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Fish is good for the heart and arthritis

Saturday October 17, 2020

. Fish is good for both the heart and arthritis because it’s loaded with nutrients

. Experts recommends eating fish two to three times a week

. Limit eating fish that is high in Mercury such as swordfish and marlin

Fish has long been considered good for both the heart and the brain and is also valuable in the fight against arthritis. It’s high protein packed with nutrients such as Vitamin D, B2 and Omega 3 fatty acids which make it a staple of any healthy diet. Dieticians and nutritionists recommend eating fish two to three times a week as does the Australian heart foundation.

Studies have shown that it can provide benefits in the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease and depression as well as helping to lower cholesterol. It can also be part of your armoury in your battle against arthritis and today we will look at how it can be beneficial to both your joints and your heart.

But the first thing to note is that there is a sliding scale in terms of which fish provide the most nutritional value and which fish you should avoid. As a general rule, you should try and steer clear of fish that are heavy in mercury such as shark, swordfish and marlin. Mercury is a metallic substance that often attaches itself to fish and can cause long term health issues down the road.

Fish that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids are the choice of the experts and what they recommend. These include Salmon, Mackerel, Herring and things of that nature. If you actively look to include these types of fish into your diet you will on the right path. They are rich in calcium and protein, help to lower blood pressure and provide definite benefits to both the heart and the joints which we will now look at.

The Australian Heart Foundation ‘recommends all Australians should aim to include 2–3 serves of fish (including oily fish) per week as part of a heart-healthy diet. This provides around 250–500 milligrams (mg) of marine-sourced omega-3s (EPA, DHA) per day. The Heart Foundation also recommends all Australians should aim for 1 gram of plant-sourced omega-3 (ALA) each day.’

They go on to say ‘Because our bodies cannot produce omega-3s we need to source them through our diet. The scientific evidence supports fish as the best dietary source of omega3s and found higher fish intake was consistently associated with lower rates of heart disease (heart failure and sudden cardiac death) and stroke.’

But as this study suggests different fish provide different value: ‘Among adults aged > or =65 years, modest consumption of tuna or other broiled or baked fish, but not fried fish or fish sandwiches, is associated with lower risk of IHD death, especially arrhythmic IHD death. Cardiac benefits of fish consumption may vary depending on the type of fish meal consumed.’

The other benefit obviously relates to the issue of arthritis and how you can best manage the ailment. As this study states ‘Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce morning stiffness, the number of tender joints and swollen joints in patients with rheumatoid arthritis,’ but it may take some time before you see the benefit and it’s a program and diet you will have to commit to over the long haul.

They go on to say ‘In our study, a significant improvement was seen at the end of the twelfth week in 7 clinical variables, morning stiffness of the joints, overall assessment of the patient’s general condition, severity of pain, the physician’s assessment of the patient’s condition, the number of swollen joints, number of tender joints and physical function.’

The Arthritis Foundation goes on to say that ‘Research finds that people who regularly eat fish high in omega-3s are less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA). And in those who already have the disease, marine omega-3s may help reduce joint swelling and pain. 

The anti-inflammatory effects from omega-3s are helpful not just for relieving arthritis, but also for preventing other diseases linked to inflammation, such as heart disease. That’s important, considering these conditions are closely linked and often coexist.’ And that’s an important point to note that these two ailments often go together for obvious reasons. Your heart relies on exercise and blood circulation and arthritis often prevents people from engaging in physical activity because of the pain and discomfort they are in.

So you really have to look at this from a holistic perspective and understand that all the pieces of the puzzle are connected and any program you put in place should make it a point to look at the whole picture. Exercise is obviously a central component but the other piece is diet and what you actually put into your body. For the reasons outlined, fish is an important ingredient because of how beneficial it is to both your heart and in the fight against arthritis.

References

The Heart Foundation

https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/getmedia/4adbe011-db9a-4777-8a99-db6365e27cb1/Consumer_QA_Fish_Omega3_Cardiovascular_Health.pdf

NCBI: Cardiac benefits of fish consumption may depend on the type of fish and meal consumed: the cardiovascular health study

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12642356/

NCBI: The effect of Omega 3 fatty acids in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis receiving DMARD’s therapy: Double blind randomized control trial

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4965662/

Arthritis Foundation

https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/healthy-eating/best-fish-for-arthritis

Why fish oil is good for arthritis

Saturday October 17, 2020

. Fish oil is a convenient and effective supplement to fish

. High in Omega 3 fatty acids and helps to lower cholesterol

. Cod liver oil is a similar product and also beneficial

Fish oil is a supplement derived from fish and provides many of the benefits as the real thing. The main reason that people often turn to fish oil is because they haven’t got the time or the inclination to sit down and prepare two servings of fish per week, as the experts advise, and this has become a quick and easy alternative.

It’s certainly not a bad thing as most agree that it is a very useful alternative. You get a lot of the same benefits that you would by eating regular fish. As we talked about in the other article, the benefits to the brain and the heart remain present and there is certainly evidence to suggest that fish oil helps to lower cholesterol and strengthen brain matter.

But fish oil can also play a part in the management of arthritis. According to the Arthritis Australia ‘Certain types of omega-3 fats can reduce inflammation from arthritis. This may help to relieve joint pain and stiffness in a similar way to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Omega-3 fats have not been studied in all forms of arthritis. Current research suggests omega-3 fats are helpful for people with inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis,  and psoriatic arthritis. There is also some evidence that fish oils may help control symptoms of osteoarthritis and lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus).’

The reason for that, as this study suggests, is because ‘Marine oil is thought to have an analgesic effect in arthritis as a likely consequence of its high content of docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. Arachidonic acid, as well as DHA and EPA, are used in the production of lipid mediators (e.g., eicosanoids), which are involved (among other functions) in the regulation of inflammation. Thus, supplementation with EPA- and DHA-rich oil could exert an anti-inflammatory effect, making it a possible treatment for arthritis pain.’

This study also reiterates that fish oil can be a valuable tool for those looking for relief from arthritis: ‘Patients taking dietary supplements of fish oil exhibit improvements in clinical parameters of disease activity from baseline, including the number of tender joints, and these improvements are associated with significant decreases in levels of IL-1 beta from baseline.’

