Are you at risk of Diabetes?

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What is Type-2 diabetes?
Type-2 diabetes is a chronic (long-term) disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood. It is sometimes called a lifestyle disease, because it is more common in people who don’t do enough physical activity, and who are overweight or obese.

Type-2 diabetes is diagnosed when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (reduced insulin production) and/or the insulin does not work effectively, and/or the cells of the body do not respond to insulin effectively (insulin resistance).

Type-2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, contributing to approximately 85% of all cases.

There are currently over 1.2 million people in Australia with diabetes. This figure is expected to increase significantly in the coming years, with over 2 million people at high risk of developing diabetes.

People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, circulation problems, lower limb amputations, nerve damage and damage to the kidneys and eyes.

In 2004-2005, 60% of all people reporting diabetes also reported having cardiovascular disease

– Australian Bureau of Statistics

Risk Factors
Many Australians, particularly those over the age of 40, are at risk of developing Type-2 diabetes through poor lifestyle choices such as inadequate physical activity and poor nutrition.

Some genetic factors may also increase your risk of developing type-2 diabetes.

Symptoms
Common symptoms include:

  • Increased thirst;
  • Frequent urination;
  • Unexplained weight loss;
  • Increased hunger;
  • Reduced energy;
  • Reduced healing capacity;
  • Itching and skin infections;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Increased weight;
  • Mood swings;
  • Leg cramps.

Insulin
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows the body to use glucose from carbohydrates in the food for energy, or to store glucose for future use. Insulin helps keep your blood glucose level from getting too high (hyperglycemia), or too low (hypoglycemia).

Many of the cells in your body use glucose for energy. However, glucose cannot go into most of your cells directly. After you eat food and your blood glucose level rises, the beta cells in your pancreas are signalled to release insulin into your bloodstream.

Insulin is often described as the key that unlocks the cell to allow sugar to enter the cell and be used for energy.

If you have more glucose in your body than it needs, insulin helps store the glucose in your liver and will release it when your blood glucose level is low or during times of physical activity. Therefore, insulin helps balance out blood glucose levels and keeps them in a normal range. As blood glucose levels rise, the pancreas secretes more insulin.

If your body does not produce enough insulin or your cells are resistant to the effects of insulin, you may develop hyperglycemia, which can cause long-term complications if the blood sugar levels stay elevated for long periods of time.

Below is a table explaining risk levels based on your blood glucose levels, in both fasted and non-fasted (2-hours post-meal) states.

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What can you do about lowering your risk?
For a start, your lifestyle choices can definitely lower your chances, or, at least delay the onset of type-2 diabetes.

There are some factors that you can not change, such as your genetic makeup and predisposition to developing type-2 diabetes. You can, however, do something about being overweight, waist measurement, how active you are, eating habits, and how much or often you smoke.

Even if you haven’t won the gene pool lottery, you can still reduce your risk with positive lifestyle choices. This is called gene expression. Simply put, you genes load the gun, but it’s your environment that pulls the trigger.

What does this mean? Well, by increasing your physical activity, improving your eating habits and getting some quality sleep you will be well on the way to lowering your overall risk.

Sleep quality
Poor sleep can affect diabetes both directly and indirectly, by changing normal patterns of hormones, contributing to greater weight gain and obesity, and causing changes to lifestyle.

Sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality, especially as we reach middle age and older, can almost double your risk of developing type-2 diabetes, according to several large studies.

Sleep deprivation also increases the stress hormone cortisol, which can make cells even more insulin resistant.

By improving your sleep patterns you will be setting yourself up for success. Sleep has a strong influence over eating patterns, exercise habits, and the hormones that regulate hunger and satiety.

Physical activity
The Australian Government Department of Health guidelines for physical activity suggest that adults should be aiming for somewhere between 2.5 and 5 hours of moderate level physical activity per week, or alternatively, 1 to 2.5 hours of high intensity physical training.

Most people understand the benefits of pushing some weight around in the gym, but this doesn’t mean that everybody needs to live there. A casual jog or run around the river, swimming some laps in the pool, a game squash or even a short hike will all work well. The variations are endless.

Even something as little as adding a 30 minute walk after meals you can greatly reduce the amount of insulin required to transport glucose around the body.

The take away here is that some physical activities better than zero physical activity.

