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Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, as well as a major cause of disability. The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions; in the U.S., the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease. In this condition, plaque builds up in the arteries, causing arterial narrowing or blockages that restrict blood flow and increase the risk of heart attacks.

Some types of heart disease are considered “silent.” This means they often aren’t diagnosed until an individual has symptoms of a heart attack, arrhythmia, or heart failure. There are many risk factors for heart disease. Although some of them are unavoidable due to age or genetics, many of the risk factors can be controlled through diet and healthy lifestyle changes.

Heart Disease Risk Factors

Risk factors that are beyond control:

  • Age. The risk of heart disease increases with age. Men who are 45 or older and women age 55 and older have a greater risk of developing the disease.
  • Sex. Although estrogen offers some protection against heart disease in younger women, this protection wanes after menopause. Women tend to experience vaguer heart disease symptoms than men, which can allow the disease to go undiagnosed for longer.
  • Race or ethnicity. Certain ethnic or racial groups have a higher risk of heart disease than others.
  • Family history. The risk of heart disease goes up if a close family member has it.

Risk factors that can be controlled:

Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Risk

Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to reduce your risk of heart disease and offset unavoidable risk factors:

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are low-calorie, nutrient-dense, and rich in dietary fiber—many of them are also high in antioxidants, which may help protect against heart disease. Another benefit of eating more plant foods is that they can help you cut back on higher-calorie foods that can contribute to weight gain.

Here are some easy ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet:

  • Keep washed, cut vegetables in your refrigerator and a bowl of fruit on the counter for quick, convenient snacks
  • Focus on choosing recipes that heavily feature fruits and vegetables as the main ingredients, like salads or stir fry
  • Replace pasta with sautéed spiralized vegetables, like zucchini, crookneck squash, or carrots
  • Swap ice cream or other sugary desserts for frozen fruit dipped in a small amount of dark chocolate

You should aim to eat seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Keep in mind that not all fruits and vegetables are equal; avoid vegetables in creamy sauces, fried or breaded vegetables, canned fruits in heavy syrup, and frozen fruit with added sugar. Instead, make sure you’re eating a wide variety of colorful fresh produce, which will help you receive a diverse intake of nutrients.

Choose whole grains

Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber and other essential nutrients that help to regulate blood pressure and heart health. One simple way to add more to your diet is to substitute whole grains for refined grain products. Choose whole wheat flour products (preferably 100% whole wheat) and whole grains like brown rice, barley, and farro. Avoid white bread and other foods that use white flour, like muffins, frozen waffles, doughnuts, cakes, and egg noodles.

Get plenty of fiber

Dietary fiber can help reduce cholesterol, control blood sugar, promote regularity, prevent gastrointestinal disease, and aid weight management. Fiber is primarily found in foods like whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and beans. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, which helps lower LDL cholesterol, comes from foods like oats, barley, legumes, apples, pears, and flaxseed.

Insoluble fiber is also referred to as “roughage.” It helps with regularity, weight regulation, and intestinal disorders. Some good sources of insoluble fiber include whole wheat, whole grain cereals and bread, nuts, and vegetables. A healthy diet should aim for a total intake of 25 or more grams of dietary fiber (soluble and insoluble) daily.

Limit foods with unhealthy fats

Fat is an important part of a balanced diet, but some types of fat are unhealthy, like saturated and trans fats. These fats contribute to high cholesterol, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends avoiding trans fats altogether and keeping your consumption of saturated fat to less than 6% of your total daily calories. For example, if you eat 2,000 calories a day, you would want to keep your saturated fat limited to 11-13 grams.

Some simple ways to cut saturated and trans fats from your diet include:

  • Choose lean meats with less than 10% fat
  • Trim the fat off your meat
  • Limit fats like butter, lard, bacon fat, creamy sauces, gravy, nondairy creamers, coconut and palm oils, and hydrogenated margarine
  • Substitute low-fat products for full-fat products
  • Check food labels, especially on highly processed foods. Many of these are low in nutritional value and can contain trans fats, which are often listed as partially hydrogenated oil
  • Choose healthy sources of fat, like olive oil, vegetable and nut oils, nuts, seeds, and avocados
  • Use ground flaxseed, which is high in fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids (which can help lower blood fats called triglycerides). Ground flaxseed can be added to smoothies, yogurt, and oatmeal

Choose low-fat proteins

When selecting protein, choose lean meat, fish, skinless poultry, low-fat dairy products, and eggs. Fish, in particular, is an excellent alternative to high-fat meats. Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of Omega-3s are walnuts, soybeans, and canola oil. Beans, peas, and lentils are also healthy, low-fat protein sources that don’t contain any cholesterol. They’re rich in dietary fiber can easily be used in place of meat in recipes.

