Janus Baker, Author at Wakunaga of America

A Positive Mindset = Positive Health Benefits

What is Positive Thinking?

Positive thinking means that you simply approach life and its challenges with a more optimistic and productive mindset. In other words, you are more likely to focus on the good in any given situation. This doesn’t mean you’re not realistic. It just means you tend to approach life’s problems or setbacks with the expectation that things will go well. On the other hand, people with a more pessimistic view of life tend to believe that if something can go wrong, it will.

According to new research in the journal Science Reports, people who practice positive thinking are more satisfied with their lives and are more resilient when faced with less than ideal situations. And this was even true in older people.1 But being optimistic doesn’t just make you happier. It can also make you healthier!

The Health Benefits of a Positive Mindset

It’s easy to see how positive thinking can make you feel happier and more productive. But a growing number of studies have found that an optimistic outlook can also provide a wealth of health benefits. These include:

  1. Boosting longevity 2,3
  2. Enhancing immunity4,5
  3. Improving cardiovascular health6
  4. Promoting better sleep7
  5. Protecting against the negative effects of chronic pain and disability8
  6. Reducing feelings of anxiety and depression9
  7. Reducing the risk of frailty in the elderly10

In one 2019 review of 15 studies that looked at the link between a positive attitude and cardiovascular disease, researchers found that people who were most optimistic had a lower risk of experiencing a potentially deadly heart attack or other cardiovascular event compared to those who were more pessimistic.11 And an earlier study analysis involving more than 70,000 people reported that those with higher levels of optimism had a 35 percent lower risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event compared to individuals with lower levels of optimism.12

How can a more positive mental mindset trigger these physical effects? Some experts believe that people with a positive outlook are either less affected by or more resilient to the negative effects of stress.13 Others think that optimists tend to practice healthier habits like making  better food choices, exercising more, and generally avoiding unhealthy behaviors.14 Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that taking a positive approach to life is good for both mind and body.

Support Your Optimism Neurotransmitters

So is positive thinking a choice? Not entirely. Research in the Journal of Positive Psychology suggests that up to 25 percent of your inner Eeyore is actually hereditary.15 But, like all things genetic, your genes aren’t necessarily your destiny. And that means you can take steps to change your world view to a more positive one, starting with your neurotransmitters.

Your happiness neurotransmitters—especially dopamine and serotonin—rely on certain nutrients. For instance, adequate amounts of the B vitamins, especially folate and vitamin B6, are needed for the production of dopamine and serotonin.16 And research suggests that ginkgo biloba and phosphatidylserine can also increase dopamine levels.17,18 

More recent research suggests that your neurotransmitters are also influenced by your gut via the gut-brain axis.19 In fact, serotonin is actually synthesized in the gut and not the brain.20 That’s one important reason why maintaining a healthy gut microbiome can influence your mood and sense of optimism. One way to foster a healthier microbiome and a more positive mindset is with a daily probiotic supplement. This was seen in a recent clinical study of healthy volunteers that appeared in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry. The researchers reported that those taking a probiotic experienced a significant improvement in their mood and less depression, anger or fatigue, leading to a more positive attitude.21

5 Lifestyle Hacks to Foster Healthy Optimism

The Mayo Clinic also offers up a handful of ways you can re-train your brain to be more optimistic.22

  1. Check yourself. Take a minute to evaluate what you’re thinking. If you’re primarily thinking negative thoughts, stop and try to put a more positive spin on them.
  2. Be open to humor and fun. Laughter is a proven stress-buster, especially during difficult times. It’s also been shown to bolster your body’s immune response.23
  3. Surround yourself with positive people. Negative people can increase your stress levels and support a more pessimistic view of life. Hanging out with positive people, on the other hand, breeds happiness and optimism.
  4. Keep a gratitude journal. Counting your blessings on a daily basis is a great reminder that things aren’t as grim as you imagine. One study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that maintaining a gratitude journal was linked to greater feelings of optimism.24
  5. Practice positive self-talk. Don’t say anything to yourself you wouldn’t say to someone else. Be kind and encouraging with yourself by repeating affirmations confirming the good things about yourself and your life.

 

It may take a while to go from seeing people and events through a negative lens to looking for the bright side of life. But with practice, you can become more optimistic and learn to celebrate that glass half full.

