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Today's Health Matters: Things you must do to prevent heart disease


Things you must do to prevent heart disease
Natural remedies for executive stress, metabolic syndrome
Correcting irregular menstruation

Things you must do to prevent heart disease
Written by Kofo Ogunyankin, Consultant Cardiologist
~Punch Nigeria. Thursday, September 29, 2016.

Kofo Ogunyankin
The World Heart Federation designates every September 29 as the World Heart Day to raise awareness worldwide about heart diseases. This is with a focus on preventing or reducing cardiovascular deaths and stroke.

Current statistics show that heart diseases are responsible for about 17.1 million deaths worldwide every year. This is more than the cumulative global death rate due to cancer, HIV/AIDS and malaria fever.

In Nigeria, there is a significant lack of awareness of the burden imposed on the society by heart diseases and stroke, partly due to a lack of systematic data collection and our pre-occupation with fighting malaria and other communicable diseases.

The theme for the 2016 WHD is 'Power your Life'. This is broken down in to the following actionable components:

Fuel your heart

The food we eat and the calories in our drinks provide the fuel for our body. Overeating is a big problem worldwide and Nigerians are not spared from the obesity epidemic. Unfortunately, most people who are overweight are in denial of the role they have personally played through their eating and drinking habits.

When confronted about weight gain, the common excuses that the average Nigerian often gives include "I have heavy bones", "I eat less food than a child", "I eat only once a day" and so on. There is no doubt that there are genetically determined reasons for differences between individuals in how much weight that is gained from a given calorie intake.

However, if each person determines to eat only what is needed to live and no more, weight loss will occur. As the saying goes, you should 'eat to live and not live to eat'. I advise my patients to think of whatever they consume (food or drink) as a bank deposit and their weight as the monthly account balance.

Eating well is not complicated. The basic tenet is for each individual to make an effort to control what they eat. This might mean taking your lunch to work if the only choices available at work are not heart-friendly.

Simplistic exclusion of whole classes of food is rarely feasible and they do not work for a long term. I remind my patients, who believe they will lose weight only by excluding meat from their diets, that there are sumo wrestlers who are vegetarian and yet, severely obese.

The simple choices that everyone can make include reducing the consumption of sugary beverages and juices everyday by substituting them with water. When those beverages are consumed, they account for the calories by decreasing the food consumed on those days or occasions. Eat your calories rather than drink them.

Although nuts are essential components of a healthy diet, the amount of calories in a cupful of nuts is often more than the allowance of a whole meal. A simple reduction in the quantity of nuts consumed daily for snacking to a quarter handful is healthy and safe. Just reduce the size of meals served.

Move your heart

Physical inactivity predisposes to excessive weight gain, hypertension (elevated blood pressure), diabetes mellitus and poor heart conditioning. In these times when most people have so much to do to make a living, it is easy to blame the habit of not exercising on lack of time.

However, determined people can build exercise into their schedules by making a few changes. Waking up 20 minutes earlier than usual and walking briskly up and down stairs, exercising with DVD or video workout or even YouTube video exercises is an effective way to start the day that does not require any gadget other than a floor mat.

Those who can afford machines that do not require electricity can spend time on them while listening to the news. Stretching exercises, push-ups, skipping, or carrying weights can also be performed.

Those who would rather exercise after work can do so while their dinner is being prepared by playing workout DVD or situating their exercise equipment in their living room area. For heart health one needs an aggregate of approximately 45 minutes every day.

However, you can make up for days you do less by more activities on days you are free. Daily requirement can be made up of deliberate exercise time and incidental exercise, such as you get by walking rather than driving to nearby chores or activities, using stairs rather than elevators, pacing while listening to the news or watching TV.

You can also use your phone app to track your steps. It is wise to check your current heart health with your health care provider before engaging in vigorous exercise activities. If you set exercise goals and make them publicly known to your friends and loved ones, they will assist you in meeting them.

Love your heart

The desire to protect and prevent heart damage comes from loving your own heart, as well as avoid all substances that can damage the heart, such as cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and avoidance of psychosocial stress.

Loving your heart means taking personal responsibility to audit all efforts to eat sensibly, drink moderately and avoid exposure to poisons (tobacco and illicit drugs) and stress. Stopping smoking is the single best thing that you can do to improve your heart health.

This should extend to taking responsibility for the same audit for your spouse, siblings, loved ones and other people around you. Employers could offer incentives for weight loss and blood pressure lowering of collective groups of employees. Provision of exercise resources during the lunch hour or after work, or even awarding prices for the most steps count per day for various work teams, could contribute to health and team building.

