Dark Chocolate Loves The Heart

iStock_000016030672SmallSeveral new studies give us more good excuses to indulge regularly in dark chocolate. This luscious delight is thought to  promote relaxed arteries, help lower blood pressure, and discourage atherosclerosis.

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans. It is rich in antioxidants, particularly flavanols, which appears to be the magic substances that improve the cardiovascular system.

A recent study included 44 overweight men, ages 45 to 70. Over two periods of 4 weeks, the men ate dark chocolate each day, half getting a super-charged version with extra flavanols. The results were similar for both groups, each showing improved artery conditions.

The chocolate eaters’ arteries were less stiff and their white blood cells were less sticky. This means that the men had a lowered risk of arteriosclerosis (the hardening and thickening of arteries that leads to heart attacks and strokes).

Prior research linked chocolate intake to reduction in strokes, blood pressure, heart failure, memory decline, and type 2 diabetes. Because of the positive effect on the tiny vessels that are the kidneys’ filters, chocolate seems to assist kidney function, indicates a 2012 study.

A March 2014 study found that bacteria in the stomach eat the chocolate we consume and then produce anti-inflammatory compounds beneficial for the heart. The helpful gut bacteria zero in on the flavanol antioxidants in cocoa.

The researchers found that cocoa products contain flavanol compounds of catechin and epicatechin, as well as fiber, that are poorly digested but that good microbes in our digestive tract love. These cocoa compounds are fermented and metabolized by the bacteria into smaller molecules that are anti-inflammatory, reducing inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, thereby lowering heart and stroke risks.

The National Kidney Foundation’s website discusses benefits of chocolate for kidney patients and offers several recipes. Individuals who develop oxalate kidney stones (chocolate is high in the compound) or are instructed to do so by their doctor or renal dietitian should avoid chocolate.

The rest of us can benefit from chocolate, limiting the amount to 1.5 ounces/day. Consume only dark chocolate, and avoid fatty, sugary milk and white chocolate.  Try the Valentine Smoothie (p.95) of the “Smoothies For Kidneys” book. It’s a winner!

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Do You Leak or Always “Gotta Go” ?

An estimated 40 percent of middle-aged and 50 percent of older women experience iStock_000035729394Smallurinary leakage, say some. Leaks are more common in women who are older, overweight,  or smokers; have had more children or a hysterectomy; or have diabetes.  Men experience more problems with slow or incomplete urination.

Incontinence is one of those “don’t tell” issues. In a study of nurses, less than 50 percent of the women with incontinence reported it to their doctors.

In the recently published FINNO study, 6,000 adults in Finland were questioned about their urinary complaints. The most common complaints were rushing to the toilet (8%); leaking urine with coughing or exercise (6.5% and called “stress incontinence”); night-time voiding (6%); dribbling after urination (6%); and leaking before reaching the toilet (5%), which was the most embarrassing problem for both men and women.

Women were most concerned about stress incontinence–leaking while coughing or exercise, and more research is needed on this issue, particularly since it keeps some females from exercising like they should. While this and other urinary issues are sometimes termed “overactive bladder syndrome,” that label is misleading.  The problem may not be the bladder at all, say the researchers.

For example, waking at night to urinate is a reported problem in both men and women. However, kidney patients complain of this problem in greater numbers than do people in the general population. Thus, the night-time disturbance just might be a kidney rather than bladder issue.

Caffeine, a possible diuretic, may contribute to the problem but only for those having more than 450 milligrams a day, says one leakage study. (A Starbuck’s venti coffee contains 420 mg). In an animal study, caffeine increased the force of muscle contractions in the bladder, possibly leading to urgency.

No study has found that tomatoes or fruit are bladder irritants, despite a common wive’s tale. So, you can load up on these nutritious foods in your kidney-friendly smoothies. (See the new book “Smoothies For Kidneys” at the top right side above).

Losing weight helps with urination issues.  Likewise, so does moderate exercise. Kegel exercises (contracting the pelvic floor muscles) are long touted as helping prevent leaks.

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Simply Getting Older Results In Kidney Disease

Obesity, Hypertension, Kidney Disease?

Obesity, Hypertension, Kidney Disease?

Aging is a killer, in more ways than the obvious.  An estimated one out of five adults in their 60′s—and nearly half of those 70 or older—have chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to the U.S. Renal Data Service.  Risk is greater for people with diabetes, high blood pressure, or who are obese or smoke.

