Why Your Heart Enjoys Ginger

ginger

New research continues to emerge in support of ginger for heart and vascular health. Ginger contains powerful compounds (gingerols, cineole) that reduce inflammation and buildup of cholesterol plaques that promote heart disease. Ginger also improves mood and preliminary studies suggest a potential antidepressant role for geraniol, a compound found in ginger.  Other studies have found that ginger supplementation may reduce cholesterol, triglycerides (blood fats), CRP (a marker of inflammation) and improve blood glucose control in Type 2 diabetics.  Another study in an animal model suggests that ginger may even slow progression of eye-related deterioration that accompanies diabetes.  Benefits have been observed with as little as 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ground or powdered ginger a day (and represents ~1-2 grams).  And if you love sushi, don’t forget to complete your course with the sweet tasting and cleansing “gari” ginger.   Your heart will enJoy it too!

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

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The Skinny on Coconut Oil: My Guest Appearance on “THE DOCTORS”

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Recently, my colleague Dr. Andrew Freeman and I debated the use of coconut oil on THE DOCTORS show .  As you can see, I take a more moderate stance and list below some facts about coconut oil that can help you decide whether or not to consume.

  1. Coconut oil is a highly saturated fat, with a solid consistency at room temperature compared to unsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oils that are liquid at room temperature.
  2. Saturated fat not only raises the level of LDL (bad cholesterol) but also increases the likelihood that blood clots will form. Together, the risk of a heart attack is increased.
  3. Replacement of saturated fat with unsaturated fat lowers the risk of a heart attack. However, these studies only examined saturated fat from animals and not plants (in other words, coconut-based products were not included).
  4. Even though coconut oil is highly saturated and raises LDL, natives of the tropics have among the lowest rates of heart disease in the world. This likely reflects, low rates of smoking, obesity and stress. Their major protein source is fish while consumption of beef fat and processed foods are rare to non-existent.
  5. Refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point (400-450o) than many less refined vegetable oils (less than 400o). The higher the smoke point, the better, because when oil gets overheated and starts to smoke, toxins such as free radicals are released promoting cell damage that over time can adversely affect our blood vessels, cardiovascular system and overall health.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     So what are my recommendations for using coconut oil? First, I do not recommend coconut oil in my patients with heart disease or with unhealthy levels of the bad cholesterol (LDL above 100 mg/dL).   Keep in mind that a normal or “physiologic” level of LDL is ~50-70 mg/dL (as observed in modern hunter-gatherer societies, tropical islanders, etc).   For cooking, sautéing and baking, refined coconut oil is ok to use in small to moderate amounts at a temperature below the smoke point. A similar recommendation applies for use in raw food where the unprocessed and flavorful form of coconut oil may be preferred.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Dr. Michael Miller is a cardiologist and Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. His latest book is “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease“ with 100% of proceeds donated to the American Heart Association.

 

 

Have You Tried Maté?

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I first got turned on to maté, pronounced “mah-tay”, from my friend from Argentina, Ana Goldseker, nutritionist extraordinaire and proprietor of Mindful Nutrition.  This flavorful and caffeine-enriched tea is one of South America’s best kept secrets not only because of its natural mood elevating properties but also because it is an antioxidant powerhouse with heart protective properties designed to reduce cholesterol, improve glucose control and stem inflammation.

If you’ve never had maté, check out Ana’s videos (part 1 and part 2) for simple instructions for preparation.  Drink 1 cup a day at a relatively warm (but not hot) temperature for increased energy and vitality…you’ll be glad you did.

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

 

Inflammation: The HOTTEST Topic in Heart Disease

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A landmark study led by my friend and colleague, Dr. Paul Ridker, shows for the first time that reducing inflammation not only lowers risk of a future heart attack, stroke or death from heart disease but may also affect the risk of lung cancer.  Effectively fighting inflammation with medication is not new, but medications, like statins not only reduced inflammation but also cholesterol so that the basis for the benefits were unclear. The importance of this groundbreaking study is that the medication purely reduced inflammation without affecting cholesterol (or other factors implicated in heart disease).

In other words, lowering inflammation represents an important new way to improve heart health.  That said, listed below are 6 simple things you can do to keep inflammation at bay, everyday.

