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6 Surprising Heart Attack Triggers

6 Surprising Heart Attack Triggers

Clogged arteries may be the root cause of heart attacks, but there’s usually something else that triggers them. Here’s how to protect yourself.

Heart attacks often come without warning, and although it’s well documented that they’re caused by atherosclerosis (plaque buildup on arterial walls), there are certain triggers that can set off a heart attack in people who are at risk. This week, Belgian researchers published a study in The Lancet ranking various heart attack triggers according to their prevalence in people who are already at risk for cardiac problems. Here’s a list of some of their more surprising findings, and some ways to protect yourself from heart attack triggers:

#1: Traffic Exposure

Commuters beware: Traffic exposure triggers about 8 percent of heart attacks among those who are vulnerable, according to the study, and it can affect you if you’re a driver, a passenger, or even a bicyclist riding along the road. Previous research on the link between traffic and heart attacks has been inconclusive as to whether it’s traffic-related pollution, the stress of being in traffic, or some combination of the two that causes heart attacks. But the clear message is that getting stuck in rush-hour jams isn’t good for anybody. Save your ticker and ask your boss if you can work from home one day a week. Telecommuters are healthier, past studies have shown, and they even work longer hours while still maintaining a better work-life balance than their colleagues in cubicles.

#2: Physical Exertion

Second on the list of heart attack triggers was physical exertion, accounting for just over 6 percent of cases. But they weren’t talking about the good kind of exertion that comes from exercise. The study authors noted that people who are sedentary most of the time, and then suddenly engage in heavy-duty physical activity, are most at risk. The best protection against this is at least 150 minutes per week of regular exercise. But if you’re already sedentary and need to, say, shovel out four feet of snow from a recent storm, be sure to warm up first, and delay the strenuous activity till later in the morning. Strenuous exercise first thing in the morning is a shock to your system and can up the risk of a heart attack.

#3: Alcohol and Coffee

These drinks, whether to get you going or calm you down, each contribute 5 percent to total risk of triggering a heart attack. Heavy alcohol intake is the primary villain, although doctors aren’t sure how it triggers heart attacks. A few theories are that too much alcohol can increase inflammation and interfere with your body’s ability to dissolve blood clots. But keep in mind that one glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage per day can help prevent heart disease because of the beneficial polyphenols in wine and beer. Coffee, on the other hand, seems to work in exactly the opposite way. Most studies linking coffee to heart disease have found that people who drink it less frequently are more prone to heart attacks than people who drink a lot of coffee. So if you drink less than one cup of coffee per day, consider switching to tea to get your caffeine boost.

#4: Air Pollution

Smog, vehicle exhaust, and all those tiny particulates emitted by burning woodstoves all combine to form a potent, but silent, killer. Air pollution triggers 4.75 percent of heart attacks among those vulnerable, and even though it’s one of the lowest percentages, the authors considered it most concerning because no one can avoid air pollution. For that reason, experts in a new field of medicine called environmental cardiology agree that preventing heart attacks in other ways is more effective than trying to cope on the individual level with air pollution. Minimize stress, treat migraines if you have them, don’t eat red meat and salt, and do eat a Mediterranean diet. You’ll protect yourself against air pollution and all the other heart attack triggers included in the study.

#5: Feeling Happy and Feeling Mad

Strong emotions seem to trigger a heart attack even if they’re good ones. Anger and negative emotions contribute more to your risk—almost 7 percent—than positive emotions, which contribute just 2.5 percent. “Both intense positive and intense negative emotions can cause stress to the body,” says Jeffrey Rossman, PhD, director of Life Management at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts, and a Rodale.com advisor.

All strong emotions increase adrenaline output, heart rate, and the stickiness of red blood cells, which combined can trigger heart attack. But there’s a reason you should still try to embrace more positive emotions to ward off heart attacks. “Positive emotions generally result in more balanced heart rhythms than negative emotions, and disrupted heart rhythms are a contributing factor in some heart attacks,” Rossman says.

Furthermore, he adds, “Because we tend to resist negative emotions, they produce more muscle tension than positive emotions, including tension in the muscles in the periphery of blood vessels. This blood vessel constriction also makes negative emotions more likely than positive emotions to contribute to heart attacks.”

#6: Sex

Rounding out the top seven heart attack triggers is sex, which increases your chance of heart attack by 2.2 percent, the authors found. All that horizontal activity can raise blood pressure and heart rates, triggering a cardiac event. The various studies looking at the link between sex and heart attacks have all concluded that this risk is still relatively low for healthy people, somewhere around 1 chance in a million. But people already at risk for heart attacks should take it easy. The good news, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is that regular exercise can keep you from succumbing to a sex-induced heart attack.

By Emily Main, Rodale.com


Rodale.com is a new original source for daily news, information, and advice on personal and environmental health. Rodale.com focuses on “Where Health Meets Green” topics, providing daily news stories and breaking news along with easy-to-follow, high-impact tips and advice. Rodale.com features a Daily Newsletter, and provides simple, powerful tools including Recipe Finder and Home Remedy Finder to help audiences improve their health and their environment. Rodale.com also includes “Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen,” a personal blog where Editor-in-Chief and Rodale, Inc. CEO and Chairman Maria Rodale is “Cooking Up Trouble, Dishing Out Advice.”
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Holy Basil: The Queen of Stress-Reducing Herbs

Holy Basil: The Queen of Stress-Reducing Herbs

 

If you’re dealing with stress and interested in natural healing, you may have heard of the term “adaptogen.” If not, such as the name implies, adaptogens are a class of herb that literally helps you to adapt; to become more resistant to stress, trauma, anxiety and fatigue. These days, who isn’t looking for something to help them weather the storm?

