1. Combat cardiovascular risk with four-antioxidant combo

    We just learned that vitamin E plays a major role in preventing Alzheimer's disease. But vitamin E is hardly a one-trick pony. In fact, another study out this week shows that vitamin E, along with three other antioxidants, can help combat cardiovascular disease.

    For this study, Israeli scientists recruited 70 patients who had at least two of the following risk factors:

        • high blood pressure
        • diabetes

    low HDL cholesterol (or "good" cholesterol)

      • smoked cigarettes

    Scientists divided participants into two random groups. The first group received 1000 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 200 mcg of selenium, and 120 mg of coenzyme Q10 each day. The second group received a placebo. The participants continued this regimen for six months.

    After six months, researchers found that the antioxidant group experienced some major changes in their overall health.

    First off, the patients' HDL -- or "good" -- cholesterol increased. They also lowered their blood pressure. And their blood sugar levels came down as well. And best of all, the researchers noted an improvement in overall arterial elasticity in the antioxidant patients. And that's a biggie, because stiff arteries lead to heart attacks and strokes.

    On the other hand, the group receiving just the placebo for six months didn't experience any of these improvements. Their numbers all stayed the same. What's the take home message here, folks? There's always plenty you can do to improve your overall health...even if you've already been diagnosed with hypertension or diabetes.

    Now, of course, I would make a few tweaks to the Israeli regimen. First off, instead of taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C once a day, take that amount twice a day. (That's my minimum recommended level for healthy adults.)

    In addition, you can take 400 IU of vitamin E twice a day as well. I would also make sure to add magnesium to the mix for anyone with a heart condition or diabetes. Go for 500 to 800 mg of it per day. Magnesium helps to relax your blood vessels and normalize your blood pressure. And lastly, I would also add 1,000 mg of l-carnitine. This nutrient helps you turn fat into energy.

  2. Common sweetener spikes hypertension risk by 77 percent

    Doctors always tell you to cut back on your salt intake if you've got high blood pressure. But there's something far more dangerous: a common sweetener found in most snack foods.

    In fact, U.S. researchers found that consuming even modest amounts of this potent sweetener could increase your risk of high blood pressure by as much as 77 percent.

    How can something so sweet be so bad?

    On average, American men and women consume 22 teaspoons (or 90 grams) of sugar each day. And that's too much...about 22 teaspoons too much.

    You see, aside from the obvious concerns about diabetes, sugar also messes with your heart function. In fact, it robs your body of magnesium. And without enough magnesium, your blood vessels constrict. So your heart has to pump harder to get the same volume of blood through narrower blood vessels, which results in high blood pressure.

    HFCS--The worst of the bunch

    High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the worst culprit when it comes to sweeteners. It's a super-sweet, super-potent, and super-addictive form of sugar. (Take it from me, a former sugar addict.)

    Manufacturers use HFCS to sweeten just about every packaged food product on grocery store shelves these days. You'll find it in bread, crackers, cereal, cookies, yogurt, ketchup, and even tomato soup! Of course, it's also used to sweeten soda and fruit juice.

    It's become increasingly prevalent since the 1980s for three reasons. First off, it's cheaper than sugar. Secondly, it extends a product's shelf life. And, lastly, did I mention that it's addicting? No wonder we keep buying it!

    Not surprisingly, it also seems to fast-track your weight gain. A recent study by Princeton scientists found that mice given a diet high in HFCS gained more weight than mice given the equivalent amount of sugar. Plus, there's the small problem of high blood pressure...

    U.S. scientists uncover hypertension-sweetener link

    Scientists from the University of Colorado examined nutritional data for 4,500 adults with no history of hypertension. They found that men and women who consumed 74 grams of HFCS each day (that's less than the average daily intake in the U.S.), significantly increased their risk of high blood pressure.

    In fact, eating just 74 grams of high-fructose corn syrup each day resulted in a:

    • 26 percent increased risk of prehypertension (135/85 mmHg)
    • 30 percent increased risk of Stage 1 hypertension (140/90 mmHg)
    • 77 percent increased risk of Stage 2 hypertension (160/100 mmHg)

    To put it in simpler terms, this means that drinking two and a half cans of soda a day will almost guarantee that one day you'll develop seriously high blood pressure.