  1.  Stretch when you wake up.  I remind my patients that physical stress will cause internal stress that can promote inflammation. Therefore, I recommend spending a few minutes each morning doing simple stretch exercises to remain limber and more relaxed throughout the day.
  2. Enjoy a morning cup of java (or tea).  Believe it or not,  coffee contains powerful chemicals like chlorogenic acid that not only fights inflammation but may also help to combat depression. So enjoy your morning cup of java or tea (that has similar properties).
  3. Keep air and noise pollution levels down.   You may not be able to control air and noise pollution levels outside your home or office but it is important to reduce them as much as you can because pollution can be a major source of inflammation. So, keep the windows up when driving down those noisy and polluted city streets and instead, try listening to….
  4. Listening to your favorite music will reduce inflammation.  In fact, listening to your favorite music not only combats daily stressors but is among the most powerful ways to fight inflammation.  So turn it up… but not too loud, because hearing loss is also linked to heart disease!
  5. Enjoy your greens and berries too! Veggies and fruits and among the best food sources to beat inflammation.  In addition to your favorite green salad, I recommend 1 handful of blueberries, 6 strawberries and of course, the proverbial apple each day.  If available, try bergamot, a fruit rich in anti-inflammatory chemicals.
  6. Check out your favorite comedy.  That’s right, a good, hearty laugh will fight those inner inflammatory demons.  Some of my faves include  “Disjointed” , “Young and Hungry” and “Rules of Engagement“.

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

Secret Words of Wisdom from a 100-Year Old Teacher

Hall of fame 016I once asked Paul Miller, a 2011 inductee in the National Teachers Hall of Fame and featured this week on NPR, what he viewed as his secret(s) to a long, healthy and happy life.  Here are some of the words of wisdom he shared that if we live by can make this world a better place… Paul certainly has!

  1. Treat everyone with respect:  Paul not only taught but tutored students from all walks of life; for more than 75 years spanning the educational cycle from kindergarten through college, he taught math at public and religious (Jewish and Christian) schools, Universities (Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland, Towson University, Coppin State). In all, he taught at more than 25 different schools, displaying respect for his students.
  2. Love what you do: Paul loved to teach and even after he suffered a heart attack, the first thing he asked his doctor was when would he be able to go back to teaching.
  3. Enjoy being around younger people: Paul especially loved teaching young students and found elementary through high school to be the most challenging yet most rewarding. Young people have energy and an optimism that all too often recedes with age.
  4. Don’t hold a grudge: If Paul had a hard day at school, he would not let it get to him and move on the next day, often forgetting that anything happened the prior day.
  5. Keep your mind active: Paul always did crossword puzzles and solving math problems. Nearing 101, he is still adept at answering square root problems!
  6. Don’t take yourself too seriously: Paul continues to laugh easily and often, even when it is at his own expense.
  7. Maintain a spiritual connection: Believing in a higher power can be comforting and help to reduce stress during life’s most difficult times.

 

Bergamot: The Sour Fruit with Sweet Benefits

 

Bergamot citrus

Bergamot citrus is a sour tasting fruit combining orange, lemon and a twist of lime flavor. Although used in aromatherapy, cosmetics and food for many years, Bergamot has recently gained acclaim in medical circles due to studies demonstrating benefits on heart and overall health. Check out some of the benefits based on the published studies listed below and why you should consider Bergamot citrus as part of an overall prescription for good health.

    1. Bergamot lowers cholesterol by reducing  LDL (bad cholesterol) by 15-20%, triglycerides (blood fats) by 20-30% and buildup of cholesterol plaques.
    2. Bergamot has powerful antioxidant activities and may be particularly helpful in diabetes and with other metabolic risk factors.
    3. Bergamot reduces blood pressure and heart rate variability, an excellent measure of how our heart responds to stress.
    4. Bergamot possesses powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and inflammation is one of the hottest areas in heart disease!
    5. Bergamot aromatherapy improves mood, If for no other reason, an uplifting mood will lighten your day.(Photo attribution to Leslie Seaton)

       

Dr. Michael Miller is a cardiologist and Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. His latest book, “Heal Your Heart…” is available on Amazon with 100% of proceeds donated to the American Heart Association.

Spice up your Summer with Sumac

 

sumac spice

sumac salad

As we learned during our recent trip, Sumac is a Middle Eastern herbal gem. This tart and sour spice adds a flavorful kick when used as a sauce or sprinkled on chicken, fish and salad (see our peach, beet, almond and greens above). But it is Sumac’s medicinal properties that takes this colorful spice to the next level, making it well worth its weight in “burgundy” gold.

Here are 7 reasons why you should pay a visit to your local Middle Eastern market.

1. Sumac reduces inflammation,  an important contributor to heart disease and other chronic conditions.  (Stay tuned for the results of a landmark study examining the effect of reducing inflammation on heart disease).

