Living Well With Atrial Fibrillation

If you want to boost your heart health, start by changing what’s on your plate. Making simple tweaks could have big benefits.

  • Believe the hype. You've heard a lot about eating heart-healthy, but does it really matter? Yes. One study of more than 42,000 healthy women found that those who ate a healthy diet -- with an emphasis on vegetables, lean meats, grains, and low-fat dairy -- were 31% less likely to die in the next 6 years than women with unhealthy diets.
  • Don't diet. A crash diet may work if you're trying to fit into a dress by next month. But if you're trying to improve your heart health, cycling through different fad diets won't help. Diets that demonize one type of food -- whether it's carbs or fat -- don't work either. Instead, take a sensible approach. Focus on lean meats, vegetables, and whole grains to get long-term benefits for your heart and your waistline.   
  • Don't gorge yourself. Obviously, overeating will cause you to gain weight. That's not all. Studies have found that more people have heart attacks after big meals.
  • Sea salt is still salt. Most Americans think sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to regular table salt. Wrong. It has the same amount of sodium. Any type of salt increases your blood pressure. You probably need to eat less salt; most people do. The guideline is no more than a teaspoon a day. If you already have high blood pressure, you should eat even less. And, it doesn’t just come from the salt shaker. Up to 75% of the salt you consume comes from processed foods such as soups and frozen meals. If your food comes in a can or a box, check the sodium content. 
  • Avoid caffeine. If you have atrial fibrillation, caffeine and other stimulants can trigger symptoms.
  • A little wine may be good, but a lot is not. Yes, studies show that drinking modest amounts of alcohol -- not just wine -- has heart benefits. But don't assume that if a glass is good, a jug must be better. Excess alcohol -- more than one drink a day for women or two for men -- increases your risk for heart problems. It drives up blood pressure and can trigger irregular heartbeats in people with atrial fibrillation.
  • Choose meats wisely. Red meat is usually high in saturated fat, which is bad for your heart. That doesn't mean you have to banish meat from your diet. Just be savvy. Choose the leanest cuts and always cut off the fat. Look for cuts such as sirloin, flank, rump roast, and tenderloin. Or, choose pork tenderloin, turkey or chicken breast, as an alternative.
  • Add more fish to your diet. You probably know that fish is good for you -- but not all fish is equal. Deep-fried cod doesn't count. Instead, grill or roast fish that is high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, trout, and sardines.
  • Eat whole grains. What's so special about whole grains? They help control your blood sugar, reducing your risk of diabetes by 20% to 30%. People who eat a lot of whole grains tend to weigh less, too. Go for whole-wheat breads, brown rice, wild rice, oatmeal, cornmeal, barley, and rye.
  • Eat less deli. Think that a smoked turkey sandwich is a healthier choice than a burger? Don't be so sure. Deli meats are often packed with salts, nitrates, and preservatives that can be bad for your heart. Instead, go for whole chicken breasts or in-house roasted turkey.
  • Eat less when eating out. Experts say we're eating too many calories. Restaurant portion sizes may have a lot to do with it. According to the CDC, the amount of food in one average restaurant meal today is like four average restaurant meals from the 1950s. Studies have also found that the bigger the portion served, the more we'll eat. The solution? Get in the habit of only eating half of what's on your plate. You can take the rest home.
  • Fill up on fiber. Fiber absorbs fat during digestion and reduces swelling in your arteries. It also helps with weight control because it makes you feel full faster -- and improves your digestive health. What's not to like? Fruit, vegetables, nuts, and beans are all good sources of fiber.
  • Note: If you have atrial fibrillation or another condition treated with an anticoagulant like Coumadin (warfarin), be on the alert for vegetables with vitamin K. This vitamin can reduce the drug's effectiveness. Veggies with vitamin K include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach, and turnip greens. If you eat these foods, keep the amount you eat about the same from day to day. If you want to add any of these foods to your diet, talk to your doctor first. You may be able to introduce small amounts slowly.

The good news is that these actions help everyone -- whether you're trying to prevent heart problems in the future, are already living with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or have a problem like atrial fibrillation, which often results from a diet-related heart problem.

The best news is: It's never too early -- or too late -- to improve your diet and heart health.