So, where to turn in a sea of natural remedies? I don’t claim to know the right herb for every person, but my favorite adaptogen and ‘the Queen of Herbs’ is Tulsi – also called Tulasi or Holy Basil (I will use all three terms interchangeably throughout this article.) There are three types of Tulsi mentioned in ancient Indian text: Krishna Tulasi (purple leaf Tulsi,) Rama Tulasi (green leaf Tulsi), and Vana Tulasi (wild leaf Tulsi.)

These holy plants have been revered in India for over five millennia; so much so, that at one point, almost every family had a plant growing at home, which they prayed to on a daily basis. Ancient Sanskrit teachings say that respecting and honoring the Tulasi plant will bring peace and happiness into your home life, awaken harmony in nature and create pure love and devotion in your heart.

When you hear about the reported benefits of Tulsi, it’s easy to understand why it is so revered. Tulsi is not just an amazing adaptogen, it has also been said to sharpen the memory, build immunity, support blood sugar levels, relieve fever, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, improve digestion, and fight the common cold, as well as being an effective expectorant. It can also be used to treat sore throats, respiratory disorders, kidney stones, heart disorders, stomach issues, mouth infections, insect bites, skin disorders, teeth issues, headaches, eye issues, and more… Phew! Honestly, the list goes on and on.

So, now you can see why Tulsi is one of my favorite herbs. In fact the name ‘Tulasi’ loosely translates to “the incomparable one”.

Tulsi can be found on the market in many forms including tinctures, capsules, essential oils, flower essences, and as a loose leaf or bagged tea. Personally I experienced great benefits from the use of a potentized encapsulated tincture. These days, I tend to enjoy Tulsi as a tea throughout the day, either from a tea bag, or fresh from the garden. My go-to company for bagged Tulsi* is Organic India, both for their blends and their ethics. (Leesa’s too!)

As stated on their website:  “Organic India actively promotes sustainable agriculture and pays a premium market rate to our farmers.”  In countries such as India, where industrial agriculture has wrought havoc on the natural environment, efforts such as these are invaluable.  *Organic India also has encapsulated Tulsi, which can be an effective way to get a stronger dose, but I have not had a chance to test their capsules.

Three of my favorite Organic India blends are Tulsi Sweet Rose, Tulsi Green Tea, Tulsi Peppermint.

Tulsi Sweet Rose: Don’t be fooled by the smell of this tea bag before you brew it. It has a strong floral note before steeping, but after brewing it becomes mild, sweet and rather yummy. A strong brew of Organic India’s Sweet Rose is particularly wonderful chilled on a hot day.

Tulsi Green Tea: Although it may seem counterintuitive to mix a stimulant like green tea with an adaptogen like Tulsi, Organic India’s Tulsi Green Tea mix is one of my favorite blends for when I need a little morning encouragement. I find caffeine jarring to my system, but this blend seems to make me coherent without the jitters.  (This one is Leesa’s favorite! So good and good for you!) 

Tulsi Peppermint: Particularly good for an upset stomach or if you’re dealing with a cold. One of those teas I always like to have in the cupboard.

Growing instructions:

From my research and personal experience there is some disagreement on the level of difficulty in cultivating Tulsi.  All sources do agree though that these plants like it hot and can be difficult to grow in a temperate climate. However, with a bit of love and energy they have been known to flourish even in unfamiliar climates.

Here is the plan of action I came up with for planting my Tulsi seeds:

1.     In the late Spring/early Summer, create or buy a rich, vegan-organic potting mix.
2.     Fill a tray or small seedling pots with this mix, and lightly press seeds into the soil. (If you have some around, spray EM on the seeds first to give them a boost.) One seed per six inches of soil, or one seed per pot will do. If you can still see the seeds, gently sprinkle a small bit of dirt over the top of them.
3.     Keep the Tulsi seeds moist and warm until they germinate, which can take anywhere from one to six weeks.
4.     Like all basils, Tulsi will branch out when pruned correctly. After the first six sets of leaves appear, pinch off the top set of leaves. This action tells the plant to put its energy into branching out instead of reaching higher.
5.     Water your plant as needed, but do not be afraid to let the soil dry in-between watering. Tulsi likes well draining soil and will not do well if left sitting in water.
6.     If your plant starts to go to flower, you can either pinch off all the flower tips (so that the plant will put its energy back into growing) or you can allow part of the plant to flower and then go to seed – either way it is better not to let the entire plant go to flower.

However you decide to enjoy your Tulsi, I wish you the best of luck with your health, growing and tea brewing!

Alisa Rutherford-Fortunati is a Veganic Grower and Educator for Gentle World — a vegan intentional community and non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about being vegan. Visit www.GentleWorld.org for more information.

How to Recover From a Sleep Deficit

How to Recover From a Sleep Deficit

Economic woes keep many of us awake,

but you can give yourself a bedtime bailout package.

Can’t sleep? If you find yourself looking up at the ceiling at 3 am thinking about your financial future, know that you are not alone. A third of Americans say that they have been losing sleep over the state of the economy and personal financial concerns, according to the results of a poll released last month by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). The economy has added to the already epidemic number of Americans experiencing sleep difficulties: 72 percent of American adults report sleeping less than 8 hours a night, up from 62 percent in 2001. And 20 percent of adults report sleeping less than 6 hours a night, up from 13 percent in 2001.

Losing sleep does more than make you tired. Insufficient sleep is related to numerous cognitive, emotional, and medical conditions, including impaired concentration and anxiety, depression, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, as well as memory and immune dysfunction. Sleep deprivation is a public-safety issue as well, causing tens of thousands of car and truck accidents every year. In the recent NSF poll, 54 percent of drivers said they had driven while drowsy at least once during the past year, and 28 percent said they had nodded off or fallen asleep while driving a vehicle. When sleep-deprived subjects are brought into the lab to perform a driving simulation, they perform more poorly than intoxicated subjects.

WHAT IT MEANS: If you are one of the millions of people who are not getting the sleep you need, there are several strategies you can use to improve your sleep:

1. Stick to a schedule.

Do your best to fall sleep at about the same time each night and wake up at about the same time each morning, weekends included. Your body does best with a regular sleep-wake rhythm.

2. Stay away from food and alcohol.

Avoid eating for at least 3 hours before going to bed. Avoid drinking alcohol late in the evening. While a drink or two might relax you at first and help you fall asleep, the effect can wear off during the night, causing a rebound alertness that can wake you up and make it hard to get back to sleep.

3. Exercise.

Engage in vigorous exercise most days of the week for at least 30 minutes. “Vigorous” means that most of the time, you’re too out of breath to speak more than a few words. If exercising in the evening makes it hard for you to get to sleep, do your workout in the morning or afternoon.

4. Create a restful bedroom.

Make sure your bedroom environment is conducive to sleep. It should be dark, quiet, cool, and uncluttered. We spend so much time in our bedrooms that we tend to overlook the simple changes that could help us get more sleep, such as hanging thicker curtains to block out light, or moving the bed away from a noisy window.

5. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.

The moment you get into bed, you want to have a feeling of rest and relaxation that invites sleep. But if you engage in brain-stimulating activities in the bedroom, such as watching TV, sending e-mails, or talking on the phone, you become conditioned to associate your bed with energy and alertness, and that interferes with sleep.

6. Learn how to relax your body and quiet your mind.

Simple relaxation techniques like slow abdominal breathing, progressive relaxation, or guided imagery allow your body to release tension and your mind to settle down so you can ease into sleep. If it’s worry and anxiety that keep your mind from settling down, keep a notebook by your bed and jot down your concerns (and any possible solutions) before you turn out the light. The act of recording your worries so you can tackle them later helps you feel more in control.

7. Don’t worry about falling sleep!

While this might sound like the ultimate catch-22 for someone struggling to sleep, this may be the most overlooked tactic of all. The truth is, you can lessen the struggle by changing the way you think about sleep. Instead of thinking, I’ll never get to sleep. I’ll be a wreck tomorrow, say to yourself, Eventually, I’ll get to sleep. Even if I don’t get a full night’s sleep, I’ll be able to function tomorrow. I always do. Try turning your alarm clock to the side so you won’t be constantly confronted with how late it is.

By Jeffrey Rossman, PhD, Rodale.com

Jeff Rossman, PhD, is a Rodale.com advisor, and director of life management at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, MA. His column, Mind-Body-Mood Booster, appears most weeks on Rodale.com.


Rodale.com is a new original source for daily news, information, and advice on personal and environmental health. Rodale.com focuses on “Where Health Meets Green” topics, providing daily news stories and breaking news along with easy-to-follow, high-impact tips and advice. Rodale.com features a Daily Newsletter, and provides simple, powerful tools including Recipe Finder and Home Remedy Finder to help audiences improve their health and their environment. Rodale.com also includes “Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen,” a personal blog where Editor-in-Chief and Rodale, Inc. CEO and Chairman Maria Rodale is “Cooking Up Trouble, Dishing Out Advice.”

9 Easy Ways to Boost Brain Power

9 Easy Ways to Boost Brain Power

Forget almost everything you have been taught over the years about the aging human brain. Almost 70 years ago, a scientist declared that the aging brain diminished in memory, agility, and functionality while increasing in senility. Without much challenge, this theory was accepted for decades and taught as fact.

In reality, more recent studies have shown that the aging brain can continue to function actively and effectively if we recognize its needs for nutrition, challenge, reducing stress, exercise and more. “Use it or lose it,” say authors Alan D. Bragdon and David Gamon, Ph.D., in their book by the same title.

Many of today’s older adults have also been influenced by the long-time assumptions that the brain, mind and memory of an older person is a failing process. Therefore, they turn their daily lives to endless viewing of television, unhealthy eating, and increased complaining while also increasing personal stress. They abandon dreams and direction for the future.

1. Focus on nutrition: Proper nutrition is vital, particularly a diet strong in antioxidants. Fresh fruits and vegetables are vital to provide what other parts of the body or system may now be denying to the brain and its function. Other physical challenges are probably reducing the effectiveness of the immune system; therefore, the addition of all the more antioxidants can definitely benefit the brain and its function. Interestingly, most research endorses coffee and its caffeine ingredient as a benefit to better brain function. And caffeinated teas may be of similar benefit.

2. Games, fun and solutions: Play games that call for thinking and evaluating before action. Playing cards with others can stimulate brain function while also providing sociable times with family members and friends. Puzzles, including crosswords, picture puzzles and word puzzles are great brain stimulants.

3. Involve your kids: Ask them to work on and complete a puzzle or game with you every day, or every week. When such is accomplished, congratulate your child for being a great teammate. Again, social interaction boosts the benefit of doing fun puzzles.

4. Start a diary: Start a daily diary, and even buy a quality book or binder plus a special pen to start. Share in the diary what you have accomplished over the years. The diary could also include “things or projects I want to do,” so to define many positive events and projects for the future. When you start sharing about tomorrow, a lot of stress and depression can start to disappear.

5. Stop smoking: Of course, this will be a challenge. But there are no benefits, but only negative effects to the brain from smoking. Smoking also contributes to diseases, including COPD.

6. Invite visitors over: Loneliness is a real downer for some adults, particularly if they withdraw from social events or relationships. Invite visitors to spend time with you, whether on a one-time or weekly basis.

7. Start walking: Physical exercise and movement is vital to the functioning of the adult brain and its best functioning. Daily walking, even several times around the block, is something that almost anyone can do. If you have current challenges in walking, perhaps 30 minutes each day, then in-home exercises, as simple as standing on one leg for 12 to 20 seconds and shifting to the other leg, may be appropriate and effective. The exercise produces aerobic benefits to the brain as well as the lungs, heart and general physical condition.

8. Keep laughing: There’s something to be said for the old saying “Laughter is the best medicine.” The act of laughing has been proven to have health benefits. If you are isolated a lot, movies and books can provide entertainment. Both Netflix.com and blockbuster.com enable you to order movies online and they will be delivered directly to the home – no need to run out to the video store.

9. Get out of the house: At least once each week, go somewhere. It may to a restaurant or bistro for a meal, a visit to a fair, entertainment or special event in your region or, even something as simple as lunch. This continues to open the world to you, while ensuring that you are still part of it.

By Leonard J. Hansen, AgingCare.com

10 Food Swaps to Lower Blood Pressure

10 Food Swaps to Lower Blood Pressure

 

While blood pressure raises and lowers naturally, sustained elevation — otherwise known as high blood pressure, or hypertension — can damage your heart, kidneys, and even brain.

More than 65 million Americans have the condition — caused by stress, aging, a poor diet, not enough exercise, obesity, smoking, or just plain genetics — and which can be managed in part by cutting back on sodium, according to the American Heart Association.

The recommended daily allowance of sodium is no more than 2,300 mg — about 1 teaspoon of table salt — which adds up fast. These switches — also good for those who want to maintain low blood pressure — can help you cut your salt intake without sacrificing flavor.

1. Say No to Pre-Packaged Frozen Dinners
They’re quick and easy to prepare, but many frozen meals also pack a huge sodium punch — as much as 1,800 mg in one dish, according to MSNBC.com — and many of them don’t have enough vegetables to help you meet your daily requirements. For fast meals on busy nights, freeze leftovers or try make-ahead casseroles that go from freezer to oven to table with a minimum of effort (like Emeril’s Mexican Chicken Tortilla version) to make sure you’re getting the right nutrients.

Worst case: Look for low-sodium, organic frozen meals.

2. Trade Salt for Spices, Vinegar, or Fruit Juice
Start by adding fresh or dried herbs and spices — like rosemary, basil, dill, oregano, hot peppers, thyme — lemon or lime juice, flavored vinegars, and garlic in place of salt in your favorite recipes.

3. Try Oil and Vinegar For Salads
Salads, sandwiches, and stir-frys are often healthier than other dinner options, but you can inadvertently add too much sodium by pouring on ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, and salad dressings. Try simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar on your greens, use fresh tomatoes on your burger, and look for low-sodium versions of other condiments — or just make sure to watch your portions (one tablespoon of regular ketchup has a whopping 160-190 mg of sodium). Some companies do the work for you, though: This spring, according to the Huffington Post, Heinz announced that it tweaked its classic ketchup recipe to cut the sodium by 15 percent in response to new FDA salt limits.

4. Trade Canned Soup, Broth, and Vegetables For Homemade
Canned goods are notoriously high in sodium — one serving can have as much as half your daily allowance — so you might be paying for the convenience. Soups and broths are easy enough to make yourself once you realize that they pretty much require two things — water and time — and you can flavor them with vegetables, herbs, and spices for low-cost meals that feed a crowd. Many companies also offer low-sodium or no-salt-added versions of popular soups, broths, and vegetables (but check the sodium levels on your frozen vegetables, too, especially if they come with seasonings or sauces: sodium often sneaks into those).

Try canning or freezing your own vegetables during the summer to eat all winter.

5. Avoid the Brine
Pickles, olives, sauerkraut, and just about any other vegetables that come in a brine may not feel unhealthy, but those brines were designed to preserve the food — which means there’s plenty of sodium floating around. Limit your indulgence in these foods, and try your hand at canning your own pickles from fresh cucumbers to be sure you know exactly how much salt you’re eating.

6. Cut Down on Cured Meats
Bacon, ham, salami, and other cured meats are another sodium obstacle: According to the NIH DASH eating plan, 3 ounces of lean meat, fish, or poultry contains between 30 and 90 mg of sodium, while the same amount of roasted ham contains 1,020 mg. Eat cured meats sparingly and replace them with fresh chicken, pork, fish, or even no-salt-added canned tuna. Watch out for smoked and processed versions, too — they’ll also increase your sodium levels.

7. Reach for Unsalted Popcorn Over Salty Snacks
It doesn’t take a dietitian to realize that salty snacks are higher in sodium than sweet ones — that’s something your tastebuds can probably tell you all by themselves. In a perfect world, you’d replace all those cravings for crackers, chips, and pretzels with fresh fruit slices and carrot sticks — but when you just can’t resist a snack attack, look for healthier versions, like no-salt popcorn, low-sodium crackers, or unsalted chips.

8. Substitute Whole Wheat Flour For White Flour
Choosing whole wheat pasta, rice, bread, cereal, and snacks can help lower blood pressure in several ways: You’ll be skipping a lot of processed and salted foods by default (since many of them are made with white flour), and they can help you lose weight, which lowers your risk of developing many health conditions (including high blood pressure). Make oatmeal, rice, and pasta without adding salt to the cooking water, and you could end up with as little as 5 mg of sodium per serving.

9. Say No to Buttermilk
Buttermilk has more than twice as much sodium as a cup of its less-flavorful cousin, low-fat milk, which means you could be adding a lot more than just taste to those pancakes. Stick with regular milk and natural (not processed) cheese as part of a low-sodium diet, since they also contain blood-pressure-lowering potassium.

10. Stock Up on Dark Chocolate
Okay, here’s one piece of good news: Dark chocolate doesn’t need to go on your list of foods to avoid, since some studies have shown that the flavanols it contains can help lower blood pressure by helping dilate blood vessels. As with any treat, you don’t want to eat too much of it — but in small amounts, it can have health benefits that go beyond a sugar rush.

By Blythe Copeland, TreeHuggerPlanet Green is the multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment and dedicated to helping people understand how humans impact the planet and how to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Its two robust websites, planetgreen.com and TreeHugger.com, offer original, inspiring, and entertaining content related to how we can evolve to live a better, brighter future. Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications.

15 Reasons to Eat Organic Food

15 Reasons to Eat Organic Food

1. In study after study, research from independent organizations consistently shows organic food is higher in nutrients than traditional foods. Research shows that organic produce is higher in vitamin C, antioxidants, and the minerals calcium, iron, chromium, and magnesium.

2. They’re free of neurotoxins–toxins that are damaging to brain and nerve cells. A commonly-used class of pesticides called organophosphates was originally developed as a toxic nerve agent during World War I. When there was no longer a need for them in warfare, industry adapted them to kill pests on foods. Many pesticides are still considered neurotoxins.

3. They’re supportive of growing children’s brains and bodies. Children’s growing brains and bodies are far more susceptible to toxins than adults. Choosing organic helps feed their bodies without the exposure to pesticides and genetically-modified organisms, both of which have a relatively short history of use (and therefore safety).

4. They are real food, not pesticide factories. Eighteen percent of all genetically-modified seeds (and therefore foods that grow from them) are engineered to produce their own pesticides. Research shows that these seeds may continue producing pesticides inside your body once you’ve eaten the food grown from them! Foods that are actually pesticide factories…no thanks.

5. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that pesticides pollute the primary drinking source for half the American population. Organic farming is the best solution to the problem. Buying organic helps reduce pollution in our drinking water.

6. Organic food is earth-supportive (when big business keeps their hands out of it). Organic food production has been around for thousands of years and is the sustainable choice for the future. Compare that to modern agricultural practices that are destructive of the environment through widespread use of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers and have resulted in drastic environmental damage in many parts of the world.

7. Organic food choices grown on small-scale organic farms help ensure independent family farmers can create a livelihood. Consider it the domestic version of fair trade.

8. Most organic food simply tastes better than the pesticide-grown counterparts.

9. Organic food is not exposed to gas-ripening like some non-organic fruits and vegetables (like bananas).

10. Organic farms are safer for farm workers. Research at the Harvard School of Public Health found a 70 percent increase in Parkinson’s disease among people exposed to pesticides. Choosing organic foods means that more people will be able to work on farms without incurring the higher potential health risk of Parkinson’s or other illnesses.

11. Organic food supports wildlife habitats. Even with commonly used amounts of pesticides, wildlife is being harmed by exposure to pesticides.

12. Eating organic may reduce your cancer risk. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60% of herbicides, 90% of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides potentially cancer-causing. It is reasonable to think that the rapidly increasing rates of cancer are at least partly linked to the use of these carcinogenic pesticides.

13. Choosing organic meat lessens your exposure to antibiotics, synthetic hormones, and drugs that find their way into the animals and ultimately into you.

14. Organic food is tried and tested. By some estimates genetically-modified food makes up 80% of the average person’s food consumption. Genetic modification of food is still experimental. Avoid being part of this wide scale and uncontrolled experiment.

15. Organic food supports greater biodiversity. Diversity is fundamental to life on this planet. Genetically-modified and non-organic food is focused on high yield monoculture and is destroying biodiversity.

by Michelle Schoffro Cook

Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD is an international best-selling and eleven-time book author and doctor of traditional natural medicine, whose works include: The Vitality Diet, Allergy-Proof, Arthritis-Proof, Total Body Detox, The Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan, and The Phytozyme Cure. Check out her natural health resources and free e-newsletter at www.WorldsHealthiestDiet.com.

7 Pains You Should Never Ignore

7 Pains You Should Never Ignore

Pay Attention to Your Body’s Signals

Usually a headache is just a headache, and heartburn is nothing more than a sign that your last meal didn’t agree with you. Except when they’re not.

Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something isn’t quite right. More often than not, you have some idea of what’s behind it. But when it comes on suddenly, lingers longer than usual, or just seems different, it calls for medical attention—and the sooner, the better. According to our experts, all of the following pain conditions should be considered red flags.

1. Chest pain

“If patients were to become well versed in what I think of as the subtle language of the heart, many could avoid needless worry and expense,” notes Arthur Agatston, MD, a preventive cardiologist. “Studies have found that women experience a wider range of heart attack symptoms than men do.” In Agatston’s experience, there are three good indicators that something isn’t right, and they can occur in either gender. They are chest pain that doesn’t go away, varied shortness of breath, and any upper body pain that hasn’t occurred before. If you experience any of these symptoms, he says, you should call your doctor or 911 immediately.

(Leesa recommends keeping aspirin available and getting medical care quickly makes a difference! Her sister’s husband had a heart attack at the early age of 47 this past week and survived due to her doing just that… Her sister and her husband recognized the early warning signs,  gave him an aspirin ASAP and got him to the hospital ASAP!  It saved his life!) 

2. Severe head pain

Chances are, it’s a migraine. But if it isn’t accompanied by other migraine symptoms (such as a visual aura), sudden, severe head pain can signal a brain aneurysm. “A burst aneurysm can cause brain damage within minutes, so you need to call 911 immediately,” advises Elsa-Grace Giardina, MD, a cardiologist and director of the Center for Women’s Health at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

3. A throbbing tooth

It’s likely that the tooth’s nerve has become damaged, probably because the surrounding pearly white enamel is cracked or rotting away. Unless you get it patched up quickly, bacteria in your mouth can invade the nerve. And you definitely don’t want that breeding colony to spread throughout your body, says Kimberly Harms, DDS, a dentist outside St. Paul, Minnesota. If your tooth is already infected, you’ll require a root canal, in which the tooth’s bacteria-laden pulp is removed and replaced with plastic caulking material.

(Leesa recommends making an informed decision  and recommends reading this article, http://bit.ly/cCpub0, and others like it about root canals on www.mercola.com)

 4. Sharp pain in your side

You may just need some Beano. But if you feel as if you’re being skewered in your right side, and you’re also nauseated and running a fever, you could have appendicitis. For women, another possibility is an ovarian cyst. Typically these fluid-filled sacs are harmless and disappear on their own. But if one twists or ruptures, it can cause terrible pain.

In both cases, you’re looking at emergency surgery. “If you don’t remove an inflamed appendix, it can burst,” says Lin Chang, MD, a gastroenterologist and co-director of the Center for Neurovisceral Sciences and Women’s Health at UCLA. A twisted cyst also needs to be removed right away, as it can block blood flow to the ovary within hours.

5. Abdominal discomfort with gas or bloating

For the past month, you’ve felt gassy and bloated more days than not, and it takes fewer slices of pizza to fill you up than it once did. If the symptoms are new, the worst-case scenario is ovarian cancer. In 2007, the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation released the first national consensus on early symptoms of this form of cancer: bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, and difficulty eating. If you start experiencing them almost daily for more than two or three weeks, consider it a red flag. Schedule an appointment with your ob-gyn to discuss your symptoms.

6. Back pain with tingling toes

If you’ve just helped your cousin move into her new fourth-floor apartment, anti-inflammatories should banish the pain. But if they don’t work, hobble to an orthopedist. “One of your discs (the spongy rings that cushion the bones in your spine) could be pressing on the spinal nerve,” says Letha Griffin, MD, an orthopedist and sports medicine specialist in Atlanta. Without proper attention, you risk permanent nerve damage.

7. Leg pain with swelling

Your calf is extremely tender in one location, noticeably swollen, and red or warm to the touch. You might have deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), commonly known as a blood clot. Resist the urge to massage the area or to try walking off the pain. If the clot breaks free, it can travel through your veins up to your lungs and cut off your oxygen supply. Instead, see your doctor right away. He or she will do a CT scan or ultrasound to check for a DVT. If that’s what you have, you’ll need to take blood thinners—sometimes for up to a year—to dissolve it, says Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, director of women and heart disease for the Heart and Vascular Institute at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Know the symptoms of a stroke

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of serious disability, according to the American Heart Association. If you or someone close to you is experiencing any of these symptoms, immediately call 9-1-1.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

From The List Maker’s Get-Healthy Guide (Rodale, 2010).

By the Editors of Prevention


Rodale.com is a new original source for daily news, information, and advice on personal and environmental health. Rodale.com focuses on “Where Health Meets Green” topics, providing daily news stories and breaking news along with easy-to-follow, high-impact tips and advice. Rodale.com features a Daily Newsletter, and provides simple, powerful tools including Recipe Finder and Home Remedy Finder to help audiences improve their health and their environment. Rodale.com also includes “Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen,” a personal blog where Editor-in-Chief and Rodale, Inc. CEO and Chairman Maria Rodale is “Cooking Up Trouble, Dishing Out Advice.”

7 Countries With the Healthiest People

7 Countries With the Healthiest People

They live well into their nineties and often times up break the hundred year mark. Their existence is healthy but the underlying reasons are often cultural. In fact, it’s not just that individuals take care of themselves; it’s a country-wide phenomenon that’s based on lifestyle choices.

Why are certain countries home to the world’s happiest, healthiest people on Earth? What do they eat? What daily habits are different from other societies?

I set out to answer these questions and along the way I found some striking similarities between these fit nations, spread far and wide across the globe.

1. Iceland

Due to a smaller population, Iceland is one of the least polluted countries in the world. But clean air isn’t the only reason why Icelanders are so healthy; they also like to hit the gym. Due to chilly weather much of the year, Icelanders workout in order to beat the winter blues. The country enjoys one of the highest life expectancies (72 for men and 74 for women). It also has one of the lowest infant mortality rates at 2 deaths per 1,000 babies. Forbes Magazine ranked it the healthiest country in the world.

2. Japan

The World Health Organization (WHO) calculated the countries where people live to full health the longest and Japan came out on top with 74.5 years. Much of this is due to diet.

“Every meal in Japan looks like a piece of art. Food is so beautiful and so delicious and so simple,” fitness expert Harley Pasternak said to Empower News Magazine. “They are the largest consumer of fish in the world and of whole soy and of seaweed and green tea. When they are about 80 percent full, they stop and wait for about 10 minutes, then decide whether to keep going. And most times, they are full so they don’t need to keep eating more.”

3. Sweden

Government policies promote a healthy way of life including positive work/life balance. The population also loves to play outside and with a stunning landscape full of rolling hills, mountains, and glacial lakes, it’s easy, according to National Geographic. Additionally, because of their location they eat a diet that’s high in fish and omega fatty acids. Their cooking methods also reflect that of a healthy population. Rather than using an abundance of oil they poach, ferment, smoke, and dry their foods.

4. Okinawa

Okinawa is a Prefecture or sub national jurisdiction of Japan. However, it’s worth mentioning it separately because it’s widely believed to have the healthiest people on Earth. According to the Okinawa Centenarian Study, centenarian ratios may be the world’s highest at approximately 50 per 100,000 people. The country is also home to many super centenarians, people that reach the age of 110 years old. Okinawans attribute their not only long, but healthy, happy lives to eating tons of local fruits and vegetables, as well as large quantities of tofu and seaweed. Their lives also include rigorous daily activity and relatively low stress.

5. New Zealand

Similar to Iceland, a lower population and lack of pollution make New Zealand a great place to call home. New Zealanders love outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and fishing. All and all it’s just an easier place to embrace a fit lifestyle. No matter where you live you’re not but a 90 minute drive from the ocean.

