Category Archives: Health

Her Heart Sank Onto the Bed: Sleep and Heart Health

“You snooze, you lose!” When it comes to your heart—and your health in general—the phrase should be “You snooze small, you lose it all”. I know, I know, it’s not as catchy and much more cumbersome to yell in someone’s face when you grab the last cookie, but it is true: if you snooze small, you can lose it all.

There is a strong correlation between getting enough sleep and heart health. Studies show that sleeping less than six hours per night can cause high blood pressure, increased calcium deposits in the arteries, high blood glucose levels, increased C-reactive protein (an indicator of stress and/or inflammation), crankiness, and caffeine IVs, some of which can lead to heart disease. This correlation exists no matter what age you are; a teenager who doesn’t sleep enough will develop the same problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type two diabetes that we “experienced” people do. On the other hand, sleeping 7-8 hours per night prevents the risk for heart disease just as much as not smoking, eating right, and exercising. (Keep in mind that we’re talking about sleep habits here, not a short night every once in a while.)

heart sleep 1Most things in life require maintenance and HeartDOT’s system of oxygenated transportation is no different. When does HeartDOT plow and salt the roads after it snows? At night. When does HeartDOT do construction on busy highways? At night. When are HeartDOT’s rest stops cleaned and restocked? At night.

Your body has stuff it needs to do while you sleep; important stuff like cleaning and repairing itself. The lining of the blood vessels and heart is especially important, but regenerating that lining takes time and it happens best when the heart is relaxed during sleep.

Lack of sleep also interrupts biological processes like glucose metabolism and blood pressure. For example, blood pressure works on a feedback loop: sensors in your biggest arteries measure how much blood is flowing and how hard it’s pressing on the walls of the artery and tell the heart to pump harder or slow down. When your heartrate slows at night, this feedback loop resets itself with a baseline of what “normal” should be. If you don’t sleep long enough, the feedback loop measurements don’t drop as low and it resets itself at a “normal” that is higher than it should be. Over time that keeps your blood pressure higher all day. High blood pressure puts a strain on your heart like running an engine at full throttle all the time.

heart sleep 2It’s not just your heart that suffers from little or poor sleep. Short sleepers are more likely to be obese and suffer from type two diabetes as well. Those who are tired are less likely to exercise and less likely to make good food choices. (Duh! We’ve all been there; we don’t need science to tell us that.) When you are sleep deprived, you even produce more ghrelin, a hormone that makes you feel hungry.

What can you do to get more sleep? Give yourself a bedtime and stick to it. Sometimes you have to BYOM –Be Your Own Mom. 30-60 minutes before bedtime, start winding down by reading the dictionary, taking a bath, journaling, watching paint dry, and so forth. 10-20 minutes before bed, turn off your electronics. I repeat: TURN OFF the TV, the tablet, the phone, the computer. I know, I know, there are people out there who can’t fall asleep without the TV on, but they are the exception and I believe they can be retrained. I find that when I turn off my electronics, I go from feeling “awake” to exhausted in 0.05 seconds. It doesn’t matter how early or late it is. The same thing happens with my kids: they’re wide awake to watch a TV show before bed, but as soon as I turn off the brain-sucker, they’re so tired they can’t make it up the stairs without whining. (They take after their mother.)

If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, exercise has been shown to be nearly as effective as sleeping pills (and much, much safer). Over time, exercise helps lessen insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea symptoms. We’re talking about exercise any time of day, by the way, so the same exercise that strengthens your heart helps you sleep which strengthens your heart. It’s like the chicken and the egg thing if the chicken crosses the road and the egg sleeps and they share a heart.

Tired of hearing about how important sleep is? Good: go to bed.

 

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

 

Come back when you’re rested and we’ll Take it to Heart: Eating for Heart Health!

 

References:

Web MD http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/how-sleep-affects-your-heart#1

Sleep Foundation https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-sleep-deprivation-affects-your-heart

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3403737/

Exercise and Sleep http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/29/health/exercise-sleep-tips/index.html

Put Your Heart into It: Exercise and Heart Health

Imagine that you’re a sailor on a sailboat. You and your four friends have been trained to sail, but you’re still new at it. The wind pushes you along peacefully for a while, but then a storm rises. It’s all hands on deck, working frantically against the wind and waves. You make it through that storm and a few more that follow and then one day you realize that you and your friends are stronger, faster, and better sailors than you were before that first storm. When the weather is good, it only takes three of you to man the boat where it once took all five.

heart sailors_0001Exercise is a storm for your heart. Exercise makes your heart work harder for a while which at first can feel like you’re being keelhauled*, but your heart is a fast learner. Before long it’s so used to the battening down the hatches that when your heart is at rest, it can take it easy. Studies show that the resting heart rate of people who exercise is lower than the resting heart rate of landlubbers*. A lubber’s heart (land or otherwise) is not being challenged, so it’s weaker and has to work harder to do less than an exercised heart. More storms makes for better sailors.

