Don’t Go Breaking Your Heart – Myth-busting and Top Tips for a Healthier Heart

I recently listened to a healthy heart masterclass sponsored by the Food Revolution Network where Dr. Mimi Guarneri, a holistic cardiologist, shares tips on how to prevent or reverse heart disease without relying solely on drugs, surgeries or stents. So, in this blog, I’ll highlight the top myths along with health tips to keep your blood pumping machine in optimal condition.

Myth #1:

  • Your genes are not your destiny. Did you know that 90% of heart disease is related to lifestyle? And because these lifestyle and environmental factors are passed down from previous generations, you see family histories of heart disease. 
  • And according to Dr. Dean Ornish who is a proponent of a plant-based diet, four out of five cases of coronary atherosclerosis can be reversed using diet, exercise, meditation and group support. I’m personally a fan of the pegan or flexitarian diet (mostly vegetables and fruits but occasional meat and fish consumption) which is considered mostly plant-based.
  • Age and genetics do not seal your fate. You’re never too old to adopt new habits in spite of what all the old, ‘not-so-wise’ sayings indicate. Based on this Johns Hopkins study, conducted on 6,000 atherosclerosis patients aged from 44-84 years old, healthy lifestyle changes decreased risk of death by 80% no matter what age group they were in. 

Myth #2:

  • There is more evidence pointing to the lack of evidence on dietary cholesterol as the main risk factor in heart disease. In fact, up to 75% of people who experience heart attacks have what’s considered normal cholesterol levels.
  • Read my earlier blog on the role that cholesterol has in heart disease: https://community.wholistics.health/heart-disease-and-the-role-of-cholesterol/
  • In order to avoid or reverse heart disease, you need to consider all pillars of health (nutrition, exercise, mind and sleep) and stop focusing on just a number that is not even a good predictor of heart disease.

Myth #3:

  • According to Dr. Guarneri, if medicine took care of heart disease, it wouldn’t be killing eight million people every year. She states that 92% of first heart attacks are totally preventable.
  • Medications can decrease heart disease risk but they are almost never as effective as sustainable and lasting lifestyle changes.
  • Addressing root causes of heart disease is what’s important, not reducing symptoms with medications.

Heart Health Tips #1:

  • Eat more of the right omega oils (omega 3) like oily fish and fish oil to get the right balance.
  • You need omega-6 oils but we consume way too much with oils like corn, safflower, soy, sunflower and canola and these processed vegetable oils create a pro-inflammatory response in our bodies.
  • The best vegetarian sources of omega-3 oils are flax seeds and chia seeds which should be ground up prior to consumption so they are digested properly.
  • Of the three types of Omega 3s (ALA, EPA, DHA), ALA is found in flax and chia seeds but EPA and DHA are mainly found in fish and algae. And your body needs all three, so if you don’t like the idea of consuming oily fish, you can opt for algae. Here’s my favorite that’s been tested to be free of heavy-metals:

https://www.energybits.com/energybits.html

Heart Health Tip #2

  • White flour, sugar and other processed foods cause inflammation and increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  • When consuming grains, opt for whole grain to ensure you’re also getting the soluble fiber and the phytonutrients.
  • Pseudo-grains like quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth are good options.
  • I’m personally not a fan of a lot of whole grain consumption – eating a bowl of whole grain pasta will make my glucose monitor sing but when eaten sparingly, it’s fine.

Heart Health Tip #3

  • Dr. Guarneri suggests to NOT eat red or processed meat. Although I agree with avoiding processed meat which is high in salt, nitrates and other additives, I think eating clean, grass-fed meat in small portions should be ok if you are generally healthy and want to avoid heart disease.

Heart Health Tip #4

  • If you don’t visit the dentist regularly for oral check-ups and cleaning, you should know that periodontal (gum) disease is related to heart disease. Evidence has shown that bacteria in the mouth that causes gum disease travels to the heart and triggers inflammation in the blood vessels and increases your cardiovascular disease risk.
  • So keep up the daily flossing, Waterpik (which I love) and the bi-annual visits to the dentist.

Heart Health Tip #5

  • Did you know that evidence shows that emotional intelligence plays a significant role in the occurrence of coronary heart disease? When you experience feelings like anger and hostility, you can increase your risk of heart attack by more than 200%!
  • It’s important to be in loving relationships with family and friends as it will have a physical impact on your heart health.
  • Make sure to take actions to support your emotional well-being with mind care (yoga, meditation, etc.) and positive social interactions.