A derivative of fish oil is cod liver oil which provides similar benefits. They are similar but slightly different products. Both are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, the backbone of their nutritional value, which makes them valuable in the fight against arthritis because of the anti-inflammatory effect, but cod liver oil is also filled with Vitamin A which helps preserve your eyesight and is useful in the battle against cancer. Either because of time or inclination, whether you choose fish oil or cod liver oil as a supplement to fish there are certainly many nutritional benefits that can be had not just in the fight against arthritis but also in terms of your general health which makes both products a very valuable compliment to your diet.

References

Arthritis Australia: Fish Oils

NCBI: Marine oil supplements for arthritis pain: A systematic review and meta analysis of randomized trials

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5295086/

NCBI: The role of fish oils in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12678571/

Eating berries helps arthritis

Friday October 16, 2020

. Eating berries helps fight arthritis because the are high in antioxidants

. They have significant anti-inflammatory effect

. They can help to reduce pain associated with arthritis

Diet can certainly impact how you manage arthritis and one of the best food groups to incorporate is a healthy dose of fruit and vegetables, in particular berries which have long been established to be of great benefit in the management of arthritis. Over the course of this article we will look at the therapeutic and nutritional value of berries, strawberries and blueberries and how eating berries helps fight arthritis.

According to this study: ‘Dietary fruits, especially berries are a rich source of several phytochemicals and nutrients which may explain much of their physiological effects as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Commonly consumed berries, such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are a rich source of several polyphenols including anthocyanins, quercetin, and various types of phenolic acids.’

And according to the Arthritis foundation: ‘Berries top the charts in antioxidant power, protecting your body against inflammation and free radicals, molecules that can damage cells and organs.’ As stated, berries are a famous antioxidant and antioxidants are quite often found in plant based foods, so any diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables is a great start in the fight against arthritis. What antioxidants do is essentially help repair and protect you against cell damage, and arthritis is fundamentally the wearing away and wear and tear of ageing joints, so it’s a perfect match.

In other words, as stated here, berries with them a potent anti-inflammatory component: ‘Fruits, such as berries and pomegranates are rich sources of a variety of dietary bioactive compounds, especially the polyphenolic flavonoids that have been associated with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.’

One of the issues with arthritis is obviously the pain and discomfort that comes with it. As we’ve discussed previously, staying active, staying mobile and losing weight if you can, which lessens stress on your knees and joints, are all excellent ways to manage pain but there may also be some food elements that can play their part as well. This study suggests that the compounds found in strawberries are a useful weapon in alleviating some of the pain that comes with knee arthritis.

‘our pilot study provides evidence on the role of strawberry bioactive compounds, as a rich source of polyphenols and nutrients, in improving pain and inflammation in obese adults with mild-to-moderate knee OA when compared to a control group. Given the economic burden of obesity and related conditions, including knee OA, our study suggests that simple dietary intervention, i.e., the addition of berries, may have a significant impact on pain, inflammation, and overall quality of life in obese adults with OA.’

The following study also suggests that blueberries have significant anti-inflamotory effect and can also provide pain relief due to the high presence of dietary polyphenols, which are another class of antioxidants and can play a role in the preservation and protection of damaged cells and cartilage. ‘Dietary polyphenols have been studied for their anti-inflammatory properties and potential anabolic effects on the cartilage cells. Blueberries are widely consumed and are high in dietary polyphenols, therefore regular consumption of blueberries may help improve OA.’

It goes on to say that ‘The proposed mechanism by which polyphenols reduce the risk of chronic human disease involves their ability to accept electrons from free radicals, thereby disrupting chain oxidation reactions, and increasing cellular antioxidative capacity’ and that ‘blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, as well as pomegranates are among the commonly available fruits that may offer some protection against arthritis.’

In conclusion, all forms of berries, be it strawberries, blueberries or natural berries are potentially a potent weapon in your fight against arthritis. The great thing is that they also provide plenty of other benefits to your overall health for a variety of reasons, not least of all because of the high element of antioxidants present, so you should certainly look to incorporate them into your diet. In addition to being anti-inflammatory, they are high in fiber, vitamin C and can also help in your battle against cholesterol, so they are certainly a very valuable and all-purpose type of nutrient.

References

NCBI: Dietary fruits and arthritis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5788027/

Arthritis Foundation

http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/tag/health-benefits-of-berries/

NCBI: Strawberries improve pain and inflammation in obese adults with radiographic evidence of knee ostheoarthritis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622709/

NCBI: Blueberries improve pain, gait performance and inflammation in individuals with symptomatic knee ostheoarthritis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6413191/

Arthritis and the Mediterranean diet

Friday October 16, 2020

. Some elements of the Mediterranean diet are useful in the fight against arthritis

. Fish, grains and berries are foods you should look to incorporate into your diet

. Use discretion in regards to alcohol when trying to manage arthritis

When constructing a diet to counteract and reduce the symptoms associated with arthritis there are certain foods you should peruse and certain foods you should avoid.  Foods you should actively look to incorporate into your diet are fish, grains and berries. Foods you should look to avoid are fats, sugar and. Fish, fruits and berries are all good for reducing inflammation which is one of the keys to managing arthritis. You want to avoid foods that inflame the condition and eat foods that actively reduce inflammation.

So the food you eat can certainly play a role in how you feel and how you manage the ailment. In this health study on diet and arthritis, ‘Twenty-four percent of subjects reported that foods affect their RA, with 15% reporting improvement and 19% worsening. Blueberries and spinach were the foods most often reported to improve RA symptoms, while soda with sugar and desserts were most often reported to worsen RA symptoms.’

In terms of structuring a diet to combat the symptoms of arthritis, over the years some have advocated the use of the Mediterranean diet, which embodies a more traditional way of living that was common in that part of the world. Excess sugar is avoided, meat is eaten sparingly and the focus is on food sourced from the earth such as plant foods, fruit and vegetables, fish, seafood. For flavour, meals are often cooked in olive oil and topped up with red wine.

