Live Total Wellness

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Five Ways to Lower Your Risk of High Blood Pressure

Part Two in the continuing series on Heart Health

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the risk factors for heart disease. Out of control blood pressure, along with other risk factors can set you up for a heart attack. Here are five ways that you can keep your blood pressure in check.

What is High Blood Pressure?

First of all, it has nothing to do with your personality. You don’t have to be under stress to have high blood pressure although living a high stress life can affect it. 

Your heart pumps blood through a series of vessels that extend throughout the body. It takes a certain pressure to push that blood throughout those vessels. The muscular walls of the blood vessels stretch to accommodate the blood more easily. Your blood pressure is made up of two numbers: the systolic and diastolic. They represent your heart at work and at rest, respectively. 

When blood pressure is high, it takes more force by the heart to push it through the vessels. The vessels stretch but the increased pressure on their muscular walls can cause tears in the walls, loss of elasticity (resulting in weakness) and plaque buildup from bad cholesterol.

Heart attacks and strokes occur when the force of the blood knocks these plaques or blood clots loose. They can lodge and block blood flow in the brain and the heart or even smaller vessels in the extremities.

Lowering Your Risk

There is good news. It is never too early to lower this risk factor. Alone it can be damaging but in conjunction with other risk factors for heart disease, you could be shortening your life. The best thing is that lowering blood pressure is within your control.

1. Know your numbers – You can’t work on a solution unless you know where you stand. Normal blood pressure is in the range of 110/70. Even at 120/80, you will want to think about ways to lower the pressure. Being proactive can prevent you from having to use medication to bring it down.

2. Watch what you eat – There are many good fats that actually help your body.  Learn about those fats and stay away from the harmful fats. Eating too much bad fat can increase your levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol. Bad cholesterol forms plaques in blood vessels. This alone can increase your blood pressure. Sodium is a big factor. Eating too much can raise your blood pressure. Look for unprocessed, unrefined sea salt. (see salt note at the bottom of the page)  Choose foods that are low in bad fats and sodium and high in fiber.

3. Get moving – Exercise increases your lung capacity and lowers your blood pressure and heart rate. As you become fitter, it will take more vigorous exercise to raise your heart rate. 

4. Check with you Doctor or Naturopath – Diet and exercise may not lower your blood pressure enough to lower your risk of heart disease. Talk to your doctor or naturopath about the best solution for you. There are many heart health supplements on the market that can take the place of pharmaceuticals.  Make sure you discuss this with a reputable practitioner.  Once your blood pressure is under control you may be able to discontinue the supplements or if absolutely necessary, the medications.  Make sure you weigh the risks of pharmaceuticals because there are many side effects that can be long lasting.  

5. Stop smoking – Smoking constricts blood vessels when they should contract. The heart has to pump harder to pass blood through them, raising your blood pressure.

The human body cannot survive without salt (which is why you get a saline drip when you are in the hospital). Sodium is an essential nutrient that your body can't manufacture on its own, therefore it must be consumed.

Here's the problem. Most people are eating the wrong kind of salt. The only way to receive all the benefits of salt is to eat unrefined sea salt, NOT processed table salt.

The reason why salt has gotten such a bad reputation is because 99% of the world's salt research has been done on commercial table salt, the only salt most people know about (which is bad, bad, bad). Some of the best scientific research on the healthy properties of unrefined sea salt are written in French, German and Portuguese and many Americans have not been exposed to them (until now, right?).

Well, not anymore. Unrefined sea salt has worked its magic in hundreds of my clients, and, not to mention, ME.

When you consider that sea salt aids in balancing blood sugar levels, is needed for the absorption of food particles through the intestinal tract, can help prevent muscle cramps, is needed to make bones strong, regulates and normalizes blood pressure, increases energy levels, helps regulate the metabolism, helps maintain proper electrolyte balance, and supports the immune system, how could you not use it?

What salt should you buy?