Power your life

So, if you are reading this, why not "Power your life" today by setting today as the date for starting yourself on a course that can prevent heart disease. You should know your weight, your blood pressure, your blood glucose level and your cholesterol level (your vital numbers). You should turn on and monitor the movement monitor on your smartphone or if you have the means, use an activity bracelet to record the number of steps you make each day. Start counting the calories you eat, including the snacks and sugary or energy drinks. If you already have the beginning of heart disease or wish to embark on a vigorous exercise activities, check with your healthcare provider first to confirm that it is safe to do so.

Natural remedies for executive stress, metabolic syndrome
Written by Chukwuma Muanya, 
Assistant Editor ~TheGuardian Nigeria. Thursday, September 29, 2016.

• How herbal teas burst anxiety, depression, fatigue, others.

Researchers have identified immune boosting herbs and mushrooms that could be effectively used to address executive stress and metabolic syndrome.

Top on the list are: Scent leaf/Holy basil (Ocimum gratissimum/nchuanwu in Ibo, Effirin in Yoruba), green tea leaves (Camelia sinensis), bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina), coffee and Ganoderma mushroom.

Indeed, executive stress is on the rise due to crushing economic pressure on businesses, unrelenting competition, crazy work hours, downsizing, slashed budgets, and uncertainty.

Executives and middle managers alike are exhausted by their brutal schedules and the intense demands on them. Business leaders may be relieved to be working at all, but they are stressed out, anxious and sleep deprived. The result? Health problems, deteriorating relationships and weakened job performance.

Several studies have also shown that metabolic syndrome is on the rise.

According to a study published in Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders, the most prevalent metabolic disorders are diabetes mellitus, obesity, dyslipidemia, osteoporosis and metabolic syndrome, which are developed when normal metabolic processes are disturbed.

The study is titled "Targeting metabolic disorders by natural products."

Several studies have shown that there is a challenge in the prevention and treatment of metabolic disorders due to severe adverse effects of some synthetic drugs, their high cost, lack of safety and poverty in some conditions, and insufficient accessibility for the general population in the world.

The study concluded: "Since metabolic disorders are multifactorial, it seems that poly-herbal medications, or drug-herbal combination are needed for their treatment."

Meanwhile, scent leaf is a relatively well-studied herb, with research that has demonstrated that it can radically and speedily improve anxiety and depression, and reduce stress - both physical and emotional.

In addition, scent leaf has the capacity to increase physical and emotional endurance thus increasing the resilience to all stressors. As already mentioned, it lowers blood sugar levels, which in turn reduces cravings and stabilises moods, and thus facilitates weight loss.

Scent leaf has been traditionally used to support people through times of stress, working as adaptogen (that is substance that balances and protects the body by improving resistance to any type of physiological or mental stress) and anxiolytic (decreasing anxiety). One of the most strongly supported actions of this herb is that of an adaptogen, with current research supporting its traditional use in managing acute and chronic stress and fatigue.

Chronic stress has been shown to increase the levels of oxidative stress and free radicals. Scent leaf enhances the levels and activities of endogenous antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes including glutathione and superoxide dismutase.

In a recent randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial researchers evaluated the efficacy of an extract of scent leaf in the symptomatic control of general stress. They concluded that the effect of holy basil supplementation over placebo on comparison was considerable for all stress parameters measured. The treatment showed 39 per cent improvement in general stress symptoms over and above the placebo. The significant finding in this study was the reduced intensity of forgetfulness, reduced symptom scores of sexual problems (stress-related), and the effective relief from frequent feelings of fatigue and sleep problems.

According to the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders study, among 19 natural based drugs that have been approved for worldwide marketing between the years 2005-2010, seven were classified as natural products, 10 as semi-synthetic natural products, and two as natural product-derived drugs.

Some example of natural products for the management of executive stress and metabolic syndrome include: InterCEDD Health Products Limited (IHP) Ganoderma Green Tea and Coffee; Erovit-IHP "Age Redefinition"; IHP Vernonia Ocimum Tea "The Scented Bitters" made from Vernonia amaygdalina and Ocimum gratissimum; Immunovit "Immune Booster"; Virgin Coconut Oil "Drug Store in a Bottle"; Garcinia-IHP "The Cold Cap"; Moringa Oleifera "Tree of Life Series; and Bissap Tea "The Heart Insurance Tea.

IHP is a health and wellness-company specialized in high quality herbal and dietary supplements produced in the laboratories of International Centre for Ethnomedicine and Drug Development, InterCEDD. The company focuses on development, sales, and awareness of health and wellness products. IHP is also a member of a 20-year old group called Bioresources Development Group (BDG).

Correcting irregular menstruation
~The SUN Nigeria. Thursday, September 29, 2016.

The duration of the menstrual cycle varies: anything between 21 and 35 days is considered normal. For some women, the interval between periods may be 15 days or less, and in others 50 days or more. And although the "average" cycle is 28 days, only few women actually have a regular 28-day cycle.

