Tag Archives: Low-density lipoprotein

Side Stepping the Stroke Slope

Stroke- “the interruption of blood flow to the brain”*– can result in conditions as correctable as slurred speech to those as irreversible as paralysis and, sadly, death. Not all strokes are alike in cause. The less common hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding within the brain and the more common ischemic stroke is caused by clotting within a vessel supplying blood to the brain or by a clot that has traveled from another part of the body to the brain.

Though not applicable to all sufferers, there is an ever-growing theory that, though seemingly an unpredictable occurrence, the likelihood of a stroke can be predetermined from a list of five causative conditions. This group, called “Syndrome X” or the “Metabolic Syndrome”, consists of five hazardous health characteristics-abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high triglycerides levels, high blood pressure, and low high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. When we find ourselves struggling with any three of the five, we in turn find ourselves teetering along the edge of a very slippery slope.

The below chart lists each individual risk with methods of preventing its onset and, if necessary, improving the already existing condition.

Abdominal Obesity
Prevention:

  • Include   adaptogenic herbs like Rhodiola to reduce cortisol production
  • Walk,   run, swim, cycle and/or dance 3-5 times/week for 20-45 minutes to maintain   healthy overall body fat percentage.
  • Increase   the amount of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), decrease saturated fats, and avoid   trans fats in the diet.
Improvement:

  • High –linoleic Safflower oil increases the belly fat   hormone adiponectin that increases both fatty acid breakdown and blood   glucose regulation.
  • CLA, conjugated linoleic acid helps the body break down fatty –   acids that would otherwise be stored by the body.
  • L-Carnitine helps bodies utilize stored fat for energy.
High Blood Sugar
Prevention:

  • Choose   foods on the lower end of the Glycemic Index.
  • Limit   the consumption of simple carbohydrates and sugars.
  • Try   sweetening with natural sugar alternatives like agave nectar and stevia.
Improvement:

  • Include   the mineral Chromium Picolinate and   the herbs Bitter Melon and Cinnamon to   help the body better metabolize sugars and maintain blood sugar balance.
  • Help reduce sugar cravings with Gymnema Sylvestre.
High Blood Pressure
Prevention:

  • Incorporate   stress management techniques such as physical and/or intellectual exercise,   yoga, meditation or prayer.
  • Maintain   proper electrolyte (sodium, potassium, magnesium) balance within the body.
  • Reduce   dietary intakes of fried, fast and processed foods.
Improvement:

  • Grapeseed extract helps the body maintain healthy blood   pressure levels.
  • Pycnogenol helps to strengthen blood vessel integrity.
High Triglyceride Levels
Prevention:

  • Avoid   overeating, especially late at night when we’re less active.
  • Reduce   intakes of alcoholic beverages.
  • Maintain   a diet low in sugar and fat.
Improvement:

  • Treat   inflammatory ailments with non-steroidal and non-diuretic medications when   possible.
  • If   overweight, reduce bodyweight by as little as 5-10 lbs to help lower   triglyceride levels.
  • Eliminate   cigarette smoking.
High LDL and/or Low HDL Cholesterol  
Prevention:

  • Choose   foods low in cholesterol and unhealthy fat.
  • Include   fiber containing foods in the diet.
  • Increase   HDL levels by keeping moderate aerobic exercise in your life.
Improvement:

  • Phytosterols, plant sterols, compete with less healthy   animal sterols for absorption and thereby help lower total cholesterol   levels.
  • Policosanol, derived from sugar cane, has shown promise   in lowering LDL while increasing HDL levels.

Not at all surprising are the above recurring themes- getting regular exercise, eating a diet low in sugars, simple carbs and unhealthy fats, limiting alcohol and cigarette smoking, and adding stress management techniques to our daily lives. These lifestyle adjustments are at the core of most preventive plans and, in spite of their consistent need for attention, are not that hard to accomplish. My suggested starting place and current mission is the ever elusive concept of stress management. In my observation and experience, so many bad habits begin with the attempt to cope with our lives’ loads of stress. Whether we opt for the high fueled emotional rant, extreme veg out or over indulge in our spirited, sweet, rich and creamy cravings, it’s all in a desperate effort to overcome what can seem an insurmountable mound of worry- to do’s, to have’s, to be’s. This necessary adjustment has led me back to some age-old adages like doing what feels good for activity and exercise, seeking the middle ground with food and alcohol, and fighting the feeling in emotionally toxic scenarios. With no panacea to turn to, it’s a daily endeavor that’s sometimes only attainable through minute by minute milestones; but I’m beginning to believe that when faced with life’s most trying times, when missteps and bad choices can force us out of the game, slow and steady really does win the race. With that in mind…

Be aware of where you stand, be willing to move and as always, BeWell

*Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healings. New York: Avery of Penguin Putnam Inc, 2002.

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Pumpkin’s Power

Happy Halloween! I have to admit that this is one of my favorite days of the year, so a minute of pumpkin worship in its honor must be given. Everyone is long accustomed to indulging in the traditional pumpkin pie throughout the holiday season, and more recently pumpkin loaves, soups and muffins have joined the list of autumn treats. Yet the nutritional value of this fruit makes it worthy of consumption all year long.

Pumpkin’s Nutrients, The Anatomical Breakdown

Starting with its skin, the rich orange pigmentation is a naturally high source of beta carotene. This converts in the body to Vitamin A, and is highly regarded as one of the most important antioxidant vitamins and most potent anti-aging nutrients.

Along to the pulp. Also rich in beta carotene, it contains a good amount of fiber and water making it helpful to digestion, colon health, blood sugar balance and weight management. One half cup contains 5 grams of fiber, that’s over 12% of the recommended 40 grams per day!

Luckily, the pumpkin seed’s nutritional benefits are no secret. They are high in protein, minerals, essential fatty acids and phytosterols. Their protein content makes them a good alternative to meat, and the minerals supplied keeps them on the list of healthy snack options. Some highly concentrated minerals are:

  • Iron- the blood builder
  • Magnesium-the muscle relaxer and de-stressor
  • Potassium- the regulator of water balance
  • Zinc– the immune enhancer and wound healer

Both the Essential Fatty Acids (omega 3 and 6) and the phytosterols (plant sterols) aid the cardiovascular system by decreasing inflammation and decreasing cholesterol. Phytosterols do this by competing with other cholesterol for absorption, and this competition keeps the LDL, aka “bad cholesterol”, levels low. The EFAs also support blood vessel, nerve and tissue health, all important components to increased heart health.**Note: Heart disease is still the leading cause of mortality in women**

Pumpkin’s Potential

The benefits of this superior fruit do not stop with the above list. Pumpkin is also used in the treatment of several ailments and illnesses. Some of its uses are more supported by anecdotal evidence than scientific, but others are in the process of clinical testing and pumpkin’s future as a healing plant is looking bright.

  • Prostate HealthPumpkin seeds have long been used as a general preventive to prostate problems, but research is indicating that the specific benefit is to preventing benign prostate enlargement and the subsequent complications with urinary flow. This is possibly through the high amounts of zinc. Many prostatitis and prostate cancer patients have been found to have low levels of zinc. A healthy prostate gland typically contains high concentrations of the mineral.
  • Sexual Function– Again zinc takes center stage, and this time it is for the benefit of both males and females. We’ve all heard of the oyster’s reputation… and, by the way, they contain over 10 times the zinc of other foods. But, increased desire is not the only benefit, especially for men. This critical mineral is necessary to normalize testosterone production and maintain reproductive fluids.
  • Mood Enhancement– This time the amino acid tryptophan, also found in pumpkin seeds, gets the credit. Tryptophan is used by our bodies to make serotonin. And serotonin is necessary to proper mood balance and sleep. One gram of pumpkin seeds has the same amount of tryptophan found in that warm cup of milk. More great news for vegetarians!

That’s plenty for now, but trust me. I could go on and on with the power of pumpkin, but I must get ready for the parade and trick or treaters! Have a blast tonight and of course…

Be Safe and BeWell