Look for unprocessed, unrefined sea salt. My favorite brands are Celtic Sea Salt, Redmond's Real Salt and Himalayan Sea Salt (but any unprocessed, unrefined brand is great - be careful though, if it doesn't mention unprocessed & unrefined, assume it is not).

These salts can be found on these great websites:
(Look for Mineral Rich Salts)
Oh, and of course, avoid refined white table salt at all costs (unless you want high blood pressure for some reason). This is the kind of salt we want to avoid like the plague. 

Do you have high blood pressure? It is a risk factor for heart disease. Use these five methods to lower yours.


Living a Heart Healthy Life A Guide to Longevity and Good Health

Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in the United States. While most people think of heart disease as synonymous with heart attacks, there are many more heart ailments and conditions which affect the heart.  Heart disease includes coronary artery disease (heart attack), congestive heart disease, heart failure, heart arrhythmias and a few less well known conditions.  

While much of the attention is focused on men and heart disease, women too are affected by heart disease. It is extremely important that women educate themselves on the risks and symptoms of heart disease.  Heart disease affects men and women differently and the most well known symptoms for men rarely occur in women.  

In this series, I will report about 

  • heart disease, 
  • it's risk factors, 
  • the impact of high cholesterol and high blood pressure on your heart
  • lifestyle changes that you can make to live life with heart disease, reduce heart disease conditions and prevent heart disease from the start. 

Knowledge is power in all aspects of life! The more you know about heart disease, the more you can do to prevent it and live a long and healthy life.  Let's begin with cholesterol.

How Cholesterol Affects Your Heart

The heart works hard to pump that blood throughout the entire body of blood vessels. It is forced to work even harder when we don’t take care of it. You may know something about cholesterol, but keep reading to find out how it can be unfriendly to your heart.


Cholesterol is a waxy-type of fat found in the body. It is produced in the liver mainly, but also in the reproductive organs and the adrenal glands. It is transported through the body as lipoproteins in the blood to sites where it is needed.

Cholesterol is not all bad. It does have a function inside your body, in the right amounts. Cholesterol helps with the integrity of cellular membranes. Because it is insoluble in water (for the most part) it can control what substances go into and out of the cell. 

Cholesterol is an integral part of many hormones – estrogen and testosterone are just two of them. These sex hormones are important during puberty and beyond for proper development and reproduction. So, don’t doom this naturally occurring substance too soon.

The Problem with Cholesterol

Now, you have heard about good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. You probably know what foods contain which but do you know what it does in your body? 

As stated, the liver produces most of the cholesterol. If more is needed, it is processed from the foods we eat. There are healthy fats and not so healthy ones that we eat every day. The unhealthy ones come from processed baked goods, candy bars, fatty meats and the like. Eating these foods once in a while is okay but eating them often and in large amounts affects your body, specifically your heart and blood vessels.

You only need 20% of cholesterol from food. Check the labels. Eating foods that contain cholesterol is not a good choice. Instead, choose foods and ingredients that contain good cholesterol like unsaturated oils (olive, flaxseed, coconut) and foods with healthy fats (nuts, cold water fish).

In your body, bad fats are metabolized just like the good ones. LDL (low density lipoproteins) is the bad fats. They are an oxidized form of fat that is quite sticky and can attach to artery walls where they harden into plaque. 

These plaques narrow the opening through which blood has to pass resulting in less blood that can pass. To get less blood through the same vessels, the heart has to pump harder. If the narrowed vessels are coronary arteries, then the heart is not receiving enough blood to do its job properly. Compromised blood flow can lead to a heart attack.

The good news is that good fats contribute to HDL levels, or good cholesterol. It travels around the bloodstream picking up stray bad cholesterol and ridding the body of it. Higher HDL levels work to prevent the buildup of cholesterol plaques.

Now that you know about cholesterol, you can choose foods that will help your heart do its job and reduce your risk of stroke or heart attack.

