Good Morning, Heart Health!

Want to help your ticker’s health, starting now -- as in, this morning? First to try: Eating a balanced breakfast that includes fiber-full whole grains, fresh fruit, and lean protein, like a bowl of high-fiber cereal topped with low-fat milk and blueberries. [1] Next, incorporate one of these heart-healthy habits into your morning.

Hoof It

A brief walk -- even 10 minutes -- gets your heart off to a good start. Better yet, add two more 10-minute walks later in the day for a total of 30 minutes, a routine that’s been shown to lower blood pressure even more effectively than 30 consecutive minutes. [2]  

Peel It

One large banana is a potassium powerhouse (containing 487mg [3] -- about 10 percent of your recommended daily dose of this important nutrient). [3,4] A diet rich in potassium may help maintain healthy blood pressure. [4,5]

Pop It

A handful of berries, that is. In a study of more than 90,000 women whose diets were tracked over decades, eating more than 2 or more combined servings of fresh strawberries and blueberries per week was associated with lower risk of having a heart attack.[6] Berries get their power from anthocyanins, flavonoids that give them their cheery colors. Anthocyanins make blood vessels more flexible, lowering blood pressure. [6] Try tossing a handful of fresh berries on your morning cereal for a delicious pairing.[edit]

Brew It

You already know that green and black tea’s good for overall health, but preliminary research has discovered that brewing up a cup of flavorful hibiscus tea may lower blood pressure too. Like strawberries, the dark red hibiscus leaf also gets its color from anthocyanins. [7] To make a cup: Boil water and pour over dried hibiscus leaves and a cinnamon stick. Steep for 20 minutes, strain, and sweeten with some orange juice or honey. [8]

Caffeinate It

Your morning cup of joe has some benefits beyond helping you feel more awake. In a review of studies, researchers found that those who regularly drank about two 8-ounce cups of coffee had a lower risk of heart failure than those who didn’t consume the java [9]. Remember, that’s two standard cups at your favorite coffee shop, not two giant mugs.

SOURCES:

1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 4 Tips for Better Breakfasts

http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6747

Accessed 8/4/2013

2. Bhammar DM,Angadi SSGaesser GA.

Effects of fractionized and continuous exercise on 24-h ambulatory blood pressure.

Med Sci Sports Exerc.2012 Dec;44(12):2270-6.

3. USDA Database Banana

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2178?fg=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=&qlookup=&offset=&sort=&format=Abridged&_action_show=Apply+Changes&Qv=0&Q4048=0&Q4049=0&Q4050=0&Q4051=0&Q4052=1.0&Q4053=1.0&Q4054=1.0&Q4055=0

Accessed 8/4/2013

4. Potassium AI

http://www.nationaldairycouncil.org/SiteCollectionDocuments/health_wellness/dairy_nutrients/PotassiumRecommendationFactSheetFINAL.pdf

Accessed 8/4/2013

5. He FJMacGregor GA.

Beneficial effects of potassium on human health.

Physiol Plant.2008 Aug;133(4):725-35.

6. Aedín Cassidy,  Kenneth J. Mukamal,  Lydia Liu,  Mary Franz,  A. Heather Eliassen,  and Eric B. Rimm High Anthocyanin Intake Is Associated With a Reduced Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Young and Middle-Aged Women

Circulation. 2013;127:188-196,

7. Hopkins ALLamm MGFunk JLRitenbaugh C.

Hibiscus sabdariffa L. in the treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia: a comprehensive review of animal and human studies.

Fitoterapia. 2013 Mar;85:84-94.

8. Tea recipe:

http://www.prevention.com/food/food-remedies/lower-your-blood-pressure-tea

Accessed 8/4/2013

9. Mostofsky ERice MSLevitan EBMittleman MA.

Habitual coffee consumption and risk of heart failure: a dose-response meta-analysis.

Circ Heart Fail. 2012 Jul 1;5(4):401-5.

Stressed Out? So Is Your Digestion

Have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling overwhelmed, your stomach may feel bogged down too? “The digestive system is not a separate assembly line in the body,” says registered dietitian Robyn Flipse. “It’s connected to everything else in the way you feel and function.” Stress, anxiety and frustration can manifest themselves in symptoms of bloating, constipation, cramps or nausea.

Here are Flipse’s tips on how to keep your stress levels low and your digestive function high.

