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Supplements for a Healthy Heart

So you just found out that you have high cholesterol, or perhaps you have a strong family history of heart disease and want to do your best to prevent it. So you head to the pharmacy or health food store for help, only to be bombarded by countless supplements that tout their heart healthy benefits. Which should you choose? Are they all good for your heart? Are supplements necessary to improve your health and reduce your risk of heart disease? Before you buy into the billion-dollar business of dietary supplements, remember a few key things.

  1. Dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA in the same way as medications are regulated. Manufacturers have a lot of leeway in their ability to make health claims on their bottles—much more than most health professionals would like—and these claims can be very misleading. Some claims are not even true or are not based on good scientific research. Never trust what a bottle or advertisement tells you about a product. After all, the goal of both is to get you to buy it. Do your own investigation first.  
  2. Dietary supplements are NOT a must for a healthy heart. Many people can reduce their risk of heart disease and improve their heart health by making simple lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and following the heart-health plan provided by their health care provider. Supplements alone cannot and will not undo an unhealthy (poor quality) diet or inactive lifestyle. If you do prefer to take supplements, think of them as an added insurance plan to the heart-healthy changes you're already making.  
  3. Supplements can interact with other medications. Even something as seemingly benign as a vitamin or mineral supplement can cause adverse reactions when combined with certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs, so ALWAYS keep a list of all supplements you take and share it with your pharmacist and health care provider.  
  4. Talk to your doctor first. Before taking any supplement, get advice and recommendations from your health care provider.
Here's a list of common supplements (listed in alphabetical order) that make heart health claims. Read on to find out which may help, and which supplements you should leave on the shelf according to evidence-based research. B Vitamins: Folic Acid, Vitamin B-6 and Vitamin B-12 The B-complex vitamins, which include folic acid, help keep your nerves and red blood cells healthy and strong. They are also involved in the metabolism (and reduction) of homocysteine, an amino acid that, when elevated, is linked to heart disease, blood clots, heart attack and strokes. Several controlled research studies indicate that a combination of vitamin B-12, vitamin B-6, and folic acid can decrease homocysteine levels; but other studies have shown no benefit in reducing the risk of heart disease. Therefore, the American Heart Association has concluded that there isn't enough evidence to say that B-vitamin supplementation reduces cardiovascular risk. It is important to work with your physician before taking B-complex vitamin supplements to improve heart health. Baby Aspirin This little over-the-counter pain reliever has been shown to have some great heart-healthy benefits as well. Aspirin interferes with your body’s blood clotting ability. For someone with narrowed blood vessels, a decrease in blood clotting may help to prevent a blockage and thus prevent a heart attack or stroke. To determine if you would benefit from taking an aspirin daily, talk to your doctor first about usage and dosage. If you have already had a heart attack or stroke, your doctor has probably already discussed this treatment option. If you have strong risk factors for heart disease, you may also benefit from taking a baby aspirin daily. There is no standard dosage for aspirin usage and heart health: It can range from 75-325 milligrams. A baby aspirin (81 mg) is often prescribed. Some medical conditions such as bleeding disorders, asthma, stomach ulcer, or heart failure could become more dangerous if a baby aspirin was consumed daily. Aspirin can also interfere with certain medications, herbal supplements and dietary supplements, too, so talk to your doctor first. Calcium The mineral calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, but the heart, nerves, and blood-clotting systems also need calcium to work properly. In people with high blood pressure (hypertension), calcium supplementation appears to have a modest effect by lowering systolic blood pressure by 2–4 mmHg, but it appears to have little effect in people with normal blood pressure. Calcium seems to be most effective in salt-sensitive people and people who normally get very little calcium in their diet. For people with high cholesterol, taking calcium supplements along with a heart healthy diet may modestly reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol by 4.4% and increase HDL "good" cholesterol by 4.1%. Taking calcium alone, without the heart healthy diet, does not seem to lower cholesterol. Other studies suggest that simply eating a calcium-rich diet (not supplementing it) can improve heart health. Research has shown that individuals who eat a vegetarian diet that is high in minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium) and fiber, and low in fat tend to have lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease. Similarly, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study was conducted to test the effects of three different eating patterns on blood pressure: the "typical" American diet; a diet high in fruits and vegetables; and a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, now known as the DASH diet. The third group experienced the greatest reduction in blood pressure among the three groups, which signals that dietary calcium plays an important role in heart health. A heart-healthy goal for calcium intake is to consume at least 1,000-1,200 milligrams daily. Determine how much calcium you are getting daily through your diet (tracking your food on SparkPeople's free Nutrition Tracker will do the math for you!) and then add a supplement to meet the remaining amount, if necessary. Coenzyme Q-10 Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ-10) is a vitamin-like substance found throughout the body, especially in the cells of the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas. It is involved in generating energy, cell respiration and cell transport. It occurs naturally (in small amounts) in meats and seafood, but can also be made in a laboratory for medicinal and supplementation purposes. Preliminary research indicates that Coenzyme Q-10 supplementation MAY:
  • Reduce blood pressure enough that people taking medication for hypertension can decrease or discontinue their dosage (under a doctor's care, of course).
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease complications when started within 72 hours of having a heart attack and taken for one year.
  • Help treat congestive heart failure when taken in combination with other heart failure medications and treatments.
  • Improve exercise tolerance in patients with chest pain (angina).
  • Help prevent the muscle pains and liver damage often experience by people using statin drugs.
Work closely with your physician when using or considering this supplement. Fish Oil Fatty fish that are especially rich in the beneficial oils called omega-3 fatty acids include mackerel, tuna, salmon, sturgeon, mullet, bluefish, anchovy, sardines, herring, and trout. The omega-3 fatty acids can improve heart health due to their anti-inflammatory action. Fish oil can be obtained from eating fish or by taking fish oil supplements. Studies indicate the fish oil can help prevent heart disease and lower the risk of additional complications in people who already have heart disease. Some research indicates that fish oil can: reduce triglycerides by up to 20-50%; modestly lower blood pressure by expanding blood vessels; and offer greater heart-protection benefits when combined with statin drugs (cholesterol-lowering medications). Be sure to talk to your doctor about the amount of fish oil you should be taking. Your doctor will follow specific dosing guidelines based on your medical needs. A dose of 1 to 4 grams daily (with 240 milligrams of DHA and 360 milligrams of EPA per gram) is fairly typical, but the prescribed dosage will vary depending on your heart health and lipid profile. Warning: Taking high doses of fish oil can be dangerous; more than 3 grams per day can keep blood from clotting properly and can increase bleeding in your body. High doses of fish oil might also reduce the functioning of your immune system. Taking fish oil supplements in large amounts can also increase levels of the LDL "bad" cholesterol in some people. Green Tea Extract Green tea extract can be made from the dried leaves of the Camellia sinesis plant, a perennial evergreen shrub. Since green tea is not fermented (as black tea is) and is produced by steaming fresh leaves at high temperatures, it maintain important molecules called catechins, a type of flavonoid thought to be responsible for many of the benefits of green tea. Epidemiological evidence suggests that people who drink more green tea have healthier cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In one study, participants who ingested 375 milligrams of an oral theaflavin-enriched green tea extract daily for 12 weeks experienced reductions in total cholesterol, LDL "bad" cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Typical recommendations encourage the drinking of freshly brewed green tea, which appears to offer more benefits than supplementation. Drink up to 5 cups of green tea daily for heart health, or supplement with 375 milligrams