This Number Should Never Be Elevated

I get worried when I hear my patients give excuses for their high blood pressure. I hear this one a lot: “I have white-coat hypertension.” Which translates as: “My blood pressure only goes up when I visit my doctor.”

A recent study showed alarming results – that even when your blood pressure goes up just on occasion, it still increases the stress on your blood vessels and can increase your risk for serious consequences – like stroke, heart attack and even kidney failure.

Unfortunately, high blood pressure is very common – three out of every four people over the age of 60 have high blood pressure. And many don’t even know their blood pressure is high – it’s one of those conditions with very few symptoms.

What’s optimal when it comes to blood pressure?

The agreed-upon number for optimal blood pressure has been steadily going down over the past years, and the trend continues.

We used to consider 120/80 to be the optimal blood pressure. Now there are studies showing that we would benefit from our blood pressure being as low as 110/70.

How to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Cut it Out

One of the best ways to avoid high blood pressure is to decrease salt intake. A lot of people have salt-sensitive blood pressure, meaning their blood pressure goes up when they eat a salty meal.

Processed foods like canned soups and prepackaged or frozen foods tend to contain way too much salt. Meals at restaurants, especially fast food items, tend to be high in salt as well. If you get a high blood pressure reading – even now and then – avoid eating these foods.dr jen ending in ine

The “ines”

Anything ending in “ine” – like nicotine and caffeine – will also raise your blood pressure. If you have an elevated blood pressure, remove or reduce the “ines” from your life.

Check it Out

Check your blood pressure regularly. If it’s too high, even just once in a while, take steps to lower your blood pressure to a healthier level. In addition to cutting back on salt and caffeine, make sure you’re eating a healthy diet full of fresh foods, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular sleep and exercise.

Prevention is the best cure. Be your own advocate and start living a healthier, happier life today.

What’s Making You Sick and Tired: Are You Still Eating This Toxic Food?

I’m writing this from the plane on the way back from the most awesome weekend in Napa spent with some of the most brilliant healthcare educators on the planet! Some of them also happen to be close friends – I learned a lot and had a total blast.

I was hanging out with my girls JJ Virgin, Dr. Sara Gottfried, Dr. Anna Cabeca, Cynthia Pasquella, Donna Gates, Leann Ely, and, oh yeah, we let some guys in too – had a great time with Yuri Elkaim, Pedram Shojai, Alan Christianson, Tom O’Bryan, Sean Croxton, and more!

We got together to brainstorm about making a revolution in healthcare. We’re all passionately committed to the mission of helping you take control of your health so that you can live life to the fullest.

We all learned so much from one another, and yes, had some great wine – JJ organized a party in a wine cave, how cool is that?! I love getting together with all my really smart friends so that I can bring back what I learned to you to help you feel and look your best, as quickly as possible.

Here’s the number one thing we all agreed on: gluten is just not worth it.

We all agreed that gluten is a major cause of diseases and health problems, including low energy, belly bloating, moodiness and weight gain, which is why we ate healthy, Virgin Diet-approved foods – which are totally gluten free – the entire weekend. That doesn’t mean we didn’t eat delicious food, though.

Here are some tips that you can use to help you cut down on or even stop eating gluten:

  • Substitute vegetables: Swap out pasta for spaghetti squash – it’s delicious with marinara sauce. Or you can even try some spiralized zucchini. You can get a spiralizer at your local kitchen store or on Amazon - my kids have a blast helping me spiralize veggies, and zucchini makes great noodles that I like to make with an almond butter thai sauce for a pad thai experience.
  • Try gluten free flours: We ate delicious calamari “breaded” with rice flour. Yum!
  • Branch out: When I’m having a craving for bread, my daughter and I love to make my muffin in a minute recipe (Check out the recipe on my blog.)

If you could use a boost – more energy, a better mood, and an easier time maintaining a healthy weight – try cutting gluten from your diet.

I’m so lucky to have such smart, fun friends to hang out with and wanted to share the love :)

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Best of great health, great happiness and great energy!

Hugs,

Dr. Jen

Going Paleo: there’s no such thing as a ‘natural diet’ for humans

Paleo diet salad istockThe Paleo diet, also well known as the Caveman or Stone Age diet, has gained revolutionary popularity among physicians, health experts and the general public, since it joined the scene in 2002.

