8 Things You Don’t Know About Cholesterol

Barbara Brody shared in Silver Sneakers for Trinity Health that you’d think we’d all understand cholesterol by now, especially considering that screenings are recommended at least every five years and millions of Americans take cholesterol-lowering medication. But doctors say that’s not the case. Many dangerous myths persist.

Below, we set the record straight with eight important—yet not-so-well-known—facts about this blood fat.

1. Cholesterol Is Important to Your Health

While too much raises your chances of having a heart attack, cholesterol actually serves some pretty important functions.

“Cholesterol is essential to various bodily processes, from insulating nerve cells in the brain to providing structure for the composition of cell membranes,” says Amgad N. Makaryus, M.D., an associate professor at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and chairman of cardiac care at Nassau University Medical Center. You also need it to make vitamin D, certain hormones, and some enzymes that help break down food.

Another key point: You’ll want to pay attention to all your cholesterol numbers, not just total cholesterol. That’s because cholesterol—a waxy, fatty substance—is carried through the bloodstream by two types of particles: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).

LDL is often called the “bad” kind because it deposits plaque in the arteries, Dr. Makaryus explains. HDL, on the other hand, is often called “good” because its job is to take excess cholesterol out of your arteries and shunt it to the liver, where it can be broken down.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends talking to your doctor about your cholesterol numbers and how it affects your health. In general, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends:

  • Total cholesterol: Under 200 mg/dL
  • LDL cholesterol: Under 100 mg/dL
  • HDL cholesterol: Over 60 mg/dL

2. High-Cholesterol Foods Probably Won’t Raise Your Levels

Unless you’re allergic or your doctor has specifically told you otherwise, go ahead and order the omelet.

“It’s true that eggs and shrimp contain a lot of dietary cholesterol, but dietary cholesterol isn’t nearly as dangerous as was once thought,” Dr. Makaryus says. “Only some of the cholesterol in food ends up as cholesterol in your bloodstream, and if dietary cholesterol intake rises, the body generally compensates by producing less cholesterol of its own.”

While you don’t want to overdo it with high-cholesterol foods, Dr. Makaryus adds, eating an egg or two or having shrimp a few times a week is not dangerous.

3. Your Dietary Priority: Cut Back on Saturated and Trans Fats

While eating some cholesterol-containing foods might not raise your numbers, getting too much saturated fat—found in butter, cheese, red meat, and other animal products—definitely will.

“Strong evidence indicates that saturated fat in the diet is positively associated with increased total and LDL cholesterol, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” says Ginger Hultin, R.D.N., a Seattle-based dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Less than 10 percent of your calories each day should come from saturated fats, according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To lower cholesterol, the AHA recommends limiting to 6 percent of your daily calories.

Meanwhile, you should consider trans fats—found in any packaged goods that list “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils among the ingredients—totally off-limits. They’re especially harmful because they raise LDL (bad cholesterol) while also lowering HDL (good cholesterol). In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has determined that eliminating trans fats could prevent “thousands of heart attacks and deaths each year.”

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Ways to keep your family’s health in check this holiday season

Dr. Dennis Thain shared in a Special Feature for the Daily Herald that the holidays are upon us. Along with all of the joys this time of year brings comes some not so joyous realities such as tempting foods, holiday stress, and abnormally hectic schedules that make keeping up our nutrition and fitness routines challenging.

And these realities don’t just apply to us adults, but apply to our kids, too.

During the holidays alone, many Americans gain a pound or two — and for most, that weight won’t be lost after the holidays.

A few pounds here and there can result in 10 or 20 down the road. So what’s the trick to enjoying the holidays and keeping our family’s health a priority in the months to come?

Here’s a game plan:

1. Party plan ahead of time

Before you leave to go to your holiday party, decide how you’re going to approach eating.

Give yourself one, maybe two, food indulgences and then focus on eating fruits, vegetables and lean meats.

Look over the food table with your kids and help them select healthy options. Once you’re done eating, find something else to focus your attention on that’s away from the buffet or snack table.