of green tea extract daily. Talk to your doctor for more specific guidelines based on your medical needs. Niacin Niacin and niacinamide are forms of vitamin B-3, which is found in many protein-rich foods including poultry, fish, beef, pork, peanut butter, and legumes. It is also added to many enriched and fortified grain products (think cereals and breads). Niacin and niacinamide are required for fats and sugars to function properly in the body and for the maintenance of healthy cells. Research has shown that in high doses, niacin and niacinamide can help prevent heart disease by interfering with the body’s blood clotting action and possibly lowering triglyceride levels. Therefore, individual niacin supplements are sometimes used as a treatment for high cholesterol. Only niacin—not the form niacinamide—appears to lower cholesterol. Some niacin supplements are FDA-approved as prescriptions for treating high cholesterol. These prescription niacin supplements typically come in 50- milligram doses or higher, while over-the-counter supplements (which are not regulated by the FDA) come in strengths of 250 milligrams or less. Since very high doses of niacin are required for the treatment of high cholesterol, dietary niacin supplements is usually not effective or appropriate for this purpose. Niacin is safe for most adults. A flushing reaction is a common effect of niacin supplementation. This can occur as a burning, tingling, itching, and redness of the face, arms, and chest. Often starting with a smaller dose of niacin and taking aspirin before each dose of niacin will help reduce the flushing effect. Usually, this reaction goes away as the body gets used to the medication. Other side effects of niacin are stomach upset, gas, dizziness, and pain in the mouth. Serious and toxic side effects can occur when an individual consumes 3 grams or more per day. Talk to your doctor before using niacin as a treatment option for high cholesterol. Plant Sterols and Stanols Plant sterols and plant stanols are components of certain plant membranes. They are found naturally in small amounts in some vegetable oils, nuts, grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Research has shown that plant sterols and plant stanols have the ability to help lower total cholesterol and LDL "bad" cholesterol. When you eat food that contains dietary cholesterol (found in animal products) your intestinal tract absorbs that cholesterol and puts it into the bloodstream. When the sterols and stanols travel through your digestive tract, they get in the way of dietary cholesterol, preventing it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Therefore, less total cholesterol is absorbed by your body when plant sterols and stanols are present. The cholesterol that is not absorbed leaves the body as waste. To be beneficial, plant sterols and stanols must be consumed in the correct amount on a daily basis. The National Cholesterol Education Program’s Adult Treatment Panel III recommends an intake of at least 2 grams of plant sterols and plant stanols daily to be effective at lowering cholesterol and LDL levels. Plant sterols and stanols are now added to some margarines, orange juices, yogurts and other specialized foods. They are also available as a supplement. To assure that one gets the 2 grams daily needed for effectiveness, many doctors now suggest taking plant sterols and stanols as a supplement. Psyllium Blond psyllium seed and psyllium husk (the outer covering of the seed) are primarily used as to make laxatives for constipation and fiber supplements such as Metamucil. You can also find psyllium added to cereals, breads and snack bars that are marketed as "high in fiber." In addition, psyllium alone can be found as a supplement. The fiber from psyllium can reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol. Studies have indicated that taking blond psyllium in a dose of approximately 10-12 grams daily can reduce levels of total cholesterol by 3% to 14% and LDL "bad" cholesterol by 5% to 10% after 7 weeks of treatment. Warnings: Blond psyllium is safe for most people when taken with plenty of fluids to prevent the fiber from forming an obstruction in the esophagus. Blond psyllium can lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, so monitor blood sugar levels closely. It can also decrease the absorption of certain medications. In some people, blond psyllium might cause gas, bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea. For these reasons, make sure you talk with your doctor before using psyllium seed or psyllium husk. Red Yeast Rice Red yeast rice supplements come from the rice that is fermented with Monascus purpureus yeast. The active ingredient in red yeast rice supplements is similar to the active ingredient in the cholesterol-lowering prescription drugs (statins), such as lovastatin (Mevacor). While red yeast rice supplements can be used to maintain normal cholesterol levels in healthy people, and in reducing cholesterol, LDL "bad" cholesterol and triglycerides in people with high cholesterol, it can also cause all the same side effects as statin drugs: liver damage, muscle pain, and muscle damage. Some red yeast supplements contain none of the active ingredient, and some contain significant amounts. Therefore, the American Heart Association warns against using red yeast until the results of long-term studies are available and the quality of the products become more standardized. It can cause stomach discomfort, heartburn, gas and dizziness. You should talk with your healthcare provider before taking red yeast rice. Selenium Selenium is a mineral found in foods and water sources. The amount of selenium in the foods you eat depends on where it is grown or raised; the amount of selenium in soils varies greatly, which means that foods grown in different soils have differing selenium levels. Crab, liver, fish, poultry, and wheat are generally good selenium sources. There is some preliminary evidence that selenium may help to lower LDL "bad" cholesterol and decrease plaque build-up in the arteries. However, in people with coronary heart disease, selenium supplementation in combination with beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E does NOT seem to protect against the progression of heart disease. Currently there is insufficient evidence available to recommend selenium supplements for the prevention of heart disease. Vitamin C Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin helps form and repair red blood cells and other body tissue. It helps keep blood vessels firm, prevents bruising, and helps keep the immune system strong. Good sources of vitamin C are fresh fruits (especially citrus) and vegetables, especially citrus fruits. Synthetic vitamin C can also be made in a laboratory to be used in supplements. Taking vitamin C along with conventional high blood pressure medications appears to decrease systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by a small amount, but does not seem to decrease diastolic pressure (the bottom number). Taking vitamin C supplements alone, though, doesn’t seem to affect blood pressure. Regarding cardiovascular disease, evidence from many epidemiological studies suggests that high intakes of fruits and vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, partly due to the antioxidant content of these foods. However, results from research examining vitamin C intake and cardiovascular disease risk are conflicting. Results from most clinical intervention trials have failed to show a beneficial effect of vitamin C supplementation on the prevention of cardiovascular disease. So you're better off saving your money and just eating more fruits and vegetables to get the heart-protecting benefits of vitamin C. Vitamin E Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin found in many foods including vegetable oils (such as soybean, corn, cottonseed, and safflower oil), as well as margarines and salad dressings made from such oils. Nuts, seeds and wheat germ are also good sources of vitamin E. It is known as a powerful antioxidant, and for years, vitamin E supplements were touted as having a protective effect on the heart. Several observational studies have associated high dietary (not supplemented) intakes of vitamin E with lower rates of heart disease. However, clinical trials have not shown vitamin E supplements to be effective in preventing heart disease, stroke or chest pain. In fact some studies indicate that vitamin E supplementation actually increased heart failure and mortality. Overall, clinical trials have not provided evidence that routine use of vitamin E supplements prevents cardiovascular disease. While taking vitamin E supplements may not help prevent heart disease, increasing your intake of vitamin E by eating more foods that contain it may be beneficial. Sources Davis, Jeanie Lerche. "Supplementing Your Heart Health: Omega-3, Plant Sterols, and More," accessed March 2011. www.webmd.com. Grogan, Martha, M.D. "Calcium supplements: A risk factor for heart attack?," accessed March 2011. www.mayoclinic.com. Grogan, Martha, M.D. "Can vitamins help prevent a heart attack?," accessed March 2011. www.mayoclinic.com. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. "Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH," (PDF) accessed March 2011. www.nhlbi.nih.gov. Office of Dietary Supplements. "Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets," accessed March 2011. www.ods.od.nih.gov. Therapeutic Research Faculty. "Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database," accessed March 2011. www.naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com. Woolston, Chris. "Why Supplements May Do Your Heart More Harm Than Good," accessed March 2011. www.health.com.Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1631

