Thursday, April 30, 2009
Known as the "fight-or-flight" response, stress is your body's way of dealing with a perceived threat, by raising blood pressure, speeding up breathing and heart rate, making the liver turn blood sugar into ebergy, and diverting blood from internal organs toward muscles.
Few of us are strangers to stress: Surveys have found that 90 percent of Americans experience high levels of stress at least once otr twice a week. Work deadlines, relationship problems, trying to do too much at once-all are known to have unhealthy physical effects on the body.
The Fight-Or-Flight Factor
When stress strikes, the body perceives a threat and gets ready for action. Blood flow is diverted to the muscles, preventing the rest of the body from properly absorbng vitamins, minerals, and water. With no physical attacker to fight or flee from, this physical "pumping up" has no outlet, which compromises normal body function and, over time, may adversely affect your health. Stress can cause fatigue, lower immunity, and raise blood pressure, making it a risk factor for a variety of problems, including infections, constipation, sexual dysfunction, depression, and heart disease.
Apples, oranges, strawberries
Fresh vegetables: asparagus, brocoli, brussels sprouts
Herbals teas: ginseng, chamomile
Low-or nonfat dairy products
Eating the right foods can help counteract the effects of tension and strain. Simple, whole foods can minimize tension and help you weather life's storms. Start by getting ample amounts of vitamin C, an immune-booster whose levels drop when you're under pressure. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially oranges, strawberries, brussels sprouts, asparagus, and broccoli. Vitamin B12, which aids in blood cell formation and helps improve nervous system function, can help fight stress-induced fatigue. Get it from fish, eggs lean meats, and milk. Another vitamin, B6, also helps to bolster immunity by increasing the levels of disease-fighting antibodies. But B6, in bananas, prunes, and potatoes, goes even further by raising levels of dopamine, a mood-enchancing chemical in the brain that takes the edge off of anxiety and irritability.
Stress puts the body in an extremely agitated state, but the right foods can soothe jangled nerves by evoking feelings of comfort and security. Often, the comfort foods we're most likely to reach for are sweet, creamy, or rich treats. Although they can trigger the release of calming brain chemicals like opioids and serotonin, this is quickly followed by a crash in energy and mood. You're better off with soothing foods that won't leave you lagging later:
Soup Because soup is served hot and takes time to eat, it's a meal you simply can't eat quickly, which forces you to shift into a slower, calmer state of mind. Choose a soup that's rich in vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and peas, and you'll help shore up your nutrient reserves. A good bet: chicken noodle soup, which is packed with nutrients and conjures comforting emotions. Warm, savory beef broth is another soothing choice.
Whole-Grain Toast Eating a warm snack like toast topped with marmalade is not only soothing, it also provides fiber, which is important for proper digestion in times of stress, when blood flow is diverted from organs, which can interfere with regularity.
Yogurt Yogurt is satisfying to the sweet tooth, and it's also smooth and easy to diggest, even for people who have trouble processing milk products. It also offers the B vitamin riboflavin, which helps distribute oxygen in the body and aids in tissue growth and repair, minimizing the negative effects of tension and strain. Nonfat yogurt contains about 15 percent of the daily riboflavin requirement and provides slightly more of this nutrient than low-fat or whole-milk varieties. Frozen, nonfat yogurt contains a worthy 10 percent, making it a wise and guilt-free treat in stressful times.
Hearbal Tea A hot cup of ginseng, chamomile, or other herb-based tea induces relaxation quicly and pleasantly. Ginseng helps bolster disease resistance and buffer the body's fight-or flight response. Herbalist call ginseng an adaptogen, meaning it may help normalize body functions such as increased blood pressure and a racing heart, bringing them to lower levels and more relaxed rates. Chamomile and peppermint help quit stomach upset in addition to producing a calming effect. What's more, just sitting down and savoring a cup of tea of any flavor provides a relaxing time-out from the stress of daily life.
Foods to Avoid
A cup of coffee may seem to help you get through a stressful day, but it can actually heighten the tension you feel: Caffeine boosts production of cortisol, a stress hormone that raises blood pressure and heart rate. It can also increase adrenaline, making you feel even edgier and more irritable. Instead, take a break with a cup of decaffeinated herbal tea.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Cholesterol is a waxy substance carried in blood. Your body produces cholesterol to build cell walls and to make hormones. Cholesterol has two sources. It is made in the liver and comes from animal products.
Excess cholesterol in the blood attaches to substances called lipoproteins. High-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good" cholesterol) carries fats safely out of your body; but low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad" cholesterol) allows fatty plaque to build up in arteries, which may slow blood flow and could eventually lead to heart disease. A high total cholesterol reading may indicate there's too much of the bad type in your blood, either because your body naturally produces large amounts of it or because you've been eating too much fat.
Too much cholesterol can be deposited in artery walls, where it clogs arteries, blocks blood flow, and eventually causes a heart attack.
Several factors increase the risk of heart disease. The more risk factors you have, the more important it is for you to reduce or eliminate the risk factors you can control. You are more likely to develop heart disease if you have two or more of of the following risk factors.
Major Risk Factors
- Cigarette smoking
- High blood pressure
- Low "good" cholesterol (HDL) levels (less than 40 mg/dl)
- Family history of early heart disease (heart disease in a female family member before before the age of 65 or male family member before the age of 55)
- Age (men over 45 years old and women over 55 years old)
Others Risk Factors
- Lack of exercise
How To Lower Your Blodd Colesterol
The good new is that you can control some risk factors. Eating less saturated and trans (hydrogenated) fat is an easy and important first step toward lowering cholesterol. Regular exercise will help you control other risk factors. If you smoke, breaking your habit is the most important step toward decreasing your risk for heart disease.
Tips for Lowering Blood Cholesterol
- Eat more plant foods (such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and fewer animal products.
- Choose skinless poultry, fish and lean cuts of meat. Eat smaller amounts.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) dairy products. Limit cheese.
- Use trans-fat-free tub margarines or liquid vegetable oils in place of butter or margarine.
- Try to use less, especially in cooking and baking.
- Read labels. Avoid products with coconut or palm kernel oil, lard, animal shortening, or hydrogenated vegetable shortening
- Eat fewer fried foods. Bake, broil, boil, barbecue, steam, or microwave instead.
Eat fewer egg yolks (no more than four per week), and avoid organ meats, such as liver or kidney.