Monday, March 28, 2011


VegFest?  VegFest!  What is VegFest you wonder?  Well, you asked the right question and came to the right place for the answer.

Every year, the wonderful people at Vegetarians of Washington put together a Festival for Vegetarians and Vegans.  It's actually the largest in the country!  Definitely something to see! VegFest is a place where you can sample foods (organic dark chocolate, teas, sauces ~ YUM) over 500 different types of foods to try ~ all free!  They have chefs from throughout the country, preparing the latest vegan and vegetarian dishes.  You can hear speakers and physicians who will present the latest information on nutrition.  Not to mention the cooking classes.  They even have a book store available.  It is something to experience.  We usually spend time walking around and sampling the food, talking to vendors about their products, and listening to a few of the speakers.  There is so much to do and so little time.    
Vegfest: Chef demo food tasting
Many people recognize the health and other benefits of vegetarian food choices, but they are not sure what to eat, what to buy and how to cook it. This festival provides all the support that people need, and it's fun too. You'll find free health screenings, books and lots of food, there's something for everyone. There’s even a special kids section where kids can learn about healthy food while having fun, with clowns, face painting and more.

This year, I worked with my friend Linda.  We were in charge of dishing out (maybe flinging is more like it) the newest yogurt, Amande.  We had an abundance of people coming by to try this new almond milk 'yogurt', the only product of its kind in the country.  

This is an unbelievable product.  Not only does it serve as a vegan alternative but it's also a dairy intolerant substitute for those who have difficulty with dairy or soy.  An boy was it smooth and delicious!  Actually, according to the FDA, it can't be called a yogurt because it doesn't contain dairy.  But suffice it to say, no matter what you want to call it, it's a teaser for you tastebuds.  We couldn't fill the little cups fast enough.  It will come in 6 flavors but we were only sampling 4 of the flavors (thank goodness, we would never have kept up).  The sample flavors were strawberry, blueberry, cherry and peach.  The two additional flavors will be coconut and raspberry.  This product is made from  almond milk with all the cultures necessary and it is sweetened with fruit juice.  You'll also find real fruit pieces in each bite.  Did I mention how smooth and delicious it is?  I can't wait until this is available at all stores; which will begin in a month.  For now, I'll just have to remember the taste and count down the days until I'll be able to buy it for myself.  

VegFest is an event that I look forward to each year.  There's always something new to taste, new information to glean and a new challenging volunteer experience to remember.  Until next year, I'm going to find the nearest store and stock up on the Amande (french for almond).  

Have you ever experienced anything like VegFest?  What do you think of the event?  Send your comments ~ I look forward to hearing them.  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How To Make Five A Day A Reality

According to the food pyramid set down by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, people need five servings a day of fruits and vegetables. That seems like a lot. So, how can you get all of them in?

The world is a fast moving place. We always seem to be in a hurry to get someplace. In that rush, we often forget to eat. When we think of it, we opt for fast food fare or anything quick to stop the hunger so we can keep on moving.

Unfortunately, this leads to bad eating habits that can expand your waistline. And, don’t even mention fruits and vegetables. The average adult gets one serving or less of the required intake each day. Only 1 in 5 Americans eat 5 servings of vegetables and fruits per day.  We are way too deficient in that area. And, if adults are deficient, what hope is there for the kids?

Learn how to make five a day (and more) a reality with these few tips.

Use fruit as a snack – How will you reach for fruit instead of chips? Well, take the chips out of the house. Then, cut up your fresh fruit in preparation for snack time. Whip up a little fruity cream cheese dip so that kids can enjoy dipping their fruits. What fruits work well for this? Try strawberry pieces, bananas, peaches, melon, oranges and apples. Apples are also great sprinkled with cinnamon.

Vegetables as a snack – One good turn deserves another. Lay out veggie trays for family and friends to snack on when they come over. Avoid bringing sugary snacks at get-togethers so no one has to be tempted with unhealthy fare.