Garlic: The Big Flavor with Benefits

Garlic is a great way to add bold taste to your cooking without extra calories or sodium. But did you know that garlic offers more than big flavor? It's such a common ingredient in so many dishes that it's easy to overlook its health benefits.   Garlic is a member of the Allium family, along with onions, leeks and shallots. Like a tulip or daffodil, garlic grows from a bulb underground, producing leaves and a flower stalk. The underground bulb, with its individual cloves, is what humans have cooked with for more than 6,000 years.   Garlic originated in central Asia. Although Gilroy, Ca, calls itself the garlic capital of the world, China is the world's dominant garlic producer. Garlic shows up in many world cuisines, from garlicky Asian sauces, to Italian pasta dishes, to the classic French sauce, aioli.   Ancient Greeks and Romans embraced garlic for its health benefits; the Roman physician Galen praised its cure-all properties. Today, the National Institutes for Health notes that garlic is used as medicine for many conditions involving the heart and blood system, and for treating the immune system. Garlic also has anti-inflammatory and infection-fighting properties. According to the NIH, garlic is ''possibly effective'' when used as treatment for high blood pressure, fungal infections of the skin, hardening of the arteries, and colon, rectal and stomach cancer. When used medicinally, garlic is typically concentrated into extract or powder and given as tablets or capsules.   Varieties Garlic comes in hardneck and softneck varieties. Softneck varieties have a flexible flower stalk (which can be braided) and smaller cloves; most commercially available garlic is of this variety. Hardneck garlics have a firm, edible flower stalk (called a scape) and larger cloves. Increasingly, small farmers are growing heirloom hardneck varieties, some of which date back hundreds of years. You can find these varieties at many farmers markets.   Nutrition Data Garlic has been shown to moderately reduce cholesterol, and its sulfur compounds have been shown to reduce blood pressure. It's also low in calories (4 calories per clove) and high in vitamin C, selenium and magnesium. Very preliminary research has suggested that garlic may inhibit the production of fat cells in the body. A Note on Prepared/Processed Garlic Allicin, a unique sulfur component, is responsible for garlic's pungent flavor and also for some of its health benefits. Allicin is released when a clove of garlic is chopped and is at its most potent when used soon after chopping. For this reason, prepared minced garlic sold in jars in the grocery is less flavorful and less beneficial than fresh garlic. Pre-minced garlic is packaged with oil and preservatives like citric or phosphoric acid. Since it's so easy to peel and chop garlic, using fresh is recommended. You can even grow it at home pretty easily.  

