News Roundup: The Effect of Alcohol on the Heart and Brain

The effects of alcohol consumption on the body have always been a source of debate. Public opinion on whether drinking is good or bad for you has shifted back and forth across the decades. Many studies have shown that the antioxidants and polyphenols in grapes used for red wine can have health benefits for the heart. However, more recent studies indicate that even moderate drinking can cause negative effects in the brain. This week’s news roundup shows evidence from both sides as the debate goes on.

Alcohol is Good for Your Heart – Most of the Time: “People who did not drink had an increased risk for eight of the heart ailments, ranging from 12% to 56%, compared to people who drank in moderation. These eight conditions include the most common heart events, such as heart attack, stroke and sudden heart-related death.”

The silent damage from drinking moderately down the decades: “Historically, it's been thought that light drinking is protective of the brain while heavy drinking induces damage. The few studies that have examined the effects of moderate drinking have produced inconsistent results.”

Is Wine Healthy? “Benefits of moderate alcohol consumption such as wine include a 30% reduction in the risk of heart attack compared to non-drinkers…[a]dditionally alcohol consumption has been associated with a 30% to 40% reduction in the risk of Type 2 diabetes, compared to those who don't drink.”

Even Moderate Drinking Causes Atrophy in Brain Area Related to Memory, Learning: “But even moderate drinkers were three times as likely to have brain atrophy as non-drinkers. The researchers found no brain-related benefits for alcohol consumption at any level, including very light drinking, compared with abstinence.”

Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits: “Alcohol’s two-faced nature shouldn’t come as a surprise. The active ingredient in alcoholic beverages, a simple molecule called ethanol, affects the body in many different ways. It directly influences the stomach, brain, heart, gallbladder, and liver. It affects levels of lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) and insulin in the blood, as well as inflammation and coagulation. It also alters mood, concentration, and coordination.”

PTSD: Myths

 

 

Not all wounds are visible.

June 27th is National Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) awareness day. It is a day dedicated to increasing PTSD awareness. This is a topic that should frequently be discussed.  According to the National Center for PTSD, roughly 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan, struggle with PTSD symptoms in a given year.  Continued awareness of PTSD is necessary as this debilitating condition represents a notable and catastrophic illness to veterans and their Families.  

What is PTSD?

The Military has played a vital role in implementing assessments, treatment programs, and research to help aid the growing rate of Veterans suffering from PTSD. Despite growing research and awareness in this area, popular myths still exist related to PTSD. Below is a list of several of these common myths.

PTSD: Common Myths

Several misconceptions can be associated with PTSD. These misunderstandings can have negative consequences such as stigma and mistreatment for those suffering from PTSD. 

MYTH: People with PTSD are dangerous.
FACT: PTSD is characterized by upsetting memories and changes in mood. Symptoms of PTSD do not imply danger or that the person is dangerous.

MYTH: People with PTSD cannot function in their work environment.
FACT: There are many individuals with PTSD who are able to work and uphold their position of employment. PTSD can create symptoms that happen in the workplace, however coping skills allow them to still function in that environment with success. 


MYTH
: PTSD affects someone as soon as they are exposed to a traumatic event.
FACT: Many believe if time has passed from the traumatic event that individuals are no longer at risk for PTSD. Although symptoms often happen after the first couple of months after a traumatic event, it can take months or even years before the symptoms can appear.


MYTH:
PTSD is a sign of mental weakness.
FACT: This is a common misconception that is hard to cope with for someone going through this struggle. Some of the factors that determine whether someone will develop PTSD include: the type of trauma experienced, the severity and length of exposure, amount of social and family support, and how the brain releases chemicals to combat stress, etc.

 
MYTH: PTSD only affects the military population.
FACT: Although PTSD greatly affects our military veterans and Soldiers, it can occur in anyone, including children. Below are some more facts about PTSD for the general U.S. population.

  • Roughly 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
  • Roughly 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
  • Roughly 10 of every 100 women develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men (or 4%).

 

From the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Center for PTSD - a list of common reactions family members of a person with PTSD may experience

  • Sympathy
  • Negative Feelings
  • Avoidance
  • Depression
  • Anger and guilt
  • Health problems

 

The encouragement and support from family members and/or friends or other social supports are vital for someone experiencing symptoms of PTSD. Many service members choose not to get help because of the social stigma that comes with psychological health care treatment. The challenge then becomes for the person with PTSD to manage their illness by themselves while staying emotionally connected to their family.  Social support is a key part of the recovery process.  It is essential that individuals lending support to a person with PTSD educate themselves as to how to best support them in their journey of recovery.

