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What is Cardiovascular Disease?

As we celebrate American Heart Month, we wanted to put together something that would help to raise awareness of heart health issues in America. While browsing through pamphlets at the doctor’s office, you’ve probably seen the term cardiovascular disease. But, what does it mean? Of course, we all know that it has something to do with heart health. Which, let’s admit, for most of us is a concept we don’t think about until we have too. However, understanding and focusing on cardiovascular health before it becomes a problem can help prevent cardiovascular disease in the future.

The term cardiovascular disease simply refers to any disease that relates to the heart (cardio) or the blood vessels (vascular). It’s pretty simple once we dissect the words. Two of the most common forms of cardiovascular disease include heart disease and stroke, a couple of terms that we’re probably all a little more familiar with. They are also two of the three top reasons for death in developed countries.

NCES Artery SectionThe good news is that healthy eating habits combined with physical activity can improve our cardiovascular health and prevent many cardiovascular diseases. As we all know, our blood is pumped throughout our bodies through blood vessels. As cardiovascular health deteriorates, plaque begins to build up on the inside of our artery’s, making it more difficult for blood to travel through the body as it needs to. This concept is demonstrated in the Artery Section (product # 4143 in the NCES catalog). As this plaque builds up, different cardiovascular diseases begin to develop, which can lead to catastrophic diagnoses and events.

The effects of cardiovascular disease are nothing to ignore. If left untreated, cardiovascular disease can leave a person paralyzed, permanently disabled and can even lead to death. If you’re interested in learning more, or need to educate others about cardiovascular disease and its long-term effects, take a minute to view our Cardiovascular Nutrition DVD. You can preview and purchase the DVD here.

We hope you’ve learned a little more about cardiovascular disease than you knew before reading this blog! At NCES, our dietitians have hand-selected products that can be used for heart health education. Click here to browse this category. To join the conversation on heart health for American Heart Month, take a minute to share this blog with your readers. Together, we can fight against cardiovascular disease in America.

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Why It’s Okay to Enjoy Some Chocolate this Valentine’s Day

NCES Heart HealthHave you noticed all the reasons to talk about chocolate in February? Okay… forget about talking about it! Have you noticed all the reasons to EAT chocolate in February? First, of course, you have Valentine’s Day in just a couple of weeks. Then, there’s the fact that February is Chocolate Appreciation Month. But, to top it all off, February is American Heart Month. Have you heard? Chocolate actually contains some important ingredients that have been linked to heart health.

According to an article published by ABC News, chocolate contains Flavonoids, which are more highly concentrated in cocoa. These flavonoids serve as good antioxidants, “scavenging oxygen radicals responsible for damage and aging”. The next thing researchers set out to determine is “Are all chocolates created equal?” In order to answer this question, researchers divided study participants in to four groups, feeding two groups various dark chocolates and two groups various white chocolates. At the study completion, they concluded just what they had suspected. The groups consuming the dark chocolates saw the most heart healthy benefits, including lower blood sugar levels and better cholesterol ratios, due to the increased flavonoids in the darker chocolates.

So, what’s the conclusion? Don’t shy away from chocolate this February. Remember though to consume chocolate, just like other foods, in moderation. 1 ounce of dark chocolate contains about 170 calories. The heart healthy benefits are only worth it if you stay within your daily target for calorie consumption. Plus, it doesn’t take more than about an ounce a day to see the heart healthy benefits.

Don’t shy away from enjoying a glass of red wine with your dark chocolate too! There are a lot of theories right now about how red wine, in moderation, can benefit your heart health and help you stay at a healthy weight. But, that’s for another blog!

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Heart Health: Are Supplements the Answer?

So, you’re driving home from the doctor’s office and they’ve just informed you that you are at an increased risk of stroke due to cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol or some other heart health concern. What do you do? Do you turn to supplements? Or, do you alter your eating habits and levels of physical activity to make your heart stronger? Well, the answer may be different for each person. So, here are some tips on determining the right solution for you, or your client.

The first thing I’ll say is that, no matter what you do, you need to consider your diet and start cutting out foods that are bad for your heart and learn to incorporate heart healthy foods. Even if you decide that supplements are the right choice for you, it’s important to remember that they are exactly what their title says, “Supplements”. They are designed to supplement your healthy diet and lifestyle. Just to get you started, here are the Top 5 foods that we recommend you avoid if you’re focusing on heart health.

  1. Processed Foods (i.e.: boxed meals, snacks, etc)
  2. Fried Foods
  3. Regular Soda
  4. High fat, sugary foods (i.e.: cakes, cookies, brownies, etc)
  5. Fatty meats

Okay, so at this point, you’ve made the decision to eat healthier. Now comes the time to decide if supplements are the right choice for you. Supplements have been proven to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL), especially Omega-3 and fish oils. So, if you’re looking to take your efforts up a notch, incorporating supplements will help you accomplish that goal. If you’re being completely proactive and working to prevent any heart related illnesses, then supplements may not be what you need.
Now that you have an idea of what you’re going for; diet change and/or supplements, it may be a good time to consult your doctor. You’ve learned the potential benefits of supplements. But, you should not doubt the professional medical opinion of a trusted physician.

Heart health is an important concern that often gets pushed off until a person is forced to face it because of a stroke or other major medical incident. Be sure to get your heart in check before it’s too late. If you’re a dietitian or physician, take advantage of every opportunity to teach your patients about heart health and how they too can have a healthy heart!