Storms have a way of cleaning the air because the extra wind and water (i.e. rain) remove the dust and particles. When you exercise, your blood moves faster which allows it to pulse into every tiny capillary at the tips of your fingers and toes. This allows the blood to bring more oxygen and nutrients to the cells and allows it to remove more junk from those cells. The strong blood flow also helps keep the arteries themselves clean, flexible, and inflammation free. It’s like a storm watering your garden and cleaning the air at the same time. Or sailors scrubbing the deck from jib to mizzenmast. Those are officially now my favorite sailing terms.

heart stormInactivity (keeping your ship docked, so to speak) is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Exercise lowers your risk for heart disease by 45%. And that’s exercise at the recommended 2.5 hours of exercise every week level. Even if you’re a landlubber who spends most of her time in the brig and only halfheartedly hoists the mainsail, you’re still reducing your risk of heart disease by a LOT. Anchors aweigh! By the way, those recommended 2.5 hours can be 30 minutes per day five days per week, or 2.5 hours on a weekend, or 25 ten minute bouts of movement sprinkled throughout the week. A bit of climbing the rigging here, a bit of casting off there, maybe a bit of barnacle removal just for fun. Your heart gets stronger with every minute of exercise you do.

We can’t talk about sailing without adding pirates to the mix. Arr, Matey, did you know that your muscles are pirates? Well, they are when you exercise! Our bodies have strict rules about how oxygen is transported, how glucose is absorbed, and so on. When an exercise storm hits, pirates can break those rules. Under the strain of exercise, your pirate muscles are able to steal oxygen and glucose (i.e. energy) straight from the blood instead of waiting for a delivery. This is a very good thing. The heart has to deliver oxygen and glucose to the muscles anyway, so pirate muscles save it some work. I never said they were smart pirates; just that they steal.

heart-pirates.jpgHere are some heart-pumping exercise ideas to get you started:

Walking (to the mailbox, across the parking lot, around the block, etc), biking, running (after toddlers, not your mouth), jogging, vacuuming (under the beds counts double in my book), gardening, roller skating, swimming, jumping (like on a trampoline, not when you see a spider), playing tag (as in chase, not on social media), taking the stairs, jumping jacks (or jills or up the hills).

 

*Keelhauled: a truly awful punishment from sailing days that usually ended in death. Exercise can feel uncomfortable, but if it feels like you’re tied to a rope and being passed under the keel of a ship, maybe pick a different exercise.

*Landlubber: a lubber is old slang for a person who is lazy. Sailors added the land part to make fun of non-sailors. In modern terms we say “couch potato”.

 

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Matthew 22:37

 

Sail back next time for Her Heart Sank onto the Bed: Sleep and Heart Health

 

References:

Sailing terms – http://brethrencoast.com/Pirate_Glossary.html

Exercise and heart health – http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/specialtopic/physical-activity/exercise’s-effects-on-the-heart.html?print=1&mcubz=3

Exercise and heart health – http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/clinical_services/centers_excellence/womens_cardiovascular_health_center/patient_information/health_topics/exercise_heart.html

Do You Have a Good Heart?

Kind hearted, his heart went out to her, from the bottom of my heart, have her heart set on it, let’s have a heart to heart. So many of our expressions demonstrate what humans have known for thousands of years: the heart (and the blood it pumps) is the literal and figurative center of our physical being. If a heart stops, a life stops. We’re going to take the next few weeks to learn about the heart and how best to care for it. Turns out it’s not that hard; easier than taking care of a guppy. I mean puppy. Guppies are way easier.

Label Circulatory System Picture Of A Circulatory System With Labels Human Body DiagramYour heart contracts (or pumps) rhythmically every second of every day of every year of your life. The force of the contraction (labor flashback! Anybody else grimace when they read that phrase?) pushes the blood through the arteries beginning with the big ones near the heart and ending with the teeny tiny itsy bitsy yellow polka dot bikini capillaries in your toes, organs, eyeballs, and everywhere in between.

