Healthy Routines for Healthy Hearts

There are many ways to help keep our hearts healthy, our circulation smooth and our blood vessels free of plaque. Certain conditions are inherited, but being aware of them can help us embrace the Active Wellness habits that counteract them. Our habits start with choices, and it depends on what we’re willing to do, give up or add to our lifestyles.

No smoking: It’s been decades since the benefits of not smoking cigarettes have been brought to light, but now, there are so many things other than cigarettes to smoke. The truth of the matter is, none of it is good for our heart or lungs—some substances can alleviate pain or quell nausea, but inhaled habitually, can cause heart and lung damage. In other words, quitting smoking means stopping the inhalation of a whole range of things—and vaping is ill-advised, too. The American Heart Association, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention jointly encourage all smokers to quit!1

Curb belly fat: Certain parts of the body have a special impact on heart health. Research in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has linked excess belly fat to higher blood pressure and unhealthy blood lip levels.2 Health practitioners advise us to try to decrease the belly fat through diet and exercise, not just from spot routines. In other words, a hundred sit-ups a day won’t get rid of belly fat, but losing some weight by eating better (or less) combined with a daily exercise routine that includes some form of cardio or aerobic activity, may do the trick.

Healthy snacks: We all know that eating right is critical for good health. When trying to eat the right foods, one of the things that is hard to do is to give up unhealthy snacking. The good news is that there are actually healthy snacks we can incorporate into our diets. One example is chips and salsa. The salsa is a delightful mix of healthy vegetables as long as we don’t oversalt it. Add in some whole or blended beans—black, white, pinto, any other choices—and the salsa gets a big boost of heart-healthy fiber. According to the Mayo Clinic, a diet rich in soluble fiber can help lower LDL (bad cholesterol).

Omega-3 fatty acids: Another source of heart-healthy food is fish, due to its omega-3 fatty acid content. Not all fish are equal, but salmon, tuna, sardines and herring, for example, contain good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Nutritionists recommend eating fish twice a week, with the health benefits outweighing the risks of mercury ingestion.3  If you’re a vegetarian, our Kenzen® Omega Green + DHA is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Eat the color spectrum: Have you heard the saying, “eat the rainbow?” This simply means that a heart-healthy diet can be made up of naturally colorful food—green, red, yellow, orange, purple and blue—easily found in vegetables and fruits. Think of favorite fruits and vegetables and simply incorporate them into meals or eat them in between meals.

A half teaspoon of salt a day: Researchers have reported in The New England Journal of Medicine that a half teaspoon of salt is all we need per day!4 Salt is apparently one of the leading culprits of high blood pressure which in turn causes heart disease. Salt is a hidden menace found in excessive quantities in processed foods, many restaurant foods and especially fast-foods. Breaking the salt habit can be challenging, but for starters, never salt anything without tasting it first!

Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate contains heart-healthy flavonoids. These compounds help reduce inflammation and may lower the risk of heart disease, according to scientists in the journal Nutrients. Incorporating dark chocolate into a diet is prudent but not in copious amounts—a couple of squares is recommended.

Go Nuts: Thankfully, some fats are actually good for us! These heart-healthy fats come in the form of almonds, walnuts, pecans and even moderate amounts of peanuts. They also contain protein and fiber that act as fuel and digestive helpers. Although high in healthy fats, they’re also high-calorie so nutritionists advise eating small amounts daily.

7% fat daily: Like salt, decreasing fat intake daily to just 7% of our daily calories can help lower the risk of heart disease, according to the USDA. One way to help calculate our intake is to read the nutrition labels on the food we buy.

Eat breakfast: Although intermittent fasting is trending for weight loss, breakfast truly is an important meal of the day, if not the most important one. To build a heart-healthy meal that ends the overnight “fast,” incorporate whole grains, such as oatmeal, lean protein such as peanut butter, yogurt or low-fat dairy milk from animal or vegetable sources) and fruit, especially berries high in antioxidants and polyphenols.

Drink tea: Black or green, it’s our choice and either is healthy for the heart. In fact, drinking one to three cups of tea every day may help lower the risk of heart problems. So, have a “cuppa” and enjoy the possibility of lowering the risk of angina and heart attacks!