Reviewed By: James Beckerman, MD, FACC

Orginal Article: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/atrial-fibrillation/afib-12/heart-diet?page=2

More Nutritional Health...

If you want to boost your heart health, start by changing what’s on your plate. Making simple tweaks could have big benefits.

  • Believe the hype. You've heard a lot about eating heart-healthy, but does it really matter? Yes. One study of more than 42,000 healthy women found that those who ate a healthy diet -- with an emphasis on vegetables, lean meats, grains, and low-fat dairy -- were 31% less likely to die in the next 6 years than women with unhealthy diets.
  • Don't diet. A crash diet may work if you're trying to fit into a dress by next month. But if you're trying to improve your heart health, cycling through different fad diets won't help. Diets that demonize one type of food -- whether it's carbs or fat -- don't work either. Instead, take a sensible approach. Focus on lean meats, vegetables, and whole grains to get long-term benefits for your heart and your waistline.   
  • Don't gorge yourself. Obviously, overeating will cause you to gain weight. That's not all. Studies have found that more people have heart attacks after big meals.
  • Sea salt is still salt. Most Americans think sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to regular table salt. Wrong. It has the same amount of sodium. Any type of salt increases your blood pressure. You probably need to eat less salt; most people do. The guideline is no more than a teaspoon a day. If you already have high blood pressure, you should eat even less. And, it doesn’t just come from the salt shaker. Up to 75% of the salt you consume comes from processed foods such as soups and frozen meals. If your food comes in a can or a box, check the sodium content. 
  • Avoid caffeine. If you have atrial fibrillation, caffeine and other stimulants can trigger symptoms.
  • A little wine may be good, but a lot is not. Yes, studies show that drinking modest amounts of alcohol -- not just wine -- has heart benefits. But don't assume that if a glass is good, a jug must be better. Excess alcohol -- more than one drink a day for women or two for men -- increases your risk for heart problems. It drives up blood pressure and can trigger irregular heartbeats in people with atrial fibrillation.
  • Choose meats wisely. Red meat is usually high in saturated fat, which is bad for your heart. That doesn't mean you have to banish meat from your diet. Just be savvy. Choose the leanest cuts and always cut off the fat. Look for cuts such as sirloin, flank, rump roast, and tenderloin. Or, choose pork tenderloin, turkey or chicken breast, as an alternative.
  • Add more fish to your diet. You probably know that fish is good for you -- but not all fish is equal. Deep-fried cod doesn't count. Instead, grill or roast fish that is high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, trout, and sardines.
  • Eat whole grains. What's so special about whole grains? They help control your blood sugar, reducing your risk of diabetes by 20% to 30%. People who eat a lot of whole grains tend to weigh less, too. Go for whole-wheat breads, brown rice, wild rice, oatmeal, cornmeal, barley, and rye.
  • Eat less deli. Think that a smoked turkey sandwich is a healthier choice than a burger? Don't be so sure. Deli meats are often packed with salts, nitrates, and preservatives that can be bad for your heart. Instead, go for whole chicken breasts or in-house roasted turkey.
  • Eat less when eating out. Experts say we're eating too many calories. Restaurant portion sizes may have a lot to do with it. According to the CDC, the amount of food in one average restaurant meal today is like four average restaurant meals from the 1950s. Studies have also found that the bigger the portion served, the more we'll eat. The solution? Get in the habit of only eating half of what's on your plate. You can take the rest home.
  • Fill up on fiber. Fiber absorbs fat during digestion and reduces swelling in your arteries. It also helps with weight control because it makes you feel full faster -- and improves your digestive health. What's not to like? Fruit, vegetables, nuts, and beans are all good sources of fiber.
  • Note: If you have atrial fibrillation or another condition treated with an anticoagulant like Coumadin (warfarin), be on the alert for vegetables with vitamin K. This vitamin can reduce the drug's effectiveness. Veggies with vitamin K include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach, and turnip greens. If you eat these foods, keep the amount you eat about the same from day to day. If you want to add any of these foods to your diet, talk to your doctor first. You may be able to introduce small amounts slowly.

The good news is that these actions help everyone -- whether you're trying to prevent heart problems in the future, are already living with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or have a problem like atrial fibrillation, which often results from a diet-related heart problem.

The best news is: It's never too early -- or too late -- to improve your diet and heart health.

Reviewed By: James Beckerman, MD, FACC

Orginal Article: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/atrial-fibrillation/afib-12/heart-diet?page=2

Diabetes affects 24 million people in the U.S., but only 18 million know they have it. About 90 percent of those people have type 2 diabetes.

In diabetes, rising blood sugar acts like a poison.

Diabetes is often called the silent killer because of its easy-to-miss symptoms. "Almost every day people come into my office with diabetes who don't know it," says Maria Collazo-Clavell, MD, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

The best way to pick up on it is to have a blood sugar test. But if you have these symptoms, see your doctor.

Increased Urination, Excessive Thirst

If you need to urinate frequently—particularly if you often have to get up at night to use the bathroom—it could be a symptom of diabetes.

The kidneys kick into high gear to get rid of all that extra glucose in the blood, hence the urge to relieve yourself, sometimes several times during the night.

The excessive thirst means your body is trying to replenish those lost fluids.

These two symptoms go hand in hand and are some of "your body's ways of trying to manage high blood sugar," explains Dr. Collazo-Clavell.

Weight Loss

Overly high blood sugar levels can also cause rapid weight loss, say 10 to 20 pounds over two or three months—but this is not a healthy weight loss.

Because the insulin hormone isn't getting glucose into the cells, where it can be used as energy, the body thinks it's starving and starts breaking down protein from the muscles as an alternate source of fuel.

The kidneys are also working overtime to eliminate the excess sugar, and this leads to a loss of calories (and can harm the kidneys). "These are processes that require a lot of energy," Dr. Collazo-Clavell notes. "You create a calorie deficit."

Hunger

Excessive pangs of hunger, another sign of diabetes, can come from sharp peaks and lows in blood sugar levels.

When blood sugar levels plummet, the body thinks it hasn't been fed and craves more of the glucose that cells need to function.

Skin Problems

Itchy skin, perhaps the result of dry skin or poor circulation, can often be a warning sign of diabetes, as are other skin conditions, such as acanthosis nigricans.

"This is a darkening of the skin around the neck or armpit area," Dr. Collazo-Clavell says. "People who have this already have an insulin resistance process occurring even though their blood sugar might not be high. When I see this, I want to check their blood sugar."

Slow Healing

Infections, cuts, and bruises that don't heal quickly are another classic sign of diabetes.

This usually happens because the blood vessels are being damaged by the excessive amounts of glucose traveling the veins and arteries.

This makes it hard for blood—needed to facilitate healing—to reach different areas of the body.

Yeast Infections

"Diabetes is considered an immunosuppressed state," Dr. Collazo-Clavell explains. That means heightened susceptibility to a variety of infections, although the most common are yeast (candida) and other fungal infections, she says. Fungi and bacteria both thrive in sugar-rich environments.

Women, in particular, need to watch out for vaginal candida infections.

Fatigue and Irritablilty

"When people have high blood sugar levels, depending on how long it's been, they can get used to chronically not feeling well," says Dr. Collazo-Clavell. "Sometimes that's what brings them into the office."

Getting up to go to the bathroom several times during the night will make anyone tired, as will the extra effort your body is expending to compensate for its glucose deficiency.

And being tired will make you irritable. "We see people whose blood sugar has been really high, and when we bring the blood sugar down, it's not uncommon that I hear, 'I didn't realize how bad I felt,'" she says.

Blurry Vision

Having distorted vision and seeing floaters or occasional flashes of light are a direct result of high blood sugar levels.

"Blurry vision is a refraction problem. When the glucose in the blood is high, it changes the shape of the lens and the eye," Dr. Collazo-Clavell explains.

The good news is that this symptom is reversible once blood sugar levels are returned to normal or near normal. But let your blood sugar go unchecked for long periods and the glucose will cause permanent damage, possibly even blindness. And that's not reversible.

Tingling and Numbness

Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, along with burning pain or swelling, are signs that nerves are being damaged by diabetes.

"If (the symptoms are) recent, it's more likely to be reversible," Dr. Collazo-Clavell says.

Still, as with vision, if blood sugar levels are allowed to run rampant for too long, neuropathy (nerve damage) will be permanent. "That's why we try to control blood sugar as quickly and as well as possible," she says.

Blood Test

Several tests are used to check for diabetes, but a single test result is never enough on its own to diagnose diabetes (the test has to be repeated).

One is the fasting plasma glucose test, which checks your blood sugar after a night (or eight hours) of not eating.

Blood glucose above 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) on two occasions means you have diabetes.

The normal cutoff is 99 mg/dL while a blood sugar level of 100 to 125 mg/dL is considered prediabetes, a serious condition on its own.

By: Amanda Gardner

Orginal Article: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/10-signs-type-diabetes/story?id=20731654#

Can I Splurge When I Eat Out?

A slice of pizza once in a while won't do you any harm. What's important is a person's average food intake over a few days, not just in a single meal. So if you eat a less-than-healthy meal once in a while, try to balance it with healthier foods the rest of that day and week.

But if pizza (or any fast food) is all you eat, that can lead to problems. The most obvious health threat of eating too much fast food is weight gain — or even obesity.

But weight gain isn't the only problem. Too much fast food can drag a person's body down in other ways. Because the food we eat affects all aspects of how the body functions, eating the right (or wrong) foods can influence any number of things, including:

  • mental functioning
  • emotional well-being
  • energy
  • strength
  • weight
  • future health

Eating on the Go

It's actually easier than you think to make good choices at a fast-food restaurant, the mall, or even the school cafeteria. Most cafeterias and fast-food places offer healthy choices that are also tasty, like grilled chicken or salads. Be mindful of portion sizes and high fat add-ons, like dressings, sauces or cheese.

Here are some pointers to remember that can help you make wise choices when eating out:

  • Go for balance. Choose meals that contain a balance of lean proteins (like fish, chicken, or beans if you're a vegetarian), fruits and vegetables (fries and potato chips don't qualify as veggies!), and whole grains (like whole-wheat bread and brown rice). That's why a turkey sandwich on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato is a better choice than a cheeseburger on a white bun.
  • Watch portion sizes. The portion sizes of American foods have increased over the past few decades so that we are now eating way more than we need. The average size of a hamburger in the 1950s was just 1.5 ounces, compared with today's hamburgers, which weigh in at 8 ounces or more.
  • Drink water or low-fat milk.Regular sodas, juices, and energy drinks usually contain "empty" calories that you don't need — not to mention other stuff, like caffeine.

Tips for Eating at a Restaurant

Most restaurant portions are way larger than the average serving of food at home. Ask for half portions, share an entrée with a friend, or take half of your dish home.

Here are some other restaurant survival tips:

  • Ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side and use them sparingly.
  • Use salsa and mustard instead of mayonnaise or oil.
  • Ask for olive or canola oil instead of butter, margarine, or shortening.
  • Use nonfat or low-fat milk instead of whole milk or cream.
  • Order baked, broiled, or grilled (not fried) lean meats including turkey, chicken, seafood, or sirloin steak.
  • Salads and vegetables make healthier side dishes than french fries. Use a small amount of sour cream instead of butter if you order a baked potato.
  • Choose fresh fruit instead of sugary, high-fat desserts.

Tips for Eating at the Mall or Fast-Food Place

It's tempting to pig out while shopping, but with a little planning, it's easy to eat healthy foods at the mall. Here are some choices:

  • a single slice of veggie pizza
  • grilled, not fried, sandwiches (for example, a grilled chicken breast sandwich)
  • deli sandwiches on whole-grain bread
  • a small hamburger
  • a bean burrito
  • a baked potato
  • a side salad
  • frozen yogurt

Choose the smaller sizes, especially when it comes to drinks and snacks. If you have a craving for something unhealthy, try sharing the food you crave with a friend.

Tips for Eating in the School Caf

The suggestions for eating in a restaurant and at the mall apply to cafeteria food as well. Add vegetables and fruit whenever possible, and opt for leaner, lighter items. Choose sandwiches on whole-grain bread or a plain hamburger over fried foods or pizza. Go easy on the high-fat, low-nutrition items, such as mayonnaise and heavy salad dressings.