Blood is the transportation system of the body; it is every highway, byway, back road and railroad put together. Wait, blood is liquid. Let’s make it all rivers creeks and wetlands and tributaries. Imagine if the whole world was like Venice, Italy. Don’t worry, my imaginary Venice is full of pasta and gelato too. It may be best to think of the heart as HeartDOT (Department of Transportation).

Map2_VeniceOnLineHeartDOT makes sure that traffic keeps moving. Blood delivers oxygen, nutrients, medical personnel (white blood cells), hormones, repair crews, and a host of other goods and services to the body. It also transports the body’s junk (dead viruses, bacteria, toxins, etc) to the Kidney Export Service for permanent removal from the body. HeartDOT doesn’t make the goods or the trash, it just keeps the flow moving.

Imagine for a moment that the entire world’s shipping and transportation shuts down. No boats, planes, rafts, not even people swimming from place to place. Each person is stuck at home. Within a few weeks, food runs out and people starve. Medical emergencies end in tragedy. Nothing new can be built. Trash piles up. Human life ends. In the grand scheme of our Earth-wide analogy, death takes weeks or months. Since the average heart beats 60-100 times per minute, blood transportation works much faster than our Venice Earth analogy and death takes mere minutes, not months.

river trafficNow imagine that transportation around Venice is not shut down, but travel has slowed. Storms have washed silt into the waterways, making them narrower. A tanker sank in the lagoon and traffic bottlenecks as vessels go around it. Priority is given to those carrying food and oxygen, but repair crews are delayed and trash removal is minimal.

A heart can fake it until it makes it for years, but the longer it has to struggle to pump, the more likely it is that it will stop working altogether (heart attack) or that blood flow to major organs will be interrupted (stroke). The good news is that if you read my blog regularly, you already know how to take care of your heart! The same healthy habits that help you lose weight also help your heart stay healthy…and help prevent type 2 diabetes and stroke, keep you looking younger…It’s a win-win-win-win-win.

Tune in next time for Put Your Heart Into It: Exercise and Heart Health!

 

Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:2

 

Venice map (Venice Online), circulatory system (humananatomylibrary.com), river traffic (http://www.neatorama.com/2006/09/16/traffic-on-river-thames/)

Eating for Cancer Prevention (3 of 5): Cruciferous Vegetables

broccoli gunHow do cruciferous vegetables fight cancer? That’s just it: they fight. They’re warriors. Cruciferous vegetables are the military of Food-dom. They kill cancer cells and defend against terrorist-toxins.

The key is getting the ammo into the guns. The ammo is sulfur containing chemicals called glucosinolates. Think about the taste of broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts; there’s something in the taste of cruciferous vegetables that packs a punch. Some websites called it sulfur, others called it mustard oil; it’s the same thing that makes horseradish potent, skunks stink, and rotten eggs smell. Mmm, the thought makes one hungry, does it not?

So in one part of the plant cell is the ammo: glucosinolates. In another part of the plant cell is an enzyme called myrosinase. Sounds like a sandwich spread made of rosin and it’s mine, but we’re going to call it Gun. When you chew, juice, or chop the plant cells, the ammo and Gun are free to join. Loaded guns, as we know, are more effective weapons than empty ones. These glucosinolate and myrosinase loaded guns are cancer fighting sulfur compounds.

120403153531-largeDo sulfur compounds sound familiar? That’s the secret to garlic’s cancer effectiveness too. If you want to know more about how sulfur compounds fight cancer and kill tumor cells, read my post on Garlic for cancer prevention. I don’t want to repeat myself, but all of that applies here.

I know what you’re thinking: Tumors are like enemy countries; the body knows where they are and can focus an attack. But what about toxin terrorists that roam the body; the ones that can start a new battlefront anywhere, any time? I’m glad you asked.

The Cruciferous Military doesn’t just ride in with guns blazing; it also organizes the Let’s Incapacitate Venom Enzyme Rangers (or L.I.V.E.R.), an Anti-Toxin-Terrorism Task Force that removes carcinogens from the body. Detoxification has two phases: Phase One is a transport visa and Phase Two is handcuffs.