If possible, put the food and snacks away after the meal is complete. Seeing food can make you think you’re hungry when you’re not.

2. Eat before you head to your destination

Skipping meals actually revs up your appetite, making you hungrier.

You’ll end up chowing down on more once you finally eat and there’s a good chance it will be high-fat, low-nutritional value food. So, eat small meals and snacks throughout the day, and encourage your kids to do the same. Be sure to provide low-sugar, high-protein meals and snacks for your kids, which helps kids feel full longer.

Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it’s full, so plan ahead.

3. Be mindful of liquid calories

Alcohol is calorie-dense by itself. Add sugary mixes, fruit juice, syrups, cream, and the calories from a few drinks can add up to a meal’s worth.

Alcohol also lowers inhibitions and blood sugar levels, so it can make you drink and eat more than you normally would.

It’s OK to enjoy yourself at holiday get-togethers, just try to be aware of how much you’re drinking.

If possible, have your kids stick to water or other sugar-free drinks rather than sodas and juices. If you give them a choice between an unhealthy beverage or a cookie or sweet, chances are they will forgo the unhealthy beverage and drink water instead.

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Eat These Foods Together for the Most Health Benefits

Jaime Ritter wrote for Cooking Light that you probably already know that eating whole foods and lots of colorful produce is important to staying healthy. But did you know that the ingredients you use in your salad or what sides you pair with your salmon can affect the absorption of vitamins and other important compounds in your meal?

We asked our Director of Food and Nutrition, Brierley Horton, MS, RD, to weigh in on the best foods to pair together for the most health benefits (because you should get bonus points for making healthy choices!). Here are the wholesome food duos she approves of.

Iron + Vitamin C

This study showed that eating vitamin C and iron together helps your body absorb the iron more efficiently.

Try: This Berry Green Smoothie. The spinach provides lots of iron, while the berries boost the vitamin C.

Eat Vitamins A, D, E, and K + healthy fats

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble, so eating them with healthy fats helps your body absorb them more efficiently.

Try: A Spinach, Bacon, and Grueyere Breakfast Strata. The spinach, dairy, and eggs provide vitamins A, D, E, and K, while the bacon and milk provide a healthy dose of fat. Read more

The change of seasons and less sunlight can affect your mood

Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness wrote in the Daily Herald’s Health & Wellness section that almost all of us feel sad when summer days end and fall makes way for a long and cold winter. But bad weather, cold temperatures and the dark days affect some people more than others.

We all need some sun to absorb vitamin D production, and lack of the vitamin has been proven to negatively affect individuals as it relates to depression and a healthy immune system.

The sudden change in season can actually cause one type of depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which worsens during the winter months and improves with the start of spring.

Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health identified patients who experienced regular fall/winter depression. Also known as seasonal adjustment disorder, the condition affects about 10 percent of people in nontropical climates and about 20 percent report a milder form of depression.

“One of the most prevalent symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder is disabling fatigue,” said Dr. Saisha Gupta, chairwoman of psychiatry for Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness.

“A sudden loss of energy, which can be both mental and physical, makes activities that were once fun and easy completely exhausting,” she said. “Another common symptom is alienating one’s self from social activities, hobbies or people that have played a large part in the individual’s personal life.” Read more

Vitamin D plays important role

Patrick B. Massey, MD, PH.D., medical director for complementary and alternative medicine at Alexian Brothers Hospital Network and president of ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy, 1544 Nerge Road, Elk Grove Village, shared with the Daily Herald Newspaper that you might be surprised to learn that a low blood level of vitamin D increases the risk of developing a thyroid illness known as Hashimoto’s disease.

Indeed, in some medical studies vitamin D supplementation may help to reverse this disease. In these studies, robust supplementation with vitamin D significantly reduced the blood markers for Hashimoto’s disease.

Hashimoto’s disease (HD) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and slowly kills the thyroid gland. It is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in technologically advanced countries.