 

The best way to recognize PTSD awareness day is to take the time to understand the experiences and realities of those around you who may be suffering from PTSD. Visit the National Center for PTSD website to learn about posttraumatic stress disorder and resources available to support service members and families. Also, check out the PTSD Coach app for iOS and Android devices. Additional resources can also be found at Military one source.

 

Resources:  http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treatment/family/ptsd-and-the-family.asp

                    http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/how-common-is-ptsd.asp

                    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2891773/

News Roundup: Coconut Oil

 

Coconut oil has taken the Internet by storm in recent years as a healthy substitute for other oils. This oil has also become a popular “super” food, with high use in paleo diets. However, new findings suggest that coconut oil may be better suited for use on the body instead of in the body.

This week’s news roundup brings a collection of articles related to the new finding from the American Heart Association on limiting coconut oil usage.

Study: Coconut oil great for your skin, not so great for your health. CNN. “Data shows coconut oil increased LDL or bad cholesterol in seven out of seven trials, which can increase cardiovascular risks…One benefit the study did point about coconut oil is that it's a holy grail for hair and skin care.”

New Study Confirms That Coconut Oil Is Alarmingly High in Saturated Fat. Huffington Post. “In fact, 82 percent of the fat found in coconut oil is saturated ― that’s significantly more than olive oil, which clocks in at 14 percent and canola oil, which contains a mere seven percent.”

Coconut oil isn’t healthy. It’s never been healthy. USA Today. “’Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil,’ the American Heart Association said in the Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory.”

Coconut Oil Raises Bad Cholesterol, According To Advisory By The American Heart Association.Medical Daily. “According to the World Heart Federation, eating too much saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol, which in turn can lead to plaque build-up on your artery walls. Too much build-up increases your risk of heart disease.”

 

First Day of Summer

 

Cheers to the arrival of Summer! When we think of summertime, a lot of different things can come to mind...sand between our toes, lazy afternoons soaking up the sun, kids out of school and ready for fun, a delicious variety fresh fruits and veggie, BBQ’s, water activities, etc. The list can go on and on! Summer is a perfect time of year to take a fresh look at your health goals and how the season can help you to reach them.

Summer Activity Goals:

  1. Take some time to play with the kids outside. Those kids are bursting with energy! Pull them away from their devices and out the door for some good old fashioned fun outside in the yard or at a park. 
  2. Join an adult sports team (soccer, Frisbee, volleyball, etc). Most communities offer different sports activities for adults. Do some research to find out what your community offers. Most likely, you will find casual recreation available that not only boosts your activity levels, but can introduce you to new friends!

Fun outdoor activities include:

*Water gun party, water balloon party, volleyball, swimming, kickball, frisbee, biking, hiking, and roller skating* 

 

Summer Nutrition Goals:

Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant this time of year! Take advantage of seasonal produce to help meet nutrition goals. Some fruits and vegetables in season include:

  • Watermelon (CLICK HERE to check out a delicious Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint)
  • Cantaloupe
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Corn
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers (CLICK HERE for a delicious Summer Cucumber and Tomato Salad recipe)
  • Tomatoes

*Don’t forget to stay hydrated in the summer heat!! Try to always have a bottle of water with you and remind your children to drink water throughout the day.*

Summer Sleep Goals:

The days are longer and the nights are warmer in summer. Sometimes this can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Keep these things in mind when working towards those summer sleep goals:

  1. The kids are out of school so the alarms are turned off. Although getting up bright and early during summer break is not necessary, it is helpful to keep a structured bed time and wake-up routine. This will help to ensure everyone is getting the sleep they need.
  2. Research shows that people tend to sleep better if it is cooler. Most people nowadays can adjust their temp settings to ensure a cool nights sleep even during the hottest parts of summer. Other ideas include swapping out heavier sheets and blankets for lighter linens and taking a shower before going to bed to lower your body temperature. 

