Astaxanthin: Another Reason to Love Wild Salmon

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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

 

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5 Surprising Foods to Brighten Your Mood

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The dead of winter can be a bit dreary so here are 5 heart healthy foods to brighten your mood and add some spring to your step as we count down to…spring (of course)!

  1. Chick peas (garbanzo beans): Adding a handful ~¼ cup to your salad daily will provide 70 calories of heart healthy nutrition and is an excellent source of the mood enhancer compounds folate, magnesium, tryptophan and Vitamin B6.
  2. Red or yellow raisins: Adding ½ handful of the crimson red or yellow raisins to your salad or as a snack daily will provide 60 calories, is a good source of iron and potassium and has a higher antioxidant concentration than darker raisins.
  3. Peanut butter is an excellent source of resveratrol, a compound that is not only a potent antioxidant but also possesses mood enhancing properties.   Just 1 teaspoon of natural peanut butter a day (60 calories) may improve your mood.
  4. An Apple (a day): The original expression that dates back to the 19th Century, ‘Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread”, holds true today. An apple a day will not only brighten your day but also packs a powerful punch of the heart protective antioxidant, quercetin. My favorite is Fuji…what’s yours?
  5. Chocolate: In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, there is little doubt that chocolate improves mood. Try 1 ounce (~30 grams) of dark chocolate 70% (or greater) each day- it’s good for your heart and vascular health too!
  6. 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

Good News for Good (HDL) Cholesterol

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Does a high level of the good cholesterol (also known as HDL) protect against heart disease?  Average HDL levels are 45 mg/dL (1.2 mmol/L) in men and 55 mg/dL (1.4 mmol/L) in women.   Our latest research provides good news for good cholesterol. In the new study, we identified genetic changes associated with very high HDL (greater than 100 mg/dL or 2.6 mmol/L) that was linked to longevity and excellent overall health.
Want to raise your HDL…try these 3 things:
  1. Exercise:  Aim to burn a minimum of 1200 calories per week and HDL levels may increase 10-20%.
  2. Weight loss: For each 10 lbs of weight loss, HDL increases ~5%.
  3. Have a drink or 2:Moderate alcohol consumption (1-2 drinks/day) raises HDL 15%. 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

How Full Is Your Glass?

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When it comes to heart health, emotions are among the least appreciated, in part because there is no simple test that measures our day-to-day stressors. Yet one thing is (crystal) clear, not managing stress effectively will promote heart disease.

To understand the science of emotions, recent studies have found that optimism is associated with an approximate 25% reduced risk of heart disease. Positive people are also at lower risk of stroke, have fewer heart-related hospitalizations and better quality of life.

Even if you are not an optimistic person by nature, you can learn some important tools to keep your proverbial glass 1/2 full:

  1. Be proactive about your health: Optimists are more likely to engage in healthier lifestyle behaviors that includes not smoking, engaging in exercise and  eating healthier diets than pessimists.  This may also explain why optimists tend to have lower levels of inflammation and reduced risk of infections, including the flu, compared to pessimists.
  2. Build social connections: Optimists tend to be sociable and by forming solid bonds protects against loneliness and depression that can set in later in life.
  3. Don’t be a hypochondriac:  Hypochondriacs often have a pessimistic view of their health; it turns out that Swedish men who overly obsessed about having poor health were 3-fold more likely to die than those with an optimistic outlook.

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

Did You Lose Your Laptop Last Week? PLEASE SHARE THIS MESSAGE

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Three days ago I was returning home on American Airlines (AA) after attending an American Heart Association Meeting when I received an email from AA.  They had found a laptop and sent me the following message:

Hello,

We have found a laptop inside a black bag and your business card was inside the pocket. Please let us know if this laptop belongs to you? And please provide more information of the laptop. Like what kind of laptop, brand, serial number or passcode. If you have any question feel free to contact our Lost and Found (305)526-1979 we are open from 6am to 10pm 7 days a week.

Best regards

American Airlines

Lost and Found

Fortunately, I had my laptop so obviously someone else is missing theirs.  The only clue AA shared is that it contained the early version of my “Heal Your Heart” business card (see above). If you know anyone who may have lost their laptop last week on AA, have them contact the airlines directly.  Case Number is 7516840.

Please share this info…I will also promote it on Facebook today to get the word out …Thanks!  

 

Do These 3 Things & Reduce Your Risk of DIABETES

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More than 400 million worldwide have diabetes representing a doubling of cases over the past 30 years. At the current rate, 1 in 3 young men and women born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes, thereby increasing their risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and loss of limb.  While genetics and lifestyle (such as physical inactivity) play a role, here are 3 surprising ways to help stave off this debilitating disease.

  1. Keep your Triglycerides Low: Triglycerides are blood fats and if not effectively processed accumulate in muscle, leading to insulin resistance.   An optimal triglyceride level (less than 100 mg/dL or ~1 mmol/L) is associated with a 50% lower risk of diabetes compared to levels of 200 mg/dL or higher.
  2. Walk Briskly 30 minutes a day: Walking at a brisk pace (15-20 minutes per mile) will not only help to keep triglycerides low but also reduces your risk of diabetes ~30%.
  3. Tone your Muscles Twice a week:  Combining a program of brisk walking 30 minutes a day with muscle toning through mild weight training and conditioning (yoga) was associated with a 66% lower risk of diabetes in women.

Dr. Michael Miller is a cardiologist and Professor of 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”  with all proceeds donated to the American Heart Association.

