5 Reasons to take Advantage of Almonds

almond trees morocco

During our recent travels through North Africa, I couldn’t help but marvel at the plush landscape as well as perfect terrain for growing some of the most nutritious foods on this planet. With the Atlas Mountains in the background, we were amazed by the extensive number of almond trees passing in front of our eyes.   In fact, Morocco ranks 5th among the world’s top producers of almonds after the United States, Spain, Italy and Iran. Suffice it to say that almonds are among the sweetest and heart healthiest nuts on the planet… here are 5 reasons why we should take advantage of them.

  1. Lowers blood glucose levels: Just 12 almonds (1/2 handful or 1/2 ounce) significantly reduces blood sugar levels.
  2. Suppresses appetite.  Eating a handful of almonds daily increases satiety (or a sense of fullness) that can effectively reduce the urge the overeat.  Try 1/2 handful twice daily when hunger pangs set in such as between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner in order to limit overeating during these meals.
  3. Reduces cholesterol and body fat:  Again, try 1 handful of almonds a day and you may find up to 5-10% lowering of LDL (bad cholesterol), triglycerides (blood fats) and reduction of body fat.
  4. May blunt memory decline: As we age our memory declines.  Antioxidants in almonds may help to slow the decline as revealed in animal studies.
  5. Improves Mood: Almonds contain selenium, magnesium and zinc, elements that boost neurotransmitter chemicals, serotonin and dopamine to improve mood.
  6. BOTTOM LINE: Up to 1 handful of almonds each day to reap the benefits!
  7. Dr Michael Miller is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore where he takes care of patients, conducts  original research and teaches medical students.  His latest book is  “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease” with all book proceeds donated to the American Heart Association.

 

5 Reasons To Treasure Turmeric

turmeric

In “Heal Your Heart” and in previous posts, I’ve featured a number of herbs and spices to improve your health and overall well-being.  But there are only a select few that have such wide-ranging benefits that you simply cannot afford to miss out.  Among these is turmeric, India’s “golden spice” and one of the world’s top natural health treasures.

Just a spoonful of turmeric (each day) and you won’t need any medicine to go down!  But make sure to add ~1/4 teaspoon of black pepper per teaspoon of turmeric to allow proper absorption and processing of turmeric.

Here are 5 reasons why you should treasure turmeric.

  1. Reduces Aging: Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric root is a powerful anti-oxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that help to slow down aging of blood vessels that otherwise promote adverse heart, kidney and brain conditions.
  2. Improves Skin Health: Recent studies suggest that ingestion or topical application may improve skin health.  However, because research with topical applications is limited, I would recommend that you discuss such measures with your physician/dermatologist before you consider this route of administration.
  3. Boosts Memory & Mood:  A newly published study found that the near equivalent of 1 teaspoon of turmeric (200 mg) each day not only improved memory and mood but also slowed buildup of compounds that promote Alzheimer’s.
  4. Slows Age Related Eye Changes: A number of age related eye changes such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy may improve when turmuric is added to the diet.
  5. Reduces Weight & Belly Fat: Another recent study found that the equivalent of 4 teaspoons of turmeric daily for 30 days resulted in reduction of belly fat and weight loss of up to a 5%.
  6. Dr Michael Miller is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore where he takes care of patients, conducts  original research and teaches medical students.  His latest book is  “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease” with book proceeds donated to the American Heart Association.

 

 

 

 

Unlocking 5 Keys to Happiness

happiness

When it comes to finding happiness, there are many simple things that raise your positive emotions quotient (PEQ).

Here are 5:

  1. Own a pet:  Turns out that pet ownership not only raises your levels of happiness or PEQ but is also likely to reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol levels and reducing obesity.
  2. Have a mid-day snack:  Sometime between 1-3 PM is typically when the level of the brain neurotransmitter, serotonin falls and drive down mood so why not pick it up with a heart healthy snack.  My favorite recommendations that not only boost mood but also lower cholesterol and blood pressure include a medium sized apple, a handful of your favorite nuts or a serving of dark chocolate.
  3.  Do small deeds for loved ones:  Doing small deeds for loved ones will not only raise endorphin levels but over time may reduce aging of your blood vessels.   Small deeds might include helping your spouse around the house, filling up her car with gas and bringing her a warm towel on a cold morning.
  4. Enjoy laughter everyday:  Laughing is among the single best activities that promote happiness and good health and my friends who practice laughter yoga tell me that they rarely develop illness and have generally never felt better.
  5. Appreciate yourself:  Enjoy your own downtime each day by taking at least 20 minutes to recharge.  That means no distractors, including cell phone, radio or TV. It might turn out to be the most restful and meaningful part of your day!
  6. Dr Michael Miller is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  You can read more about health, happiness and PEQ in his latest book: “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease“.  All book proceeds are donated to the American Heart Association.