Buying and Storing Look for garlic bulbs that are undamaged, with their papery skins intact. Choose bulbs that have larger cloves, as these are easier to peel. Garlic can be stored in a cool, dark place for three to six months; discard any cloves that have dried out or begun to sprout.   Cooking Garlic can be eaten raw or cooked. Cooking tempers the flavor (and lessens garlic breath). To prepare garlic for cooking, remove the papery skin and the hard root end from each clove, then chop according to recipe directions. (Some research has shown that cutting or crushing garlic activates its enzymes and that it's beneficial to wait five minutes before continuing with the recipe.) You can infuse olive oil with garlic by simmering a half cup of oil in a saucepan with 2-3 chopped garlic cloves. Garlic can be roasted, which creates a soft, caramelized texture and sweet, rich flavor. Note: Garlic is also sold in powdered or granulated form, which is appropriate for use in recipes like dressings, sauces or dips. Garlic powder is not a good substitute in recipes that call for sautéing or cooking fresh garlic. Granulated garlic, garlic powder and garlic salt are three different ingredients and shouldn't be used interchangeably, so pay attention to your recipe. Avoid garlic salt if you're watching your sodium levels. Healthy Recipes that Feature Garlic   Chef Meg's Favorite Ginger-Garlic Sauce This versatile recipe can be used to add bold flavor as a marinade or sauce for grilled meats or vegetables.   Low-Fat Slow-Cooker Garlic Mashed Potatoes Perfect for a crowd, this recipe can be made ahead for family gatherings. Chef Meg's Grilled Citrus Garlic Flank Steak Garlic adds a ton of flavor to this healthy, lean cut of beef.   Chef Meg's Herb-Roasted Garlic Sweet, softened roasted garlic is terrific on toasted bread slices, or in soups and stews. So, what are you waiting for? Start adding more garlic to your meals--the flavor and health benefits will be worth the garlic breath!

  Sources   National Institutes of Health. ''Garlic,'' accessed July 2012. http://www.nlm.nih.gov.   The World's Healthiest Foods. ''Garlic,'' accessed July 2012. http://whfoods.org.  

Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1791

Eating for a Healthy Heart

Looking for ways to kick start your heart-healthy lifestyle? Start by looking at your diet. Poor food choices can have a negative effect on your heart, weight and overall health; but making small, sustainable changes to improve your diet can have a lasting impact. There is a lot of misinformation about what foods are or aren't heart-healthy, so it may surprise you to learn that you don't need exotic fruits, imported nuts, or even pricey supplements to take care of your ticker. By making heart smart choices at home, at the grocery and at your favorite restaurant, you can reduce your risk of heart disease. Dietary DOs and DON'Ts for a Healthy Heart DO focus on fruits and vegetables. Most American's don't come close to eating the recommended minimum of five servings per day, but vegetables and fruits of all kinds and colors should take center stage in a heart-healthy diet. They're rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that promote a healthy heart and body, plus they're filling and low in calories, which can promote weight management. Fresh, frozen, dried, canned (without sugar/syrups or added salt), raw, cooked—all fruits and vegetables are good for you. Here are more tips to fit them into your meals and snacks. DON'T overdo it on juice and processed "fruit" snacks. The fruit filling in a breakfast pastry is mostly sugar—not a real serving of fruit. And while small amounts of 100% fruit juice can fit into a healthy diet, they're also concentrated sources of sugar (naturally occurring) and calories compared to whole fruits, which also boast heart-healthy fiber while juice does not. Find out how juice can fit into a healthy diet. DO monitor your sodium intake. Sodium gets a bad rap—and deservedly so. Our bodies do need this mineral, but in much smaller quantities than we normally eat. To prevent high blood pressure and heart disease, a healthy sodium goal to strive for is no more than 1,500 milligrams per day. Keep in mind that sodium doesn't just come from the salt shaker; processed foods, frozen entrees, canned vegetables, common condiments (like ketchup), deli meats (such as salami) and cheeses (including cottage cheese) can be high in sodium, as can many restaurant dishes. Learn how sodium sneaks into your diet and ways to reduce your intake. DON'T forget about added sugar. Most people know that sugar isn't exactly a health food. It provides quick-digesting carbohydrates, but no real nutrition (think: vitamins and minerals). While many people associate sugar with the development of diabetes, few people realize that sugar plays just as much of a role in heart disease as dietary fat does. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that individuals who ate more sugar had lower levels of HDL "good" cholesterol and higher triglycerides—markers of increased heart disease risk. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugars (about 100 calories) each day; that number becomes 9 teaspoons for men (150 calories). Just one 12-ounce can of cola has about 130 calories, or eight teaspoons of sugar. Learn more about where sugar lurks in your diet. DO cut back on fat. To reduce your risk of heart disease you need to choose the right types of fat, and make sure that you're not eating too much fat in general. Most adults eat too much fat, regardless of the source, so cutting back on dietary fat is a good first step to a heart healthy diet. That's why choosing low-fat products, baking or broiling instead of frying, and reducing or omitting the fats that recipes call for (think: oil, shortening, lard) are important first steps to get your fat intake in line. Avoid fats that elevate your cholesterol levels: trans fats (hydrogenated oils found in baked goods and many margarines) and saturated fats (usually found in high-fat meats and dairy products, including beef, lamb, pork, poultry, beef fat, cream, lard, butter, cheese and dairy products made with whole or 2% milk, as well as baked goods and fried foods that contain palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil). About 25-35% of your total calories for the day should come from fat sources. For someone eating 1,500 calories per day, that's about 41-58 grams of fat. SparkPeople's meal plans and nutrition ranges meet this guideline, so if you track your food and are within your daily fat goal, you are meeting this recommendation. DON'T fear all fats. Not all fats are bad for you. In fact, certain types of fat, such as monounsaturated fat and Omega-3s, actually promote heart health. Once you've gotten your fat intake in line, focus on making heart-smart fat choices to meet your daily recommendations. Fats found in nuts, olive, soybean and canola oils, fish and seafood. DO imbibe in moderation (if you drink). Research indicates that a moderate alcohol intake has been associated with a decreased risk for certain cardiovascular diseases, particularly coronary heart disease. A moderate alcohol intake is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. To find out if a moderate alcohol intake is appropriate for you, talk to your doctor about your consumption of alcohol, medical history, and any medications you use. Learn more about alcohol and your heart. DON'T start drinking alcohol if you aren't already a drinker. There are other, healthier ways to reduce your risk of heart disease rather than drinking alcohol, which also comes with its own set of risks and can lead to problems. If you don't drink now, don't start. Other healthy habits (like not smoking, eating right, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight) can also help you reduce your risk of heart disease. DO fill up on fiber. A high fiber diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Certain types of fiber may help lower LDL "bad" cholesterol. Adults should aim for 20-30 grams each day. To meet your daily quota, select a variety of unprocessed plant-based foods each day, including whole grains, (oats, whole-wheat bread/flour/cereal fruits and vegetables and beans. DON'T forget about cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance made in the liver and cells of animals. It is therefore found in animal products (meat, poultry, dairy and eggs), but not plant-sourced foods. A high intake of dietary cholesterol can contribute to heart disease. For the prevention of heart disease, limit your intake of dietary cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams each day. If you already have an elevated LDL cholesterol level or you are taking a cholesterol medication, this goal is even lower: 200 milligrams daily. While it may seem like there are a lot of "rules" to follow to protect your heart, it all boils down to making smart choices on a consistent basis. Focus on the foods that you know are good for you—whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean protein choices, and healthy fats—and limit or avoid the types of foods that don't do anything for your health (think empty calories, fried foods, sugar and sweets, and high-fat meats and dairy products). When you focus on the good stuff and make healthful choices most of the time, you'll be doing your body—and your heart—well. Sources American Heart Association. "Nutrition Center: Healthy Diet Goals," accessed March 2011. www.heart.org. American Heart Association. "Saturated Fats," accessed March 2011. www.heart.org. HelpGuide.org "Easy Tips for Planning a Healthy Diet and Sticking To It," accessed March 2011. www.helpguide.org. Mayo Clinic. "Healthy Diet: End the Guesswork with These Nutrition Guidelines," accessed March 2011. www.mayoclinic.com. United Press International. "Eating Fiber May Reduce Heart Risk," accessed March 2011. www.upi.com. Welsh, Jean A, Andrea Sharma, Jerome L. Abramson, Viola Vaccarino, Cathleen Gillespie and Miriam B. Vos. "Caloric Sweetener Consumption and Dyslipidemia Among US Adults," Journal of the American Medical Association. Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=53

