Avocado health benefits

Indulge in game-day guacamole without guilt

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Recent studies have confirmed the heart-healthy benefits of avocados.

Many of us are looking forward to Super Bowl Sunday — some for the game and others for the snacks. And since guacamole has become a Super Bowl staple, there’s good news for those in the latter category. Avocados, the main ingredient in guacamole, may lower your cholesterol and risk of heart disease.

Avocados are rich in vitamins, minerals, plant sterols and fiber, as well as the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats also found in olive oil and nuts. Recent studies in Spain have confirmed that including olive oil and nuts regularly in the diet can reduce the risk of heart disease. Now, new evidence has added avocados to the list of risk-reducing foods. Continue reading

Starting an exercise program?

Your doctor can recommend screening tests to help determine your risk for heart disease

exercise 2 BlogWhile the new year brings resolutions to get in shape, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends a “risk-stratification” approach to exercise participation. This means that the level of risk corresponds to the number of heart disease risk factors a person may have. These factors (high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, family history of heart disease, smoking habit, obesity and abnormal glucose tolerance) may indicate danger in starting an exercise program.

Tests that help determine heart disease risk

According to the American Heart Association, the key to preventing cardiovascular disease is managing your risk factors through screening tests during regular doctor visits. Below are the screen tests recommended by the AHA.

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Low-carb v low-fat diet

Does ditching the carbs lead to a healthier heart?

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A new study discusses the advantages of a low-carb v low-fat diet and its impact on heart health.

Low-carb diets of one form or another have been on our radar for quite some time as a way to quickly shed pounds, but we haven’t known much about how these types of diets affect our heart health. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine last week says that compared to a low-fat diet, a low-carbohydrate diet is better not only for weight loss, but may also be better for your heart. Before we jump on the low-carb bandwagon, let’s take a closer look at this low-carb v low-fat study.

The study

This study included 148 obese men and women with healthy lipids and no history of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. They were assigned randomly to either a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet, and they followed these diets for 12 months. All participants met with registered dietitians and received nutrition education, with emphasis on the benefits of monounsaturated fats and recommendations to limit trans fats. Those assigned to the low-fat diet were instructed to have less than 30 percent of their total calories from fat (less than 7 percent from saturated fat), while those assigned to the low-carb diet were instructed to limit their carbohydrate intake to less than 40 grams per day. Neither group was given a specific calorie goal. On average across the 12 months, participants in the low-carb group consumed about 130 fewer calories per day than those in the low-fat group. Continue reading

Men’s heart health tips

Develop good habits early for a healthy heart later in life

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Adopting healthy habits at a young age can pay off as you age.

As we age, the stakes get higher for coronary artery disease (CAD). A man in his 70s has a higher risk of developing CAD than a man in his 20s. But CAD does not occur overnight.

Even at 20 years old, you can affect what happens to you and your heart health when you are older. Having an appropriate health maintenance exam to define your risk of diabetes, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and other cardiac risk factors is very important for heart health.

The role genetics plays

The single biggest risk factor for developing CAD is genetics. A person (man or woman) who has a family history of early-age CAD (usually defined as 55 or younger) needs to be extremely diligent about his or her heart health.

Even though you can’t change genetics, there are certain genetic risk factors that can be modified — and the earlier you start, the better. Continue reading

Sugar and heart health

Do you know where sugar lurks?

The risk of dying from heart disease begins to rise when calories from sugar make up more than 15 percent of the total calories.

The link between sugar and heart health is clear: The risk of dying from heart disease begins to rise when calories from sugar make up more than 15 percent of the total calories.

Sugar has recently been making headline news, thanks to a number of studies focusing on sugar and heart health.

Sugar has been linked to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. A recent study reviewing data from 10,000 United States adults (April 2014, JAMA Internal Medicine) found that, compared to people whose sugar intake was less than 10 percent of their calories, those who reported between 10 and 25 percent of their calories coming from sugar had a significantly higher risk of dying from heart disease, and those who had 25 percent or more of their calories from sugar were almost 3 times as likely to die from heart disease.

The risk of death from heart disease actually began to rise when calories from sugar made up more than 15 percent of the total intake. For a person eating 2,000 calories, this would be the equivalent of just one 20-ounce Mountain Dew a day. Clearly there is a link between sugar and heart health, but even the experts disagree on how much sugar is recommended. Continue reading

Exercise and heart health

Some experts call it the "magic medicine"

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Just 30 minutes of exercise a day offers significant health benefits.

Exercise is a critical component of good health. In fact, some experts have called it the “magic medicine” when linking exercise and heart health. Whether it’s a simple walk, a family bike ride or an intense workout, exercise plays a significant role in the reduction of certain diseases. So, if you’re at your ideal weight or 20 pounds overweight, participating in some form of exercise has benefits in areas of heart disease, diabetes and joint health.

Can you spare 30 minutes a day?

A study by Dr. Mike Evans, founder of the Health Design Lab, reveals that 30 minutes of exercise a day is the single best thing you can do for your health. In his educational video, Evans asks the question: “Can you limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23 and a half hours a day?”

Evans’ research shows that a woman who goes from no activity at all to one hour of exercise per week can reduce her risk of heart disease by almost half. Other research has linked sitting for long periods of time — whether watching TV or sitting at a desk — with a number of health concerns, including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Continue reading