Want to Sleep Like a Baby? Try these 3 Things

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Prolonged sleep deprivation, defined as less than 6 hours of restful sleep per night, is associated with deterioration of overall health including a 2-fold higher risk of death from a heart attack or stroke when accompanied by the metabolic syndrome.  In my University-based practice,  sleep deprivation is among the most commonly under-reported complaints that I receive…and it’s only because I specifically ask about it.  Ironically, patients are often not aware that their lower energy levels and reduced ability to concentrate may stem from poor sleeping habits.  So here are several recommendations to help you sleep like a baby!

  1. Get into the “mindset” of a baby…after all, a reason babies sleep so well is that they have no worries.  While this may be easier said than done, a new study finds that writing down your tasks for the next day will produce a better night’s sleep. Why? Because preparation reduces anxiety, a prime reason for poor sleep habits.
  2. Don’t watch the news before bed….I take that back, but just watch the final segment only because that is the most light hearted and the only relaxing segment.  (In other words, they beat us up for most of the hour and then throw us a bone for the last few minutes).
  3. Don’t count sheep, count waves (or other images that relax you).  It works!

Dr. Michael Miller is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. For many more tips to help you get a better night sleep, check out Dr. Miller’s book, “Heal your Heart”, now in its 5th printing.

Happy Marriage = Happy Hearts

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Having dedicated a chapter to relationships in “Heal your Heart”, and then reading about the squabbles and frustrations of husbands and wives, I thought I would weigh in on my 25 year experience as a cardiologist (not as a marriage counselor).

Bottom Line: A happy marriage is important to your heart because protective chemicals that improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and even repair damaged cells are released during hugging, kissing and other intimate activities.

On the other hand, when marriages falter, the risk of cardiovascular events increases. For example, recent studies show that progressive lack of intimacy- an early sign of a troubled marriage- raises the risk of stroke in women and heart attacks in men.

So as we begin a New Year, here are several tips that I recommend to my patients who want to maintain a happy/healthy heart and marriage.

  1. For men: physical issues, such as ED…common with diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and certain medications, should be evaluated by your physician . Don’t deny it- take care of it.
  2. For Women: we may be stubborn and hardheaded but underneath is a relatively simple, softhearted guy with needs, including striving to make his partner happy.
  3. For Men: always express gratitude and help out to lighten her burden. It will work wonders and help to keep your marriage happy/healthy and young at heart.

BONUS: from my 101 year old father-in-law:

For Men: “please the wife

For Women: “count slowly to 10 before you smack ’em

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Dr. Michael Miller is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  His publications include 250 scientific articles and 20,000 citations.

Reflections for the Holiday Season (& beyond)

 

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The holiday season is a great time to reflect, so as we move through the season and into the New Year here are some favorite thoughts related to healthy aging.
  1. We’ve all heard the expression “where have all the years gone?” because as we age, time seems to speed up (of course it’s all relative according to Einstein). But like unwinding a new roll of scotch tape, each 360 degree turn is relatively long in youth, only to wind down more quickly as we age. How to slow your internal time capsule?  Create new memories…visit a new city or country,  challenge your mind (try “quizup”)…just try something different.
  2. Don’t sweat over multitasking…with aging, multitasking is among the first of our higher order functions to go.  Think of a new spring that easily recoils compared to older springs that lose that ability. Once we accept the fact  that we may not be able to “bounce back” as quickly as we used to, stress levels go down. The good news is that aging doesn’t wear out our ability to do one thing at a time very well. So concentrate on completing a single task instead and then move on…you will get things done just as well!
  3. Take “ME time” to chill. We all need time during each day to clear our minds. How much time depends on the person but a good rule of thumb is to take 5% for every 10 hours of activity or -30 minutes to spend with yourself. Meditate, listen to music, turn off your radio/cell phones, etc. …and feel incredibly liberated!
  4. “Remember, you can’t take it with you” is how Jamie Colby concludes her TV show “Strange Inheritance”.  In the spirit of the holiday season, take nothing for granted and enjoy the fruits of your hard labor with others-

Dr. Michael Miller is a cardiologist and Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  He has published more than 250 scientific articles and his research has been cited more than 20,000 times.

His most recent book is “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease” .  Proceeds from the book are donated to the American Heart Association.

5 Natural Food Sources to Reduce Triglycerides

cinnamon-2321116_960_720Curcuma_longa_rootsThe 2nd of this series focuses on natural food sources that lower your triglyceride (fat) levels in the blood.  This is important for a variety of reasons (interested readers should refer to our American Heart Association statement on this topic).  The current designation includes a normal fasting level (below 150) with ideal levels below 100 mg/dL.  High levels are at least 200 mg/dL with very high levels at or exceeding 500 mg/dL (levels above 1000 mg/dL are associated with an increased risk of pancreatitis).

While we don’t yet know whether lowering triglyceride levels reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke (several clinical trials are currently underway), I strive to reduce high levels in my patients.  Living at high triglyceride levels increases the risk of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle changes representing the initial approach to bring those levels under better control.

With this in mind, our soon to be published review paper, summarized below describes some of the best natural ways to lower triglycerides.  In addition to reducing sat/trans fats and refined carbs, incorporating 2 or more of these products can provide an additional 10-30% reduction.

  1. Cinnamon (1 teaspoon daily)
  2. Cacao powder (1/2 – 1 teaspoon daily)
  3. Hazelnuts (1 handful daily)
  4. Edamame beans (1/2 handful daily)
  5. Turmeric (1/2 tsp daily)

Dr. Michael Miller is a cardiologist and Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and member of the American Heart Association Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health.  All proceeds from his latest book “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease”  are donated to the American Heart Association.