Let’s say you just bought a brand new shiny red $250, 000 Ferrari. It is a beautiful, precisely functioning piece of machinery. How would you treat your new car? Would you put sugar water in the gas tank or feed it premium gasoline? Would you just let it sit in the garage or would you take it out for a spin? Would you get it serviced regularly to make sure it is functioning optimally? Do you treat your body the same way? Do you care about your appearance enough to keep it looking good? Do you spend time, money, and effort to take preventive measures such as working out and eating nutritious foods to prevent health problems and the huge expenses that come with them, much like an oil change? Think about it. You would spend the money to feed your sports car premium fuel. Why do you not do the same for your body? Your body thrives on nutritious, fresh food such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Why do you continue to feed it garbage like sugar, simple carbs, and excess fat? How would the Ferrari run on sugar water? Not well! Just like your body does not run well on junk food. You feel tired and sluggish after eating junk, the same way the car would run on inferior gasoline. How would the Ferrari engine run if it just sat in the garage and was never driven? Your body is exactly the same. You need to get out and move. Regular aerobic activity is critical to keep your body functioning well. Remember, prevention is proactive thinking. There is the initial investment of time, money, and effort to get your body running smooth as the Ferrari. However, it is far more expensive and dangerous to let your body go. The hard part of prevention is that there is not immediate gratification. You are putting in effort now for future rewards and good health. But, you sure would practice prevention with your new Ferrari. You would spend the money and effort on an oil change that in no way changes the way the car runs and feels at the present moment. You would do it to avoid problems in the long run. Most people know that they have to get their oil changed or else suffer problems with their car later on. We also know that we have to take care of our bodies or else we will suffer problems later on. Disease such as heart attacks, strokes, and cancer are highly preventable. So why would we treat our car better than our bodies? Do you do this? How much is your body worth? Is your arm worth $250, 000? How much are your eyes worth? Most of us would say our bodies are priceless. So why would you not treat your body like the precious engine it truly is? Think about that. You only get one body and one life. Take the appropriate measures today with your physical and spiritual health: eat healthier foods, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Don’t be lazy. Be proactive. Start today!
There are many numbers everyone should know to help gauge their health. Here are 7 important numbers everyone should know. They are easily measured at home or in your doctors office. Some are simple blood tests. Remember that knowledge is power. If your numbers are less than optimum, start making changes to improve them and your overall health.
1. C – reactive protein (CRP) – This is a very important number everyone should have measured. It may be more important that your cholesterol number. This number is a measure of your inflammation level. Inflammation has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, and possibly even cancer. An optimal CRP level is less than 1.0. CRP is a simple blood test.
2. Total LDL particle number (LDL-p) – This is a better measurement of your bad cholesterol levels than LDL. LDL alone is a concentration level of the bad cholesterol and may misrepresent your risk of heart attack or stroke. LDL-p measures the total number of bad cholesterol particles. A large number of small and dense LDL particles contributes to atherosclerosis and heart disease. A high LDL-p along with a high CRP is especially dangerous. LDL-p is also a simple blood test. An LDL-p level below 1000 is optimal.
3. Glucose – This simple blood test measures the glucose or sugar in your blood. A high blood glucose level may mean that your are a diabetic. High blood sugar levels lead to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, eye damage, and nerve damage. A normal glucose level is less than 100. A glucose level between 100-124 is considered pre-diabetes. A glucose level of 125 and above means you are a diabetic.
4. Creatinine – This blood test checks your kidney function. A high creatinine level may represent kidney failure. Kidney failure puts you at increased risk of heart attacks and stroke.
5. Blood pressure – A normal blood pressure is 120/80 or less. A high blood pressure can lead to damage in the lining of your arteries and then to atherosclerosis. This can then lead to a heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure at any age is abnormal and should be treated.
6. Body Mass Index (BMI) – This number relates your weight to your height. It will help you decide if you are overweight. A normal BMI is less than 25. A BMI between 25 and 30 is considered overweight. A BMI above 30 is considered obese. A BMI greater than 40 is considered morbidly obese.
7. Waist circumference – The size of your belly is actually a better predictor of heart disease than general obesity. People with central obesity tend to develop higher blood pressure, regardless of body mass index (BMI) than those who store fat in other areas of the body. A normal waist circumference in men is less than 40 inches and less than 35 inches in females.
You are healthy, right? You feel good and take reasonable care of yourself. You have not seen a doctor in years. What good reason is there to see a cardiologist? The answer in one word is: prevention. Heart disease and stroke are both highly preventable and treatable. There is no reason for anyone to have either a heart attack or stroke. Prevention is the key. There are several risk factors which can increase your risk of heart attacks and strokes including: hypertension, high cholesterol, elevated inflammation levels, diabetes and elevated blood sugar levels, being over weight, increased belly fat, lack of exercise, family history of cardiovascular disease, and smoking. Both heart attacks and stroke are vascular diseases. They both involve our arteries which carry blood and nutrients to the heart and brain. Many people think heart attacks and strokes are sudden events. They are not. In fact, there is usually evidence of diseased arteries (atherosclerosis) years, if not decades ahead of time. There are several non-invasive ways to assess the health of your arteries. Two methods are ultrasound and CT scans. Ultrasound is a favorite of mine, because no radiation is used. A simple ultrasound of the neck arteries (a carotid artery ultrasound) can give you important information on the health of your arteries. Plaque in the walls of the arteries can be visualized by ultrasound. In fact, it can be detected at an early stage. Even mild plaque can be visualized. If it is detected, corrective action can prevent future disasters. Clearly, if you smoke, you need to stop. Smoking directly damages the artery wall which leads to plaque formation. Lowering blood pressure will reduce risk of heart attacks and stroke. Lowering you cholesterol numbers can also help lower your risk. A new measure of cholesterol, LDL-(p), which measures the total number of bad cholesterol particles, can help define your risk. You want to avoid the small, dense LDL (bad) particles which help to promote plaque. Losing weight, shrinking your belly, and exercise all help to reduce your risk. Is your inflammation level high? Reducing inflammation levels will reduce your risk. Think of your cardiologist as a coach. He can help assess your risk and then discuss ways with you to help reduce your risk. It is all about being proactive. Most heart attacks and stroke are preventable. Do not delay! Do not procrastinate any longer! Get an assessment and reduce your risk. Reducing your risk will help you feel better and live longer. Dr Greenberg specializes in preventive cardiology and nutrition. To make an appointment with Dr Greenberg at Cardiac Solutions please call 623.876.8816.
Fiber is a miracle nutrient. It has many health benefits including: losing and maintaining weight, reducing risk of heart attack and stroke, naturally lowering total and LDL cholesterol levels, reducing risk of diabetes and helping to control blood sugar levels, reducing risk of several kinds of cancer including colon cancer, helping to maintain bowel regularity, and improving overall immunity. Fiber comes from a plant’s cell wall. It is the indigestible part of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. No animal products contain fiber including milk and meat products. Fiber has bulk, but no calories. It is a type of complex carbohydrate, but cannot be absorbed to produce energy (which is why it has no calories). It is a major reason certain foods have a low calorie density. High fiber tends to mean low calorie density. It fills you up with less calories. The main goal when trying to lose weight is to to eat less calories, and just as importantly, also to avoid hunger. You want to be full. Hunger will quickly kill any diet. There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber absorbs water. It forms a thick gel. It will slow down stomach emptying time. Therefore, sugar is released and absorbed more slowly. This helps prevent a blood sugar spike in your bloodstream and also a spike in insulin release. By keeping blood sugar and insulin levels from spiking, fiber helps to prevent and treat diabetes. It will also assist in weight loss. Soluble fiber also helps to naturally lower your total and LDL cholesterol. Good sources of soluble fiber include: apples, carrots, lentils, oat bran, oranges, peaches, and peas. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It passes almost intact through the GI tract. Insoluble fiber helps to move bulk through the intestines. It helps promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation, removes toxic waste from the colon, and helps prevent colon cancer. Good sources of insoluble fiber include: flaxseed, wheat bran, cauliflower, and fruit skins. Many people get very little fiber in their diet. A good goal would be 40 grams of fiber a day. Increase your intake slowly and drink a lot of water. Make it a habit to look at labels. Look for foods with the highest fiber amount. Look for pasta with a large amount of fiber. Look for cereals and oatmeal with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. For extra fiber, add flaxseed or berries to your breakfast. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables for a snack. The more processed a food is, the less fiber it will have, and the less healthy it will be. Fiber from supplements is not nearly as good as fiber from whole foods. A high fiber diet is a marker of many anti-cancerous properties of whole foods, especially phytochemicals. Fiber intake from food is a good marker of disease risk. Some studies suggest that the amount of fiber consumed may better predict weight gain/loss, insulin/blood sugar levels, and other cardiovascular risk factors than does the total amount of fat consumed. Remember, fiber is only found in plant products and not in meat, dairy, or highly processed products. Slowly increase your fiber intake with a goal of 40 grams a day. It will help both your health and your waistline.