5 Reasons For A HEART Check-Up

stethoscope

  1. You have a family history of heart disease: Your heart should be evaluated if you have a family member (parent, sibling, grandparent) who had a heart attack or other serious heart condition before age 50.
  2. You experience fevers, chills and have dark lines that appear under your nailsAn infection that spreads to a heart valve can be life threatening. One clue that suggests spread of the infection to a heart valve are tiny clots or splinter hemorrhages that form under the fingernails (or toenails). While splinter hemorrhages can occur for different reasons, its appearance in this setting warrants immediate attention.
  3. You experience shortness of breath with activity: New or progressive shortness of breath that occurs with activity may be related to your heart and should be evaluated.   If for example you now become short of breath after walking up 1-2 flights of stairs when no such problem existed a month ago is a warning sign that your heart may be in trouble and should be checked out promptly.
  4. You experience chest discomfort after meals: Chest discomfort that occurs within an hour after a meal may be due to stomach related “heartburn” or gastric reflux.  However,  if the chest discomfort feels more like pressure or tightness, it may be postprandial angina, due to blockage in 1 or more heart arteries and should be evaluated expeditiously.
  5. Your feel your heart “skipping beats” and become dizzy or short of breath: Feeling “skipped” or premature heart beats can occur under normal conditions such as a poor nights sleep, too much caffeine or feeling stressed out.  However, if you feel your heart racing or skipping beats frequently throughout the day that is associated with dizziness or shortness of breath, a thorough heart examination is mandated.
  6. Dr Michael Miller is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  His latest book is: “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease“.  All book proceeds are donated to the American Heart Association.

Benefits of Black Cumin

black cumin

During our recent trip to Morocco, we were blown away by the distinctive earthy oregano-thyme like savory scent of Nigella sativa seeds also known a black cumin. N. sativa plants are grown throughout the Mediterranean basin inclusive of  24 countries and encompassing portions of 3 continents (Southern Europe, North Africa, West Asia) and the Middle East.   It turns out that black cumin offers a number of health benefits that can be derived by inhalation (seeds, powder or oil) or consumption (spice or condiment).   Below are some of the researched health properties of black cumin.

1.  Weight losing properties: sprinkle 1 teaspoon on your daily salad (see example) and you may even lose a few pounds!

2. Blood glucose control: approximately 1 teaspoon daily for 1 year reduced blood glucose levels by 20 mg/dL on average.

3. Improves mood: approximately 1/2 teaspoon daily for 1 month may also reduce anxiety and improve your mood.

Black cumin is worth a try…small amounts for sound health!

Dr Michael Miller is a cardiologist and Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  His latest book is: “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease“.  100% of proceeds of the book are donated to the American Heart Association.

 

Argan Oil: Morocco’s Liquid Gold

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argan oil2
Having just returned from North Africa, the talk of the town (or at least in Marrakech’s Medina district) centered on one of Morocco’s prized possessions, a gold colored oil extracted from nuts grown on Argan trees.   In fact, Morocco has used Argan oil for centuries both for cosmetic purposes and as medicinal therapy.  Having been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal in 2012 on this topic, I thought it would be worth reviewing recent scientific evidence supporting the use of Argan Oil.  Keep in mind that the oil should be purchased from a reputable source (such as Her Boristerie Bab Agnaou as seen in the picture above) due to dilution of argan with other oils or counterfeit products on the market.
2. Antioxidant Effects: Another recent study found that 5 teaspoons (25mL) of argan oil given at breakfast daily for 3 weeks reduced platelet clumping and exhibited heart protective anti-oxidant effects.
 3. Anti-aging skin remedy: When consumed or applied to skin over a 30-day period, argan oil was associated with reduced wrinkles and sagging of the skin.
Dr Michael Miller is a cardiologist and Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  His latest book is: “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease“.  100% of proceeds of the book are donated to the American Heart Association.

Do you live in one of the 5 Happiest & Healthiest Countries?

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There are many countries where happiness abounds but chronic diseases keep life expectancy rates relatively low (such as in the Philippines where the average lifespan in men is only 65.7 years and women is 72.5 years compared to Monaco where men and women live 20 years longer on average (85.6 and 93.4 years for men and women, respectively). Other countries are healthy but not particularly happy (think of Japan).  The following 5 countries have the distinction of being the happiest and healthiest in the world and for each, there is at least one unique attribute as described below that can be applied to any country you live in. Unfortunately for us, the United States in not among this elite group.

