Brianna Swyden, Author at Wakunaga of America

Top 10 Ways to Make Mornings (and the Day) Better

A morning routine can also help you feel more energized and focused throughout the day.1  Let’s look at 10 things you can do to make the most of your mornings.

  1. Get up earlier. Waking up at 5:00 a.m. may sound like torture. But look at the bright side. Early risers have more time for themselves during the peaceful early morning hours and that can translate to improved wellbeing and productivity throughout the day.2 Waking up early can also help align your daily routine with your circadian rhythm, which may lead to better sleep at night and more energy during the day.3 Ease into it by getting up half hour earlier than your regular weekday start time and see how having that extra “you” time feels.
  2. Don’t automatically reach for your phone. Checking the news or your emails as soon as you wake up isn’t great for your mental health or your productivity.4,5 Instead of helping you to get a jump on your day, it can make you feel reactive and chaotic as soon as you open your eyes. Instead, try leaving your phone in another room. If you use your phone as an alarm, switch it out for an old fashion alarm clock.
  3. Drink some water. Your body can lose up to a liter of water while you sleep. Counter early morning dehydration by drinking a full glass of water as soon as you wake up.
  4. Fit in a quick workout. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, exercise can get your blood pumping. If you don’t currently exercise, start with a brisk walk. If you’re already active, level up your workouts with some quick high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT alternates high and low intensity moves to build both strength and endurance. However you move, studies show that exercise can effectively reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.6 Research also shows that exercise—especially if you work out outside—also fosters creativity and helps to promote a better work-life balance.7,8
  5. Get some sun. Stepping outside and getting 20 minutes of natural sunlight increases your cortisol levels. Research shows that exposure to those morning rays elevates cortisol and that, in turn may contribute directly to increased energy and less fatigue.9
  6. Add a shot of cold water to your shower. Research shows that exposure to the cold can help improve your circulation and stress response.10 To get these benefits, try switching to cold water for the last 10-30 seconds of your shower.
  7. Brush and floss. Oral hygiene is critical for good overall health. Brushing and flossing twice a day can help to keep cavities and periodontal (gum) disease at bay by removing the dental plaque that accumulates each day.11 Practicing good oral hygiene can help to promote a healthier cardiovascular system since periodontal disease has been linked to a higher risk of heart attack.12
  8. Try meditating. Morning meditation fosters feelings of calm and promotes focus for the day ahead. Research also shows that a regular meditation practice reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as blood pressure, pain, and insomnia.13 Best of all, a 2018 study found that just 13 minutes of meditation per day for 8 weeks was enough for most inexperienced meditators to notice positive changes.14
  9. Eat a healthy breakfast. Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? One meta-analysis found an association between eating breakfast and better heart health and less risk of mortality.15 What’s more, starting the day with a nutritious breakfast can leave you feeling full longer, with more energy for the day ahead. But instead of cold cereal or toast, opt for a healthy meal that includes high-quality protein for satiety, fiber-rich whole grains for your digestive health, and a healthy source of fat to support your cells and hormones. What about those days when there’s no time for breakfast? A powdered greens drink mix to the rescue! One study involving 63 healthy women found that those using a powdered greens drink mix for 12 weeks reported having more energy and greater wellbeing.16  Other studies show that green supplement powders can also boost your antioxidant levels and improve your immunity.17
  10. Don’t forget your supplements. Adding supplements to your morning agenda can give you a healthy edge that lasts all day long. For example, a growing number of studies have linked the state of your gut’s microbiome to the health of your digestive system, immune system, cardiovascular system, and even your brain! 18,19,20,21 Fortunately you can promote bacterial diversity and strength with a daily probiotic. Look for a probiotic that provides a variety of well-researched Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains proven to support good health from head to toe.