Cancer grows out of normal cells in the body. Normal cells multiply when the body needs them, and die when the body doesn’t need them. Cancer appears to occur when the growth of cells in the body is out of control and cells divide too quickly. There are many different kinds of cancers. Cancer can develop in almost any organ or tissue, such as the lung, colon, breast, skin, bones, or nerve tissue. Alarming statistics now suggest that more than half of all cancers in American adults may be caused by poor diet. What these numbers mean is that much of the death and misery caused by cancer can be prevented. Fortunately, scientific evidence has now established that cruciferous vegetables contain vital cancer-fighting components that offer powerful protection against many carcinogens. Broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, kale, brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables contain many health promoting phytonutrients that have been shown to help prevent the onset and halt the progression of colon, breast, prostate, thyroid, cervical, and other cancers. Only a small percentage of Americans consume the five to seven daily servings of fruits and vegetables that the government recommends for good health. (We should really be eating 10-12 serving of fruits and vegetables a day!) Even more concerning, the typical American diet is especially deficient in cruciferous vegetables, which are some of the most potent cancer-fighting foods available. Cruciferous vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which contribute to their healthful effects. Scientists have identified other bio-active compounds (phytonutrients) in these vegetables that are important to their cancer-preventive effects. These compounds, which are called glucosinolates, are transformed to indole-3-carbinol and diindolylmethane in the body. Methods of preparation and cooking affect the availability of these phytonutients. Cruciferous vegetables need to be well chewed, chopped or blended to get maximal effect. Some benefit may be lost with boiling or steaming. (Do not over steam! Try to under-cook a bit so they are not mushy.) The maximal benefit comes from eating these vegetables raw. Amazing as it may seem, vegetables that are readily found in any supermarket produce aisle contain some of the most potent cancer fighting compounds found in all of nature. Cruciferous vegetables are not only the most powerful anticancer foods in existence, they are also the most nutrient dense of all vegetables. Try to eat 1-2 serving of cruciferous vegetables a day.
There is a big difference between early detection and prevention. This is an important concept to understand. Many women think getting a mammogram is prevention. It is not prevention. A mammogram will pick up a cancer that has already formed, but will not prevent it. Mammograms are important for detecting breast cancer at an early stage. Once a mammogram detects a cancer, it has actually been growing for a while. It takes years to grow to a detectable size. Furthermore, colonoscopies are also important for picking up cancer at an early stage. Just like mammograms, they will not prevent colon cancer. Early detection, including mammograms and colonoscopies, is clearly important, as most cancers are much more treatable the earlier they are detected. On the other hand, it is obviously better to prevent cancer or heart disease in the first place. There are many ways to help prevent many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. First of all, diet is a critical component of prevention. A diet low in saturated fat and filled with various complex carbs can help prevent many chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, hypertension and diabetes. Fruits and vegetables are filled with fiber and phytonutrients to help ward off these diseases. The more colors and varieties of fruits and vegetables the better. Good examples include broccoli, cauliflower, blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes, and kale just to name a few. Exercise is also important to preventing many chronic diseases. Regular aerobic exercise can help prevent both heart disease and cancer. All it takes is at least 20-30 minutes every other day. Walking, swimming, jogging, rowing, and playing tennis are all great aerobic activities. Get moving! Finally, obesity is a major cause of many chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease. Obesity is felt to be one of the largest causes of breast cancer in women. You must know your BMI (body mass index). Your initial goal should be less than 30. Your long term goal should be 25. Most chronic diseases are now preventable! Do not wait for bad news. It is much better to prevent heart disease and cancer to begin with, versus dealing with them once they occur. Take control of your health and live a long and healthy life.