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Tiny doctors examining heart health flat vector illustration. Cartoon medical specialists doing checkup of blood pressure, pulse rate and cholesterol. Cardiovascular disease and cardiology concept

High blood pressure is a common condition that affects one in three people in the U.S. and as many as 1 billion people worldwide. Also known as “hypertension,” high blood pressure is referred to as the “silent killer,” because there are often no obvious symptoms, leading to many patients going undiagnosed until they experience signs of a heart attack, arrhythmia, or heart failure.

Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Although many patients manage their high blood pressure with medication, lifestyle and diet play important roles in treatment. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can protect your heart health and may be able to avoid, delay, or reduce the need to take medication.

Here are 10 lifestyle changes you can start today to help lower your blood pressure and keep it down:

1. Lose Weight and Keep an Eye on Your Waistline

Weight loss is one of the most effective things you can do to control your blood pressure, especially because excess weight can contribute to other issues that can increase blood pressure, like sleep apnea. Even losing a small amount of weight can be beneficial if you’re currently overweight or obese; one study conducted in 2016 found that losing only 5% of your body mass can significantly lower blood pressure.

By losing weight, there’s less stress on your heart. Your blood vessels can expand and contract more easily, which makes it easier for the left ventricle of the heart to pump blood throughout the body. While all-over weight loss is important, you should also keep a close eye on your waistline, as higher waist circumference has been shown to increase the risk of high blood pressure. In general, men are at greater risk if their waists measure more than 40 inches, while women are at greater risk if their waists measure greater than 35 inches.

2. Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise not only aids weight loss but also helps to make your heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood, which in turn lowers the pressure in your arteries. As little as 150 minutes a week (about 30 minutes a day) of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week can help lower blood pressure by 5 to 8 mm Hg. Exercising for even longer than the recommended time can reduce your blood pressure even further.

However, it’s important to be consistent because your blood pressure can start to rise again once you stop exercising. Finding exercise you enjoy will help you develop a healthy routine you can stick with. Some examples of exercise you can try are walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and strength training.

3. Eat a Healthy Diet

Adopting the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Diet) has been shown to reduce blood pressure by up to 11mm Hg. Unlike some diets, the DASH diet isn’t very restrictive; it focuses on increasing your intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products while avoiding sodium, saturated fats, and cholesterol. Focus on increasing the following foods:

  • Potassium-rich foods will help your body get rid of sodium and ease the pressure in your blood vessels. Foods that contain a high level of potassium include:
    • Vegetables, especially leafy greens, tomatoes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes
    • Fruits like melons, bananas, avocados, oranges, and apricots
    • Dairy products, like milk and yogurt
    • Tuna and salmon
    • Nuts and seeds
    • Beans
  • Calcium-rich diets have been shown to have a positive correlation with lower blood pressure. Most adults should strive to get 1,000 mg of calcium a day (and 1,200 mg per day for women over 50 and men over 70). Some examples of calcium-rich foods include:
    • Collards and other leafy greens
    • Beans
    • Sardines
    • Tofu
    • Dairy products
  • Magnesium-rich foods help to regulate healthy blood pressure levels by allowing the blood vessels to relax. Although magnesium deficiencies are rare, many people don’t get enough of the mineral in their diet. Some examples of magnesium-rich foods include:
    • Vegetables,
    • Dairy products
    • Legumes
    • Chicken
    • Whole grains
  • Berries have high levels of polyphenols, which can reduce high blood pressure as well as the risk of stroke, diabetes, insulin resistance, systemic inflammation, and heart conditions.
  • Dark chocolate and cocoa are rich in flavonoids, plant compounds that cause the blood vessels to dilate, reducing blood pressure. Moderate chocolate and cocoa consumption has been shown to have a positive effect on lowering blood pressure. To take advantage of the benefits, make sure you’re using non-alkalized cocoa powder, which has a high flavonoid content and no added sugar.
  • Anti-inflammatory foods that have a high antioxidant and polyphenol content have been shown to have a positive effect on cardiovascular disease while reducing inflammation systemically. Some examples of anti-inflammatory foods include:
    • Leafy greens
    • Orange-colored vegetables
    • Legumes
    • Fruits

4. Reduce Your Salt Intake

Many studies have linked a high-sodium diet to high blood pressure and heart events like stroke, although the relationship between salt and high blood pressure isn’t well understood. It’s thought that genetic factors could play a role, as approximately half of patients with high blood pressure have also been found to have a sensitivity to salt. However, even a slight reduction of salt in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 5 to 6 mm Hg. Ideally, you should limit your sodium intake to 1,500 mg (about 1 teaspoon) or less per day.

Whenever possible, make sure to read food labels and choose low-sodium alternatives. Limiting processed foods can help greatly, as most natural whole foods contain little to no sodium. When cooking, try not to add salt; instead, use herbs and spices to give your food more flavor. If you’re not sure you can make a drastic change, cut back on your salt intake gradually to allow your palate time to adjust.