Heart Disease Starts Sooner Than You Think

Consider these startling statistics:

  • 3 million people age 18 to 39 have borderline high or high LDL cholesterol levels. That’s more than one-quarter of all people in that age group.1
  • According to the CDC, one in seven teens, age 12 to 19, have high blood pressure.2
  • Plaque in arteries can start to build up during childhood, eventually leading to an artery-clogging condition known as atherosclerosis.3

Making matters worse, young adults and the parents of kids under 18 are often unaware that they or their kids have one or more of these risk factors. One reason cardiovascular disease in the young falls under the radar is that many doctors don’t test for these risk factors in those under 40, despite urging by the American Academy of Pediatrics to test cholesterol levels in children as young as 9 years old and again at age 17.4 And the CDC advises parents to ask their child’s pediatrician to check blood pressure as early as age three! 2

Early Signs of Cardiovascular Disease

High cholesterol and high blood pressure typically don’t have any symptoms. So how can you tell if you or your child should be tested? Fortunately, the following factors can point to a higher than average risk in children, teens, or young adults:

  • Are overweight or obese.
  • Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
  • Having a family history of cardiovascular disease.
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Routinely eating a diet filled with ultra-processed food.
  • Smoking, vaping, or exposure to second-hand smoke.5,6

Are These Heart Disease Risk Factors Really That Bad? 

Numerous studies have drawn a direct link between future cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or atherosclerosis in the young. Getting to know how developing these factors in early life can up the odds of a later heart attack, stroke, or even sudden cardiac death can help you get a jump-start on prevention.

Atherosclerosis. This common condition can begin in childhood and develops slowly throughout life as cholesterol, fatty substances, calcium, and cellular waste forms a sticky substance called  plaque. As this plaque builds up inside your arteries, it causes them to narrow, reducing the supply of oxygen-rich blood to your tissues. Over time, plaque can build up to the point where it reduces or blocks blood flow in an artery.7 A piece of plaque can also break off and block an artery, causing a heart attack, stroke, or sudden death.8

High Blood Pressure. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure occurs when the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is consistently too high. When you have high blood pressure, your heart and your arteries have to work harder to circulate blood throughout your body. Over time, this damages the tissues that make up the inner lining of your arteries, creating the perfect environment for the buildup of plaque. The more plaque increases, the narrower your arteries become, and this further raises your blood pressure, starting a vicious cycle that can harm your arteries, heart, and the rest of your body.9 In addition to heart attack and stroke, studies show that high blood pressure can lead to heart failure, kidney disease, sexual dysfunction, and vision loss.10,11,12,13

What’s considered a healthy blood pressure and when should you be concerned? Here’s what’s the American Heart Association has to say:14

Systolic (Top Number) Diastolic (Bottom Number)
Normal Less than 120 Less than 80
Elevated 120-129 Less than 80
Stage 1 Hypertension 130-139 80-89
Stage 2 Hypertension 140 or higher 90 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis Higher than 180 Higher than 120

 

High Cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body makes, and surprisingly it’s not inherently bad. In fact, your body needs cholesterol to build cells and make vitamins and other hormones. But too much low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, especially if it’s oxidized, can increase the buildup of arterial plaque. On the flip side, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol since it carries LDL to the liver where it’s then flushed from the body. This, in turn, can lower the risk for heart attack or stroke. Since it’s important to know where you stand, here’s a quick “cheat sheet” to cholesterol levels by age group:15

 

Healthy Borderline High
People under

age 20

HDL: 45 mg/dl or higher

LDL: < 110 mg/dL

Total: < 170 mg/dL

LDL: 110-129 mg/dL

Total: 170-199 mg/dL

LDL: 130 mg/dL or higher

Total: 200 mg/dL or higher

People over

age 20

HDL: 40 mg/dl or higher for men; 50 mg/dL or higher for women

LDL: < 100 mg/dL

Total: < 200 mg/dL

LDL: 130-159 mg/dL

Total: 200-239 mg/dL

LDL: 160-189 mg/dL

Total: 200 mg/dL or higher

 

Heart Healthy Action Plan for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults

The first step for prevention is knowing your (or your child’s) numbers. This is especially true if one or more of the risk factors ring true. Once you have the data, you can take these four actions to bring your cholesterol and blood pressure into a healthier range without resorting to medications. It may also help to keep atherosclerosis in check.

Level up your food choices. If you need yet another reason to eat healthier, two new studies have linked a diet high in ultra-processed food (think Doritos, Twinkies, and sugary sodas) to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease later in life.16,17 In another study, ultra-processed food consumption among preschoolers predicted higher total cholesterol levels from preschool to school age.18 What to do? Trade in unhealthy junk food for a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, whole grains, and healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil.19

Get moving! Spending too much time playing video games or scrolling on your phone can contribute to a sedentary lifestyle that can undermine heart health. Balance your screen time with some daily activity that raises your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and helps you maintain a healthy weight.20

Add a supplement. A growing number of studies show that supplementing with Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) can improve both blood pressure and cholesterol levels while preventing the accumulation of calcium in arteries. In one 2020 clinical trial of 104 people, supplementing with a daily dose of AGE significantly discouraged the progression of coronary artery calcification and reduced systolic blood pressure and inflammation that can damage arteries.21  Earlier research reports that taking AGE resulted in a 7 percent drop in total cholesterol and a 10 percent decrease in LDL cholesterol in men.22  Note: since virtually all studies, including these, are  conducted on adults, do check with your pediatrician or family doctor before giving a child AGE or any other supplement.

 

Although the risk factors for cardiovascular disease among kids, teens, and young adults is more prevalent than we’d like to believe, it’s not an automatic path to a future heart attack or stroke. Pairing knowledge with a few simple lifestyle tweaks can reduce the risk and help to foster a healthier tomorrow.

7 Smart Habits for Academic Success

7 Tips for Enhanced Cognition and Better Grades

Sure, studying hard is essential to getting good grades. But academic success starts with a healthy lifestyle. Follow these seven steps and you’ll set yourself up for a successful semester.

1.  Make smart food choices. The foods you eat play a big role in how well your brain functions. Unfortunately, campus diets are anything but ideal. Centered around fast, fried, and processed foods loaded with saturated fats and refined sugars, the typical student’s daily diet can have a negative impact on memory and cognition.1 A 2019 study confirmed that dormitory residents not only eat a lot of fast food, it also showed that overconsumption can lead to worse short-term memory.2 So instead of grabbing chicken nuggets and waffle fries at the student union, opt for a leafy green salad, a few handfuls of nuts, and some fruit.

2.  Get some exercise. With a loaded class schedule and a host of other commitments, you may not think you have any time left to exercise. The truth is, you may not have time not to if you want to get good grades. That’s because physical activity—particularly in a group setting—can translate into higher grades. A 2023 doctoral dissertation shows that increased involvement in exercise and recreational sports is associated with a higher GPA.3 Whether you play an intramural sport, hit the fitness center, or go jogging, anything that gets your heart rate up will help your cognition and your test scores.

3.  Minimize the partying. College life is full of temptation. It can be hard to focus on your studies when there’s never a shortage of opportunities to have a good time. But partying too much or too hard can lead to less than optimal cognitive performance and less than stellar grades. A national survey of college students showed that those who binge drink are 5.9 times more likely to do poorly on a test or project than those who don’t binge.4 Something to remember the next time you think about going out instead of hitting the books.

4.  Cut your screen time. Social media and video games can be a real brain-drain—and excessive use has been linked to poor scholastic outcomes. Not only that, heavy internet gaming and smartphone use tend to have a negative impact on physical activity, mental well-being, and sleep.5 They can also eat into your precious free time. Case in point: a 2023 study revealed that male college students spend just over one hour a day on social media while female students spend over two hours.6

5.  Catch some shut-eye. Good sleep on campus can be hard to come by. However, quality sleep is just as critical for academic success as studying is. In an analysis of 100 MIT students, sleep quality, duration, and consistency were associated with better academic performance.7 But what if you have no choice and have to pull an all-nighter for the big test? No dice. A study in Behavioral Sleep Medicine shows that rather than making the grade, students who study all night without sleep actually end up with a worse GPA compared to those who get in their zzzz’s.8 So instead of cramming the night before, shoot for at least seven hours of quality sleep to keep your brain sharp.

6.  Address anxiety. College students are experiencing more stress and anxiety than ever, and it’s having a serious impact on classroom performance. But while reducing anxiety is easier said than done, dealing with your mental health can go a long way toward improving your academic prospects—and your overall well-being. Fortunately, a pair of recent studies published in Frontiers in Psychology offer ways to naturally cope with the struggles of college life. One meta-analysis shows that mindfulness-based interventions is effective at reducing anxiety among college students.9 The other study suggests that students inhale aromatherapy with essential oils to help relieve test anxiety.10

7.  Take a quality supplement. Help your brain function at optimal levels with a clinically studied supplement.

Ginkgo biloba. Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, ginkgo biloba boosts brain function so you can focus when it’s time to study. A review of 14 clinical trials showed that ginkgo biloba can improve memory and cognition, as well as cerebral blood flow supply, executive function, attention and concentration, non-verbal memory, and mood—all while decreasing stress.11

Ginseng. Rich in antioxidants, ginseng has been shown to improve brain function and enhance memory. A study published in the Journal of Pharmacy Research reported that ginseng stimulates brain activity to cause a more economical release of energy, which results in increased work output.12 Sounds like a no-brainer!

Aged garlic extract. This powerful antioxidant has a wide range of benefits. Often used for its heart-supporting activity, preliminary research suggests that supplementing with aged garlic extract (AGE) reduces inflammation in the brain and significantly improves both cognition and memory.13 What’s more, AGE fortifies your immune system so you won’t miss a class or a quiz. In a study of healthy individuals who got the cold or flu, the group taking the garlic supplement experienced reduced severity, fewer symptoms, and missed the fewest school days when compared to the placebo group.14

Academic success starts with your daily habits. By focusing on a healthy lifestyle as much as you focus on studying, you’ll optimize cognitive performance and set yourself up for success this semester and beyond.

Healthy Ways to Get Your Cholesterol In Check

But just because you have high cholesterol doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do about it. By adhering to the following strategies, you can start to lower your cholesterol in a matter of weeks. And since September is National Cholesterol Education Month, there’s no better time to take a closer look at cholesterol and to highlight effective ways to keep yours in check.

What Is Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like molecule found in every one of your body’s cells. It’s necessary for the production of hormones, vitamin D, and digestive chemicals. Your body produces all the cholesterol it needs. But cholesterol is also found in foods from animal sources, such as eggs, butter, meat, and cheese.

There are two main kinds of cholesterol:

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL). Referred to as “good” cholesterol, HDL carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver for removal.
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Known as “bad” cholesterol, high LDL levels can lead to the buildup of plaque in your arteries.

Why Cholesterol Matters

If you have too much cholesterol flowing through your arteries, it can combine with fats, calcium, and other substances in the blood to form plaque. Plaque is dangerous because it sticks to the arterial walls, causing them to narrow and stiffen, which can cause a condition called atherosclerosis2. Over time, this buildup can constrict blood flow, putting you at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Do You Have High Cholesterol?

Unfortunately, high cholesterol typically doesn’t have any symptoms. The only way to know if your levels are too high is through a blood test called a lipid panel ordered by your doctor. The test measures how much cholesterol is circulating in your blood. If your total cholesterol comes in over 200 mg/dL, then you have high cholesterol. If it’s above 240 mg/dL, then you’re at serious risk for developing coronary heart disease.3 Your LDL matters, too. Levels between 130 mg/dL and 159 mg/dL are a sign that you have borderline high levels of this harmful form of cholesterol. Anything over 160 mg/dL can radically elevate your risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

The test also measures your triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are another type of fat in the blood. While triglycerides aren’t part of the plaque that builds up in your arteries, high levels can help facilitate  atherosclerosis and increase your risk of heart disease.

What Can You Do About High Cholesterol?

Bringing your cholesterol down may seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, there are a number of simple things you can start doing to bring your cholesterol levels into a healthier range and reduce your risk for a cardiovascular event. The best part is that some of these changes can show immediate benefit to your cholesterol readings.

Clean Up Your Diet 

Changing your cholesterol profile starts with changing the way you eat.

Eat the right fats. Not all fats are bad for you. Some fats are an essential part of a healthy diet. But in order to see a drop in cholesterol, you have to watch out for certain fats like saturated fat, which is found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, and trans-fat, which is found in fried foods and commercial baked goods. Decreasing your consumption of these types of foods can help reduce your LDL cholesterol.4 A good place to start is by switching out your butter or margarine for a high-quality extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil. Then, try making an omega-3-rich salmon and vegetable dish at least once or twice a week.

Add fiber. Data suggest that an uptick in dietary fiber may lead to a downturn in LDL cholesterol—and diminish the risk of coronary heart disease.5 Soluble fiber, which isn’t absorbed in the intestine, binds to cholesterol and removes it from the body. According to the National Lipid Association, eating 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber per day can help lower total and LDL cholesterol by 5 to 11 points. Foods high in fiber include whole grains, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. You can get even more soluble fiber with a supplement that contains psyllium, betaglucan, pectin, or guar gum.

Avoid sugar. Sugar-sweetened beverages aren’t doing your cholesterol heath any favors. Unfortunately, sodas, sports drinks, and fruit-flavored drinks are America’s favorite source of added sugars. A report in the Journal of the American Heart Association shows that regular consumption of these sugary beverages is linked to lower levels of good HDL cholesterol and higher levels of triglycerides in middle aged and older adults.6

Adjust Your Lifestyle

Along with tweaking your diet, shifting your daily habits can have a big impact on your cholesterol levels.

Exercise. Regular physical activity is a surefire way reduce your cholesterol levels.7 Based on the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need about 20 to 30 minutes of exercise every day, with 2 days of muscle strengthening activity every week. Physical activity can be anything: going for a swim, a hike, a jog—whatever gets you moving. Think you’re too old to benefit? Think again. A study of elderly individuals showed a significant decrease in their cholesterol and blood pressure levels after engaging in regular exercise.8

Quit smoking. Cigarette smoke, whether first- or secondhand, can wreak havoc on your health—your cholesterol levels included. The American Heart Association says that the carbon monoxide present in cigarette smoke increases the amount of cholesterol deposited in the inner lining of the arteries. But dropping the habit can improve your cholesterol health quickly. In fact, your HDL levels can rapidly rise in less than three weeks.9

Choose a Supplement

Give your arteries a little assistance with a supplement specifically targeted to lower cholesterol levels.

Aged garlic extract (AGE). AGE is well known for its cardiovascular benefits. Research shows that it reduces arterial stiffness, elevated cholesterol levels, and blood “stickiness,” as well as blood pressure. AGE is so effective at lowering BP that a meta-analysis of 12 trials confirmed that garlic supplements can cut the risk of a cardiovascular event by up to 40 percent—which is just as effective as standard anti-hypertensive medications.13 And another study highlighted clinical research showing that AGE lowered total cholesterol by 7 percent and LDL cholesterol by 10 percent in a group of men with high cholesterol levels.14

Lecithin. Every one of your body’s cells needs lecithin. Research suggests that taking soy lecithin daily may be used as a supplemental treatment for high cholesterol. Even better, soy lecithin was shown to contribute to a significant reduction in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol concentrations in just the first month of treatment.10

Phytosterols. These are a group of naturally occurring compounds found in all plant foods. Because they are structurally similar to cholesterol, phytosterols compete with your body’s cholesterol for absorption in the digestive system. As a result, cholesterol absorption is blocked, and levels drop. Studies suggest that phytosterols can significantly reduce concentrations of LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides in the blood.11

Omega-3s. It’s not only smart to get plenty of omega-3s in your diet, it’s also smart to fortify your intake with a high-quality supplement. Evidence suggests that omega-3 supplementation can help increase good HDL cholesterol and reduce harmful blood triglycerides levels.12

There’s no time like the present to take steps to reduce your total and LDL cholesterol—whether it’s National Cholesterol Education Month or not. Incorporate these proven strategies into your lifestyle today and  you’ll start to see benefits sooner than you might think.

What’s in Your Probiotic

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when taken in sufficient amounts.1 They work by colonizing the gut and promoting a healthy balance of microorganisms in the digestive tract. Consisting mainly of bacteria, these microorganisms are naturally present in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. They’re also often added to other food products and are available as dietary supplements.

The Benefits of a Probiotic Supplement

Probiotics get a lot of attention for their positive effects on gut health—and for good reason: numerous studies show that probiotics are a safe and effective treatment for gastrointestinal issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome–related abdominal pain, bloating, and flatulence.2  But a growing body of evidence indicates that probiotics have the potential for even greater health benefits. New data suggest that probiotic use can improve GERD symptoms, such as regurgitation and heartburn.3 A daily probiotic could also alter the brain waves responsible for relaxation and attention for better brain function during exercise.4 Pre- and postnatal probiotic consumption likely plays a big role in preventing asthma.5 And probiotics’ anti-inflammatory actions can help alleviate rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, allowing RA sufferers to better perform daily activities.6

The Importance of Probiotic Strains

Unfortunately, you don’t get all of those benefits by simply “taking probiotics.” Instead, it’s critical to find the individual probiotic strain, or strains, that address your health concerns. Researchers have identified nearly 8,000 unique ones7—all with their own uses and benefits. But as always, speak with your doctor before starting a new probiotic supplement.

Understanding the names of probiotic strains will help you determine which product is right for you. Probiotics are categorized by genus, species, and specific strain code. Take, for example, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, one of “The Friendly Trio” shown to improve quality of life for those with constipation.8 Bifidobacterium is the name of the genus, bifidum is the species, and G9-1 is the strain responsible for the those particular benefits. On the other hand, Bifidobacterium bifidum Bf-688 is associated with improving ADHD symptoms in children.9  Same genus and species, but different strain code and impact.

Different Species, Different Sources

There are three main types of probiotic bacterial species:

Human. Human-origin probiotics are species of beneficial bacteria that naturally occur in the human body. Despite the name, these organisms do not come from human sources; rather, human-origin probiotics contain the same species of bacteria that naturally reside in the human gut, with two of the most common ones being Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium

Dairy. Dairy products such as yogurt and kefir contain live beneficial bacteria that are added during the fermentation process. Though effective, these probiotics aren’t for everyone as dairy products can present problems for some users. What’s more, probiotics often don’t survive the pasteurizing process used in many popular yogurts.

Soil-based. Soil-based probiotics are tiny organisms that occur naturally in the earth. They perform the same job for plants as bacteria in your gut do for you. Containing species of bacilli, these probiotics can survive in harsh conditions and have a natural resistance to stomach acid.

Which type of species is more effective? That will depend on which works best for you. That said, a 2018 International Journal of Medical Sciences report showed that human-origin strains have greater efficacy compared to probiotics that come from dairy or plant sources.10

What to Look For in a Probiotic Supplement

Besides the particular species and strain, there are a few other things to consider when choosing a probiotic supplement. First pay attention to the colony forming unit (CFU) number. This figure tells you how many bacterial cells you’ll be getting in each dose. A lot of probiotic supplements contain 1 to 10 billion CFUs per dose, with some boasting up to 50 billion CFUs or more. But more isn’t always better as higher CFU counts don’t necessarily translate to increased health benefits.

Next, make sure the probiotic is guaranteed to be live at the expiration date (not at date of manufacture) and check the date on the packaging. This matters because the CFU counts tend to decline over time, making the product less potent. And you don’t want to waste money on a supplement that will be expired by the time you take it.

Finally, do a little research. Make sure that your probiotic strain has been clinically tested so you know that it will do what you want. Remember that probiotics efficacy is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so it’s important to find a product that’s been independently evaluated. Look for a brand that can show clinical studies that include the species and strains used in their blends.

Don’t Forget the Prebiotics

Because probiotics are live organisms, they need plenty of nutrients to thrive. That’s where prebiotics come in. Prebiotics are a type of nondigestible dietary fiber that serves as food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut, stimulating their growth and activity.1 When paired in a single supplement—called a synbiotic—the results are compelling: in a recent review, the combination of probiotics and prebiotics was shown to significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving several meaningful markers, such as LDL (bad) cholesterol and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.11

Probiotic Supplements to Try

Maintain good colon health, relieve occasional digestive discomfort, and promote healthy immune function with Kyo-Dolphilus Daily Probiotic. Boasting The Friendly Trio™ of probiotics: Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2, this daily supplement can help get your digestive health back on track and it doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

Maximize the effectiveness of your probiotic by taking one that combines probiotics and prebiotics. Pro+ Synbiotic contains nine strains of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria species along with a proprietary prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria to help maintain bacterial balance.

When it comes to choosing a probiotic for better health, not any supplement will do. To find the right product, you need to understand what’s in your probiotic. Identifying the appropriate strain(s) and adding a prebiotic will go a long way in helping you achieve your health goals.

 

Empower Your Health

Taking control of your health may be easier than you think.  Here are some easy and effective ways to stay well.

Annual Checkups

The absolute best way to take control of your health is to be proactive. Getting your yearly checkup is the first line of defense for keeping your body healthy and free from illness. You can not only test for and monitor any health issues but also update vaccinations and talk to your doctor about questions or concerns you may have.

Of course, there’s more to your annual checkup than just seeing your regular physician for some blood pressure and cholesterol screenings. The American Cancer Society recommends that women protect against breast cancer by getting yearly mammograms starting at age 45. The American Cancer Society has also updated their guidelines for colon cancer screenings. Now it’s recommended that everyone get a colonoscopy at age 45 instead of 50. And the Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that you see a dermatologist once a year for a professional full-body exam to check for early indications of melanoma—more often if you have a history of sunburns or are otherwise at a higher risk of skin cancer.

Adopt a Healthy Meal Plan

Life is busy, and sticking to a healthy diet can be challenging, to say the least. When schedules get busy, fruits and vegetables are often the last things to make it onto your dinner plate. But a recent study shows that meal planning and preparation are associated with greater fruit and vegetable intake and lower body mass index (BMI).1 So prepare parts or all of meals before the week starts, and make good use of your freezer. That way you can enjoy all the benefits of healthy home-cooked meals without having to spend a lot of time and energy in the kitchen.

Watch Your Weight

A surefire way to health empowerment is through weight loss. Losing weight can have a wide range of effects on your physical health and outlook on life. Though reducing body fat can be easier said than done, there’s good news: You don’t have to lose much for benefits to kick in. A modest amount of weight loss—about 5 to 10 percent of your body weight—can improve all sorts of health concerns, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels.2

Regular Exercise

Consistently elevating your heart rate can work wonders for your health perspective. Exercise has been shown to provide seemingly unlimited health benefits, both physical and mental. Regular activity doesn’t just help with weight management and improve cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health; exercise can also reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress while boosting self-efficacy and self-esteem.3 Fortunately, you don’t have to join a gym to fit in some fitness into your days. Look for opportunities to be physically activity. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, kick the ball around with the kids, or take the dog out for a walk around the neighborhood.  No dog? Take yourself out for a nice walk.

Daily Supplements

A few key nutrients can have a big impact on your well-being. Reinforce your health with one or more of these daily supplements.

Green nutrients. Greens like arugula, kale, and spinach are packed with vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium—nutrients that every woman needs. But, while salads, soups, and smoothies are a great way to get your greens, who has time? For those days when a stint in the kitchen just isn’t in the cards, consider reaching for a powdered drink mix for a quick and convenient boost of nutrients. Brimming with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, products like Kyo-Green Powdered Drink Mix a great way to start the day or as an afternoon pick-me-up. To fortify your immune defense, Kyo-Green Harvest Blend combines ancient grains, plant-based nutrients, prebiotic fiber, and herbal extract phytoactives to support and maintain proper immune function.

Aged Garlic Extract. We like to say “garlic is good but aged garlic extract is better”. Studies show that Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) delivers a number of health benefits, especially for your cardiovascular and immune systems. Published studies document that AGE can reduce blood pressure in patients with uncontrolled hypertension and improve arterial stiffness, inflammation, and your gut microbial profile.4 AGE supplementation also modulates immune cell function, helping to reduce the duration and severity of colds and flu.5 Typical dosage of 600 mg of Aged Garlic Extract daily supplies strong baseline support for your heart and immune health.

Vitamin D + calcium. Bone loss can lead to osteoporosis, a condition of weak brittle bones that break easily. However, the Women’s Health Initiative trial showed that taking calcium and vitamin D together can substantially reduce the risk of bone fracture in postmenopausal women.6 Adequate vitamin D levels have also been shown to benefit muscle function and prevent injurious falls requiring hospitalization in older community-dwelling women.7

Omega-3s. Men may be more likely to suffer from heart disease, but women have a higher mortality and worse prognosis after an acute cardiovascular event.8 A recent review shows that omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) can reduce the of risk of cardiovascular episodes, including fatal heart attacks.9 What’s more, another study showed that omega-3s are positively associated with decreased frailty and improved mobility and cognition in older people.10

 

Don’t let your well-being slip away. Going to your annual checkups, making a few tweaks to your lifestyle, and using a proven supplement are all you need to really take control of your health.

Podcast: Keeping your seasonal allergies from going into overdrive

Allergic reactions begin in your immune system. When a harmless substance like pollen is encountered by a person which is allergic to that substance, the immune system may over reach by producing antibodies that “attack” the allergen.

Listen now to learn allergy-smart tips for avoiding allergens and effective supplements for allergy relief, including Moducare® which is a plant based supplement that can help people restore and maintain balance in their everyday immune system functions.

Click here to listen to part 1 and here for part 2 of this podcast.

About Dr. James LaValle

Jim LaValle, R.Ph., C.C.N, is a nationally recognized clinical pharmacist, author, board-certified clinical nutritionist, and founder of Metabolic Code Enterprises, Inc. a web platform and practice solution enterprise, launching AIR Support and the Metabolic Code Assessment.

About Dr. Ronald Hoffman

Dr. Ronald Hoffman is one of New York’s pioneering Integrative Medicine practitioners. He obtained his MD from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and has been practicing for 34 years. His radio program, Intelligent Medicine, is the longest-running physician-hosted health program on the air.

 

 

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.

Staying Healthy on a Tight Budget is Easier Than You Think

Does a Healthy Diet Really Cost More?

A 2013 review reported that eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts costs only about $1.50 more per day than eating a less healthy one.1 Though that amount would certainly be higher in today’s inflated economy, when it comes to your long-term health the principle is the same: even if you have to spend a little more now for good health, there’s a huge cost-savings benefit on potential future medical bills that can be easily avoided by eating better.

Get Serious About Supplements

In a perfect world, you’d get all the nutrients your body needs simply from the foods you eat. But life is busy and far from perfect. And though it’s important to strive to eat healthy all the time, the reality is you’re probably going to miss out on some key nutrients every now and then. That’s where dietary supplements come in. Supplements are designed to fill in the gaps in your diet, so if food isn’t providing the nutrients your body requires—whether that’s because of a busy schedule or surging prices at the grocery store—supplements are your best bet for staying healthy over both the short and long runs, even on a budget.

Health Benefits of Supplements

Aside from providing essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that may be lacking from your diet, nutritional supplements offer a range of potential health benefits on their own. For example, supplementing with omega-3s can help reduce the risk for cardiovascular issues.2 Vitamin D supplements may help ward off dementia.3 A daily multivitamin may improve cognition in older adults.4 And taking high-dose vitamin B6 tablets has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.5

Cost Effectiveness of Supplements

So if eating healthfully costs only a couple of dollars more, how is spending even more money on supplements actually cost effective? That’s what researchers set out determine in a systematic review published in Clinical Nutrition. In their report, they showed that taking nutritional supplements saves money by significantly curtailing the need for hospital visits. This was because supplement intake can reduce issues such as infections, minor post-operative complications, and functional limitations while improving quality of life. The result? An overall cost benefit, not to mention better health.6 So if you’re wondering whether you can afford supplements to maintain your health, think of it as an investment: the extra cost today is likely to save you tomorrow.

Choose Your Supplements Wisely

Not all supplements are created equal. Instead of grabbing any old bottle off the shelf, it’s important to do a little homework first. It’s essential to choose supplements that have been clinically studied and shown to be effective and safe for your intended use. Why does it matter? Because if a supplement doesn’t have any research behind it, you may be spending too much money while getting little to no health benefit. Read the label carefully and check the manufacturer website to ensure they are well established and can be reached for more information.

More Bang for Your Buck

Another smart strategy is to look for multi-purpose supplements. Instead of loading up your shopping cart with different supplements, each one designed to address just one specific health issue, you may be able to support a number of systems and functions with a single supplement. And that will allow you to spend less money and swallow fewer pills.