Nike's futuristic self-lacing sneakers to be released in November

Nike has announced that it's "Back to The Future II" inspired self-lacing sneakers will be available just in time for the holiday season.

In November, the company will make the HyperAdapt 1.0 available for purchase, according to The Verge.

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The shoes have been 28 years in the making, according to Wired, and have gone through many prototypes, redesigns and restarts.

The extensive piece in Wired detailed how the technological shoes were made, which uses an internal cable system to lace the shoes and a pressure sensor to adjust the shoe to the weight of the person's foot.

"When you step in, your heel will hit a sensor and the system will automatically tighten," Nike senior innovator and HyperAdapt’s technical lead Tiffany Beers, said in a Nike news release. "Then there are two buttons on the side to tighten and loosen. You can adjust it until it’s perfect."

The HyperAdapt also has a battery that takes three hours to charge and is expected to last three weeks so that the LEDs in the heel light up when the cables, made from fishing line, activate in the system and tighten the shoe.

Nike PR director Heidi Burgett tweeted that appointments to buy and experience the shoe begin Nov. 28.

The shoes will only be available in the U.S. at select Nike locations.

Reporter seeks to find child he saved 30 years ago

Sitting across the table from her, I finally said what had been on my mind from the moment I found her picture on the internet.

Whatever became of Joyce Hoover and her little girl?

I had waited 30 years and traveled more than a thousand miles to find out.

Joyce Hoover pushed aside her iced tea on this warm summer afternoon and looked down at the yellowed newspaper photo of herself hugging her daughter, taken the day after we met.

Try as I might, I’ll never forget her expression on that day.

It was the day I stopped her 6-year-old daughter from being kidnapped.

Burly stranger by the pool

Sept. 28, 1986, wasn’t unfolding as a remarkable day. I went to the Orange Bowl, saw Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins lose to the San Francisco 49ers 31-16, then headed to my favorite watering hole to erase the memory.

The Chickee Bar on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale was the kind of Sunday afternoon neighborhood joint that would inspire Jimmy Buffett to jot lyrics about umbrella drinks on a stray napkin. Formal attire consisted of flip-flops, cutoffs and a tropical shirt. Nobody ever drank alone, since everybody knew everybody.

Except for the burly stranger lingering by the pool.

I first caught a glimpse of him as I was about to pull out of the parking lot. I wasn’t looking at him so much as the girl he was carrying as if she were a rag doll. He grabbed her by one arm so tightly that she was suspended in air, her tiny feet dangling in a futile stretch for the ground. Her cries told me she’d been misbehaving, and that Daddy was punishing her by taking her home. But this was more than just a father punishing his daughter.

He tossed her into the back seat of his car, shoved her down and walked around to the driver’s seat to take off.

She stubbornly popped back up.

He angrily shoved her back down.

That’s when it happened.

"I want my mother!" she yelled through tears.

Four words that changed my life — and hers. They told me that maybe this wasn’t all it appeared to be, or at least, if he were her father, he was a rotten father.

My new Camaro be damned, I pulled it in front of his car, blocking it, then jumped out and confronted him through his rolled-down driver’s side window.

"What’s going on here?" I demanded to know.