Advocates of the Mediterranean diet certainly love the freshness and vibrancy of the food but in terms of reducing arthritis the medical information available is varied. This journal looked at four studies that had incorporated Mediterranean elements and found that ‘Only one study reported a reduction in the 28 joint count disease activity score for rheumatoid arthritis for the Mediterranean diet group. This review has identified beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet in reducing pain and increasing physical function in people living with rheumatoid arthritis. However, there is currently insufficient evidence to support widespread recommendation of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of rheumatoid arthritis.’

I think what’s safe to say is that there are certainly elements of the Mediterranean diet that can help manage and prevent arthritis but you also have to look at other options at your disposal.  Wine is often considered a staple in cultures in that part of the world, where social drinking and community drinking at social gatherings is just considered a part and parcel of life, but what affect does that have on managing arthritis. Again, the studies are varied and mixed and a matter of interpretation, but as a general rule, it’s generally accepted that excessive alcohol can be detrimental to those already suffering from arthritis. In that sense, it can inflame the condition.

But if you drink in moderation, it might not be all bad. If you enjoy the odd drink, like most things in life, you probably have to find the right balance. In regards to red wine in particular there might be some good news as according the Arthritis foundation ‘Red wine has a compound in it called resveratrol, which has well-established anti-inflammatory effects. Some studies show wine consumption is associated with a reduced risk of knee OA, and moderate drinking is also associated with a reduced risk of RA.’

But it goes on to say that ‘many experts question the strength of these studies and argue it’s hard to distinguish confounding factors in this research.’ This study looked at the impact of resveratrol on arthritis and stated ‘This study suggests that intra-articular injection of resveratrol may protect cartilage against the development of experimentally induced IA.’

This study looked at the correlation of alcohol and arthritis and found that ‘Beer consumption appears to be a risk factor for knee and hip OA whereas consumption of wine has a negative association with knee OA. The mechanism behind these findings is speculative but warrants further study.’  

So there is certainly a mixed bag in regards to the scientific backing of the virtues of red wine, so if you are going to incorporate it into your diet, it’s best to tread lightly and do it gently and moderately.

References

NCBI: Diet and Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms: Survey results from a Rheumatoid arthritis registry

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5563270/

NCBI: The effects of the Mediterranean diet on rheumatoid arthritis prevention and treatment: a systematic review of human prospective studies

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29256100/#:~:text=Only%20one%20study%20reported%20a,people%20living%20with%20rheumatoid%20arthritis.

Arthritis Foundation

https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/healthy-eating/best-drinks-for-arthritis#:~:text=Red%20wine%20has%20a%20compound,a%20reduced%20risk%20of%20RA.

NCBI: Beer and wine consumption and risk of knee or hip osteoarthritis: a case study

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4355424/

What your heart rate means

Tuesday October 13, 2020

. Your target heart rate during exercise should be somewhere between 50 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate

. The most important thing with exercise is to listen to your body and understand the signs

. A lower resting heart rate is optimal because it means your heart is highly efficient

Over the course of this article we will talk about different forms of heart rate and the things you should be mindful of while exercising. To calculate your maximum heart rate, the most basic rule is to subtract your age from 220. While there are exceptions, such as elite athletes, for most people it’s generally considered that their target heart rate during exercise should be somewhere between 50-85 percent of their maximum heart rate.

While experts differ on whether people should be obsessed over this, the best approach seems to be to use it as a guide for the intensity levels you should be looking to generate during the course of your workout. If you’re falling under that 50 per cent threshold, it could be interpreted as a sign that maybe you could afford to work a little bit harder and push yourself a little bit more if you’re trying to achieve optimal benefit, but obviously within reason.

But the important thing with exercise is to know your own body. You have to listen to the signs, understand what you’re capable of, what you’re not capable of and work around that framework. Things of this nature are a guide to help you in the right direction. The more informed you are, the more knowledge you have, the better off you will be. Your resting heart rate is one of the benchmarks and key metrics that medical experts will often use to determine your overall health. What this is really judging is efficiency and functionality by assessing how hard your heart has to work to pump blood to the different parts of the body.

With that in mind, a lower resting heart rate is optimal because it means that your heart is so efficient that it doesn’t need to work as hard to do its job properly. Everything is in good order. For adults, between 60 and 80 beats per minute is considered optimal any anything above 90 is usually considered a little high. This study looked at the correlation between resting heart rate and the overall fitness of Brazilian adolescents. It first defines the importance of understanding the meaning behind the numbers:

‘Heart rate (HR) reflects the number of contractions of the ventricles per unit time and fluctuates substantially with variations in systemic demand for oxygen.’ This basically means that the heart has to work harder when it’s not getting the appropriate supply of oxygen. ‘RHR elevation in adolescents is directly associated with indicators of cardiovascular diseases, such as increased blood pressure levels, elevated blood glucose, higher total cholesterol concentrations, and elevated triglycerides.’

They go on to say: ‘The main finding of this study was that aerobic fitness was associated with RHR in both sexes, indicating that lower aerobic fitness values were associated with higher RHR values.’ So the findings indicate that aerobic exercise improves your resting heart rate and is beneficial to your overall health. As this study was done on adolescents, it also illustrates why it’s important to get into good exercise habits at a young age and hopefully maintain them right throughout your life.

A high resting heart rate has always been considered dangerous because it’s often interpreted as a predictor of cardiovascular disease down the road, which is one of the reasons why it’s important to address the issue and put in place measures to rectify that while you are still healthy enough to do so. The ways you can do this are obviously through diet, lifestyle and exercise. When connecting the correlation between heart rate and heart disease this study interpreted the data as such:

‘Results from this meta-analysis suggest the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality increased by 9% and 8% for every 10 beats/min increment of resting heart rate. Compared with 45 beats/min, the risk of all-cause mortality increased significantly with increasing resting heart rate in a linear relation, but a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular mortality was observed at 90 beats/min.’

So again, when you start approaching that 90 beats per minute threshold, you’re starting to enter dangerous territory and it’s important to activate some lifestyle choices for your own health and your own benefit.

In the weeks to come, we will go into greater specifics, but this is a general overview of why it’s important for people of all ages to get tested, take the data seriously and then make practical changes in regards to diet and exercise if you find you’re not putting your best foot forward in regards to your long term health.

References

NCBI: Association between Resting Heart Rate and Health-Related Physical Fitness in Brazilian Adolescents

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6046174/

NCBI: Resting heart rate and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in the general population: a meta-analysis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4754196/

Progression and resistance training

Tuesday October 13, 2020

. Set clear goals in regards to progression and resistance training

. Work at your own pace

. Volume builds endurance and intensity builds power

To make great progress with resistance training you first have to establish exactly what you’re trying to achieve because the target and the pace you move at is heavily intertwined with the specific goal in mind. That’s true for most things but especially in this regard because of the work and commitment required with strength training. This is probably why it’s not a bad idea to ease yourself into your work, lay the foundation and build a solid base before you really try and take it to the next level. Ideally you want to build your body for the long haul and not just attempt a quick fix or rapid fire program, which is rarely sustainable.

Over the course of this article we will look at some of the things to consider if you’re trying to develop a strong resistance platform and how you can connect the dots and progress at your own pace. The first thing we will look at is volume and intensity and what you’re trying to achieve when balancing those variables. As a general rule, volume in fitness is directed more towards improving and increasing endurance and cardio vascular performance while intensity is geared towards power, strength and explosiveness.

How you structure your resistance training program and specifically what you want to accomplish will be determined by the balance you’re trying to strike and there are different studies available that outline how different methods have performed. For instance, this study suggests that ‘high-intensity (3–5 RM), low-volume resistance training program utilizing a long rest interval (3 min) is more advantageous than a moderate intensity, high-volume (10–12 RM) program utilizing a short rest interval (1 min) for stimulating upper body strength gains and muscle hypertrophy in resistance-trained men.’

It goes on to say that ‘These results are consistent with previous comparative studies in resistance-trained individuals showing high-intensity programs were more conducive for increasing strength while producing similar magnitude of muscle hypertrophy.’ To sum up, a high intensity workout is the fastest way to burn fat, lose weight and build strength. But this is quite an intense, strenuous type of workout that you should ease yourself into and is not always suitable for those starting out and those susceptible to injury because of the high impact nature of the training.

As we said at the start, ideally you would build to this point and have at least a couple of months of training under your belt to get your body stronger and more resilient before you move into the high intensity phase. In terms of increasing repetition, increasing weight, it’s more a case of common sense. When you feel your body is strong enough to go the next phase of training that’s when you can start to add weight and add repetitions, but you should only do that when you feel confident enough to do so and always make it a point to progress at your own pace.

As this study states: ‘Progression in resistance training is a dynamic process that requires an exercise prescription process, evaluation of training progress, and careful development of target goals. The single workout must then be designed reflecting these targeted program goals including the choice of exercises, order of exercise, amount of rest used between sets and exercises, number of repetitions and sets used for each exercise, and the intensity of each exercise.’

They conclude by saying ‘The resistance training program design should be simple at first for untrained individuals but should become more specific with greater variation in the acute program variables during progression.’ So these are the basics of formulating and progressing within a resistance training program. We have talked about why resistance training is important and how you can vary the program but because of the specific nature of the activity the target area must be clearly defined, goals must be set, and common sense applied when trying to advance through the program.

References

NCBI: The effect of training volume and intensity on improvements in muscular strength and size in resistance-trained men

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4562558/

NCBI: Fundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15064596/

Different forms of resistance training

Tuesday October 13, 2020

. Isotonic, Isometric and Isokinetic are all different forms of resistance training

. Important to incorporate a program that is diversified and isn’t too one-dimensional

. Elastic resistance is a useful alternative to conventional resistance

Resistance training can be loosely broken into three different forms: Isotonic, Isometric and Isokinetic. Isotonic generally refers to full motion exercises where you apply weight and then ask the muscle to go through a full range of motion to achieve optimal benefit. Most exercises at the gym fall under this category. In contrast, Isometric exercises are more low impact and body friendly. They are not designed to be quite as strenuous and the biggest difference is perhaps the range of motion that you put your body through during the course of exercise. Resistance is quite often achieved by using your own body weight.

Isokinetic exercises are more of a speed based concept more directed at elite athletes who have to try and develop power at speed to optimise their performance. While you may look to some of these exercises to diversify your program, they probably aren’t quite as important for regular people who would be better served devoting their energies to isotonic and isometric exercises and locking down the basics first. In terms of how you can formulate and structure your resistance training there are some different options and we can take a look at those now. But as this study suggests it’s important to consider all the variables when compiling your program:

‘It is necessary that the advantages and disadvantages of a particular type of strength training are carefully considered before incorporating it into a program. Variables that should be considered include cost of equipment, motor performance increases, amount of strength gains, and range of motion of the strength gains.’ Continuing on that theme, this study states that ‘One of the many variables that coaches and researchers face when designing RT programs is exercise selection. Resistance exercises can be classified according many different criteria, considering the number of joints involved they can be classified as multi-joint (MJ) or single-joint (SJ) exercises.

Most popular recommendations postulate that RT sessions should involve 8 to 10 exercises performed in multiple sets with both single (SJ) and multi joint (MJ) exercises.’ So to achieve optimal benefit, the fundamental theme that emerges is that it’s important to diversify your training with element of both isometric and isotonic concepts, multi-joint and single-joint components, and implement a program that gives you the full complement of benefits and isn’t too one-dimensional.

The next concept is load building. This study looked at the difference in impact between moderate load resistance and low load resistance. The program ran for six weeks, eight exercises, four times a week. The study concluded that both variables help to achieve muscle strength and achieve body composition but that: ‘RT performed with moderate-to-heavy loads is recommended to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibres…RT with a low  number of repetitions and intermediate RM is considered an appropriate stimulus to increase strength and skeletal muscle mass. Alternatively, RT performed with a higher number of RM is well recognized to increase muscular endurance.’

So load management is an important concept to consider when deciding if you want to place the emphasis on increasing strength or building endurance because there is a different formula applied to achieve both variables. A large load with low repetitions will help to build strength while a smaller load with more repetitions will help to build endurance. And the final point we will look at in this article is the difference between elastic resistance and conventional resistance. One of the benefits of using elastic bands is versatility and portability.

The drawback is that you might not get as strenuous of a workout as you would with free weights or conventional resistance, but it’s certainly a piece of equipment that is worth investing in because of the convenience and options they provide. But this study certainly suggests that elastic resistance is a very valuable tool and doesn’t lose anything in comparison to conventional resistance:

‘Evidence from this study suggests that resistance training with elastic devices provides similar strength gains when compared to resistance training performed from conventional devices. These findings allow coaches, physiotherapists, and even patients to opt to use devices with low costs, ease of handling, and which can be used in different places, such as elastic devices, for maintenance and gain in muscular strength.’

So there’s a broad overview of the different forms of resistance training at your disposal and the things that you should consider when formulating your workout.

References

NCBI: Types of strength training

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6843979/

NCBI: Resistance Training with Single vs. Multi-joint Exercises at Equal Total Load Volume: Effects on Body Composition, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Muscle Strength

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5744434/

NCBI: The Effect of Different Resistance Training Load Schemes on Strength and Body Composition in Trained Men

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5548165/

NCBI: Effects of training with elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6383082/

Why resistance training is good for you

Tuesday October 13, 2020

. Resistance training improves balance, bone density and mental awareness

. Helps to strengthen vulnerable parts of your body by making them more flexible and malleable

. Targeted training helps to strengthen muscles, tendons and joints

A workout regime that places a strong emphasis on resistance training is a great option for people at different stages of their fitness journey as it hits a lot of the key target areas in terms of what you want to get out of an exercise plan. While it shouldn’t be the only focus of your training because it’s important to incorporate some form of cardiovascular component for variety and greater benefit, resistance training can certainly be one of the building blocks of any personal workout because the benefits are tangible for people from all walks of life.

As the name suggests, the basic principle is a strength training program where you push or work against an obvious force and challenge the muscles to become stronger and more developed. The benefits of such a program are a combination of strength, stamina and injury prevention because you’re strengthening vulnerable parts of your body such as your muscles, tendons and joints by making them more flexible and malleable and as a result more likely to withstand the rigours of day to day life and any physical activity you may undertake.

As a general rule, resistance training can be achieved through some combination of medicine balls, your own body weight, resistance bands or free weights such as dumbbells and barbells. There’s enough variety there to put together a workout plan that is stimulating and rewarding at the same time without being too predictable, and that’s the balance you’re trying to achieve. The goal is to harness and manipulate these different apparatus in such a way so that your body is tested and challenged and forced to respond positively and decisively through the basic principles of force and resistance with your muscles contracting and strengthening over time in order to achieve all of the benefits that we talked about before.    

Once you know how to best use the apparatus the next step is to determine exactly what you’re trying to achieve:

What’s the goal?  What’s the endgame?

For seniors, the benefits are both physical and neurological. There is evidence that resistance training helps to improve balance, bone density and mental awareness, so a carefully structured program can certainly be of great benefit to elderly people who are possibly coming to terms with the changing nature of their bodies. In this study, it was established that ‘A program of once or twice weekly resistance exercise achieves muscle strength gains similar to 3 days per week training in older adults and is associated with improved neuromuscular performance. Such improvement could potentially reduce the risk of falls and fracture in older adults.’

For younger people resistance training can still be a cornerstone component of your training program because of the high-impact nature of the exercises which make it a great way to burn calories and manage your weight, which is obviously one of the things that most people are trying to do with their fitness regime. The other benefit of resistance training for young adults is that they are essentially setting in motion some good habits and creating tangible benefits that will prove to be invaluable as they get older.

These include benefits to the heart such as reducing cholesterol and lowering blood pressure as well as helping to prevent the potentially debilitating effects of arthritis by cultivating a body that is stronger and more resilient. As we get older our bodies start to naturally deteriorate so it’s important to put in place measures and activate a lifestyle that takes that into account and prepares us in advance for that transformation and resistance training is a great way of doing that.

This study suggests that ‘ Inactive adults experience a 3% to 8% loss of muscle mass per decade, accompanied by resting metabolic rate reduction and fat accumulation. Ten weeks of resistance training may increase lean weight by 1.4 kg, increase resting metabolic rate by 7%, and reduce fat weight by 1.8 kg.’ The study goes on to say that ‘Resistance training may promote bone development, with studies showing 1% to 3% increase in bone mineral density’ as well as ‘enhance cardiovascular health, by reducing resting blood pressure’ and ‘assist prevention and management of type 2 diabetes by decreasing visceral fat.’

There are certainly numerous health benefits that come with incorporating a high quality resistance training program into your diary and in the weeks and months ahead we will delve more into the specifics as to how you can do that. But that’s a basic overview of the benefits of resistance training and why it is certainly something you should consider as you move forward with your fitness journey.

References

NCBI: Once weekly resistance exercise improves muscle strength and neuromuscular performance in older adults

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10522954/#:~:text=Conclusions%3A%20A%20program%20of%20once,and%20fracture%20in%20older%20adults.

NCBI: Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22777332/

Muscle strength for seniors

Tuesday October 13, 2020

. Muscle strength for seniors is important because of the natural decline that occurs as we age

. To counteract that it’s good to do our own strength training to replenish what we are losing

. Seniors who engage in strength training often report feeling happier and more outgoing

As we get older our muscles, joints and tendons naturally lose strength, flexibility and function. It’s an unfortunate fact of life. To counteract that it’s important for seniors to do their own muscle strength training to replenish what they are losing. While it’s unlikely that we will be able to get back all of the strength and flexibility from our younger days, with a disciplined, structured exercise program you can certainly slow the decline and continue to live a happy, healthy, productive life by committing a certain amount of time each week to strengthening your muscles, joints and tendons, all of which become vulnerable as we age.

This study outlines how the ageing process can be attributed to ‘a number of physiologic and functional declines that can contribute to increased disability, frailty, and falls’ through a reduction of muscle strength known as sarcopenia.The study suggests that strength training is an excellent way of combating the natural deterioration of the body in this regard. ‘Done regularly (e.g., 2 to 3 days per week), these exercises build muscle strength and muscle mass and preserve bone density, independence, and vitality with age.’

Osteoporosis is a common ailment that arises as we get older and there is definitely evidence to suggest that strength training helps to nullify and neutralise the effects of this condition because one of the goals is to improve bone strength by challenging the body to respond and get stronger. This study states that ‘Of the several exercise training programs, resistance exercise (RE) is known to be highly beneficial for the preservation of bone and muscle mass.’

It goes on to say that ‘Exercise training, especially RE, is important for the maintenance of musculoskeletal health in an aging society’ and that ‘Based on the available information, RE, either alone or in combination with other interventions, may be the most optimal strategy to improve the muscle and bone mass in postmenopausal women, middle-aged men, or even the older population.’ While the majority of health benefits in regards to strength training are physical there is now evidence emerging that there are also definite psychological benefits that are a direct by-product.

To summarise, seniors who engage in this type of strength and resistance work often report feeling happier, more confident and more outgoing while having a positive self image because there is a certain chemical reaction that is unlocked as well as being a natural boost to your self-esteem when you successfully challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone. This study suggests that ‘Resistance training improved exercise-related motivational and volitional characteristics in older adults. These improvements were linked to continuing resistance training 1 year after the supervised intervention.’ Greater motivation and positive reinforcement are certainly some of the psychological benefits that can come with strength and resistance training.

We will go in to greater detail at a later date but in this overview of why it’s important for seniors to build muscle strength the last point we will touch on is how to structure your training program to get the most out of it without going overboard. The first point is frequency. When starting out, two to three times per week with eight to ten repetitions for each exercise is a good starting point. That way you can ease yourself into your work, it’s not too time consuming and you’re not overdoing it which means that your body will slowly and naturally adapt.

Obviously once you are confident and comfortable you can either add repetitions or frequency but still be mindful of not overloading your body. You want to try and achieve a balanced fitness program and one that is sustainable over the long run. Muscles also need time to grow and relax in between so it’s important to put some distance between your workouts to achieve optimal benefit. Stay dehydrated, keep a safe work area and develop your strength training slowly, steadily and meticulously with a long term vision in mind and you will be well on your way to success.

References

NCBI: The benefits of strength training for older adults

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14552938/#:~:text=Current%20research%20has%20demonstrated%20that,independence%2C%20and%20vitality%20with%20age.

NCBI: Effects of resistance exercise on bone health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6279907/

NCBI: Motivational characteristics and resistance training in older adults: A randomised control trial and 1 year follow-up

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29878445/

How you can manage arthritis

Tuesday October 13, 2020

. Diet, exercise and lifestyle are three keys to how you can manage arthritis

. Keep active, stay moving and avoid slipping into a sedentary lifestyle

. Try and limit salt, sugar and processed food and look to incorporate fish and vegetables into your diet

Arthritis is commonly referred to as pain, discomfort or dysfunction in the joints and is obviously quite common in seniors because of the natural wear and tear that occurs over a lifetime of living but is occasionally seen in younger people as well. Over the course of this article we will go through an overview of arthritis and some of the ways we can delay its effects as well as how to manage it if you already have it.

The first thing to note is that like a lot of ailments they are sometimes outside of our control and despite our best efforts we may not be able to actually prevent the problem from taking hold due to a variety of genetic factors, hereditary and things of that nature. But the first thing we will look at in regards to prevention is the importance of getting into good exercise habits to strengthen the area around the joints to lessen the impact and potential for inflammation in case problems arise down the road.

As we always say, exercise doesn’t have to be overly taxing or time consuming – it just has to be consistent and regular – a couple of times a week so your body will adapt and naturally get stronger over time. A national health survey recommended 150 minutes per week of exercise for Australian adults. The AIHW states that 75 per cent of people over 65 were not sufficiently active as of 2014/5 so there is certainly some work to be done there.

This study outlines the correlation between the benefits of exercise in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It states ‘The importance for the inclusion of exercise training in the treatment of RA is now clear and proven. Exercise in general seems to improve overall function in RA without any proven detrimental effects to disease activity. Thus all RA patients should be encouraged to include some form of aerobic and resistance exercise training as part of their routine care.’

It also recommends that any exercise program should be appropriately supervised: ‘Exercise programs for RA patients should be initially supervised by an experienced exercise professional so that the program can be tailored to individual aspirations and adapted to the disease activity, joint defects, and symptoms of patients.’

In regards to exercise, while it’s important to exercise regularly, it’s also important to exercise correctly. Your joints are like shock absorbers and you want to treat them well. Learn and use the right technique so you’re not putting undue stress on the body. You must also understand the value of stretching to warm up your muscles as a more flexible body is a body less likely to succumb to injury.

In regards to diet, one theme that always emerges is the value of fish in regards to the prevention and management of arthritis. According to the arthritis foundation : ‘Among the most potent edible inflammation fighters are essential fatty acids called omega-3s – particularly the kinds of fatty acids found in fish.’ In terms of what type of fish to source, they go on to say: ‘The best sources of marine omega-3s are fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel. Eating a 3- to 6-ounce serving of these fish two to four times a week is recommended for lowering inflammation and protecting the heart.’

This study makes some further observations on dietary interventions and the role they can play in how you can manage arthritis: ‘We believe that an ideal meal can include raw or moderately cooked vegetables (lots of greens, legumes), with addition of spices like turmeric and ginger, seasonal fruits, probiotic yogurt; all of which are good sources of natural antioxidants and deliver anti-inflammatory effects.’

It goes on to say that ‘The patient should avoid any processed food, high salt, oils, butter, sugar, and animal products. Dietary supplements like vitamin D, cod liver oil, and multivitamins  can also help in managing RA.’ As for managing arthritis day to day there are certainly some common sense principles you can apply to your everyday life. Even if you’re not emotionally invested in a formal, structured exercise program, you still need to make some effort to stay active and move around or the condition will deteriorate.

This is important to keep the blood circulating, the joints moving and the body in motion, all of which will lessen the impact of whatever pain you’re in. It’s important to try and avoid living a sedentary lifestyle which will only exaggerate the condition. Walking, swimming and low impact exercises are a good way to manage arthritis if you’re not inclined to undertake a formal exercise and training program. The other benefit of this type of approach is that it will help you to lose weight which will obviously ease the burden on your knees, hips and joints.

References

ABS stats

https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-active-evidence.htm

AIHW stats

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/australias-health-2018/contents/indicators-of-australias-health/physical-inactivity

NCBI: Benefits of exercise in rheumatoid arthritis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3042669/

Arthritis Foundation

https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/healthy-eating/best-fish-for-arthritis

NCBI: Managing rheumatoid arthritis with dietary interventions

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5682732/

Healthy eating for the heart

Tuesday October 13, 2020

. Healthy eating for the heart refers to balance, moderation and portion control

. Look to limit salt, fats and sugar

. Fruit and vegetables should be heavily incorporated into your diet

Balance is the key to developing a diet that doesn’t put your health in long-term jeopardy and specifically your heart in this regard. No matter what approach you take, what diet you choose, as long you adhere to the basic principles of balance, moderation and portion control you will be on the right track.

Now let’s move to the specifics. The first point we will address is portion control. Only eat what you have to eat and try and resist the temptation to splurge because that’s what pushes everything out of whack. Two of the key benefits of portion control are the balance and control you achieve in regards to your weight and sugar levels which is important in regards to your long term health.

The most dangerous scenarios are obviously high blood pressure, diabetes and potential heart disease. By exercising disciplined portion control you can limit your exposure to these potentially harmful and deadly ailments. High blood pressure can come about through multiple forces such as stress, smoking and a lack of physical activity, but it can also be caused by your diet. There is a strong correlation between excessive salt as well as certain fats and sugar.

By cutting these items out of your diet, or at the very least limiting them and taking them in moderation, you can minimise the risk of high blood pressure. In regards to diabetes, obviously we all have to be careful with our sugar intake, especially in relation to soft drinks and things of that nature.

The next point to consider in regards to healthy eating for the heart is what to actually put on your plate. Try and make a concerted effort to limit your consumption of fats, oils, sugar and salt and where possible look to incorporate a healthy serving of fruit and veg, grain and certain fish such as tuna and salmon.

In terms of energy, two key sources are protein and wholegrain. You can source protein from lean meat and eggs as well as fish and poultry and wholegrain that is high in fibre such as oatmeal, brown rice and bran are also a valuable source of energy. It’s good to incorporate these types of food items into your regular diet because they help to keep your weight in check while still giving you ample energy and that’s a good combination to have.

The other food group that you really have to be diligent about perusing is obviously fruit and vegetables when it comes to the heart and healthy eating, which is sometimes easier said than done, even though we all know it’s a staple and almost mandatory for our long-term health. According to the AIHW, between 2007/8 and 2017/8 approximately 50 per cent of Australians did not meet the fruit recommendations and almost 95 per cent did not meet the guidelines associated with vegetable intake.

7.3 per cent of the total burden of disease in Australia was attributed to poor diet and 1.4 per cent was attributed to a diet low in fruit, so it stands to reason that we all need to be vigilant about our food choices. According to the Australian dietary guidelines, one should make a concerted effort to source items from the five key food groups which means plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain, cereal, bread and high fibre items such as rice and pasta.

The guidelines also recommend servings of lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs and dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese. It also recommends drinking lots of water. The recommendation is that we seek a wide variety of food to achieve a balanced diet, not always in one day but certainly over the course of a week.

As stated in the guidelines: ‘No single food can provide all the nutrients in the amounts needed for good health’ which is why it’s important to expand our boundaries, challenge ourself and actively go looking for those nutrients in a variety of different places. The evidence for consuming a wide variety of foods as summarised in the guidelines suggests that a ‘higher quality diet is associated with reduced morbidity’ and that ‘diversity in food intake can reduce an individual’s exposure to any one group of toxicants.’

But it also goes on to say that Australians as a general rule eat from a wide variety of cuisines which should supply the ‘nutritional needs of the population but appropriate choices must be made to ensure that all nutritional requirements are met.’ So again, discretion, common sense and balance are the key takeaways in terms of achieving a sustainable, long term dietary plan that achieves health and prosperity over the long haul.

References

AIHW stats

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/food-nutrition/poor-diet/contents/poor-diet-in-adults

Australian dietary guidelines pages 32-33

The basics of heart health

Tuesday October 13, 2020

. The basics of heart health come back to exercise, nutrition and lifestyle

. Quit smoking, avoid stress, minimise alcohol and stay active

. Develop a diet that sources items from the five key food groups on a regular basis

Over the course of this article we will go through the basics of heart health and how best to look after that most important organ. The core tenets are exercise, nutrition and lifestyle. I’m sure many of you have heard the basics before but it’s good to remind ourselves from time to time. For a change, we’ll start with lifestyle. We can’t stress enough how important is to remove stress from your life. While that’s often easier said than done, everything else will flow from the basic philosophy of trying to live a stress free life.

Control the controllables, enjoy the simplicities and make it a point to spend time with your friends and family and those who bring with them a sunny disposition and positive energy. You will be amazed at how much better you feel once you cut negativity and negative people out of your life. Read a book, go for a walk, spend time outdoors and genuinely try and make time each week to unwind, relax and refresh. It’s impossible to stay ‘up’ all the time and you need that break mentally which helps you physically.

The other major steps you can take in regards to lifestyle are obviously to quit smoking, reduce your alcohol intake and generally try and stay fit and active. If you can do some sort of physical activity two to three times a week, cut out smoking completely and only take alcohol in moderation you will go a long way to reducing the risk of heart disease. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) smoking is the most ‘preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia’ but the good news is that the message is getting through. Eleven per cent of people aged 14 and over smoked regularly in 2019 which is down from 24 per cent in 1991.

That’s a positive trend line and one that is certainly good for the long term health of the nation. But alcohol is obviously the other lifestyle choice that needs to be kept in moderation to prevent not just anti-social behaviour but also to prevent any long-term health issues from arising. According to the AIHW one in four people consumes alcohol at a level that places them in harm on a single occasion and one in six people takes alcohol at levels that places their long term health in jeopardy and these are obviously slightly concerning statistics. But the key is obviously moderation and common sense, and if you apply those two principles you should be fine.

The next point we will look at is nutrition. The key point with nutrition is balance. You have to develop a balanced diet that gives you sufficient nutrients and energy from all the key food groups. As a general rule, a balanced diet is considered to be one that takes the key elements of the five food groups of vegetables, fruit, grains and cereals, dairy such as milk, cheese and yoghurt and the group that provides much needed protein such as lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs.

If you make it a point of sourcing the key elements from those five food groups on a regular basis you will be well on your way to achieving a well balanced diet which will certainly go a long way to preserving your long term health. But there is certainly some work to do. According to the AIHW, only one in ten adults in Australia met the recommendations for daily vegetable consumption in 2017-18 and there was also an unhealthy intake of discretionary and counterproductive foods such as salt, fat and sugar.

And finally we will look at exercise and the role that plays in terms of maintaining a healthy body. An American research paper concluded that a lack of physical activity can be responsible for over 35 chronic diseases and conditions. These include coronary artery disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other high cardiovascular risk factors. The evidence presented suggests that a lack of physical activity increases the decline in skeletal muscle strength and cognition which can lead to ‘both shorter health span and early mortality.’

This is particularly relevant to older Australians. According to the AIHW, 75 per cent of people over the age of 65 were not sufficiently active in 2014/15. Another American research paper suggested that the evidence is there that regular physical activity is safe for older people and that a lot of the high risks ailments such as cardiovascular diseases and cognitive impairments decrease through regular exercise. While the percentages are certainly better, younger people also need to be mindful to exercise adequately. A national health survey in 2014/15 indicated that almost one in three 18-64 year olds were not sufficiently active per the recommended 150 minutes per week while just under 15 per cent were completely inactive and did no exercise at all over the course of a week.

This is obviously a recipe for problems down the road and it’s important to get into a rhythm early on and maintain that as you get older to avoid any long term health problems that are bound to arise if you maintain an inactive and sedantary lifestyle. According to the ABS, if ‘Australians did an extra 15 minutes of brisk walking for at least five days each week this would reduce disease burden due to physical inactivity in the population by approximately 13%.’ If this was increased to 30 minutes the burden of disease could be reduced by up to 26%.

So the incentive is certainly there to stay active and healthy and give ourselves the best possible chance of preserving our long term health by just doing a little bit of exercise each week on a consistent basis. These are the basics of heart health and in the weeks ahead we will take a deep dive into some of the more important components but that’s a general overview of some steps you can take in regards to exercise, nutrition and wellbeing to keep yourself fit and healthy.

References

AIHW Smoking stats

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/smoking/overview

AIWH Alcohol stats

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/alcohol/overview

AIHW Fruit and Veg stats

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/food-nutrition/overview

NCBI: Role of Inactivity in Chronic Diseases: Evolutionary Insight and Pathophysiological Mechanisms  

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6347102/

NCBI: Physical activity in older age: perspectives for healthy ageing and frailty  

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4889622/

ABS health stats

https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-active-evidence.htm

AIHW fitness stats

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/australias-health-2018/contents/indicators-of-australias-health/physical-inactivity

What you should know about cholesterol

Tuesday October 13, 2020

. You should know there is both ‘good’ cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol and you have to find the right balance

. Try and limit or even avoid fatty foods as they will elevate your cholesterol levels

. Remain diligent with diet and exercise and you can minimise risks

Cholesterol is a buzzword that everybody has heard of at one point but possibly doesn’t completely understand as to how it pertains to their body and the role it plays. Over the course of this article we will try and rectify that. The first thing to note is that there is cholesterol that is naturally produced by the body and cholesterol that you get from outside sources through what we eat. These are primarily fatty foods.

The second thing to note is that there is both ‘good’ cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol. It’s one of those sources of matter where you really have to find the right balance because it’s certainly beneficial but too much and it starts to have a negative impact. So we’ll try and help you find that happy medium. Cholesterol helps you to produce hormones and build new cells which are important in maintaining the balance of the body.  

Without adequate levels of cholesterol, cells can become damaged and less effective and hormones may not be produced to a sufficient level which can start to become detrimental. ‘Good’ cholesterol, which is naturally produced through the liver, can also act as a cleanser by helping to break down fats and remove cholesterol from the arteries. These are the essential functions that the right levels of cholesterol help serve.

It’s when you go over that optimal level that cholesterol then takes on a negative effect. The main issue with high cholesterol is that it clogs the arteries which can restrict blood flow which leads to all sorts of illness and problems. These include the potential for a ‘heart attack’ which is essentially when the heart doesn’t have the ability to pump adequate levels of blood to all parts of the body. A stroke is another possibility for much the same reason.

So these are the dangers of ‘high cholesterol’ and why cholesterol often has a negative connotation attached to it because in some cases it literally can be a matter of life and death. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported in 2017 that nearly 30 per cent of all deaths in Australia came from heart disease, with that number being over 43,000 people.

The next thing to consider is how to avoid getting into that danger zone. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take, both in terms of lifestyle and diet, that can help prevent you from putting yourself in unnecessary risk. The first thing we will look at is diet. The two key things to cut down on are salt and fat. Try to eat less than fifteen grams of fat and six grams of salt per day.

This will not only help you to cut down on your cholesterol but also reduce the risk of high blood pressure which is often a by-product. According to the AIHW, one in four men in Australia and one in five women has high blood pressure and this percentage obviously increases with age.

An overload of butter, cream, cake, pies and these types of discretionary foods are a sure fire way to see your cholesterol go up and should be taken with discretion and in moderation. Where possible, try and replace these types of foods with fruit and vegetables if you’re in need of a snack, oats and grain in your cereal and lentils and fish, particularly salmon over the course of dinner.

The quicker you can move to a more balanced diet with a sprinkling of the five food groups the quicker your cholesterol will come down. The other obvious change is lifestyle, specifically an increase in exercise and physical activity. It doesn’t have to be anything too strenuous either. It just has to be consistent and regular and productive.

A walk around the block, a jog once a week, fifteen minutes on a stationary bike and all of these small pieces eventually turn into something bigger. It’s the consistent repetition of multiple small pieces two to three times a week that will go a long way to ensuring that your long term health is not put in any jeopardy. That’s an overview of what you need to know about cholesterol and if you remain careful and diligent in regards to exercise and nutrition you can minimise problems down the road.

References

ABS stats

https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.001~2017-18~Main%20Features~Heart,%20stroke%20and%20vascular%20disease~55

AIHW stats

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/risk-factors/high-blood-pressure/contents/high-blood-pressure

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