5. Limit Alcohol

Moderate alcohol intake (one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men) has been thought to improve blood pressure slightly, but those effects are lost with higher alcohol consumption. Alcohol has been linked directly to approximately 16% of high blood pressure cases worldwide. In addition, alcohol can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medication. Cut back if you drink more than moderately or avoid alcohol entirely.

6. Cut Back on Caffeine

There’s still some debate on the role of caffeine in blood pressure. In patients who don’t drink coffee very often, caffeine can temporarily raise blood pressure by up to 10 mm Hg; in contrast, people who drink it regularly may have little to no effect on their blood pressure. You can check to see how your body reacts by checking your blood pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a caffeinated beverage. If your blood pressure increased by 5 to 10 mm Hg, you may be sensitive and want to consider cutting back.

7. Quit Smoking

There are many reasons to quit smoking, including lowering blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Each puff you take off a cigarette causes a temporary increase in blood pressure that can last for several minutes afterward. The chemicals in tobacco have also been shown to damage blood vessels. Although there’s conflicting research about the long-term effects of smoking on blood pressure, quitting smoking is one of the best steps you can take for long-term heart health.

8. Reduce Stress

Chronic stress puts your body in constant fight-or-flight mode, causing a faster heart rate and constricted blood vessels. It can also make you more likely to make less than healthy choices, like drinking alcohol, eating junk food, or smoking—all of which also contribute to higher blood pressure.

If you often feel stressed, take some time to think about what’s triggering you to feel that way. For many people, work, finances, family, and illness are major factors, but even not getting enough sleep at night can contribute to feeling stressed throughout the day. Once you’ve pinpointed the factors causing stress in your life, you can take some steps to eliminate or reduce them. Some other things you can try are:

  • Listen to soothing music, which has a calming effect on the nervous system.
  • Reduce your work hours.
  • Loosen your expectations by planning out your day and focusing on tasks that are a priority. If you’re not able to get to a task, don’t beat yourself up! Tomorrow is a new day to tackle it.
  • Things that are outside of our control can cause a lot of stress. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have control over, focus on the things you can control and make plans on how to resolve them.
  • Avoid situations that make you feel stressed. For example, if you feel stressed out by rush-hour traffic on your daily commute, leave for work earlier or take public transportation.
  • Take time to relax and do enjoyable activities, like hobbies, going for a walk, cooking, or visiting with friends. Meditation is a great way to take a few minutes out of your day to sit quietly, breathe deeply, and decompress.
  • Express gratitude to others or take some time to make a daily or weekly gratitude list.

9. Discuss Supplements with Your Doctor

Research has shown that several supplements may also help to lower blood pressure:

  • Aged garlic extract
  • Berberine
  • Whey protein
  • Fish oil
  • Hibiscus

Before starting on any supplements, however, make sure to check with your doctor.

10. Monitor Your Blood Pressure at Home and See Your Doctor Regularly

Monitoring your blood pressure at home can help you keep a closer eye on it and may even help you identify triggers that cause your blood pressure to spike. Blood pressure monitors are widely available in most drug stores and can be purchased over the counter, without a prescription. Regular visits with your doctor are also very important for controlling your blood pressure, especially if you’re taking medication for it. Doctor visits can help you determine if the dosage is correct, as well as how often you should be checking your blood pressure at home.

Get Started On Lowering Your Blood Pressure with Dr. Hubert

Although high blood pressure is often treated with medication, it can be controlled naturally by focusing on a healthy diet, weight loss, and exercise. Dr. Hubert has helped numerous patients with high blood pressure lower their numbers with her personalized medical weight loss program. Get the support and expertise you need to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, strengthen your heart, and lead a happier, healthier life! Contact Dr. Hubert today to schedule your consultation.

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Fats have often gotten a bad rap but as we learn more about their role in nutrition, it’s clear that not all fat is bad—in fact, some fats are necessary and beneficial to our health. We now know that good fats give us energy, build cells, and help to balance hormones. They can also help us feel more satiated, which can prevent snacking and aid weight loss. Fats may even help to lower cholesterol levels. So, rather than adopting a low-fat diet or avoiding fats entirely, it’s best to focus on the types of fat you’re eating.

What Are Fats?

Dietary fats (also known as fatty acids) are found in plants and animal products. Although some fats are an important part of a healthy diet, certain types have been shown to have a negative impact on health. For this reason, fats are categorized into “good” fats and “bad” fats.