He didn’t say a word. He stared at me, dumbfounded. Thankfully, Rich Vidal, a friend and paramedic, had the man on his radar from the moment he grabbed the girl. Although Rich couldn’t hear what was going on over the music, when he saw my actions, he hurdled the poolside railing and hopped in the car on the passenger side. Rich slid the gear lever into park, then yanked out the keys.

Just then, Joyce came running up, led by her 5-year-old son, Steven. Joyce (then known as Joyce Swint) worked in the Fairwinds Hotel office by the bar, and the kids enjoyed playing in the pool just a few feet away. Little Steven told Mom she had to come — right now — because his sister, Linda, was in trouble.

Flinging open the car door, Joyce pulled Linda out and wrapped her arms around her.

"Do you know this guy?" I said.

"I’ve never seen him before in my life!" she screamed, the horrified expression on her face unlike any I’d seen before, or have seen since.

I turned to see the entire bar had emptied, engulfing us in a three-deep circle.

"Call the police," someone said.

A firefighter, a bowling ball of a man about 5-feet-10 and 220 pounds, had another idea.

"Screw the police," he said. "Let’s take him out back and deal with it ourselves."

As tantalizing as vigilantism sounded, lawfulness prevailed.

"Don’t let him get back in the car," said the bar manager, Kevin Sharpe. Until then, it never occurred to me the man could be armed.

Max Fernand Augereau, it turned out, was a career criminal. French-born, 44 years old, with scruffy hair and a scruffy beard to match, he had just moved into a nearby trailer park. Although he was a chef at a popular Fort Lauderdale restaurant, Augereau had a record dating back five years.

We cornered him and Augereau nonchalantly leaned against the hood of his car, arms folded, the picture of a man certain he could talk his way out of this.

A Fort Lauderdale police cruiser pulled up. Then another and another and another.

Police took our statements. They took Augereau to jail.

He eventually told police he’d been drinking that afternoon, which could explain his curious behavior while we waited for the officers. Why did he do it? He offered conflicting stories to police, at one point claiming the girl asked him for a ride. In his report, the arresting officer wrote, "He stated that he did not know why he grabbed her and did not know what he would have done had he been able to leave." The report also says a woman’s purse with no identification was found in the trunk of his Pontiac.

At the time, I was a 28-year-old editor in the sports department at The Miami Herald. Still, no amount of journalistic experience qualifies anyone to gauge such a strange story in which I would become a principal figure.

I wasn’t ready for what came next.

What if I hadn’t acted?

"Pair thwart abduction of girl" was the banner headline in The Herald a day later. The week that followed was surreal, with TV crews visiting my residence and office, a crime-watch group picking up Rich and me in a limo for a lavish dinner, and other civic groups giving us commendations.

Sharpe, the bar manager, told me that two days after the incident, a man visited the bar, asking for Rich and me while waving hundred dollar bills.

Before he became a crime-fighting television host, John Walsh, who lost his son, Adam, in a heinous Broward kidnapping five years earlier, presented me with a plaque bearing Adam’s likeness. I make a living with words but struggled to find the right ones as John quietly explained he’d just flown back from California where he was trying to help a couple whose child disappeared. This case, he told me, was such a welcome respite.

A hero. That’s what I was called, even by police, who inscribed "A true hero" on another plaque.

Unless you’ve been in a similar position, I don’t expect you to get what I’m about to say. Whether it’s someone who performed CPR, dove into a canal to pull a stranger from a sinking car or took action to prevent a kidnapping, you often hear of heroic deeds done by people who don’t consider themselves heroes. And you’re reading one now.

This is who I am: someone who did what he needed to do.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of what I did — as proud as anything I’ve ever done — but I look at from a different angle. What if I hadn’t acted? What if, in those handful of seconds, I turned away? What if I didn’t want to get involved?

And what if I turned on the news the next day and saw that girl’s picture? That chill I felt when Joyce said he’d never seen the man before in her life? That’s what I would have felt, forever.

Nobody has called me a hero in ages. A good reason is that for nearly all of these 30 years, I’ve hardly spoken about the incident. I assure you that most people who know me — and know me well — are reading this with mouths agape: 5-foot-5 Hal did what? To a 6-1, 210-pound guy with a record?

Once, I spoke to a journalism class at Florida Atlantic University. The professor had Googled my name and stumbled across a reference to the incident, so she put me on the spot. After giving her a look, I swallowed and began telling students it was Sept. 28, 1986. As I did, a girl in the front row mumbled, "He remembers the date?" I nearly paused to say, "Of course I remember the date."

You’d probably find my most precious memento strange. With the Swints present, the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce honored Rich and me at its monthly breakfast, during which tiles advertising the Yellow Pages were positioned at every place-setting as coffee coasters. Trinkets.

As everybody got up to leave, little Linda walked up to me, tile in hand.

And silently handed hers to me.

After 30 years, I needed answers

Five years and five years’ probation. That’s what the judge sentenced Max Augereau for that day. A plea deal, no trial.

And that was about the last I’d heard of any of them.

I often wondered whatever happened to Joyce and her two children. Sept. 28 never passed without my thinking of them, especially Linda.

Where is she? What if anything does she know of what happened? Of me? Is she happy?

Is she safe?

I decided after 30 years, I needed answers.

The journalism business has taught me that some people leave a trace as they go through life, some don’t. The Swints fell into the latter category, including Joyce Swint, who had remarried and changed her name to Joyce Hoover.

Although I traced them to Frederick, Maryland, about an hour outside Baltimore, making contact was a challenge. Voicemail and electronic messages to Linda went unreturned. So did Facebook friend requests. Steven accepted my request but nothing more. Finally one day came a Facebook message from Joyce: "Of course I remember you!"

At last, Joyce summarized the past 30 years — how she’s working two jobs, how Steven is busy supporting his 4-year-old daughter and how Linda is working fulltime and going to school fulltime.

"But she is very shy," Joyce wrote.

That might have closed the door on any face-to-face reunion, except for one other point:

"It is very exciting to be able to say thank you again," Joyce wrote. "You did save my ‘little girl’s’ life many years ago."

A month later, I got on a plane.

"She was so fearful afterwards"

I walked into The Home Depot in Frederick, where Joyce worked, and there she was at the service counter.

"Can I help you?" she said.

"You don’t recognize me, do you?" I said.

"Hal?" she said almost immediately.

An hour later, we huddled at a nearby coffee shop.

Thirty years is a lot of time to fill in.

Linda, it turns out, remembers me, but has only sketchy details of the incident. At the time of my visit, Linda was house-hunting in Missouri because her boyfriend was being transferred.

Our lives in the weeks and months after the near-kidnapping were polar opposites.

While I was riding around in that limo, life was traumatic for the Swints.

About a week after the incident, Joyce received a call from an apologetic woman. Augereau raped me, the woman told her. "If only I’d pressed charges," she said.

Augereau was no stranger to police, compiling a rap sheet that included two cases of grand theft, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, burglary, kidnapping and two sexual batteries — one occurring a week before the Chickee Bar incident, the other, three weeks after.

Meanwhile, Joyce couldn’t go into crowded stores without traumatizing Linda.

"She was so fearful afterwards," Joyce said. "I think she got tired of being afraid. It got to the point she was afraid and did not know why."

Joyce herself was so unnerved she did not return to her apartment, instead spending time with relatives before deciding it was time to leave Broward County.

I offered Joyce one bit of peace: Just before arriving at the coffee shop, I ran a search that showed Augereau died of unspecified causes in 2004 at age 61, in Lee County.

I also shared another fact — that during the investigation involving Linda, police administered a polygraph to determine if Augereau was involved in the abduction and murder of Susan Jacques, an 18-year-old Connecticut student on spring break whose body was found in a canal near Delray Beach five months prior. He passed that test.

Over the years, Linda tended bar to help pay for college. Now 36, she’s relieved to be on the brink of graduating — the delay attributed to a change in majors — and is inches shy of becoming a paralegal. Given that I now cover the Dolphins for The Palm Beach Post, I was amused to learn she is an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan. Joyce proudly showed a photo of a painting Linda drew, attesting to her considerable artistic skills.

Joyce related a story from the night of the incident. After leaving the scene, she took the children to her mother’s. Earlier that day, her mother had been at her prayer group, praying for her family.

"They were praying at the time she was kidnapped," Joyce said. "If somebody says they don’t believe in prayer, talk to me. I believe I have a girl because of God. He put you in the right place at the right time. He put Rich and my son at the right place at the right time."

Joyce added, "You saved her, Rich saved her, my son saved her."

As for lingering memories?

"She knew something happened because of all the attention but she doesn’t remember the fear. I don’t know if she blocked it out."

Along this journey, I reconnected with Rich, a 60-year-old grandfather living in Port St. Lucie, still married to Sophie, who worked at the Chickee Bar. The longer we talked, the more I learned that everything I feel about that incident, he feels. That includes rejecting the "hero" label and wondering about the forces — mystical or otherwise — that inspired us to act. And often wondering whatever happened to Linda.

Rich retired last year, but 30 years as a paramedic qualified him to say, "I’ve saved a lot of people, but that was the highlight."

As we spoke, my phone buzzed with a notification. I looked down to see "Amber Alert," a chilling reminder to Rich and me.

"I honestly believe we saved that little girl’s life," he said. "We did good."

For 30 years, I’ve wished I could see the grown-up Linda, or at least talk to her. Not to hear thanks but to thank her — for yelling for her mother and jolting me into action.

I thought meeting her would mean closure, an affirmation our story had a happy ending.

I learned that Linda doesn’t remember every detail of what happened on Sept. 28, 1986.

Come to think of it, maybe that is the happiest ending.

Staff researcher Melanie Mena contributed to this report.

Woman has message for ‘dirt bag’ who threw dog out of car

A Michigan woman has a message for the person who threw a sweet, scared dog out of the car Friday afternoon.

In a Facebook post, Danielle Cole said her husband was driving through the Allegan Township area, near a forested region, when he saw a person throw a dog out of their car and sped off. The dog tried to chase the owner’s car down but collapsed on the side of the road. It was not until the next day that Cole, her husband and a group of concerned citizens were able to lure the frightened little dog out of the forest.

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Cole expressed anger at the person who discarded the dog, saying, “How could you throw your dog out like a piece of trash? This handsome little guy is so sweet and loving, he loves my kids, especially my son, he likes my other dogs … You are a real scumbag, and you will answer to what you did one day.”

Cole urged others to share the post so “maybe the dirt bag will see this post.”

Her post has been shared over 50,000 times.

To the dirt bag that threw his dog out in the Allegan forest on 48th street Friday at about 3:30pm. Let me tell you what...Posted by Danielle Cole on Sunday, September 18, 2016

Teen over 7 feet tall, still growing

Michigan teen Broc Brown stands over 7 feet tall, and at the rate he's growing, he may end up in the record books.

At 19, Brown is 7 feet 8 inches tall, and is currently growing an average of six inches per year, according to WJBK. Brown wears size 28 shoes and his 8-foot bed was custom-built.

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Brown has Sotos syndrome, a genetic condition. By the time he was 5 years old, he was already over 5 feet tall. In addition to abnormal growth, Brown also suffers from heart strain, spinal deformities, learning and behavior disorders. While he experiences chronic pain, he is unable to take painkillers, because he was born with only one kidney.

Brown’s community raised approximately $10,000 to help pay for the teen’s special clothing and shoes.