Some proteins to limit or avoid include full-fat dairy products, organ meats (especially liver), spareribs, hot dogs and sausages, bacon, fatty and marbled meats, and fried or breaded meat.

Reduce your sodium intake

A high sodium diet can lead to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends healthy adults limit their salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg a day, which is equivalent to about a teaspoon of salt. Ideally, you should aim to eat no more than 1,500 mg daily.

One way to reduce your salt intake is to limit foods that are canned or processed. These often contain high levels of sodium, so switching to whole fresh foods is a much healthier option. When cooking, add less salt and rely on spices and herbs to flavor your meals. If you enjoy the convenience of canned soups and other processed foods, make sure to read the nutrition label.

Some foods may say they’re lower in sodium because they use sea salt, but this isn’t the case, as sea salt has the same nutritional value as regular table salt. Condiments can also contain high amounts of salt, so make sure to choose reduced-sodium versions and salt substitutes.

Limit sweets and sugary beverages

Although you don’t have to cut them out of your diet completely, you should limit sweets and sugary beverages. It’s fine to treat yourself every once in a while, but try to limit these to a couple of times a month, at most.

Control your portion sizes

Eating a healthy diet is important, but it’s just as important to pay attention to how much you’re eating. When people overload their plates, they tend to overeat and take in more calories than they should. This is especially common when eating at restaurants, where the portion sizes are typically more than anyone needs for a single meal. By controlling your portion sizes, you’re protecting your heart, as well as your waistline.

Here are some simple tips on how to control your portions:

  • Use small bowls and plates for meals
  • Focus on eating low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables
  • Limit high-calorie, high-sodium foods, like fast food or highly processed foods

Besides paying attention to how much you eat, you should also keep track of how many servings you’re eating. Keep in mind that serving sizes are a specific measurement of food. One serving of chicken or fish, for example, is about 2-3 ounces. Depending on the specific diet you’re following, the serving sizes for each food group may vary. Although it’s possible to judge serving sizes based on the size and type of food, it’s best to use a food scale or measuring cups to ensure your serving sizes are accurate.

Don’t skip meals

It might be tempting to skip meals if you’re trying to lose weight, but small, frequent meals are more beneficial for weight loss. Skipping meals can lead to overeating, and it’s been shown to lower the metabolism and cause nutrient deprivations. Research has also found that those who balance their calories into four to six meals a day have lower cholesterol levels than those who eat fewer meals.

Drink alcohol in moderation

Too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and contribute to weight gain. If you drink alcohol, make sure to drink in moderation. For women, this means no more than one drink a day; men should have no more than two drinks a day.

Don’t smoke

Smoking raises blood pressure and puts you at a higher risk of heart attacks and stroke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will help lower your risk for heart disease.

Maintain a healthy body weight

A healthy body weight reduces the chances of heart disease, as well as other health conditions (and risk factors) like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. A body mass index (BMI) of 18-24.9 is considered ideal. If you’re overweight or obese, losing just 5-10% of your body weight can significantly benefit your heart health.

Get regular exercise

Along with a healthy diet, exercise has many benefits to improve your heart health, including strengthening your heart, improving circulation, maintaining a healthy weight, and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Try to aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day.

Get enough sleep

Research has shown that those who don’t get enough sleep are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes—all of which can lead to heart disease. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, so make sure you have good sleep habits that allow you to get the sleep you need. If you have frequent problems sleeping, be sure to talk to your health care provider.

Manage stress

Stress can raise blood pressure and, in some cases, may even trigger a heart attack. Some methods for coping with stress (like overeating, heavy drinking, or smoking) can also increase your heart disease risk. Make sure you have some healthy ways to cope with periods of stress, like listening to soothing music, meditating, or other calming activities.