Summer Mindfulness Goals:

Take time to stop and smell the roses! We have all heard that saying at one point or another. How often do we actually try to follow that little bit of advice? Summer time can be a very busy time. Between sports, vacations, camps, and other activities it may be hard to find time to wind down. Each of these activities provides a perfect opportunity to stand back, to reflect on, and to appreciate. Appreciate the family time, the vacations, and the little things. Appreciate the ability to make memories with our family. Appreciate the fresh fruits and vegetables that fill our plates. Reflect on the activities and events of the long summer days...because before we know it, Fall will arrive and another summer will be in the books!

Have a great summer!

Healthy Snacks for Travel

 

 

Whether you’re piled in a car with friends or family for 4 or 48 hours, road trips are a classic summertime getaway. But when hunger strikes on the open road, fast food chains dotting the sides of highways are your only options for miles. Although it’s a quick fix, the heavy food can send you snoozing in the backseat or worse: the driver’s seat. This post shows some snacks to pack that will let you drive on by the restaurants while earning you some energy for the adventure ahead.

Fruits and Veggies

Long road trips are a perfect time to squeeze in some of your fruits and veggies for the day. Their low-calorie counts mean you can snack on them all trip long! While you want to leave the juicy (like peaches or plums) and easily bruised (like bananas) fruits at home, most raw fruits and veggies will travel well. Some example fruit & veggie choices:

Veggies

  • Baby carrots (or sliced carrot rounds)
  • Snap peas
  • Broccoli & cauliflower
  • Sliced bell peppers (though peppers do best if you have a cooler!)
  • Celery sticks
  • Radishes

Fruits

  • Apples
  • Clementines
  • Dried or freeze-dried fruit. But be mindful of serving size – dried fruit can have a higher calorie count than raw fruit but freeze-dried fruit has a much lower calorie count than dried
  • Squeezable applesauce. That’s right, squeezable snacks aren’t just for kids! As long as you look for squeezable pouches with 100% fruit and no added sugar, you can nosh on these with no spoon necessary
  • Smoothies. Be sure to look for ones with no added sugar; or you can blend up some of those juicy fruits you won’t be able to bring!

You can jazz up your raw veggies with some dippers too; look for travel containers of hummus, guacamole, and peanut butter for dippers that are hard to spill!

Protein

Protein is key for long-lasting energy, which is vital for those long, boring stretches of highway where everyone else is asleep in the backseat. Turn the radio up and munch on these protein packed snacks for some energy to fuel your road-trip singing voice!

  • Squeezable Greek yogurt. Squeezables strike again – many Greek yogurt brands also make squeezable pouches so you can enjoy some yogurt without a spoon. As with any type of yogurt, make sure to check the ingredients. Stay away from yogurts that have added sugar. Milk has naturally occurring sugar in it already, so you don’t need more added sugar on top of that.
  •  Snackable Almonds. Nuts are high in protein, but mind the serving size; nuts can also have a high calorie count. It might be helpful to buy or make containers with about one serving so you don’t mindlessly munch!
  • Nut butter packets. Spread them on whole grain crackers, fruit, or just eat it straight for some high-protein deliciousness!
  • Cheese – cheese is packed with protein and hard to spill
  • Hard boiled eggs

Hydrate

Road trips are notoriously dehydrating. Yes those extra beverages may mean extra pit stops, but you won’t be limited to a stop with a restaurant. This means you can stop wherever you want to appreciate the places you’re passing through!

  •    Water
  •    Flavored sparkling water
  •    Unsweet tea. You may want to avoid this drink in the evening due to its caffeine content

Pit-stop picks

For those times when you find a stop you just can’t pass up, any of these snacks combined can make for a satisfying side of the road meal. But if you’re looking for something a little heartier, try tuna! Canned 100% pure tuna with no added salt or liquids is a healthy, protein-packed food that keeps without a cooler. Pop open a can and mix it with some of your other veggies for a tuna salad, or just spread it on whole grain crackers or celery sticks for a snack that feels like a meal.

Packing Pro-Tips

  • Save space by ditching the store packaging and packing your snacks in your own stackable containers so you can see what’s inside
  •  Label each container for even more snacktime clarity
  •  Use a “snack bin” & stack your containers in one location in the car so you know where each snack is; no more digging through a suitcase to find your favorite crackers!

These snacks will help you be a power road tripper throughout the summer season. Safe travels from Army H.E.A.L.T.H.!