Kidney function normally declines beginning at about age 30. By age 75, we have about 75 percent of our normal function. Decline is particularly noticeable in people with diabetes, hypertension, or who are obese or have lousy diets. You’ll note that most people on dialysis are over 60, and a greater number of older than younger people have diagnosed CKD.

Most older folks aren’t aware of their CKD because they don’t feel its symptoms until the CKD has progressed substantially.  However, the disease is silently raising risks for heart attack, stroke, osteoporosis, and anemia.  Most die from the related heart disease before the CKD advances to kidney failure and dialysis.

The overall CKD numbers are shocking. Studies estimate that 10 percent of U.S. adults (and thousands of children) have CKD. However, CKD occurs in up to 40 percent of people with diabetes and nearly 20 percent of people with prediabetes.  And some studies find reduced kidney function in nearly 30 percent of individuals with hypertension and about 20 percent of those with prehypertension.

Because CKD takes years to develop in most people, steps can be taken to reduce its likelihood.

  • Studies show that regular exercise helps preserve kidney function–even in people already diagnosed with CKD.
  • People following largely vegetarian diets, high in fruits and vegetables, generally have better kidney function. As they age, they retain better kidney function.
  • Losing weight helps kidney function, often reducing creatinine and proteinuria.
  • Smoking is particularly threatening to kidneys. Smokers damage kidneys and progress to dialysis twice as fast as the general population.

You will find out more about all the above in the new Smoothies For Kidneys book. You’ll also get recipes for great tasting smoothies that contain ingredients shown in recent studies to help preserve and improve kidney function. 

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Attack Drones For Each Kidney Patient

Drone For Kidney Patient

Drone For Kidney Patient

In honor of National Kidney Month, March’s KidneySteps Newsletter reports a shocking and exclusive rumor received from an almost-reliable source. What is this startling rumor? You as a kidney patient will soon receive your own drone programmed to guard your health!

Surprisingly, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was unanimously amended by Congress to require and pay for military-like attack drones for each and every kidney patient.  This bold move is expected to save billions in health care costs and was supposedly prompted by a strong recommendation from the National Kidney Foundation.

Those of you who signed up on the right and receive monthly Newsletters automatically, already know this life-changing drone news.  If you haven’t yet signed up, click here to get your copy of this month’s Newsletter.  Hold on though, you’re going to experience some chuckles.  Enjoy!

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Do You See Your Child As Overweight?

One-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese. Kids generally begin accumulating excess fat cells and pounds early in life, while the child is under the parents’ control, say researchers.  Children become overweight for several reasons.

Often, parents are working and lack time and motivation to prepare cooked-from-scratch healthy meals. It’s simply easier to provide packaged or frozen meals or grab fast food, all likely fatty, salty, and sugary.

Parents themselves are often overweight or obese (nearly 70% of adults) and teach the same food habits to their children. Also, many parents just don’t know what good food choices are. They see the words “healthy” or “all natural” on package labels and believe the food item is a good option. Yet, that item might be filled with disease-prompting salt, saturated fat, and added sugars.

Overweight Child

Overweight Child

A new study published late February in Pediatrics found that most parents don’t recognize extra weight on their kids and perceive that their children are slimmer than they really are. So, the parent isn’t concerned.

The study consisted of a review of 69 studies of more than 15,000 children ages 2 and up. Researchers had parents assess their child’s size using pictures, rating scales and other techniques. They then measured the children to determine their BMI cutoffs for overweight or obese.

Over half the parents thought their overweight child was normal or underweight or thought their obese child was normal, just overweight, or even underweight. Researchers thought the parents had a distorted view of what an overweight child looks like because media reports show grossly obese kids in their reports on weight issues.

A parent’s perception of their child’s weight is important because parents will take action and encourage their kids to be more active and eat healthier foods when they see their child as having a weight problem. Doing so helps the child avoid disease later in life.

No matter what your child’s weight is, he/she benefits from good nutrition. Why not make the nutritious and kid-friendly smoothies from our new “Smoothies for Kidneys” book. Just click on the book cover, above.

 

Posted in Blog, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, Fat is Dangerous, High Blood Pressure, Kidney Disease, Kidney Disease in Kids, Latest Statistics, Obesity, Salt, Sugar | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Setting Our Kids Up For Kidney Disease – Part 2

Too Much SaltPart 1 of this series (scroll down) mentioned that our kids get far too much sodium.  As a result, they develop high blood pressure and even obesity at very early ages, thus increasing their odds of chronic kidney disease (CKD) later in life.

The American Heart Association recommends that everyone keep sodium intake to less than 1500 mg/day. But, 90% of our children exceed that amount, averaging about 3500 mg/day of sodium.  Some kids reach 8000 mg/day!

In a study published last week in Pediatrics, scientists measured the body composition of 766 healthy 14- to 18-year olds. They also collected diet information from the teens over several months.

These researchers found that teens with high sodium diets generally were heavier, had a higher percentage of body fat, and showed more signs of body-wide inflammation. Internal inflammation predisposes the body to disease, including diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and CKD.

The lead researcher noted that taste preference for salt is formed early in life and that “parents should worry about their kids’ sodium intake since healthy dietary habits learned in childhood are carried forward into adulthood.”

Where does this excess salt come from?  In the study, 75 percent of it came from processed foods and fast food. Processed foods most kids consume are:

  • packages snacks (potato chips, corn chips, cheesy chips and crackers)
  • packaged desserts and candies preserved with sodium (cakes, pies, candy, cookies, etc).
  • processed meats (hot dogs, luncheon meats, salami, pepperoni, sausage, bacon)
  • frozen meals (most frozen lunches and dinner selections contain high amounts of sodium, again used as a preservative)
  • frozen snack foods (chicken nuggets and similar choices, pizza and pizza rolls)
  • canned and boxed products (check food label; sodium can be very high)
  • fast food (McDonald’s and the rest of the quick-food places)
  • most restaurant food (restaurants generally obtain their food as packaged, processed items and then add additional salt)

The best food is home prepared meals from fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats and fish, low-fat dairy, nuts/seeds — all fresh and salt free. Why not begin with a healthy, kid-friendly smoothie like one from our new book “Smoothies for Kidneys.” Click on the book cover (above).

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February Newsletter – New Book “Smoothies For Kidneys”

163650863-2Yeah!  About Time!  We are so happy!  Our new book Smoothies For Kidneys is now available on Amazon!  This fantastic book is for ALL kidney patients with any stage of kidney disease.

  • Smoothies for individuals who wish to lower creatinine and proteinuria; improve blood pressure; decrease acidosis, uric acid, and internal inflammation.
  • Smoothies for those who must reduce intake of potassium and phosphorus.
  • Soothing smoothies for dialysis.
  • Smoothies to aid transplant recipients prolong the life of their kidney.

Learn more about the new book in this month’s KidneySteps Newsletter by clicking here.

Get you copy of the book by clicking the Smoothies For Kidneys book cover above on the right or link here.

Posted in Blog, Cardiovascular Disease, Control Diabetes, Dialysis, Eating for Kidneys, High Blood Pressure, Kidney Disease, Kidney Transplant, Kidneys, Newsletter, Obesity, Taking Charge | Leave a comment

Setting Our Kids Up For Kidney Disease – Part 1

This article is not about children who inherited chronic kidney disease (CKD) or have it because of accident or birth defect. Rather, it concerns kids predestined to develop CKD and other serious diseases later in life, largely because of early dietary patterns. Patterns they unfortunately learn at home.

dv2014048The percentage of our youth developing diabetes and obesity keeps growing. Latest data show that one-third of U.S. kids are overweight or obese. Obesity in children is three times the rate it was just a generation ago. Diabetes in our young has increased over 22% in the last decade.

What’s worse, kids with obesity or type 2 diabetes have more health complications as adults and suffer those complications earlier. These children are developing high blood pressure, normally an older adult issue, at unusually young ages. In children hospitalized for hypertension, some are as young as two. Children already have high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, and cardiac issues.

Obviously, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension set these children up for CKD. In a recent study of 1.2 million 17-year-olds, the obese ones had 19 times the risk for diabetic CKD that reached end stage (requiring dialysis) than did non-obese adolescents.

What leads to the weight problems of kids? Study results say:

Too much salt.  The CDC determined that our little ones get as much salt as adults, with the average child consuming almost 3500 mg/day–way over the 1500 mg. daily limit for children. Some slug down over 8000 mg. of salt/day with salt-loaded processed meats (hotdogs, luncheon meat, bacon, sausage), fast food, and processed foods.  Kids in the top quarter of salt consumption have double the risk of elevated blood pressure. Overweight and obese kids have 31⁄2 times the rate.

Too much sugar. Nearly 20% of a child’s calories come from added sugars, most in soft drinks. Shocking is that most of the added sugar calories are consumed in the home. Even tots between ages 2 and 5 are given sugary drinks and are getting fat.

Too much butt time.  A TV or computer easily accessible to a child is a significant risk factor for obesity and the diseases flowing from it. Kids watching TV or on computers spend less time on exercise, eat fewer family meals, have fewer vegetables, drink more sweetened beverages, snack more, and consume less healthy foods.

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Sugar — Kidney and Heart Killer

iStock_000018329907XSmallSome researchers now suggest that the added sugar in our diets is the single most dangerous threat to kidney and heart health. It’s apparently the “fructose” component of sugar that is particularly threatening, particularly given the huge quantities Americans consume in sweetened beverages and processed foods. The USDA estimates that each American slams down 63 pounds of fructose each year, and 70% of it comes from sweetened drinks. A cola is about 65% fructose.

Fructose is the sugar in fruit, but is not dangerous in fruit because its release into the blood stream is slowed by the fiber in fruit. Thus, fruit with its nutrients is a good food choice. It’s when the fiber is stripped from foods that fructose can overwhelm the blood and liver, resulting in disease. And stripping that fiber is just what food manufacturers do.

They have concocted a concentrated form of fructose, hugh fructose corn syrup, that has a long shelf life and is in almost every processed food item you buy. Our consumption of the stuff has risen 2000% over the past decade. This rise parallels the rise in diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, etc.

iStock_000002010634XSmallSeveral prior studies highlighted the bad effects of sugar and soft drinks on kidney health. Two new studies say the same. In one study, drinking even one soft drink a day raised the likelihood of kidney decline and proteinuria. In the other recent study, fructose consumption impacted the kidney’s ability to balance salt, increasing blood pressure risk.

Prior studies have linked colas to elevated uric acid and creatinine levels. One study found that two glasses of cola a day doubled risk of kidney disease. Even artificially sweetened drinks increased kidney disease risk.

A new study just out today in JAMA Internal Medicine links added sugars to increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. People consuming the most added sugar had double the risk of death from heart disease.

Kidney patients know that heart disease is their great threat. Kidney disease is damaging to the cardiovascular system. So, studies like this are important. We can avoid added sugars, thereby protecting our hearts and kidneys.

 

 

Posted in Blog, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, Eating for Kidneys, Food and Kidney Function, High Blood Pressure, Kidney Disease, Obesity, Sugar | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Sunlight to Improve Blood Pressure

Coast of beach at daySunbathing may lower your blood pressure and, in turn, cut heart attack and stroke risk, British researchers reported last week. This bit of news is important for kidney patients.

While about 1 in 3 U.S. adults has high blood pressure, the rate is double that in kidney patients. The rate in dialysis patients is 92%. High blood pressure causes and worsens kidney disease, and kidney disease raises blood pressure. A vicious cycle!

Just 20 minutes of ultraviolet A (UVA) sunlight lowered blood pressure by a small but significant amount in 24 volunteers, the study’s researchers reported in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Sunlight does this by increasing levels of nitric oxide, a chemical linked to blood flow. (Prior studies have found that eating dark green leafy vegetables and beets also cause nitric oxide levels to rise and blood pressure to fall).

Study volunteers got the equivalent of 30 minutes of natural sunlight at noon on a sunny day in Southern Europe. Researchers protected their volunteers from the warming effects, just in case that was the cause. Sunlight lowered blood pressure by about five points, and the effects lasted half an hour.

The effects of sunlight are so strong they may help explain why people who live in the darker north have higher rates of death from heart disease than people living in warmer, sunnier regions. But, what about skin cancer? The researchers stated:

“We are concerned that well-meaning advice to reduce the comparatively low numbers of deaths from skin cancer may inadvertently increase the risk of death from far higher prevalent cardiovascular disease and stroke, and goes against epidemiological data showing that sunlight exposure reduces all cause and cardiovascular mortality.”

Those of us taking immunosuppressant drugs (including most transplant recipients and people with certain forms of kidney disease) must weigh the consequences of sun exposure for heart health against our increased risk of developing skin cancer. The U.S. Renal Data Service indicates that 20% of kidney transplant recipients die from cancer, with skin cancer the most common. However, over 30% of us die from cardiovascular disease. Hmmm, shall I sun today or shall I not?

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Slim Down With Kidney-Friendly Tea

Losing weight is the focus for many this new year, which is not surprising since about 70 percent of Americans are overweight. In 2013, 0besity became classified as both a disease and an epidemic. Excess weight is a health hazard that often triggers other serious conditions, particularly diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease.

100_0733Taking weight off is no fun, but drinking tea might help. New research supports the use of white, green, black, oolong, and puerh teas as aids in weight loss. Late 2013 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition saw clear cases of  ”drink tea, drop calories.”

Tea’s polyphenols and catchins (both antioxidants), as well as the little bit of caffeine in tea, speed metabolism for the weight loss. In a study published last month, simply drinking tea resulted in an increase in metabolism and energy expenditure equal to about 100 calories over 24 hours. In another 2013 review, researchers reported that subjects drinking green tea with its caffeine lost an average of 2.9 pounds in 12 weeks without changing their eating habits.

Several studies show that regular tea drinkers weigh less than non-tea drinkers and have overall better health, on average. A group of scientists who participated in an international symposium on tea and health recently published their research proclaiming that:

“tea has been found to help promote weight loss and maintain a healthy weight, improve bone health, and activate areas of the brain that bolster attention, problem solving, and mood.”

Tea is a smart addition to your weight-loss plans. It also might improve kidney and heart health, says research. Get extra value by substituting tea for high-calorie drinks. Drinking tea is not a substitute for proven methods of losing weight and keeping it off, such as exercise, getting enough sleep, and a balanced diet. But, adding tea to all of that can help you shed pounds.

Experiment with different teas–white, green, black, oolong, puerh–and find your favorites. We enjoy a pot (4 cups) of freshly brewed green, white or oolong tea each day. When you find your perfect tea, it will become a lifelong friend and health partner.

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Study: People with Metabolic Syndrome Eat Badly

iStock_000011861760XSmallYou are one of a growing number of people with Metabolic Syndrome (MS) if you have 3 of these 5 features:

  1. A waist size more than 35 inches (women) or 40 inches (men).
  2. Triglycerides (bad cholesterol) of 150 or higher
  3. HDL (good cholesterol) of under 50 (women) or 40 (men).
  4. Blood pressure greater than 130/85
  5. Blood sugar of 110 or higher

MS results from an inability of the body to process fats and sugars, primarily because the person eats too much sugary, fatty stuff and exercises too little. A 2013 study linked MS with a substantially increased risk of kidney disease and having the disease progress. MS also raises risks for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, gout, and early death, say several studies.

A new study published on January 7, 2014 in Food & Nutrition Research investigated the probable reason for the widespread growth in MS, which they believed is what we eat. Researchers looked at 175 people with or at high risk for MS and had them keep food diaries for four days.

Researchers found that:

  • The diet of over 80% of the participants was too high in saturated fat (which comes from such foods as hard cheese, butter, whole-fat dairy, red meat, processed meats).
  • Only one-third of participants had sufficient intake of mono- and polyunsaturated fats (from such foods as olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish, vegetable oils).
  • More than 75% of the participants had too low dietary fiber intake (from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seeds).
  • 65% consumed too much salt.
  • Intake of vitamin D was insufficient among 20% of participants.
  • One third of men and one fourth of women consumed too much alcohol (more than 2 drinks/day for men and 1 for women).

Researchers concluded that people at risk for or with MS have “low adherence” to nutrition/dietary recommendations, and that good medical practice should include dietary assessment and counseling to reduce MS.

Researchers then conducted a dietary assessment and intervention for 6 months, encouraging participants t0 follow dietary recommendations. After the 6 months, participants showed improved serum lipid profiles (better cholesterol), reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and decreased internal inflammation that is disease causing and destructive.  Ah, the miracles of a good eating plan.

Posted in Blog, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, Eating for Kidneys, Exercising for Kidneys, Fat is Dangerous, High Blood Pressure, Obesity, Salt, Sugar, Taking Charge | Tagged | Leave a comment