Keep Your Heart Healthy with Medical Weight Loss

As you may have noticed, many of the risk factors for heart disease are interconnected. By following these tips, you can reduce your risk for heart disease and health conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Lifestyle change is the key to losing weight, developing better habits, and improving your overall health.

If you’d like to reduce your risk of heart disease but aren’t sure where to start, contact Dr. Jennifer Hubert for more information on her medical weight loss program. Dr. Hubert’s program has helped numerous patients with heart disease improve their heart health by using proven strategies like medical monitoring, behavior modification, and nutritional counseling. Schedule a consultation today by calling (707) 575-THIN (8446).

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If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), you’re not alone; over 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. have this condition. Unfortunately, many people with hypertension aren’t aware they have it. Nicknamed “the silent killer,” high blood pressure rarely has obvious symptoms, but it can lead to life-threatening conditions like strokes and heart attacks. The good news is, with an early diagnosis and some healthy lifestyle changes, you can prevent high blood pressure other dangerous conditions. Understanding why high blood pressure develops can also help you prevent hypertension before it starts.

What is Blood Pressure, and How is it Measured?

Blood pressure is the measurement of the force of circulating blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Every time the heart beats, it pumps blood into the arteries, which causes blood pressure to raise. This is known as systolic pressure. Diastolic pressure measures the falling pressure on the walls of your arteries between beats when the heart is at rest.

When you have your blood pressure read, your reading is made up of these two numbers, with systolic pressure usually listed first or above diastolic. For example, if your blood pressure is 120/80, it would mean your systolic pressure is 120, and your diastolic pressure is 80. Blood pressure readings are divided into four categories: normal, pre-hypertension, stage 1 hypertension, and stage 2 hypertension.

Since hypertension usually doesn’t have noticeable symptoms, it’s vital to monitor your blood pressure regularly with your health care provider. They will typically use a blood pressure monitor, gauge and stethoscope, or an electronic sensor to check both blood pressure values before making a diagnosis.

Who is at Risk for Developing High Blood Pressure?

Although anyone can develop high blood pressure in their lifetime, there are several factors that can increase your risk:

  • Age: Blood pressure tends to increase with age
  • Race & ethnicity: High blood pressure is most common in people with African-American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, or Native American heritage
  • Weight: Being overweight or obese
  • Sex: Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure before age 55, while women are more likely to develop it after age 55
  • Family history: A family history of high blood pressure
  • Lifestyle habits: Eating too much sodium or too little potassium, drinking too much alcohol, smoking tobacco, eating too many saturated and trans fats, and a lack of exercise

How to Prevent High Blood Pressure

Some of the risk factors for high blood pressure are unavoidable, like age, ethnicity, and having a family history. However, making healthy lifestyle choices can help you keep your blood pressure within a healthy range and prevent future health conditions. Here are some easy steps you can take to decrease your risk:

Eat a Healthy Diet

Choosing healthy meals and snacks can help you avoid high blood pressure and its complications. It can also help you stay at a healthy weight.

Aim to eat a diet high in:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Skinless poultry and fish
  • Nuts and legumes
  • Non-tropical vegetable oils

Avoid or limit:

  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Sodium
  • Red meat
  • Foods and beverages with processed sugars

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Since being overweight or obese increases your risk for high blood pressure, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. Talk to your health care provider to determine a healthy weight range for you. Often, they will calculate your healthy weight based on the body mass index (BMI), although some health care providers also use hip and waist measurements to assess body fat.

If you’re already at a good weight for your height and age, maintain it with diet and regular exercise. If you’re at an unhealthy weight, it’s important to address it through healthy lifestyle changes. Being at a healthy weight can significantly decrease your risk factors for other serious health conditions, like Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise is a great way to help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. Adults should aim for getting at least 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week (about 30 minutes a day, five days a week) or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity weekly, while children and adolescents should get an hour of exercise every day.

How can you gauge if an activity is considered moderate or vigorous? Moderate activities should feel somewhat difficult; you should be breathing harder, but not out of breath, and develop a light sweat after about 10 minutes. Some examples of moderate-intensity exercises include brisk walks and bicycling. Vigorous activity is more challenging; your breath should feel deep and rapid, you may be sweating after only a few minutes, and it’s difficult to say more than a few words without pausing for breath. This includes activities like jogging (over 5 mph), jumping rope, or soccer.

