Studies also show that focusing on your breathing can alleviate stress levels… stimulate brain growth… and reduce your risk of heart attack. Nonetheless, many of us neglect to address breathing habits as part of our overall health strategy.
“We take our breath for granted the way we take our heart beat for granted,” says Carla Ardito, a breathing expert at the Integral Yoga Institute in Manhattan. But, explains Ardito, the difference is fundamental, because unlike our heart beat, ” we can work on our breathing.”
The Steep Risks Of High Blood Pressure
Statistics indicate as many as 65 million Americans have hypertension (dangerously high blood pressure). Hypertension brings an elevated risk of…
- Heart attacks
- Kidney damage
Individuals with hypertension are often unaware of their condition—which is why it’s often called “the silent killer.” By the time symptoms appear, serious, irreversible damage may already have occurred.
Deep Breathing Offers Answers
Anderson and other doctors believe deep breathing offers answers—and a 2002 study suggests they’re right. In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a device designed tolower blood pressure by teaching users to slow their breathing. The device, called RESPeRATE, measures your breathing pace by sensing chest or abdominal movements.
Users follow a series of chimes signaling inhales and exhales to slow their breathing from a typical rate of 16 to 19 breaths per minute to 10 or fewer. Clinical trials found blood pressure drops of 10 to 15 points for individuals who used the device for 15 minutes each day for 2 months.
Dr. William J. Elliot, who headed some of the research, was surprised by the magnitude of slow-breathing’s impact on blood pressure—even though no one can quite explain why it works. It “is still a bit of a black box,” he says.
Health’s Hefty Price Tag?
More than a decade has passed since the FDA approved the RESPeRATE, but many are still unaware of the connection between slow-breathing and blood pressure. Part of the problem may be the high cost of leading slow-breathing devices. But the fact is, you don’t need to spend money to slow your breathing and improve your health.
Simply by focusing on your breathing, you direct energy into the parasympathetic nervous system, says Ardito. You send your whole body into a state of “relax and receive.”
Don’t Count Your Breaths
For best results, experts say you should never count your breathing or watch the clock. Counting or tracking the time impedes relaxation, which is key to the benefits of slow-breathing. Instead of a stopwatch or timer, some experts suggest using music as a regulator. Select a song (or set of songs) with a slow, regular rhythm, and allow your breathing to automatically adjust to the beat.
Little do most people know, however, that there is a far lesser known North American berry about to stake it’s claim as a truly remarkable super berry: Aronia.
Off the Charts Antioxidant Power!
Aronia berries are rich in anthocyanins, the substance that gives this fruit its deep shade of purple. Anthocyanins have been shown to reduce systemic inflammation and levels of C-reactive protein, a byproduct of inflammation. If left unchecked, inflammation is the spark to many chronic and life-threatening diseases, including cancer.
Aronia berries are also high in plant-based super-antioxidants called proanthocyanidins that help boost circulation by strengthening capillary walls and act as an overall tonic for the cardiovascular system.
Proanthocyanins also suppress enzyme breakdown of collagen and alleviate allergies.
Full-Body Health Benefits
The aronia berry also possesses extreme anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-diabetic properties… This fights arterial plague formation… reduces serum cholesterol, shields the liver and kidneys from toxins, lowers blood sugar and balances insulin production. Enriched with flavonoids, the aronia berry also protects against peptic ulcers, eye inflammation and urinary infection.
The aronia berry has shown exciting promise as an anti-cancer agent. Research suggests aronia berries may help defend against tumor formation in the bladder, breasts, colon, lungs, ovaries, and skin. Preliminary studies indicate that the berry may even slow the progression of glioblastona, a lethal form of brain cancer.
New Berry on the Block!
Aronia has been commercially cultivated in Russia since the 1940s and in Europe since the 1950s. But it wasn’t until 2009 that the Midwest Aronia Association formed in Iowa in order to provide information and other resources to those interested in growing this super-healthy berry. Now, the Association has members in California, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada. This means that if you don’t already have aronia products available on your local store shelves, you should soon (and in the meantime, you can also look online for internet retailers).
