Eating Chocolate Can Keep Your Heart Healthy and Strong

The days of chocolate shaming are finally over, hooray! A new study reveals that eating chocolate—in moderation of course—could help prevent atrial fibrillation (A-fib), a condition that causes an irregular heartbeat. Researchers who studied over 55,000 Denmark adults found that eating two to six ounces of chocolate per week could reduce your risk of the heart condition by a fifth. So, the next time someone wants to shame you for devouring some chocolate, just let them know you’re mending your broken heart. Of course, remember, everything in moderation.  

Now let’s get down to the business of A-fib and how to prevent it from affecting your body.

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Your heart has two upper chambers called the atria, which normally contract in a steady rhythm, as well as two lower chambers called ventricles. When the two atria contract at an excessive and irregularly high rate, the blood flow to the two lower ventricles is compromised, causing A-fib.

How Does Chocolate Benefit Heart Health?

A Denmark study recruited 55,502 adults between 1993 and 1997, and gathered data on each subject’s diet, health and chocolate intake. Researchers found that participants who indulged in just 1 ounce of chocolate each week had a 17 percent lower risk of A-Fib, and those who ate 2-6 ounces per week reduced their risk of developing A-fib by 20 percent. But this doesn’t mean you can go cuckoo for cocoa. Researchers found that the chocolate’s power began to fade in participants who ate even larger amounts of chocolate.

Although there is no clear reason for why chocolate helps prevent A-fib, researchers have pinpointed antioxidants as the source of its power. The antioxidants in natural cocoa can help reduce inflammation and scarring in the blood stream, which may help prevent a disruption in the atria.

In another chocolate study, published last year in the UK, cocoa was found to reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Researchers studied the chocolate consumption of 1,153 people between the ages of 18-69, and found that those who ate more chocolate saw an improvement in their liver enzyme levels. It’s worth noting that the chocolate eaters also tended to be in the younger range, physically active and more educated. While this may not be the case for everyone, the researchers determined that cocoa might decrease the risk of cardiometabolic diseases due to the improvement in liver enzyme levels.

How Do You Prevent Atrial Fibrillation?

Given that A-fib affects your heart, eating a healthy diet is one of the easiest ways to lower your risks of being affected.

“If you have normal blood pressure, normal fasting blood sugar, normal hemoglobin, normal LDL cholesterol, and decreased inflammation, you will have between 75 and 90 percent fewer heart attacks and fewer episodes of atrial fibrillation than the typical American,” says Chief Wellness Officer of the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Michael Roizen. Because these risk factors are associated with maintaining a well-balanced diet, clean eating can help keep these numbers in a healthy range.

Eat as much Fish as You’d Like

Cold water fish are high in omega 3’s, which protects your heart from diseases and irregularities. Salmon, herring sardines and mackerel are among some of the best fish to eat in order to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. In fact, regularly eating these types of fish can help reduce the risk of death from heart disease by up to 36%.

Keep Your Sodium Levels Low

High blood pressure is a major risk factor of A-fib, so in order to keep your heart beating regularly, your sodium levels need to be kept in check. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension advises that we eat no more than 1,500 milligrams of salt per day. Substituting salt with herbs and spices, while reducing your intake of processed foods, can help lower high blood pressure.

Don’t Binge on Alcohol

Just like a little chocolate helps your heart, a little wine can do the same, but only when we don’t go overboard. Ingesting 35 drinks in one week can trigger A-Fib in men, and women are at even greater risk. As little as two drinks per day can actually increase the risk of an A-fib attack in some women by 60%.

While the result of the chocolate study is definitely something to celebrate, we’re not talking a Snickers bar. Chocolate with at least 70% cocoa is always the best to eat when considering your health.  Pair that with a nutritious diet, and you’ve got the keys to heart health.

Learn 3 more ways to keep your LDL cholesterol levels low for a happy, healthy heart.

3 Healthy “Hacks” to Help You Slim Down for Summer

3 Healthy “Hacks” to Help You Slim Down for Summer

It’s much easier to slip up on workouts and have a few too many cheat days per week during the wintertime. Layers of sweaters and scarves can help hide the pounds we’ve gained since last fall and the annual pumpkin spice revolution, but what do we do now that summer is breathing down our pasty necks? After all, summer usually means beach days, vacations and a lot less clothing. 

Not to worry, we have a few tricks to help you get the results you’re looking for this summer, as well as the remainder of the year.

