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Various Health Topics

How to Use Healthy Oils

Heart healthy oils can be essential to helping keep your cholesterol under control.  Olive oil is one of the best oils for multi-purpose jobs in the kitchen.  Canola oil also has several uses.

The good news is that they’re very tasty and can be used easily in your favorite recipes.  Here are a few tips to use healthy oils in your diet:

When it’s time to dress your salad at mealtime, try mixing together some olive oil and red wine vinegar to pour over your greens.  Olive oil provides a rich flavor to your vegetables and the vinegar will give it a little tang.  Adding spices such as pepper can also help to improve the flavor.

You can also make a switch when it comes to butter.  Many people love to spread butter over bread.  While it’s tasty, it’s also full of saturated fat.  Try dipping your bread in olive oil mixed with garlic and spices as a substitute. 

You can also make “butter” from olive oil.  Simply pour some olive oil into a small container and refrigerate it.  It will become solid in the cold temperatures.  When you’re ready to use it, you can simply spread it like butter on bread, vegetables, or anything that you would normally butter.

Olive oil makes a great cooking oil.  It can be cooked at very high temperatures, and the nutrients in it don’t become lost in the heat.  You can use it to make anything from chicken to vegetables to stir-fry. 

Not only does it brown food well, it also adds a delicious flavor.  Olive oil can also be added to pasta to help keep noodles from sticking.  It can be mixed with vegetables and spices to make pasta dishes.

For baking breads, olive oil is the perfect ingredient.  It can be used as a main ingredient, but it can also be used to coat the dough as it rises.  You can also brush olive oil onto bread to give it a nice finish.

For baking sweets, it’s better to use canola oil.  Canola oil is light like a vegetable oil, but its flavor goes better with cakes, cookies, and other sweet treats.  Simply use it in place of plain vegetable oil in your recipes. 

This will improve the heart healthiness of your meal without compromising on taste.  With a little bit of substituting and creative cooking, you can make sure that heart healthy oils are a part of your lifestyle.  Your heart and your taste buds will thank you.

Managing Your Blood Pressure

One of the most important numbers you can know about your heart is your blood pressure.  This is the amount of force that your blood exerts on the walls of your blood vessels. 

When your blood pressure is high over a long period of time, it can put you at risk for heart disease. If you’re been diagnosed with high blood pressure – or you have a family history of high blood pressure – it’s important that you do all you can to get it down. 

For many people, blood pressure can be lowered through dietary changes.  That can mean avoiding medication.  For others, lifestyle changes must be combined with medications. The first place to work toward lowering your blood pressure is with your diet. 

You need to consume low amounts of sodium – less than a 2400 mg a day.  That may seem like a lot, but that’s how much sodium is in one teaspoon of salt.  So it doesn’t take much to exceed your limit. 

You also need to focus on eating lots of fruits and vegetables, lean dairy products, and lean protein.  All of these combined can help to lower your blood pressure. Alcohol and high blood pressure don’t go together well. 

If you drink, you should have no more than one drink daily.  It’s even better to completely abstain.  Tobacco is another product that can raise your blood pressure by stimulating your heart rate and clogging your blood vessels.  It’s best to eliminate tobacco in all forms from your life.

Exercise is also essential to controlling your blood pressure.  Just 30 minutes of walking each day can significantly lower your blood pressure.  It can also improve your good cholesterol and condition your heart.  This is a win-win situation.

Keeping your body at a healthy weight can also help you to maintain normal blood pressure.  This doesn’t mean that you need to spend two hours at the gym each day.  Simply losing a small percentage of your body weight may be enough to significantly improve your blood pressure.  Start with a goal of 10% of your current weight and see what changes occur.

For many people, lifestyle changes will be enough to control blood pressure.  Still for some people medication will be required.  Talk with your doctor about the best course of action if your lifestyle changes haven’t lowered your blood pressure to normal levels.  Together you can make the best decisions for your long-term heart health.

Reducing Your Cholesterol

You’ve just gotten your blood work in the mail and it turns out your cholesterol is over 200.  Before you head to the pharmacy to pick up a cholesterol lowering medication, you should talk with your doctor about trying to reduce your cholesterol through lifestyle changes.

One of the first things you can do is increase the fiber in your diet.  Fiber comes from plants and helps to reduce the cholesterol in your blood.  You can increase your fiber by eating more fruits and vegetables. 

You can also improve your fiber by eating whole grain foods such as bread, pasta, and rice.  It’s also possible to take a fiber supplement to improve the level of fiber in your diet.  You can also add fiber to your diet by eating beans.  These are a great substitute for meat in your daily diet. 

Adding sterols and stanols to your diet can also help your cholesterol.  These are chemicals found in plants that research has shown to improve your blood cholesterol levels.  You can get them just from eating vegetables. 