Although all fats have a similar chemical structure, they have different physical properties that can help you identify them. Bad fats tend to be solid when they’re at room temperature (like butter and lard), while good fats are liquid at room temperature (like nut and vegetable oils). Good and bad fats affect cholesterol levels differently. Bad fats will raise LDL cholesterol (aka bad cholesterol) while good fats help lower LDL levels when they’re eaten as part of a healthy diet. Regardless of the type of fat, all contain nine calories per gram.

When food manufacturers create reduced-fat products, they often replace the fat with carbohydrates from sugar, refined grains, or other starches. Although this makes foods more flavorful, our bodies digest these refined carbohydrates very quickly, which impacts blood sugar and insulin levels and may result in weight gain or disease development over time.

Bad Fats

Bad fats include trans fat and saturated fat, both of which have been shown to be harmful when eaten regularly.

Trans fat is created as a byproduct of hydrogenation, which is used to turn good fats into a solid to prevent them from going rancid. Trans fats do more than just increase LDL levels and lower HDL (healthy cholesterol) levels. They’ve also been shown to contribute to insulin resistance and create inflammation, which has been linked to a number of chronic health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.

Trans fats are very harmful. Research has shown that for every 2% of trans fat calories consumed daily, the risk of heart disease goes up by 23%.

Saturated fats are naturally found in many foods, primarily animal products like beef or pork fat, lard, cream, butter, whole or reduced-fat milk, and cheese. Many types of baked good and fried foods also contain high levels of saturated fats, as well as some plant-based oils like palm or coconut oil.

Trans fats should always be avoided, while saturated fats should be eaten sparingly.

Good Fats

Good fats are as essential to your diet as protein and carbohydrates. Not only do they help supply the body with energy, but they also support certain bodily functions. For example, some vitamins require fat to dissolve into your bloodstream and provide nutrients. Good fats include monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat and are mainly found in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish.

Some good sources of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, high-oleic safflower oil, sunflower oil, and many types of nuts. There’s no recommended daily intake of monounsaturated fats, however, the Institute of Medicine recommends using these fats as a replacement to trans and saturated fats as much as possible.

Polyunsaturated fats can be thought of as “essential fats.” These are fats that your body needs to function properly, but can’t create itself. Polyunsaturated fats aid muscle movement, blood clotting, and inflammation. They’re also needed to build cell membranes and nerve coverings. The only way to get these essential fats is through your diet. There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Both offer important health benefits.

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce blood pressure, raise HDL levels, and lower triglycerides. They may help prevent (and possibly treat) heart disease, stroke, and lethal heart arrhythmias. Evidence suggests they may reduce the need for steroids for those with rheumatoid arthritis; other studies claim a wider range of health benefits, such as reducing the risk of dementia, although these claims have yet to be substantiated. Some good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, as well as flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil, and unhydrogenated soybean oil.

Omega-6 fatty acids have also been shown to have heart-health benefits that may protect against heart disease, as well as lowering LDL and increasing HDL levels. Some examples of foods that are rich in omega-6 fatty acids are tofu, seed and nut oil, vegetable oils, and liquid or tub margarine.

Personalized Weight Loss Plans

Eating a balanced diet is the best way to support your heart health and meet your weight loss goals. Whenever possible, make sure your daily fat intake is coming from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and keep your saturated fat intake to a minimum. Trans fats should be avoided completely. The majority of your calories should be coming from fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, nuts, and low-fat dairy products.

Dr. Hubert can work with you to create a personalized weight loss program to help you stay on track. Typically, professional weight loss programs are more effective than managing weight loss on your own. With Dr. Hubert’s expertise, you’ll have a higher chance of success in losing unwanted weight and keeping it off. Contact Dr. Hubert today to schedule your consultation.

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Millions of Americans suffer from depression. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates approximately 6.7 percent of the population have experienced at least one major depressive episode during any given year. Depression is often treated with pharmaceuticals, which can cause weight gain and other side effects. Mounting evidence suggests exercise may provide better benefits for the body and mind.

Physical and psychological benefits of exercise

Regular exercise has many proven benefits. It’s great for the cardiovascular system, as it strengthens the heart, improves circulation, and lowers blood pressure. Exercise also reduces body fat, which in turn can improve sleep quality. Regular exercise has also been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as improve overall body image.

A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found obese adults who lost at least 5 percent of their body fat reported better sleep and longer hours after six months of weight loss. Additionally, those who lost weight were shown to have a statistically significantly better mood at 24 months, regardless of how much weight they lost.

Another study found that depressed subjects who participated in a 6-month behavioral weight loss program lost 8 percent of their initial weight reported significant improvements in their depression symptoms. They also had reduced levels of triglycerides, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Studies have long suggested exercise is linked to improved mood due to the release of endorphins, commonly called the “feel-good hormones.” When you exercise, your body releases endorphins; these interact with the pain receptors in the brain, lessening your perception of pain. They also trigger a positive, euphoric feeling in the body, similar to morphine — but without the negative effects of addiction or dependence. This is why people often experience a positive, energizing outlook on life after workouts known as a “runner’s high.”

