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Is this chest pain from GERD or a heart attack?

Chest pain can be a sign that a person is having a heart attack. However, chest pain is also a common symptom of other, less serious conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Doctors refer to pain from heart attacks and other conditions that affect the cardiovascular system as cardiac chest pain. Pain that does not come from the cardiovascular system is called noncardiac chest pain.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause heartburn, which is a common type of noncardiac chest pain.

While heart attacks are a life-threatening medical emergency, heartburn is not. Therefore, being able to recognize the difference between cardiac and noncardiac chest pain is essential.

In this article, we discuss the symptoms of GERD and heart attacks along with the differences between cardiac and noncardiac chest pain. We also cover other causes of both types of chest pain.

Is it GERD? Person holding hands over chest in pain because of gerd or heart attack
Many conditions can cause chest pain, including acid reflux.

Acid reflux occurs when acid from the stomach leaks up into the food pipe, or esophagus. One of the most common symptoms of acid reflux is heartburn, which is a painful burning sensation in the center of the chest just behind the breastbone, or sternum.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a person who experiences acid reflux more than twice a week for a few weeks may have GERD. Close to 20 percent of people in the United States have GERD.

Other symptoms of acid reflux and GERD can include:

People with persistent symptoms of acid reflux or GERD should see a doctor.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Is it a heart attack? Heart attacks occur when the blood supply to the heart muscles becomes completely blocked. If a person does not receive immediate treatment, part of the heart muscle can die. A common symptom of a heart attack is pain or discomfort that typically occurs in the center or left side of the chest. This pain may come and go, and its severity can range from mild to severe. It can also sometimes feel like heartburn or indigestion. However, not everyone who has a heart attack experiences chest pain. The symptoms of a heart attack can vary considerably from person to person, and they may come on slowly or very suddenly. Other symptoms of a heart attack might include: intense pressure or tightness in the center of the chest a feeling of heaviness or weakness in one or both arms pain, numbness, or a tingling sensation in the arms, neck, jaw, lips, or stomach difficulty breathing or shortness of breath nausea and vomiting dizziness or lightheadedness fatigue breaking out in a cold sweat Anyone who suspects that they or someone else is having a heart attack should immediately call 911 or go to the emergency room. Cardiac vs. noncardiac chest pain A person experiencing recurring or severe chest pain should speak to a doctor.
A person experiencing recurring or severe chest pain should speak to a doctor. When trying to distinguish between cardiac and noncardiac chest pain, a person needs to consider the following three factors: the location of the pain how the pain feels the accompanying symptoms We discuss each of these in more detail below: Location of chest pain Both cardiac and noncardiac chest pain can occur in the center of the chest behind the breastbone. However, cardiac chest pain can spread across the chest and even affect other parts of the body, such as the: arms back shoulders neck or throat jaw teeth Noncardiac chest pain, such as heartburn, tends to remain localized, meaning that it does not spread to other areas. Heartburn typically develops behind or underneath the breastbone. How the pain feels Some of the words that people use to describe cardiac chest pain are: pressure squeezing heaviness fullness tightening aching burning In contrast, noncardiac chest pain tends to feel like an intense stabbing or burning sensation just beneath the surface of the skin. Coughing, breathing, or moving can affect the intensity of noncardiac chest pain, while the severity of cardiac chest pain usually remains stable, even when resting. Accompanying symptoms The symptoms accompanying chest pain can be an important indication of whether it is cardiac or noncardiac. The symptoms that can occur along with cardiac chest pain may include: shortness of breath irregular heartbeat dizziness or lightheadedness numbness pain or discomfort in other parts of the body, such as the arms, neck, jaw, shoulders, and back Symptoms that indicate that the chest pain is from heartburn or GERD can include: Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Other causes of cardiac chest pain Causes of cardiac chest pain can include: Angina Coronary artery disease (CAD), also called ischemic heart disease or coronary heart disease, occurs when fatty deposits build up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. Over time, these deposits can restrict blood flow, which can cause a type of chest pain called angina. CAD can also lead to heart attacks and heart failure. People often describe angina as a feeling of pressure, squeezing, burning, or tightness behind the breastbone. This pain can spread to other parts of the body, including the arms, jaw, neck, and shoulders. Angina often occurs during physical activity, and stress can also bring it on. If the pain continues after rest, this can be a sign of a heart attack. People who are unsure whether they are experiencing angina or a heart attack should call 911 immediately or go to the emergency room. Myocarditis Myocarditis is a rare form of cardiovascular disease that causes inflammation of the heart muscle. This inflammation can lead to chest pain, heart failure, or sudden death. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, myocarditis commonly develops without an identifiable cause. However, doctors often diagnose people with myocarditis following a viral or bacterial infection. Myocarditis produces symptoms similar to those of other heart conditions, such as chest tightness and fatigue. Leaning forward can help relieve chest pain resulting from myocarditis. Other symptoms of myocarditis include: slow heart rate irregular heartbeat dizziness or lightheadedness loss of consciousness Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a thickening of the muscle wall in the heart. People can inherit genes from their parents that increase their risk of developing HCM. However, HCM can also occur as a result of high blood pressure, diabetes, or thyroid disease. The symptoms of HCM include: chest pain that often results from exercise shortness of breath fainting fluttering heartbeat or heart palpitations Pulmonary hypertension Pulmonary hypertension refers to high blood pressure in the arteries that supply the lungs. Common symptoms include shortness of breath and chest pain, which may occur or worsen with physical activity. Over time, symptoms may become more frequent as the disease progresses. People with pulmonary hypertension may also experience: fatigue and weakness fainting, lightheadedness, or dizziness irregular heartbeat a dry cough that may bring up blood swelling of the legs or feet that results from fluid buildup Other causes of noncardiac chest pain Causes of noncardiac chest pain can include: Pneumonia Pneumonia can cause shortness of breath and chest pain.
Pneumonia can cause shortness of breath and chest pain. Pneumonia is a chest infection that causes the tiny air sacs inside the lungs to become inflamed and fill with fluid. A common symptom of pneumonia is chest pain that typically worsens when a person inhales deeply or coughs. The chest pain can range from mild to severe. Other symptoms of pneumonia can include: Peptic ulcer A peptic ulcer is an open sore in the lining of the stomach or small intestine. Bacterial infections and long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can lead to peptic ulcers. Peptic ulcers can cause a painful burning sensation that starts in the abdomen and extends to the chest. This pain can come and go and may get better when a person eats or takes an antacid. Other symptoms of peptic ulcers can include: bloating belching nausea and vomiting dark stools unexplained weight loss loss of appetite lightheadedness However, not everyone with peptic ulcers experiences symptoms. Costochondritis Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage around the breastbone. This inflammation can cause tenderness and sharp chest pain that may feel similar to the pain of a heart attack. The pain from costochondritis usually affects the left side of the chest, but it can sometimes affect both sides. Deep breathing, coughing, and physical activity may make the pain worse. Possible causes of costochondritis include severe coughing, chest injuries, infections, and overexertion. Esophageal spasms Involuntary spasms or contractions of the food pipe can cause intense chest pain. These spasms can come on suddenly and sometimes last for several hours. Other symptoms of esophageal spasms may include: intense pain or tightness in the chest feeling as though something has become stuck in the throat stomach contents coming up the food pipe difficulty swallowing It is not always clear why esophageal spasms occur, but risk factors include GERD, anxiety, and high blood pressure. Panic attack A panic attack refers to a sudden attack of intense anxiety and fear. These attacks can last for between a few minutes and several hours, and a person may feel as though they are having a heart attack. Symptoms of a panic attack can include: chest pain pounding, rapid, or irregular heartbeat trembling or shaking shortness of breath a sensation of choking or suffocating nausea dizziness or lightheadedness numbness sweating feelings of doom, loss of control, or unreality A person may have a panic attack in response to a stressful event, but an attack can also occur unexpectedly. Recurrent panic attacks are a symptom of panic disorder. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Summary Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux and GERD that causes a painful burning sensation in the center of the chest. This sensation can sometimes feel similar to the chest pain that people experience during a heart attack or attacks of angina. A heart attack is a medical emergency, so being able to tell the difference between heartburn and cardiac chest pain is crucial. If chest pain spreads to other areas of the body, such as the arms or jaw, or occurs alongside symptoms such as shortness of breath and a feeling of tightness in the chest, it might be a sign of a heart attack. If chest pain lasts for more than a few minutes, call 911 immediately. A person who suspects that they or someone else is having a heart attack should immediately call 911 or go straight to the emergency room. It is also advisable to see a doctor about any unexplained chest pain, even if it goes away on its own.
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Plant-based diet cuts heart failure risk by over 40 percent

New research finds that sticking to a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish can slash heart failure risk by 41 percent. By contrast, a diet rich in fats, fried foods, processed meat, and sugary drinks can raise the risk of this condition.
male hands eating tomato salad
Adding more vegetables to our plate could keep heart failure at bay.

Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot supply enough blood and oxygen to the main organs in the body.

The condition affects about 5.7 million people in the United States and approximately 26 million people worldwide.

Some experts predict that heart failure will become more and more prevalent worldwide, which has led them to refer to it as a "global pandemic."

However, emerging evidence suggests that a diet consisting mainly of fruits and vegetables can prevent cardiovascular disease. Now, a new study strengthens this idea.

Dr. Kyla Lara, a cardiology fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and her colleagues, have examined the associations between five major dietary patterns and the risk of heart failure among people without any known history of heart disease.

Dr. Lara and her team published the results of their study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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The effect of diets on heart failure

The researchers examined data available from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study. Namely, they looked at the dietary patterns among 16,068 black and white people who were 45 years old, on average.

The participants answered a 150-item survey, which included 107 food items. The researchers grouped the foods into five dietary patterns:

"convenience" diets, which consisted of meat-heavy dishes, pasta, pizza, and fast food "plant-based" diets, consisting mainly of vegetables, fruit, beans, and fish "Southern" diets, which comprised a significant amount of fried foods, processed meat, eggs, added fats, and sugary drinks "alcohol/salads" diets, which included lots of wine, liquor, beer, leafy greens, and salad dressing.

Dr. Lara and team followed the participants for 8.7 years on average, during which time, 363 people spent time in the hospital for heart failure for the first time.

Of these, 133 people had heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, and 157 had heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. The former refers to a form of heart failure in which the ejection fraction — a measure of how well the heart is pumping blood — is "normal," or "preserved."

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Plant-based diets slash heart failure risk

Overall, the researchers found that adhering to the Southern diet increased the risk of hospitalization due to heart failure by 72 percent.

But when the researchers adjusted for body mass index (BMI), "waist circumference, hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes mellitus, atrial fibrillation, and chronic kidney disease," this association became no longer statistically significant.

This could mean that the Southern diet raises heart failure risk by increasing obesity and abdominal fat, explain the researchers.

Importantly, the researchers found that the risk of heart failure hospitalizations was 41 percent lower among people who adhered to the plant-based diet.

Finally, the researchers found no statistically significant associations among heart failure risk and the other three dietary patterns.

"Adherence to a plant-based dietary pattern was inversely associated with incident [heart failure] risk, whereas the Southern dietary pattern was positively associated with incident [heart failure] risk," conclude the researchers, who also outline some strengths and limitations to their study.

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The researchers say that the socio-economically and demographically diverse study sample made the associations stronger. However, the study participants may have wrongly estimated their dietary intakes, which may have biased the results.

Also, the researchers examined the participants' diets only at the beginning of the study, and these dietary habits may have changed throughout the study period.

In a linked editorial, Dr. Dong Wang, a research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, comments on the significance of the findings, "This study represents an important step forward in establishing a robust evidence base for the dietary prevention of heart failure."

"The need for population-based preventive strategies for heart failure is critical [...] These findings support a population-based dietary strategy for lowering the risk of incident heart failure."

Dr. Kyla Lara

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Replacing red meat with plant protein reduces heart disease risk

A meta-analysis of trials comparing the health effects of red meat consumption with those of other diets found that substituting healthful plant protein for red meat helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Spelt, broccoli, savoy cabbage with chargrilled tofu with sriracha as plant protein
Eating plant proteins, such as tofu, may benefit cardiovascular health.

Many studies throughout the years have linked the consumption of red meat to cardiovascular disease and cancer, but the results have been inconsistent.