However, if you’re really trying to lower your cholesterol you may want to look for foods that are enriched with these chemicals.  There are many margarine brands that are heart healthy and add these chemicals.  You can also find them added to some brands of orange juice.

Eating nuts can also improve your cholesterol levels.  Nuts have had a bad reputation for years because they contain fat.  But the fat they contain is actually good for your heart.  So grab a handful of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or pecans between meals to help improve your heart health.  Cooking with olive oil is also a way to improve your heart health.  It contains healthy fat that helps to reduce cholesterol.

In addition to adding these healthy nutrients to your diet, you should also make sure to eat a diet that’s low in cholesterol.  You can easily find the amount of cholesterol on foods by checking the nutrition label.  Look for foods that are very low in cholesterol or cholesterol free.

You can also improve your cholesterol levels by adding exercise.  Exercise is one of the only proven ways to raise your HDL cholesterol levels.  This is the good cholesterol that helps to keep your arteries clear of plaque. 

Thirty to 60 minutes of exercise every day will help to improve your cholesterol.  By making a few changes in your diet and exercise routine, you can actually reduce your cholesterol levels enough to keep you from having to take medication. 

Stress Management Techniques

You already know that stress can be damaging to your heart and other parts of your health.  But you may be wondering what you can do about it.  Sometimes life throws so many responsibilities at you that you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of stress. 

But you don’t have to live your life in a constant state of anxiety.  The first thing to do is to look at what is causing your stress.  Is there anything there that can be eliminated?  For example, is there a work responsibility you can delegate to someone else? 

Can you limit the number of after school activities your kids are involved in?  Sometimes just slowing down will bring automatic relief. Once you’ve rid yourself of as many stressors as you can, you need to take a look at what’s left. 

You may want to learn time management skills to help you learn to get more done in less time.  You can often take workshops or find books that give common sense guidelines for managing time.

Making sure that you’re taking care of your physical needs for food, exercise, and sleep are also critical in managing stress. If you’re out of fuel and your body is breaking down, you’re more likely to feel fatigued and anxious from stress.

Keeping healthy snacks on hand at all times is one way to fight fatigue.  You can also take a quick ten-minute walk each day to reduce your stress levels and refresh your energy.

Pets can often provide comfort during times of stress.  You may want to consider adding a furry friend to your family to help out.  Studies have shown that pets can help lower blood pressure and relax the body. 

When things are really tough, you may need to take a time-out.  Just taking a few minutes to breathe slowly and close your eyes can help you to refocus your energy.  When you feel like you’re about to have a meltdown, taking a breather can be very helpful.  When you go back to your problem, you’ll be able to look at it from a different angle.

Whenever possible, removing a situation that’s causing a great deal of stress can be very helpful.  But most of us don’t have the luxury of quitting our jobs and taking a yacht around the world to relax. 

Still, you can take mini-breaks and learn to say no a little more often.  When you learn to manage your daily stress, you greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and other health problems.

The Power of the Pacemaker

You may find out from your doctor that you’re in need of a pacemaker in order to keep your heart beating properly.  It may help to rest your worries if you know a little more about what a pacemaker is and what it does.

Your healthy heart has a natural pacemaker located in the right atrium – the upper right part of your heart.  This is a specialized part of the heart that sends an electrical wave across the rest of your heart and keeps it beating at a steady rhythm. 

Unfortunately, sometimes this part of the heart quits doing its job properly.  This is sometimes because it becomes too slow and sometimes it’s a result of a blockage that keeps the electrical signal from reaching the entire heart.

Modern medicine has come up with a simple device that can actually take the place of your natural pacemaker.  The artificial pacemaker is implanted into the body and emits and electrical impulse to keep your heart beating properly. 

There have been many advancements in the artificial pacemaker over the last few years.  In fact, some pacemakers now also have defibrillators in them to restart your heart if it stops.

Inserting a pacemaker requires a surgical procedure.  And most of them are programmable.  For example, some are set to work only when necessary.  They sense the heartbeat of the person and only emit impulses if the heart rate becomes too slow. 

The one major drawback of a pacemaker is that many things in the environment can interfere with the signal.  However, in most cases short exposure to these devices – such as microwaves and CB radios – isn’t enough to cause any real harm.  Speak with your physician about the caution you need to take with your device.

Medical equipment can sometimes be harmful to your pacemaker.  For example, an MRI machine has a powerful magnet that may interfere with your signal.  You need to speak with your doctor before you have an MRI.  It’s also important to carry a medical I.D. when you have a pacemaker so that in an emergency, healthcare workers will know you have one.  

Pacemakers have been around a long time and they have a good track record for helping to keep the heart pumping at the right rate.  This surgery has become routine.  Before you have surgery to insert a permanent pacemaker, make sure to discuss any questions or concerns you have with your doctor. 

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