KRON 4 | Get Your Beta-Glucan for Your Body and Brain

If you’re at risk for cardiovascular disease or you just want to keep your heart healthy, you’ve probably been told to “watch your cholesterol”. The type of cholesterol that puts you at risk for plaque-lined arteries is LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and diet plays an important role. How are you keeping your plumbing clog-free?

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What is Plaque?

Plaque is a fatty, waxy substance made up of materials, such as fat, cholesterol, calcium, waste products from cells, and fibrin (a clotting agent). When plaque clogs your arteries, it can partially or totally block blood flow through ANY of your arteries, such as your pelvis, legs, arms, or kidneys — not just your heart and brain.

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Courtesy of Blausen.com staff (2014)

Atherosclerosis can precipitate various conditions, including:

  • Coronary heart disease (plaque in arteries in or leading to the heart)
  • Angina (chest pain from reduced blood flow to the heart muscle)
  • Carotid artery disease and stroke (plaque in neck arteries supplying blood to the brain)
  • Peripheral artery disease, or PAD (plaque in arteries of the extremities, especially the legs); hardening of arteries from excess LDL cholesterol can cause numbness in your legs or feet.
  • Chronic kidney disease

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol itself isn’t bad. Your body needs cholesterol — it’s a fatty, waxy substance that: 

  • Makes hormones (e.g., estrogen, progesterone, testosterone)
  • Makes vitamin D
  • Makes digestive fluids
  • Builds healthy cells
  • Protects nerve cells
  • Enables organs (such as your brain) to function properly 

Your liver makes the cholesterol your body needs and some comes from the foods you eat. Cholesterol can’t dissolve in blood, so it’s enveloped by proteins which enable them to travel in your blood. 

Cholesterol
LDL or “bad cholesterol” is a microscopic blob with a cholesterol center.

What is LDL?

The cholesterol that makes up plaque and builds up on the walls of your blood vessels is LDL or “low-density lipoprotein”. Too much LDL circulating in your blood increases your risk of a heart attack and stroke, so it’s known as the “bad cholesterol”.

Basically, LDL is a ‘microscopic blob’ with a cholesterol center packaged inside of protein. These protein packages are called “lipoproteins”. But LDL’s don’t just carry cholesterol, they also carry triglycerides, fat-soluble vitamins, and antioxidants.

Why You Need LDL   

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KRON 4 | Is Your Marriage Making You Fat?

In a study of 43 couples, researchers showed a connection between marital stress and poor food choices. Here’s why your marriage can affect your appetite and your eating patterns.

The Marital Study

Forty-three couples having various BMI’s (healthy weight, overweight, and very overweight) were selected to participate in this study.  These couples frequently had hostile exchanges which generally involved certain topics.

The couples agreed to participate for two days (each 9 1/2 hours long). They ate a meal together and tried to resolve one or more conflicts in their marriage. Hormones were tested at four different times of the day — once before the meal and three times after it — at 2, 4, and 7 hours after.

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What the Marital Arguments Produced

Researchers at the University of Delaware and Ohio State University College of Medicine observed a strong correlation in healthy weight and overweight subjects, but it was not seen in couples who were heavier (having a BMI of 30 or higher).

They found that hostile marital arguments caused a surge in ghrelin — the “I’m hungry” hormone only in the healthy weight and overweight couples. Known as the appetite increaser, ghrelin is primarily released in the stomach and signals your brain when it’s time to eat.

The appetite hormone, leptin, was also monitored, but levels did not rise. Leptin inhibits hunger, that is, it tells your brain you’ve had enough to eat.

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Couples crave ‘comfort food’ when they argue.

Food to Ease Discomfort  

As ghrelin levels rose, distressed partners (both husband and wife) sought food that was typically higher in fat, sugar and/or salt — typically poorer quality food, but what many might consider “comfort food”.

NOTE: Arguments or underlying hostility do not cause hunger or poor food choices, but there is a pretty significant link between the two. 

Typical Comfort Foods for Women   

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KRON 4 | Arthritis, Hypertension, and Dementia: How this Breathing Exercise May Help

High blood pressure not only damages the arteries in your heart, but also in your brain. It increases your risk for stroke and memory loss later in life along with many other diseases. Here’s how you can improve your brain, heart, and overall health.

Brain-Blood Pressure Link

Your brain is fed by one of the richest networks of blood vessels in your body. When blood vessels are damaged and circulation to the brain is reduced, it can lead to vascular dementia.

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Vascular dementia is the 2nd most common form of dementia.

Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia. (Alzheimer’s is the most common.) You can develop vascular dementia after a stroke when blood flow is blocked and your brain is deprived of oxygen.

Types of Strokes

87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, that is, the stroke is caused by a clot that blocks blood flow to the brain. A clot or rupture in the blood vessel is usually the cause. 