Dr. Loren Cordain is the author of the book, “The Paleo Diet,” that initiated the movement that has earned a cult-like following.  Cordain proclaims the diet to be the healthiest in the world, but his claims are met with opposition from many leading experts.

Those criticizing the diet refute the possibility that modern food sources can even remotely mimic those of the hunter/gatherer period. So much of the food found on supermarket shelves, even in “organic” and “whole food” supermarkets, are subject to processing, regulation and modifications. The average person doesn’t have the means to grow a garden, raise and slaughter farm animals or literally live off the land.

Others simply don’t agree with the endorsement of red meat, high consumption of animal proteins or the lacking vegan and vegetarian options.

However, published studies have proven the diet effective for reducing blood pressure and lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and triglycerides. In private practice, many health care professionals have observed multiple health benefits in their patients, such as reduced joint pain, reduced risk of diabetes and diminished symptoms of food allergies and sensitivities. Weight loss, hormone balance, increased energy and better sleep are other claims that have been touted by paleo diet advocates.

The paleo diet, like most programs, is not without flaws. It’s true that Cordain’s emphasis on all-natural, straight-from-nature food sources is extreme, but it doesn’t mean that following a modern version of the diet would be any less effective.

The elimination of sugar and starch alone is a win for so many aspects of human health. Increasing your consumption of fruits and vegetables while relying on your hunger cues to determine when and how much to eat – those are principles that fit well with a generally healthy lifestyle.

Based on my own research of the scientific data, I have personally used my own version of a paleo-type diet for several years and encourage my patients to do so as well.  Most of my diet consists of lean proteins, both animal and vegetarian, vegetables, nuts and seeds and a small amount of fruit.  Maybe you’d call it pseudo-Paleo.

This diet allows one to eliminate the starches and sugars that have become so prevalent in our society and are one of the biggest health threats we currently face.  This adaptation of the paleo diet also requires giving up gluten and dairy.   It may sound severe, but eliminating gluten and dairy has been a key factor for me and many of my patients for keeping weight off and aiding in hormone balance.

In my experience, this adapted paleo-type diet has surprising benefits other than weight control, including keeping energy up, getting rid of skin rashes, sinus congestion, joint pain and more.   I definitely don’t kill my own food (I can’t even stand the thought of it!), or grow my own vegetables, but I do try to eat organic as much as possible, especially when it counts (check out the dirty dozen list here).  Regarding meats, eating hormone- and antibiotic-free is important if one is determined to eat a large amount of animal protein.  One of my favorite paleo cookbooks for low sugar, paleo eating is “The 21 Day Sugar Detox Cookbook” by Diane Sanfilippo.

It is always best to talk to your doctor about the healthy eating plan that is right for you. There is space in the industry for a wide variety of “perfect” diets, because there is no cookie-cutter formula for optimal health. Nutrition is a personal pursuit, but finding the right diet for your life is paramount. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about your dietary needs, as food is the most powerful form of medicine.

This post originally appeared over at Fox News.

Hospitals work to dispel stereotype of bad food

When you think of a hospital stay, you think of white walls, fluorescent lights and bad food. There isn’t much about the situation that makes you feel warm and fuzzy at the prospect of a stay.   When I was in residency and worked in the hospital 24/7, I never ate hospital food if I could avoid it, and our patients felt the same way.  Hospitals around the country are looking to change that – starting in the cafeteria.

Hospital food has long had a reputation as healthy, but bland. As time has rolled forward, experts have come to realize that the bland part may be true, but healthy is merely public perception. Pre-packaged, processed and fried foods reign the food line at most hospitals and are the last thing patients struggling with their health should be eating.

dr landa shares about changes to hospital food

I’ve often visited patients on morning rounds and been shocked at what I found on their food trays, because the foods they were given weren’t healthy for anyone, let alone a hospital patient.  Experts have come to learn that it is whole, fresh foods that nourish the body and help ward off disease. And, to keep people interested in healthy eating, it needs to be as delicious as it is nutritious.

The vital role of nutrition quality has gained traction in the fight against disease, leading health industry leaders to take a special interest in the food supply. In November, several hospitals in the United States and Canada were reported to be making balanced nutrition a top priority for anyone who enters the building.