Moderate or high-intensity exercise?

Current exercise guidelines suggest adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly to maintain or improve their health. Does the intensity of the exercise matter when it comes to mood?

One study compared the release of endorphins during conventional aerobic exercise and HIIT (High-intensity interval training). HIIT is a type of exercise where short bursts of high-intensity activity are broken up by brief periods of less demanding activity. After each exercise session, researchers measured the subjects’ endorphin levels, as well as their endorphin levels after a rest period. The subjects’ mood was also assessed.

Researchers discovered HIIT workouts caused a significant rise in endorphin release compared to aerobic exercise. Endorphins were found to occur in the areas of the brain associated with pain, reward, and emotion. They also found that HIIT caused negative feelings, which they associated with increased endorphin release. The researchers believe the increased negative feelings were linked to dealing with physical activity that’s emotionally and physically challenging.

Exercise And Endorphins

In contrast, subjects reported feelings of pleasure and euphoria with aerobic exercise. The researchers suggested that moderate endorphin release stimulated by moderate-intensity exercise may promote habitual exercise.

Additional benefits for depression

Not only does exercise release feel-good endorphins, but the physicality of it can help take your mind off negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety. Being able to meet exercise goals and challenges, no matter how small, can also provide a boost of self-confidence and increase feelings of self-control.

Many exercise activities also give you a chance to meet or socialize with others, which can counteract the isolation many people with depression tend to feel. Exercise is also a healthy coping mechanism for when you’re facing emotional or mental challenges in life. Rather than turning to substances or negative behaviors that can make your symptoms worse, exercise boosts your immune system and reduces the impact of stress.

It can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise when you have depression, but we’re here to help. Contact us today to get started on a customized weight loss program designed to help you meet your health goals.

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The pros and cons of morning, afternoon & evening workouts

Everyone knows it’s important to exercise regularly, but busy schedules can make that difficult; most people only have time to exercise before or after work. Some people swear by early morning workouts to get energized for the day, while others insist evening exercise provides better benefits.

Best Time Of Day For Exercise

So, when is the best time to exercise? Is there an optimal time of day to burn the most calories? While there are different benefits for morning, afternoon, and evening workouts, the best time to exercise comes down to consistency and what works best for you.

Early morning workouts

According to Anthony Hackney, a professor of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, early morning workouts (especially on an empty stomach) are the best way to burn stored fat. People have a naturally elevated level of cortisol and growth hormone in the morning, which draws more energy from fat reserves. This allows for better fat metabolism than other times of the day, which can be conducive to weight loss. Research also suggests that those who exercise in the morning may have less of an appetite throughout the day.

This is great news for early risers, but what if you’re not a morning person? A study published in the Journal of Physiology found that exercising at 7 a.m. may shift your body’s internal clock earlier. Additional studies suggest it’s easier to make new habits stick when you do them first thing in the morning. Since exercise is a great stress reducer, morning workouts may also contribute to better mental health and productivity throughout the day. However, if you’re really not a morning person, morning workouts may not be beneficial. You may be too tired to exercise at an intensity level that will expend enough energy to provide real results. It’s generally easier to stay consistent and get into the habit of regular exercise if you’re not fighting fatigue and tiredness.

Afternoon workouts

According to Hackney, afternoon workouts are a great second choice if you’re not able to get motivated to move in the morning. Since you’ll likely have eaten a meal or two, you may see a boost in your performance. Afternoon workouts can also be helpful to avoid the afternoon slump — even something as small as taking a quick walk can help you feel more alert and focused. One preliminary study suggests people naturally burn about 10 percent more calories in the late afternoon compared to other times of the day, though this study looked at people at rest, rather than those working out. It’s inconclusive whether you’ll burn more calories while working out in the afternoon.

Nighttime workouts

For those who aren’t morning people, evening exercise after work is generally the most convenient. However, there’s a common belief that working out in the evening can make it difficult to fall asleep. The Journal of Physiology did find that exercising between 7–10 p.m. can delay the body clock, causing later bedtimes, but Hackney says it only interferes with sleep if you’re jumping into bed right after your workout. One paper published in the Journal for Experimental Physiology found there were no links between evening exercise and sleep disruption, and that over time it may even reduce levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin.

Listen to your body for the best time to exercise

The best way to achieve your weight loss and health goals with exercise is to stay consistent — and consistency is best achieved by listening to your own body. Try working out in the morning for a few weeks, then try noon, and early evening. Which time is easiest for you to stick to? Which one makes you feel the best afterward? Find a time that allows you to make exercise a consistent habit in your life. To stay motivated, make sure to choose activities you enjoy. If you’re a social person, you may want to take a group exercise class or take walks with a group of friends. If you’re more of an introvert, solo activities like swimming or walking may be a better fit. It’s also important to find a variety of activities you enjoy to prevent feeling bored or burnt out.