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Sodium is the New Trans Fat (“7 Nutrition Trends in 2010”)

Looking at our recent blog “7 Nutrition Trends in 2010,” sodium is going to be the next item that will
incur the wrath of the health community. Since the average American consumes more than two or three
times the recommended amount of sodium, we’ve set ourselves up for a long battle.

One of the hardest places to control your sodium intake is when eating out. Since you have less control
over ingredients, and since many restaurants can be quite liberal with the salt usage, you have
to watch what you’re eating, especially if you suffer from hypertension or other heart diseases.

But all is not lost. There are a few ways to keep your social eating life intact, while maintaining the
healthy balance you need when it comes to your sodium. First, check to see if the menu has “Heart
Healthy” choices on the menu. These usually indicate plates that are low in sodium.

If there’s a lack of “Heart Healthy” choices, don’t fret. Here are a few tips:

If you’re with a friend or spouse, split the entrée. Portion sizes have gotten out of control, so this way
you get your allotted portion and helps keep your sodium intake lower.

Make your side order full of fresh or steamed veggies instead of fries or onion rings.

Choose a tasty appetizer as your main course instead of an entrée. This helps again with portion control
and sodium intake together.

There are more tips where that came from in “The DASH Diet Action Plan,” a resource for anyone
looking to lose weight, and to keep their heart healthy.

“The DASH Diet Action Plan” can be found in our catalog or online by searching for item #3732.

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5 Tips for Setting Fitness Goals

The month of May is National Physical Fitness Month. So, to recognize this, we thought that we might give you some tips on easy methods of working out, that won’t take a bite out of your daily schedule.

Current physical activity guidelines state that 150 minutes of physical activity a week is required to keep you fit and healthy. To put it plainly, a half an hour for five days out of the week, while paired with a healthy diet, is usually enough to keep you away from becoming overweight.

Fitness and physical activity are important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and it doesn’t always have to get in the way of your everyday life. By separating those workout periods into ten minutes, or even five minute blocks, you can spread out your physical activity enough to make the time easy to find.

But, fitness doesn’t happen overnight, and more than one of us have made a New Year’s resolution, only to watch it fade away within a month or two. Taking things gradually can help maintain a healthy lifestyle, and one way to partition your fitness into manageable chunks, is to set goals.

A few tips to follow when setting goals for yourself:

  • Make the goal challenging, but achievable. Too easy and you’ll become unmotivated, too hard and the same thing will happen.
  • Make it a variation of short-term and long-term goals. Being able to hit marks along the way to your bigger goals can be just as rewarding as the bigger goals themselves.
  • Have progression in your goals. Whether adding time or intensity, having progression built into your goals makes it more achievable and positively enforcing.
  • Set your exercises according to your lifestyle and what you’re comfortable with. Getting outside of your comfort zone is basic, to a point. If you don’t like it to start, you never will.
  • Reward yourself when you reach your goals. Avoid using food as a reward though. And make sure that the reward matches the goal. If it’s a big goal, give yourself a big reward!

These tips and more, along with short, easy-to-do exercises can be found in the book, “Fit In 5” by Greg Whyte.  This book, and many more can be found at www.ncescatalog.com and in our catalog.

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CBS and FDA Warn Against Too Much Salt

Yesterday on the CBS Early Show, Dr. Jennifer Ashton showed Americans the dangers of eating too much salt, and to clarify a misunderstanding concerning the Institute of Medicine and the Food & Drug Administration.

Contrary to popular belief, the FDA will not be cracking down and limiting the salt in American products and the salt intake of Americans. The Institute of Medicine however, did ask the FDA to help create awareness of the problems with having too much salt causes.

The average American consumes 1 ½ tablespoons of salt each day, which is over twice the recommended amount. Although the health community has known for 40 years that there has been at the very least a casual link between salt and heart disease, but it’s now a very real connection and cause for concern.

It’s estimated that by reducing the average American’s salt intake by just one teaspoon a day could save over 150,000 lives from heart disease.

No one is asked people to put away the salt shaker. Since only about 23% of an American’s salt come from the added salt you sprinkle on your meal, it’s less of a concern. Where the real trouble lies is in the processed foods that you eat, where the other 77% of your salt lies.

Watch what you eat, and keep an eye on the grams of salt and sodium in that lunch you’re having. It might just save your life.

Check out the video here!  http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6417471n&tag=cbsnewsTwoColUpperPromoArea

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Sugar As An Addiction: Fact or Fiction?

Yesterday on Good Morning America, added sugar in foods, and its impact on Americans was a topic of discussion. Too much sugar in diets has been linked to the onset of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Considering the typical American consumes around 156 pounds of sugar a year, that’s quite a concern.

The American Heart Association recommends an upper limit of about 9 teaspoons of added sugar a day for a man, and about 6 added teaspoons a day for a woman. What’s more likely, is that people are eating about 4 to 6 times that amount.

That’s a cause for concern.

Many natural foods have sugar in them, such as grapes, which is fine, since they also come with so many vitamins and minerals as well. It’s when sugar is added to them, either in processing, or by hand, where it has the real danger. Most foods have sugar added to them merely for taste’s sake, without regard to how healthy it may be for our culture.

In the same GMA piece, the good doctor makes the claim that we, as a culture, are addicting ourselves to sugar by eating so many artificial sugars. While it makes sense in my head, research to this point has not made any definitive link between artificial sugars and addiction.

It’s a good argument in theory, and it wouldn’t hurt to lay off of the extra sugar, but addiction, I’d wager it’s not.

Watch the video here!  http://ow.ly/1BUAA