Heart Health Tip #6

Heart Health Tip #7

  • Dr. Guarneri suggests dancing as an excellent form of exercise as it’s not only great physical movement but the music and the rhythms elicit positive emotional responses which are great for the heart.
  • If you prefer regular exercise over dance, keep it up 3-5x per week and make sure to include aerobics, strength training and stretching into the regimen.
  • Remember – variety, frequency and FUN are key to a sustainable program of movement.

Heart Health Tip #8

  • Did you know that more than 70% of all visits to the doctor are related to stress? And research shows that chronic stress can raise your blood pressure, cause inflammation and increase your risk of a heart attack.
  • Engaging in activities like yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises can calm your heart and your brain.
  • I like Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing exercise to shift the energy balance to a peaceful state: https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/

Heart Health Tips #9

  • The journey is as important as the destination so focus on progress with small, tangible steps that you CAN do that will become a habit over the long term.

To learn more about this masterclass visit: https://heart.foodrevolution.org/masterclass/?orid=174172&opid=364

Every Breath You Take – 5 Ways to Keep Calm

You’ve heard the advice, “take a deep breath” during times of anxiety, uncertainty and stress. Active breathing techniques have been used over the centuries to calm the nervous sytem (activating the parasympathetic system) and reduce our heart rate. The beauty of breathing is that these subtle exercises become more effective with repetition and practice so they are better than tranquilizers (which lose efficacy over time!)

Research has shown the effectiveness of deep breathing techniques on reducing physiological and psychological stress as well as blood pressure. Also, did you know that there is a direct link between nasal breathing and cognitive functions? This study found the impact that deep breathing has on modulating cognitive processing and behavior.

So, in this blog, I’ll share some breathing tips (also called pranayama or “breath control”) to help you stay mentally fit, keep calm and carry on (which we all need nowadays).

Equal Breathing (Sama Vritti)

This easy breathing technique can be done anywhere and is great at bedtime to guide you into sleep.

  • Inhale and exhale through your nose for a count of 4
  • If you can go longer, try 6-8 counts per breath

Abdominal Breathing

Try this when faced with a stressful situation:

  • Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly and take a deep breath through your nose (as long as you can) and exhale slowly through your mouth. Try for about 10 minutes to get yourself into a calming parasympathetic state.

Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)

This alternate breathing is said to unite the right and left sides of the brain to bring balance, calm and focus, so it’s best done during the daytime.

  • Hold your right thumb over your right nostril and breathe in deeply through your left nostril. Close off your left nostril with your index finger at the peak of inhalation. Repeat the same pattern of breathing in with your right and exhaling with your left nostril.

Stimulating Breath (Bellows Breath)

As the name implies, it is used to increase alertness and energy and you should feel this on your diaphragm, chest and abdomen. 

With your mouth closed, inhale and exhale rapidly (3 in-and-out breaths per second) through your nose. Try this for 5-10 seconds then breathe normally. Repeat until you can do this for up to a minute. Watch this video for a tutorial:

https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/the-stimulating-breath/

The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise

This is like a tranquilizer for your nervous system and can be done anywhere without getting weird stares from people around you.

  • Start by placing the tip of your tongue right behind your upper front teeth
  • Exhale through the mouth, making the exhaling sound
  • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for 4 counts
  • Hold your breath for 7 counts
  • Exhale throught your mouth for 8 counts making the exhaling sound
  • Repeat the cycle 3 more times for a total of 4 breaths
  • Watch this tutorial to do the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique: https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/

Breathing App

If you do better with a visual, download this FREE Breathing App – it offers six rhythms of inhales/exhales (2:3 to 5:7) and shows a ball with a calming sound that inflates and deflates to the rhythm.

The State of Virtual Care in MENA

COVID-19 led to an emergence of healthcare innovations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which has had to reimagine its healthcare delivery system as the pandemic has exposed many weaknesses in its delivery model, creating opportunities for better healthcare delivery with virtual care.

Continue reading

Beautiful Skin Comes from Within

Have you heard this ‘beauty’ quote? 

“I’m tired of all this nonsense about beauty being skin deep. That’s deep enough. What do you want, an adorable pancreas?” Jean Kerr, Author

And to that, I would say – absolutely yes! If everyone in this country had a beautiful pancreas, we would not have the epidemic of diabetes we have today. The point is, beauty may be skin deep but that all happens from within. So if you’re suffering from acne, psoriasis, eczema and other skin issues, it’s your insides telling that you have inflammation within that is being manifested on your skin. Stress, poor diet, food allergies, gut imbalances, hormone swings and nutrient deficiencies are to blame for what’s showing up on the surface.

Many of us seek dermatologists to get creams, pills and treatments to address these issues but you really need to start looking beyond the superficial or temporary fix to find the root cause of the skin flare-ups. So in this blog, I’ll share some tips on building beautiful skin from within to keep skin looking gorgeous and young.

Your skin is a reflection of what you put in your mouth

  • Stay away from processed foods, sugar, factory-raised meats and artificial additives. Did you know that excess sugar consumption will create Advanced Glycation End (AGEs) products that age your skin? Those sunspots/liver spots you often seen in elderly people are formed when protein, sugars and the heat in our body combine in a chemical reaction known as the “Maillard reaction” to create charring. Desirable in cooking, recipes often call for sugars as a coating on BBQ or steak to create the charring on the meat. The same happens in our body but we don’t want charring to show up on our skin.

  • Eat whole foods and up to nine servings of vegetables and low sugar fruits. If you simply cannot eat that much, you can supplement with some low sugar vegetable juices every now and then. This is what I drink when I know I won’t be eating well for whatever reason: https://farmersjuice.com
    It’s not cheap but it’s organic, low sugar (very important as a lot of commercial juices are loaded with sugar or cheap high sugar fruit), packs a pound of veggies in each serving and saves me the hassle of juicing my own.

Food Intolerances

If you have sensitivities or allergies to certain foods, it can flare up on your skin. Well-known culprits include dairy, wheat/gluten, legumes, corn and peanuts. So, you can get an allergy test done or try an elimination diet to see if your skin improves. Check out this resource to learn more.

Optimize your gut

  • Your skin is a reflection of your gut so it’s important to keep the trillions of bacteria in your digestive tract healthy and happy.

  • Eat prebiotic foods that feed friendly bacteria so it can eat the sugars you ingest before it goes to your gut. According to Dr. Amy Myers, here are some of the key foods to eat:
    • Asparagus
    • Bananas
    • Apples
    • Onions
    • Garlic
    • Leeks
    • Jicama Root
    • Dandelion greens

Detox through your skin

Skin is the largest organ in your body and a great vehicle for getting rid of toxins. So work up a good sweat during your exercise routine. If you are like me and do not sweat easily, you could seek a sauna in your area to amp up the detoxification. When used regularly, it will do wonders for clearing up the skin! 

Optimize nutrients

You want to ensure that you are getting optimum nutrition from your diet but you may need to supplement as deficiencies can contribute to skin conditions like eczema, acne and psoriasis. Here are some to consider:

  • Vitamin D: Did you know that Vitamin D deficiency is implicated in a whole host of skin conditions including cancer? It’s important to keep your vitamin D levels optimal as there is compelling scientific evidence that vitamin D plays a crucial role in cellular function and skin health. Ask your doctor about getting your levels tested so you know how best to supplement.

  • Zinc: Did you know that the skin is the third most Zinc-abundant tissue in the body? So, it’s no surprise that zinc deficiency is implicated in skin disorders. Here’s a zinc compound that is balanced with copper and selenium that I use:

  • Collagen and Vitamin C: Collagen is an essential protein that is the most abundant protein in the human body. It’s made in mammals but not in plants. You can take collagen (l like the multi-collagen form as it gives you all five forms your body need: https://www.vitacost.com/ancient-nutrition-multi-collagen-protein-vanilla) but did you realize that you can eat the appropriate amino acids (L-lysine and L-proline) to have your body make your own? Good options for supplying these amino acids include beets, leeks, Parmesan cheese (and related milk products), avocados and nuts. Collagen is like rebar in our blood vessels and skin but they are knit together with Vitamin C so you need both to keep your skin looking youthful. Since we do not make vitamin C, we have to eat foods rich in vitamin C (oranges, grapefruit, peppers, strawberries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomato juice). In addition to the foods I eat, I take a gram of vitamin C 2X a day. Here are some options to get your C in:
  • Liposomal:

  • Powder to add to your shake/drink:

Get proper sleep

Poor sleep not only makes you feel lousy but is associated with increased signs of aging and diminished skin barrier function according to this study. So make sure to incorporate good sleep hygiene into your habits as part of your skin beautifying regimen.

Manage stress

Studies have shown that skin reacts to psychological stress and influences skin diseases. In fact, it’s also been shown that psychiatric treatment (pharmacological and non-drug interventions) has positive effects on dermatologic conditions. So, manage your stress levels with proper sleep, good diet and mind health techniques like meditation and breathing exercises. 

Here’s a reality quote:

Some guys say beauty is only skin deep. But when you walk into a party, you don’t see somebody’s brain. The initial contact has to be the sniffing.”  James Caan, Actor.

Like it or not, we live in a world where there is a lot of ‘sniffing’ so put your best skin on by taking care of your insides (and inner self)!