Smorgasbord Health Column – The Heart and some health issues – Angina and Atherosclerosis


I appreciate that many of you who have been kindly following the blog for a long time will have seen this post before. However, if you are new to Smorgasbord, I hope you will find interesting.

You will find other posts on the brain and nutrients in the Health Column in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

Last week I looked at the structure and function of the heart and this week a brief overview of the main causes of angina and heart disease which is atherosclerosis and that is where we should start when looking to change our lifestyle and diet.

Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries as a result of plaque that has built up in the arterial walls narrowing the blood vessels and restricting the flow of oxygen rich blood to the heart and other organs such as the brain. Atherosclerosis accounts for almost 75% of deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Plaque build up in arteriesWhat is Angina?

Angina (angina pectoris) is a type of temporary chest pain. There are a number of types but the two, stable and unstable both indicate that there is likely to be coronary heart disease.

Stable angina attacks occur after vigorous exercise that requires additional blood to be sent to the heart. An attack might last from one or two minutes to fifteen minutes. Activities that also increase the risk of an attack are cigarette smoking, stress, abrupt changes in temperature or altitude, heavy meals that are not given time to digest and sudden exertion such as running for a bus or upstairs. These types of attack are also described as “predictable” as they tend to happen between early morning and noon. One reason for this may be the body’s inability to go from a state of complete rest to fully active immediately on getting up in the morning. Like an old car, it takes time to get all functions working efficiently especially if arteries are blocked and oxygen is in short supply.

Unstable angina is more dangerous as it is also unpredictable and will last longer than fifteen minutes. It can occur at rest and without any previous history of heart disease and should be treated as an emergency as it could indicate that the person is just about to suffer a full heart attack.

What are the symptoms of Angina?

People who suffer from angina describe the pain as crushing, burning behind the breastbone and as if there is a weight resting on the chest. The pain can radiate out from the chest and affect the neck, arms, jaw and the abdomen. Women are more likely to experience abdominal pain during an angina episode and it makes it more difficult to establish the problem. The person might also feel light headed and experience a faster than normal heartbeat (arrhythmia)

Some attacks are accompanied by nausea, sweating confusion and dizziness. These kinds of symptoms, particularly in the elderly add to the difficulty of diagnosing the problem.

Whether the episode lasts a minute or longer you should get it checked out. There is a strong possibility that if the attack occurs after eating a very heavy meal that you might be suffering from indigestion. But, if this is happening frequently the causes need to be identified and treated.

However, if the pain has moved from under your diaphragm and you are experiencing discomfort in any of the other areas that I have mentioned above, and the attack lasts for more than a few minutes you should definitely seek medical help.

What are the treatment options for Angina?

The medication most commonly prescribed is Nitrates such as nitro-glycerine that dilates the walls of the blood vessels allowing more blood and therefore oxygen to reach the heart. If there are repeated angina episodes then there could be the addition of beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers.

Beta-blockers slow the heartbeat and also reduce the strength of the muscle contractions taking some of the load off the organ.

Calcium channel blockers block the entry of calcium into the cells. This dilates the coronary arteries and increases the heart’s blood flow.

Anti-platelet and anticoagulant drugs inhibit the formation of blood clots by inhibiting the platelets that normal bind together. Aspirin is often prescribed in a relatively low dose, which a patient can take daily.

There are a number of surgical options for advanced stages of atherosclerosis and therefore increased angina attacks. These include angioplasty, stenting and coronary artery bypass grafting.

Blocked artery 3 - Baloon inflatedAngioplasty is a procedure where a balloon-tipped catheter is inserted in the blocked coronary artery and inflated. The balloon compresses the plaque against the walls of the artery, which increases the blood flow. This is usually combined with the inserting of a stent via the catheter. A stent is a small mesh tube that holds the damaged artery open allowing for increased blood flow.

A coronary bypass is a far more invasive procedure, which involves the grafting of the patient’s own veins and arteries, from other parts of the body, around the damaged blood vessels thus by-passing the blockage.

What can we do to prevent Atherosclerosis and Angina?

One of the most important preventative measures that you can take is to learn about your own body and also the medical history of your immediate family. It is more likely that if your parents, grandparents suffered from heart disease or diabetes then you may also be at a higher risk of the same problems. Diabetes sufferers are more likely to suffer from heart problems and monitoring this through regular blood tests is important if there has been a family history of the disease. Having this knowledge gives you the opportunity to make lifestyle choices that reduce your risk of developing heart disease in your own lifetime.

First and foremost you must give up smoking cigarettes, as this is a major contributor to heart disease.

Cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by itself. When it acts with other factors, it greatly increases risk. Smoking increases blood pressure, inhibits oxygen uptake during exercise and increases the tendency for blood to clot. Smoking also increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery.

In the last three years I have written several blogs regarding both the unhealthy type of LDL cholesterol which has smaller platelets and when oxidised (likely with a poor diet of refined sugars and industrially produced foods) it clumps in the arteries causing blockages and narrowing the blood vessels. You can also read about elevated blood pressure as well.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/cholesterol-and-fats-the-myths-and-the-legends/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/high-blood-pressure-strategies-to-reduce-naturally/

Other common heart conditions.

Apart from Angina, there are a number of other conditions that affect the heart. The good news is that most are either preventable or can be supported with a few changes to your lifestyle.

Arrhythmia and problems with your heartbeat

  • Arrhythmia is an erratic and abnormal heart rate. This is most commonly caused by blocked coronary arteries.
  • Sinus tachycardia is a regular heartbeat but too fast, usually over 100 beats per minute. It can also be caused by over exertion or stress.
  • Atrial fibrillation is caused by abnormal electrical activity and the result is a heartbeat between 300 to 500 beats per minute.
  • Ventricular tachycardia is caused by damaged heart muscle resulting in an ineffective heartbeat of between 120–220 beats per minute without the power to push the blood through the system.

Heart murmurs

We normally cannot hear the blood actually flowing through the heart but sometimes there may be some unusual noises that are called murmurs. These indicate that the smooth flow of blood has become unstable due to structural damage inside the heart. This is commonly caused by damage to the valves between the atria and the ventricles which causes either narrowing or leaking.

Heart valve disorders

As with any part of the body, the heart valves are subject to wear and tear. Our heart function is totally dependent on the pumping action and therefore on the health of the valves. There are two types of abnormality, stenosis which is a narrowing of the valve, allowing less blood through and an incompetent valve which allows blood to leak back down into the ventricles through an improperly closed valve.

Some valves can be corrected surgically but it is quite common these days to have the valves replaced completely restoring normal heart function. The replacement valves are made from metal and plastic, which may require medication to prevent clotting, or animal or human tissue which is not as long lasting but does not cause clots.

Next time some foods to include in your diet to help maintain a healthy heart. It may also help you lose weight and if you have read yesterday’s post you will know that the heart beats over 3 billion times in a lifetime and as with any pump it wears out.

Just losing a stone in excess weight can reduce the number of times your heart has to beat every day significantly – saving a million heartbeats a year will extend the life of your heart and therefore your life.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 1999 – 2018

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis. Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook from http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

And Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4: http://www.moyhill.com/html/just_food_for_health.html

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is sally.cronin@moyhill.com. I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally

Thanks for dropping in and please feel free to share.

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Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Food in the News – Thumbs up for Coffee


Smorgasbord Health 2017

I love my morning cup of coffee but I usually have at around 11.00 .. it is decaffeinated however.. otherwise I would be wired for the rest of the day.

Summary

Scientists have found that people who drink coffee appear to live longer. Drinking coffee was associated with lower risk of death due to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease. People who consumed a cup of coffee a day were 12 percent less likely to die compared to those who didn’t drink coffee. This association was even stronger for those who drank two to three cups a day — 18 percent reduced chance of death.
An extract from the article published on https://www.sciencedaily.com

Here’s another reason to start the day with a cup of joe: Scientists have found that people who drink coffee appear to live longer.

Drinking coffee was associated with a lower risk of death due to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and respiratory and kidney disease for African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Latinos and whites.

People who consumed a cup of coffee a day were 12 percent less likely to die compared to those who didn’t drink coffee. This association was even stronger for those who drank two to three cups a day — 18 percent reduced chance of death.

Lower mortality was present regardless of whether people drank regular or decaffeinated coffee, suggesting the association is not tied to caffeine, said Veronica W. Setiawan, lead author of the study and an associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“We cannot say drinking coffee will prolong your life, but we see an association,” Setiawan said. “If you like to drink coffee, drink up! If you’re not a coffee drinker, then you need to consider if you should start.”

The study, which was be published in the July 11 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, used data from the Multiethnic Cohort Study, a collaborative effort between the University of Hawaii Cancer Center and the Keck School of Medicine.

To read the rest of the article and the benefits identified: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170710172118.htm

 

Thanks for dropping by and look forward to your feedback.. Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 -Top to Toe -The Heart – Angina, Arrythmia and Valve disorders


Smorgasbord Health 2017

I appreciate that many of you who have been kindly following the blog for a long time will have seen this post before. However, if you are new to Smorgasbord, I hope you will find interesting.

