Heart disease is still the #1 cause of death for men and women in our country, taking 610,000 lives or 1 out of 4 lives, each year.

Regular physical activity is essential for good heart health, including blood pressure and blood lipids.  The American Heart Association recommends aiming for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week with not more than 2 days between exercise (ex: 30 minutes./day for at least 5 days/week.). Check with your physician if you have any questions or have not exercised regularly for some time.  At least twice a week, strength training is recommended to work all major muscle groups.

Though not an exercise for cardiovascular fitness, the American Diabetes Association also recommends flexibility and balance exercise, as well as strength training, at least a few times per week.  All forms of exercise can result in improved blood sugar or glucose levels, which, in itself, can reduce risk for heart disease. When your blood sugar is high, your cholesterol levels increase.

The American Diabetes Association website, www.diabetes.org has written descriptions of recommended exercise for strength, flexibility, balance, and aerobic exercise.  Look under “Food and Fitness” for practical ways to stay active without undertaking a formal exercise program.



Here are the heart-healthy diet recommendations not only from the American Heart Association but also from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for prevention of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

  • Consume a wealth of fruits and vegetables (5 or more servings a day) and whole grains in place of at least half of the refined (white flour, white rice) grains.
  • Limit processed foods which tend to be high in sodium or salt (snack foods, soups, frozen dinners, sauces)
  • Avoid trans fats, also known as hydrogenated fats (check margarine, cookie and cracker labels)and limit animal fats (butter, creams, fatty meats, etc.) while favoring plant-based fats such as olive and other vegetable oils ( canola oil is the lowest in saturated fats) and nuts,

avocados, in moderation

  • Consume fish at least twice a week and consider some meatless meals, substituting legumes (lentils, beans, split peas), seeds, or nuts.
  • Choose lowfat dairy products
  • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages and desserts


Making one change and building on it may maintain or improve heart health.  This may result in improved weight, and reduced risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer, as well.




February is “Heart Month” so reviewing tips on keeping heart-healthy may prevent or minimize damage from heart attacks (the biggest cause of death in our country) and strokes.

  1. Know the symptoms of heart attacks (nausea, pain or discomfort in chest and arm) and strokes (leg or arm numbness or weakness, slurred speech, dizziness, fatigue) can be a start.   Taking action quickly if these suspicious symptoms occur by calling your doctor or going to Urgent Care within 24 hours, can be the difference between life and death or disability.
  2. Know your levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and weight and how they trend from year to year to allow you to see if your risk for vessel disease is increasing, staying the same, or decreasing.  Check with your healthcare provider for your recommended levels, as this can vary

based on other risk factors.

  1. Eat a heart-healthy diet and stay physically active, checking with your doctor for recommended level of physical activity.

Future blogs will be devoted to the dietary habits and exercise recommendations that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.




     For many individuals who have lost weight, keeping the weight from coming back can be even more challenging than losing the weight in the first place.

There is a National Weight Control Registry composed of 5,000 individuals who have lost an average of 66 lbs. and have kept if off for at least 5 years.  Here are some things the majority are doing to keep the weight off:

78% eat breakfast daily (Helps boost metabolism and generally curbs heavier intake or snacking later in the day)

75% weigh themselves at least once a week (Allows them to reverse any weight gain before it becomes overwhelming)

62% watch less than 10 hrs. of TV per week (If a person is not watching TV, there is a good chance that the person is moving more)

90% exercise, on average, 1 hr./day (This amount of exercise may not be necessary for all to lose weight but is what the registry participants have averaged.)

     Though a variety of methods were used to keep the weight off, if you are having a tough time losing weight or keeping it off, you may want to look at your current routine and consider incorporating changes that those on the registry have been making to keep the weight off.



Are you resolving to be healthier this year but are paralyzed by fear because resolutions have not worked for you in the past?  Chances are you may have set unrealistic expectations for yourself, such as “I resolve to omit sweets entirely from my diet” then find, after a few weeks, it was just too difficult to avoid them entirely.

Take time to consider what you really want to change and what it will take to get there.  As an example, if you want to be more active but have not exercised since you can’t remember when, think what baby steps you can take to be more active.  This might mean starting to walk, not setting a time goal at the beginning but just getting up and doing it a few times a week.  Or, if you want to lose some weight, will that involve reducing soda intake or making snacks healthier or controlling portion sizes or getting others in your household to bring in healthier foods or to store unhealthy snacks out of sight?  Having a support system is always helpful in promoting change, whether it is a walking partner who helps you keep faithful to your plan or someone who encourages you to make healthier food choices or a friend you check in with periodically to compare progress.

Also having a means of monitoring your progress such as a simple calendar on which you mark the days you have walked can help show you that you are making positive changes or keeping a daily food diary to be more aware of your food intake.  It may take up to 18 months to establish a new habit so be patient with yourself and give yourself credit for making small, positive changes.  You will be surprised, over the course of the year, how much you will have accomplished and how good that will make you feel.

For ideas and professional encouragement to develop positive eating and exercise habits, please give me, Diane Machcinski, M.Ed.,RD, a call at 858-279-5124.  I listen to your priorities, find out your eating patterns and help you develop a realistic plan.

Armed with a few simple, but concrete changes, lasting change can occur, over time, as progress and motivation build.


Based on hundreds of scientific studies, the recommendation is to use a dietary supplement only if a nutrient is lacking in your diet.1

Numerous studies have demonstrated more harm than benefit from taking excessive supplements.  Here are a few examples:

In two major vitamin E lung cancer studies, the studies were stopped as individuals with lung cancer or lung disease got worse with the use of vitamin E supplements.