“Plus there’s an abundance of healthy whole foods. We eat fresh seafood (we often catch it ourselves) and local organic fruits and vegetables. Everyone grows something here and neighbors all put out bags for purchase by anyone. We get fresh lettuce from the kids’ school, avocados from our tree, and kiwis, apples and plums from our neighbors,” says Jill Chalmers who moved to New Zealand with her Kiwi husband.

6. Sardinia

Sardinia is an autonomous region of Italy that’s home to a large population of centenarians. There’s a real sense of community in Sardinia. People are close knit and the elderly often live with their families. The men are often shepherds, walking about 5 miles per day and the diet consists of “whole grain flatbread, fava beans, tomatoes, greens, garlic, various fruits, olive oil and pecorino cheese from grass-fed sheep (high in Omega 3).”

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7. Finland

According to Forbes Magazine, Finland was plagued with one of the highest death rates from heart disease just 30 years ago. As a result, the nation has worked vigorously to encourage a healthy lifestyle among its people. Smoking has been reduced significantly and fruit and vegetable intake has more than doubled. It shows that if you make an effort to change, you can.

While many factors lead to a long, healthy life, these countries have a lot in common. Many of them lack pollution and make a healthy work/balance and controlling stress a high priority. They also eat meat very rarely if ever and find protein in fish and tofu while loading up on local fruits and vegetables.

By Sara Novak, Planet Green

Planet Green is the multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment and dedicated to helping people understand how humans impact the planet and how to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Its two robust websites, planetgreen.com and TreeHugger.com, offer original, inspiring, and entertaining content related to how we can evolve to live a better, brighter future. Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications.

8 Benefits of Spinach: The First Superfood

8 Benefits of Spinach: The First Superfood

Spinach was a powerfood even before there was the term powerfood.

We’re referring of course to Popeye the Sailor Man. “TOOT TOOT!” One can of the green stuff and he turned into muscle popping tornado of energy.

Even without Popeye’s recommendation, spinach contains more nutrients per calorie than any other food on the earth.

8 Benefits of Spinach:

1. Loaded with Vitamins: like A, K, D, and E and a host of trace minerals.

2. Good Source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids: the kind most of us need in North America.

3. Anti-Cancer and Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants: Researchers have identified more than a dozen different flavonoid compounds in spinach that function as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents. In a recent study on the relationship between risk of prostate cancer and vegetable intake (including such healthy vegetables as broccoli, cabbage, and brussel sprouts) only spinach showed evidence of significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.

4. Alkalizes the Body: All those minerals helps to balance off the highly acid diet which most of us subject our bodies to and which drains our energy, increases obesity and a creates host of other health problems.

5. Nourishes the Eyes: The carotenoids found in spinach protect against eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

6. Strengthens the Bones: One cup of fresh spinach (or 1/6 cup of cooked spinach) contains TWICE your daily vitamin K needs. This along with the calcium and magnesium in spinach is essential to maintain healthy bones.

7. Perfect for Green Smoothies and Salads: Organic pre-washed spinach is now readily available in most grocery stores. If you haven’t yet tried a green smoothie yet and think they might taste yucky then try one with the main ingredient as spinach. Spinach is so sweet, we guarantee you will be impressed. To see Diana make her own special brand of green smoothie click here: Diana’s Green Smoothie

8. Spinach is FRESH! Studies have shown that even the artificial light in the grocery store shining on those plastic tubs of spinach can actually help keep the leaves from spoiling. This indicates the spinach is still metabolically active and fresh.

Tips and Cautions:

Tip #1: Make sure you only choose organic spinach. Non-organic spinach is on the list of top foods with lots of chemical pesticides. You can assume that canned spinach is NOT organic. I can’t imagine anyone eating canned spinach anyway but since we mentioned Popeye I thought I had better mentions that. (Leesa agrees!)

Tip #2: Choose the GREENEST looking spinach you can find. Probably you would have anyway, but studies have shown that the greenest spinach has the most vitamin C.

Tip #3: Because spinach contains high levels of so many nutrients it also has significant levels of oxalic acid. This has been associated with kidney problems and interference with absorption of other minerals.

There is much debate whether the oxalates in spinach would have this kind of effect but just to be sure, if you have a pre-existing kidney problem, it’s better to consult your doctor before eating too much.

At Real Food For Life, we recommend that a person balance their body enough so that they can use their own bodies as a gauge on how much or little to eat of a particular food.

For example, I usually crave spinach but sometimes I just don’t want it in my body. I suspect that perhaps I have reached my limit for something, (like the oxalates) within the food.

This personalized approach to your nutrition is the easiest and ultimately the most powerful approach to nutritional choices. We explain this more in our “Three Secrets” report.

Recipes with Spinach:
Power Spinach Salad: You just HAVE TO know how to make a good spinach salad. This one is great.
Miso Soup with Spinach and Mushrooms: This is fast, tasty, and contains at least three powerfoods.
Diana’s Green Smoothie With a Difference: Watch video to learn how to make a green smoothie.

This article was co-authored with Randy Fritz

Related:
Eat Your Spinach
Go Gorgeous Greens
Brown Rice vs. White Rice

by Diana Herrington

Diana Herrington, now living in Northern Canada, turned a debilitating health crisis into a passion for helping others with healthy, sugar free, gluten free, eating and cooking. After testing and researching every possible healthy therapy on her delicate system she has developed simple powerful principles which she shares in her recent book Eating Green, Clean and Lean, and as host to Care2 groups: Healthy Living Network and Healthy Cooking. Check out her blog Real Food for Life or follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/DancinginLife.
 