A 2015 study comparing the effects of plant protein and animal protein on the risk of cardiovascular disease found that the evidence was inconclusive.

Recent studies further investigated the link between red meat consumption and heart disease and found that red meat does not significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease when a person sticks to the recommended intake. Most of these studies focused on the potential harms of red meat, but they did not include an analysis of other specific diets.

Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, and Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, conducted the first meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials analyzing the effects of red meat by replacing it with other types of food. The results feature in the journal Circulation.

Red meat consumption in the United States

This new approach allowed researchers to examine a different side of the issue. Red meat consumption remains a very controversial topic, especially in the U.S., where the consumption of red meat per capita was more than 200 pounds in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although red meat consumption in the U.S. is still high, chicken production and consumption have been increasing. The U.S. per capita beef consumption is down from its peak, but it is still remarkable — it is four times as high as the global average, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

A recent survey showed that many people in the U.S. might be open to reducing their meat consumption in the future because they are becoming more aware of the associations that red meat has with nutritional and environmental health harms. The researchers suggested that education campaigns are necessary to accelerate the shift to a more sustainable diet.

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Asking 'Is red meat good or bad?' is useless

In this latest study, the researchers analyzed data from 36 randomized controlled trials, which included a total of 1,803 participants. The team looked at blood pressure and blood concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoproteins in people who ate diets with red meat. They then compared these values with those of people who ate more of other foods, such as chicken, fish, carbohydrates, legumes, soy, or nuts.

"Previous findings from randomized controlled trials evaluating the effects of red meat on cardiovascular disease risk factors have been inconsistent," says Marta Guasch-Ferré, lead author of the study and research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

"But, our new study, which makes specific comparisons between diets high in red meat versus diets high in other types of foods, shows that substituting red meat with high-quality protein sources lead to more favorable changes in cardiovascular risk factors."

The findings showed that there were no significant differences in total cholesterol, lipoproteins, or blood pressure between those who ate red meat and those who ate more of other types of food. However, diets high in red meat did cause an increase in triglyceride concentrations. Conversely, diets rich in high-quality plant protein lowered the levels of bad cholesterol.

"Asking 'Is red meat good or bad?' is useless," says Meir Stampfer, senior author of the study and professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan. "It has to be 'Compared to what?'"

"If you replace burgers with cookies or fries, you don't get healthier. But, if you replace red meat with healthy plant protein sources, like nuts and beans, you get a health benefit."

Prof. Meir Stampfer

The authors recommend that people follow healthful vegetarian and Mediterranean-style diets that provide plenty of high-quality plant protein because they offer excellent health benefits and promote environmental sustainability.

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What are the nutritional benefits of peanuts?

Peanuts have a strong nutritional profile. They are an excellent source of plant-based protein, fiber, and many key vitamins and minerals.

Peanuts come in many forms, including roasted, salted, chocolate-coated, and as peanut butter. Different types have different nutritional profiles and various health benefits.

Along with their healthful nutritional profile, peanuts are a calorie-rich food, so they are most healthful when enjoyed in moderation.

In this article, we provide the nutritional profile of peanuts, their health benefits, and how different types compare.

Nutritional breakdown Peanuts in a bowl on wooden table top down view.
Peanuts are most healthful when they are in their raw form.

Peanuts are an especially good source of healthful fats, protein, and fiber. They also contain plenty of potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, and B vitamins. Despite being high in calories, peanuts are nutrient-rich and low in carbohydrates.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 100 grams of raw peanuts contain 567 calories and the following nutrients in grams (g), milligrams (mg), or micrograms (mcg):

macronutrients protein
carbohydrate
fiber
sugars
25.8 g
16.13 g
8.5 g
4.72 g
fats monounsaturated fats
polyunsaturated fats
saturated fats
24.43 g
15.56 g
6.28 g
minerals potassium
phosphorous
magnesium
calcium
sodium
iron
zinc
705 mg
376 mg
168 mg
92 mg
18 mg
4.58 mg
3.27 mg
vitamins vitamin B-3 (niacin)
vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
vitamin B-1 (thiamine)
vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine)
riboflavin (vitamin B-2)
folate (vitamin B-9)
12.07 mg
8.33 mg
0.64 mg
0.35 mg
0.14 mg
240 mcg

The mixture of healthful fats, protein, and fiber in peanuts means they provide nutritional benefits and make a person feel fuller for longer. This makes peanuts a healthful, go-to snack when people compare them with chips, crackers, and other simple carbohydrate foods.

Below, we discuss the benefits of key nutrients in peanuts.

1. Protein Peanuts are an excellent source of plant-based protein, offering 25.8 g per 100 g of peanuts, or around half of a person's daily protein needs. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein in adults is: 46 g for women 56 g for men Protein is essential for building and repairing body cells. The amount of protein a person needs varies, depending on their age and activity level. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today 2. Healthful fats Peanut butter on toast with fruit for breakfast
Peanuts contain healthful fats that are an essential part of a nutritious diet. Fatty acids are an essential part of every diet. Most of the fats in peanuts are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are a healthful type of fat. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), consuming monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats instead of saturated and trans fats can improve a person's blood cholesterol levels. This, in turn, lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke. There is also a small amount of saturated fat in peanuts. Saturated fat is less healthful than unsaturated or polyunsaturated. Doctors link too much saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. As a consequence, it is best to eat peanuts in moderation to get their optimal health benefits. 3. Dietary fiber Peanuts are a good source of dietary fiber. They contain 8.5 g per 100 g, which around one-quarter of a male's recommended fiber intake or one-third for females. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get the following amounts of fiber per day: 34 g for men 28 g for women Fiber is a heart-healthful nutrient. The AHA report that eating fiber-rich foods improves blood cholesterol levels and lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Which types of peanuts are most healthful? Raw peanuts are the most healthful variety. Peanut butter is a great choice, offering a healthy nutritional profile and a range of health benefits. Learn about the health benefits of peanut butter. People can also buy roasted, salted peanuts. Eating these types is okay in moderation, though consuming too much sodium is linked with high blood pressure and heart disease. The AHA recommend an ideal limit of 1,500 mg of sodium per day, and no more than 2,300 mg of sodium — equivalent to 1 teaspoon of salt — especially for people with high blood pressure. Where possible, choose raw peanuts with the skin attached. Peanut skins contain antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect the body's cells from damage from free radicals. Producers usually remove the skins from most roasted or salted peanut. People can enjoy peanuts and peanut butter in moderation as a snack throughout the day. In main meals, peanuts make a great addition to salads or Thai dishes. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Health benefits of peanuts Woman at desk at work snacking and eating on peanut
Eating peanuts may help with managing blood sugar levels. Eating peanuts has three main health benefits: supporting heart health maintaining a healthy weight managing blood sugar The following sections discuss these benefits and the science behind them. 1. Supporting heart health Peanuts contain more healthful monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats than they do saturated fats. This fat ratio makes peanuts better for the heart than fat sources with a higher proportion of saturated fats. A 2014 study found that eating 46 g of peanuts or peanut butter each day may improve heart health for people with diabetes. 2. Maintaining a healthy weight Because peanuts are full of healthful fats, protein, and fiber, they make a satisfying snack. Eating them in moderation may help a person maintain a healthy weight. Research found that women who ate nuts, including peanuts, twice a week had a slightly lower risk of weight gain and obesity over 8 years than those who rarely ate nuts. A large-scale study found that eating peanuts and other nuts may reduce a person's risk of obesity over 5 years. 3. Managing blood sugar levels Peanuts are an excellent food for people with diabetes or a risk of diabetes. Peanuts have a low glycemic index (GI), meaning they do not cause big spikes in blood sugar levels. Nutritionists see foods with a GI of 55 or lower as low-GI foods, and those with a GI of more than 70 are high-GI foods. Peanuts have a GI score of 23, making them a low-GI food. Learn more about the GI scale here. Peanuts help control blood sugar levels because they are relatively low in carbohydrates but high in protein, fat, and fiber. Fiber slows down the digestive processes, allowing a steadier release of energy, and protein takes longer to break down than simple carbohydrates. Research suggests that eating peanut butter or peanuts may help women with obesity and a higher type 2 diabetes risk to manage their blood sugar levels. Risks and considerations Peanuts contain proteins called arachin and conarachin. Some people are severely allergic to these proteins. For these people, peanuts can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction. Because peanuts are high in calories, it is sensible to eat them in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Consuming too many calories may lead to weight gain. This is true regardless of whether the foods those calories come from are nutritious or not. Roasted, salted peanuts may be less healthful than raw peanuts due to their high sodium content. That said, if people consume them in moderation, they can enjoy them as a part of a healthful, balanced diet. Summary Peanuts are a nutrient-rich source of protein, dietary fiber, and healthful fats. Eating them in moderation, as part of a balanced diet, may: support heart health help a person maintain a healthy weight help a person manage their blood sugar levels Peanuts are a good option for people with diabetes for these reasons. They are also a good snack option for those looking to reduce carbohydrates and increase healthful fat intake. For their optimal health benefits, choose raw peanuts with the skin on. Raw peanuts with their skin on are high in cell-defending antioxidants. Roasted, salted peanuts are high in sodium, which health professionals link to heart disease. That said, eating roasted, salted peanuts as part of a balanced diet is okay. As with most foods, the key to enjoying peanuts is eating them in moderation as part of a healthful, calorie-controlled diet.
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What are the benefits of eating Brazil nuts?

Brazil nuts come from the South American Bertholletia excelsa, or Brazil nut, tree. They are a good source of healthful fats, protein, fiber, and selenium.

Despite its name, the Brazil nut is technically a seed rather than a nut. By definition, nuts are hard-shelled fruits that contain a single, large seed. Walnuts and pistachios are good examples.

Brazil nuts may offer surprising and powerful nutritional benefits, including boosting heart health, providing antioxidants, and improving brain function.

In this article, we discuss the health benefits of Brazil nuts, their risks, and how to add them to the diet.

1. Nutrition Brazil nuts in a bowl
Brazil nuts are a healthful source of essential nutrients.

Brazil nuts are among the richest dietary sources of selenium, an essential mineral with antioxidant properties. Selenium plays an important role in reproduction, metabolism, and immune health.

A single Brazil nut contains 68 to 91 micrograms (mcg) of selenium, meaning that just one nut per day can provide the daily recommended adult allowance of 55 mcg.

In addition to selenium, Brazil nuts contain plenty of protein, essential minerals, and healthful fats.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a serving of three Brazil nuts contains the following nutrients:

99 calories 2.15 grams (g) of protein 10.06 g of fat 1.76 g of carbohydrate 1.10 g of fiber 109 milligrams (mg) of phosphorus 99 mg of potassium 56 mg of magnesium 24 mg of calcium 0.61 mg of zinc 0.36 g of iron 0 mg of sodium

Given their impressive nutritional profile, it is no surprise that Brazil nuts have become so popular.

