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It is never too soon or too late to start thinking about diabetes, heart disease, and stroke prevention. Since most medical conditions develop slowly over several years, paying close attention to known risk factors during regular check-ups or with home monitoring will help you take charge of your health.

1. Waist Circumference

Waist circumference is the distance around your abdomen. It is one of the most practical tools to assess belly fat because it relates to chronic disease. A larger waist circumference means more belly fat and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease.[1] Waist circumference greater than 35 in (88 cm) in women and greater than 40 in (102 cm) in men, means a higher risk of developing chronic diseases. [2] You can measure your waist circumference in three easy steps:

  1. Find the top of your hip and your last rib. Place the tape half way between.
  2. Make sure the tape is level, snug, but not too tight, and do not “suck it in”.
  3. Read the tape measure and record the number.

Bottom Line: If you need to reduce your belly fat, the key is overall gradual weight loss with dietary changes and exercise, as well as balancing blood sugar. Aim to eat lean proteins and lots of non-starchy veggies. Taking a soluble fibre supplement with your meals, such as The Right Fibre 4, will help lower the glycemic index of food and keep blood sugar levels steady. The Right Fibre 4 is a unique all-natural soluble dietary fibre and prebiotic supplement. The delicious Zesty Tangerine flavoured powder dissolves quickly and clear into your favourite beverages for convenient gastrointestinal support.

2. Keep Your Blood Pressure In-Check

Optimal blood pressure is generally less than 120/80 mmHg.[3] While anything below this number is desirable, anything above means you should begin taking steps to lower your blood pressure. If you are concerned, home monitoring or visiting your local drug store can be a good step. Try taking your blood pressure a few times over a period of three days. Remember to take it after being seated for at least 3–5 minutes. Blood pressure readings above normal can be categorized into different stages:[2] [3]

  • Pre-hypertension (120–139/80–89 mmHg)
  • Stage one (140–159/90–99 mmHg)
  • Stage two (160/100 mmHg or more)

Bottom Line: Overall weight loss, diet modification, and stress reduction techniques are the most effective ways to lower blood pressure.3 Supplements can also be effective, including:

3. Increase Your HDL

There has been a lot of debate over cholesterol in recent years. Most experts suggest our low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (sometimes called “bad cholesterol”) should be as low as possible, while others point out that cholesterol (even the “bad” kind) is critical for well-being, especially for the brain. For more information about this, check out Dr. David Perlmutter’s book Grain Brain.[4]
The main problem is imbalanced cholesterol levels. While we don’t want cholesterol too high, too low isn’t ideal either. High levels of cholesterol in the blood can cause the inner walls of the arteries to become lined with fatty deposits, a condition known as atherosclerosis or coronary heart disease (CAD).[5] The initial cause of cholesterol deposits on the arterial wall is believed to be the body’s natural attempt to repair inflammation. If the fatty deposits become too thick or are further damaged by inflammation, the plaque can break off, leading to a heart attack or other problems related to insufficient blood flow. High-density lipoprotein (HDL), sometimes called “good cholesterol”, is made in the liver and sent out to remove cholesterol from the blood. The scavenged cholesterol is then processed through the liver and released in the bile to the digestive tract for excretion. High levels of HDL in your blood is considered healthy.[6] [7]

Bottom Line: High levels of LDL are often caused by a diet high in saturated and trans fats (i.e., margarine and hydrogenated oils). Trans fatty acids not only increase LDL levels, but lower HDL levels.[7] So reducing, or completely eliminating, your intake of these inflammatory fats is critical. Other ways to improve your cholesterol ratio include:

  • Taking a daily soluble fibre supplement to help reduce elevated total and LDL cholesterol levels
  • Increasing monounsaturated fat intake with such foods as olive oil, avocados, nuts, and Extra Strength Grape Seed 100:1 Extract to support healthy veins
  • Quitting smoking
  • Exercising regularly

4. Hone in on Homocysteine

Homocysteine is an amino acid found in the blood. It is created from the amino acid methionine. The creation and recycling of homocysteine relies on cofactors such as folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. At high levels, homocysteine can oxidize LDL cholesterol, causing a molecule that is more damaging to the arteries and increasing the risk of CAD. It also increases the risk of blood clots, heart attack, and strokes. Homocysteine is measured using a simple blood test that does not require fasting.[8]

Bottom Line: Eating more fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, can help lower your homocysteine level by increasing your intake of folic acid. Choosing a combined B6 + B12 with Folic Acid formula is also an effective choice for reducing homocysteine levels in the body to support cardiovascular health.

5. Extinguish the Flames of C-Reactive Protein Levels

C-Reactive protein (CRP) is made by the body as part of the inflammatory process. Inflammation is a major contributing factor in cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Elevated concentrations of CRP may mean an increased risk for heart disease, even when cholesterol levels are normal.[6] The test you can ask for is called Highly Sensitive C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP) and an optimal number is less than 10 mg/L.[9]

Bottom Line: If your CRP is on the high side, you can help reduce it with daily exercise, weight loss, and such supplements as:

6. Lower Your Triglycerides

Triglycerides are the main type of fat normally transported in your bloodstream. After eating, fats from your food are digested and released into your bloodstream as triglycerides. They are transported throughout your body to give you energy or be stored as fat. Between meals, hormones regulate the release of triglycerides from fat tissues to meet the body’s energy needs. However, too many triglycerides in the blood while fasting are related to an increase in CAD. An acceptable triglyceride level is 1.7 mmol/L or less.[10] Triglycerides are typically within the normal range unless you have an inherited tendency toward high levels or you have a problem processing carbohydrates.

Bottom Line: Lower your intake of starchy carbohydrates, cut back on or eliminate sugar and processed foods, supplement your diet with a high quality omega-3 fish oil, and boost your intake of healthy fats.

Take Charge of Your Health

It is time to take charge of your health and begin lowering your risk for chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Understanding the importance of your vital health stats is the first step in improving your overall wellbeing and committing to a healthier and better quality of life.

References:

  1. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Health Seekers: Healthy weight and waist. Web. Accessed 31 December 2018. Available from: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-weight/healthy-weight-and-waist
  2. Chobanian AV, Bakris GL, Black HR, et al. The seventh report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure: the JNC report. JAMA. 2003 May; 289(19):2560-72.
  3. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Heart: High blood pressure. Web. Accessed 31 December 2018. Available from: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/heart/risk-and-prevention/condition-risk-factors/high-blood-pressure
  4. Perlmutter D. Grain Brain. New York: Little Brown and Company; 2013.
  5. Lu Y, Hajifathalian K, Ezzati M, et al. Metabolic mediators of the effects of body-mass index, overweight, and obesity on coronary heart disease and stroke: a pooled analysis of 97 prospective cohorts with 1·8 million participants. Lancet. 2014; 383(9921): 970-83.
  6. Catapano AL, Pirillo A, Norata GD, et al. Vascular inflammation and low-density lipoproteins: is cholesterol the link? A lesson from the clinical trials. Br J Pharmacol. 2017;174(22): 3973-85.
  7. Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G. Comparison of effects of long-term low-fat vs high-fat diets on blood lipid levels in overweight or obese patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013;113(12):1640-61.
  8. Jager A, Kostense PJ, Nijpels G, et al. Serum homocysteine levels are associated with the development of (micro)albuminuria: the Hoorn study. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2001;21(1): 74-81.
  9. Mayo Clinic. C-reactive protein test. Web. Accessed 31 December 2018. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/c-reactive-protein-test/about/pac-20385228
  10. HealthLink BC. High triglycerides. Web. Accessed 31 December 2018. Available from: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/zp3387