What foods are good for my heart? Posted in New Jersey Herald 1/9/2018

Bijal Dave, M.D., is a family physician specializing in diet-oriented treatment of chronic diseases and a medical staff member at Atlantic Health System’s Hackettstown Medical Center and Newton Medical Center

Q. What foods are good for my heart?

A. A heart-healthy diet is not only good for our heart but also for our waistline and our pockets in the long term. Eating certain foods on a regular basis can certainly reduce the risk of heart disease.

1. Turmeric — The yellow spice that gives Indian curries its distinct color has been known for its medicinal properties in the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years. Science is now backing up that curcumin, turmeric’s active compound, has plethora of health benefits.

a. It can benefit the heart in multiple ways. It has heavy duty antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-platelet activity, which means it not only lowers inflammatory changes that are the root cause of heart disease, but it also acts as a blood thinner, which prevents clot formation in heart disease. It also helps in repair of cardiac muscle after a cardiac event occurs. Patients who have irregularity of cardiac muscle, known as cardiac arrhythmia, will benefit by regular intake of curcumin, as curcumin helps with regulation of calcium homeostasis in heart muscle which causes cardiac arrhythmias.

b. It is also helpful in patients who have already gone through heart surgery. Curcumin supplementation at certain amounts will reduce ischemia (i.e. reduced blood supply), injury or inflammation to the already-affected heart muscle.

c. Curcumin has super antioxidant activity is comparable to vitamin C and vitamin E and it also helps with improving blood flow through vessels. It is especially helpful in diabetics to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular complications such as heart failure. Curcumin extracts that contain black pepper have also been shown to reduce the LDL or bad cholesterol. Add turmeric to your foods or take a good quality curcumin extract daily to improve your heart health.

2. Fish – high in omega-3s such as Atlantic mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring, trout and cod liver oil should be consumed at least thrice weekly for optimum heart benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure slightly, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke and heart failure risk and reduce irregular heartbeats.

3. Nuts – Walnuts, almonds, pistachios … munch on a handful of them, a couple of times a week and you will be doing the old ticker a big favor. In addition to packing a protein punch, nuts are great sources of PUFAs and MUFAs, which help lower the bad cholesterol. They are also rich in fiber and plant sterols, which reduces cholesterol; vitamin E, which helps reduce the development of plaque in arteries; and L-argininie, which improves the flexibility of arterial walls, thereby reducing incidence of narrowing and less prone to blood clots.

4. Berries – Berries are chock full of heart healthy phytonutrients such as polyphenols and fiber, which are very helpful in preventing heart disease. They have a heavy dose of antioxidants, which makes them a sweet medicine indeed for prevention of cardiac disease.

5. Chia seeds – ground flax seeds and hemps seeds in that order are omega-3 powerhouses and should be consumed on a daily basis. Just add them to your salad, smoothie or cereal to ensure optimal heart health.

Insomnia

60 million Americans cannot sleep every night. 60 million ! sounds like a pretty significant illness to me . However, we know precious little as to why insomnia occurs- except a few known causes like caffeine, Electronic Gadgets , alcohol & stress …
Sleep disruption affects life in more ways than we realize. Not only do we feel like we are dragging ourselves all day, it increases perception of pain, makes us more anxious & slightly more irritable than our usual selves. some of us are pushed towards feeling depressed & very unsatisfied with our lives.
Insomnia leaves a very obvious mark on our faces as well. One look at an insomniac and you can tell they have spent their night tossing in the bed. The dark circles, the bags under eyes give away the story of our nights….

Now , there are 2 kinds of sleep starved people. The first kind have trouble falling asleep…the ones who count sheep and then there are the ones who have trouble staying asleep. These people wake up early in the morning after 2-3 hrs of sleep and then toss for the rest of the night. The physiological effects of insomnia are present in both and no one kind is better than the other
Is there any relief ?
There is, but you have to have an open mind and experiment with different options available out there to find one that best suits your needs & lifestyle. Of course there are medications, but lets reflect upon some non medication options first .

Preferably, turn down your coffee intake after 3 pm. i know this sounds too early, but the effects of caffeine from coffee last a lot longer if u have one cuppa Joe at 3 pm , you still have 1/3rd of it in your system by 9 pm. Caffeine from tea is slightly kinder to us, so consider that instead. Even better, consider green tea !

Food Options to treat Insomnia

1.   Consuming a cup of Tart Cherry juice

2.   One ripe banana

3.   A cup of warm milk with a pinch of nutmeg

4.    A cup of warm milk with a quarter teaspoon of turmeric

These are all kitchen based remedies that work very well when consumed at bedtime.

Oil Therapy

  1. Massaging your eyelids with cold pressed castor oil,
  2. Putting a drop of castor oil in each eye,
  3. Massaging your feet or the crown of your head with slightly warmed sesame oil also work really wellThey act by relaxing the muscles and inducing sleep.

CBT audio tapes – These heard at bedtime also work well

Deep Breathing exercises – performed right on your bed work extremely well

Now lets consider some medication options

OTC medications

  1. Benadryl
  2. Melatonin
  3. Valerian Root
  4. Magnesium supplements

Prescription Medications

Several classes of medications are available these days for insomnia treatment

Some common drug names are ambien, sonata, lunesta, restoril, halcion,belsomra,seroquel, xanax, ativan, valium

All these drugs come with their own risks and side effects. They can also be induce addiction. Some of them can cause complex sleep related behaviors such as sleep walking, sleep eating,sleep driving. Patients often do not have any memory of these incidents next day. Also, these drugs should not be taken if you have consumed alcohol at night. Why ? because all these medications work to slow down your brain activity and along with alcohol intake that effect can be additive and potentially dangerous.

But that does not mean that you should not take them even if you are suffering due to prolonged insomnia. Because not everyone suffers from side effects ! this is the key thing to consider. If one has tried all non-medication options and nothing seems to bring them constant relief from the devastating fatigue that insomnia brings, then please do not suffer. consider medication options – you may have to go through some trial & error before figuring out what works for you, but its totally worth the effort

There are also some alternative treatments that can be considered albeit consideration has to be given if they interact with your current medications or not . There are several combinations available on the market consisting of valerian, melatonin, Theanine,Lemon Balm,Hops etc which may help with insomnia. Before you take these, please ensure if they are compatible with your current medications.

In conclusion, there is relief for insomnia , we just have to be patient and look for it . Happy Snoozing !