4 Ways Mindfulness Meditation Can Help You Live a Happier Life

Meditation; who has time for that? Between binge watching streaming content and wasting time around the house, most of us can probably carve out 20 minutes for some mental grounding and peace of mind. Not convinced? We have some important insight into meditation you should know about.

Meditation is known for helping to keep you “centered”, but what does that even mean? To be centered is to have a healthy mental reference point you can “reset” back to every time emotions or stressful situations in life get you off balance. While a centered state of mind is a huge benefit of meditating, mindfulness meditation doesn’t stop there.

So, what is mindfulness meditation? Mindfulness Meditation originates from a Buddhist tradition, and involves an individual acknowledging reality by allowing their mind to wander while accepting any thoughts that arise. This popular form of meditation is practiced by sitting with your legs crossed, eyes closed and back straight, with a strong focus on your breathing. More than likely, you will experience wandering thoughts, in which case you should shift your focus back to breathing.

Now that you understand the basics of meditation, here are four proven ways it can improve your health:

It Keeps You Sharp

Canadian researchers conducted a study on two groups of people to test the effects of mindfulness meditation. One group participated in a 10-minute meditation session, while the other listened to the audio recording of The Hobbit. After assigning both groups with a computer task, the researchers found that the meditating group performed the task more efficiently, concluding that 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation can improve focus.

It Improves Your Beauty Rest

Because meditation helps to calm a wandering mind, it’s a great remedy for insomnia. A 2015 study split 49 middle-aged adults who had trouble sleeping into two groups. One group attended a sleep education class, while the other participated in a mindfulness awareness program. The researchers found that the group who practiced meditation experienced less fatigue and insomnia.

It Boosts Self-Control

Meditation shifts the way we think, which can affect our level of self-control. Many of us would throw a daily fit at work or eat the entire dessert menu if it weren’t for self-control. But for those who have less of that self-control than others, meditation can help boost your willpower. According to this 2012 study, mindfulness meditation can counteract the “delirious” feeling we experience when trying to exercise self-control.

It Makes You Feel Confident

No one is 100% satisfied with their body all the time, right? Researchers studied body dissatisfaction in two groups of women; one attended a meditation class for three weeks, and the other received no meditation training. They found that the meditation had a lasting effect on the women who attended class; leaving them feeling more appreciative and less dissatisfied with their bodies than the women who did not attend class, even three months after the completion of the study.

Now that you have a better understanding of the benefits of meditation, will you make time for the journey to better sleep, greater self-control, improved focus and a deeper appreciation of your body?

Mindfulness meditation is just one way to help you practice self-control but here are six more ways to help you successfully eat in moderation.

Seven Surprising Facts about Health Savings Accounts

Seven Surprising Facts about Health Savings Accounts

What’s all the hoopla about Health Savings Accounts recently? Well, with the AHCA being continuously debated in Congress, and the ACA here to stay for the immediate future, employees and employers alike are searching for ways to cut healthcare expenses. And the Health Savings Account, accompanied with a High Deductible Health Plan, accomplishes that while providing some tax savings.

Tame the Spare Tire: Eat Foods You Love in Moderation

Tame the Spare Tire: Eat Foods You Love in Moderation

“Everything in moderation! Too much of a good thing, can be a bad thing.”

Most things in life benefit from a bit of balance, including our eating habits. The only problem is, not many of us know how to eat in moderation. What do we eat? How much of it do we need? How often should we be eating? These are questions that many people don’t know the answers to, so they end up eating much more than their body really needs.

4 Methods For Getting the Best Sleep of Your Life

4 Methods For Getting the Best Sleep of Your Life

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

How many times do you hear this term being thrown around by people who think calling it a night before 11 pm makes you weak, somehow? Little do they know, they’re speeding up their aging process as well as increasing their likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease and even alcoholism.

How Sleep Deprivation Damages Your Physical and Mental Heath

How Sleep Deprivation Damages Your Physical and Mental Heath

You know those people who brag about getting three hours of sleep per night and still wake up with the ability to function like the rest of us? No need to be jealous of them anymore. Sleep plays a vital role in our physical and mental health; it’s our body’s way of rebooting itself. When our heads don’t hit the pillow enough, it can significantly lower our quality of life. According to Harvard Medical School, sleeping less than five hours per night increases the risk of death from all causes by 15 percent. The first step to protecting your body is understanding how it works. Get to know the serious consequences of sleep deprivation.

