a side dish, in a cake or as pumpkin pie, you're bound to enjoy it and reap a great deal of nutritional benefits as well.

But that's not all.

Pumpkin has been used by indigenous cultures as a treatment for diabetes for centuries. Now, research is confirming what indigenous people have known all along - that pumpkin can help to lower blood glucose levels. 

For example, in one laboratory study, researchers fed a pumpkin extract to diabetic animals and found that the animals fed the extract had higher insulin and lower blood glucose levels than animals that did not receive the extract. 

That's right. The same pumpkin that you are carving to make Jack-O-Lanterns just might turn out to be the medicine you need to control your diabetes.

Once again, these studies remind us that, indeed, "Food is medicine." 

Happy Halloween.

Notice: Please note that nothing in this blog is to be construed as medical advice. The information provided is for education and information purposes only. If you have diabetes, discuss your options regarding with your healthcare provider. Your doctor and registered dietitian can provide appropriate guidance.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD affects millions of Americans. In fact, proton pump inhibitors or PPI are the second-largest selling prescription drugs on the market. Proton pump inhibitors prevent acid reflux by reducing acid production in the stomach. Stomach acid is considered to be the primary cause of acid reflux.

Acid reflux is a condition in which food from the stomach leaks back to the esophagus, causing heartburn. This backup may result when a ring of muscles above the stomach, called a sphincter, does not close properly and allows the food to move back up towards the throat.

Common symptoms of acid reflux include heartburn or a burning pain in the chest, nausea after eating, bringing food back up after eating, difficulty swallowing and sore throat. Symptoms may be more pronounced at night.

Some factors that may contribute to the development of acid reflux include obesity, pregnancy and smoking. Certain medications can also lead to heartburn. These include drugs used for seasickness,  high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, Parkinson's disease, contraception, anxiety, sleep disorders or depression. If you are taking medications for any of these conditions and experiencing heartburn, tell your doctor.

One of the most important things you can do to prevent acid reflux is to avoid foods that cause the problem for you. Acetaminophen may be used to relieve pain. However, you should avoid certain drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.

Over-the-counter antacids may be used after meals and at bedtime. But be aware that they may cause diarrhea or  constipation in some individuals. Prescription drugs, such as proton pump inhibitors or PPIs and H2 blockers may also be used. In extreme cases, surgery may be recommended.

Certain meds used for acid reflux may increase the risk of bone fractures.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Possible Increased Risk of Bone Fracture with Certain Antacid Drugs

Thursday, October 27, 2011

When to Seek the Help of a Registered Dietitian

According to the American Dietetic Association, there are nearly 70,000 registered dietitians in the United States. But chances are, even if you have been diagnosed with a medical condition that requires attention to your diet, your doctor may not have referred you to a dietitian.

Unfortunately, many doctors either don't understand the critical role that diet plays in preventing and treating disease or simply choose to ignore this critical need. Consequently, you have to take things into your own hands and ask for a nutrition referral. This is particularly true if the doctor says, "Diet."

When it comes to your health, what you eat as well as what you don't eat is critical. So, get that referral. And ask your insurance company about paying for the consult. After all, with proper diet and lifestyle changes, you could improve your health and save the insurance company bundles of money.

Here are a few conditions for which you will need a referral to a registered dietitian, the food and nutrition expert:
  • Diabetes. If you have diabetes, a registered dietitian can help you adjust your food intake to prevent dangerous spikes and lows in your blood sugar. Obesity is often a problem for people with diabetes, so you would certainly want to lose some weight if you are overweight. And with the help of your dietitian, you can succeed.
  • Heart disease. Heart disease may worsen if you are overweight, have dangerously high cholesterol or triglyceride levels, or if you have high blood pressure. A registered dietitian will walk you through the steps you can take to correct the underlying problems so that you can get back to living an active and fulfilled life.
  • High cholesterol. Cholesterol is essential for a number of important living processes. But high levels have been associated with heart disease and stroke. By consulting with a registered dietitian, you will be able to choose foods wisely so as to keep your cholesterol down.
  • High triglycerides. Like cholesterol, high triglycerides can cause plaque to build up in your arteries and damage your heart and blood vessels. A registered dietitian can help you find ways to manipulate your diet to prevent the damage caused by high triglycerides.
  • High blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Making changes to your diet, consuming more fiber, choosing healthy fats, reducing your salt intake if you are salt-sensitive, and losing weight if you are obese can help to lower your blood pressure. Stress can also cause your blood pressure to increase. Working with a registered dietitian, you will be able to identify strategies for controlling your blood pressure. 
These are just a few reasons why you should ask your doctor for a referral. To find a registered dietitian, visit the American Dietetic Association website, and click on "Find a Dietitian."

Healthy Halloween Treats

You have to wonder if the tradition of filling baskets with candy for kids is the best way to celebrate Halloween. Perhaps you shouldn't be so eager to hand out candy to eager kids when they knock on your door. Maybe you could be just as generous without burdening them with all those excess calories, which not only pose a threat to their weight, but also to their dental health. And for children with diabetes, the risks may be even greater.

So, what's the alternative?

Here are 5 fun that make smart alternatives to sugary treats:

Apples. Apples are wholesome and nutritious. They won't get squashed along the way and they won't ruin the teeth. Besides, they are fun to eat.

Raisins. Raisins are packed with health-promoting nutrients, which kids may not really care about, but parents do. For kids, they are a real treat.

Dark chocolate. Kids will get a thrill when they receive dark chocolate on Halloween. Unlike sugary, milk chocolate, dark chocolate is loaded is actually a healthy treat.

Popcorn. Individually packaged popcorn can be given to kids. They will have a blast popping their own popcorn after an afternoon of trick or treating. Of course, as a parent, you would want to oversee the popping to avoid burns from the hot popcorn.

Nuts. Nuts are another favorite of kids. They can actually have fun combining nuts, raisins and pieces of dark chocolate to make their own homemade trail mix. Walnuts, almonds and pistachios are good choices.

Warning: Avoid giving small kids nuts or anything that may be a choking hazard. Also, it might be wise to avoid giving peanuts, since peanut allergy is a common food allergy.

These are just a few ideas for offering healthier treats on Halloween. I am sure that you can come up with some other ideas to make it a fun day without all the candy that have been associated with Halloween.


Keep Kids Safe Trick-or-Treating on Halloween

Trick-or-treating can be a lot of fun for kids on Halloween. But it is not without potential danger. So, what can you do to ensure the safety of your kids on this “scary” night?

Here are a few helpful tips:

1. Let kids travel in groups. Of course, you should know who your kids are traveling with and where they are going. If kids are little, make sure that you or another responsible adult accompanies them.

2. Advise kids of potential dangers that might lurk behind closed doors and in those treats that they collect.

3. kids not to eat any of the treats that they collect before bringing them home. At home, you can inspect the treats and make sure that they are safe to eat. Treats should always be in original packages or wraps, and there should be no sign of tampering.

4. Toss out anything that looks like it may have been tampered with.

5. Inspect apples and wash thoroughly to remove germs that could cause illness.

Happy Halloween!


Halloween Safety Tips for Parents