When it comes to choosing a quality product, you’ll be glad to know that aronia berries are naturally pest-resistance and need no agricultural toxins. That said, you should still look for bushels stamped with the USDA organic certification label to make sure you’re benefitting from 100% pure antioxidant advantage.
Native to Asia, shiitake mushrooms are packed with vitamins and minerals and have been cultivated for thousands of years for culinary and medicinal purposes. The latest research published April 11 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition confirms that shiitake mushrooms boost immunity.
Strengthen Your Immune System with Shiitake
Researchers from the University of Florida gave 52 healthy adults between the ages of 21 and 42 a four-week supply of dried shiitake mushrooms. Participants then ate one 4-ounce serving of shiitake mushrooms every day for four straight weeks. Researchers controlled for several variables:
- No vegans are vegetarians were studied
- Subjects could not drink tea or take antioxidant vitamins or probiotics before the study
- Participants were instructed to limit alcohol to 14 or fewer glasses per week so that immune-enhancing activity wasn’t adversely impacted
- Volunteers were allowed no more than 7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
At the end of four weeks participants displayed better gamma delta T-cells and fewer inflammatory proteins.
Lead researcher Sue Percival explains: “If you eat a shiitake mushroom every day, you could see changes in their immune system that are beneficial. We’re enhancing the immune system, but we’re also reducing the inflammation that the immune system produces.”
Fight Cancer with Shiitake
Shiitake mushrooms are also celebrated for their cancer-fighting properties. They are rich in the polysaccharide lentinan, which scientists have isolated and used to treat various cancers, including stomach cancer. In addition to its anti-tumor properties, lentinan has also been shown to protect the liver, alleviate stomach problems like gallstones and ulcers, and help treat anemia. In fact, shiitake mushrooms are one of the most bioavailable sources of iron.
In short, shiitake mushrooms are an antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal powerhouse that can even help protect against atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease when eaten regularly. An easy way to start adding shiitake to your diet is to use it to create a base for soups or stocks for making rice or quinoa. Add in some nuts, peppers, chicken, or tofu, along with your favorite seasonings
Did you know…that 2 tablespoons of grape seed oil benefits a day helps lower LDL cholesterol?
Europeans have been using grapes, as well as their sap and leaves, to treat a variety of health conditions for 1000s of years. Grapes grabbed the attention of the West in 1991, when CBS’s “60 Minutes” reported on “The French Paradox.” How in the world are the French able to eat a high fat diet made up of cheese, chocolate and wine, and still have such low rates of cardiovascular disease?
Some experts believe the answer to the riddle lies in the French people’s high consumption of red wine, known to contain heart-healthy antioxidants, such as resveratrol. And where does red wine come from? Grapes!
You can get the same cardiovascular protection from just 2 tablespoons of grape seed oil a day.
Grape Seed Oil’s Slow Rise to Fame
Grape seed oil isn’t quite as well known as its more popular counterparts, olive and canola oil. The oversight is certainly not due to lack of merit, as many experts believe grape seed oil benefits to be the healthiest oil of them all. Perhaps it is not as popular because grape seed oil is more difficult and expensive to extract than the oil of other seeds and nuts.
Even so, grape seed oil benefits won’t break the bank and makes for a wonderful all-purpose cooking oil used for baking, frying and sautéing. It has a higher smoke point than olive oil, which makes it ideal for cooking. Its light, neutral taste doesn’t compete with food’s natural flavors and is a delicious addition to salad dressings.
Grape seed oil becomes even tastier when you add all its health-enhancing properties to the mix. Studies indicate that grape seed oil benefits and grape seed extract heal a variety of health issues, including heart disease.
An Antioxidant Powerhouse
Grape seed oil is rich in antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene. Antioxidants are important because they defend against free radical damage, which leads to premature aging and chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis.
Of particular interest to researchers is a highly potent group of chemicals in grapes known as oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs). Research suggests that it may be the powerful antioxidant properties of OPCs that render grape seed oil benefits such a heart-healthy option. One study found that healthy subjects who took grape seed extract (made from the ground-up seeds of red wine grapes) daily showed increased levels of antioxidants in the blood.
Dr. Ralph Feder, author of “The Bonus Years Diet,” explains that when you cook with grape seed oil you can raise your HDL (healthy cholesterol levels) by as much as 13% and lower your LDL (unhealthy cholesterol levels) by as much as 7%.
Lower Your Cholesterol the Safe and Natural Way
If you suffer from high cholesterol, then you probably take a statin drug, which unfortunately comes with many harmful side effects. Grape seed oil delivers the same benefits, without the unwanted side effects.
In addition to a rich supply of antioxidants, grape seed oil benefits contains linoleic acid, an omega-6 essential fatty acid that makes up 76% of the fatty acid in grape seed oil. With superior anti-inflammatory properties, linoleic acid is the only essential fatty acid proven to raise HDL levels and lower LDL cholesterol levels.
High levels of LDL cholesterol threaten your heart because when LDL cholesterol oxidizes, it sticks to your arteries. This plague buildup manifests as arthrosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a primary cause of heart attack and stroke.
Linoleic acid protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation, thereby helping your arteries stay clean so that your blood flows freely to your heart. Studies have shown that when taken as a pure extract, grape seed oil benefits can reduce LDL cholesterol oxidation by as much as 90%!
Another promising study analyzed the effects of grape seed extract, chromium, a combination of grape seed extract and chromium, or a placebo on the cholesterol levels of 40 volunteers with high cholesterol. Results showed that a combination of grape seed extract and chromium proved most effective.
Another study, made up of 24 healthy male smokers 50 years or older, found that subjects who consumed grape seed extract twice a day for 4 weeks had substantially lower LDL cholesterol levels.
Did You Know…that flax seeds may be a cheap, natural treatment for hypertension?
High blood pressure (hypertension) affects 1 in 3 Americans (68 million and counting) and is the number one reason for doctor’s visits.
|The National Institutes for Health (NIH) considers a reading of 140/90 mm Hg indicative of hypertension.|
The risks of high blood pressure include cognitive impairment, aneurysm, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and stroke, among other life-threatening conditions. Blood pressure medications—diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and beta-blockers—come with assorted side effects, including:
- Loss of essential minerals and subsequent nutrient deficiency
- Kidney damage
- Erectile dysfunction
- Digestive disorders
- Elevated triglycerides (blood fats) and LDL (bad) cholesterol
- Vision problems
- Anxiety and restlessness
One natural remedy for hypertension that has shown great promise in recent studies is flax seeds. Flax seeds are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, fiber, and lignans (an antioxidant that protects against oxidative damage).
Change Your Diet, Lower Your Blood Pressure
Previous animal studies have demonstrated the positive effect of flax seeds on hypertension, but a recent study published in the journal Hypertension is one of the first to show that flax seeds lower blood pressure in humans.
Hypertension is a common symptom of peripheral artery disease—a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries of the leg. For the study, researchers separated 110 people with peripheral artery disease into two groups.
One group ate 30 grams (1 ounce) of milled flax seed in the form of muffins, pasta, and bagels every day for one year.
The control group ate the same fare for the same amount of time, but with no flax seed mixed in.
After six months, 24 people had dropped out of the study. Of the remaining patients…
Those in the flax seed group who started with a systolic blood pressure reading of at least 140 found their blood pressure lowered by an average of 15 mm Hg. The diastolic (the bottom) number also lowered an average of 7 mm Hg.
Patients not on the flax seed diet showed no changes in their blood pressure readings.
These impressive results were only with participants who began the study with high blood pressure. The study authors noted that flax seeds did not appear to lower the blood pressure of patients who started the study with normal readings.
A different study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that flaxseed oil lowered the blood pressure of patients with dyslipidemia—a condition characterized by either too high or too low amounts of cholesterol or fat in the blood:
After 12 weeks of supplementation with flaxseed oil patients showed significant improvement in both systolic and diastolic numbers, while patients in the control group who supplemented with safflower oil did not exhibit such gains.
Experts warn against swapping out your blood pressure medications for flax seeds just yet. More human tests need to be conducted. But we can certainly add hypertension to the list of possible ailments flax seeds may help protect against. So far, flax seeds have been discovered to possibly decrease the risk of breast cancer… inhibit the growth and metastasis of cancer cells… and neutralize damage caused by radiation therapy.