Drink your juice – When you are in a hurry, you may not necessarily want to munch on an apple. With all the fiber, it will be slow going to get it all down. How about juice? There has been a lot of literature on fruit juices. As long as you stick to 100% fruit juice and no more than eight ounces a day you won’t get too many calories and you can count that as one of your five a day.

An alternative is to juice your own fruits and vegetables. Invest in a juicer and create your own combinations that have all of the nutrients with none of the preservatives and extra sugar.  Add greens to your juices.  You'll be surprised at how tasty they can be with some fresh fruit.

Dried snacks – This works best with fruit. Carry a bag of dried fruits with you to snack on when you want something sweet.

Spruce up dips and sauces – Cut a few extra vegetables for sauces, casseroles and salsa. It already contains some vegetables when you buy them from the store, but those extras you add provide texture and more opportunities to sneak in a few extra veggies.

So, how are you going to get your five a day? The above examples can get you started. Do you have any special ideas for getting your five a day to share?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

How To Get Kids To Eat Their Greens

1305627There seems to be a love-hate relationship between kids and any kind of healthy vegetable. Why is that? Whatever the reason, they do need the nutrients locked inside. So, how can you get your kids to eat their green vegetables?

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It’s true. Whatever we do not like or won’t eat, we are not likely to introduce to our kids. It is an unconscious process that we, as parents, go through. When you shop, if you don’t like peas, you won’t pick them up.  Makes sense, right?  So, in reality, getting your kids to eat their greens is also an experiment for you as well. Through them, you can learn to appreciate vegetables that you may have shied away from as a child and again as an adult.

With that said, introducing new foods to kids when they are young is one way to get them to eat their green veggies. Their palate is clean and ready to accept new foods. They will learn how vegetables are supposed to taste and choose the ones they like. Resist the urge to smother them with butter or salt. Let the natural flavor come through.

If your children are older and haven’t developed a love for veggies, you may have to be a little covert with your veggie operation. The first thing to do is double the vegetables in foods they normally eat.

Let’s take a hamburger or chicken burger for instance. Homemade burgers are the best. Kids who don’t eat a lot of veggies will sometimes allow some on their burger. This is your opportunity to smuggle a few more greens into their food.  If they usually take one piece of lettuce, put two. Vary your types of lettuce so they get a variety of tastes: romaine, Bibb, iceberg and even mixed greens.  How about mixing in some veggies to the hamburger.  You could add peppers, beans, onions and even spinach to a hamburger.  Try it yourself and see which flavors would be the strongest.  Hey, don't knock it until you try it!

Add a salad to your meals. Serve the salad while the kids are waiting for the main course. When they are truly hungry they will dive right in. it also gives them a chance to create a salad they will like. Offer a smorgasbord of add-ins including green things like avocado, cucumber, lettuces, broccoli, tomatoes, beans (edamame, peas) and colorful peppers. Make your own dressing so you know its made with the healthier oil (coconut, olive). 

Offer veggies and hummus for snacks. Instead of serving popcorn with your favorite movie, try a platter of veggies and hummus or a home made dip. Kids love to dip things so give them each a small bowl of their own  dip.  Many times, if you allow your children to help prepare the food they will try it.  Ask them to help you make the hummus or another type of healthy homemade dip.

One more suggestion is diced veggies. Add them to soups, stews and even spaghetti sauce. You can hide a bevy of good things in these places.  Spaghetti sauce with small diced peppers, mushrooms, zucchini or even broccoli.  Cut each veggie into small pieces so it cook in the sauce - so yummy!

Are your kids adverse to eating green things? Help them by using every opportunity to get introduce them to their palate.

How do you get your children to eat more veggies?  Post your tips!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Healthy Meals In A Flash

In this rushed and busy world it is hard to take the time to have a proper meal. When kids call and work calls, we usually grab what we can get our hands on just to keep the hunger pains at bay. But today is a new day! We are going to give you some suggestions for healthy meals that won’t take up too much time and energy.