Improving Brain Health Through Positive Thinking

Improving Brain Health Through Positive Thinking

Buddha was on to something when he said, “The mind is everything. What you think, you become.” Negative thoughts impact our brains to an extent that most of us don’t fully understand.A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology reveals that negative thoughts can prevent you from processing information and thinking clearly. Researchers asked subjects to sort objects into two categories. They found that subjects who admitted to worrying over 50% of the time significantly struggled to sort the objects as the difficulty of the task increased.

Reap the 7 Life-Changing Benefits of Garlic

Reap the 7 Life-Changing Benefits of Garlic

It’s no secret that garlic works wonders for our immune system. Despite leaving you worried about your breath—which we’ll tell you how to avoid in a bit—garlic is a magical antioxidant. In honor of National Garlic Day, April 19, 2017, we’re spreading awareness of these perks and how to use it to your advantage.

How Eating Sugar Can Lead to Alzheimer’s Disease

How Eating Sugar Can Lead to Alzheimer’s Disease

It’s no secret that washing down a half a dozen donuts with a liter of coke every day can lead to obesity and diabetes. Unfortunately, you can now add Alzheimer’s disease to that list.  Researchers at the University of Bath in the U.K. have found that high blood sugar levels can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States.

Fish Oil Benefits: Induce Weight Loss, Reduce Stress and Save Your Life

Fish Oil Benefits: Induce Weight Loss, Reduce Stress and Save Your Life

Fish oil can be a lifesaver—literally! Research shows that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil reduced the risk of death in patients who have experienced heart attacks. We hear the recommendations from our doctors, medical journals and blogs just like this one, but how many of us actually increase our intake of fish oils to improve our health? Whether you’re battling with the stress of a job, or something as serious as a cardiovascular disease, we break down how fish oil can help mitigate some major health problems.

How to Use Laughter as a Natural Medicine

How to Use Laughter as a Natural Medicine

Want to live longer? Laugh as much as you can—it could help. While it is said that laughter is the best medicine, we seem to forget this as we grow from children into adults. As adults, we laugh about 12 to 15 times a day, while children laugh about 300 to 500 times a day. Think about it, daily tickle time, hilarious cartoons, and not having a care in the world makes them happier human beings with amazingly low stress levels. As adults, we are faced with bills, work, and other responsibilities that leave us perpetually tense. There are various ways that laughter can combat not only stress, but other health conditions we may potentially face.

Understanding The Effects Of Chronic Pain

Understanding The Effects Of Chronic Pain

Pain from a medical condition or injury that persists for six months or longer is considered chronic. Pain during an injury or illness is normal; however, if the pain lasts for months or years after the injury has healed or illness has subsided, it’s best to seek medical attention. Chronic pain can interfere with daily activities such as work, household chores and even family interaction.

Understanding the Causes of High Cholesterol

Understanding the Causes of High Cholesterol

73.5 million Americans are currently living with high cholesterol, and it’s important we understand that daily behaviors such as diet and physical activity can significantly affect our cholesterol levels. Understanding the impact these behaviors have on your levels can help you take the necessary steps to prevent high cholesterol and maintain control over your health. In this blog, we explain what cholesterol is, as well as what causes cholesterol. 

How To Sing Your Way To Better Health

How To Sing Your Way To Better Health

We do it in the shower, on the freeway, and mostly when no one is watching. Whether we’re belting it out in front of the mirror or enjoying a jam session with a friend, we can’t resist singing along to a catchy tune. But did you know there are several health benefits associated with singing? Get to know the perks of channeling your inner Adele.

ER vs. Urgent Care: How To Save Time and Money

ER vs. Urgent Care: How To Save Time and Money

It is common for us to instinctually rush to the emergency room (ER) when we get sick or injured, but depending on the injury or illness, there may be a better alternative. A visit to urgent care can save you a significant amount of time and money in comparison to the ER. Use these guidelines to help you decide whether you should visit the ER or urgent care.

What You Need To Know About The FLSA Overtime Laws

What You Need To Know About The FLSA Overtime Laws

In May 2016, The United States Department of Labor issued updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime regulations. According to the new regulations—which were scheduled to take effect Dec. 1, 2016—some employees would need to be reclassified from exempt status to hourly non-exempt status. Here's what you need to know about the proposed FSLA changes.