Nutrition
Making the shift to more of a whole food based diet and lowering your overall carbohydrate intake will great reduce the body’s requirement to control insulin. A paleo type diet is a good place to start as it eliminates most of the troublesome foods like refined sugars, cereals and grain based products, and emphasises on eating lean meats and fish, along with plenty of vegetables and some healthy fats and oils.

The aim here is to reduce the amount of insulin required to transport glucose around the body. Lowering your dietary carbohydrate intake will most definitely reduce the need for your body to produce insulin.

How low-carb do you have to go? Well… The issue here is that what works for one person may not work as well for the next. This is where personalised nutrition can play a part in your success. All this means is that different foods react differently with different people.

Modern era diets can be upwards of 55% carbohydrate for total caloric intake. This can be about 300-350 grams per day. That is quite high considering how sedentary the modern lifestyle has become.

Lets say you half that number. 100-150 grams per day. Pretty easy to do if you ditch cereal and grain based products. It takes a lot of broccoli and spinach to total 100 grams of carbohydrate.

Now combine that with quality sleep and some physical training, and you will be reducing your body’s requirement to produce insulin whilst activating optimal fat burning processes.

Another bonus is that you will be lowering your total caloric intake without a real loss of nutrient density, so you’ll probably find that you’ll also lose a few unwanted kilograms at the same time, which will likely improve several other health biomarkers, leading to an improved quality of life.

To me, that looks like a net win.

If you are struggling with controlling your insulin levels, it is always best to consult with your health professional.

The evolution of the human diet

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The human diet has changed quite dramatically throughout our history. From opportunistic scavengers, to traditional hunter-gatherers to the postindustrial age.

There have been obvious advantages with the evolution of modern society, however the majority of changes in the human diet that accompanied both the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, affected the general health of modern humans, and not always in a good way.

Let’s have a look.

The Paleolithic era (2.6 million years ago – 10,000 years ago)
As hunter-gatherers, the general diet was varied due to differences in geographical location and season, however they all consisted of wild animal and plant sources.

Macronutrient distribution was approximately:

  • Protein: 19-35%
  • Fat: 28-58%
  • Carbohydrate: 22-40%

Other characteristics of hunter-gatherer diets included:

  • Low glycemic load;
  • High antioxidant capacity;
  • High micronutrient density;
  • Equal Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio;
  • Close to equal Sodium to Potassium ratio.

Did hunter-gatherers eat grains and grasses? Probably. Did they eat them often? Unlikely. The effort required to consume unprepared grains or grasses would have been too taxing on the digestive system, which would have likely led to decreased performance and not enough of an energy return to warrant regular consumption.

As a result, hunter-gatherers were generally lean and strong, with dense bones and broad dental arches. Health biomarkers such as blood pressure and cholesterol were generally normal into advanced age.

Evidence suggests that the incidence of diet related disease was low.

The Agricultural Revolution (about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago)
Archaeological data indicates that the domestication of various types of plants and animals started happening in separate locations worldwide around 12,000 years ago.

The transition from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement, made larger populations possible. This however, greatly narrowed the diversity of foods available, resulting in a downturn in human nutrition.

Grains and dairy products from sheep started to become dietary staples at the expense of larger wild animals.

As a result, common characteristics of early agricultural diets, compared to hunter-gatherer diets included:

  • Higher carbohydrate, diary fats, milk sugars and alcohol;
  • A decrease in protein intake;
  • A decrease in Omega-3
  • A decrease in antioxidants and micronutrients;
  • Higher overall caloric density;
  • Higher glycemic loading;
  • Higher sodium to potassium ratios.

The transition to an agricultural dietary pattern led to a decrease in lifespan, a reduction in height, an increase in dental health problems, iron deficiency anemia, and several bone mineral disorders.

These health issues can be still seen today in hunter-gather communities that have only recently been exposed to post-agricultural diets.

The Industrial Revolution (about 250 years ago) and Modern era (the last 50 years)
The introduction of novel foods with the industrial revolution altered several nutritional characteristics of human diets, which has had far-reaching adverse effects on human health.

Extensive evidence shows that the consumption of westernized modern era diets adversely affects gene expression, immunity, gut microbiota and increases the risks of developing cancer, heart disease, obesity, type-2 diabetes, and a plethora of other chronic health conditions.