In Phase One, the toxin is burned with oxygen and enzymes to make it water (rather than fat) soluble. This makes it easier for the body to remove the toxin (pee is water, not fat); it’s essentially giving the toxin a travel visa.

unclesam-worldwarii-poster-6201139-oPhase Two’s handcuffs are made of enzymes and sulfur. Once a toxin is handcuffed, it can’t do any damage and can safely be shipped to the small intestine (which leads to the colon and eventually to the light of day). However, L.I.V.E.R. doesn’t have detention cells. If there aren’t enough handcuffs, the toxins remain free to circulate the body on their travel visa and are now called “free-radicals”. Free-radicals can do more damage that the original toxins. Cruciferous vegetables provide the sulfur that L.I.V.E.R. needs to make enough handcuffs to safely transport toxins out of the body.

Cruciferous vegetables also help promote healthy estrogen metabolism in the body, so there’s a link to hormonal cancers. I didn’t get that far in my research, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Keep your Military strong by recruiting cruciferous soldiers several times per week. Brussels sprout bullets for everyone!

 

“Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” Exodus 1:10

 

Sesame Skin Street

Hi, and welcome to Sesame Skin Street! Skin health is brought to you today by the letters A, C, and E and by the number 3.

sesame skinLet’s learn the ABCs of eating for skin health. Ready?

sesame aA is for Vitamin A which helps the skin cells grow. Making new cells is how your skin repairs itself. Beta carotene converts into Vitamin A, so you should eat orange foods. Carrots are orange. What other foods are orange? Oranges, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. Good job, you get an A…a Vitamin A+, to be exact! Your parents are so proud.

sesame c

C is for Vitamin C which helps synthesize collagen. Collagen keeps your skin smooth and taught. Strawberries, oranges, tomatoes, and broccoli are high in vitamin C. C is for Collagen, kids! You get a sticker.

 

sesame eE is for Vitamin E.

3 is for Omega 3. E and 3 work together to boost your immune system, reduce inflammation, and protect your skin from skin damaging, wrinkle causing free radicals. They’re found in similar foods such as nuts, seeds, fish, and olive oil.

 

Sing a song with me!

sesame 3A C E, 3 letters spell ace

Keep skin pretty on your face

Repair skin cells at a fast pace

Eat these foods after saying grace

Healthy fats are a power base

Leafy greens like nature’s lace

For orange foods we’ll make a case

Keep skin healthy in its place

By eating foods with 3 and ACE

 

Sesame Skin Street has been brought to you by the letters A, C, and E and the number 3.

 

And his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”

2 Kings 5:14b-15a

 

Images courtesy of sesamestreet.org

Skin a Deer, I mean Doe

skin sound of musicDid you know that healthy weight loss habits like exercise and drinking plenty of water help keep your skin healthy and looking great? Next week we’ll look closer at foods that support skin health, but for today, we’re going to sing a silly song. This is to the tune of “Doe a Deer” from The Sound of Music.

 

skin musicSkin, an organ, the largest organ

Covers you from head to toe!

Skin, with pores, layers, and hair

needs hydration every day.

vitamins like A and E

give it health that you can see.

Skin protects you from disease

and that brings us back to skin!

 

“I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:6

 

Images courtesy of The Wrap (sound of music), musicnotes.com (music)

Eating to Reduce Hypertension and Lose Weight

We’ve been learning about heart health for a while now and some of you may be wondering why a weight loss blog would spend so much time on one organ. It happens to be a very important organ, but still, what’s up with that? The answer is simple: the same habits that improve the health of your heart also help you lose weight. Exercising regularly, sleeping 7-8 hours each night, eating plenty of plant foods like vegetables…the weight loss habits and the heart health habits go hand in hand.

If you’re losing weight by developing healthy habits, I want you to know you’re getting a bonus: your heart is getting healthier every day. Lucky you! It’s not just about how great you look on the outside; you’re looking sexy on the inside too.

 

hypertension 6The Three Musketeers are great dinner companions so invite them onto your plate every chance you get. (If you invite Salt, do so cautiously; Salt belches and forgets his wallet, so a little of him goes a long way.) The Three Musketeers—or Three MagCalPots—are high in magnesium, calcium, and potassium which work to lower blood pressure which helps keep your heart beating long and strong. The following foods are high in all three MagCalPot elements:

Leafy greens

Seeds and nuts

Yogurt or kefir

Legumes

Fatty fish like salmon

Broccoli

Figs

Bananas and avocados are high in two of the three, so they can tag along. This list looks suspiciously like the ingredients in Fat Fish Fiber Fruit™. I wonder if the Three Musketeers are shareholders.

 

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23