Fun exercises: Not everyone likes going to the gym and working out, but regular exercise is important for sustained heart health. In fact, sitting for too much of the day is now considered as bad as smoking! It’s therefore imperative to get a move on! There are many alternatives to working out. For example, dancing raises the heart rate and gets the lungs pumping. It also burns up to 200 calories or more per hour, and listening to music while dancing is an added pleasure. Walking, swimming, running/jogging, rowing, hiking and so forth, are all great alternatives to the gym and you can connect with nature at the same time.

Yoga: Another ongoing trend is the practice of yoga. Since it originated in India more than 5,000 years go, this “trend” has proven it’s here to stay. The western world had some catching up to do, but has now shown that yoga has the potential to improve heart health. By stretching virtually every part of the body (even ears, nose and mouth), yoga can help improve balance, flexibility and strength. It also helps relieve stress and helps improve sleep, all adding up to maintaining a healthy heart.

Make your HaHas Loud: This is such a great to-do to incorporate into an Active Wellness lifestyle. Laughing out loud may be good for the heart, according to the American Health Association. Laughing out loud has been found to lower stress hormones, decrease inflammation on arteries and raise levels of high-density lipoprotein (HLD or good cholesterol).

Gum and tooth health: Cleveland Clinic researchers have found that bacteria that can cause gum disease also may raise the risk of heart disease. Findings to date are mixed, but there’s only good that come of keeping teeth and gums healthy. Brush and floss every day if you don’t already, and see the results.

Get enough sleep: When we don’t get enough sleep, the heart is significantly impacted.5 It’s no surprise that the entire body needs its rest, but the heart works 24/7 and really needs to rest!

Remember, Kenzen® Nutrition is here to help fill in the gaps of anyone’s diet! From now until March 23, 2023, each purchase of a PiMag Waterfall® will be accompanied by a bonus bottle of Kenzen® Immunity; each purchase of a KenkoAir Purifier® will have a bonus bottle of Kenzen® Clarity; and each purchase of a Kenko Sleep Pack will contain a bonus bottle of Kenzen® Joint.

1, 2 3, 4 https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-heart-tips#know-your-numbers

5 https://www.scripps.org/news_items/5146-5-heart-healthy-habits

Stress and the Mighty Trio: Immunity, Mental Clarity and Mobility

Stress is the body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the “stress response.”1

When working properly, the stress response protects us and allows us to stay focused and alert. For example, to avoid a car accident, we might slam on the brakes as our stress response. In this way, stress is a positive part of our lives.

Too much stress, however, can cause major damage to our bodies and minds—not only to health, but also to mood, productivity, relationships and overall quality of life. Stress can definitely put a damper on the pursuit of an Active Wellness lifestyle.

The varying levels of stress can be likened to a spectrum. At one end is “eustress,” the manageable levels of stress that help tackle challenges at work, school, or in relationships. Eustress does not necessarily feel comfortable, but it is useful and can help us succeed.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is “distress.” This is the type of stress that is destructive—it disrupts sleep and creates undesired tension, mood disorders and a negative outlook. Distress can occur when we are too busy at work, owe money, are grieving or suffering any type of painful loss.

Our personalities and perspectives on how we work, compete or play can affect whether stress takes the form of eustress or distress. For example, if there is a looming deadline and it worries or overwhelms us, we are going to experience distress. If that same deadline creates a sense of excitement about the ensuing outcome, we would experience eustress. We therefore are somewhat in control of the stress we live with, but we cannot foresee the future or the unknown.

When we get stressed out frequently, the body exists in a heightened state of anxiety most of the time. That can lead to serious health problems, since chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in the body and its functions. It can suppress the immune system, upset the digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It can even rewire the brain, leaving us more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.2

Chronic stress occurs because stress is sneaky. It can creep up on us and we get so used to feeling stressed out that we don’t even notice its ill effects until they manifest in disturbing ways. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the symptoms that chronic stress can cause.

The three main areas that stress impacts are immunity, mental clarity and mobility. We need a strong immune system to fight disease, but stress weakens the body’s defenses. Stress can reduce the number of natural killer cells or lymphocytes in the body, which are needed to fight viruses, according to the American Psychological Association. It makes us catch colds or the flu more easily, for example.