Limit Your Alcohol Intake

Excessive alcohol consumption can raise your blood pressure and cause weight gain, so make sure you’re not overindulging. Men should have no more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day and women should have no more than 1 drink a day.

Don’t Smoke

Smoking tobacco raises blood pressure and increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes. If you don’t currently smoke, don’t start. If you already smoke, talk to your health care provider for recommendations on how to quit.

Stress Management

Managing your stress levels can help lower your blood pressure and improve your overall physical and emotional health. Some techniques you can try to lower your stress include exercise, listening to soothing music, deep breathing techniques, enjoying relaxing hobbies, or meditation.

Get Enough Sleep

Research has shown that adults who sleep less than 7 hours a night are more likely to develop health issues, including heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and obesity. Getting enough sleep helps to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy, and it provides the energy you need for regular exercise. You should try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep nightly.

Medical Weight Loss Plans to Help You Prevent High Blood Pressure

Making healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way in improving your overall health and preventing high blood pressure. If you have pre-hypertension, lifestyle changes may be able to reverse the condition.

One of the main risk factors for high blood pressure is being overweight or obese. Having an unhealthy body weight is also tied in with making unhealthy food choices, less physical activity, and poor sleep quality, so addressing this issue can help you on many levels.

If you’ve struggled with losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, contact Dr. Jennifer Hubert for more information about her medical weight loss programs. Dr. Hubert takes a holistic look at your weight loss challenges to develop a customized plan that will help you lose the weight and keep it off. She has helped numerous patients with high blood pressure develop sustainable, healthy habits that improve their numbers—and their lives. Contact Dr. Hubert’s office today to schedule your consultation.

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Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people in the United States. With type 2 diabetes, the body either doesn’t create enough insulin or can’t utilize insulin well (also known as insulin resistance). The good news is that diabetes is largely preventable. By making changes to your lifestyle and diet, you can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and lower the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer.

Risk Factors for Diabetes

Many Americans are currently at risk of developing diabetes due to a combination of their genetics and lifestyle. Some of the most common risk factors include:

  • Prediabetes, which is when you have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but they’re not high enough to be considered diabetes.
  • A family history of diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being 45 years old or older
  • A history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
  • High blood pressure
  • Low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol or a high level of triglycerides
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Depression
  • A history of heart disease or stroke
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Smoking

Fortunately, if you currently have prediabetes or are otherwise at risk of developing diabetes, there are many steps you can take to reduce your risk and potentially prevent the disease from developing:

Lose Weight

Excess weight is one of the top causes of type 2 diabetes. Being overweight increases the chances of developing the disease by seven-fold, while being obese makes you 20 to 40 times more likely to develop diabetes as opposed to someone who is a healthy weight.

In addition, those who have prediabetes often carry excess weight around the midsection and abdominal organs (also known as visceral fat). Excessive visceral fat increases inflammation, as well as insulin resistance, which significantly increases the risk of developing diabetes.

If your weight is above the healthy range, losing 7-10% of your current weight can help you reduce the chance of developing diabetes in half. However, once you lose the weight, it’s important to make sure you don’t gain it back.

Cut Sugar, Refined Carbs, and Processed Foods from Your Diet

Many studies have shown a link between frequently eating sugar and refined carbs and higher occurrences of type 2 diabetes. An analysis of 37 studies found that those who had the highest intake of fast-digesting carbs were 40% more likely to develop diabetes than those on a low-carb diet.

When you eat sugar and refined carbs, the body breaks them down into small sugar molecules that are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. The result is a rise in blood sugar, which causes the pancreas to produce insulin, a hormone that helps to remove sugar from the bloodstream and promotes the absorption of sugars by the body’s cells.

With prediabetes, the body’s cells are resistant to insulin, so blood sugar levels remain high. The pancreas attempts to regulate blood sugar by producing more insulin. Over time, this can lead to progressively higher blood sugar levels and can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.

Following a low-carb diet has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar and insulin levels, and potentially reduce other risk factors that can lead to diabetes. With minimal carb intake, your blood sugar levels don’t rise as much after eating, which means your body needs less insulin to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. Following a low-carb diet may also reduce fasting blood sugar.