Another supplement that provides a wide range of health benefits is Aged Garlic Extract (AGE). Primarily known for its cardiovascular benefits, research shows that AGE also supports healthy blood sugar, cognition and memory, digestion, and immunity thanks largely to its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.22,23,24,25,26,27

While all of these tips can lead to better mornings and happier, more productive days, to make sure they stick, adopt just one or two at a time before adding more. The more consistent you are, and the more rewarding you find these early morning habits, the more you’ll find them seamlessly folding into your daily life.

Why High Blood Pressure is a Concern at Any Age

How High Blood Pressure In Your 30’s May Raise Your Risk of Dementia Later In Life

According to research out of UC Davis, having high blood pressure in your 30s can set you up for dementia in your 70s.1 Compared to people with healthy blood pressure, the study found that young adults with hypertension had less grey matter (the type of brain tissue that allows you to process information) and lower fractional anisotropy (a measure in how well your neurons can “talk” to each other). They also had less volume in their frontal cortex, the area of the brain that governs executive function. What’s more, compared to someone with hypertension, a person with ideal blood pressure is predicted to have a brain that appears more than six months younger in midlife!2

This study isn’t the first time researchers have sounded the alarm about the brain-changing effects of hypertension in young and middle aged adults. An earlier study that appeared in the European Heart Journal reported a strong association between elevated diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a BP reading) before the age of 50 and poorer brain health in later life.3 That was true even if the diastolic number was within what’s normally considered healthy.

And surprisingly, hypertension among the young is more common than you might think. In fact, 22.4 percent of young adults, age 18-39, have high blood pressure. And more than half of all people age 40 to 59 are living with hypertension. 4  And, since high blood pressure doesn’t typically have any symptoms, many of these people don’t know they have it. That’s a problem because hypertension raises your risk of heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. No wonder it’s often called the “silent killer!” But, no matter what your age, there are plenty of things you can do to bring your blood pressure into a healthy range and, at the same time, proactively protect your brain.

Understanding the Link Between Your Heart and Your Brain

Clinical studies are increasingly discovering that there’s a close connection between your brain and your cardiovascular system—and that’s especially true when it comes to your blood vessels. Healthy blood vessels bring oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the brain, especially to areas of the brain most responsible for memory. But hypertension damages the blood vessels that feed the brain. Along with reducing the amount of blood that flows to brain cells, high blood pressure also causes the blood-brain barrier to break down due to increased inflammation and oxidative stress. This, in turn, exposes your neurons to harmful molecules that can, over time, contribute to cognitive decline.5

“Smart” Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure

 A lot of factors contribute to dementia. Some, like your genes, are outside of your control. But many, including your blood pressure, can be improved. And this can reduce your risk of developing cognitive and memory issues later in life. Here are four things you can do to improve, and maybe even optimize, your blood pressure, starting today!

  1. Get tested. It’s important to get your blood pressure tested on a regular basis. This non-invasive test is quick and easy and will give you a baseline to work from. Wonder what all those numbers mean? Here’s a cheat sheet to help you know where you stand:
Blood Pressure

Category

Systolic mm Hg

(top number)

Diastolic mm Hg

(bottom number)

Normal Less than 120 and Less than 80
Elevated 120-129 and Less than 80
High BP, Stage 1 130-139 or 80-89
High BP, Stage 2 140 or Higher or 90 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis Higher than 180 and/or Higher than 120