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Hemorrhagic strokes result in bleeding within the brain.

13% of all strokes are hemorrhagic strokes which can be more deadly. These kinds of strokes occur when an artery in the brain ruptures or leaks. High blood pressure is typically the cause of this kind of stroke.

Link to Disease

High blood pressure is often at the root of many diseases as well as conditions, such as inflammation. Chronic systemic inflammation plays a key role in chronic disease and pain, such as:

  • Heart disease, diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, cancer
  • Parkinson’s, dementia, Alzheimer’s
  • Digestive disorders

The Power of the Vagus Nerve   

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How to Persevere (Even When You Really Want to Quit)

Black shoes standing at the road with go on and give up wording.

You set out this year to build new healthy habits. You revised your eating plan, stepped up the exercise, and have been sailing right along. You lost weight! Yay! BUT… today (and last week for that matter) the scale hasn’t budged. It’s not reflecting all your hard work and steady diligence. Your heart sinks. You wonder if all the hard work is worth it.

If this sounds like you, STOP the negative self talk immediately. The devil in your head will cause you to tumble backwards. Remember, the scale doesn’t reflect any changes in your muscle and fat ratios nor do they show the improvements in your heart and brain function, your blood flow, or your arteries — all the things critical to living a long, active and independent life.

Weight Loss

If this isn’t your first weight loss rodeo, focus on “changing your body composition” this time around rather than chasing that elusive number on the scale. That is, work on increasing your muscle mass and trimming the fat. If you’re sticking with your new lifestyle, it will pay off over the long term. Have faith in your efforts.

Aim for small incremental changes because those are the ones that are more likely to stick. Just relax and think about how you feel. Do you feel more energetic, lighter, more comfortable, and hopeful? If so, that’s what really counts.

How to Persevere

I found this great article on Inc.com:  5 Steps to Persevere (Even When You Really Want to Quit) — Practical advice for when your confidence and energy are at its lowestTake a couple of minutes to read it. It may inspire and support you during these times when you are struggling. Keep in mind that as long as you are trying, you are successful.

xo

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KRON 4 | Eat These to Lower Your Stroke Risk

Strokes are afflicting more young Americans — it’s no longer a disease of the elderly and is the leading cause of death worldwide. Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and high blood pressure leads as the cause. Here’s how one particular change in your diet can reduce your risk.

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Strokes in Young People

The risk of stroke increases with age, but actor Luke Perry was only 52 when he had a massive stroke and died. When you’re younger (middle-aged) and have a stroke, it is especially dangerous. 

Immediately after a stroke, your brain swells (a.k.a. cerebral edema, brain edema, or elevated intracranial pressure). Swelling is your body’s response to many types of injury. 

Brain Compression

As you grow older, your brain shrinks which is a cause of memory problems and cognitive decline as you age. But when you’re younger and your brain swells after a stroke, there’s no room within your snug-fitting skull for expansion.

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A younger brain fits snugly within the skull and there’s little room for swelling.

As a result, your swelled brain presses up against the inside of your skull. A younger person will experience more intense pressure which can peak three to five days after a stroke. 

The pressure constricts blood flow to your brain and deprives it of oxygen while at the same time, it also blocks fluids from leaving your brain, so the brain swelling alone, can cause death.

NOTE: Sometimes the skull will have to be cut open and removed to relieve the pressure (decompressive craniectomy). A scope may also be used to drain cerebrospinal fluid or blood.

Strongest Risk Factors for Stroke

One in 3 U.S. adults has at least one of the following conditions or habits:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Overweight
  • Diabetes

Nitrates and Blood Pressure

Eating foods high in compounds called nitrates is a natural way to treat hypertension and reduce risk of a vascular event, such as a stroke or heart attack. Nitrates are vasodilators that widen (dilate) your blood vessels, and they protect against endothelial dysfunction.

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The juice from beet roots increased blood flow to the brain and lowered blood pressure.

Previous studies showed that drinking beet root juice dilated blood vessels and increased blood flow to the regions of the brain involved in executive functioning. In this study, 70+ year-olds ate a high-nitrate breakfast with 16 oz. of beet juice for four days.

Also, studies have shown that beet roots or beet root juice can reduce your blood pressure by up to 4-10 points over a period of a few hours. Beetroot juice lowered blood pressure 1 hour after drinking it with a peak drop in blood pressure occurring after 3 to 4 hours.

Healthy heartNOTE: If you’re a heart patient, you’re familiar with nitroglycerin and never leave home without it. Nitroglycerin or “nitro” is a heart medicine for angina* and belongs to a group of medicines called nitrates. As a vasodilator, it dilates the blood vessels and increases the supply of blood and oxygen to your heart.

*Angina is a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. Pain can also occur in the jaw, neck, throat, shoulders, arms, or back.

Green Leafy Vegetables — The Powerful Protector   

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