Common characteristics of industrial and modern era diets, compared to hunter-gatherer diets include:

  • Higher carbohydrate, alcohol, trans-fats, sodium & omega-6;
  • Lower in fiber, antioxidants, protein and omega-3;
  • Higher glycemic load;
  • Higher energy density;
  • Lower micronutrient density;
  • Higher sodium to potassium ratio.

Even with the advances in medicine and technology, it has been estimated that the next generation will be the first in over one thousand years to actually have a shorter lifespan average than the current generation.

Many of the diet related diseases of the modern era can be reversed by increasing daily physical activity and modifying diet by eliminating known inflammatory foods. The issue however, is figuring out how to implement these changes at population-wide levels.

The case for taking a walk after you eat

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At the end of a long day, it can be very tempting to dive into social media or Netflix the minute you’ve finished eating. But back before screens consumed all of our free time, an after-dinner stroll was a popular activity and one associated with improved health and digestion. 

Research backs this up. This study found that when older adults at risk for type-2 diabetes walked on a treadmill for 15 minutes after a meal, they had smaller blood sugar spikes in the hours afterwards. In fact, the researchers found that these short post-meal walks were even more effective at lowering blood sugar after dinner than a single 45-minute walk taken at mid-morning or late in the afternoon.

Simply put, the human digestive system breaks down and converts food into glucose, which is one of the body’s main energy sources. So after a meal, glucose floods a person’s bloodstream. For most people, this is at its highest about 45 to 60 minutes after eating.

Hormones like insulin help transport that glucose into cells, either to be used immediately or stored away for later use. However, for people with diabetes or impaired insulin sensitivity, too much glucose can remain in the blood, which can cause or contribute to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and a variety of other health problems.

So, what good does walking do? The muscles used to walk use glucose as energy. This glucose is taken directly from the blood as it is the most readily available energy source. Using energy to walk lowers the glucose levels in the blood.

This means that when your digestive system starts to release glucose into your blood, your blood glucose levels will not spike so dramatically.

This study from 2016 found that just 10 minutes of walking after a meal helped control the blood sugar levels of people with type-2 diabetes.

Along with combatting surges in blood sugar, a little post-meal movement may also aid digestion. Exercise stimulates peristalsis, which is the process of moving digested food through the GI tract.

Here are some of the other health benefits associated to taking a walk after meals:

  • More quality time with friends or family (if not walking alone);
  • Increased vitamin D exposure (in summer months);
  • Improved blood circulation;
  • Decreased triglycerides;
  • Strengthened immune function;
  • Reduced stress;
  • Improved sleep quality.

Even if you can only fit in a quick 10-minute walk in the evening, the long-term benefits will be worth it.

Intermittent Fasting 101

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Intermittent Fasting (IF) is more of a dietary pattern than a diet. Simply put it is an eating pattern that cycles between feeding and fasting. Sounds simple?

There is no real specificity to which foods are to be eaten and which are to be avoided, with the focus being on when you eat your food. In this respect, it is more accurately described as an eating pattern.

Common methods of IF involve daily 16-hour fasts or fasting for 24 hours, once or twice per week.

Fasting has been a practice throughout human evolution. Our ancestors didn’t have access to supermarkets or fast food outlets, and at times food wasn’t even available for them to hunt or gather.

As a result, the human body was able to adapt to be able to function optimally bothe physically and cognitatively without food for extended periods of time.

In fact, sporadic periods of fasting is more natural than eating 3 or 4 meals per day.

Common methods of Intermittent Fasting
There are many ways to conduct a fast, all of which contain a period of eating and a period of fasting. During a period of a fast, you eat very little or nothing at all.

However, Paul Jaminet, the author of the Perfect Health Diet has a valid argument for the consumption of coconut oil and bone broth during a fast.

Here is a list of the most popular methods

  • The 16/8: Also known as the Leansgains protocol. It involves skipping breakfast and restricting your caloric intake to 8 hours, such as 12-8pm, then fast for 16 hours.
  • Eat. Stop. Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice per week.
  • The 5:2 diet: This method, you can consume up to 500 calories on two, non-consecutive days, then eat normally the other five days.