Tip No. 1: Eat on a regular schedule.
This helps your digestive system in two ways: When you have breakfast, lunch and dinner in regular intervals, you’re less likely to be ravenous -- a depleted state of energy that won’t help you react well to stressful situations. Plus, healthy and regular meals that contain fiber help keep the digestive system functioning optimally. Start your day with a bowl of high-fiber cereal, like Kellogg’s All-Bran®, which contains wheat bran fiber (a very concentrated source of fiber). Just one serving of this cereal will get you nearly halfway to meeting your daily recommended fiber quota.

Tip No. 2: Know your own stress triggers.
What raises the hackles of one person may roll off the back of another. Stress is very individualized. “Knowing your own triggers gives you a chance to make changes in the way you react to it,” says Flipse. If traffic drives you nuts, think about adjusting your schedule so you aren’t driving in the crush of rush hour traffic. Or if making dinner every night feels overwhelming, get your partner (or kids) on board to prepare meals a few weekdays or on weekends.

Tip No. 3: Find time to regroup and restore yourself.
Whether it’s meditation, yoga or listening to music, most everyone has some trusted activity that helps calm them down. “What they all have in common is centering,” says Flipse. The problem is remembering you need to do it. One of the factors that makes stress so damaging is that we lose sight of the big picture. Everything may seem equally important, but it really isn’t. “Ask yourself what really needs to be tackled right away, and what really doesn’t,” she says. You may find you have more spare moments on hand to take a deep breath.

Good Digestion After 50

We may be better at sticking with routines as we age, but our body, including our digestive system, experiences unavoidable changes that can impact how we feel on a daily basis. Here, we give you a few culprits that can lead to occasional irregularity, gas and bloating, along with strategies to help get you running smoothly again so you don’t miss a beat.

Digestive Culprit No. 1: Not exercising enough.
All of the various organs involved in the digestion process contain muscles that must contract to move food through your system. Physical activity gets your blood flowing and stimulates these contractions. Therefore, when you’re inactive, so are these muscles. This can lead to bloating, excess gas and constipation. So get moving! Just be sure to wait an hour after a big meal before engaging in any rigorous physical activity. If you exercise right after eating, the blood flows toward the heart and muscles instead of your gut. 

Digestive Culprit No. 2: Skimping on fiber. 
While many of us maintain the same type of diet for years, some gradually begin to eat less fiber without even realizing it. Some people, as they age, think that eating less crunchy foods will be easier on teeth and digestion, says registered dietitian Lisa Stollman. While there’s no harm in hard, crunchy foods, if you prefer to avoid them, opt for such cereals as Kellogg’s® All-Bran® Complete® Wheat Flakes or Kellogg’s Raisin Bran® with milk, eat whole grains (barley, millet and quinoa) in place of refined grains, and add beans to salads. Aim for a minimum of 25 grams of dietary fiber daily.

Digestive Culprit No. 3: Being parched.
“When our bodies don’t have enough fluid, the colon acts as a fluid regulator by absorbing as much as it can from food in the large intestine,” says Stollman. “This leaves you with a much harder stool.” The rule of thumb: Aim to drink about eight glasses of water a day. Remember that other fluids, such as soups and stews, count, as do fruits and vegetables like melon, grapes, apricots, celery, cucumbers and eggplant.

Stomach Trouble? Helpful Herbs to Try

Centuries before there were drugstores, there were herbal remedies that people relied on to ease stomach discomfort and aid digestion. If your tummy is talking back to you, try one of these remedies. Taking these in supplement form is more likely to give you a healing dose, but there’s no harm in spicing up some of your dishes to help bring some relief.

Ginger

This spice has been used to treat gastrointestinal problems, like diarrhea, motion sickness and nausea for more than 2,000 years, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. “Ginger has a calming effect that has been demonstrated by research,” says registered dietitian Robyn Flipse. “It has compounds that have the ability to calm or relax what’s causing a nauseous feeling.” Ordering in Chinese food won’t give you enough to make a difference, but sprinkling ground ginger onto a serving of cereal and sipping on a cup of ginger tea may do the trick.

Peppermint

Turns out it’s more than just the festive flavor of a candy cane. Research suggests that peppermint may help calm the stomach muscles, helping food pass through more quickly. Studies show that coated peppermint capsules eased Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms like bloating, diarrhea and gas. If any of those symptoms are tripping you up, you may consider sipping a cup of peppermint tea.

Anise

An herb with the flavor of licorice, it’s long been used as an aid to address flatulence, heartburn and stomach aches. “If you eat in an Indian restaurant, there is often a little dish there that contains anise and other herbs,” says Flipse. “It’s very traditional in that culture to end the meal that way to improve digestion.” But if you’re not crazy about the flavor -- it tends to evoke a love-it or hate-it response -- it may not be the best option for your herbal arsenal.