A healthy gut microbiome, watching your waist size and getting enough sleep

Eating a diet that encourages a healthy gut microbiome, avoiding central obesity (fat in the stomach region) and getting enough sleep are among the many dietary and lifestyle factors that may help to protect against heart disease and stroke, according to findings of a new Task Force report from the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), entitled Cardiovascular Disease: Diet, Nutrition and Emerging Risk Factors: 2nd Edition. The evidence for other emerging risk factors that may increase risk – such as being sedentary for long periods, and poor diet in pregnancy – were presented at a conference for academics and health professionals to launch the Task Force report in London today.

In the UK, the death rate from cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes heart disease and stroke has been falling but it is still one of the leading causes of death. There are a number of treatments available, which have contributed to reducing mortality, but ill health associated with CVD (morbidity) remains high and could even be rising in older age groups.

Professor Keith Frayn Emeritus, Professor of Human Metabolism, University of Oxford and Chair of the Task Force, said: “Conventional lifestyle-related risk factors for cardiovascular disease include smoking, raised cholesterol and blood pressure, lack of physical activity, obesity and diabetes. However, these ‘classical’ risk factors cannot fully explain differences in cardiovascular disease risk and emerging evidence suggests that other novel risk factors may play an important role.”

The Task Force report explores some of the emerging and novel risk factors and how they can affect our risk of heart disease and stroke.

Gut health

Scientific research shows that eating plenty of wholegrains and other fibre rich foods is important for a healthy gut, but the Task Force report highlights that the fermentation of fibre by our gut bacteria may also influence our risk of heart disease.

Sara Stanner, Science Director at the BNF and editor of the Task Force report said: “As a nation we’re consuming well below the recommended intake for fibre. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, choosing high-fibre or wholegrain varieties of starchy carbohydrates, and eating plenty of pulses, like beans, peas and lentils, will contribute to fibre intakes and can help to keep your gut healthy and decrease your risk of heart disease.”

Central fat

It’s known that being overweight increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, but where you carry any excess fat is also important in determining the risk of heart disease and stroke. The new Task Force report explains that people who have excess fat around the stomach are at increased risk because the cells secrete a number of substances that can contribute to risk.

Stanner said: “Regardless of height or BMI, people should try to lose weight if their waist measures more than 94cm (37ins) for men and 80cm (31.5ins) for women.”

Minerals

There is a well-established link between sodium in salt and risk of high blood pressure but other minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium may play a role in preventing high blood pressure and have positive effects on other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Stanner said: “Eating a varied diet will help to ensure you get all the essential minerals you need; potassium is found in foods like bananas, potatoes and fish, magnesium in lentils and wholegrains and calcium in dairy foods and some green leafy vegetables.”

Sleep

Evidence in the Task Force report suggests that it is not just a lack of sleep but also poor quality and interrupted sleep that may be linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.

Stanner said: “There is emerging evidence that inadequate sleep is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. For general health, adults should aim for between seven and nine hours sleep a night.”

Workplace stress

Many scientific studies have linked stress with ill-health but the link between job-related stress and increased risk of heart disease and stroke is becoming more widely recognised. The report suggests that exposure to stress activates specific regions of the brain, leading to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which can affect blood vessel walls and damage the functioning of the blood vessel lining.

Stanner said: “If you’re exposed to stress in the workplace it’s a good idea to find relaxation techniques that suit you, and actively work at managing your stress levels.”

Other risk factors

Other significant risk factors identified by the Task Force report include birthweight (both high and low birthweights are associated with increased risk of heart disease in later life), excessive consumption of alcohol and sedentary behaviour, even if interspersed with physical activity.
Here is  BNF’s “Helping to protect yourself from heart disease and stroke chart “Helping to protect yourself from heart disease and stroke

fibre

According to the British  Nutrition foundation the government in 2015 published new guidelines with a recommendation that the population’s fibre intake should increase to 30g a day for adults (aged 17 years and over).

 Age (years)
 Recommended intake of fibre
 2-5  15g per day
 5-11  20g per day
 11-16  25g per day
 17 and over  30g per day

here is a fun fibre video

According to the British Nutrition Foundation

Fibre helps to keep our digestive system healthy and helps to prevent constipation. For example, fibre bulks up stools, makes stools softer and easier to pass and makes waste move through the digestive tract more quickly.