By reducing the total caloric intake over a period of time, all of these methods should lead to weight loss, so long as you’re not over compensating by overeating during your eating periods.

This can be avoided by eating natural whole foods such as, meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, with some fruits and nuts.

Most people find the 16/8 method the easiest, most sustainable method to adopt. It is also the most popular.

How intermittent fasting affects your cells and hormones
During periods of fasting, several things happen to your body on a cellular level. For example, your body adjusts hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible as an energy source.

At the cellular level, certain cells initiate important repair processes and change the expression of some genes.

Here are just some of the changes that occur in your body when you fast:

  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH): HGH levels increase up to 5 times, this provides benefits to both muscle growth and fat loss.
  • Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels allow stored body fat to be more readily accessible.
  • Cell repair: When in a fasted state, cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells.
  • Gene expression: Certain changes occur in the function of genes in relation to longevity and protection against disease.

These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for many of the health benefits of intermittent fasting.

Health benefits
There is a lot of science backed evidence showing the health benefits related to optimising weight control, the health of your body and brain. There are even some studies that suggest it may help you live longer.

Intermittent fasting and weight loss
Conventional wisdom discourages skipping meals, which is often associated with eating disorders and unsustainable crash diets. However, deliberately practiced IF, can be a powerful tool for weight loss.

Fasting involves caloric restriction. Sometimes, it easier to fast than to count calories.

Hormonal changes involved in fasting also promote weight loss, even if you don’t restrict calories. Fasting lowers the body’s levels of insulin, a hormone that prevents the release of stored body fat. With lower insulin levels, your body turns to stored fat for energy.

Here are some of the health benefits to intermittent fasting:

  • Weight loss: As mentioned above, when performed correctly, it can be a healthy weight loss tool.
  • Insulin resistance: This study showed that IF can reduce insulin resistance,  which could prevent type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduced inflammation: A key driver of many chronic diseases.
  • Heart health: IF may reduce LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance. All risk factors for heart disease.
  • Brain health: IF may protect against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
  • Cancer. Animal studies suggest that IF may prevent certain cancers.
  • Anti-aging. Animal studies suggest that IF may extend lifespan.

Intermittent fasting and athletic performance
Initially, training in a fasted state might seem a bit contradictory. How can the body perform with fuel? Provided you’re not fasting for too great a period, IF can actually improve your athletic performance.

For endurance athletes, the benefits of fasting come from a two-pronged approach: training in the fasted state, and competing in the fed state. Fasted training can improve performance by forcing your body to adapt to lower glycogen stores and use glycogen more efficiently. Essentially, training in the fasted state adds another stressor, forcing your body to compensate and become stronger. This sets you up to get a huge boost from competing in the fed state.

Short-term fasting is also useful for power athletes. While fasting for several days at a time will hurt your progress, intermittent fasts less than 24 hours will not cause muscle loss or send your body into “starvation mode,” as long as you consume adequate calories and protein when you do eat.

On the contrary, when you lift in a fasted state, your body uses protein more efficiently afterwards, boosting muscle growth.

Weightlifters seeking to gain lean mass without also gaining fat should look into Martin Berkhan’s Leangains program, which specifies an eight-hour “feeding window” and a sixteen-hour fast every day.

Is intermittent fasting for everybody?
Like just about everything else in human nutrition, there is no one size fits all. This certainly applies to intermittent fasting.

For example, if you’re already underweight, pregnant, under heavy stress or have a history of eating disorders, a medical or health professional should be consulted prior to commencing a fast. In these scenarios, IF could actually have disastrous implications rather than be a benefit.

Some people just love food. There is nothing wrong with that. Enjoying traditional dishes from around the world can be a great experience. Bonus points if you’re sharing that experience with family and friends.

If you’re already eating a whole food diet, are generally more fat adapted, exercise moderately, have good sleep patterns, limit chronic stressors and are generally doing the things that make you happy then you’re probably in a good place to start playing with some fasts.

The bottom line
Basically, if you’re hungry, eat. Starving yourself only will cause additional stress.

If you’re already stressed, don’t IF. You don’t need another stressor.

If you’re completing high intensity training everyday, don’t IF. Unless you’re genetically gifted, you will need plenty of fuel to prevent overtraining.

If you’re not hungry, don’t eat.