Exercise is essential to maintaining a healthy weight and decreasing the risk of health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. If you’ve been struggling with your weight, contact us to learn more about our medical weight loss programs in Santa Rosa. Our programs, overseen by Dr. Jennifer Hubert, give you the support and tools you need to have a healthy weight and lifestyle. We offer behavior modification, nutritional counseling, medical monitoring, and customized weight loss plans for Santa Rosa patients. Schedule your weight loss consultation today by calling us at 707-575-8446.

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Our understanding of nutritional science is constantly evolving. In the past, nutritionists recommended adopting a low-fat diet to prevent weight gain and health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Today, we have a better understanding of dietary fats and now know that not all fats are equal. Dietary fat is an important part of a healthy diet. Fats give us energy, build cells, help us absorb nutrients, balance hormones and even lower cholesterol levels. The key is to eat a balanced diet with the right type of fats and avoid (or limit) the unhealthy ones.

What makes a fat healthy vs. harmful?

Dietary Fats | Facts About Fats

There are four major categories of dietary fat:

  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fat
  • Monosaturated fat
  • Polyunsaturated fat

These four types of fat have different chemical structures and physical properties. Bad fats, like saturated and trans fats, tend to be solid at room temperature (like butter) while monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats stay liquid at room temperature. Different types of fat can also influence your cholesterol levels. Bad fats raise the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in your body, while good fats can lower LDL levels when eaten as part of a healthy, varied diet.

Regardless of the type of fat, all dietary fat contains nine calories per gram. Since fats are more energy-dense, they contain more calories than protein or carbohydrates, which both contain four calories per gram. While healthy fats are beneficial to a healthy diet, it’s important to remember to eat them in moderation. High calorie intake, regardless of the source, can contribute to weight gain or hinder your weight loss goals.

Here’s a closer look at each type of fat.

Trans fat

Small amounts of trans fat are present naturally in animal-based foods like meat and milk, but most of it is found in processed foods that use partially hydrogenated oil. This is a liquid vegetable oil that has hydrogen added to make them solid at room temperature, which preserves the food for longer. It also adds flavor and texture to foods like French fries, cakes, cookies, margarine, microwave popcorn, and frozen pizza.

Trans fat tastes good but it increases health risks, even when eaten in small quantities. This type of fat raises LDL cholesterol, which increases your likelihood of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Trans fats also lower the “good” (HDL) cholesterol in your body. The American Heart Association recommends getting no more than 1% of your daily calories from trans fats. Some countries, including the U.S., have put restrictions on trans fats, with some states banning them altogether. The World Health Organization is pushing for a complete ban of trans fats from global food supplies by 2023, which highlights the serious health concerns they present. 

Saturated fats

Saturated fats are naturally present in red meats, poultry, whole milk dairy products, butter, and eggs. They’re also found in coconut and palm oils. Unlike trans fats, there’s some debate about saturated fats in the medical community. While a diet that’s heavily based on saturated fats can increase total cholesterol and bad cholesterol (which can cause blocked arteries) some studies have suggested saturated fats aren’t directly linked to heart disease. Other studies have indicated some types of saturated fats are less harmful than others.

The general consensus is that it’s best to limit your intake of saturated fats. The American Heart Association recommends that you get no more than 5-6% of your daily calories from saturated fat. If you replace saturated fat in your diet, what you replace it with can also affect your health. For example, replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats may lower your risk for heart disease, while replacing them with carbohydrates may increase your risk.

Monounsaturated fats & polyunsaturated fats

Monounsaturated fats are found in plant foods, like nuts, avocados, and vegetable oils. Monounsaturated fats are beneficial for your health in several ways. Monounsaturated fats help develop and maintain your cells, as well as lower your LDL cholesterol.

Polyunsaturated fats are found in foods like flaxseed and corn oils, walnuts, salmon, and other fatty fish. There are two types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Studies have found that a diet that’s high in omega-3 fatty acids can lower the risk of heart disease and may even prevent or slow some forms of age-related cognitive disorders. Omega-3s aren’t produced within the body, so it’s important to make sure you’re incorporating these foods into your diet. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in food like leafy green vegetables, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils. Like Omega-3s, Omega-6 fatty acids provide heart benefits.

While both of these are healthy fats, it’s recommended that you get no more than 35-30 of your daily calories from monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.

In Conclusion

A healthy, balanced diet is essential for heart health and meeting your weight loss goals. The majority of your fats should be from unsaturated sources. Saturated fats can be consumed in limited amounts, while trans fats should be avoided completely. You should aim for getting most of your calories from vegetables, fruits, fish, legumes, low-fat dairy products, nuts, and whole grains. We create effective plans to help you meet your weight loss goals. Our medical weight loss programs in Santa Rosa have helped hundreds of people live happier, healthier lives. Professional weight loss support has a higher chance of success – both in losing and keeping off weight. If you’ve been searching for a weight loss program in Santa Rosa that will bring you long-term success, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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We all know certain activities are helpful for weight loss, like giving up junk food in favor of healthier choices and exercising regularly. But many patients don’t realize that getting enough sleep is also important for losing weight. While adults need at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep at night to feel rested, many people don’t hit that mark. According to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of U.S. adults report getting less than seven hours of sleep a night, and mounting evidence suggests this could be a large factor in the struggle to lose weight.

People who sleep less than seven hours a night tend to have a higher body mass index (BMI) and have more trouble losing weight in comparison to those who get an adequate night’s sleep — even when they follow the same diet. One study followed 60,000 non-obese nurses for 16 years. At the end of the study, it was found that the nurses who slept five hours or less a night were more likely to be obese than those who slept seven hours or more. Another study found that less sleep increased the likelihood of obesity by 89% for children and by 55% for adults. While these studies were observational, the effects sleep has on weight have also been observed in experimental sleep deprivation studies.

There are several reasons why sleep affects weight.

  • Less sleep, larger appetite
    Studies have found that many people who don’t get enough sleep report having a larger appetite. This is likely because sleep directly impacts ghrelin and leptin, two hormones that control appetite. Ghrelin is responsible for signaling hunger to the brain, while leptin suppresses hunger and signals fullness. Those who sleep less have been found to have 14.9% higher ghrelin levels and 15.5% lower leptin levels than those who get adequate sleep at night. Cortisol, a stress hormone that can increase appetite, also tends to be higher in people who get less sleep.

  • More difficult to make healthy choices
    Sleep deprivation has been shown to dull the activity in the frontal lobe of the brain, which is the part of the brain that’s responsible for self-control and decision-making. Additionally, the reward centers in the brain are more stimulated by food after a night of poor sleep. People who sleep less are also more likely to choose foods that are high in calories, carbs, or fat. These combined factors can make it difficult to not only choose healthy foods but also to eat healthy portions.

  • Increased calorie intake
    People who don’t get enough sleep at night tend to eat more calories. While this partly due to the hormone factors mentioned above, less total sleep also results in more awake hours. This allows for more time in the day to eat. This is especially true for people who spent a lot of their awake time being inactive, such as sitting in front of the television. Studies have also shown that many people tend to consume excess calories as snacks after dinner.

  • Decreased resting metabolism
    The resting metabolism rate (RMR) is the number of calories a person burns while they’re completely at rest. It’s affected by several factors, including age, weight, height, and gender, and muscle mass. Some studies have suggested that less sleep may lower RMR, while others have found no changes in metabolism. It’s also thought that poor sleep can contribute to muscle loss. Muscle burns more calories at rest than fat does, so losing muscle can directly affect the body’s resting metabolic rate.

  • Daytime fatigue, less energy
    Many people who don’t get enough sleep at night also suffer from daytime fatigue. This can make you less motivated to exercise and makes you more tired during physical activity. Your body produces the most growth hormone during sleep, which not only repairs muscles but also helps burn fat. If you do manage to make it to the gym, you’re less likely to be able to push yourself during your workout and you may not see the same results.

  • Insulin resistance
    Insulin is a hormone that moves the sugar in your body from the bloodstream into your cells, where it can be used as energy. It’s been shown that poor sleep can contribute to cells becoming insulin resistant. This allows more sugar to remain in the bloodstream, which makes the body produce more insulin to compensate. Excess insulin in the bloodstream can make you feel hungrier. It also sends signals to your body that tell it to store more calories as fat. Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes and weight gain. One study suggests that as few as 6 nights can cause cells to become insulin resistant.

Insufficient sleep can create a vicious cycle. As you sleep less, you’re more likely to gain weight. As you gain more weight, it can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. In addition to making weight loss more challenging, poor sleep may also affect circulation, memory, and social relationships. So not only is good sleep an important part of successful weight loss, but it can also have a significant impact on your overall health and social life.

The good news

Sleep Affecting Weight Loss

If you’re having trouble with weight loss despite doing everything else right, it may be caused by poor or inadequate sleep. We can help you evaluate the factors that are hindering your weight loss and help you overcome them. Our medical weight loss programs in Santa Rosa use a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to weight control and have helped hundreds of people like you find success.

Overseen by Dr. Jennifer Hubert, our weight loss programs will provide you with an effective weight loss strategy to evaluate and address factors that may cause roadblocks to your goals. If you’re interested in learning more about our weight loss programs in Santa Rosa, contact us today for a consultation.