You might want to consider packing your own lunch occasionally. Here are some lunch items that pack a healthy punch:

  • sandwiches with lean meats or fish, like turkey, chicken, tuna (made with low-fat mayo), lean ham, or lean roast beef. For variety, try other sources of protein, like peanut butter, hummus, or meatless chili. If you don't like your bread dry, choose mustard or a small amount of lite mayo.
  • low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, or cheese
  • any fruit that's in season
  • raw baby carrots, green and red pepper strips, tomatoes, or cucumbers
  • whole-grain breads, pita, bagels, or crackers

It can be easy to eat well, even on the run. If you develop the skills to make healthy choices now, your body will thank you later. And the good news is you don't have to eat perfectly all the time. It's OK to splurge every once in a while, as long as your food choices are generally good.

 

By: Marvin L. Gavin, MD

Original Article: http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/nutrition/eating_out.html

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is important for good health. Find out why experts say Mother Nature's bounty packs better nutrients than supplements.

If we are what we eat, then many of us must be tripping all over the place due to a lack of balance. That's because the average American eats about three servings of fruits and vegetables per day — a stark contrast to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) new guidelines stating that we should be eating 5 to 13 servings of nature's best, depending on the number of calories you need.

So if we want to grow to be strong like Popeye, why can't we just down some supplements instead of devouring a pile of spinach?

Nutrients in fresh fruits and vegetables work together. Kristine Wallerius Cuthrell, MPH, RD, a research nutritionist and senior project coordinator for Hawaii Foods at the Center on the Family at University of Hawaii at Manoa, says that in the past five to 10 years, many large research studies have found that vitamin supplements don't provide the benefits that foods do. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, created jointly between HHS and USDA and reviewed every five years, say that foods are the best sources of nutrients because they contain naturally occurring ingredients, like carotenoids and flavonoids.

"In addition to the substances we are aware of, there are many present in fruits and vegetables that have yet to be discovered. Food and the nutrients they contain aren't consumed singly, but with each other. As such, they may act in synergistic ways to promote health," Cuthrell says. For instance, eating iron-rich plants, like spinach, with an iron-absorbing enhancer, like the vitamin C in orange juice, is great for people who don’t get enough iron (typically young women).

Fruits and vegetables may prevent many illnesses. Eating fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even some forms of cancer. The Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study examined nearly 110,000 people over the course of 14 years. Part of the study revealed that the more fruits and vegetables people ate daily, the less chance they would develop cardiovascular diseases.

The relationship between fruits and vegetables and cancer prevention has been more difficult to prove. However, recent studies show that some types of produce are associated with lower rates of some types of cancer. For example, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research suggest that mouth, stomach, and colorectal cancers are less likely with high intakes of non-starchy foods like leafy greens, broccoli, and cabbage. Though studies have been mixed, lycopene, a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red color, may help stave off prostate cancer.

Fruits and vegetables are great for watching your weight. They’re low in fat and calories, and loaded with fiber and water, which create a feeling of fullness. This is particularly helpful for dieters who want more filling calories. Plus, that fiber helps keep you “regular.”

Fruits and Vegetables: Get Your Fill

When adding fruits and vegetables to your diet, remember that variety is the spice of life. It's important to eat produce of various colors because each fruit or vegetable offers a different nutrient — think of it as nutritional cross-training. Trying new foods can be exciting, and be sure to sample every color in the produce rainbow.

The right number of servings of fruits and vegetables for you all depends on your daily caloric intake needs. A good way to find out how many servings you should be eating is by using the CDC's online serving calculator. Or make things even simpler by eating a fruit or vegetable at every meal and snack.

Don't let season, accessibility, or cost affect your fruit- and vegetable-friendly diet. If finding fresh produce is difficult, choose frozen, canned (low-sodium), or dried varieties. Also, 100 percent juice counts toward your servings, though it doesn't offer the full fiber of whole fruit.

The power of prevention may lie in a salad bowl or a plate of fruit. When we take advantage of produce, our bodies return the favor by reducing our risk of developing various illnesses.

By: Melanie Winderlich

Original Article: http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/101/nutrition-basics/fruits-and-vegetables.aspx