Source: American Heart Association

  1. Check your salt…and your potassium. Studies show that consuming high amounts of salt can contribute to high blood pressure.6 But sodium alone isn’t the problem—it’s the combination of too much sodium and too little potassium.7 When potassium is depleted, the body’s cells gobble up the sodium to make up for the loss. Ideally, the World Health Organization recommends a diet that contains less than 2,000 mg of sodium per day and more than 3,510 mg of potassium per day.8 Potassium-rich foods include avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, cooked spinach, honeydew melon, milk, orange juice, potatoes with skin, prunes, raisins, red beans, and tomato juice.
  2. Add some exercise. Exercise has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with mild-to-moderate hypertension.9 As a bonus, exercise is also good for your brain. What’s the most effective type of exercise? While traditionalists point to aerobic exercises like brisk walking, biking, or running, more recent studies show that a combination of aerobic and resistance training is even more effective for reigning in high blood pressure. In one study of older men, those who alternated between strength training using resistance bands and walking or running on a treadmill and cycling on a stationary bike experienced a significant drop in their blood pressure.10 Just remember, to get the most blood pressure lowering benefits from exercise, it needs to become a habit most days of the week.
  3. Supplement this! Adding targeted supplements can also help to keep your blood pressure in check. One of the most effective is Aged Garlic Extract (AGE). A 2020 analysis of 12 clinical trials that was published in the journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine found that a daily dose of AGE lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 8.3 mmHg and diastolic pressure by about 5.5 mmHg in patients with uncontrolled hypertension. This drop in blood pressure was associated with a 16–40 percent reduction in the risk of a future cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke. Earlier studies have reported similar results, leading researchers to conclude that aging this powerful herb offers benefits similar to first-line blood pressure medication.11  But unlike pharmaceuticals, AGE is extremely safe with no side effects.

What do Aged Garlic Extract Blood Pressure Studies Mean for You?

Most recently, Brazilian researchers found that supplementing with AGE significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels within just four weeks. Four earlier studies conducted by Dr. Karen Ried, Director of Research at the National Institute of Integrative Medicine in Australia, also showed a significant reduction in blood pressure in patients with hypertension after 12 weeks. Additional studies, many of which are double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled human trials, have been conducted over the past three decades that show similar results.

The ability of AGE to significantly lower blood pressure levels in study after study gives hypertensive patients a natural, clinically proven alternative to pharmaceuticals that often carry negative side effects. And for anyone with a family history of hypertension, supplementing with AGE can be an effective way to maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

In the US, AGE is available in liquid or pill format in daily dosages of 1000-1200 mg. If you have high blood pressure, please talk to your healthcare professional about what supplements and lifestyle changes are right for you.

Clinical Studies Recap of Blood Pressure Lowering Effects of AGE

The following is a roundup of just some of the clinical trials and reviews confirming the effectiveness of aged garlic extract for hypertension.

  • Vila-Nova TMS, Barbosa KBF, Freire ARS, et al. Effect of aged garlic extract on blood pressure and other cardiovascular markers in hypertensive patients and its relationship with dietary intake. Journal of Functional Foods. 2024;112:105931.

In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, participants taking 1.2g of aged garlic extract were evaluated at four and twelve weeks. During this period, their systolic blood pressure showed significant decreases of 18.6 (P = 0.26) and 18.1 (P = 0.02) mmHg, respectively. In the same group, their diastolic blood pressure showed a significant decreasing trend at week 4 of 10.6 mmHg (P = 0.07).

  • Ried K. Garlic lowers blood pressure in hypertensive subjects, improves arterial stiffness and gut microbiota: A review and meta-analysis. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. 2020;19(2):1472-8.

This meta-analysis of 12 trials involving 553 hypertensive participants confirmed that aged garlic extract lowers systolic blood pressure by an average of 8.3±1.9 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 5.5±1.9 mmHg, which is similar to standard anti-hypertensive medications. This reduction in blood pressure was associated with a 16–40% reduction in the risk of suffering from cardiovascular events.

  • Borghi C, Cicero AF. Nutraceuticals with a clinically detectable blood pressure-lowering effect: a review of available randomized clinical trials and their meta-analyses. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2017;83(1):163-71.

This study highlighted a recent meta‐analysis of nine randomized controlled trials that involved 482 individuals. Those treated with aged garlic extract for 8 to 26 weeks showed that systolic and diastolic blood pressure were reduced more effectively by treatment with the garlic preparations than with placebo.

  • Ried K, Travica N, Sali A. The effect of aged garlic extract on blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors in uncontrolled hypertensives: the AGE at Heart trial. Integrated Blood Press Control. 2016;9:9-21.