In the series Top to Toe I will be covering the major organs in the body and their health.

One of the main causes of angina and heart disease is atherosclerosis and that is where we should start when looking to change our lifestyle and diet.

Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries as a result of plaque that has built up in the arterial walls narrowing the blood vessels and restricting the flow of oxygen rich blood to the heart and other organs such as the brain. Atherosclerosis accounts for almost 75% of deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Plaque build up in arteries

What is Angina?

Angina (angina pectoris) is a type of temporary chest pain. There are a number of types but the two, stable and unstable both indicate that there is likely to be coronary heart disease.

Stable angina attacks occur after vigorous exercise that requires additional blood to be sent to the heart. An attack might last from one or two minutes to fifteen minutes. Activities that also increase the risk of an attack are cigarette smoking, stress, abrupt changes in temperature or altitude, heavy meals that are not given time to digest and sudden exertion such as running for a bus or upstairs. These types of attack are also described as “predictable” as they tend to happen between early morning and noon. One reason for this may be the body’s inability to go from a state of complete rest to fully active immediately on getting up in the morning. Like an old car, it takes time to get all functions working efficiently especially if arteries are blocked and oxygen is in short supply.

Unstable angina is more dangerous as it is also unpredictable and will last longer than fifteen minutes. It can occur at rest and without any previous history of heart disease and should be treated as an emergency as it could indicate that the person is just about to suffer a full heart attack.

What are the symptoms of Angina?

People who suffer from angina describe the pain as crushing, burning behind the breastbone and as if there is a weight resting on the chest. The pain can radiate out from the chest and affect the neck, arms, jaw and the abdomen. Women are more likely to experience abdominal pain during an angina episode and it makes it more difficult to establish the problem. The person might also feel light headed and experience a faster than normal heartbeat (arrhythmia)

Some attacks are accompanied by nausea, sweating confusion and dizziness. These kinds of symptoms, particularly in the elderly add to the difficulty of diagnosing the problem.

Whether the episode lasts a minute or longer you should get it checked out. There is a strong possibility that if the attack occurs after eating a very heavy meal that you might be suffering from indigestion. But, if this is happening frequently the causes need to be identified and treated.

However, if the pain has moved from under your diaphragm and you are experiencing discomfort in any of the other areas that I have mentioned above, and the attack lasts for more than a few minutes you should definitely seek medical help.

What are the treatment options for Angina?

The medication most commonly prescribed is Nitrates such as nitro-glycerine that dilates the walls of the blood vessels allowing more blood and therefore oxygen to reach the heart. If there are repeated angina episodes then there could be the addition of beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers.

Beta-blockers slow the heartbeat and also reduce the strength of the muscle contractions taking some of the load off the organ.

Calcium channel blockers block the entry of calcium into the cells. This dilates the coronary arteries and increases the heart’s blood flow.

Antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs inhibit the formation of blood clots by inhibiting the platelets that normal bind together. Aspirin is often prescribed in a relatively low dose, which a patient can take daily.

There are a number of surgical options for advanced stages of atherosclerosis and therefore increased angina attacks. These include angioplasty, stenting and coronary artery bypass grafting.

Blocked artery 3 - Baloon inflated

Angioplasty is a procedure where a balloon-tipped catheter is inserted in the blocked coronary artery and inflated. The balloon compresses the plaque against the walls of the artery, which increases the blood flow. This is usually combined with the inserting of a stent via the catheter. A stent is a small mesh tube that holds the damaged artery open allowing for increased blood flow.

A coronary bypass is a far more invasive procedure, which involves the grafting of the patient’s own veins and arteries, from other parts of the body, around the damaged blood vessels thus by-passing the blockage.

What can we do to prevent Atherosclerosis and Angina?

One of the most important preventative measures that you can take is to learn about your own body and also the medical history of your immediate family. It is more likely that if your parents, grandparents suffered from heart disease or diabetes then you may also be at a higher risk of the same problems. Diabetes sufferers are more likely to suffer from heart problems and monitoring this through regular blood tests is important if there has been a family history of the disease. Having this knowledge gives you the opportunity to make lifestyle choices that reduce your risk of developing heart disease in your own lifetime.

First and foremost you must give up smoking cigarettes, as this is a major contributor to heart disease.

Cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by itself. When it acts with other factors, it greatly increases risk. Smoking increases blood pressure, inhibits oxygen uptake during exercise and increases the tendency for blood to clot. Smoking also increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery.