  1. Sweden: Swedish homes are replete with fresh flowers and Sweden is a top importer of tulips.  Bright colors and pleasant fragrances not only boost mood but can also improve brain function.
  2. Australia:  Australians view noise pollution as a prime reason for unhappiness and therefore prefer to live in smaller towns and cities when possible.   Loud noise on a regular basis raises the risk of hypertension and heart disease.
  3. Canada:  Canadians in general and the Canadian physicians with whom I’ve worked with in particular are among the most gracious and altruistic people I know.  In fact, many of them have rejected a pay raise in favor of paying better wages to nurses and other healthcare professionals who are vastly underpaid.   Being selfless and showing gratitude not only boosts mood but also improves overall health.
  4. Iceland: Even though their winters are long and dark, Icelandic people spend a good amount of time during these months socializing in hot tubs at local neighborhood pool gatherings.  Socialization not only reduces depression but may also lower the risk of dementia.
  5. Switzerland:  Switzerland cares about educating and training its people in workforce to the extent that they are number 1 in the world when it comes to on-the-job staff training whether in government or private companies. Having a caring workplace not only reduces daily stress but also lowers risk of metabolic syndrome and other risk factors for heart disease.
  6. Dr. Michael Miller is a cardiologist and Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  His latest book is: “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease

5 Surprising Health Benefits of Apples

different-colored-apples

Since the popular expression “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” was coined ~150 years ago,  numerous benefits have indeed surfaced making apples among the healthiest and most readily available foods throughout the year.  In fact,  Fuji apples continue to be my favorite mid-afternoon pick-me-up snack.

But did you know that apples have important health benefits?   Here are 5 to chew on.

  1. Mouth Hygiene: speaking of chewing, apples contain malic acid which stimulates saliva production and keeps harmful bacteria at bay.  The result,  healthier teeth and gums.  But be careful because too much malic acid may lead to erosion of enamel;  an apple a day represents a “sweet spot” for good oral hygiene.
  2. Mood and Energy Booster: apples contain the mineral boron and a single apple each day can boost mood, energy levels and overall brain function.
  3. Lowers LDL cholesterolapples are a rich source of pectin,  a soluble fiber with cholesterol lowering properties.  One apple daily can reduce LDL (the bad cholesterol) 5-10% .  The trick is that you need to eat the skin to derive the benefit (so make sure the apples are soaked and/or washed well prior to eating; unless they were grown in a pesticide free environment).
  4. Improves Vascular Health: apples contain the powerful antioxidant quercetin, associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Other antioxidants in apples reduce blood pressure and improve vascular health. An apple a day may also reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  5. Reduces “Apple Shape”: compared to pear-shaped, having an apple-shape or  belly fat distribution, is concerning because this type of fat is metabolically charged and inflammatory fat that over time, raises the risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease. Ironically, eating apples as part of an overall program aimed at improving weight management leads to weight loss , diminution of the apple shape and improvement in overall metabolic health.
  6. Dr. Michael Miller is a cardiologist and Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  His latest book is: “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease

Have You Checked Your Palms Recently?

hand

….no, I am not talking about having your palms read recently!  Look closely at your palms…if you see yellow streaking, it could be a sign that your blood levels of fat (also known as triglycerides) are too high.  Having a high level of triglycerides (above 200 mg/dL or 2.3 mmol/L) raises your risk of diabetes and heart disease.  The picture shown above is from a patient who came to see me…turns out his triglyceride level was over 700!

After treatment that included a diet rich in salmon (see my last blog), his triglyceride levels came down to normal and…his yellow streaks disappeared!

normal palm

Bottom line: check your palms and if you see yellowish streaks, ask your physician to check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  You’ll be glad you did!

Dr. Michael Miller is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  Check out his latest book, “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease

Astaxanthin: Another Reason to Love Wild Salmon

cohosalmon

Wild salmon is one of my favorite foods, not only because it can be very flavorful and delicious, but also because it is packed with heart healthy nutrients.    Among the most celebrated of these nutrients is astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant and inhibitor of inflammation that may reduce blood pressure and improve vascular function.  Recent studies also suggest that astaxanthin may be helpful for lowering blood fats (triglycerides), glucose and improving weight control.

The best natural sources for astaxanthin are wild (sockeye) salmon, red trout, shrimp, lobster and (Maryland) crabs, of course!  And did I mention that astaxanthin may also improve your mood and protect against aging and degenerative changes to your brain?

Just a single serving of wild salmon or better yet, add a 2nd astaxanthin rich food each week….your heart (and soul) will be most grateful.

Dr. Michael Miller is a cardiologist and Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  His bestselling book is: “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease