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Homocysteine and Your Heart

WHAT IS HOMOCYSTEINE?

Homocysteine is an amino acid that our body makes from a dietary protein called Methionine. Methionine is found in many of the protein-dense foods that we eat on a regular basis like meat, eggs, fish, seeds, nuts, etc.homocysteine-pic1

Homocysteine functions as an intermediary protein. It is part of the route that the amino acid Methionine must take to become the antioxidant Glutathione.  It is also a key part of the Methylation Cycle, which is an important biochemical pathway that occurs in every one of our cells and contributes to many critical bodily functions.

Homocysteine can be converted back to Methionine, converted into Glutathione or converted into S-adenosyl L-Methionine.  Each molecule, in balance, is essential in maintaining good health via the methylation process.

Elevated Homocysteine levels however can have several negative health implications, so it is in our best interest to keep it at optimum levels.

IF I HAVE A HIGH A HOMOCYSTEINE LEVEL, WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Homocysteine levels may not always be checked during routine medical check-ups, however the test is easily available.

If your levels are high it significantly increases the risk of coronary vascular disease as the fragile inner lining of the artery called the endothelium, can be damaged.

homocysteine-pic2

Homocysteine-induced injury to the arterial walls is one of the factors that can initiate the process of atherosclerosis and eventually to heart attacks and strokes.   It has been recognized as an independent risk factor for heart disease just as smoking or obesity has.

The test for high Homocysteine can be done alone or in combination with other more specific vascular cardiology testing.  At Elements Medical Fitness it is a routine part of our checkups.

DOES MY DIET, LIFESTYLE AND NUTRITION AFFECT HOMOCYSTEINE?

Many factors contribute to high homocysteine levels and everything revolves around our diet and lifestyle. Factors that increase your risk of high Homocysteine levels include:

  • Nutrition deficiency of activated folate, vitamin B6, activated vitamin B12, betaine, vitamin B2, and magnesium.
  • High-methionine diet (including too much red meat and dairy products)
  • Smoking
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Advancing age
  • Genetic mutations
  • Excess heavy metals especially mercury
  • Obesity
  • Certain medications.

WHAT DO I NEED TO DO IF MY LEVELS ARE HIGH?

If your levels are high, there may be many factors that contribute to it. It is always a wise decision to start with lifestyle and general diet first, even before looking at nutritional interventions.

Steps you can take include:

  1. Reduce Methionine-rich foods like red meat and dairy products if there is over consumption.
  2. Exercise is important.  Patients in a cardiac exercise rehabilitation program, with specified targeted goals, showed a reduction in homocysteine from exercise alone.
  3. Decrease alcohol consumption and eliminate smoking.

Once the above is in progress, then a finer look at the biochemistry of nutrition is required. Our bodies can only function well with the correct amount of nutrition in a usable form, so the correct biochemical support is essential.

Homocysteine is dependent on 3 special vitamins – the activated forms of Folate, B12 and Vitamin B6.

Other critical nutrients like N-Acetyl Cysteine Trimethylglycine, Choline, Methionine, Taurine and Serine are critical to keep the Methylation Cycle moving without a hitch.

If the homocysteine levels are not improving with diet and targeted nutrition, then testing for genetic mutations and heavy metals should be considered.

DO MY GENES PLAY A ROLE HERE?

Yes, our genes do play a significant role.  At present a lot of research looks at how small genetic changes called ‘Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms’ or SNP’s for short can affect our health.

It’s been discovered that a certain SNP on the gene MTHFR C677T can make it difficult to convert the vitamins we eat (whether from food or supplements) into their active forms.  In this case we’re concerned about Folic Acid and Vitamin B12.

If you carry these genetic changes (and its estimated that 50% of us do have the change in at least one of our two copies of that gene)  then your Methylation Cycle will have some impairment which can lead to an accumulation of Homocysteine.   Since these vitamins play many roles in our body from energy production to building red blood cells, other areas of the body could be suffering from a relative lack of those same vitamins, despite eating a healthy diet.

If you have a difficult time decreasing your homocysteine level, or they are extremely elevated, consider getting yourself tested for the common gene change found in the gene MTHFR C677T.

IF I HAVE INHERITED THE GENE FOR HIGH LEVELS, WHAT CAN I DO?

If tested positive for the MTHFR C677T gene polymorphism, this would mean you have inherited either one copy from one parent or both copies from both parents, preventing you from converting Folates / Folic Acid and B12 into their active form with 100% efficiency.

In this case, Folic Acid and B12 supplements need to be taken in their activated forms.  In this way the genetic change is rendered insignificant since you now have activated Folate and B12 ready for use.  This ensures the Methionine Cycle now works well, and so homocysteine levels should fall to normal.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF REDUCING HOMOCYSTEINE TO OPTIMAL LEVELS?

With the methylation process and Methionine pathways properly functioning stress on the endothelium, including the blood vessels of the heart and brain is reduced helping to prevent degenerative changes.

Numerous studies have shown the importance of lowering homocysteine in conditions like heart disease and Alzheimers.

In addition if your homocysteine levels are normal, it is indicative that your body has enough activated B12 and folate in order to do its job.  It is not a gold star measure of your vitamin stores, but indicative that your body has enough to enable proper functioning of those pathways which depend on them.

If you’re concerned about your heart health, or want to know more about whether you need to be tested for Homocysteine or other risk factors for heart disease, contact us at Elements Medical Fitness.

 

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Why Functional Medicine?

Society is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. The system of medicine practiced by most physicians is oriented toward acute care, the diagnosis and treatment of trauma or illness that is of short duration and in need of urgent care, such as a heart attack or a broken leg. Physicians apply specific, prescribed treatments such as drugs or surgery that aim to treat the immediate problem or symptom.

Unfortunately, the acute-care approach to medicine is ill equipped to address complex, chronic disease. In most cases, the model does not take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual and does not allow time for exploring the aspects of today’s lifestyle that have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease; critical environmental factors such as stress, diet, and exposure to toxins. As a result, most physicians are not adequately trained to assess the underlying causes of complex, chronic disease, nor to apply strategies such as nutrition, diet, and exercise to both treat and prevent these illnesses in their patients.

Functional Medicine is a different approach, with methodology and tools that are specifically designed to prevent and treat chronic diseases.

When people ask to see the evidence for Functional Medicine, they often mean, “Where are your research trials, comparing Functional Medicine to conventional medicine in a clinical setting?” Unfortunately, current research models do not have a way to test each individualized, patient-centered therapeutic plan that is tailored to a person with a unique combination of existing conditions, genetic influences, environmental exposures, and lifestyle choices. Clinical trials do play a significant role in evaluating and comparing the efficacy of new pharmaceutical treatments, especially when it is important to rule out placebo effects, but they have many inherent limitations which constrain their ability to inform clinical decision making.

Fortunately, there is a vast array of evidence supporting the Functional Medicine approach to care. The scientific community has made incredible strides in helping practitioners understand how environmental and lifestyle influences, moving continuously through an individual’s genetic heritage, psychosocial experiences, and personal beliefs, can impair basic biological functions. Using that knowledge to find the sources of each patient’s problems is powerful science!

Scientific support for the Functional Medicine approach to treatment can be found in a large and rapidly expanding evidence base concerning the therapeutic effects of nutrition (including both dietary choices and the clinical use of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients such as fish oils); botanicals; exercise (aerobics, strength training, flexibility); stress management; detoxification; acupuncture; manual medicine (massage, manipulation); and mind/body techniques such as meditation, guided imagery, and biofeedback.

Medical science has recently provided strong evidence that the relationship between patient and clinician has a powerful effect on patient health outcomes. The Functional Medicine focus on the therapeutic partnership is clearly an important part of how patients heal.

Making effective healthcare choices involves the Functional Medicine clinician and patient in a relationship where information and belief, attention and insight, communication and trust all have value. Functional Medicine practitioners are taught how to craft a personalized, systems-oriented therapeutic plan for each unique patient using evidence and insight, art and science.

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Runners, you need more vitamin D to prevent injuries

An study reports that active individuals who enjoy high-impact sports such as running may need higher vitamin D levels to reduce the risk of stress fractures.

If you practise sport regularly and you prefer high-impact activities, this latest study, published in the Journal of Foot & Ankle Surgery, advises you to monitor your vitamin D levels in order to avoid stress fractures.

Vitamin D is found mainly in oily fish such as sardines and mackerel, calf’s liver, eggs and cod-liver oil.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient which can behave like a hormone. It is derived from food and the skin’s exposure to sunlight. It is essential for bone development and regeneration to ensure appropriate bone density. If you have low levels of vitamin D, you have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis – a condition in which the skeleton becomes brittle due to a reduction in bone mass – and stress fractures.

The researchers discovered that these risks were higher with people who practised high-impact sports such as running, tennis, skipping and step. A stress fracture occurs when too much pressure is placed on the same spot on a bone over a long period of time. For example, an ankle or foot bone fracture in a runner.

The researchers noted the vitamin D levels of people with confirmed stress fractures. “By assessing the average serum vitamin D concentrations of people with stress fractures and comparing these with the current guidelines, we wanted to encourage a discussion regarding whether a higher concentration of serum vitamin D should be recommended for active individuals,” explained Dr Jason R. Miller, the study’s lead author.

Vitamin D is found mainly in oily fish such as sardines and mackerel, calf's liver, eggs and cod-liver oil.

Vitamin D is found mainly in oily fish such as sardines and mackerel, calf’s liver, eggs and cod-liver oil.

Over a period of three years, the researchers noted the vitamin D levels of patients who felt pain in their feet and ankles from suspected fractures. They had MRI scans of the parts of the body in question.

No acute fractures were noted. However, based on previous physical examinations and a precise review of the images, the radiologists were able to discover stress fractures.

A stress fracture is not a classic fracture that occurs after a sharp blow, but rather a small crack of the bone caused by significant repeated strain.

After 3 months, blood samples were taken and the results showed that over 80% had insufficient or deficient vitamin D levels, based on the standards recommended by the Vitamin D Council (40 to 80ng/ml).

Based on this research, Miller and his team recommend a vitamin D level of at least 40ng/ml to provide protection from stress fractures, particularly for active individuals who enjoy high-impact activities.

These results support the findings of a previous study in which 600 female Navy recruits were shown to have a greater risk of stress fractures of the tibia and fibula with a vitamin D level of less than 20ng/ml, compared to women with levels above 40ng/ml.

However, vitamin D is not the only factor responsible for stress fractures: “We recommend that individuals who regularly exercise or enjoy participating in higher impact activities should be advised on proper and gradual training regimens to reduce the risk of developing a stress fracture”, advises Miller. – AFP Relaxnews

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Ask Well: Choosing the Right Grain for Your Morning

Question:

Is whole grain hot cereal more healthful than whole grain dry cereal (i.e., is oatmeal any better for you than Cheerios).

Answer:

Oatmeal, particularly the slow-cooked kind, is generally healthier than Cheerios.

Both are made from whole oats, but the difference comes down to processing. Unprocessed whole oats, like those in steel-cut oatmeal, take a while for the body to digest.

With Cheerios and other processed cereals, “you basically have rapidly digested sugar mixed with bran and germ,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “It provides fiber and minerals, but also digests in the mouth almost immediately.”

That gives you a quick spike in blood sugar, but no energy for later.

One 2013 study, for instance, found that people who ate oatmeal felt fuller and had better appetite control than those who ate the same number of calories of processed cereal.

Both oatmeal and Cheerios are whole grains, which puts them ahead of cereals like Corn Flakes and Special K, in which the bran and germ have been removed, Dr. Mozaffarian said. Whole grains have more fiber and a wider range of vitamins and minerals.

As a practical rule-of-thumb, Dr. Mozaffarian suggests using the total carbohydrate-to-fiber ratio to find more healthful breakfast foods – aiming for a ratio of less than 10 to 1, which is comparable to the ratio in whole wheat flour.

A serving of Corn Flakes, for instance, includes about 24 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of fiber, a less-than-ideal ratio. Cheerios achieves the desired ratio of about 10 grams of carbohydrate for every gram of fiber. Instant oatmeals that contain lots of added sugar may be worse than Cheerios using this standard.

For his own breakfast, Dr. Mozaffarian eats Kashi Good Friends cereal along with fruit and full-fat milk. Kashi has more sugar than Cheerios or oats, providing about 42 grams of carbohydrate per serving. But it also has 12 grams of fiber, giving it a better carb-to-fiber ratio than many other cereals, Dr. Mozaffarian said.

The fruit adds even more fiber, and the full-fat milk digests more slowly than low-fat milk.

“If you eat a breakfast of refined cereal and skim milk,” Dr. Mozaffarian said, “your blood sugar is going to crash a few hours later, and you will be hungrier and eat more for lunch.”

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Triglycerides: Why do they matter?

Triglycerides matter. Why? Most importantly, high levels of fat in the blood in the form of triglycerides can increase your risk for heart disease. Luckily, the same dietary recommendations that are advised for a number of other conditions — such as losing weight and lowering blood cholesterol — can also help lower triglycerides. When excess calories are eaten, triglycerides are formed and stored for the body to use at a later time. However, some people have triglyceride levels that increase their risk of heart disease. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a normal triglyceride level is below 150 mg/dL and a level above 200 mg/dL is high. For many, a healthy level can be achieved through lifestyle changes such as following a heart-healthy diet, losing weight and increasing physical activity.

A Heart-Healthy Eating Plan

Your healthy eating plan should be moderate in carbohydrate foods such as whole-grain breads, cereals and pasta. Include fewer foods with added sugars such as desserts, baked goods and sugar-sweetened beverages. Try substituting with calorie-free beverages and choosing smaller portions of candy and desserts.

Additional recommendations from the AHA include following a Mediterranean-style diet by eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and seafood while limiting saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars and alcohol. This eating pattern includes a moderate amount of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in oils such as canola and olive oils.

According to the Dietary Guidelines, Americans need to eat more seafood to help prevent heart disease. Seafood has a range of nutrients and is high in omega-3 fatty acids. It is easy to get enough omega-3 fatty acids by eating fish regularly. Just 2 servings of seafood per week (about 8 ounces total) will provide the recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Seafood high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, Atlantic herring, Atlantic mackerel, farmed rainbow trout, white tuna and halibut. Note: Pregnant and nursing women and young children should avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish, which contain high levels of mercury. Albacore tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna, and should be limited to no more than 6 ounces per week.

Omega-3 Supplements

High doses of supplemental omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower triglycerides in patients with high triglycerides (greater than 200 mg/dL). However, this should only be done under the advice and supervision of a doctor.

If your triglyceride level is above 150 mg/dL, discuss lifestyle changes and the potential advantage of taking supplements with your doctor and registered dietitian nutritionist. An RDN can help develop a healthy eating plan that meets your personal health needs and lifestyle.

We Strongly Believe That Exercise Is Medicine & Our Body Was Created To Move, If Given The Proper Support Our Body Has The Capacity To Heal & Prevent Many Lifestyle Induced Diseases. Come & See Us For A Free Consultation & Discover The Healthier Way To Good Health.