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Let’s face it: dieting can be difficult at times, but it’s especially challenging during the holiday season. In the span of three months, there are a handful of major holidays, all of which are traditionally celebrated in part with delicious temptations. From Halloween candy to sugary pies and high-calorie buffets, there is literally unhealthy food lurking around every corner. If you’re not careful, it can be easy to put on more weight in these three months than you were able to lose in the previous six. Breaking your dieting routine now can also make it that much more challenging to get back into it once the season is over.

The good news is with a little planning, you can avoid these temptations. Here are four easy ways to stay on track with your diet between now and the New Year:

  1. Be Proactive with a Healthy Snack

    Holiday parties are infamous for being loaded with enticing food and beverages. If you plan to attend any company parties or family get-togethers, eat a healthy snack or meal before you go. This will help you feel satiated and allow you to avoid overindulging. If you’re worried about being hungry later, you can also bring along your favorite weight loss or protein bar to enjoy.
  2. Bring Your Own Portion Controlled Plate and Cup

    Large plates make it easy to pile on several portions of food – and many people feel inclined to finish it all. To avoid this, bring your own small or portion-control plate with you. You won’t be able to put on as much food, and it will help you be more aware of how much you’re eating. Bring a five-ounce cup as well, so you can limit yourself to a single high-calorie beverage. After that, stick to water for the rest of the night.
  3. Eat Mindfully

    Many of us are more at risk of unconscious eating during the holidays, when we’re rushing around and multitasking during meals. Unfortunately, unconscious eating often leads to overeating. You can prevent unconscious eating by being fully present during meals. Put down your phone or holiday to-do list and focus on eating. This allows you to have a better connection between your physiological state and your mental state. Being mindful can also help you eat less and make healthier meal choices.
  4. Find a Weight Loss Buddy

    Pairing up with someone who has similar weight loss goals as you can help you stay accountable – and make your diet more fun! Ask a friend, family member, or coworker if they would be willing to offer you support during the holidays. It’s important to choose a buddy with a positive mindset who can help you feel a sense of camaraderie about eating healthy. Cheer each other on and gently remind each other of your shared goals in times of temptation.

It may feel daunting to stick to your diet during the holidays, but it’s entirely possible! By following these simple tips, you can continue to make progress with your weight loss goals while still enjoying the season.

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Belly FatNo matter who you are or what sort of body you have, we all have to deal with belly fat sooner or later. Even slender people with clearly defined abs have abdominal fat. Yes, really! It’s a fact of life, and a certain amount of fat is completely normal. However, when your waistline starts to grow beyond its usual limits, it can indicate rising problems, so take note.

Maybe you’ve noticed you’re carrying more weight around the middle than you used to. You’re hardly alone. You may be dealing with deep visceral fat located around your organs, which complicates things. This fat is totally normal and typically used as cushioning by the body, but when it starts to build up, it can cause health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and much more. Visceral fat is a whole different ballpark than what we typically think of as “fat,” and it’s caused less by fatty foods and sweets (though diet is definitely a factor) and more by genetics and activity level. Inactivity is a top contender in your likelihood of having excess visceral fat.

Here’s some advice for keeping yourself fit and making sure your organs aren’t building up too much padding.

  1. Get out and exercise.

    Increasing your activity level is the absolute best way to trim excess belly fat and ensure you’re staying healthy. A sedentary lifestyle makes it different to get into “exercise mode,” so it’s important to take it slow and start with reasonable goals that feel manageable to you. You don’t have to jump immediately into serious cardio to get active. Start with a few brisk walks. Even a 30-minute walk five days a week can help reduce fat!

  2. Keep an eye on your stress levels.

    Stress is a part of life for most of us, but when our stress levels start to peak, it can cause a whole host of mental and physical issues. Digestive trouble and weight gain is hardly uncommon when stress levels are high, particularly because we’re more likely to eat poorly or skip exercise when we feel overwhelmed. Exercise will actually help you unwind by releasing endorphins. Reward yourself for a job well done by letting yourself relax once in a while.

  3. Take a good look at your diet.

    There’s never been and there never will be a miracle diet that will specifically target your visceral and belly fat, no matter what all the fancy blogs and advertisements say. However, maintaining a balanced diet and increasing your fiber intake will help a great deal to increase your overall health and reduce fat. Studies show people with good fiber intake tend to have less belly fat, so make sure you get enough!

  4. Get a good night’s sleep.

    Getting a full night of rest doesn’t make you lazy — it makes you healthy! Your sleep habits can affect your weight, and multiple studies show that people who get 6-8 hours of sleep a night have less visceral fat than people who get more or less. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking less sleep is better — it’s not!

By following this advice, you’re already well on your way to decreasing your body’s excess fat, including that stubborn belly fat. Looking for more advice and guidance? Follow this blog or reach out to our team!