The symptoms of HD are quite variable depending on how badly the thyroid has been damaged. Early in the disease there is often an increased release of thyroid hormone. Symptoms may resemble that of hyperthyroidism such as weight loss, high blood pressure and a rapid heart rate.

Blood tests at this time may suggest, but not always, a hyperthyroid state.

As the disease progresses, more thyroid tissue is damaged. At this time the symptoms of HD mimic a sluggish thyroid gland or even frank hypothyroidism. Read more

All or Nothing Holiday Healthy Eating

Nancy Nance,Nnance@comcast.netwww.nancynance.com Healthy Lombard Board Member and Certified Personal Trainer, Women and Fitness Specialist shared that at this time of year, she starts to hear people say they plan to wait until the beginning of the year to start eating better and starting an exercise program.

While she understands it’s a busy time of year and there are a lot of special foods that we eat this time of year, you have to wonder,  we really need to wait to start a healthier lifestyle? No, and here are some reasons why.

We still have several weeks before the end of the year and great progress can be made in those few weeks. You will be 85% more successful if you start now and not wait until the new year. The average American gains 7-9 pounds between Halloween and New Year’s. You can avoid that weight gain and go into the new year with a head start on your resolutions.

You can navigate the holidays and still eat well. Plan healthy meals, knowing that there will be days that you will be tempted with holiday cookies or special meals. If you can eat healthy most of the time, you can indulge on those special occasions.

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Don’t Worry About All the Calories on Thanksgiving

 Jacqueline Andriakos wrote in SELF’s Food Healthy Eating section  that during the week leading up to Thanksgiving,

it’s easy to get wrapped up in healthy side dish recipes, tips for avoiding holiday weight gain, and pre-turkey workouts that make room for an extra slice of pie. But for some people, all that strategizing sucks the joy right out of a day that’s supposed to be about celebrating gratitude with loved ones over lots of delicious food.

“I tell people all the time, if you’re looking forward to Thanksgiving, or any special occasion dining experience, go all out. Eat what you want. Then get back up on the horse again,” says Liz Weinandy, RD, a nutritionist with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “But for a lot of people, this is easier said than done because they worry one meal makes or breaks everything.”

How much does one meal really matter?

One single indulgent meal—even one whole day of high-calorie eating—is “absolutely not going to destroy anyone’s metabolism, cause them to gain some tremendous amount of weight, or ruin longer-term goals,” says Weinandy. To gain a notable amount of weight, you’d need to continuously consume more calories than your body can burn over the course of several days.

“Let’s take a person who consumes 2,000 calories daily and maintains her weight,” Weinandy says. “Say she eats 5,000 calories on Thanksgiving. Her body is going to have to store 3,000 extra calories because it can’t burn them.” But she won’t even gain a whole pound. (One pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories.) The amount of weight she’ll put on is simply not worth agonizing over, especially at the expense of enjoying the holiday, says Weinandy. Plus, she’ll burn all those calories off in the days to come, by returning to her regular eating habits and workout routine.

Craig Primack, MD, an obesity medicine specialist at the Scottsdale Weight Loss Center in Arizona, agrees that one big meal isn’t enough to cause a noticeable physical difference or weight fluctuation. Might you feel the effects of a fatty, sugary holiday dinner in other ways? Sure. “You’ll probably feel bloated, slightly dehydrated if you’re consuming alcoholic beverages, and potentially uncomfortably full,” says Dr. Primack. “But people know this going in.”

What really matters, says Dr. Primack, is how Thanksgiving influences your behavior in the following days. “It’s worth keeping in mind that you’re going into a four-day weekend full of leftovers,” he says. “And four days of eating off track can definitely have consequences, like weight gain or un-programming all of your great healthy habits. It’s about the bigger picture, not the one meal.” Read more

7 misconceptions about prostate cancer every man should know

Edwards-Elmhurst Health shared that Prostate Cancer is one of the most common, yet least talked about, forms of cancer in men. In fact, about 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. There are several myths associated with prostate cancer that all men should know.

Myth #1: Prostate cancer is an old man’s disease.

While it may be true that the older you are, the more likely you are to be diagnosed with prostate cancer (65 percent of cases are diagnosed in men who are 65 or older), the fact remains that 35 percent of those diagnosed are at a younger age. This includes up to 1 in 38 men ages 40-59, and 1 in 15 men ages 60-69.

Myth #2: My dad had prostate cancer, so I will too.

“If a patient has a family history of prostate cancer, the chances of a prostate cancer diagnosis are greater than someone who doesn’t have this history,” says Andy Su, M.D., radiation oncologist at Elmhurst Hospital. “However, not everyone who has a family history of the disease will get it themselves and not everyone who gets the disease has a family history of it,” he adds. If prostate cancer runs in your family, talk with your doctor and get screened for prostate cancer.

Myth #3: No symptoms means no cancer.

Prostate cancer can cause various urinary symptoms, including urgency and a diminished stream, as well as pain in the back. However, symptoms typically don’t appear until the cancer has reached an advanced stage — at which point effective treatment may be difficult. You shouldn’t assume that the absence of symptoms means no cancer.

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5 Things That Might Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Dairy

Kathleen Mulpeter shared in HEALTH that before you say goodbye to ice cream and mozzarella, here’s what you should know.

What to know before you give up dairy

Thinking about eliminating milk, cheese, butter, and other dairy products from your diet? You’re not alone. Whether or not to give up dairy—and how to do it—is “one of the top questions I’m asked these days,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health‘s contributing nutrition editor.

One possible reason why so many people are ditching dairy? It’s gotten the A-list stamp of approval: Jessica Biel has said she “just feels better” when she doesn’t eat dairy, gluten, or wheat; Australian actress Margot Robbie told ELLE UK she avoids it when filming a movie because she thinks it causes breakouts. And earlier this year, Khloe Kardashian told Health she dropped 11 pounds after just two weeks sans dairy. “If I want to lose weight quickly, dairy-free is the way to go,” she said.

But can a dairy-free diet really help you lose weight, get clearer skin, and generally feel better? The short answer is that it’s different for everyone. “Some people are more sensitive to dairy than others,” Sass says, adding that the effects of giving it up can vary from person to person.

But experts stress that quitting dairy is not something to be done spontaneously or without cause. “You don’t need to eliminate an entire food group unless there’s a legitimate reason,” says Keri Gans, RDN, a nutritionist based in New York City.

That said, if you do decide to give up dairy, there are five side effects you might experience.

You could miss out on some essential nutrients

Before you swap out your 1% for almond milk, it’s important to remember that dairy products can be part of a healthy diet. After all, there’s a reason why the USDA recommends adults have three cups of dairy per day; milk, cheese, and yogurt are rich sources of vitamin D, protein, and calcium, a critical nutrient for bone health. “It’s important to know how to replace them [if you give up dairy],” Sass says.

If you’ve decided to eliminate dairy, work with a nutritionist to create a diet plan that still includes plenty of these nutrients. “It’s not to say that someone who gives up dairy can’t get enough vitamin D and calcium, but it’s not as easy,” says Gans.

Dark leafy veggies like kale and collard greens, and fatty fish like sardines and canned salmon are good non-dairy calcium sources. Certain brands of plant-based milk and orange juice are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D, Sass notes, although “they’re low in protein, so you may need to bump up your intake of foods like eggs, pulses, or salmon to maintain your total protein intake.”

If you’ve eliminated dairy and are having trouble finding calcium and vitamin D alternatives that you enjoy, meet with a nutritionist to discuss whether or not you should start taking a supplement.

You might lose weight

Wanting to lose weight is often cited as a main motivation to cut out dairy, and Sass acknowledges that doing so may help you shed pounds. “I have had clients reduce body fat after giving up dairy,” she says.