    And that day may be a lot closer than you think.

    According to major study from last year, men who consumed a diet high in fructose experienced a spike in blood pressure after just TWO weeks! Yes, after just 14 days of eating foods filled with sugar, many of the men had serious blood pressure issues.

    Yet, when the men eliminated the fructose from their diets, their blood pressure returned to normal.

    What's it all mean for you?

    Eliminating all sugar from your diet will be difficult. As a former sugar-addict trying hard to stay "on the wagon," I know first-hand.

    But once you get past the initial cravings, I guarantee you'll start to feel and look better. It usually takes 21 days for the cravings to go away. Plus, now we know, you'll lower your hypertension risk as well.

    Just remember, manufacturers sneak sugar into just about all packaged food products so you have to be very careful reading labels so you don't miss it. And if you really want to make an impact on your health, you'll need to throw out processed white flour products as well, since your body treats them just like sugar.

    In terms of sweeteners, stay away from anything artificial, such as aspartame, sucralose, or saccharin. I could devote a whole article warning you against these products and that still wouldn't cover it all. Aspartame is by far the worst offender. It turns toxic in the body and can cause serious illnesses.

    The only sweetener I use on occasion is stevia. Derived from the stevia leaf, it's all natural and 300 times sweeter than sugar. So you only need a drop or two in your coffee. And best of all, unlike sugar, stevia has been shown to lower blood pressure in a recent clinical study!

  3. Mineral cuts colon cancer risk by more than 50 percent!

    Calcium is the "little darling" of all the minerals. But magnesium's just as important. In fact, according to a new study, men who get plenty of magnesium cut their colon cancer risk by more than half. For this observational study, Japanese scientists recruited nearly 90,000 middle-aged men and women. They asked the participants to fill out a survey about the kinds of foods they ate and what kind of vitamins they took. Turns out that over the course of eight years, most of the men and women only received about 280 mg per day of magnesium through diet and supplements. But the men who received just a bit more each day of this undervalued mineral got a big return on their investment. In fact, the men who got at least 327 mg per day of magnesium cut their risk of colon cancer by 52 percent! That's an astounding improvement, especially when you consider that the RDA for magnesium is just 320 mg for women and 420 mg for men. Unfortunately, in this study, the women didn't reap the same protective benefits as the men when it comes to colon cancer. Still, that's no reason for women not to get plenty of magnesium, as it has other vital benefits. Magnesium is great for your heart and as I noted in last month's GTGH, and has been proven to improve lung function in asthmatics. You can get magnesium into your diet by eating plenty of green, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. You'll also find it in nuts, whole grains, and meat. You may even find a little magnesium in your multivitamin. However, you should always take calcium with equal parts or magnesium and quality manufacturers will actually pair these two minerals together in equal amounts for you to receive the maximum benefit.
  4. Naturally curbing constipation Part II