The first step of eating healthy is planning. With a plan in place, you’ll begin to see how healthy eating can be easier for you and your family.

Preparing your breakfast and lunch the night before can be a great start to eating healthy foods. When you oversleep that blows all your well meant healthy food ideas. There is no time to fix your breakfast or lunch so you grab something on the way with less nutritional value.  Taking a little time the night before, to get everything together goes a long way. You’ll be glad you did when you are in a rush the next morning. Here are some ideas for healthy meals in a flash.

TOAST – Toast is just the beginning. Try choosing whole grain and multi-grain breads with seeds. From here, you can add a little protein to help feed your hunger and also stop mid-morning cravings. Add a piece of sliced turkey, cheese, peanut butter or any type of  nut butters such as almond butter, or scrambled egg. The eggs can be scrambled ahead of time and reheated in the morning for a few seconds. You can also pack the turkey or cheese separate from the bread and make a mini sandwich in the morning.

SMOOTHIES – These look just like glorified shakes but they are power packed with good stuff. You don’t just have to add fruits (banana, strawberry, blueberries, applesauce, mango, pineapple). You can also put in a cup of low-fat yogurt,  (greek yogurt is a great way to get some good protein) flaxseed, wheat germ and other good things to boost your vitamin intake. Mix your ingredients together in a bowl the night before. In the morning, put them in the waiting blender and in a minute or two, you’re ready to go. You could make your smoothie even healthier by adding spinach, kale or chard.  These items will add tons of vitamins and minerals to your smoothie not to mention the antioxidants you glean from these vegetables.

EGGS – Eggs are quite versatile. If you are in a hurry and most of you are, boil them. You can boil them the night before and have them ready to go. Eat one before going out the door to work or cut it up on toast for a quick sandwich.

FRUIT - Fruit is a great way to start your day.  You can make a fruit salad the night before using apples, pears, pineapple, blueberries, raspberries, mango and bananas.  Make sure you know which fruits are best to buy organic to eliminate your intake of pesticides. Sprinkle some lemon or lime juice on the salad the night before and then mix your fruit with some Greek yogurt in the morning.  Greek yogurt contains the highest number of protein grams so you have a vitamin rich, whole protein meal.
Bananas make a great base for any type of nut butter.  Spread your almond or peanut butter on your banana and you're set.  Make sure you use nut butters without sugar.  There are several good brands of organic nut butters all made without sugar or sweeteners.

YOGURT - Plain yogurt mixed with fruit, nuts and seeds can make a complete meal.  Mix yogurt with some flax seeds or sunflower seeds, some walnuts and almonds (use raw) or granola.  Greek yogurt has about 14 grams of protein in just 5.5 oz.  It also comes in non-fat, 1%, and 2% fat.

Who says that bag lunches are dead? They just have fancier packaging if you buy one of those recycle able lunch bags. Get your lunch ready the night before so all you have to do is line up the boxes on the counter for everyone to grab as they leave.

Lunches don't need to have sandwiches in them all the time either.  Use a variety of items packed in single servings for your family.

LEFTOVERS - Leftovers from dinner are usually better the next day anyway.  Pasta, soups, meats, roasts, and chicken make great lunches.  Pack them in containers where they can be reheated but don't use plastics with BPA's.  Children can also take those leftovers.  If they can't reheat them, wrap up some chicken from the night before, a piece of fruit, grapes or fruit sliced up, and some carrots, zucchini, pepper strips or broccoli pieces and you're set for a nutritious lunch that's easy to eat.

Any of the foods listed for breakfast can also be used for lunch.  You can make a smoothie the night before and put it in a drink container.  When you're ready to drink your smoothie, give it a good shake or stir and you're set!

Are you looking for healthy solutions to your quick meal dilemma? Use the suggestions above to help get you moving on the right track even if you are already moving fast.

If you have more ideas, I would love your input!

Stay tuned for recipes and more meals on the run!

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