In the last three years I have written several blogs regarding both the unhealthy type of LDL cholesterol which has smaller platelets and when oxidised (likely with a poor diet of refined sugars and industrially produced foods) it clumps in the arteries causing blockages and narrowing the blood vessels. You can also read about elevated blood pressure as well.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-directory/

Other common heart conditions.

Apart from Angina, there are a number of other conditions that affect the heart. The good news is that most are either preventable or can be supported with a few changes to your lifestyle.

Arrhythmia and problems with your heartbeat

  • Arrhythmia is an erratic and abnormal heart rate. This is most commonly caused by blocked coronary arteries.
  • Sinus tachycardia is a regular heartbeat but too fast, usually over 100 beats per minute. It can also be caused by over exertion or stress.
  • Atrial fibrillation is caused by abnormal electrical activity and the result is a heartbeat between 300 to 500 beats per minute.
  • Ventricular tachycardia is caused by damaged heart muscle resulting in an ineffective heartbeat of between 120–220 beats per minute without the power to push the blood through the system.

Heart murmurs

We normally cannot hear the blood actually flowing through the heart but sometimes there may be some unusual noises that are called murmurs. These indicate that the smooth flow of blood has become unstable due to structural damage inside the heart. This is commonly caused by damage to the valves between the atria and the ventricles which causes either narrowing or leaking.

Heart valve disorders

As with any part of the body, the heart valves are subject to wear and tear. Our heart function is totally dependent on the pumping action and therefore on the health of the valves. There are two types of abnormality, stenosis which is a narrowing of the valve, allowing less blood through and an incompetent valve which allows blood to leak back down into the ventricles through an improperly closed valve.

Some valves can be corrected surgically but it is quite common these days to have the valves replaced completely restoring normal heart function. The replacement valves are made from metal and plastic, which may require medication to prevent clotting, or animal or human tissue which is not as long lasting but does not cause clots.

Next time some foods to include in your diet to help maintain a healthy heart. It may also help you lose weight and if you have read yesterday’s post you will know that the heart beats over 3 billion times in a lifetime and as with any pump it wears out.

Just losing a stone in excess weight can reduce the number of times your heart has to beat every day significantly – saving a million heartbeats a year will extend the life of your heart and therefore your life.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 1998 – 2017

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis. Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

Thanks for dropping in and please feel free to share.

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe – The Heart and how it works


Smorgasbord Health 2017

I appreciate that many of you who have been kindly following the blog for a long time will have seen this post before. However, if you are new to Smorgasbord, I hope you will find interesting.

In the series Top to Toe I will be covering the major organs in the body and their health.

The Heart.

We tend to think of the heart from an emotional perspective but in reality it is a pump that has a number of moving parts that is vital to our survival. Since the 1960s, the heart is one of the organs that can be replaced with a transplanted organ, but there are far more patients waiting for a new heart than there are donors.

This means that we need to take care of the one we have. However, like all our major organs it is hidden from view and we really only pay it the attention it deserves when something is wrong with it. Over the next few days I am going to look at the heart as an organ and the basics of how it functions. This will be followed by an overview of some of the more common diseases and then the foods that should be included in our diet to help maintain its health. Next week I will feature a silent killer which is contributory factor in heart disease… Stress.

The Heart

The heart is the pump that powers the circulatory or cardiovascular system formed by a network of arteries, veins and smaller blood vessels. Blood is continuously pumped out from the heart around the venal and arterial circuits carrying oxygen and vital nutrients to all parts of the body. The arteries take the blood away from the heart and the veins bring the blood back.

Chest x-ray showing heart position

The heart itself is a muscle, approximately the size of a clenched fist, and is shaped like a large upside down pear, located just to the left of the centre of the chest.

The heart weighs around 11 ounces or 310 grams and rests in a moist chamber, called the pericardial cavity, between the lungs and surrounded by the rib cage.

The muscle is called the myocardium and forms a shell around four cavities or spaces inside the heart that fill with blood. The two upper cavities are called atria and the bottom two spaces are called ventricles. Each side of the heart is separated by a wall called the septum and a valve connects each atrium to the ventricle below it. The valve on the left side of the body is called the mitral valve and the right side connection is called the tricuspid valve. The Endocardium lines the inside of the heart, and the heart valves, and the pericardium is a fibrous sac surrounding the heart.

Heart labelled

The top of the heart is connected to some major blood vessels – the largest being the aorta, or main artery, which carries the nutrient rich blood away from the heart to the rest of the body. Another important blood vessel is the pulmonary artery, which connects the heart to the lungs.

The two largest veins that carry blood back to the heart are called the superior vena cava and the inferior vena cava. The superior vena cava takes de-oxygenated blood from the head and the arms to the right atrium, and the inferior vena cava brings de-oxygenated blood back up from the legs and lower body also into the right atrium.