    In last week's Guide to Good Health, I covered the first five steps you should take to avoid constipation without resorting to laxatives. This week, we'll dig a little deeper into the problem. Because sometimes, adding more fiber or drinking plenty of water just isn't enough. STEP 5: Have your thyroid checked In addition to constipation, do you have cold hands and feet? Are you usually cold when everyone else in the room is comfortable? Are you tired or sluggish all the time, even after getting an adequate night's rest? Do you gain weight easily? If any of these symptoms sound familiar, you may consider having your thyroid checked. I'd start out with a routine blood test. But here's a fair warning: they aren't always accurate and can't always detect a slightly underperforming thyroid. If you have all the symptoms listed above and your blood test comes back normal, consider temperature testing at home. Test your temperature upon waking up each morning for five days. Keep very still while taking your temperature, as even modest activity can elevate your reading. If you consistently get readings below 97.6 degrees, you may have an underactive thyroid and it's probably what's causing your bowels to stay sluggish. I suggest reading Broda Barnes' book, Hyperthyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness. There are lots of steps you can take to correct an underactive thyroid, without resorting to thyroid medication. STEP 6: Uncover hidden food allergies Hidden food allergies can slow down or speed up peristalsis (the wave-like motion of your bowel). The most common food allergies are dairy, wheat, corn, soy, peanuts, egg, and artificial additives (like coloring and preservatives). You can confirm a suspected food allergy by getting a standard skin prick test from your allergist. But, again, these tests aren't infallible. If you suspect a food allergy, I suggest starting an elimination diet. Pick one type of food you think may be causing your problems and eliminate it for at least seven days (up to 21 days for dairy allergies). If you feel worse over the first few days, you know you're on the right track. And remember, it's possible that you can be allergic to milk, but not to cream cheese and yogurt. Just be patient and analyze your symptoms carefully. Also, it's possible that after quitting a problem food group, you can add it back in, just in smaller doses, such as once a week versus every day. STEP 7: Skip the laxatives For those of you who need quick relief, don't resort to laxatives. These products, when used repeatedly, can actually damage the nerve cells in your colon. Before you know it you can't have a bowel movement without taking a laxative! On the upside, there are lots of foods that naturally promote healthy bowel movements. First off, I'd try adding these foods to your diet: bran, bananas, prunes (or prune juice), pears, grapes, kale, licorice, almonds, and olive oil. Also, try sprinkling Salba seeds on your morning oatmeal. These tasteless, odorless seeds have more fiber than flax seeds. Plus, they're also rich omega-3s fatty acids and antioxidants. Magnesium is another natural laxative. Start with 500 milligrams (mg) at bedtime. If that doesn't do the trick, take two 500 mg capsules the next night. Aloe vera is another natural product that I'd recommend. It will help loosen your bowels and keep things moving. Drink ½ a cup of aloe vera juice in the morning and night. You can mix it with a nice cup of herbal tea if you wish. STEP 8: Take a look at calcium As far fetched as it sounds, it could be that you're getting too much calcium. Especially if you're taking a calcium supplement as well as several antacids a day that contain calcium. I'd suggest getting rid of the antacid. I'm against them anyway, as they reduce the beneficial acidity in your stomach. STEP 9: Gently cleanse your colon If you've tried steps 1-8 and still haven't gotten results, I'd recommend you try a 24-hour fast. Here's a technique that I've found is the easiest to stick with: Have a light dinner at 5 p.m. then begin your fast. Drink all the clear liquids you wish. Continue fasting until 5 p.m. the next day. This way, you're skipping fewer meals and falling asleep with a full stomach at the end of the 24 hours. If a 24-hour fast is too difficult, try restricting meat and dairy for several days. Both these techniques will give your colon the opportunity to "rest" and gently clear itself. A more serious approach is a bona fide colon cleanse program with vitamin C. It's the healthiest and gentlest way I've found to cleanse your colon. Take four to eight grams orally of vitamin C per hour. Continue this until reaching bowel tolerance (painless diarrhea). This clears out the bowel and ends constipation simultaneously. Once you've completed the colon cleanse or fast, reintroduce foods high in fiber. And continue with a diet high in fiber with adequate water intake. Also, make sure you keep moving! Take a 20 minute stroll after dinner. Also, replenish your gut with a healthy dose of prebiotics (like FOS). Prebiotics are carbohydrates that promote the growth and activity of healthy bacteria in your gut. Also, keep up with your regimen of probiotics (such as acidophilus) before meals. Do all this and you'll conquer even the toughest long-term or chronic constipation! STEP 10: Medical testing Fortunately, most cases I come across resolve by consistently following steps 1 through 9. However, if you've done that and haven't gotten lasting results, I'd recommend seeking professional help. You may need to get some testing to see if there is a medical explanation for what's been going on with your bowel. In closing, remember that moving your bowels every day is a sign of good health. Anything less than that's a red flag signaling something's wrong with your diet. Re-read last week's Guide to Good Health for 5 steps you can take to curb constipation and prevent more serious bowel problems before they arise.

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