An important caveat, though: Weight loss after eliminating dairy “is often due to how they consumed it [before], how much, and in what form,” Sass explains. If pizza, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches were your go-to meals, and you replaced them with lean proteins, whole grains, and fresh produce, then yes—you’d probably see the numbers on the scale drop.

“It’s not dairy itself, it’s the way it’s being consumed,” says Gans. In fact, research suggests that full-fat dairy in particular may actually aid weight loss. In a large 2016 study in the American Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that women who consumed higher quantities of high-fat dairy products had an 8% lower risk of being overweight or obese. One possible explanation: Full-fat dairy contains more calories, which may keep you feeling satiated for longer—and less likely to reach for known weight-gain culprits like sugar and refined carbs.

You could feel less bloated

“When people inquire about giving up dairy, it’s usually because they’re feeling bloated,” says Gans, adding that the culprit is almost always lactose intolerance. People with this condition can experience bloating and gas, plus severe stomach pain, diarrhea, and cramps when they consume dairy products. The reason: lactose intolerant folks don’t produce enough lactase, an enzyme that’s important for breaking down a type of sugar called lactase found in milk products.

However, “not everybody with lactose intolerance needs to 100% remove dairy from their diet,” Gans says. Cutting back on your overall intake, or consuming dairy products along with other foods (such as cereal with milk instead of ice cream by itself) may be enough to ease symptoms.

If you have a condition that damages the digestive tract, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, you may also get relief from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)–like symptoms when you cut back on dairy.

Your skin might clear up

Margot Robbie may swear going dairy-free helps her fight blemishes, but the relationship between diet and acne is an ongoing source of debate among dermatologists. Research stretching back to the 1940s suggests at most a weak link between dairy consumption and breakouts. However, some experts believe the hormones in milk products could play a role in exacerbating hormonal acne, and many people do report clearer complexions when they give up these foods.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends noting any food triggers that seem to aggravate skin, and cutting back with the help of a nutritionist to make sure you’re still eating a balanced diet.

Other skin conditions may improve, too

There’s no scientific evidence to back up claims that dairy aggravates skin conditions. That said, some people with eczema and psoriasis report fewer symptoms after they cut back or completely eliminate dairy.

In general, when skin is acting up, a nutritionist may recommend an elimination diet to help pinpoint the offender. Dairy is considered one of the most common food allergens (along with wheat, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts), and is usually one of the groups excluded in such a diet. After a few weeks, food groups are added back to see which one is triggering inflammation.

The bottom line: Cutting out dairy isn’t a guaranteed fix for those with psoriasis and eczema. But if you’re experiencing a sudden flare of symptoms, it may be worth trying an elimination diet to find out if a particular food is to blame.

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The 5 Big Benefits Of Avocado Oil for Hair Loss

Sarah Hayward, Vice President of Hair Loss Revolution  feels that  hair loss is horrible.. But contrary to mainstream beliefs, there is actually a lot you can do to beat hair loss and re-grow lost hair using just essential oils. In this ‘Ultimate guide to using avocado oil for hair loss’ you’ll learn:

  • The amazing benefits of using avocado oil
  • 3 home remedies you can try on your hair today
  • 4 points you must understand before choosing the right avocado oil

Massage the oil in to the scalp, deep into the roots

Why Use Avocado Oil?

Avocado oil has been used as a beauty treatment for hair, skin and nails for thousands of years. As a hair treatment, avocado oil strengthens and protects your hair like no other oil.

The reason avocado oil is beneficial for hair is because it contains an abundance of monounsaturated fats, proteins, copper, folic acid, magnesium and minerals that strengthens the building blocks of your hair.

In fact, avocado oil contains healthy doses of vitamin E and B.

Vitamin E is a good ingredient because it strengthens the hair follicles and repairs damage caused by harsh chemical treatments.

Vitamin B provides nourishment to your hair follicles and prevents a flaky scalp. This healthy oil is known as a superfood because of these essential ingredients.

Avocado oil can be taken internally as a nutritional supplement. It can also be used externally on your hair as a topical treatment. Read more