Posted by Broc D Brown on Friday, October 24, 2014

These 5 Illustrations Perfectly Sum Up What Anxiety Feels Like

We all get anxious from time to time. Think about the sweaty palms and heart-beating-out-of-your-chest feeling you get before a job interview or speaking in front of a crowd. Living with anxiety is something much more serious. Anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million American adults, making it the most common mental illness in the U.S. It's hard to explain what anxiety really "feels" like, but these awesome illustrations from The Tab do an eerily good job: Photo: The Tab Photo: The Tab Photo: The Tab Photo: The Tab Photos: The Tab

Appeals Court Says It’s Cool for Employers to Discriminate Against Dreadlocks. WTF?!

Last time we checked, hair styles had nothing to do with crushing it at work. Even if you're in the food service industry, where a stray hair could end up in someone's food, all you've got to do is put on a hat or hair net, and you're good to go. But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that it's legal for companies to discriminate against employees with dreadlocks. The ruling comes from a suit filed by Chastity Jones, an Alabama woman who had her job offer rescinded after an HR manager said dreadlocks "tend to get messy," so they wouldn't be appropriate in the workplace. The HR manager allegedly told Jones, "I'm not saying yours are [messy], but you know what I'm talking about." Well, if you're asking us to read between the lines, it doesn't sound like you're talking about a messy bun. The company's grooming policy stated "hairstyle should reflect a business/professional image. No excessive hairstyles or unusual colors are acceptable." So dreadlocks are either unprofessional or excessive. It seems like some thinly veiled racism here, huh? The appeals court didn't agree. The justices said that while hairstyle can be associated with a person's heritage, the HR managers actions were not discriminatory because hair is a physical characteristic you can change. So by this logic, an overweight person could be denied a job because that's something they could change. Ultimately, we should be hiring people based on their ability to do the job, not on the way they look.

What Dating a Sober Guy Taught Me About Myself

We were watching The Lego Movie. I remember it clearly, because it felt odd to be stressing out while listening to the movie's upbeat theme song: Everything is awesome; everything is cool when you're part of a team. But nothing was awesome, and I was anything but cool. I was about to have sex with someone new, without being my usual three vodka sodas (at least) deep. While little Legos danced across the TV, I tried to ignore the panic starting to creep in. The guy I was dating didn't drink. Up to this point, it had been a welcome break from the usual bar scene. But in those minutes before my clothes were about to come off, I actually thought about sneaking out of his bedroom and grabbing something from his roommate's liquor cabinet to calm my nerves. I missed having alcohol as a security blanket during encounters like this—how a few drinks could dull my insecurities and make me feel like a catch. Now, sober during the act, I focused on positioning my body to look its most flattering, avoiding eye contact with my partner, and honestly, waiting for it to be over. Why didn't I feel hot enough to sleep with someone new unless I was hammered? Later that night I took a hard look at how I'd ended up there. Why didn't I feel hot enough to sleep with someone new unless I was hammered? How have I managed to be sloshed every time I've had sex with a new guy, without ever having to go out of my way (or raid someone's liquor cabinet) to do so? The answer: I was locked into a pattern—one that will probably sound familiar to any 20-something dating in a big city. The beginning of any new relationship went something like this: For the first date, we meet at a low-lit bar. I order a drink that I chug way too fast because I feel uncomfortable. Over drink No. 2, I continue to drown out how awkward I feel by asking the standard questions: "What do you do?" "Where are you from?" "Do you know my friend so-and-so? She went to the same college as you." Drink No. 3 makes me feel even more confident and bold, and my date and I get closer to each other. Make out over drink No. 4. Dates three through five repeat this format again and again, subbing in questions that are less surface level and make it seem like we're actually getting to know one another. Eventually we have sloppy, drunk, first-time sex. But it's OK that it's sloppy. Because we're both drunk and can use booze as a scapegoat. This is not the case when you're getting it on stone-cold sober in the middle of the afternoon to the rhythm of "Everything Is Awesome." Alcohol makes a lot of things easier—conversations with strangers who you'd potentially like to make out with being one of them. It also helps drown out the things you're feeling insecure about. Booze makes awkward moments feel bearable. It makes you feel loose, relaxed, and at ease. But it also clouds your judgment and distorts your perception. Alcohol put a rose-colored (beer-goggled?) filter over whomever I was dating, obscuring the obvious flaws. After three months of dating someone, I’d suddenly become aware of something I hadn't noticed while we were sloshed, like his short temper or jealous streak. I'd stick around for longer than I should've, remembering the good times that I only thought were good because I was wasted for most of them. Alcohol put a rose-colored filter over whomever I was dating, obscuring the obvious flaws. Granted, getting out of the bar and away from the drunk-interview style of dating wasn't easy. There were times I missed having that vodka soda in my hand so much that I'd stand as if I were still holding it, like a phantom limb. But for the most part, I haven't found myself on many dates where we're both just standing around, because dating sober requires you to get creative. And let me tell you, even the process of making plans that don't involve picking a bar that's convenient for both of you can tell you a lot about the person you're dating. Spending a day firing an AR-15 at a gun range? Trying to sneak into Brooklyn's fanciest rooftop pools on a Sunday afternoon? Not for everyone. But there's a bond that gets created when you’re trying something out of the ordinary and outside your comfort zone. Without alcohol as a crutch for conversation, I've had to learn how to be comfortable with awkward silences. Or take the time to fill them with something thoughtful instead of stream of consciousness babbling. I've had to own whatever stupid thing I've said that didn't come out right. I had always considered myself a good listener; I'd just blame my zoning out on the blasting background music at whatever bar I was at. But dating sober has made me better at having a conversation and actually paying attention to what's being said. I'm not saying everyone should quit the sauce and plan an adrenaline-spiking first date. But I do think anyone who's out there trying to meet someone could benefit from a few dates that get you both off the bar stool. It's a way better gauge of compatibility than seeing who can shoot the most whiskey. As for sex without the vodka? I'm still learning how to get out of my head and be present in what's happening, without critiquing myself the entire time. But that's easier to do when you're actually feeling everything that's happening to you. There are no dulled sensations. Nothing feels watered down. Everything is awesome.

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