2. Sumac improves blood glucose control in diabetics by reducing insulin resistance.

3. Sumac has powerful antioxidant effects.  The powerful antioxidant PON1, is believed to contribute to the heart-protective role of HDL, “the good cholesterol”.  Check out this recent study.

4. Sumac may raise the level of HDL cholesterol.

5. Sumac may reduce growth of certain tumors. 

6. Sumac may slow the aging process.

7. Sumac expands blood vessels that in turn may lower blood pressure.

Bottom Line: Spice up your summer with Sumac…it will not only brighten your day but it’s also good for your heart!

Dr. Miller is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. His most recent book, “Heal Your Heart…” is available on Amazon with all proceeds donated to the American Heart Association.

 

Tel Aviv: A Heart Healthy Culinary Destination

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Israel enjoys one of the highest life expectancy rates worldwide, 82.5 years on average (more than 3 years higher than America’s 79.2).  Having recently visited the country, it is easy to see why.  First, Israelis’ are fit- a mandatory 3-year Army enlistment helps in developing lifelong habits for maintaining excellent physical conditioning. In Tel Aviv, there are 44 miles of designated bicycle routes and numerous exercise machines that line the beach making it convenient to grab a workout any time of day or night. Equally impressive are the delicious assortment of fruits and vegetables, amazing spices and healthy culinary delicacies. Among my favorites were the humongous carrots. These antioxidant powerhouses also produce incredibly sweet carrot juice; make sure to check it out when you visit the country. Another culinary gem adding to the Israeli dining experience was the customary assortment of small salads that included hummus, beets, eggplant, tahini, herring, cucumbers, tomatoes and of course, carrots. Of the many outstanding dining experiences, my favorite was Shtsupak (http://www.shtsupak.co.il/site/english.php); make sure to try the Denis (sea bream) fish that is native to Israel. It is an excellent source of Vitamins B6, B12 and Selenium that is guaranteed to boost your mood and Heal Your Heart.

Wine & Chocolate: What is the SWEET Spot for heart health?

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Recently, Jinji Fraser of Pure Chocolate by Jinji, Michael Zollo of Crow Vineyard and I promoted the health benefits of wine and chocolate at The Institute for Integrative Health.

Wine and chocolate are chock full of powerful antioxidants that can boost mood, increase blow flow, reduce stress and have other health benefits.

-In fact, NEW studies have shown that:

  1. 1 glass of red wine each day may improve blood glucose levels in adults with Type 2 diabetes.
  2. 1 serving of dark chocolate each day is associated with a 16% reduced risk of atrial  fibrillation

So what is the “sweet spot” for good heart health ?

-Alcohol:  Men (1-2 servings per day) & Women (1 serving per day): 5 ounces of wine OR 12 ounces of beer OR 1 shot of spirit.

-Dark Chocolate: 1 ounce (approximates the width of your 2 thumbs).

Dr. Miller is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland and Member of the American Heart Association Nutrition and Lifestyle Committee.  His latest book is “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription” with 100% of proceeds donated to the American Heart Association.

 

 

 

For a Healthy Heart, Chop the Animal Fat!

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It was a great privilege to serve with my esteemed colleagues, led by Dr. Frank Sacks, on a Presidential Advisory statement  entitled “Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease” commissioned by the American Heart Association and published in.Circulation

Some of the main points are:

1. Replacing 10% of calories from Saturated fats (such as beef tallow, butter and lard) with Polyunsaturated fats (such as corn, safflower & soybean oils) REDUCES RISK OF HEART DISEASE BY 50%

2.  Replacing 10% of calories from Saturated fats with Monounsaturated fats (olive oil) REDUCES RISK OF HEART DISEASE BY 30%

3. Replacing 10% of calories from Saturated fats with Complex Carbs (whole grains) REDUCES RISK OF HEART DISEASE BY 18%

4. Replacing 10% of calories from Saturated fats with Simple Carbs (refined starches/added sugars) DOES NOT REDUCE RISK OF HEART DISEASE

As a cardiologist, I recommend that you chop out or restrict animal fat.  However, for my meat loving patients who will not give up their favorite steak, limit intake to no more than 3-4 ounces per serving and aim for a lean cut of beef.  At a restaurant, I recommend asking your waiter to have the chef divide the steak up front (for sharing or placing into a take home box) and filling up your plate with fresh salad instead.

Dr. Miller is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland and Member of the American Heart Association Nutrition and Lifestyle Committee.  His latest book is “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription…” (Rodale Press).