The cardiac muscle contracts between 70 and 80 beats per minute and if it is to last the normal life-span it will beat over 3 billion times. This means that the muscle has to be incredibly strong and healthy.

De-oxygenated blood always returns to the body through the right side of the heart into the atrium and then onto the lungs to pick up the oxygen. It is then returned to the heart where it enters the left side into the atrium and ventricle to be pumped to all the other parts of the body in a continuous cycle.

How does the heart beat?

The heart beats automatically without our thought or intervention and the number of beats is maintained by an electrical impulse that originates from the body’s own natural pacemaker called the sinoatrial node. The electrical impulse is sent through the atria which stimulates a contraction then through to the atrioventricular node where it will pause for a fraction of a second before continuing down special conducting fibres to the ventricles, causing them to contract.

Specific nerves called autonomic nerves, the main one being the vagus nerve, regulate the amount of times our heart beats. The ideal rate is maintained at around 70 beats at rest but is then speeded up during exercise or stress. The cardiac nerves react to messages sent from the hypothalamus, in the medulla part of the brain, and the beat rate will also increase when the “fight or flight” hormone, adrenaline, is released. This increases the amount of blood and therefore oxygen that is made available to the heart and the rest of the body.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for heart disease and stroke are largely similar for men and women.

  • Factors such as age and family history play a role, but it is estimated that the majority of CVD deaths are due to modifiable risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol, unhealthy diet, high blood pressure, obesity, stress or diabetes
  • Heart disease was associated with men until the last twenty years and now cardiovascular disease (CVD) – heart disease and stroke – is the biggest killer of women globally, killing more women than all cancers, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.

Next time I will be covering Angina and other common heart health conditions.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 1999 – 2017

As always your feedback is valued and please feel free to share. Thanks for dropping in.. Sally

Men’s Health Week Revisited- One of the most dangerous silent killers of men – Stress


men's health

In the first post in the series I identified the main risk factors that are likely to result in serious health issues in men.

Stress is becoming a great deal less gender specific in our modern age as we are all bombarded with dire news from around the world, we struggle with finances, jobs and relationships. However, men still appear to be most effected physically than women.

I usually approach my work from a three dimensional perspective when working with clients. Physical, mental and emotional.  Women are more open to talking through their problems amongst themselves and this is a great stress release valve.  Men not so much.

We have all heard the expressions ‘The Strong Silent Type’ and ‘Real Men Don’t Cry’ or ‘Man Up’.  Unfortunately bottled up stress and emotions are not great for the body physically.

Raised blood pressure, over production of stress hormones leads to poor digestion and absorption of nutrients and if prolonged can lead to serious physical and mental health issues.

So part one today is a recap of stress and the effects on the body and if you recognise some of the symptoms then I suggest you read part two which I will post on Friday.

I have worked with Cathy Blackburn D.Hyp MIAPH for several years and asked her last year to put together a stress busting, self-hypnosis post.  You will find it very relaxing and puts the control firmly in your own hands when faced with stressful situations.

In the third post on stress I have some breathing exercises that you can complete every morning and evening for five minutes a time that will help to increase the flow of oxygen to the entire body and also reduce stress.

Stress

You need stress in your life, does that surprise you? Perhaps so, but it is quite true. Without stress, life would be dull and unexciting. Stress adds flavour, challenge and opportunity to life. Too much stress, however, can seriously affect your physical and mental well-being. In recent years several high profile personalities have died suddenly and we recognise that most of them lived highly stressful lives, which finally took its toll. But how many times have we been surprised by the premature death of someone we know, a friend or family member, who on the outside seemed to be healthy and active with a good diet. Unfortunately, what is going on with major organs inside the body tell a different story. Stress is silent and can be deadly.

What causes a stress reaction?

Stress is the modern day equivalent of our ancestral ‘fight or flight’ mechanism that was necessary in the highly competi­tive and predatory world throughout our evolution. There may no longer be sabre-toothed tigers or mammoths in our world but the modern day alternatives can be just as daunting.

A threatening or tense situation triggers this stress response demanding that we take physical action. Unfortunately most modern day stress involves situations that we cannot run away from; such as relationship issues, a demanding job and boss and not forgetting the traffic jams on the way home.

There are two types of stress, Acute Stress and Chronic Stress, and both have very distinctive patterns.

radio stress

Acute Stress is a short-term response by the body’s sympa­thetic nervous system and the response may only last for a few minutes or a few weeks. How many times have you said that your heart stopped or your stomach lurched during a moment of intense stress such as an accident? We have all heard stories of mothers and fathers who have been suddenly infused with superhuman strength and able to lift cars and other heavy objects off their trapped children. They are empowered to do this by the actions of their body in a moment of crisis.

Blood sugar levels rise and additional red blood cells are released to carry strength giving oxygen levels a boost. The pulse quickens, blood pressure rises and the digestive process stops to enable the focus to be entirely on regaining safety.

Chronic Stress is when this acute stress response is repeated on a continuous basis. Whilst the body, after a hundred thousand years, is well able to handle the occasional stress response and in fact uses it positively, if the response becomes a normal way of life, other parts of the brain and body become involved leading to long term damage.

For example, ongoing stress causes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which are the master controllers for the body, to release a chemical called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce and release cortisol which disrupts sleep patterns leading to increased levels of stress. Our bodies are simply not designed to live at high alert for sustained periods of time; it just wears it down leading to illness.

How can we manage this modern day stress that is going to be a part of our lives in one way or another?

A major challenge in this stress filled world today is to make the stress in your life work for you instead of against you. Stress is with us all the time. It comes from mental, emotional and physical activity. It is unique and personal to each of us because we all handle it in a different way. So personal in fact that what may be relaxing for one person may be extremely stressful to another.

Too much emotional or mental stress can cause physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, ulcers or even heart disease, whereas physical stress from work or exercise is not likely to cause these problems. The truth is that physical exercise can help you relax and to handle your emotional and mental stress. Following a healthy diet that provides you with all the essential nutrients to help your body manage stress is even more important.

Symptoms of stress can be subtle such as fatigue, insom­nia, depression, headaches, back or neck pain, irritability and sudden weight loss or gain. The less common but more damaging are heart palpitations, shortness of breath, diar­rhoea, nausea, panic attacks, inability to concentrate and chronic fear.

Many people resort to stimulants such as smoking, alcohol or even drugs in the efforts to calm themselves down but in fact they are merely stoking the fires and increasing the levels of stress on the body, which can lead to disease.

A Word about Diet and stress

A healthy diet is absolutely necessary whatever lifestyle we have but if we are under excessive levels of stress then it becomes critical.

Make sure that you are hydrated. Dehydration is a leading physical cause of stress and you need at least 2 litres of fresh, pure water per day and more if you are on holiday or living in very hot climates.

There are some vitamins and minerals which the body needs to handle stress especially as during a stress interval the body will use up additional reserves of many nutrients. Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables are necessary and here are a few of the particular nutrients that will help you handle the stress in your life.

  • Vitamin A mops up the toxic residue of elevated stress hormone levels. (Liver, fish oils, butter, cheese, Free range eggs, oily fish and Beta-carotene that converts to Vitamin A from carrots, green leafy vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli, orange and red coloured vegetables such as apricots)
  • Vitamin B1 improves your mood and is vital for nerve function. (Whole grains, seeds, peas, beans and nuts.)
  • Vitamin B3 helps you regulate your sleep patterns. (Liver, brewer’s yeast, chicken, turkey, fish, meat, peanuts, whole-grains, eggs and milk.)
  • Vitamin B5, better known as Pantothenic Acid, controls the action of the adrenal glands, which play a vital part in the stress response. (Liver, yeast, salmon, dairy, eggs, grains, meat and vegetables.)
  • Vitamin B6 is essential for the manufacture of the brain chemical serotonin, which is also called the feel good chemical. (Potatoes, bananas, cereals, lentils, liver, turkey, chicken, lamb, fish, avocados, soybeans, walnuts and oats.)
  • Vitamin B12 is necessary to help produce brain chemicals such as serotonin (dairy, eggs, meat, poultry and fish, for vegetarians in Miso and Tempeh both fermented soybean products)
  • Vitamin C is one of those vitamins that is used up very quickly during a stress reaction and needs to be replaced immediately as a deficiency leads to increased levels of anxiety and irritability. Smokers should take in Vitamin C in their diet and under the supervision of a professional should also take supplemental Vitamin C. (found in all fruit and vegetables but best sources are blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, grapefruits, guavas, kiwi fruit, lemons, parsley, peppers, rosehips, potatoes, tomatoes and watercress.)

Minerals necessary to help the body manage stress

Calcium helps you relax. (Dairy, sardines, canned salmon with the bones, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and soy products such as tofu.)

Magnesium works with calcium and also helps to reduce stress. (Whole grains, beans, seeds, wheat germ, dried apricots, dark green vegetables, soybeans and fish)

Chromium stabilises blood sugar levels that create stress. (Brewer’s yeast, onions, whole grains, shellfish, liver and molasses)

Don’t allow your stress levels today creep up on you unawares in 20 year’s time, deal with it today.

 

The Medicine Woman’s Treasure chest – Hawthorn, May, Whitethorn


medicine woman

The botanical name of the Hawthorn is Crataegus monogyna and is sometimes known as May or Whitethorn. It is a shrub that can grow up to five feet tall in hedgerows and sunny woodland areas. The shrub is in fact found all over the world in Western Asia, North America and North Africa. It has berries called haws, which are a dark red in colour and are used to flavour jelly and wine and also can be candied as a sweet.

There are some mystical stories surrounding the hawthorn and it was once regarded as a magical connection to fairies. It was commonly used in pagan festivals as a symbol of fertility and there are quite a few superstitions attached to its use. Part of this may be due to the fact that it was likely to have been used for the crown of thorns that Jesus wore on the cross and since that day it is supposedly unlucky to bring into the house before the 1st of May.

It can apparently ward off evil spirits and certainly in medieval times young women thought that it would ward off spots and skin problems using it as a tonic. It does have a certain aroma that either offends or delights and was at some stage considered to either carry the plague or act as an aphrodisiac.

The leaves and flowers are used primarily for medicinal use and for centuries it has traditionally been used for heart problems, although it has also been used to treat sore throats and kidney problems too.

Like most plants, herbs contain nutrients and in this case the Bioflavonoids and Proanthocyanidins in hawthorn are thought to be the probable reason for its medicinal properties.

Bioflavonoids are vital for their ability to increase the strength of the capillaries (blood vessels) and to regulate their permeability and the body’s blood pressure. They also help prevent haemorrhages and ruptures in the capillaries and connective tissues as well as acting as being a powerful antioxidant and preventing the oxidative damage to cholesterol which can lead to atherosclerosis.

Proanthocyanidins are powerful antioxidants, which protect against environmental pollutants and free radicals. The free radical scavenging effects of Proanthocyanidins have been found to be greater than those of Vitamin E and Vitamin C. Proanthocyanidins also stabilise collagen, (which is the base of bone on to which calcium is deposited), critical proteins in connective tissue, blood vessels and muscle and therefore are essential for preventing circulatory disorders.

The use of the herb is also thought to increase blood flow, therefore decreasing blood pressure and providing a better blood supply to major organs. In addition it is said to decrease heart rate, which would lead to less stress on the muscle.

There have been tests carried out on patients with elevated LDL (lousy cholesterol) levels in their total blood cholesterol. After about a month of treatment with hawthorn there was a significant decrease in total levels and levels of the LDL and the equally harmful triglycerides.

It has also be used with patients who were suffering from congestive heart failure who appeared to respond after a number of weeks with lowered blood pressure, heart rates and their stamina levels.

Apart from lowering cholesterol and decreasing blood pressure the herb is used therapeutically for viral conditions. Tests in the laboratory indicate that it might even have some effect on the HIV virus but this has not yet been proven in humans. There is no doubt that the Bioflavonoids in hawthorn will work in the same manner as those in any plant and are a powerful antioxidant. It might be useful for angina sufferers and to help prevent atherosclerosis.

Use of Hawthorn
You will find hawthorn tincture, capsules and teas in health food shops and as with any alternative therapy you should take care when self prescribing. The herb is often used as part of a complex with other similar herbs such as garlic and passion-flower and with Vitamin E. This provides a powerful mix to help with heart and artery problems.

As with a lot of herbal remedies it should not be used if you are pregnant and with its particular action might interact with certain cardiac medicines particular those containing digitalis, beta-blockers prescribed for high blood pressure and drugs used to block potassium. If you are taking any medication then do consult your doctor before taking this herb.

You can find the other Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest in the Health Directory.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-nutrition-directory/

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 2007

Thanks for dropping by and as always welcome your feedback.

Vitamin of the week – Vitamin B3 – Niacin – Cholesterol, Heart and Nervous System.


smorgasbord health

Vitamin B3 is also known in different forms as Niacin, Nicotinic Acid, Nicotinamide and Nicinamide. When the vitamin was first discovered it was called nicotinic acid but there was a concern that it would be associated with nicotine in cigarettes, leading to the false assumption that somehow smoking might provide you with nutrients. It was decided to call it Niacin instead.

It works with other nutrients, particularly B1, B2, B5, B6 and biotin to break the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in food down into energy. B3 itself is essential in this process and it goes further by aiding in the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach to aid the digestion of food. It is actually involved in over 40 metabolic functions which shows how important it is in our levels of energy on a daily basis.

We are at the mercy of toxins and harmful chemicals in the body that need to be eliminated efficiently to prevent build up and illness. B3 works with the body and other nutrients to achieve this. Additionally when we are under attack from bacteria and viruses that we have not managed to eliminate fast enough, B3 will also assist in the antioxidant processes within the body to help us heal faster.

Enzymes in the body are unique substances that speed up chemical reactions in the body. They are responsible for producing the energy we need, the breakdown of dietary fats, the production of certain hormones and cholesterol. In addition they are needed for the processing of genetic material (DNA) and the growth and healthy maturing of cells. B3 is essential for the efficiency of many of these enzymes.

One of the areas that B3 is used therapeutically is in the lowering of cholesterol. B3 actually lowers LDL (lousy cholesterol) and raises HDL (healthy cholesterol). In tests, supplemented B3 proved more effective than many of the normal cholesterol lowering drugs although there have been instances of side effects in the form of excessive flushing. To prevent this you can take time release tablets and also begin on a low dose, gradually building up to the therapeutic level.

High dosage of any vitamin therapy should only be undertaken with the supervision of a medical professional and there are a number of different forms of B3 supplementation that can be used to minimise side effects whilst still acting to reduce LDL and raise HDL.

Niacin improves circulation by relaxing arteries and veins. This benefits sufferers of Raynaud’s disease and other circulatory problems such as varicose veins. In Raynaud’s the worst symptom is the numbness and pain in the hands and feet in cold weather. Niacin increases blood flow to them reducing the symptoms. People who suffer from muscle cramps may also be obtaining too little B3.

It is rare in the Western world for anyone to be deficient in Niacin. But, since B3 in its various forms has been shown to help improve symptoms of some of our most common ailments it does pose the question as to whether we are actually obtaining sufficient of the vitamin from our diet or not. If we do, are our digestive systems not working efficiently enough to process and utilise it?

Normally the body manages to absorb enough niacin from our daily diet to accomplish its tasks. Apart from digestion it is needed to keep the skin and nerves healthy and to help stabilise blood sugar levels. They body can also convert niacin from tryptophan the amino acid found in eggs, milk, poultry and fish which means that there is a wide range of foods available to us that provide the vitamin. It reacts with tryptophan to form serotonin and melatonin in the brain, both of which affect our moods and general feeling of well- being.

B3 has also been shown to relieve acne, reduce migraines, IBS symptoms, gout, menstrual problems, multiple sclerosis, Osteoarthritis, vertigo, memory loss and gastric problems.

For those of us interested in maintaining our brain health and avoiding dementia conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, B3 could be an important ally as we get older. Here is a quite useful guide to the scientific studies into specific health problems. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/niacin–niacinamide/evidence/hrb-20059838

With a healthy balanced diet it is unlikely that a deficiency will develop but as we get older our digestive system is not as efficient as it should be and here are some of the  symptoms to keep an eye on. General weakness or muscle weakness, depressed appetite, skin infections and digestive problems.

Where to find a good source of B3 in food.

salmon

B3 is water soluble and therefore needs to be replenished daily from your diet it is found in liver, chicken, Turkey, salmon, swordfish, tuna, venison, eggs, cheese and milk. Plant sources include green leafy vegetables such as Asparagus, broccoli, carrots, dates, mushrooms, peanuts, potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, sunflower seeds and wholegrains.

tomatoes

Supplementation

 Whilst I always recommend that you look to your diet first before supplements, there are times in our lives when we need a little more help. Always buy high quality supplements. In the case of B3 look for time release and start on a low dose and build up to the recommended dose over a week or ten days to help prevent flushing. Many cheaper versions are mainly filler and may not provide you with the dosage of the specific nutrient you require.

If you are suffering from Raynaud’s disease, arthritis, elevated LDL cholesterol levels or depression you may find that taking a B-complex supplement of help. There is sufficient B3 in most quality supplements to augment the dietary B3. Brewer’s yeast is a good source of all the B vitamins you can take in tablet form.

This week I will update and post the article on cholesterol. This substance is essential in the body for a number of vital functions including the production of our hormones and our brain function. It has been demonised for the last twenty years and resulted in the Fat Free fad that swept the western world. Millions gave up eating eggs and healthy fats resulting in the White Fat diet of today which is so harmful.

This is one of the recipes that supplies a good amount of all the B-Vitamins and is easy to make and delicious.

dsc_1207aw

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/smorgasbord-health-multivitamin-supplement-or-brown-rice-pilaf/

 You will find the other minerals and vitamins in this series here.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/vitamins-and-minerals-of-the-week/

I hope you have found useful and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask.