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CAT | Heart Health

holiday-headacheIs your December all booked up with parties and travel plans? So often the holiday season can leave us feeling drained—both physically and mentally—which is why it helps to remember that the most important gift we can give ourselves is the gift of good health. Take a moment today to remember these simple tips for a healthier, happier holiday.

  1. Eat Well, Feel Well. Your body and your well-being benefit from certain foods, while others can contribute to a cycle of poor health, digestive imbalance and weight gain. Remember to fill your plate with plenty of protein (at least 12 portions a day will help keep you satisfied and reduce cravings); non-starchy veggies and low-sugar fruits; healthy fats like those founds in fish (Omega-3), olive oil (Omega-9) and walnuts (Omega-3); and living and fermented foods. Do your best to eliminate sugar, refined carbohydrates and grains, and reduce your intake of unhealthy Omega-6 fats (mostly vegetable oil).
  2. Get Plenty of Sleep. It may seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, but cutting into your sleep time is not the answer. Not only has sleep deprivation been linked to depression, irritability and poor concentration, but too little sleep can actually pack on the pounds. According to Harvard professor Dr. Lawrence Epstein, people who sleep less tend to be heavier over time—and even a short-term reduction in sleep can make a big difference, causing the body to release hormones that prompt eating and weight gain.
  3. Wash Your Hands Often. You have enough to worry about this season without adding the sniffles and sneezes. According to experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. As often as possible, wash your hands (rubbing them together) with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds each time. If you feel a cough or a sneeze coming on, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. If you’re out of tissues, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
  4. Stay Active Even in Winter. This time of year the darker nights and colder temperatures make it difficult to get motivated, but regular exercise (at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week) plays a key role in disease prevention and vibrant health. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that exercise may be as effective, or even more effective, as drug treatment for common health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. In addition, exercise is critical for a balanced gut—which not only promotes optimal digestion but can help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
  5. Lift Your Mood with a Little Sunlight
    Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects roughly 500,000 Americans every year, and according to the Mayo Clinic three out of every four SAD sufferers are women. Sunlight is our primary source of vitamin D, which has been shown to help ease depressive symptoms and improve mood, so try to spend time outdoors or near a window each day. Better yet, take a walk! A recent study found depressive symptoms were greatly reduced just by walking outdoors.

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Poor CreditBefore you go overboard with the holiday spending, you may want to take a moment to think about your heart. Researchers in New Zealand recently found a link between low credit scores and poor cardiovascular health, saying certain personality traits may be to blame.

Using data from the long-term Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, which tracked the health of 1,000 individuals from birth through age 38, analysts saw a clear connection between certain characteristics—including self-discipline as well as the ability to plan ahead—and both optimal financial health and better overall heart health.

In order to draw their conclusions, the research team used a well-known heart health gauge developed for another decades-long health study known as the Framingham Heart Study. The Cardiovascular Disease Risk Score allowed researchers to measure the “heart age” of participants based on physical health factors (such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels) as well as diet and lifestyle habits.

Although the Dunedin study participants were all nearing 40, their heart ages told a different story, ranging between 22 to 85 years old. Not surprisingly, the younger the heart age, the better the credit score. And finally, while researchers say the personality characteristics connected to higher credit scores are typically established in early childhood, it is never too late to start practicing healthy habits—physically and financially!

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