For example, the Memorial Care System in California has introduced restaurant-style dining, room service and made-to-order meals to serve its patients, visitors and employees. Certain guidelines must still be followed to meet the needs of patients suffering from specific diseasese, such as low- and no-salt foods, but the menu has certainly evolved and offers more choices even when food restrictions are high.

The Memorial Care System has also committed to making calorie counting easy for employees and visitors by promoting the MyFitnessPal app and online tools. Dietitians have been recruited to conduct nutrition and fitness seminars – on and off campus – to promote the concept of total wellness at the hospital and in the community.

The nutritional policies of hospitals have always been and continue to be monitored by Medicare and Medi-Cal, accreditation agencies and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The recent changes at the Memorial Care System have been well received and may soon set the standard for hospitals around the country.

Changing the food system within the hospital has proven to enhance a patient’s stay and boost employee morale. At the Kaiser Permanente Ontario Medical Center in California, the chefs are reporting enthusiasm for the new menu, including inquiries for recipes. One chef told the Los Angeles Daily News: “I try to do rounds throughout the hospital, meeting patients and asking them about the food, and I’ve found they are eager to talk about it. Many ask for the recipes, so I give them my business card and tell them to call.”

At Kaiser Permanente, chefs and registered dietitians work closely to design menus that will please all the senses and meet the needs of the patients. Reported menu items include salmon with lemon caper sauce, vegetable pasta, home-style meat loaf and pot roast.

Such gourmet, made-to-order choices seem like a costly venture, but this hospital has found a cooking method that reduces the expense and pleases the palate. Known as the precision cooking method, chefs create meals and vacuum seal small portions to lock in freshness during storage. When an order is placed, the meal is defrosted and warmed in a hot water bath. This makes it easy for patients to order what they want, when they want it.

One hospital director calls it “food therapy” – and who can deny the comfort that comes with appeasing your cravings? The white walls and bad lighting might still await your next hospital stay, but at least you know you will be fed well.

This article originally appeared on Wellness Watch, over at Fox News.

Will Seeing Red Help You Lose Weight?

Red Plate istock

On the brink of swimsuit season, weight loss is on everyone’s mind. The latest craze in fad diets is likely to have the pounds inching back on just past spring break. However, a new study may have discovered that one simple behavior – changing the color of your dinnerware – could stop you from overeating.

With rates of obesity reaching all-time highs around the globe, scientists are eagerly seeking solutions to the excess consumption of food. One study found that the contrast of food on a colored plate changed the amount of food a diner heaped onto his or her plate. For example, when consuming spaghetti with marinara sauce, diners served themselves less when the plates were red – the same color as the sauce. The same was true with white sauce on white plates. By contrast, however, when the sauce and the plate were different colors, the diners served themselves larger helpings.

This study led researchers to question the impact of plate color on food consumption. Would diners eat less if there was less of a contrast between the plate and the food or do certain colors trigger a reduction in consumption?

A recent study published in the journal, Appetite, found that seeing the color red, as in a red plate, reduced over consumption. The study compared consumption of not only food, but also products when sampled from red plates versus other colors.

The study, conducted in Italy, observed usage patterns and enjoyment of a food or product served on different colored plates. Differences were measured based on color intensity of the plate and the contrast between plate color and food or product.

The findings unveiled surprising results: All items served on a red plate were consumed substantially less than items served on the blue or white plates. Even when the data was analyzed for preference for a certain food, those who claimed a profound enjoyment of a specific food item still consumed less from a red plate than those eating off the alternate colors and did not have a specified affinity for the food item. Use of hand cream followed a similar pattern.

While the results seem to conclude that red may top the list of this season’s “it” color for dinnerware, there are limitations to the study’s findings. During the study, participants were unaware that researchers were observing the effects of plate color on consumption or use. It remains unclear how effective the use of red plates is with the knowledge or expectation that red plates will curb the appetite.

Psychologists know that color can influence emotions and induce certain reactions and behaviors. For example, red is often associated with “stop” and “danger,” however it can also be the color of romance – red roses, red lipstick and a red dress. Context plays a substantial role in the reaction to color.

The effect of the red plate, for now, is limited to spontaneous exposure. This may be helpful to marketers, restaurants and those treating individuals suffering from eating disorders, but its usefulness as weight loss aid remains to be seen.

This post originally appeared over at Fox News, where I’m a regular contributor.