The European Food Safety Authority suggests that including fibre rich foods in a healthy balanced diet can improve weight maintenance. Dietary fibre can reduce your risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) and type 2 diabetes
 Foods such as oats and barley contain a type of fibre known as beta glucan, which may help to reduce cholesterol levels if you consume 3g or more of it daily, as part of a healthy diet.
  • Colorectal cancer (bowel cancer)
Did you know that the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) estimate that 45% of bowel cancer could be prevented through diet, physical activity and weight?

Fibre and bowel cancer
We know that dietary fibre may help to protect against bowel cancer. Although the reasons for this are not fully understood, this may be because fibre increases stool size, dilutes content and moves it faster through the gut so the amount of time waste products stay in contact with the bowel is reduced. Some types of fibre may also help gut bacteria produce helpful chemicals that can have beneficial effects on the bowel (see below).

Fibre and good bacteria
Research has increasingly shown how important the bacteria in our gut may be to our health, and it has been suggested that a fibre rich diet can help increase the good bacteria in the gut.  Some fibre types provide a food source for ‘friendly’ gut bacteria helping them to increase and produce substances which are thought to be protective such as short-chain fatty acids.

The dish hold

The absolute foundation of gymnastic training is the dish hold, or hollow hold or handstand plank. It’s a super useful skill and a great core and abdominal muscle builder. If you want a L sit, a handstand or a muscle up, you need this!

 

Body fat calculator

Knowing your fat percentage is one of the best fitness tests you can do.

The best way to assess your body fat percentage is to get me to whip out my fat calipers.

However, for those of you who don’t fancy that experience, I quite like the zone body fat calculator.

Get a tape measure with inches and fill-out this interesting online calculator

Click here

Be anti-inflammation

Whatever chronic disease you choose to review, the chances are it can be linked to inflammation. This is where your body is driven a bit mad and starts attacking itself .

Chronic inflammation is also called persistent, low-grade inflammation because it produces a steady, low-level of inflammation throughout the body.

Low levels of inflammation can be triggered by a perceived internal threat, even when there isn’t a disease to fight or an injury to heal, and sometimes this signals the immune system to respond. As a result, white blood cells gear up but have nothing to do and nowhere to go, and they may eventually start attacking internal organs or other healthy tissues and cells.

So its best to change the basic environment of your body, and you can do this, effectively, by diet.

Reduce the amount of foods you eat that are high in saturated and trans fats, such as red meats, dairy products and foods containing partially hydrogenated oils,  Limit sugary foods and refined carbohydrates cake, table sugar, many breakfast cereals , bread.  Cut back on the use of cooking oils and margarines that are high in omega-6 fatty acids, such as corn, safflower and sunflower oils.

Does temperature affect Cholesterol levels

If you start thinking about the function of cholesterol,  it allegedly  (among other things) modulates membrane fluidity over a range of temperatures.

in Habitat temperature is an important determinant of cholesterol contents in copepods where it states “The most consistent trend is the positive relationship between cholesterol content and habitat temperature. Species residing in warmer habitats (e.g. Centropages typicus, Eurytemora affinis) had approximately twice the cholesterol of species living in colder waters (e.g. Calanus glacialis, Euchaeta norvegica). A similar pattern was observed for comparisons of species within genera (Calanus, Acartia and Centropages), with the species abundant at lower latitudes having more cholesterol than the northern congener. These data indicate that habitat temperature is an important determinant of cholesterol content, and cholesterol endows membranes with the stability required for a range of body temperatures”.

Maybe crustations and humans probably  don’t have that much in common.

If you are curious about cholesterol, here is an interesting slide share

Cholesterol Units Converter

 

What do you thincs about Cholesterol

Ive only just discovered the existence of  Thincs, a body that questions the link between saturated fats , cholesterol and  heart disease.

According to their website,  “The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics (THINCS) is a steadily growing group of scientists, physicians, other academicians and science writers from various countries. Members of this group represent different views about the causation of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, some of them are in conflict with others, but this is a normal part of science. What we all oppose is that animal fat and high cholesterol play a role. The aim with this website is to inform our colleagues and the public that this idea is not supported by scientific evidence; in fact, for many years a huge number of scientific studies have directly contradicted it”. 

It seems to be accumulating studies here