Chronic stress can produce higher-than-normal levels of the hormone cortisol. This can hamper the body’s anti-inflammatory response and cause continual infections, according to recent immunology research studies.3

Issues with mental clarity include memory problems, inability to concentrate, poor judgment, persistent anxiety, runaway thoughts, constant worrying, moodiness, irritability and depression.

Mobility is affected when stress causes pain, tightness, soreness or spasms in the muscles. According to the American Psychological Association, muscles tense up during stress. When the stress is gone, the muscles then relax and release the built-up tension.

Other physical symptoms include skin breakouts, irregular heartbeats, fluctuating weight, trouble sleeping, indigestion and other digestive issues. If inflammation is persistent and widespread, it can contribute to chronic diseases, including the buildup of plaque on the arterial walls. This is just one of the many factors at play in the complex relationship between stress and the heart.  Stress is related to heart rhythm abnormalities, high blood pressure, stroke and asthma. Lung conditions include shortness of breath and rapid breathing.

Knowing our stress triggers can help us deal with them more effectively. Here are a few ways to cope with stress:

Exercise: Regular exercise is known to improve moods and relieve stress. Rhythmic exercises such as walking, running, swimming, and dancing are particularly effective, especially when focusing attention on the physical sensations of each movement.

Make human contact: In this day and age of electronic devices, we often spend more time with screens than with people. The simple act of talking face-to-face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve stress. Even a brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another human being can help calm and soothe the nervous system.

Use the senses: Sight, sound, taste, smell, touch. The key is to find the sensory input that works best for each individual. Does listening to an uplifting song produce calmness? Is the scent of a favorite flower soothing? Research has shown that the act of petting a dog or cat not only comforts the animal, but also the human.  Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so finding the best use of any of the five senses can be a fun experiment.

Relax. Some people are good at letting go of stress at the end of the day and can relax. Others need to consciously practice the art of relaxation. Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the polar opposite of the stress response. When practiced regularly, these activities can help reduce everyday stress levels and boost feelings of joy and serenity. They also may increase the ability to stay calm and collected under pressure.

Eat healthy food. “You are what you eat” doesn’t need to be taken literally, but it holds truth. Food can improve or worsen moods and affect how we cope with life’s stressors. Eating a diet full of processed and convenience food, refined carbohydrates, and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of stress, while a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, can help us cope with life’s ups and downs.

Get enough sleep. Feeling tired can magnify stress. Getting restful sleep can be tricky because chronic stress can disrupt sleep. Making the sleep environment as comfortable as possible and adhering to a sleep cycle that allows for 6-8 hours can be helpful.

The pursuit of Active Wellness includes finding adequate ways to cope with stress. At Nikken, we have three nutritionals that may help in the “mighty trio”: Kenzen® Immunity, Clarity and Joint. From now until March 23, 2023, each purchase of a PiMag Waterfall® will be accompanied by a bonus bottle of Kenzen® Immunity; each purchase of a KenkoAir Purifier® will have a bonus bottle of Kenzen® Clarity; and each purchase of a Kenko Sleep Pack will contain a bonus bottle of Kenzen® Joint.

1, 2  https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-signs-and-causes

3, 4  https://health.umms.org/2020/11/10/stress-immune-system/

Putting the Restful Part Back into Sleep

A third of our lives is spent sleeping and resting, but not everyone actually feels rested after spending time in bed. There are many reasons for not sleeping—maybe tomorrow brings an event that is too exciting! Or, it could be the first day of a new job or at a new school. You could be auditioning for a gig as a musician or actor. There might be a big celebration to attend—an anniversary, a birthday, so many kinds of parties!

Whatever the reason, between 10 and 30% of adults have insomnia at one time or another, but thankfully there are simple steps to take to get a sound night’s sleep. Where and how you sleep can make a difference in how well you sleep.

When you rest in an environment that is comfortable and soothing, it helps you fall asleep. Even though you are sleeping, getting enough rest is part of the Active Wellness lifestyle. Here are a few things to try.

• Keep the room dark and quiet. In other words, whenever you’re able to, keep any stimulation out. Some people fall asleep to the TV or headset every night. If you can sleep through the night that way and get up feeling rested, that’s great, but chances are, the TV and the headset could keep you awake longer.

• Try keeping your electronic devices off and see if it helps you. The cell phone is an especially big disruptor because it can jar you awake when you’re in a nice, sound sleep, and then you can’t fall back asleep. Make sure to turn it off or at least keep it on silent.

• Give yourself the chance to calm down and empty the mind. Breathe in and breathe out, slowly and rhythmically. It may even help to count 1, 2, 3 as you breathe in and 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 as you breathe out, keeping the exhalation slower than the inhalation.

• Have you heard the “counting sheep” method of going to sleep? This is similar to counting your breaths, but parents have been known to tell their children to count sheep when they have a hard time falling asleep. The monotony of visualizing sheep and counting them has a slightly hypnotic effect that may lull you to sleep.

• Ventilation is as important as your breath. If the bedroom is stuffy, open a window. If there’s no window, try a fan. The KenkoAir Purifier® is also a big help, because it cleans the stale air.

• If you feel wired, don’t go to bed. Wait until you feel sleepy! A warm bath or shower may help you unwind.

• Make sure you get some kind of routine exercise every day. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, but getting the circulation going earlier in the day will help you be tired and ready to catch some zzzzzs.

• In bed but not quite ready to shut your eyes? Pick up a real book with pages, not an e-Book. Reading tires out the eyes and does not have the same effect as an electronic device that lights up—and paper does not give off undesired electromagnetic waves.

• To get your body to calm down and feel more connected to a natural state, try putting a KenkoGround® under your feet or neck—just make sure it’s touching your skin.

• Very importantly, make sure your bedding is comfortable. Nikken has a whole Kenko Sleep Pack, sized for different beds, that can help make your nightly slumber a restful experience to look forward to!

Nikken is launching a revolutionary pillow that takes Sleep Technology to a new level. We’ll explore this innovation next week. Meanwhile, check it out in the shopping cart: Kenko Naturest® Makura, Item 13122. It is in all the Makura Sleep Packs but once you try the new pillow, you’re going to want one or more for every bed in the house!

Restful Sleep is So Sweet

Scientists don’t yet understand exactly why we need sleep so badly.  They believe it restores us physically and helps us organize things in our brain.1 We do know, however, that we can’t live an Active Wellness lifestyle without it. We cannot force ourselves to fall asleep, just as we can’t force ourselves to digest food more quickly or to eat as much as we want without gaining weight. In other words, we can’t control our sleep patterns; however, we can create the right conditions for sleep, both mentally and physically. That is, we can create good sleep habits for a pleasant sleep experience.

The study of sleep makes for fascinating science. Here are some interesting facts about other species:

• English bulldogs are the only canines known to experience sleep apnea, a breathing disorder. Their unusual airway anatomy (short snouts and underbites is the likely reason.2

• Sea otters hold hands when they sleep so they don’t drift away from each other.3

• Whales and dolphins literally fall half asleep. Each side of their brain takes turns so they can come up for air.4

• Trees go to sleep at night by relaxing their branches and perk them up in the morning.5

• Snails can sleep for three years.6

• Giraffes can get by on an average of 30 minutes of sleep each night.7

There are also intriguing facts about humans and our sleep patterns:

• We are the only mammals that willingly delay sleep.8

• Thirty minutes of exercise each day correlates with 14 minutes of extra sleep per night.9

• Parents of newborns lose about six months’ worth of sleep in their child’s first two years of life. Each additional child increases the mother’s loss of sleep by 46%.10

• Sleepwalking is most likely to occur between the ages of three and 17, with 15% of people thought to be sleepwalkers.11

• Women sleep longer than men. The reason is that women tend to multitask more than men; therefore, their brains work harder and take longer to recover.12

• We can dream in color or in black and white. About 12% are believed to dream exclusively in black and white.13 Today about 75% dream in color, while only 15% did before color television became available.14

Scientists used to think that everything shut down when we sleep, but over the last 60 years, they’ve discovered that our brains are very active while we sleep. In fact, some parts of the brain use more oxygen and glucose while asleep than when awake. The timing of our need for sleep is based on how long we have been awake and our body clock. For example, if we stay awake all night, we will feel more tired at 4 am than at 10 am.  Recent breakthroughs may have identified the gene that makes some people cope more easily with a lack of sleep.15