Irregular periods occur at unpredictable times and usually involve a combination of short, long and normal intervals between periods, which may range from 14 days to three months or more. Irregular periods are most common soon after menstruation starts, and again in later life as the menopause approaches.

Any cycle that has a long history of being irregular-over a year and more is very irregular and needs professional care. The likely conditions are –

Amenorrhea– no bleeding for months at a time, menstruation being ceased, delayed or obstructed. Delayed menses has become a chronic problem for most females. One feels some sort of twinge within the breast and goes through the heaviness in the lower abdomen due to inconsistent menstruation cycle. They could also really feel lethargic and suffer with nausea. There are generally various reasons for the postponed menstruation which may differ from person to person

Menorrhagia– period-flow occasionally stronger than normal and may continue over a number of periods

Metrorrhagia-bleeding occurs in the middle of the cycle- or for that matter at any unexpected time

Dysmenorrhea-period accompanied by cramping pains, which can be incapacitating in their intensity

Premenstrual syndrome-tension, anxiety, agitation and depression can occasionally develop in the days leading up to the onset of menstruation, sometimes with the buildup of water in the body, heightened sensitivity of the breast and a range of other symptoms

What goes wrong?

The most common causes are hormone imbalances, polycystic ovaries, the progesterone contraceptive injection, infections, lesions (sores), stress and anxiety, emotional tension, being very underweight, crash dieting or eating disorders and the thyroid conditions.

When to worry

If you have irregular periods, there may be an underlying condition that needs treating. This is especially important if you notice unexpected bleeding (spotting) in between periods or after sex, and if periods are dark in color, too heavy, with clots or very painful when they occur, and has gone on for a number of cycles.

To ensure a normal and easy menstrual cycle, nature has provided us with herbs which may be used regularly or perhaps just for the time leading up to the expected onset of a period. 'Normal' is used here recognizing that normalcy is relative and that each individual will have her own norm.

Momordicacharantia(ejirin inYoruba) - the plant contains alkaloids with mild antibiotic qualities and anti inflammatory properties. When combined with basil and vervain, it may work better to stop pains and assist in getting regular monthly cycle.

Vitexsp. (uchakoro in Igbo) – is a powerful regulatory herb that acts on hormonal control centers in the body and regulates ovulation by interacting with follicle stimulating and luteinizing hormones. Tender leaves may be pounded, mixed with water and strained. Take one teacup, 3 times daily.

Unripe pawpaw – eating unripe pawpaw can normalize irregular periods associated with menopause and other types of irregular periods too. Also a bowl or glass of pawpaw juice every day may be beneficial. Having raw carrot or carrot juice can also help.

Moringa – has loads of vitamins to support regular flow, balance the hormones and also ease pains associated with irregular menstruation. One tablespoonful of the leaf powder is taken with warm water 2-3 x daily.

Parsley is another useful herb in treating menstrual related issues. Parsley juice should be consumed every day as a remedy for getting regular intervals.

Coconut – root and husk are ground and decocted for 45 minutes and taken for withdrawn and painful menstruation.

Bitter leaf roots and leaves are used to ease pains associated with menopause and delayed menstruation.

Mistletoe – infusion of the leaves corrects hormonal imbalance. Take one teacup first thing in the morning and also last at night.

Ginger – extracts mixed with the juice of pineapple will ease painful and scanty menstruation.

Diodiascandens (ekwueme-Igbo; dasa-Yoruba)-squeeze whole plant and use during the periods of heavy flow. Take one teacup 3 times or more daily.

Hibiscussabdariffa (zobo)– the calyx naturally high in vitamin C is mixed with aromatic herbs to release delayed menstruation.

Chickweed – will benefit those with scanty flow.

Aloe vera pulp or juice may also help in getting frequent menstrual cycles. Chop and soak in warm water and take all day long for pains and other menstrual disorders.

Lady's mantle – traditionally used as a woman's healing herb and it helps to alleviate painful menstruation.

Vervain– will help in dysmenorrhea.

Lemongrass – with pepper relieves menstrual troubles and nausea.

Yarrow (itekwonwa-Igbo) – may stimulate menstruation breaking up stagnation in the reproductive system.

Diet – reduce sugar, coffee and alcohol and eat good fats including nuts, seeds, fish and avocado. Try legumes including lentils and soy; these are high in phyto-chemicals, which help regulate hormones.

In addition, take a woman's focused multivitamin with zinc and B 6 to support hormone production.

To promote a regular menstrual cycle, give the body a regular routine, regular meals, regular exercise and sufficient sleep. Watch your system carefully and take prompt action to alleviate any form of discomfort.

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