Patients with uncontrolled hypertension were given 1.2 g of AGE or placebo daily in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 12 weeks. Average blood pressure was significantly reduced by 5.0 ± 2.1 mmHg systolic. In addition, within this group, 58% of responders had an even better response with a reduction of 11.5 ± 1.9 mmHg systolic and 6.3 ± 1.1 mmHg diastolic compared to placebo. Central blood pressure, central pulse pressure, mean arterial pressure, augmentation pressure, pulse wave velocity and arterial stiffness also tended to improve in the garlic group more than in the placebo group. Trends in beneficial effects of garlic on tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and apolipoproteins were also observed.

  • Ried K, Frank OR, Stocks NP. Aged garlic extract reduces blood pressure in hypertensives: a dose-response trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013;67(1):64-70.

Patients with uncontrolled systolic hypertension (systolic blood pressure [SBP] ≥ 140 mm Hg) participated in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled dose-response trial of 12 weeks. Participants were allocated to 300, 600, or 1,200 mg of AGE daily or a placebo. Average systolic blood pressure was significantly reduced by 11.8 ± 5.4 mm Hg in the 600 mg group over 12 weeks compared with placebo, and reached borderline significant reduction in the 1,200 mg group at 8 weeks (-7.4 ± 4.1 mm Hg).

  • Ried K, Frank OR, Stocks NP. Aged garlic extract lowers blood pressure in patients with treated but uncontrolled hypertension: a randomized controlled trial. 2010;67(2):144-50.

In a parallel, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, patients with treated but uncontrolled hypertension (systolic blood pressure [SBP] ≥ 140 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure [DBP] ≥ 90 mm Hg) were given 1.2g of AGE or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. Patients taking AGE for 12 weeks were shown to have lower systolic blood pressure, on average 10.2 ± 4.3 mm Hg (7.5%) compared to the control group.

  • Steiner M, Khan AH, Holbert D, et al. A double-blind crossover study in moderately hypercholesterolemic men that compared the effect of aged garlic extract and placebo administration on blood lipids. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1996;64(6):866-70.

Another double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study of hyperlipidemic patients (with cholesterol levels of 220-290 mg/dL) on the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Step I diet showed a 5.5% decrease in systolic blood pressure following a 6-month oral intake of AGE.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

How Clean Are Your Greens?

What Are Greens Drink Mixes?

Powdered greens drink mixes are dietary supplements that can be mixed with water, juice, or other liquids. These products typically contain dehydrated greens such as chlorella, spirulina, or wheatgrass. Some drink mixes also include fruit and vegetable powders along with vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients. These products are designed to be a convenient way to fill nutritional gaps.

Why You Might Need More Greens

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a whopping 90 percent of Americans aren’t eating the recommended number of fruits and vegetables each day.1 And that’s a problem since these foods are a rich source of antioxidants that help to fight free radicals that can contribute to a wide variety of chronic diseases.2  But can powdered greens drink mixes help users meet their quota? When taken as a way to supplement a healthy diet, studies suggest that greens drink mixes may indeed support good health and wellbeing. In fact, in one study involving 63 healthy women, those using a powdered greens drink mix for 12 weeks reported having more energy and greater wellbeing.3

Adding a powdered greens drink mix to a healthy diet may also help guard against disease by lowering risk factors and improving the body’s defenses. For instance, research has shown that green supplement powders can improve immunity by raising antioxidant levels and lowering the amount of toxins in healthy individuals. In one small study, consuming a powdered greens drink mix daily for four weeks increased the participant’s serum antioxidant levels by 30 percent.4 In the same study, researchers found that the plasma malondialdehyde levels dropped in those taking the greens drink mix. Malondialdehyde is a biomarker that indicates high levels of cell-damaging oxidative stress. Reducing it helps cells respond to diseases more efficiently.