Processed foods can also contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. One study found that people who ate a diet high in processed foods had an increased risk of diabetes by 30%. Focus on eating whole foods with health-protective benefits, like fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

Exercise Regularly and Avoid Prolonged Sedentary Behavior

Studies have suggested that performing physical activity regularly may help prevent diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity. One study of those with prediabetes found that moderate-intensity exercise increased insulin sensitivity by 51%, while high-intensity exercise increased it by as much as 85%.

Working out more frequently also appears to improve insulin response and function, so it’s best to find an exercise you enjoy enough to perform regularly and that you can stick with long-term. Some examples of exercises you can perform include aerobic exercise, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and strength training. However, if these types of exercise aren’t appealing to you, findings from several studies suggest walking briskly for a half-hour every day can also help reduce your risk for diabetes and improve cardiovascular health. Regardless of the activity you choose, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week.

Besides increasing your activity level, you should also aim to limit periods of inactivity (such as sitting at the computer or watching TV) by taking a few minutes to get up and move around every 30 minutes or so. Observational studies have consistently linked a sedentary lifestyle with a greatly increased risk of developing diabetes.

Choose Water as Your Primary Beverage

Many beverages are high in sugar, preservatives, and other additives that can be detrimental to your health. Beverages that are especially high in sugar, such as soda or punch, have been linked to not only type 2 diabetes but also latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). This is a form of type 1 diabetes that affects people who are over 18. Unlike the childhood form of type 1 diabetes, LADA develops slowly and requires more treatment as it progresses.

One observational study of 2,800 people found those who drank more than two servings of sugary beverages a day had a 99% increased risk of developing LADA and a 20% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In contrast, drinking water provides many health benefits, with several studies suggesting that increasing the amount of water you consume may lead to improved insulin response and blood sugar control.

Although water should be the primary beverage you consume, research suggests coffee and tea can also be helpful in preventing diabetes. Both beverages contain polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that is thought to help protect against the disease. Green tea contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant compound that reduces blood sugar release from the liver and increases insulin sensitivity. However, you should limit caffeine intake to no more than 1-2 cups a day.

Quit Smoking

Smoking is strongly associated with a long list of serious health conditions, including diabetes, emphysema, heart disease, and lung, prostate, breast, and digestive tract cancers. Some research also suggests that second-hand smoke can contribute to type 2 diabetes. Quitting smoking has been shown to reduce the risk of developing diabetes over time.

Pay Attention to Portion Sizes

Regardless of the type of diet you choose, it’s important to avoid eating large portions of food, especially if your weight isn’t in a healthy range. Eating a large meal has been shown to increase insulin and blood sugar levels for those who are at risk of diabetes. In contrast, decreasing portion sizes may prevent this effect.

One two-year study of prediabetic men found those who cut their portion sizes down along with other healthy dietary changes saw a 46% lower risk of developing diabetes than the men who didn’t make any lifestyle changes.

Eat a High-Fiber Diet

Fiber is beneficial for gut health and weight management, and studies have shown that it can also help to keep insulin and blood sugars low for obese, elderly, and prediabetic people.

Fiber is divided into two types: soluble and insoluble. The difference between the two is that soluble fiber absorbs water, while insoluble fiber does not. When soluble fiber is ingested, it forms a gel along with the water in the digestive tract. This helps to slow down the rate of food absorption and contributes to a more gradual rise in blood sugar. Insoluble fiber has also been linked to lower blood sugar levels, although it’s unclear why.

Most unprocessed plant foods contain fiber, so increasing your intake of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables with each meal can be very beneficial in reducing your risk of diabetes.

Vitamin D

Increasing your intake of vitamin D-rich foods or taking a supplement may help prevent your risk of diabetes. Studies have found that those with low vitamin D levels have an increased risk of developing the disease. When people who are deficient in the vitamin take a supplement, the function of their insulin-producing cells improves, their blood sugar levels normalize, and their risk of diabetes goes down significantly.

Some good sources of vitamin D are cod liver oil and fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and trout. For those who have a deficiency, it may be necessary to take a supplement to achieve optimal vitamin D levels.

Get the Support You Need to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

If you’re currently at risk for diabetes or you have prediabetes, it’s important to understand that there are many steps you can take right now to prevent diabetes. Losing weight, eating a healthy diet, and increasing your activity levels are very effective in avoiding this serious health condition, as well as heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers.