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Weight Maintenance Tips

You’ve likely heard just about every tip and trick under the sun for losing weight and keeping it off. Weigh yourself daily, count your calories, avoid fatty foods, reduce alcohol intake, and all of those things. However, there are some less obvious bits of advice that you probably haven’t heard! Here are our five favorite secret-but-not-secret tips that will help keep the weight off.

  1. Take it one step at a time.

    You have to put one foot in front of the other, as the saying goes. It’s really easy to get discouraged during your weight loss journey when you overexert yourself right out of the gate, or realize that the journey continues even after the weight comes off. Don’t dive headfirst into a brutal two-hour daily workout. Start with little things first: plan your meals for the week, cut the cream from your morning coffee, bike to the store instead of driving — whatever you can do that feels manageable. Build from there!

  2. Keep an eye on portion sizes.

    American culture is really lousy at dealing out appropriately sized portions of food. If you want to practice portion control, you’ve really got to learn to love reading labels and knowing how much a cup of food actually is. We’re raised in a “clean your plate” culture and it becomes second nature to polish off an entire plate of food without even stopping to think about exactly how much we’re eating. Take the time to learn what a “portion” actually is and keep track.

  3. Take stress into account and plan ahead.

    One of the major players when it comes to weight gain is stress. When everything’s spinning out of control and time is at a premium, it’s incredibly simple to seek out quick fixes and easy meals. You only have so many hours in the day, so why not skip a workout? Things at work are off the wall, so why not pick up fast food for the third time this week? If you take a moment when things are calmer to plan ahead for stressful events, if goes a long way toward maintaining healthy eating habits. Have some time on the weekend? Make healthy meals to freeze for those days when it just feels like too much to cook.

  4. Make note of bad past behaviors.

    It’s good to know your own weaknesses. Write them down on a list and keep it somewhere you can see whenever you need to. Even if it seems frivolous, check the list often and make a mental note when you’re starting to slide into those “danger zone” behaviors again so you can curb them.

  5. Make tangible goals you can build upon.

    Create a “climbing list” of goals. That means starting with the goals that are easy to reach and steadily building up to tougher stuff, with mid-level goals in between. Try dedicating yourself to taking a 10-minute walk once a day, then build it up to 30 minutes, then make it jogging, then consider training for a half-marathon. Treat yourself to a nice reward to stay motivated.

Most importantly, stay positive! A good attitude works wonders. Weight loss is a constant journey, but with the right support system, you can definitely do it. Reach out to us anytime for help!

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Sleep HabitsIt’s not uncommon to believe that sleep is for the lazy and the undisciplined, or that keeping busy and running on as little sleep as possible is a point of pride. People who get lots of sleep are often considered lethargic and out of shape, while being fit is assumed to mean that you’re always full of energy, and therefore require less sleep. In reality, sleep is one of our body’s most essential needs, and forgoing it can cost you big.

Sleep isn’t only for recharging our figurative batteries.

When we sleep, our bodies are working overtime to release hormones into our system, digest food, repair tissue, and run system checks to make sure everything’s working. When we say our body is a machine, it’s very true, and that machine can overheat and break down if you don’t maintain in properly. Proper maintenance means proper rest. Sleep is a very passive activity, and as such, many people assume it’s doing nothing to help with weight loss and, in fact, may actually be a detriment to weight loss goals. This is completely untrue. When you sleep, two of the hormones your body releases — Leptin and Ghrelin — specifically affect your appetite. Without a proper amount of sleep, these hormone levels get thrown out of whack, which in turn can cause issues with your eating habits. In particular, Leptin is the hormone that lets you know when it’s time to stop eating. Without enough of it in your system, it’s incredibly easy to overeat.

Most of us get our best night’s rest when we hit about 6.5-8 hours of sleep every night. Numerous studies show that people getting a proper amount of sleep are more likely to have lower body fat than people who get too much or too little, and consistency is key. If you don’t have any sort of set sleep schedule, your irregular sleeping habits can throw your body off its game, according to a study from Brigham Young University.

Even if you think you’re bursting with energy and endorphins post-exercise, refusing to get enough sleep can leave you waking up groggy and tired, and you’re psychologically less likely to make good choices when you feel that way. When we’re tired, it’s so much easier to reach for pre-made and processed foods rather than tackling a healthy cooked meal. You may even decide it’s okay to skip your workout for the day to catch up on rest, and before you know it, it’s become a habit. This can lead to stress, which can impact our eating habits, and the cycle continues.

Pay close attention to what you eat before going to bed. You don’t have to go to bed on an empty stomach, despite what all the old myths say, but eating acidic or fatty foods could result in acid reflux or gallbladder pain that keeps you up in the middle of the night. Keep a food diary if it helps you figure out what’s affecting your sleep.

If you need help figuring out how to work within your schedule and maximize your weight loss, give us a call!