5 Surprising Signs of an Unhealthy Heart

5 Surprising Signs of an Unhealthy Heart

We’ve all read the signs of a heart attack listed on posters in the hospital waiting room. But what if there were other, earlier signs that could alert you ahead of time that your heart was in trouble?

It turns out there are. Researchers have done a lot of work in recent years looking at the signs and symptoms patients experienced in the months or even years leading up to a heart attack. “The heart, together with the arteries that feed it, is one big muscle, and when it starts to fail the symptoms can show up in many parts of the body,” says cardiologist Jonathan Goldstein of St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey. Here are five surprising clues that your heart needs checking out. Any of these signs — and particularly two or more together — is reason to call your doctor for a workup, says Goldstein.

1. Neck pain

Feel like you pulled a muscle in the side of your neck? Think again, especially if it doesn’t go away. Post-heart attack, some patients remember noticing that their neck hurt and felt tight, a symptom they attributed at the time to muscle strain. People commonly miss this symptom because they expect the more dramatic acute pain and numbness in the chest, shoulder, and arm. Women in particular are less likely to experience heart pain that way, and more likely to feel twinges of pain and a sensation of tightness running along the shoulder and down the neck, says Margie Latrella, an advanced practice nurse in the Women’s Cardiology Center in New Jersey and coauthor of Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart (Dog Ear, 2009). The pain might also extend down the left side of the body, into the left shoulder and arm.

Why it happens: Nerves from damaged heart tissue send pain signals up and down the spinal cord to junctures with nerves that extend out into the neck and shoulder.

What distinguishes it: The pain feels like it’s radiating out in a line, rather than located in one very specific spot. And it doesn’t go away with ice, heat, or muscle massage.

. Sexual problems

Having trouble achieving or keeping erections is common in men with coronary artery disease, but they may not make the connection. One survey of European men being treated for cardiovascular disease found that two out of three had suffered from erectile dysfunction for months or years before they were diagnosed with heart trouble. Recent studies on the connection between ED and cardiovascular disease have been so convincing that doctors now consider it the standard of care to do a full cardiovascular workup when a man comes in complaining of ED, according to cardiologist Goldstein says. “In recent years there’s been pretty clear evidence that there’s a substantially increased risk of heart attack and death in patients with erectile dysfunction,” Goldstein says.

Why it happens: Just as arteries around the heart can narrow and harden, so can those that supply the penis. And because those arteries are smaller, they tend to show damage much sooner — as much as three to four years before the disease would otherwise be detected.

What distinguishes it: In this case, the cause isn’t going to be immediately distinguishable. If you or your partner has problems getting or maintaining an erection, that’s reason enough to visit your doctor to investigate cardiovascular disease as an underlying cause. “Today, any patient who comes in with ED is considered a cardiovascular patient until proven otherwise,” says Goldstein.

3. Dizziness, faintness, or shortness of breath

More than 40 percent of women in one study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, reported having experienced shortness of breath in the days before a heart attack. You might feel like you can’t breathe, or you might feel dizzy or faint, as you would at high altitude. If you can’t catch your breath while walking upstairs, vacuuming, weeding the garden, or doing other activities that previously caused you no trouble, this is a reason to be on the alert.

Why it happens: Not enough blood is getting through the arteries to carry sufficient oxygen to the heart. The heart muscle pain of angina may also make it hurt to draw a deep breath. Coronary artery disease (CAD), in which plaque builds up and blocks the arteries that feed the heart, prevents the heart from getting enough oxygen. The sudden sensation of not being able to take a deep breath is often the first sign of angina, a type of heart muscle pain.

What distinguishes it: If shortness of breath is caused by lung disease, it usually comes on gradually as lung tissue is damaged by smoking or environmental factors. If heart or cardiovascular disease is the cause, the shortness of breath may come on much more suddenly with exertion and will go away when you rest.

4. Indigestion, nausea, or heartburn

Although most of us expect pain from any condition related to the heart to occur in the chest, it may actually occur in the abdomen instead. Some people, particularly women, experience the pain as heartburn or a sensation of over-fullness and choking. A bout of severe indigestion and nausea can be an early sign of heart attack, or myocardial infarction, particularly in women. In one study, women were more than twice as likely as men to experience vomiting, nausea, and indigestion for several months leading up to a heart attack.

Why it happens: Blockages of fatty deposits in an artery can reduce or cut off the blood supply to the heart, causing what feels like tightness, squeezing, or pain — most typically in the chest but sometimes in the abdomen instead. Depending on which part of your heart is affected, it sends pain signals lower into the body. Nausea and light-headedness can also be signs that a heart attack is in progress, so call your doctor right away if the feeling persists.

What distinguishes it: Like all types of angina, the abdominal pain associated with a heart problem is likely to worsen with exertion and get better with rest. Also, you’re likely to experience repeated episodes, rather than one prolonged episode as you would with normal indigestion or food poisoning.

5. Jaw and ear pain

Ongoing jaw pain is one of those mysterious and nagging symptoms that can have several causes but can sometimes be a clue to coronary artery disease (CAD) and impending heart attack. The pain may travel along the jaw all the way to the ear, and it can be hard to determine which it’s coming from, says cardiovascular nurse Margie Latrella. This is a symptom doctors have only recently begun to focus on, because many patients surveyed post-heart attack report that this is one of the only symptoms they noticed in the days and weeks leading up to the attack.

Why it happens: Damaged heart tissue sends pain signals up and down the spinal cord to junctures with nerves that radiate from the cervical vertebrae out along the jaw and up to the ear.

What distinguishes it: Unlike the jaw pain caused by temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), tooth pain, or ear infection, the pain doesn’t feel like it’s in one isolated spot but rather like it’s radiating outward in a line. The pain may extend down to the shoulder and arm — particularly on the left side, and treatments such as massage, ice, and heat don’t affect it.

By Melanie Haiken, Caring.com senior editor

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