However, it can feel difficult to know where to start or how to stay on track with your new lifestyle. If you’ve been struggling to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, contact Dr. Jennifer Hubert. Her customized medical weight loss plans have helped many diabetic patients reclaim their health. Dr. Hubert takes a holistic approach to weight loss, with behavior modification, nutritional counseling, medical monitoring, and other tools to help you meet your weight loss and health goals. Schedule your consultation today at (707) 575-8446.

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Inflammation plays an important role in our bodies. A healthy inflammatory response helps us fight off illnesses and toxins, and aids the healing process. When inflammation becomes chronic, however, it can lead to a long list of serious health conditions. Fortunately, there’s evidence that adopting an anti-inflammatory diet can lower the risks of chronic inflammation, aid weight loss, and may even prevent many immune-related health conditions.

What is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Woman choosing between healthy and unhealthy food. Character thinking over organic or junk snacks choice. Vector illustration for good vs bad diet, lifestyle, eating concepts

The anti-inflammatory diet isn’t a specific diet, but rather a style of eating. It focuses on nutrient-rich whole foods containing high levels of fiber, antioxidants, and Omega-3 fatty acids while discouraging foods that stimulate an inflammatory response.

Some examples of anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • Fruits and vegetables, especially those with a high vitamin K content like cherries, blackberries, blueberries, tomatoes, spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, and collards
  • Whole and unrefined grains, like oatmeal, flax, brown rice, barley, and whole wheat bread
  • Plant-based proteins, like walnuts, almonds, and beans
  • Fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
  • Herbs and spices, like turmeric, garlic, and ginger

Why is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet Beneficial?

The immune system is activated anytime it encounters something foreign (like pollen, microbes, or chemicals) which triggers the process known as inflammation. During inflammation, the body releases antibodies and proteins, and increases blood flow to the area that’s seen as “under attack”. Normal inflammation triggered by illness or injury generally lasts a few hours to a few days, depending on what caused the initial immune response.

When the inflammatory response lingers for an extended or indefinite amount of time, it’s considered chronic. This puts your body in a constant state of alert that can eventually lead to damage to the affected tissues and organs. Many major diseases—including heart disease, cancer, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and depression—have been linked to chronic inflammation.

Some studies have also found that inflammation can interfere with the body’s response to leptin, a hormone that signals whether you’ve had enough to eat. If the brain doesn’t receive this signal, it can lead to overeating and weight gain.

By choosing a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, you may be able to reduce your risk of illnesses and maintain a healthy weight.

Foods to Avoid on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Nutritional food for heart health wellness by cholesterol diet and healthy nutrition eating with clean fruits and vegetables in heart dish by nutritionist and doctor recommended for patient well-being

As a general rule, you’ll want to avoid any foods that are highly processed, greasy, or very sweet. This includes foods like cookies, cakes, and soda. Not only do these foods cause inflammation and lack nutritional value, but they can also contribute to weight gain, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Other foods you should avoid include:

  • Red meat and processed meats, like hot dogs or sausages
  • Whole milk, butter, and cheese
  • Fried foods, like fried chicken or French fries
  • Coffee creamers, margarine, or anything else containing trans fats or “partially hydrogenated oil”
  • Wheat, rye, barley, and other high-gluten grains (if you have celiac disease)
  • Refined carbohydrates, like white bread or pastries

Tips for Starting the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

The anti-inflammatory diet isn’t very restrictive, which makes it easy for many people to adopt. Here are some simple things you can do to ease into the diet:

  • Eat more whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes
  • Focus on foods that are high in antioxidants, like berries, leafy greens, beets, beans, lentils, ginger, turmeric, and green tea
  • Focus on omega-3s, which are found in fatty fish, nuts, flaxseed, and soy
  • Eat less red meat
  • Cut out processed foods as much as possible

Ready to Take the Next Step in Your Health Journey?

To reduce inflammation, it’s best to aim for a healthy diet that focuses on eating nutritious whole foods. Besides lowering inflammation, many of these foods can also benefit your weight, general sense of well-being, and overall quality of life.

If you’d like to learn more about the anti-inflammatory diet or would like additional support on your health journey, schedule a consultation with Dr. Jennifer Hubert. From effective medical weight loss programs to nutritional counseling, she can help you develop a healthier lifestyle and ensure long-term success. Contact Dr. Hubert’s office today to get started on the path to holistic wellness.

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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.