2. Heart health Brazil nuts contain healthful fats called polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), consuming monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats instead of saturated and trans fats helps improve cholesterol levels, which lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke. Brazil nuts also provide dietary fiber. The AHA report that eating fiber-rich foods improves blood cholesterol levels and lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. The findings of a 2019 study showed that higher consumption of tree nuts decreased the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack among people living with diabetes. 3. Thyroid health Selenium deficiency can cause hormonal imbalances that can negatively affect sleep, mood, concentration, and metabolism. Selenium plays an essential role in hormone production. The thyroid gland uses selenium to convert thyroxine hormone (T4) into its active form, triiodothyronine hormone (T3). Obtaining enough selenium from dietary sources may prevent or help regulate thyroid problems, such as hypothyroidism. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today 4. Antioxidant effects Brazil nut pod containing shelled brazil nuts
Eating brazil nuts may help prevent oxidative stress. The selenium in Brazil nuts may boost the body's antioxidant system and prevent oxidative stress. The liver breaks selenium down into a type of protein called selenoprotein P, which effectively removes excess free radicals. Free radicals cause oxidative stress, and research has linked them to many chronic health conditions, including cancer. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study examined the antioxidant effects of Brazil nut consumption. During the study, 91 people with hypertension and high blood-lipid concentrations received either 13 g of granulated, partially defatted Brazil nuts or a placebo every day for 12 weeks. The participants in the Brazil nut group had higher selenium levels and increased activity of an antioxidant enzyme called GPx3. They also had lower levels of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which people sometimes refer to as "bad cholesterol." 5. Anti-inflammatory effects The antioxidant properties of Brazil nuts may help reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation has an association with many chronic health conditions. A small-scale 2014 study looked at the health effects of eating one Brazil nut per day in people with chronic kidney disease. After 3 months, the researchers noticed a reduction in inflammation and markers of oxidative stress. 6. Lowering blood sugar Foods rich in selenium may help improve people's blood sugar levels. A study in the European Journal of Nutrition reported that eating one Brazil nut per day for 8 weeks lowered total cholesterol and fasting glucose levels in healthy adults. The findings of another 8-week-long study showed that taking a 200-mcg selenium supplement reduced insulin levels and improved insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. The researchers also reported increased antioxidant capacity in the body. 7. Improving brain functioning Antioxidants help keep the brain healthy. Brazil nuts have powerful antioxidant effects, which may boost brain functioning. Scientists have linked decreases in antioxidant function to cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease. The findings of a 2014 study suggested that people with Alzheimer's disease have lower selenium levels than those without the condition. A small-scale trial reported that eating one Brazil nut per day for 6 months had positive effects on some cognitive functions among older adults with minor cognitive impairment (MCI) compared with those in a control group. This result may be due to the nuts reversing selenium deficiency. However, a recent study found no association between selenium levels and cognitive ability. More research is necessary to uncover how selenium affects cognition and to determine whether or not it could prevent or treat neurogenerative diseases. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today How to eat Brazil nuts Brazil nut on wooden table in process of being unshelled
Brazil nuts are a convenient snack. People can eat whole Brazil nuts as a snack or add them to other foods. Brazil nuts are fine to eat raw or roasted. To cook Brazil nuts on the stovetop: Place a layer of Brazil nuts in a skillet over medium heat. Stir the nuts every minute or so to avoid burning them. Continue cooking for about 5 to 10 minutes until the nuts become aromatic. To roast Brazil nuts in the oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the nuts on a layer of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and roast for 5 minutes. Remove the baking sheet and stir the nuts. Return the baking sheet to the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove the nuts from the oven and season them with salt, herbs, or spices. Allow the nuts to cool completely before eating them. People can try adding Brazil nuts to pad Thai dishes, trail mixes, or pesto. Alternatively, they can use chopped Brazil nuts as a nutritious topping for oatmeal, salads, or even brownies. Brazil nuts are available in most supermarkets, or people can choose between brands online. Can you eat too many Brazil nuts? When it comes to Brazil nuts, more is not necessarily better. People should limit their intake of Brazil nuts to a few per day to avoid negative side effects. Brazil nuts are high in calories, and eating too many can cause selenium toxicity. Like most nuts, Brazil nuts are very calorie-dense. People who eat too many Brazil nuts run the risk of exceeding their daily recommended calorie intake. Consuming too many calories can cause unwanted weight gain. As a member of the tree nut family, Brazil nuts may cause allergic reactions in some people. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, an estimated 25 to 40 percent of people who have a peanut allergy react to at least one type of tree nut. Selenium toxicity Many of the health benefits of Brazil nuts come from their high selenium content. Although beneficial in small quantities, Brazil nuts could cause selenium toxicity if a person regularly eats them in large numbers. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), selenium toxicity can cause a variety of symptoms, such as: dizziness gastrointestinal problems hair loss brittle nails skin rashes or lesions nervous system problems fatigue irritability muscle tenderness or soreness joint pain It can sometimes also cause severe symptoms, which may include: acute respiratory distress syndrome heart attack kidney failure heart failure In rare cases, selenium toxicity can be fatal. The selenium concentration in Brazil nuts varies depending on the amount present in the soil so each nut may contain a different amount. Summary Brazil nuts may provide some impressive health benefits, but it is best to eat them in moderation. According to the findings of scientific studies, certain compounds in Brazil nuts may benefit health in a range of ways, such as lowering the risk of heart disease, regulating blood sugar levels, and boosting the body's antioxidant system. Brazil nuts are among the best sources of natural selenium, an essential mineral known for its antioxidant properties. Although selenium can promote health, too much can result in selenium toxicity. We picked linked items based on the quality of products, and list the pros and cons of each to help you determine which will work best for you. We partner with some of the companies that sell these products, which means Healthline UK and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link(s) above.
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Scientists 'print' 3D heart using patient's tissue

Although 3D printing has advanced in leaps and bounds over the past few years, using it to print functioning human organs is still a far-flung dream. Recently, however, scientists have brought this dream one step closer.
3D printed heart
A 3D-printed heart engineered from the patient's own tissues and cells.
Image credit: Advanced Science 2019 The Authors

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 610,000 people in the U.S. die from heart disease each year.

Once it has progressed to its final stages, the only treatment option is a heart transplant.

Because there are too few heart donors, the wait for a life-saving transplant is long.

Scientists are keen to find ways of patching up existing heart tissue to remove or postpone the need for a transplant.

For instance, if surgeons could impant a material into the heart, it could form a temporary scaffold to support cells and boost cellular reorganization.

This so-called cardiac tissue engineering has a number of problems; primarily, scientists need to find a type of material that the body would not reject. Researchers have already tried a range of materials and methods, but the perfect candidates are cells from the body of the patient.

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Bioink and stem cells

During recent years, researchers have made some progress toward artificially replicating human tissue.

A group of scientists from Tel Aviv University in Israel has taken this work one step further and moved cardiac tissue engineering to the next stage.

"This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers."

Lead researcher Prof. Tal Dvir

The scientists have designed a groundbreaking approach that allows them to create the closest thing to an artificial heart to date.

Their first step was to take a biopsy of fatty tissue from the patient; then, they separated cellular material from noncellular material.

The researchers reprogrammed the cells of the fatty tissue to become pluripotent stem cells, which can develop into the range of cell types necessary to grow a heart.

The noncellular material consists of structural components, such as glycoproteins and collagen; the scientists modified these to turn them into a "bioink."

Then, they mixed this bioink with the stem cells. The cells differentiated into cardiac or endothelial cells (which line blood vessels), which the scientists could use to create cardiac patches, including blood vessels.

They describe their methods in detail in a recent paper published in the journal Advanced Science.

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'The size of a rabbit's heart'

"This heart is made from human cells and patient-specific biological materials. In our process these materials serve as the bioinks, substances made of sugars and proteins that can be used for 3D printing of complex tissue models," says Prof. Dvir.

He goes on to say: "People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels. Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future."

To demonstrate the potential of their technique, the scientists created a small but anatomically precise heart, complete with blood vessels and cells.

"At this stage, our 3D heart is small, the size of a rabbit's heart," says Prof. Dvir. "But larger human hearts require the same technology."

It is worth noting that this technology is still very far from being able to replace heart transplants. This is just another step along the path — albeit a rather large step.

The crucial next task, as Prof. Dvir says, is to teach them to behave like hearts; he explains that they "need to develop the printed heart further. The cells need to form a pumping ability; they can currently contract, but we need them to work together."

"Our hope," he goes on, "is that we will succeed and prove our method's efficacy and usefulness."

There is still a long road ahead, but the researchers are excited about how far they have come.

"Maybe, in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely."

Prof. Tal Dvir

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Low levels of 'bad cholesterol' may actually increase stroke risk

A recent study warns that women with low levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, sometimes called "bad cholesterol," may face an increased risk of bleeding stroke.
woman checking cholesterol measurements
Women with low LDL cholesterol levels may be more at risk of bleeding stroke, new research finds.

According to the latest guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, a person's levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol should remain under 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) to maintain health.

That is because, generally, specialists have considered LDL to be "bad" cholesterol. LDL carries cholesterol to the cells that need to make use of it, but if its levels are too high, it can stick to the arteries, leading to all manner of cardiovascular problems.

However, new research from the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, has found that women with LDL levels below 100 mg/dl may actually be more at risk of hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke. This type of stroke, though less common than an ischemic stroke, is harder to treat and thus more dangerous to the person experiencing it.

"Strategies to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, like modifying diet or taking statins, are widely used to prevent cardiovascular disease," explains study author Pamela Rist, from Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"But, our large study shows that in women, very low levels may also carry some risks. Women already have a higher risk of stroke than men, in part because they live longer, so clearly defining ways to reduce their risk is important."

Pamela Rist

The new study's findings now appear online ahead of print in the journal Neurology.

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In this study, the researchers looked at the data of 27,937 women aged 45 years and over who took part in the Women's Health Study. The data included measurements of each participant's LDL cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels at the beginning of the study.

Rist and team looked at both these data and the participants' medical records over an average 19-year follow-up period.

They found that during this time, 137 women had experienced a bleeding stroke. They noted that nine (or 0.8 percent) of the 1,069 women with LDL levels of 70 mg/dl or lower experienced this type of cardiovascular event, whereas it affected 40 (or 0.4 percent) of the 10,067 women with LDL cholesterol levels of 100–130 mg/dl.

After adjusting for possible confounding factors, the researchers concluded that women with the lowest levels of LDL cholesterol were more than twice (2.2 times) as likely to have a bleeding stroke as those with high LDL cholesterol levels.

They identified a similar association in relation to triglyceride levels: 34 (or 0.6 percent) of the 5,714 women with the lowest triglyceride levels had experienced a bleeding stroke, whereas this event had occurred in 29 (0.4 percent) of the 7,989 women with the highest triglyceride levels.

Once more, after adjusting for other potential risk factors, the team concluded that women with the lowest triglyceride levels had a risk of bleeding stroke that was twice as high as that of the women with the highest triglyceride levels.

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At the same time, the researchers found no such discrepancies regarding total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels.

"Women with very low LDL cholesterol or low triglycerides should be monitored by their doctors for other stroke risk factors that can be modified, like high blood pressure and smoking, in order to reduce their risk of hemorrhagic stroke," Rist advises.

"Also, additional research is needed to determine how to lower the risk of hemorrhagic stroke in women with very low LDL and low triglycerides," she adds.

The researchers also admit that their study has faced some limitations, including the fact that they only had access to cholesterol and triglyceride level measurements at baseline and that they did not have a chance to investigate whether menopause-related factors played a role in some of the women's increased stroke risk.

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What to know about low-carb, high-fat diets

A low-carb, high-fat diet involves a person reducing the number of carbohydrates they consume and replacing them with healthful fats. In recent years, this type of diet has become popular among people trying to lose weight.

A low-carb, high-fat diet (LCHF) involves using ketones from fat for energy instead of glucose, which comes directly from carbohydrates. When a person significantly reduces or limits the number of carbs they consume in a day, it forces the body to use fat stores as fuel, which may lead to weight loss.

However, science does not always agree on the safety of LCHF diets. Although some research supports its use to help a variety of health conditions, other studies report that LCHF diets can be dangerous.

Read on to learn more about LCHF diets, how to begin, and are they safe?

Is a low-carb, high-fat diet good for you? Omelette and avocado for a low-carb, high-fat diets
An LCHF diet may have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

Eating a diet that is high in protein and fat tends to make a person feel full faster than they would if they consumed only carbohydrates, particularly simple carbohydrates, such as sugar.

As well as weight loss, some evidence supports the use of LCHF diets to help certain medical conditions.