Have you tried Kenko Sleep Technology to help you get a great night’s sleep? For the entire month of November, Nikken Registered Customers will receive cash back in the form of Nikken Reward Points on the purchase of any Kenko Naturest® Fit or any Kenko Sleep Pack. There’s nothing else like the Kenko Naturest® Fit anywhere—it’s only from Nikken. Designed with natural latex nodules to massage you while you sleep, the reflective fibers help keep you warm while promoting air circulation. Tourmaline interspersed between 800 gauss magnets help create a calming effect, to help you get your best night’s sleep, every night! The Kenko Naturest® Fit transforms any mattress into a Kenko Sleep System that supports your body’s natural abilities to recuperate while sleeping!

1, 15 https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/facts-about-sleep.html

2, 3,4, 8, 14 https://health.clevelandclinic.org/22-facts-about-sleep-that-will-surprise-you/

5, 6, 7, 10, 12 https://www.thegoodbody.com/sleep-facts/

11, 13 https://www.thinktank.org.uk/blog/1363-30-fun-facts-about-sleep.php

Sleep Can Be Your Superpower

To maintain an optimal level of Active Wellness, we can eat right, exercise regularly, use a good air filter and drink hydrogen water. Even more importantly, we need to sleep well and sleep enough! According to sleep and brain scientist Matt Walker, “Sleep is a non-negotiable biological necessity. Sleep is the Swiss army knife of health.” 1 Humans are the only species who intentionally deprive ourselves of sleep, creating the public health challenge of the century.

What are some of the benefits of getting a good eight hours of restful sleep? Matt Walker states that in studies of restful sleepers vs. sleep-deprived participants, the hippocampus in the brain shows significant memory signals in the good sleepers but not in the sleep-deprived. Here’s why:

  • Sleep prepares the brain for learning activities.
  • Sleep helps create permanent memories after learning.
  • Deep sleep acts like a transfer system for memories and learning.
  • Gene activities are impacted by sleep. Good sleep increases immune system activities, while poor sleep is associated with an increase in genetic stress activities and chronic inflammation.

Disruptions of deep sleep can impact brain functions, leading to certain dysfunctions. The good news is that scientists can now research ways to rectify this situation, as it is believed that sleep loss leaks into every aspect of physiology. Here are some tips for good sleep:

  1. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time as regularly as possible. The body likes regularity and a fixed schedule. (This is why new mothers who are sleep-deprived or those who are on a split shift and can no longer adhere to a regular sleep schedule say they have “fuzzy” brains or “can’t think.”)
  2. Keep it cool. It takes a two to three degree drop in body temperature to fall asleep and stay asleep. 65º F or 18 Cº is generally ideal for most people.
  3. When you can’t sleep, get out of bed and preferably go to another room. The bed should be associated with sleep, not with tossing and turning.
  4. Go to bed only when sleepy.
  5. Turn off all electronic devices. In other words, don’t fall asleep with the TV on. Don’t have your mobile phone on and blinking and buzzing throughout the night.
  6. Stay away from alcoholic or caffeinated beverages before bedtime, preferably hours beforehand.
  7. Don’t take sleeping pills, unless prescribed by your physician. It’s easy to form a dependence on sleep aids, but it is not a natural way to go to sleep. We can retrain our bodies to rest naturally, but like any activity, it takes practice and patience.
  8. Invest in comfortable bedding. Make sure your mattress has the firmness that supports your comfort level.

For the entire month of November, any Nikken Registered Customer will receive cash back in the form of Nikken Reward Points on the purchase of any Kenko Naturest® Fit or any Kenko Sleep Pack. There’s nothing else like the Kenko Naturest® Fit anywhere—it’s only from Nikken. Designed with natural latex nodules to massage you while you sleep, the reflective fibers help keep you warm while promoting air circulation. Tourmaline interspersed between 800 gauss magnets help create a calming effect, to help you get your best night’s sleep, every night! The Kenko Naturest® Fit transforms any mattress into a Kenko Sleep System that supports your body’s natural abilities to recuperate while sleeping!

1 http://t.ted.com/NKWxqbD