Listen to your body. Try not to eat just because it’s midday and it is generally lunch time. At the same time, don’t feel guilty if you’re supposed to be in the middle of a fast and you’re reaching for a handful of macadamia nuts or some beef jerky. Try it out, skip a morning meal, sneak in a workout or go for a walk and see how you feel.

If you’re not ready, your body will tell you pretty quickly. Feeling lightheaded, reduced performance in workouts, cognitive decline or a general reduction in energy are all makers that you might need to fix a few things (food, sleep, stress, etc.) for a few weeks and try again.

In a perfect world, we’d all have an excellent metabolism, with a job we love and plenty of time to spend with friends and family. But unfortunately, it’s not and we don’t. We can, however, make the most of the world that we live in today.

Eat real food. Be active. Enjoy life.

The benefits of Magnesium

Magnesium (Chemical Element)

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and the second most common intracellular cation (positively charged ion) after potassium, magnesium is required for the healthy function of most cells in your body, especially your heart, kidneys and muscles.

Magnesium’s benefits can include reduced symptoms from conditions such as chronic pain, fatigue and insomnia. Magnesium may also provide protection from a number of chronic diseases, especially those associated with aging and stress.

Essential to life, necessary for good health, and a vital component within our cells, magnesium’s benefits help our bodies maintain balance, avoid illness, perform well under stress, and maintain a general state of good health.

What conditions can benefit from Magnesium?
Magnesium is known to reduce muscle tension, lessen pain associated with migraine headaches, improve sleep, and address neurological disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Conditions linked to magnesium levels include:

Pain:

  • Headaches;
  • Muscle cramps and spasms.

Mental health and sleep:

  • Anxiety;
  • Depression;
  • Autism and ADHD;
  • Restless Leg Syndrome;
  • Insomnia.

Other conditions:

  • Psoriasis, Acne and Eczema;
  • Asthma;
  • Hypertension (elevated blood pressure);
  • Diabetes;
  • Osteoporosis.

Magnesium works within our cells. The powerhouses, factories and regulators of the body’s systems.

Because it is a necessary part of hundreds of biochemical reactions occurring constantly inside our cells, magnesium’s presence or absence affects the brain, the muscles, and the heart and blood vessels.

The importance of Magnesium?
There are fifteen essential minerals required by our bodies to function properly. These can be divided into trace minerals, those required in very small amounts, and major minerals, those required in larger amounts.

The six major minerals required in excess of 250 mg per day include:

  • Calcium;
  • Magnesium;
  • Potassium;
  • Phosphorus;
  • Sodium;
  • Chloride.

Magnesium impacts nearly all of systems of the body due to its cellular and molecular function. It has vital role as a co-factor to over 300 enzyme functions.

Not only one of the most vital and essential enzyme co-factors, regulating more reactions than any other mineral, but magnesium is also responsible for two of the most important cellular functions: energy production and cellular reproduction.

Magnesium and heart health
Insufficient magnesium tends to trigger muscle spasms, and this has consequences for your heart in particular. This is especially true if you also have excessive calcium, as calcium causes muscle contractions.

Magnesium also functions as an electrolyte, which is crucial for all electrical activity in your body. Without electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium and sodium, electrical signals cannot be sent or received, and without these signals, your heart cannot pump blood and your brain cannot function properly.

The heart has the highest magnesium requirement of any organ, specifically your left ventricle. With insufficient amounts of magnesium, the heart simply cannot function properly. Elevated blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and sudden cardiac death are all potential effects of magnesium deficiency and/or a lopsided magnesium to calcium ratio.

This systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2013,  concluded that circulating and dietary magnesium are inversely associated with CVD risk. Simply put, this means the lower your magnesium intake (and the lower the circulating magnesium in your body), the higher your risk for CVD.

Other notable effects include:

  • Is an important factor in muscle relaxation and heart health;
  • Creating energy in your body by activating adenosine triphosphate (ATP);
  • Allows nerves to send messages in the brain and nervous system;
  • Aids and regulates the body’s use of calcium and other minerals;
  • Assists in bone and teeth formation;
  • Regulates the metabolism of nutrients such as protein, nucleic acids, fats and carbohydrates;
  • Regulates cholesterol production and helps modulate insulin sensitivity;
  • Assists in energy production, DNA transcription and protein synthesis;
  • Maintains the structural health of cell membranes throughout the body.

Foods high in Magnesium
Magnesium in food sources were once commonly consumed, but have diminished in the last century due to industrialized agriculture and a shifting to more modern westernized diets. Below is a list of foods that are high in dietary magnesium:

  • Pumpkin Seeds;
  • Spinach;
  • Swiss Chard;
  • Dark Cocoa Powder;
  • Almonds;
  • Coffee.

Who should supplement with Magnesium?
Magnesium has been linked to reduced incidence of common conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome in large peer-reviewed, long-term studies.

Studies today focus on whether active magnesium supplementation may be one of the missing links to preventing these diseases, as well as several disorders affecting the brain, muscles and skin.

The good news is that magnesium supplementation is a safe and effective way for most people to ensure they are getting enough magnesium to stay healthy, before deficiencies arise.

How much Magnesium to supplement
While the RDI for magnesium is around 310 to 420 mg per day depending on your age and sex, many experts believe you may need around 600 to 900 mg per day.

Natural ways to your lower blood pressure

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Your blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). There are two numbers involved in the measurement:

  • Systolic blood pressure. The top number represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.
  • Diastolic blood pressure. The bottom number represents the pressure in your blood vessels between beats, when your heart is resting.

Your blood pressure depends on how much blood your heart is pumping, and how much resistance there is to blood flow in your arteries. The narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.

Blood pressure that is measured lower than 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal.

Blood pressure that’s 130/80 mm Hg or more is considered high. If your numbers are above normal but under 130/80 mm Hg, you fall into the category of elevated blood pressure. 

In 2012-13, 6 million (about 34%) Australians, aged 18 years and over had hypertension, defined by having blood pressure ≥140/90 mm Hg, or were taking an antihypertensive medication.

The good news about elevated blood pressure is that lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your numbers and lower your risk. Without the requirement for medications.

Here a several ways to naturally lower your blood pressure:

Losing some extra weight (if overweight)
If you’re overweight, even dropping a few kilograms can reduce your blood pressure. You will feel better and you’ll also be reducing your risks from other medical problems.

This meta-analysis in 2016 reported that diets resulting in weight loss lowered blood pressure by an average 4.5 mm Hg systolic and 3.2 mmHg diastolic.

Exercise and physical activity 

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There is strong epidemiological evidence that regular physical activity and moderate to high levels of cardio-respiratory fitness provide protection against hypertension and all-cause mortality in both normal and hypertensive individuals.

Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure by up to 3.2 mm Hg and 2.7 mm Hg, respectively.

This doesn’t always mean that you have to go out and run marathons or spend over 15 hours in the gym per week. An increase in physical activity can be a combination of common activities such as running or weight training. It just as easily be adding incidental physical activity to your daily routine, such as:

  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift;
  • Walking over driving;
  • Playing with a child or pet.

Adding 30 minutes per day is all that is required to make a difference.

Dietary modification
Making smart changes to your diet such as cutting back on sugars and refined carbohydrates can help you both lose weight and lower blood pressure.

This 2012 analysis of low carbohydrate diets and heart disease risks found that these diets lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 4.81 mm Hg and 3.10 mm Hg respectively.

Another benefit of lower carbohydrate diets are that you generally feel fuller for longer as you’re eating more dietary protein and fats.

Eating a diet high in dietary carbohydrate from processed or refined sources without adequate physical activity can lead to unwanted weight gain, elevated blood glucose and higher blood pressure scores.

Modern diets have increased most people’s sodium intake, while decreasing overall potassium intake. Eating more potassium rich foods such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, tomatoes, bananas and rock melon can help lower blood pressure by normalizing the sodium/potassium ratio of the body.

Eat some dark chocolate

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Dark chocolate (at least 70%) has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Eating about 45 g per day may help lower your risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and inflammation.

Supplement your diet
Adding these dietary supplements can assist in lowering your blood pressure:

  • Omega-3 fish oils;
  • Whey protein (from grass-fed cows);
  • Magnesium;
  • CoEnzyme Q10;
  • Citrulline.

Quit smoking
Despite the smoking rate in Australia decreasing over the past two decades, 14% of Australians aged 15 and over are still daily smokers.