An LCHF diet may have a positive effect on the following conditions:

However, scientists need to carry out more research to understand the LCHF diet's long-term effect on overall health. There is conflicting evidence on the safety and effectiveness of the LCHF diet. One study suggests that diets low in carbohydrates may lead to premature death from heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

How to start For some people who want to lose weight, simple lifestyle changes, such as exercise and a balanced diet, might be all they need to improve their overall health and well-being. However, for those who want to follow an LCHF diet, it is essential that they implement it in a healthful, well-planned way. It is always a good idea to consult a healthcare professional before beginning an LCHF diet, particularly for those people with a medical diagnosis. It might be a good idea to ease into an LCHF diet by first cutting out refined and processed carbs, such as white bread and processed sugar and focusing on whole food based carbohydrates, such as fruits, beans, legumes, and whole grains. This may be a good start to reaching weight loss and health goals without having to drastically reduce the number of carbs eaten. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Consider a formal dietary plan An LCHF diet can include anything from a casual reduction in carbohydrate intake to following a much more structured plan. However, any LCHF diet involves reducing carbohydrate consumption. Most LCHF diets recommend that a person eats 50 grams (g) or less of carbohydrates in a day. The Atkins diet The Atkins diet is a popular LCHF diet that promotes weight loss. The Atkins diet involves four phases: Phase 1: A person eats no more than 20 g of carbohydrates a day for 2 weeks. Phase 2: A person can start to add more foods, such as nuts, fruits, and low-carb vegetables, into the diet. Phase 3: As the person approaches their goal weight, they can consume more carbohydrates. Phase 4: A person can eat whole grain carbs and other healthful carbohydrates as long as they do not start gaining weight. Many of the pre-packaged products linked to the Atkins diet are processed and contain sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners. Some research links these types of sweeteners to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and weight gain. If following an Atkins-type diet, it is a good idea to focus on whole food sources rather than processed foods and bars. The ketogenic diet The ketogenic, or keto, diet also encourages a low-carbohydrate and high-fat intake. Though there are a few variations, a ketogenic diet typically involves a person consuming no more than 5–10 percent of carbohydrates in their daily diet — this equates to about 20–50 g of carbs per day. The ketogenic diet aims to help the body achieve a state of ketosis. Ketosis occurs when there are not enough carbohydrates available for the body to use for energy, so it starts to break down fat stores to use instead. This effect typically induces weight loss and may have other health benefits for some people. However, the diet may also have side effects and scientists need to carry out further research to identify the long-term benefits and dangers of the ketogenic diet. Meal planning When a person starts an LCHF diet, it is essential that they plan their meals. Meal planning can help a person: buy only the food they need, which will save wastage and money avoid eating the same foods repetitively cut out meals heavy in carbohydrates For those following an LCHF dietary plan, such as the Atkins or ketogenic diet, there are many resources available to help a person plan their meals and create shopping lists. Foods to eat cashew nuts on wooden spoon
Cashew nuts are a good source of fat and protein for people on an LCHF diet. LCHF diets typically require a person to eat foods that are low in carbohydrates. In general, a person following an LCHF diet should include lean proteins and healthful fats in their daily diets. It is essential to be mindful of portion sizes to avoid overeating. Some sources of fat and protein for LCHF diets include: meat, including beef, pork, chicken, and turkey fish, such as salmon, tuna, herring, and cod cheese butter avocado oils, such as olive, coconut, flaxseed, and avocado oil nuts, such as peanuts, almonds, walnuts, and cashews seeds such as sunflower, chia, and flax eggs Some fruits and most non-starchy vegetables are low in carbohydrates. These include: spinach and other dark leafy greens berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries broccoli cauliflower asparagus Brussels sprouts carrots small portions of melons, peaches, and apples In moderation, a person can also eat dark chocolate and drink dry wine and still stay low-carb. Depending on the exact dietary plan a person is following, they may choose to include small amounts of the following higher-carb food items: quinoa sweet potatoes potatoes beans and legumes brown rice oats other tuber vegetables other whole grains People following an LCHF diet should avoid drinks that contain large amounts of added sugar, such as sodas, sweetened teas, and juices. Unsweetened teas, coffee, and water are excellent choices. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Foods to avoid The most obvious foods to avoid are those that contain high carbohydrates with little nutritional value or fiber, such as refined and overly processed foods. This includes sodas, cakes, and cookies. These often contain a lot of added sugar, including artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. Other foods that people can avoid or consume in smaller quantities include: white pasta white rice bread and rolls baked goods such as pastries, cakes, and muffins candy drinks with added sugar, such as energy drinks, soft drinks, and fruit juices beer sugar-heavy coffees diet drinks low-fat foods as they may contain extra sugar Some people may choose to avoid starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, beans, and whole grains. However, a person might not need to exclude all these foods to maintain an LCHF diet. Side effects woman with a headache and fatigue at her desk
A person may experience fatigue if they suddenly cut down on carbohydrates. When a person suddenly cuts down on the number of carbohydrates they eat, they may experience some temporary side effects, including: As the body adjusts to these dietary change, these effects should go away. There is currently not a lot of research into the long-term side effects of LCHF diets. However, some potential risks may include: a higher chance of developing heart disease from eating animal protein and fat increase in the risk of developing chronic diseases nutritional deficiencies Children and teenagers should not attempt a diet that reduces their carbohydrate intake. Nutritional deficiencies could lead to bone density loss or impaired growth. People with medical conditions or other concerns should speak to their healthcare provider before starting an LCHF diet. Takeaway In the short-term, an LCHF diet may help a person lose weight. However, there is little research on the long-term health effects of LCHF diets. Some studies indicate that the diet may help a person avoid heart disease and other medical conditions, while others suggest it may lead to more chronic conditions. Before starting an LCHF diet, a person should speak to their healthcare professional.
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Large study ties PTSD, acute stress to cardiovascular disease

A large Swedish population study has found strong links between psychiatric conditions that can follow extremely stressful experiences and the risk of several types of cardiovascular disease.
man holding his head in his hands, looking very stressed
The link between acute stress and cardiovascular symptoms may be bidirectional, suggests new research.

In addition, the researchers found that the risk of a heart attack and other sudden and severe cardiovascular events is especially high in the 6 months that follow the diagnosis of the stress-related condition.

For other types of cardiovascular disease — such as heart failure, a disease that develops slowly — the risk appears to be highest during the 12 months that follow the psychiatric diagnosis.

For embolism and thrombosis, which are major conditions that develop from blood clots, the risk is likely higher 1 year or more after a diagnosis of stress-induced illness.

In a paper in The BMJ about the study, the authors state that the findings apply "equally to men and women" and do not depend on medical history, family background, or having other psychiatric illnesses.

They also note that the results support those of previous studies on relations between stress-induced conditions and cardiovascular disease.

However, most previous findings have come from research that drew largely on male war veterans or men on active military service, and they also focused almost entirely on PTSD, with symptom data from self-reports.

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PTSD and similar stress-induced conditions

Anyone who has witnessed or experienced a traumatic event, such as combat, rape, violent assault, or natural disaster can develop PTSD, which affects around 3.5 percent of adults in the United States.

However, witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event does not necessarily lead to PTSD.

When diagnosing PTSD, doctors look for symptoms such as startled reaction to loud noise, flashbacks, and nightmares, together with feelings of detachment, more-than-usual anger, sadness, and irritability that remain intense and do not wane with time.

In some people, the symptoms of PTSD can last for years.

Acute stress disorder is a similar condition to PTSD; it can occur in response to traumatic events and has some of the same symptoms, but it tends to arise within 3–30 days after the traumatic event.

In the U.S., estimates suggest that 13–21 percent of car accident survivors and up to half of those who survive rape, assault, or mass shootings will develop acute stress disorder. Around half of the people with acute stress disorder go on to develop PTSD.

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The study and its key findings

The new investigation used 1987–2013 data from the Swedish National Patient Register on 136,637 patients "with stress-related disorders, including [PTSD], acute stress reaction, adjustment disorder, and other stress reactions."

The researchers ran comparisons between this "exposed" cohort and two other "unexposed" cohorts, one comprising 171,314 full siblings and the other comprising 1,366,370 matched individuals from the general population. By unexposed, the researchers mean free of stress-related conditions.

The team first calculated the average rate of cardiovascular disease among the three cohorts over the period of the study. This came to 10.5 per 1,000 person-years for the exposed group and 8.4 and 6.9 for the unexposed sibling and matched general population cohorts, respectively.

Further analysis revealed links between psychiatric conditions resulting from trauma or highly stressful life events and a raised risk of developing a number of cardiovascular diseases. These links were particularly marked during the 12 months following the psychiatric diagnosis.

Specifically, those with a stress-related illness were 64 percent more likely to develop a form of cardiovascular disease in the 12 months after a psychiatric diagnosis than their unexposed siblings. Comparisons with unexposed, matched members of the general population yielded a similar result.

The researchers also found a particularly strong link between stress-induced psychiatric conditions and cardiovascular diseases that tend to develop before the age of 50.

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Need to investigate 'bidirectional nature'

The authors point out that, due to the nature of their study design, they cannot conclude that stress-related disorders actually cause cardiovascular diseases.

Simon Bacon, a professor at Concordia University, in Montreal, Canada, takes up this point in a linked editorial.

He raises the possibility of cause being in the other direction. For example, could it be the case that people who already have some degree of cardiovascular disease are more susceptible to developing stress-induced psychiatric conditions?

To counter this, "as evidence" of cause running in the other direction, he points out that the researchers "quite rightly cite" the raised risk that they found of heart attack, stroke, and other acute cardiovascular events 1 year following the psychiatric diagnosis.

However, he also highlights the large effect that the researchers found in the link to a raised risk of heart failure and how this occurred "less than 1 year after diagnosis." Because heart failure is a disease that progresses slowly, "reverse causation cannot be ruled out entirely."

Prof. Bacon argues that these questions call for further investigation into the "potential bidirectional nature" of these links.

The researchers suggest that there is a need for doctors to know that cardiovascular disease could be more likely to develop following highly stressful events that lead to diagnoses of stress-related conditions, especially during the first year.

The authors conclude:

"These findings call for enhanced clinical awareness and, if verified, monitoring or early intervention among patients with recently diagnosed stress-related disorders."
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5-minute breathing 'workout' may benefit heart and brain health

Preliminary research reveals that a technique called Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training can boost cognitive and physical performance, as well as cardiovascular health.
nurse taking woman's blood pressure
New research adds another tool in the toolbox for preventing high blood pressure.

Most of us know that exercising and eating right are good for us.

However, putting in the effort to do so can often require more willpower than we have.

What if there was a way to reap all the benefits of a workout without having to lift a finger?

New research introduces a 5-minute technique that might improve blood pressure, lower heart attack risk, boost cognitive ability, and enhance sports performance — all while barely having to move.

The technique is called Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST), and researchers led by Daniel Craighead — a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Colorado Boulder's Department of Integrative Physiology — have tested the technique in a clinical trial.

"IMST is basically strength-training for the muscles you breathe in with," explains Craighead. The researcher and his colleagues presented the preliminary results of their research at the annual Experimental Biology conference, which this year takes place in Orlando, FL.

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Why study the benefits of IMST?

IMST involves inhaling through a resistive hand-held device called an inspiratory muscle trainer. Its creators initially developed it for people with respiratory problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, or cystic fibrosis, or to wean people off ventilators.

Craighead and team explain that in 2016, a 6-week trial on the effects of IMST on obstructive sleep apnea — during which participants performed 30 inhalations per day — revealed that using the device also lowered systolic blood pressure by 12 millimeters of mercury.

Exercising for the same amount of time usually only lowers blood pressure by half that amount, and the benefits seem to exceed those normally achieved with hypertension medication.

This trial piqued the researchers' interest, so they set out to study the possible benefits of IMST for the vascular, cognitive, and physical health of 50 middle-aged adults.

"Our goal is to develop time-efficient, evidence-based interventions that [...] busy midlife adults will actually perform," explains senior investigator Prof. Doug Seals, the director of the University of Colorado Boulder's Integrative Physiology of Aging Laboratory.

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Lowers blood pressure and boosts cognition

The researchers compared participants who tried IMST with people who used a sham device that provided no resistance on inhalation. They found that the blood pressure was significantly lower among IMST participants and that the function of their large arteries had improved considerably.

IMST participants also performed better on cognitive tests and treadmill tests. In the treadmill tests, they were able to run for longer and keep their heart rate and oxygen consumption low.

"[IMST is] something you can do quickly in your home or office, without having to change your clothes, and so far it looks like it is very beneficial to lower blood pressure and possibly boost cognitive and physical performance."

Daniel Craighead

"High blood pressure," claims Craighead, "is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the number one cause of death in America. Having another option in the toolbox to help prevent it would be a real victory."

However, the study authors caution that their results are preliminary, and that people interested in the technique should consult their physician first.

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What causes an abnormal EKG result?

An electrocardiogram, or EKG, is a simple test that doctors use to measure the electrical activity of the heart. This helps them look for underlying heart conditions.

Sometimes, an abnormal EKG reading is actually just a normal variation in a person's heart rhythm. In other cases, it may be due to an underlying condition of the heart or a reaction to a medication the person is taking.

An EKG reading is a helpful diagnostic tool. Once a doctor has identified the underlying condition, they can suggest appropriate treatment.

EKG results EKG results being held by person
An EKG can help visualize the electrical activity of the heart.

To many people, an EKG is just a series of lines. However, each line corresponds to an electrical signal sent from the heart.

Doctors know how to read and interpret these lines, which gives them a sense of the overall state of the heart.

The administering doctor or healthcare professional will attach electrodes to a person's skin, typically at 10 different points around their chest and on the limbs.

Each heartbeat sends out an electrical impulse. These electrodes pick up this impulse and record the activity in a wave form on a graph.

All of this happens in the blink of an eye, which is why an EKG is so important. An EKG can catch all of these tiny details and record them for a doctor to analyze.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today What causes an abnormal EKG? An abnormal EKG means that there is something unexpected in the EKG reading. This is not always a sign of an unhealthy heart. For instance, in 2015, researchers found that competitive sports athletes regularly had abnormal EKG readings. The researchers indicated that the majority of these results were harmless and due to the person's adaptation to exercise. However, they still called for thorough screening to check for any other risk factors. With this in mind, an abnormal EKG reading could appear for many reasons, including: Irregular heart rate An EKG will pick up any irregularities in a person's heart rate. The human heart typically beats at around 60–100 beats per minute. A heart that beats any faster or slower than this may indicate an underlying issue. A doctor will want to run additional tests to find the underlying cause. Irregular heart rhythm Although it may vary slightly between each person, each heart keeps a steady rhythm. A person may physically feel changes in this rhythm, such as skipped heartbeats or feeling as though the heart is fluttering. An EKG will help doctors see how and where the heart is beating out of rhythm but will only be able to record the irregularity if it happens during the test. Since this is unlikely, doctors may recommend using a Holter monitor, which monitors the heart's activity for 24 hours or longer. This gives doctors a better opportunity to catch the irregularity. Abnormalities in the shape of the heart An EKG gives doctors an idea of how hard the heart is working in each specific area. An abnormal EKG result can be a sign that one region or section of the heart is larger or thicker than the others. A thickened heart could mean that the heart is working too hard to pump blood. This may be due to a congenital or acquired heart condition. Electrolyte imbalances Electrolyte minerals are important for overall health, but they also play a role in heart health and may even cause an abnormal EKG. Electrolytes conduct electricity in the body and help keep the heart rate and rhythm consistent. An imbalance in electrolyte minerals such as potassium, sodium, calcium, or magnesium may cause an abnormal EKG reading. Medication side effects Taking certain medication may cause abnormal EKG results.
Taking certain medications may cause abnormal EKG results. Some medications may cause an abnormal EKG reading. Anyone who is getting an EKG should discuss any medications they are taking with a doctor. It may also help to check the list of side effects provided on the packaging. Some medications that help balance the heart rhythm may actually cause abnormal heart rhythms in some people. Such medications include certain beta-blockers and sodium channel blockers. If a doctor thinks that the type of medication a person is taking may be causing their symptoms, they may suggest alternatives and then do a follow-up EKG to see how the person responds to the new medication. High blood pressure Other aspects of heart disease may lead to an abnormal EKG. For example, people with high blood pressure are more likely to have an abnormal EKG reading. Heart attack Sometimes, an abnormal EKG result may be a sign of a serious issue, such as a heart attack. When a person has a heart attack, the heart can lose its fresh supply of blood, which can cause tissue damage and even cell death. Damaged tissue will not conduct electricity as well as healthy tissue, which could cause the abnormal EKG reading. Treatments Treatment for an abnormal EKG depends on the underlying issue. If the doctor suspects the abnormal EKG is a result of normal variances in the human heart, they may recommend no treatment at all. If a certain medication is causing the abnormal readings, they may recommend an alternative. If the doctor suspects that a person has an electrolyte imbalance, they may suggest fluids or medications that contain electrolytes. Other issues may require more individualized treatments. An arrhythmia may or may not require treatment. Most arrhythmias pose little to no risk to the person, as they may not cause symptoms or interfere with the heart's function. On the other hand, some arrhythmias may interfere with the heart's ability to pump blood. If a heart is having trouble keeping a steady rhythm, a doctor may recommend medications or ask the person to wear a pacemaker to help restore the heart's rhythm. Anyone having a heart attack will need emergency medical treatment. The person may also need to undergo surgeries such as angioplasty to keep the blood flowing and reduce damage to the tissues. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today When do you need an EKG? Man having an electrocardiogram or EKG in hospital
A doctor may recommend an EKG to diagnose or monitor heart conditions. Many people will get an EKG reading at some point in their lives, often due to experiencing common symptoms such as chronic chest pain, shortness of breath, or a rapid pulse. Doctors may also regularly use EKGs to check on people with diagnosed heart disease. Another reason to get an EKG is experiencing heart palpitations or arrhythmia. A person may feel as though their heart skips a beat, that their heart is fluttering, or that it is beating very strongly. Doctors may recommend an EKG here to check for any underlying issues. They may order additional tests depending on the results. Summary An EKG is a risk-free and noninvasive procedure. It does not send electricity into the body and will not cause any pain. It is an important tool for diagnosing conditions affecting the heart. Most people will undergo an EKG at some point. Although having an abnormal EKG can seem scary, it is important to understand that it is just one part of a proper diagnosis. Many things can cause an abnormal EKG, and not all of them are dangerous. A doctor can recommend further tests to diagnose the underlying cause of a person's symptoms and EKG results.
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Even a low intake of red and processed meat may raise death risk

The connection between eating large amounts of red or processed meat and certain diseases is well-known, but a new study suggests that consuming even a small amount of these foods could be risky.
man eating read meat
New research suggests that eating red meat even occasionally may shorten life.

The world is eating more meat. The global consumption of meat and poultry has increased in both developed and developing countries over the past 50 years, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Red meat is the most popular type of meat in the United States. Processed meat that has undergone curing, smoking, or salting to alter its flavor makes up 22 percent of U.S. meat consumption, according to a 2011 study.

Research has linked both red and processed meat to a higher risk of certain health conditions, such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and even some cancers.

Previous studies have examined the effects of eating moderate-to-high amounts of meat on mortality. However, the impact of consuming a small amount has remained largely untested.

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Finding the perfect sample

Researchers at Loma Linda University Health in California aimed to address this imbalance in a new study.

"We wanted to take a closer look at the association of low intakes of red and processed meat with all-cause, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer mortality compared to those who didn't eat meat at all," states lead author Saeed Mastour Alshahrani.

The team's findings suggest that eating small amounts of red and processed meat could increase a person's risk of death.

The researchers used data from people who took part in the Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2). Between 2002 and 2007, this cohort study recruited close to 96,000 Seventh-day Adventists living in the U.S. and Canada.

Adventists are an interesting group for scientists looking into factors relating to the diet. About half of these believers are vegetarian, and those who do choose to eat meat consume very little of it.

To see whether meat consumption had any effect on mortality, researchers analyzed two factors. The first was the cause of death of more than 7,900 Adventists over an 11-year period. The second was a dietary assessment of the same individuals using food frequency questionnaires.

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Higher risk of death

The researchers noted that meat intake was low. Among the people who reported consuming meat, 90 percent ate 2 ounces or less of red meat per day.

When they evaluated the deaths, the investigators found that cardiovascular disease was responsible for almost 2,600 of them, while more than 1,800 deaths related to cancer.

The results, which feature in the journal Nutrients, showed that there was an association between the consumption of a combination of red and processed meats and a higher risk of both total and cardiovascular disease deaths. Processed meat alone did not show a similar trend.

Certain groups appeared to be more susceptible to specific meat types. For example, unprocessed red meat was "significantly" related to a risk of all-cause mortality for white people but not for black people. When the researchers looked specifically at the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality, they noted that this was only significant among women and black people.

Black people and women also had an increased risk of all-cause mortality from eating processed meat. However, the team only identified a link between processed meat consumption and cardiovascular disease in women.

The researchers did not report any significant findings relating to cancer, but they noted that other studies have found evidence of a relationship between meat intake and this disease. As a result, they suggest that this association may only become apparent with higher meat consumption.

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A new conclusion

The authors of the new study believe that their work supports previous conclusions. "Our findings give additional weight to the evidence already suggesting that eating red and processed meat may negatively impact health and lifespan," comments Michael Orlich, Ph.D., co-author of the study and co-director of AHS-2.

The study also shows something new by demonstrating that eating even a small amount of red and processed meat could be worse for health than eating none.

The study has both strengths and limitations. Researchers adjusted the results for various factors, including obesity, physical activity, and low intake of fruit and vegetables.

To strengthen the findings, they also took into account specific dietary factors, such as intake of dairy, whole grains, and legumes. It also helped that relatively few of the participants smoked or drank alcohol.

However, the study relied on questionnaires, which could cast doubt over the results because people may not recall consuming food that they eat very little of or consume irregularly.

More research will be necessary to support the findings of this study. It is also still unclear precisely what causes red and processed meat to lead to adverse health outcomes.

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What are the health benefits of beetroot juice?

Beetroot juice may offer a range of health benefits due to its unique combination of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Beetroots, or beets, have risen in popularity now that researchers have identified links between drinking beetroot juice and lowered blood pressure, reduced inflammation, and improved athletic performance.

Beetroots have an excellent nutritional profile that includes plenty of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They also contain unique bioactive compounds called betalains, which may benefit a person's health.

People can get these benefits from consuming whole beetroots or their juice.

In this article, we look at the research behind six proposed health benefits of beetroot juice. We also cover dosage and how to make the juice at home.

1. Good nutritional profile Beetroot juice in glass top down view with lemon and lettuce
Beetroot juice is rich in a range of nutrients.

Beetroot juice contains a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals. Drinking this vegetable juice regularly can help prevent deficiencies in these nutrients.

A 100-milliliter (ml) serving of organic beetroot juice, which is equivalent to a small glass, contains 29 calories, no fat, and the following nutrients:

0.42 grams (g) of protein 7.50 g of carbohydrates 5.42 g of sugar 0.40 g of fiber

Beetroot juice also contains antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress, which research has linked to the development of cancer, inflammatory conditions, and heart disease.

Beetroots are a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals, including:

folate, which is important for DNA and cell health vitamin C, an antioxidant that plays a role in wound healing and immune system function vitamin B-6, which supports metabolism and red blood cell production calcium, an essential mineral for bone growth and strength iron, which allows red blood cells to carry oxygen magnesium, a mineral that supports immune, heart, muscle, and nerve health manganese, which contributes to the regulation of metabolism and blood sugar levels phosphorous, an essential nutrient for teeth, bones, and cell repair copper, which plays a role in making collagen, maintaining bones and blood vessels, and supporting immune function zinc, which promotes wound healing, supports the immune system, and encourages normal growth

Beetroots also contain other beneficial compounds:

Phytochemicals give plants their color and flavor. They also stimulate the immune system, minimize inflammation, and reduce oxidative stress. Betalains are responsible for the deep red color of beetroots. These pigments have promising antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antitoxic properties. Nitrates refer to a group of organic compounds that improve blood flow and promote heart health. 2. Improving blood pressure A growing body of research suggests that beetroots can help lower a person's blood pressure. Researchers believe that this is due to their nitrate content. Beets naturally contain large quantities of nitrates, which the body converts into nitric oxide. This compound dilates the blood vessels, which improves blood flow and lowers overall blood pressure. In a recent study, researchers gave participants 70 ml of either nitrate-rich beetroot juice or a nitrate-depleted placebo juice. The blood pressure of those in the test group decreased by 5.2 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) more than that of those in the placebo group after just 30 minutes. However, the effect of the concentrated beetroot juice subsided within 24 hours. Another small-scale study showed that drinking 250 ml of beetroot juice every day for 4 weeks lowered blood pressure among people with hypertension. However, people who are already taking medication to lower their blood pressure may not notice the same benefits. The findings of a 2015 study involving people who were taking blood pressure medications revealed that nitrate-rich beetroot juice did not lower blood pressure after 1 week compared with nitrate-depleted beetroot juice. 3. Reducing inflammation Beetroot juice contains anti-inflammatory compounds called betalains. According to a 2015 review, betalains inhibit specific signaling pathways that play a role in inflammatory diseases. A 2014 study showed that a betalain called phenethylamine-betaxanthin reduced the activity of an inflammatory enzyme by 32 percent. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today 4. Preventing anemia Anemia can cause headaches and fatigue.
Anemia can cause headaches and fatigue. Beetroots are rich in iron, an essential component of red blood cells. Without iron, red blood cells cannot transport oxygen around the body. People who have low iron levels can sometimes develop a condition called iron deficiency anemia. Adding sources of iron to the diet can reduce the risk of this condition. The symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include: 5. Protecting the liver Beetroot juice contains antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin B-6, and iron. These compounds help protect the liver from inflammation and oxidative stress while enhancing its ability to remove toxins from the body. A recent small-scale animal study in rats with liver injury found that the rodents that received a beetroot extract had minimal liver damage in comparison with control rats. 6. Boosting athletic performance Certain compounds in beetroot juice, such as nitrates and betalains, may improve athletic performance. According to a 2017 systematic review, nitrates can boost a person's athletic efficiency by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. A 2018 study looked at the effects of betalain on 28 trained male cyclists. The cyclists received 100 mg of either beetroot concentrate or placebo every day for a week. Compared with the placebo group, the beetroot concentrate group had higher exercise efficiency and increased blood flow. Dosage Currently, there are no official dosage recommendations for beetroot juice. According to a 2014 study, drinking one 250-ml glass of beetroot juice per day may lower blood pressure. The juice did not cause any serious side effects, but the participants did report a change in the color of their urine. The authors noted that the ability of beetroot juice to lower blood pressure depends on the nitrate concentration, which can vary widely among different beetroot juices. The authors recommend a concentration of 4 millimoles per liter (mmol) of nitrate to lower blood pressure in healthy adults. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Side effects person drinking smoothie or juice made of beetroot-or pomegranate at breakfast table.
A person with low blood pressure should avoid drinking beetroot juice regularly. In most cases, people can safely eat beets or drink beetroot juice without experiencing any negative side effects. Drinking beetroot juice regularly can affect the color of urine and feces due to the natural pigments in beets. People may notice pink or purple urine, which is called beeturia, and pink or purple feces. These color changes are temporary and not a cause for concern. The nitrates in beetroot juice affect blood pressure. Anyone who has low blood pressure or is currently taking blood pressure medication should speak with a healthcare professional before adding beets or beetroot juice to their diet. Beets contain high levels of oxalates, which can cause kidney stones in people with a high risk of this condition. How to make beetroot juice People can make beetroot juice at home using a juicer, blender, or food processor. How to prepare the beets: Trim the tops off the beets before washing them thoroughly. Leave the beetroot skin intact for extra nutrients. Chop the beets into small pieces. How to juice the beets: Set up a juicer with a bowl or pitcher in position to catch discarded material. Feed the beetroot pieces into the juicer one at a time. Pour the beetroot juice into a glass, and immediately drink it or place it in the refrigerator to chill. How to blend the beets: Place the beetroot pieces into the blender, and add a splash of water to help soften up the beetroot. Blend until smooth. Remove large chunks from the juice using a cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer. Discard the pulp and pour the beetroot juice into a glass. Chill it in the refrigerator or serve it straight away. People can drink beetroot juice on its own, or they can blend it with the juice of other fruits and vegetables. The following healthful ingredients can add a flavorful twist: People can also buy beetroot juice from their local grocery store or choose between brands online. It is important to check the nutrition label on products and avoid juices that contain added sugars and preservatives. Summary Beetroots are a healthful addition to most diets. People can experience the health benefits of beetroots by eating them raw or cooked or by drinking beetroot juice. Juiced beets contain many beneficial nutrients that the cooking process can remove. We picked linked items based on the quality of products, and list the pros and cons of each to help you determine which will work best for you. We partner with some of the companies that sell these products, which means Healthline UK and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link(s) above.
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List of the best full-body exercises

People may describe muscle-strengthening exercises as being upper body, lower body, or core exercises. However, there are also various exercises that work most of a person's muscles at once.

A full-body exercise uses a variety of muscle groups in a person's body, rather than just one. No exercise will work every muscle, but these exercises typically work across the upper body, lower body, and core.

According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), exercise should include aerobic activity as well as muscle-strengthening.

Many muscle-strengthening exercises increase a person's heart rate and breathing, but a person should ideally do aerobic activity for 20–30 minutes per day. This is longer than muscle-strengthening exercises usually last.

However, by combining a few exercises that work several muscle groups, including both aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening exercises, a person can ensure that they are exercising every part of their body.

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Doing full-body exercises Many muscle-strengthening exercises use reps and sets. A rep, which is short for repetition, is the total motion of an individual exercise. A set is a certain number of reps. For example, a rep of a pushup is going from having the arms extended, lowering the chest to the floor, then raising the body back to the original position. A set may comprise 10–20 reps of the pushup, or as many as a person can manage. Each person will be able to do a different number of reps and sets of an exercise in a single workout. As a rule of thumb, a person could do as many reps as they can, rest for a few minutes, then repeat this set. According to the ODPHP, even small amounts of exercise make a difference to overall health. A person should not feel any discouragement if only a few reps of an exercise tire them out. They will be able to do more as they exercise regularly, and even a small amount of exercise is beneficial. Pushups Illustrated guide to pushups
Squats Gif demonstration of squats
Burpees Gif of how to do burpees
Lunges How to do lunges gif
Pushups To do a pushup: Place the palms on the floor under the shoulders, arms extended. Extend the legs back, resting on the balls of the feet, so the body is a straight line. Lower the body, so that the chest or nose is about to touch the floor. Push back up. Repeat this 10 times or as many times as possible before tiring. Take a break, then do this set again. If this is too difficult, begin by resting on the knees instead of stretching the legs out. Over time, work up to the pushup described above. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Squats Starting from a standing position, crouch down into a squatting position, then rise back up. Repeat as many times as possible, take a break, then do the set again. Burpees Burpees combine the benefits of a pushup and a squat, so they are an excellent full-body exercise. To do a burpee: From a standing position, drop down into a squat. Rather than jumping back up, move into a plank position. Do a pushup, then move back to a standing position. Repeat this as many times as possible, take a break, then do the set again. To add intensity, try jumping out of the squat into the standing position. To make it easier, remove the pushup stage. Lunges To do a lunge: Start with one leg at a right angle in front of the body. Extend the other leg back, so that the knee is just above the floor and the ball of the foot is taking the weight. Move up and down, and switch feet so that the legs alternate position. Repeat as many times as possible, rest, then do the set again. Running and cycling Group of friends cycling through park on bikes
Cycling can help strengthen skeletal muscles. Running and cycling are excellent aerobic activities. However, according to an article in the journal Exercise and Sport Sciences Review, they can also contribute to increasing strength in a person's skeletal muscles. To make them even more effective at building muscle strength, a study paper appearing in the International Journal of Exercise Science suggests incorporating high-intensity interval training into aerobic exercise. This involves running or cycling at a moderate intensity, interspersed with intervals of very high-intensity anaerobic exercises. Stair climbing Stair climbing is a beneficial exercise for both muscle-strengthening and aerobic activity. Climb to the top of a set of stairs, then climb back down. Repeat this for 1 minute, or for as long as possible. Take a break, then repeat. To maximize the amount of energy a person burns, they should climb stairs one step at a time. A study of 14 people in the journal PLoS One found that although the action of climbing two steps expended more energy than taking a single step, climbing a staircase one step at a time burned more calories. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Things to remember Doing exercises or an intense exercise session for the first time can make the muscles ache. A person should make sure to give themselves a rest day to allow their muscles to recover. When doing an exercise for the first time, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggest beginning slowly and gradually increasing the intensity. This will help prevent injuries. Takeaway Many exercises work muscle groups across a person's body. Doing a variety of these, as well as combining them with aerobic exercise, can help ensure that the whole of a person's body stays fit and healthy.
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Poor diet biggest risk factor for early deaths worldwide

A major study has found that unhealthful eating is responsible for more deaths worldwide than any other risk factor, including smoking.
woman eating chinese out of a paper
A diet low in nutrients may cause more deaths worldwide than smoking or other unhealthful habits, suggests new research.

The Global Burden of Disease Study looked at dietary consumption between 1990 and 2017 in 195 countries, focusing on 15 types of food or nutrients.

In a paper that features in The Lancet, the study investigators conclude that, due to its contribution to noncommunicable diseases, poor diet accounted for 1 in 5, or 11 million, adult deaths in 2017.

The vast majority of those deaths, around 10 million, were from cardiovascular disease. The rest were mainly from cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Ranking the countries from lowest to highest rates of diet-related deaths puts Israel first, with 89 deaths per 100,000 people, and Uzbekistan last, with 892 per 100,000.

The United States, with 171 deaths per 100,000, comes in at 43rd place and the United Kingdom at 23rd, with 127 deaths per 100,000. India is in 118th place, and China is in 140th.

"This study," says study author Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray, who is director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, "affirms what many have thought for several years — that poor diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risk factor in the world."

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Little healthful, too much unhealthful food

In their analysis of global diets, the researchers looked at 15 items: fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, fiber, calcium, milk, omega-3 fatty acids from seafood, polyunsaturated fats, trans fats, red meat, processed meat, sugary drinks, and sodium.

They found that the global diet in 2017 contained less than the ideal amounts of nearly all healthful food items. The biggest deficiency was in nuts and seeds, milk, and whole grains.

Consumption of nuts and seeds, for instance, was on average only 3 grams (g) per day, or around 12 percent of the optimal intake.

Consumption of milk was only 16 percent of optimal intake and whole grains was only 23 percent.

Alongside these, daily intakes of unhealthful dietary items "exceeded the optimal level globally." Sugary drink consumption, for example, "was far higher than the optimal intake," followed by the consumption of processed meat and sodium. Red meat consumption was just above the optimal level.

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Insufficient healthful food more damaging

An important finding of the study was that insufficient intake of healthful foods could be just as, if not more, damaging than eating too many unhealthful foods.

The authors note that the diets that related to the most deaths were "high in sodium, low in whole grains, low in fruit, low in nuts and seeds, low in vegetables, and low in omega-3 fatty acids."

They found that each of these dietary factors accounted "for more than 2 percent of global deaths."

In addition, just three of these — whole grains, fruits, and sodium — accounted for more than half of the diet-related deaths and two-thirds of the years lost to diet-related ill health and disability.

Dr. Murray says that these results contrast with the fact that, over the last 20 years, policy discussions have tended to focus more on restricting unhealthful foods.

He and his colleagues suggest that campaigns should concentrate on rebalancing diets. They also urge that any changes to food production and distribution aimed to achieve this must consider the environmental impact on the climate, land, water, and soil.

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Need to 'shift the focus'

In a linked editorial, Prof. Nita G. Forouhi and Prof. Nigel Unwin, both of the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., agree with the authors in that "in a global context," and despite its limitations, the study offers "evidence to shift the focus" from restricting unhealthful food items to increasing healthful ones.

They suggest that it confirms a need to emphasize foods rather than nutrients. However, they also highlight some of the challenges of shifting the global diet toward a more healthful one, such as the "prohibitive" costs of fruits and vegetables.

For example, in low-income countries, "Two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables per day per individual accounted for 52 percent of household income," compared with just 2 percent in high-income nations.

"While sodium, sugar, and fat have been the focus of policy debates over the past two decades, our assessment suggests the leading dietary risk factors are high intake of sodium or low intake of healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds, and vegetables."

Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray

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Keto diet: A 'cheat day' may undo benefits and damage blood vessels

New research shows that people who follow a keto diet to lose weight or treat diabetes should avoid sudden spikes in blood sugar levels.
two women eating breakfast
New research explores the effects of having a 'cheat' day on the keto diet.

Diets require discipline, and it is not always easy for people to follow them without indulging in a "cheat day." One day may not make a big difference in the long-term, but a recent study from the University of British Columbia in Okanagan, Canada (UBCO), found that when it comes to the keto diet, a single dose of carbohydrates may have dangerous side effects.

The keto diet aims to provide the body with more calories from protein and fat and less from carbohydrates. Ratios depend on the individual's body mass and activity level, but they usually stay in the following ranges: 60–75 percent of calories from fat, 15–30 percent of calories from protein, and 5–10 percent of calories from carbohydrates.

When the body receives less than 50 grams of carbohydrates a day, it will run out of its preferred fuel source — glucose — and this will happen 3 to 4 days after the beginning of the diet. At this point, the body will start to break down protein and fat to get energy. This metabolic process is called ketosis.

Keto diet for weight loss and diabetes

People often use the keto diet to lose weight, but this method can also help to manage certain health conditions, including diabetes. Studies showed that the keto diet might help to control hunger and reduce body weight, and it may lower blood sugar levels in those with diabetes.

"The ketogenic — or keto — diet has become very common for weight loss or to manage diseases such as type 2 diabetes," says Jonathan Little, senior author of the recent study and associate professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at UBCO.

Little explains that during ketosis, the body's chemistry changes. The process in which the body starts to aggressively burn its fat stores to get energy may lead to significant weight loss and improvement in symptoms of diseases, for example, type 2 diabetes.

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The impact of one dose of glucose

It is common for people to indulge in "cheat days," and so researchers at UCBO wanted to know what happens when people reintroduce a dose of glucose to the body. The study was looking for inflammatory responses or reduced tolerance to blood glucose.

"Since impaired glucose tolerance and spikes in blood sugar levels are known to be associated with an increased risk in cardiovascular disease, it made sense to look at what was happening in the blood vessels after a sugar hit," says Cody Durrer, study first author and doctoral student at UBCO.

Nine healthy young males participated in this study, which appears in the journal Nutrients. The researchers asked them to follow a 7-day high fat, low-carbohydrate diet that was similar to the keto diet, consisting of 70 percent fat, 10 percent carbohydrates, and 20 percent protein. They also had to consume a 75-gram glucose drink before and after the diet.

The inflammatory and blood glucose concerns were not what the researchers discovered, however.

"What we found instead were biomarkers in the blood, suggesting that vessel walls were being damaged by the sudden spike in glucose," Durrer continues.

The results were alarming because even though the participants were all young males, the condition of their blood vessels after consuming the glucose drink was more similar to that of people with poor cardiovascular health.

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Little explains that the damage to blood vessels is due to the body's own metabolic response to spikes in blood sugar levels, which may lead to the death of blood vessel cells.

Researchers cautioned that the study only included nine people, and more work is needed to verify the results. However, it still points to worrying issues, the senior author suggests.

"My concern is that many of the people going on a keto diet — whether it's to lose weight, to treat type 2 diabetes, or some other health reason — may be undoing some of the positive impacts on their blood vessels if they suddenly blast them with glucose," Little concludes.

These findings should give those on a keto diet pause when considering a "cheat day."

The data suggest that the keto diet is not something that people should do for 6 days a week and take a day off. This consideration is especially important for people who are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

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'Even moderate alcohol consumption increases stroke risk'

Some research has suggested that drinking alcohol in moderation could have protective effects against stroke. However, a large cohort study in a Chinese population shows that this is not the case at all.
clear glass with an alcoholic drink
A large new cohort study emphasizes that any alcohol intake can increase the risk of stroke.

We know that alcohol consumption can impact our health in many ways, but some researchers have debated whether the amount and the frequency of consumption could have a bearing on whether drinking is better or worse for health.

Certain studies — such as one published in 2016 in the journal BMC Medicine — have even suggested that moderate alcohol consumption can have a protective effect against stroke.

However, other researchers have called such findings into question and decided to conduct their own investigation into this matter.

A new collaborative study — led by teams from Oxford University, in the United Kingdom, and Peking University, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Peking Union Medical College, in Beijing, China — now shows that moderate drinking not only does not protect against cardiovascular events, it actually increases the risk of stroke.

These findings, which appear in the journal The Lancet, are based on the analysis of data collected from over 500,000 people in China.

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Why the focus on East Asian populations?

The researchers chose to focus on a Chinese population because numerous people of East Asian descent experience something called the "Asian flushing syndrome" — when they consume alcohol, their faces turn red (flushed) and assume a glow.

This, the authors explain in their paper, is because when people with this syndrome drink alcohol, their systems are unable to properly break down some of the components, due to certain genetic variants that are specific to these populations.

"The major clearance pathway for blood alcohol is that an alcohol dehydrogenase [...] oxidizes it to acetaldehyde, which causes discomfort at sufficient concentrations," the researchers write.

"An aldehyde dehydrogenase [...] then detoxifies the acetaldehyde, oxidizing it to acetate, which does not cause discomfort," they continue, explaining that "Fast clearance of alcohol or, particularly, slow breakdown of acetaldehyde can cause individuals to limit alcohol intake."

While in people of European and African descent, the body breaks down acetaldehyde "quickly enough to maintain tolerably low concentrations in drinkers," the authors explain, in populations from East Asia, this does not happen because of the presence of a certain variant of the ALDH2 gene called rs671.

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A variant of the ADH1B gene, rs1229984, which is just as common among people of East Asian descent, actually increases blood alcohol clearance rates, thus increasing tolerance to alcohol.

Moreover, according to the study's researchers, both of these genetic variants are associated with less alcohol consumption.

In the study, the researchers assessed information provided by 512,715 adults from China who enrolled in the China Kadoorie Biobank initiative, and their first step was to look at whether these participants had the rs671 or rs1229984 genetic variants.

As part of the China Kadoorie Biobank project, the participants also provided information regarding their drinking habits and agreed to provide health data over a follow-up period of 10 years.

Using all these data, the investigators who led the current study sought to find out what the relationship actually was between moderate alcohol intake and the risk of stroke.

"Using genetics is a novel way to assess the health effects of alcohol and to sort out whether moderate drinking really is protective or whether it's slightly harmful," says senior epidemiologist and lecturer Iona Millwood, who co-led the study. "Our genetic analyses have helped us understand the cause and effect relationships," she observes.

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Moderation does not protect against stroke

"In our population, men drink more than 20 times as much as women, so these two [genetic] variants have large absolute effects on alcohol intake only among men," the researchers write in their paper.

Among women, fewer than 2 percent reported having any alcohol in a given week, and when they did drink, they reported a considerably lower intake than men. Thus, the scientists looked at women as a viable control group in this study.

When looking at the male population, they found that those with the two genetic variants — which were tied to lower alcohol intake — also had a lower risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

After performing comparisons, the researchers concluded that alcohol intake — even in moderation — can increase the risk of ischemic stroke by as much as 35 percent for every four extra alcoholic drinks per day (or 280 grams of alcohol per week). "There are no protective effects of moderate alcohol intake against stroke," emphasizes co-senior author Prof. Zhengming Chen.

"Even moderate alcohol consumption increases the chances of having a stroke."

Prof. Zhengming Chen

At the same time, he notes, "The findings for heart attack were less clear-cut, so we plan to collect more evidence."

Although the researchers acknowledge that they could not reproduce this study with a cohort of European descent, since these populations do not typically have the two genetic variants, they nevertheless argue that the current findings are relevant to all populations.

"Stroke is a major cause of death and disability," notes Prof. Liming Li, a co-senior author, who adds: "This large, collaborative study has shown that stroke rates are increased by alcohol. This should help inform personal choices and public health strategies."

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How to begin intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It is a timed approach to eating. Unlike a dietary plan that restricts where calories come from, intermittent fasting does not specify what foods a person should eat or avoid. Intermittent fasting may have some health benefits, including weight loss but is not suitable for everyone.

Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. At first, people may find it difficult to eat during a short window of time each day or alternate between days of eating and not eating. This article offers tips on the best way to begin fasting, including identifying personal goals, planning meals, and establishing caloric needs.

Intermittent fasting is a popular method that people use to:

simplify their life lose weight improve their overall health and well-being, such as minimizing the effects of aging

Though fasting is safe for most healthy, well-nourished people, it may not be appropriate for individuals who have any medical conditions. For those ready to start fasting, the following tips aim to help them make the experience as easy and successful as possible.

1. Identify personal goals Typically, a person who starts intermittent fasting has a goal in mind. It may be to lose weight, improve overall health, or improve metabolic health. A person's ultimate goal will help them determine the most suitable fasting method and work out how many calories and nutrients they need to consume. 2. Pick the method Intermittent fasting for weight loss
Typically, a person should stick with one fasting method for a month or longer before trying another.

There are four potential methods that a person may try when fasting for health reasons. A person should pick the plan that suits their preferences and which they think they can stick with.

These include:

Eat Stop Eat Warrior Diet Leangains Alternate Day Fasting

Typically, a person should stick with one fasting method for a month or longer to see if it works for them before trying a different method. Anyone who has a medical condition should talk to their healthcare provider before beginning any fasting method.

When deciding on a method, a person should remember that they do not need to eat a certain amount or type of food or avoid foods altogether. A person can eat what they want. However, to reach health and weight loss goals, it is a good idea to follow a healthful, high fiber, vegetable-rich diet during the eating periods.

Binging on unhealthful foods on eating days can hinder health progress. It is also extremely important to drink lots of water or other no-calorie beverages throughout the fast days.

Eat Stop Eat

Brad Pilon developed Eat Stop Eat, which is a fasting method that involves eating nothing for 24 hours twice a week. It does not matter what days a person fasts or even when they begin. The only restriction is fasting must last for 24 hours and on non-consecutive days.

People who do not eat for 24 hours will likely become very hungry. Eat Stop Eat may not be the best method for people who are unfamiliar with fasting to start with.

Warrior Diet

Ori Hofmekler is the creator of the Warrior Diet, which entails eating very litlte for 20 hours each day. A person fasting in this way consumes all their typical food intake in the remaining 4 hours. Eating a whole day's worth of food in such a short time can make a person's stomach quite uncomfortable. This is the most extreme fasting method, and similarly to Eat Stop Eat, a person new to fasting may not want to start with this method.

Leangains

Martin Berkhan created Leangains for weightlifters, but it has gained popularity among other people who are interested in fasting. Unlike Eat Stop Eat and the Warrior Diet, fasting for Leangains involves much shorter periods.

For example, males who choose the Leangains method will fast for 16 hours and then eat what they want for the remaining 8 hours of the day. Females fast for 14 hours and eat what they want for the remaining 10 hours of the day.

During the fast, a person must avoid eating any food but can drink as many no-calorie beverages as they like.

Alternate Day Fasting, 5:2 method

Some people fast on alternate days to improve blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight loss. A person on the 5:2 method eats 500 to 600 calories on two non-consecutive days each week. Some alternate-day fasting regimens add in a third day of fasting each week. For the rest of the week, a person eats only the number of calories they burn during the day. Over time, this creates a calorie deficit that allows the person to lose weight.

Resources on the Eat Stop Eat, Warrior, and Leangains fasting methods are available to purchase online.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today 3. Figure out caloric needs There are no dietary restrictions when fasting, but this does not mean calories do not count. People who are looking to lose weight need to create a calorie deficit for themselves — this means that they consume less energy than they use. People who are looking to gain weight need to consume more calories than they use. There are many tools available to help a person work out their caloric needs and determine how many calories they need to consume each day to either gain or lose weight. A person could also speak to their healthcare provider or dietitian for guidance on how many calories they need. 4. Figure out a meal plan Intermittent fasting for weight loss meal prepare
Making a meal plan for the week may help someone who is trying to lose or gain weight. A person interested in losing or gaining weight may find it helps to plan what they are going to eat during the day or week. Meal planning does not need to be overly restrictive. It consider calorie intake and incorporate proper nutrients into the diet. Meal planning offers many benefits, such as helping a person stick to their calorie count, and ensuring they have the necessary food on hand for cooking recipes, quick meals, and snacks. 5. Make the calories count Not all calories are the same. Although these fasting methods do not set restrictions on how many calories a person should consume when fasting, it is essential to consider the nutritional value of the food. In general, a person should aim to consume nutrient-dense food, or food with a high number of nutrients per calorie. Though a person may not have to abandon junk food entirely, they should still practice moderation and focus on healthier options to gain the most benefits. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today How effective is intermittent fasting Fasting has several effects on a person's body. These effects include: Reducing levels of insulin, which makes it easier for the body to use stored fat. Lowering blood sugars, blood pressure, and inflammation levels. Changes gene expressions, which helps the body protect itself from disease as well as promoting longevity. Dramatically increases human growth hormone, or HGH, which helps the body utilize body fat and grow muscle. The body activates a healing process doctors call autophagy, which essentially means that the body eats up its own damaged cells. Fasting dates back to ancient humans who often went hours or days between meals as obtaining food was difficult. The human body adapted to this style of eating, allowing extended periods to pass between food intake. Intermittent fasting recreates this forced-fasting. When a person undertakes an intermittent fast for dietary proposes, it can be very effective for weight loss. In fact, according to one study, most people try intermittent fasting to help lose weight. Other research backs up the claims that fasting can help a person lose weight. For example, a review of studies shows that many people who fast see a higher loss of visceral body fat and a similar to slightly less reduction in body weight compared to people who follow more traditional calorie reduction diets. Research also shows fasting to be beneficial for the management of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, extending lifespan, protecting neuron function, and shows promise in those with digestive diseases. Side effects Intermittent fasting for weight loss not advised for pregnancy
Pregnant women may be at risk from fasting and should consult a doctor before trying any program. For a healthy, well-nourished person, intermittent fasting offers very few side effects. When a person first starts fasting, they may feel slightly physically and mentally sluggish as their body adjusts. After the adjustment, most people go back to functioning normally. However, people with medical conditions should consult their doctor before beginning any fasting program. People particularly at risk from fasting and who may require medical supervision include: women who are breastfeeding women who are pregnant people who are trying to conceive people with diabetes people who have difficulty regulating sugar people with low blood pressure people on medications people with eating disorders people who are underweight Effects on exercise For healthy individuals, intermittent fasting should not affect their ability to exercise except during the period when the body is adjusting to the new eating schedule. After the adjustment period, a person should not feel any ill effects from fasting on their exercise routine. Those worried about losing muscle while fasting should be sure to consume enough protein during eating periods and participate in resistance training regularly. By keeping protein intake up, a person is less likely to lose muscle mass from fasting. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Summary Fasting is a natural part of the human life cycle. Most people have fasted unknowingly throughout their lifetimes by eating an early dinner and skipping breakfast the next day. More structured approaches may work well for some people. However, it is important to keep in mind that although a person does not need to exclude certain foods from their diet, they should still aim to eat a balanced diet rich in protein, fiber, and vegetables. Remember to drink plenty of fluids, too. Finally, though the average person will likely experience no or minimal side effects, people with certain medical conditions or who are taking certain medications should speak to their doctor before trying a fasting plan. We picked linked items based on the quality of products, and list the pros and cons of each to help you determine which will work best for you. We partner with some of the companies that sell these products, which means Healthline UK and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link(s) above.
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Health benefits of olive leaf extract

Olive leaf extract may have several potential health benefits, such as helping lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Although scientists have conducted much of the research in animals, the extract is also beginning to show promise in some human trials.

People in the Mediterranean region have long used olive tree leaves as part of their diet and in traditional medicines.

Olive leaves contain several key polyphenols, such as oleacein and oleuropein. Polyphenols occur naturally in plants, and research suggests that they may help protect against a range of conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.

These polyphenols may underlie some of the potential health benefits of olive leaf extract.

In this article, we discuss some of these health benefits, as well as the evidence to support them. We also cover dosage and possible side effects.

Weight gain Olive leaf extract supplements on wooden table next to dried olive branch and pestle and mortar.
Olive leaf extract is available as a supplement.

Olive tree leaves contain oleuropein, which is a polyphenol that may help prevent weight gain.

In a 2016 study, researchers orally administered oleuropein to rats with obesity that were

consuming a high-cholesterol diet. After 8 weeks, the rats had a lower body weight, less fat tissue, and an improved metabolic profile.

Another study from 2014 found that oleuropein supplementation reduced body weight and weight gain in mice that were consuming a high-fat diet.

These findings suggest that olive leaf extract containing oleuropein may have the potential to reduce weight gain and lower the risk of obesity.

However, further studies are necessary to confirm this possible health benefit in humans.

Cholesterol Preliminary studies suggest that olive leaf extract may help improve cholesterol levels. In a 2015 study, rats ate either a high-cholesterol or a normal diet. The researchers also gave olive leaf extract to some of the rats in both groups. After 8 weeks, the cholesterol-fed rats had higher levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol. In the rats that also consumed the olive leaf extract, these cholesterol levels were significantly lower. These findings may also apply to humans. A 2008 study compared the effects of food supplementation with olive leaf extract with lifestyle advice in 40 identical twins with high blood pressure. After 8 weeks, the team found that olive leaf extract significantly lowered LDL cholesterol levels within the twin pairs in a dose-dependent manner. This means that larger doses had a greater effect. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Blood pressure Studies suggest that olive leaf extract can help lower high blood pressure.
Studies suggest that olive leaf extract may help lower high blood pressure. Olive leaf extract may help treat hypertension, or high blood pressure. In a 2011 study, researchers randomized people with stage 1 hypertension to take either 500 milligrams (mg) of olive leaf extract or 12.5–25 mg of captopril, a medication for high blood pressure, twice per day. After 8 weeks, blood pressure was significantly lower for both groups. The team concluded that the olive leaf extract was as effective at lowering blood pressure in people with stage 1 hypertension as captopril. In another study from 2017, researchers randomized people with stage 1 hypertension to take either an olive leaf extract containing 136 mg of oleuropein or a placebo each day. After 6 weeks, the people who took the olive leaf extract had much lower blood pressure than those who took the placebo. Type 2 diabetes Olive leaf extract may also help reduce a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In a 2013 study, researchers randomized 46 middle-aged men who were overweight to take either olive leaf extract or a placebo. After 12 weeks, people in the olive leaf extract group had significant improvements in insulin sensitivity and pancreatic responsiveness compared with those who took a placebo. Doctors consider reduced insulin sensitivity and pancreatic responsiveness to be important factors in the development of type 2 diabetes. Dosage There are no official guidelines on how much olive leaf extract a person should take. In the human studies discussed above, participants usually took 500–1,000 mg per day of a standard olive leaf extract. Some of these were in divided doses. Olive leaf extract is available in the form of capsules, tablets, and a tea. When using these products, it is generally best to follow the manufacturer's directions on safe dosages. A person should to speak to a doctor before taking olive leaf extract to treat a specific condition. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Side effects A person can speak to their doctor about taking olive leaf extract.
A person can speak to their doctor about taking olive leaf extract. Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider olive leaf extract to be a dietary supplement rather than a medicine, they do not monitor dose or quality of herbs and supplements. There is also only limited scientific data on the possible side effects or long-term safety. One study suggests that possible side effects may include muscle discomfort and headache. People who experience severe or concerning side effects should stop taking the extract and speak to their doctor. It is also not clear whether olive leaf extract can interact with other medications. People who are taking prescription medications should speak to a doctor before taking olive leaf extract. Summary Preliminary studies suggest that olive leaf extract may have several health benefits. These include lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels, and reducing the risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes. However, it is necessary for scientists to conduct more large-scale studies in humans to confirm these findings and to determine the long-term safety of taking olive leaf extract. A range of products containing olive leaf extract are available to purchase online. We picked linked items based on the quality of products, and list the pros and cons of each to help you determine which will work best for you. We partner with some of the companies that sell these products, which means Healthline UK and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link(s) above.
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How does oxidative stress affect the body?

Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body, which can lead to cell and tissue damage. Oxidative stress occurs naturally and plays a role in the aging process.

A large body of scientific evidence suggests that long-term oxidative stress contributes to the development in a range of chronic conditions. Such conditions include cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

In this article, we explore what oxidative stress is, how it affects the body, and how to reduce it.

What is oxidative stress? Man walking across the road to sidewalk on busy city street with takeaway coffee in hand experiencing oxidative stress
Many lifestyle factors can contribute to oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress can occur when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body.

The body's cells produce free radicals during normal metabolic processes. However, cells also produce antioxidants that neutralize these free radicals. In general, the body is able to maintain a balance between antioxidants and free radicals.

Several factors contribute to oxidative stress and excess free radical production. These factors can include:

diet lifestyle certain conditions environmental factors such as pollution and radiation

The body's natural immune response can also trigger oxidative stress temporarily. This type of oxidative stress causes mild inflammation that goes away after the immune system fights off an infection or repairs an injury.

Uncontrolled oxidative stress can accelerate the aging process and may contribute to the development of a number of conditions.

What are free radicals? Free radicals, including reactive oxygen species, are molecules with one or more unpaired electron. Examples of free radicals include: superoxide hydroxyl radical nitric oxide radical Cells contain small structures called mitochondria, which work to generate energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Mitochondria combine oxygen and glucose to produce carbon dioxide, water, and ATP. Free radicals arise as byproducts of this metabolic process. External substances, such as cigarette smoke, pesticides, and ozone, can also cause the formation of free radicals in the body. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today What are antioxidants? Bowl of fresh fruit and berries, including raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries.
Fresh berries and other fruits contain antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that neutralize or remove free radicals by donating an electron. The neutralizing effect of antioxidants helps protect the body from oxidative stress. Examples of antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E. Like free radicals, antioxidants come from several different sources. Cells naturally produce antioxidants such as glutathione. A person's diet is also an important source of antioxidants. Foods such as fruits and vegetables provide many essential antioxidants in the form of vitamins and minerals that the body cannot create on its own. Effects of oxidative stress The effects of oxidative stress vary and are not always harmful. For example, oxidative stress that results from physical activity may have beneficial, regulatory effects on the body. Exercise increases free radical formation, which can cause temporary oxidative stress in the muscles. However, the free radicals formed during physical activity regulate tissue growth and stimulate the production of antioxidants. Mild oxidative stress may also protect the body from infection and diseases. In a 2015 study, scientists found that oxidative stress limited the spread of melanoma cancer cells in mice. However, long-term oxidative stress damages the body's cells, proteins, and DNA. This can contribute to aging and may play an important role in the development of a range of conditions. We discuss some of these conditions below: Chronic inflammation Oxidative stress can cause chronic inflammation. Infections and injuries trigger the body's immune response. Immune cells called macrophages produce free radicals while fighting off invading germs. These free radicals can damage healthy cells, leading to inflammation. Under normal circumstances, inflammation goes away after the immune system eliminates the infection or repairs the damaged tissue. However, oxidative stress can also trigger the inflammatory response, which, in turn, produces more free radicals that can lead to further oxidative stress, creating a cycle. Chronic inflammation due to oxidative stress may lead to several conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis. Neurodegenerative diseases The effects of oxidative stress may contribute to several neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. The brain is particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress because brain cells require a substantial amount of oxygen. According to a 2018 review, the brain consumes 20 percent of the total amount of oxygen the body needs to fuel itself. Brain cells use oxygen to perform intense metabolic activities that generate free radicals. These free radicals help support brain cell growth, neuroplasticity, and cognitive functioning. During oxidative stress, excess free radicals can damage structures inside brain cells and even cause cell death, which may increase the risk of Parkinson's disease. Oxidative stress also alters essential proteins, such as amyloid-beta peptides. According to one 2018 systematic review, oxidative stress may modify these peptides in way that contributes to the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain. This is a key marker of Alzheimer's disease. Conditions linked to oxidative stress Oxidative stress may play a role in the development of a range of conditions, including: Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Risk factors for oxidative stress Pollution can increase the risk of long-term oxidative stress.
Pollution can increase the risk of long-term oxidative stress. Factors that may increase a person's risk of long-term oxidative stress include: obesity diets high in fat, sugar, and processed foods exposure to radiation smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products alcohol consumption certain medications pollution exposure to pesticides or industrial chemicals Prevention It is important to remember that the body requires both free radicals and antioxidants. Having too many or too few of either may lead to health problems. Lifestyle and dietary measures that may help reduce oxidative stress in the body include: eating a balanced, healthful diet rich in fruits and vegetables limiting intake of processed foods, particularly those high in sugars and fats exercising regularly quitting smoking reducing stress avoiding or reducing exposure to pollution and harsh chemicals Maintaining a healthy body weight may help reduce oxidative stress. According to a 2015 systematic review, excess fat cells produce inflammatory substances that trigger increased inflammatory activity and free radical production in immune cells. Summary Oxidative stress is a state that occurs when there is an excess of free radicals in the body's cells. The body produces free radicals during normal metabolic processes. Oxidative stress can damage cells, proteins, and DNA, which can contribute to aging. It may also play a role in development of a range of health conditions, including diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. The body naturally produces antioxidants to counteract these free radicals. A person's diet is also an important source of antioxidants. Making certain lifestyle and dietary changes may help reduce oxidative stress. These may include maintaining a healthy body weight, regularly exercising, and eating a balanced, healthful diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
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