For instance, Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) on its own has been shown to provide variety of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and improving arterial stiffness,7 preventing cognitive dysfunction,8 and even treating gum disease.9  But you can also opt for a combination of AGE and several key nutrients to benefit whole-body health. For example, Kyolic Heart, Bone, and Immune Health Formula 152 pairs Aged Garlic Extract with omega-3s and vitamins D3, K2, E, and B6 for a comprehensive and convenient way to support your overall well-being, on any budget.

 

It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to keep your arms and legs (and the rest of your body) healthy. Taking a targeted supplement or two, along with prioritizing a healthy diet and lifestyle, can help you stay well today while helping to save money tomorrow.

The Health Benefits of Having Fun at Every Age

The Scientific Benefits of F-U-N

Recent research has pointed to playtime as possessing a positive impact on health and well-being. In one study published the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, daily play was linked to better mood, and greater perceived coping effectiveness with general stressors among diabetes patients.1  Another report from a UC Merced study team demonstrated that when people engage in leisure-time activity, they had lower stress levels, a better mood, a lower heart rate, and more psychological engagement. What’s more, these positive effects were shown to last for hours after the activity was over.2

Healthy Ways to Have a Good Time

These findings prove that living a long life can be all fun and games. So put fun—and your health—first by engaging in a variety of activities.

Exercise. Physical activity is a fun and powerful way to prevent and treat a number of chronic conditions, from cardiovascular disease to mental health.3 And with summer upon us, it’s the perfect time to get moving outdoors, which is infinitely more enjoyable than an indoor workout and actually better for you. According to a recent study, even a short stroll in nature improves working memory and concentration substantially more than completing the same walk inside.4 You can also take it up a notch by joining a summer softball league, a hiking club, or a community garden to start cultivating good times.

Socialize. Getting together with friends might be the most enjoyable activity of all. And it turns out that it’s also good for your health. A 2019 report in Innovation in Aging found that friendship not only influences psychological well-being but also helps maintain cognitive function and physical health in old age.5 And be sure that you and your friends get in as many laughs as possible because laughter and humor can have deep and long-lasting effects on your mental and physical health.6 So whether you go out dancing, join a new book club, or host an outdoor dinner party, socializing can work wonders for your health.

Galvanize. Stimulating your brain in fun and new ways can have a big impact on your cognitive health, especially as you age. A trial of adults aged 60 to 85 indicated that playing games significantly improved cognitive ability and effectively reversed the signs of aging.7 Thankfully, there’s no shortage of brain games like Wordle or Sudoku that you can easily download to your mobile device and play anywhere.

Tranquilize. Fun doesn’t always mean going all-out all of the time. There are plenty of enjoyable ways to unwind that are also good for your health. Some low-key pleasures like a spa day may be the just what the doctor ordered. That’s because spa treatments like massage can relax more than your muscles. Research shows that a single 45-minute massage can significantly decrease the body’s circulating levels of arginine-vasopressin—a hormone that constricts blood vessels and induces high blood pressure.8

Protect Your Health to Have More Fun

Of course, fun alone isn’t enough to maintain optimal health. But with a focused diet and a few effective supplements, you can continue having the time of your life at every age.

Nothing ruins the fun like an emergency trip to the bathroom. And stomach disturbances, such as gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea, may be a sign that your gut microbiome is out of balance. Fortunately, you can get it back on track with a probiotic supplement like Kyo-Dophilus Daily Probiotic. A daily probiotic promotes healthy gastrointestinal function and can relieve occasional digestive discomfort, including diarrhea.9 But the benefits of probiotics don’t stop there. They’ve also been shown to improve allergies, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and immune function.10

A greens drink like Kyo-Green Greens Blend Powdered Drink Mix is a convenient way to make sure you’re getting the extra nutrients you need. Packed with vitamins and minerals, including A, C, K, and E, iron, magnesium, and calcium, as well as amino acids and antioxidants, Kyo-Green also boosts your energy while improving your health. For instance, one study revealed that taking a greens powder every day can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by about 8 percent.11 Pretty impressive for a single beverage. Just mix in water or juice and you’re good to go with all the energy you need to maximize fun.

Finally, it’s hard to have a good time if you’re stressed and tired. But with a targeted combination of Aged Garlic Extract, which possess neuroprotective effects and reduces stress-related hormones, including cortisol;12 GABA, a neurotransmitter linked to improved stress and sleep;13 and vitamins B1, B6, and B12 for energy and endurance,14  Kyolic Stress & Fatigue Relief Formula 101 can help fortify your immune system to shake off the stress and fatigue that can get in the way of those good times.

 

Incorporating fun into your daily routine is a great way to enjoy life and stay healthy. By prioritizing enjoyable activities and taking verified supplements, you can reduce stress, improve mood, enhance cognitive function, and boost your quality of life regardless of age. So get the good times rolling and start living healthier today.