On average, a smoker’s life expectancy is up to 10 years less than non-smokers, and 60% of long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking-related disease. Giving up smoking has been shown to reduce blood pressure and overall heart disease risk.

Reduce alcohol consumption
Alcohol should always be looked at as a moderation food. It can elevate blood pressure in healthy individuals. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure by about 1.5 mm Hg for each standard drink.

Moderate drinking is considered to be no more than two standard drinks per day.

Cutting back on life stressors

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Modern westernised society is full of external stressors. Family, financial, social and workplace demands are just some of the factors contributing to elevated stress levels. Finding ways to reduce your stress is equally important to your overall health as it is to your blood pressure.

There are many ways to reduce stress, all you need to do is find which methods work best for you. Here are just a few ways:

  • Meditation and yoga;
  • Practice deep breathing;
  • Spending time in the sauna;
  • Reading a book;
  • Taking a walk;
  • Watching a comedy;
  • Listening to music.

Quality sleep
Blood pressure will naturally lower while you’re sleeping. If you’re not getting quality sleep, it can affect your blood pressure. People of experience sleep deprivation, especially those in middle-age, can be at an increased risk of elevated blood pressure.

Not everybody is able to get a good nights sleep with ease. However, there are ways that can help set you up for some restful sleep. A regular sleep schedule (going to bed and waking up at similar times daily), less time on electronic devices in the evening, exercising during the day and making your bedroom dark at night can help improve your sleep quality.

Many experts suggest that the sweet spot for optimal sleep is somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.

Final thoughts
If you do suffer from hypertension, some of these strategies can be of benefit. However, talk with your doctor about possible solutions to might work best for you to reduce your blood pressure without the use of medications.

What is Overtraining?

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Recovery is one of the key components to high performance in sports but is rarely appreciated by most athletes ranging from the weekend shuffler to the elite level endurance athlete. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the road to success is hard workouts, and the more the better.

A highly motivated athlete, no matter how elite, who has placed recovery on the back burner, will soon enough experience total fatigue. Waking up in the morning tired, unable to complete the easiest of training sessions. This can go on for days, weeks or even months. You’re overtrained.

How Overtraining can occur
Below is a list of just some of the reasons an athlete could become overtrained:

  • Inadequate recovery between training sessions;
  • Too much high intensity training, typically for too long;
  • Sudden drastic increases in distance, length, or intensity of exercise routine;
  • Daily intense weightlifting;
  • High volumes of endurance training;
  • No vacations, breaks, or off-seasons;
  • For athletes, excessive competition at high levels (i.e. trying to win every race);
  • Inadequate nutrition, typically in the form of caloric and carbohydrate/fat restriction;
  • Insufficient sleep;
  • High amounts of stress and anxiety.

Common Symptoms of Overtraining
There are many symptoms of overtraining, ranging from physiological to biochemical or even a compromised immune system. Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms of overtraining.

Physiological and Psychological

  • Decreased performance;
  • Decreased strength;
  • Decreased work capacity;
  • Changes in heart rate at rest, exercise and recovery;
  • Increased frequency of breathing;
  • Insomnia;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Increased aches and pains;
  • Chronic fatigue;
  • Depression;
  • Apathy;
  • Decreased self-esteem;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Irritability.

Immunological

  • Susceptibility to illness;
  • Slow healing of minor scratches;
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

Biochemical

  • Negative nitrogen balance;
  • Flat glucose tolerance curves;
  • Reduced muscle glycogen concentration;
  • Decreased hemoglobin;
  • Decreased iron serum;
  • Mineral depletion;
  • Elevated cortisol levels;
  • Low free testosterone.

Overcoming Overtraining
The only way to overcome overtraining is adequate rest along with sound nutrition. Overtraining usually results from training mistakes, most commonly is an imbalance between stress and rest. This usually occurs as an athlete suddenly increases their training workload in either volume or intensity, sometimes both.

Overtraining can be avoided by following a long-term, structured training program that has scheduled rest and recovery days. A reduction in workload for a single training week, every 6-8 weeks is also very beneficial. Taking the time out to reduce both mental and physical stressors of the modern world can help with recovery.

Training programs should be unique to the individual athlete, taking into consideration, age, experience, susceptibility to illness and injury, along with any personal goals.