Another investigation, this one conducted by Austrian scientists, found that obese pre-menopausal women who consumed a powdered greens drink mix for eight weeks had significantly less body-wide inflammation and oxidation—two major risk factors for disease. What’s more, the greens group also experienced better blood flow in their capillaries (known as microcirculation). This is critical since these tiny blood vessels help transport nutrients and oxygen throughout the body.5

And one 90 day pilot trial found that participants who drank a powdered greens drink mix daily experienced a significant reduction in their blood pressure. In fact, their systolic blood pressure decreased from 140.4 mmHg to 128 mmHg and their diastolic blood pressure dropped from 90.2 mmHg to 83.1 mmHg.6

Quality Counts

As you can see, supplementing with a greens drink mix can be a wise addition to a healthy lifestyle. But not all powdered greens drink mixes are created equal. Some products can contain up to 70 different ingredients. And while these ingredients might be things your body needs—think vitamins, minerals, herbs, probiotics, and even protein—you likely won’t get high enough amounts of many of these good-for-you ingredients to move the needle when it comes to improving your health.

Worse yet, some powdered greens drink mixes contain sugar or artificial sweeteners in an attempt to improve their taste. You may also find that your green drink powder contains soy, nuts, or other allergens. And some products include additives like preservatives or anti-caking agents.

To ensure you’re getting the nutrients you want at levels that will do a body good, it’s critical to check the Supplement Facts label. And make sure to drill down to the bottom of the label to see what additional ingredients may be included. While some of these, like food starches or antioxidants, are benign, you may want to avoid products that include sweeteners or synthetic additives.

What to Look for In a Greens Drink Mix

So what should you look for in these sip-able supplements? To get the most out of your powdered greens drink mix, sometimes less is more. While it can be beneficial for your drink mix to include a handful of superfoods like blueberries, broccoli, green tea, kale, or ancient grains, here are the core ingredients to search for on the product’s label:

  • Barley grass. Along with vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, and the B vitamins, barley grass is a rich source of potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and magnesium. Plus, it provides chlorophyll, amino acids, protein, fiber, and enzymes. If that weren’t enough, barley grass is also an excellent source of superoxide dismutase (SOD), a critical enzyme that helps neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals.7
  • Brown Rice. Brown rice is an excellent source of prebiotic fiber that supports digestive health by encouraging the growth and activity of healthy gut bacteria. What’s more, this good-for-you grain is rich in magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, thiamin, niacin and vitamin B6, and manganese.8
  • Chlorella. This unique single-celled freshwater algae possesses powerful detoxification properties that help to bind toxins and heavy metals through a process known as chelation.9 Chlorella also boasts a wealth of nutrients including vitamins B1, B2, B12, folic acid, C, and K. Plus it’s a potent source of minerals, essential fatty acids, protein, and fiber.10
  • Inulin. This type of fiber, which comes from chicory root, is an excellent source of prebiotics. While these naturally-occurring carbohydrates can’t be digested or absorbed by humans, they are the perfect fuel to support the growth of friendly bacteria in your digestive tract.11
  • Kelp. This common seaweed is rich in B vitamins, which play a critical role in cellular metabolism. Because it absorbs nutrients from its surrounding environment, kelp contains more than 15 amino acids and is also a great source of iodine, calcium, magnesium, copper, boron, zinc, and manganese.12
  • Spirulina. This blue-green microalgae, which is high in antioxidants, has been shown to inhibit the production of inflammatory signaling molecules.13 Spirulina is also rich in high-quality protein, the B vitamins, iron, copper, magnesium, potassium, and manganese.14
  • Wheatgrass. This juice bar staple is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as iron, magnesium, calcium, and amino acids. Among its 17 amino acids, eight are considered essential, meaning your body can’t produce them—they must come from your diet. It’s also a powerful source of glutathione, which is known as the “master antioxidant.”15 Little wonder that preliminary research has found that wheatgrass reduces oxidative damage to cells.16

Along with these specific nutrients, it’s also wise to search out a powdered greens drink mix that contains mostly organic ingredients and is GMO-free. Finally, avoid products that contain sugar, allergens, or synthetic additives to ensure you’re getting the cleanest, greenest powdered greens drink mix brimming with nutrients your body needs.