High doses of calcium worsened existing prostate cancer in another study.

Aspirin, vitamin E, and fish oils all keep the blood from clotting readily, so taken at high doses or taking all together, can be dangerous, especially if someone is already on a medication to thin the blood.

Further, there can be interactions with drugs a person may already be taking.  It is important to consult with your doctor, pharmacist, and registered dietitian  before investing  in a supplement that may pose harm.

Consuming a well balanced diet full of colorful and flavorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources and dairy, is still at the heart of a healthy diet, without posing the risk of a toxic overdose.



1 The American Cancer Society, American Institute for Cancer Research, as well as the US Dietary Guidelines Committee 2015-2020.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 6 Americans suffer a foodborne illness each year.   Much of this is preventable.  To insure packed lunches can be safely consumed, attention to proper food preparation and storage are essential.   When packing lunches, it is important to not only wash hands before handling food but also to keep knives and cutting surfaces washed thoroughly with soap and hot water between uses and not just “dusted off” of crumbs and meat.  I have 2 cutting boards, one for meat, and one for vegetables and fruits. Keeping each separate can prevent raw meat juices transferring to fresh vegetables and fruits which can cause illness.

Bacteria rapidly multiply between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is important to keep cold foods as cold as possible and hot foods hot.  If food is not refrigerated or kept to a proper temperature, consume within 2-3 hours to prevent food borne illness and its symptoms (abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, the most common).  Also, if protein-containing foods have been in the refrigerator for more than a few days or have reached their expiration date, it is best to discard them, rather than to send them in a lunch when bacteria may already have reached unsafe levels.

When packing cold foods such as sandwiches, lunchmeats, or cheese, it is advisable to pack them in a hard-sided plastic container and then “sandwich” that container between blue ice, wrap securely in a small plastic produce bag and rubber band it before putting into a small insulated lunch bag to insure the cold foods stay cold.  Wrapping food tightly in a lunch bag may help keep the blue ice in place, especially if it needs to be in a backpack with books.

When packing soups or stews for lunch, keep them cold until ready to reheat.  This will avoid bacteria from flourishing, and then reheat thoroughly before eating.  If hot foods or soup is packed into a thermos, be sure to preheat the thermos by pouring boiling water into it and draining it out, before adding the hot food, so as to keep the food hotter and at a safer temperature.

Taking just a few minutes to handle and pack food properly can make a huge difference in temperature and food safety and may prevent food borne illness from occurring.

For more information visit, www.foodsafety.gov.



Many people suspect that the low calorie sweeteners are less healthy for the body than sugar or other natural sweeteners but extensive scientific research of more than 100 human and animal studies, has not shown a clear relationship between the low calorie sweeteners and a detrimental effect on health nor increased body weight, preference for sweet taste nor sweetness sensitivity.  In fact, when low calorie sweeteners were used in place of sugar, it helped to reduce calorie intake and body weight.

On the other hand, excess sugars or natural sweeteners, have been associated not only with obesity, but also heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke in a number of studies.

So perhaps it would be wise to find ways to reduce our overall use of sugars, whether using water or tea or coffee in place of sugar-sweetened beverages, using tasty fresh fruit more often in place of sweetened desserts, and not fear using FDA-approved low calorie sweeteners (acesulfame K—Sunett, Sweet One; advantame—most recently approved; aspartame—Equal, Nutrasweet; neotame—Newtame; saccharin– Sweet and Low, Sugar Twin;  Siraitia grosvenoril swingle (SGFE) or Luo Han Guo—Nectresse, Pure Lo, Monkfruit in the Raw; sucralose—Splenda;  and stevia or Truvia, Sweet Leaf, PureVia, Enliten) in moderation.

Microbiome is defined as the organisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, good or bad, that inhabit something, be it soil, water, plants, animals or humans.  The human gut microbiome is undergoing much scrutiny and scientific testing, as there is some evidence that immunity, as well as susceptibility to certain diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer may be influenced by our gut microbiome.

Antibiotics kill disease-causing bacteria but can also kill the good bacteria in the process.  Yogurt which contains probiotics in the live active cultures which make milk into yogurt, can help to re-establish the normal bacteria in our intestinal tracts after a course of antibiotics.  Other foods that are rich in probiotics are miso and pickled vegetables.  If blood pressure is an issue, caution against overuse of pickled vegetables and miso.  Kombucha, a fermented tea, which contains probiotics, has resulted in some deaths so is not recommended for those with compromised immune systems.

An alternative is to consume a wealth of fruits, vegetables, and whole grainswhich  contain prebiotics, which feed the probiotics and help to foster a healthy intestinal tract which, ultimately, will foster a healthier body.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, excess body fat is a cause of

approximately 132,800 U.S. cancer cases every year.  There is significant research evidence

that excess body fat increases the risk for 11 cancers, most notably, cancers of the esophagus, kidney, colon, rectum, breast, pancreas, and endometrium.  There is also sufficient evidence of increased risk for cancers of the liver, stomach, gall bladder, and ovaries associated with excess weight, according to the AICR.

The mechanism of this increased risk is attributed to the excess body fat triggering increased estrogen production which increases cell production.  Increased cell production, as experienced by those especially with an “apple” shape or a waist circumference that exceeds that of the hips, means a greater likelihood that cancers can develop and grow.

Excess body fat can also trigger an inflammatory response in the body.

So, to reduce body fat and cancers associated with it, the AICR recommends:

  • Avoid sugar drinks and limit intake of calorie-dense foods.
  • Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes such as beans
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes/day which, even in normal weight individuals, can help to

reduce the likelihood of developing certain cancers