Why Giving Up Diet Soda Should be Your New Year’s Resolution

soda

 

With 2018 right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about making New Year’s resolutions. While it can be tempting to commit to as many positive changes to your lifestyle as you can imagine, it can be overwhelming to try and address too many areas of concern all at once. Instead, set manageable goals, stay focused and take one resolution at a time. Doing so will be of benefit whether you’re someone who gets excited by the idea of making resolutions — or someone who lowered your New Year’s expectations a long time ago.

A Great Resolution to Get Started

If getting healthy is one of your main goals for 2018, we suggest starting with a New Year’s resolution to give up soda — specifically, diet soda. While diet soda may appear to be a healthy choice on the surface, it’s actually quite the opposite. Below are some of the main reasons you should remove diet sodas from your diet.

Artificial Sweeteners Have Negative Effects on the Body

Artificial sweeteners possess a greater intensity of flavor than real sugar. Consuming products that contain artificial sweeteners, such as diet soda, can gradually dull our senses. The result? Naturally sweet foods, such as fruits and vegetables, stop tasting as appetizing.

Additionally, artificial sweeteners have been shown to have the same effect on the body as sugar. Like sugar, these artificial sweeteners trigger the release of insulin, sending your body into fat storage mode and leading to weight gain.

Drinking Diet Soda Can Lead to Weight Gain

Just because diet soda is calorie-free doesn’t mean it will help you in your weight loss efforts. In fact, researchers from the University of Texas found that, over a 10-year period, diet soda drinkers experienced a 70 percent greater increase in waist circumference compared with those who didn’t drink diet soda. Even worse, study participants who drank two or more diet sodas a day experienced a whopping waist circumference increase of over 500 percent.

Drinking Diet Soda is Associated with an Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that drinking just one diet soda a day can increase your risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 36 percent. Metabolic syndrome is the term used to describe a group of conditions — including high blood pressure and elevated glucose levels — that can lead to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Diet Soda Has Zero Nutritional Value

In addition to not consuming any calories when you drink diet soda, you’re also not putting any nutrients into your body. And your body needs nutrient-rich foods to stay healthy and function optimally. Replace diet soda with beverages that offer actual health benefits, such as antioxidant-rich green tea and mineral water.

Conventional wisdom to the contrary, there’s nothing healthy about diet sodas. Stop relying on their empty promise to help you slim down and stay fit. Make avoiding diet sodas your number one New Year’s resolution. You’ll begin feeling better before you know it. And, with those improvements, you’ll be that much more prepared to take on your other resolutions — one by one.


Obesity: A Major Contributor to Rising Death Rates

rising death rates

After years of decline, mortality rates among middle-aged Americans throughout the United States have begun to increase. Additionally, in some parts of the country, life expectancy is falling.

What are the factors contributing to this rise in death rates? A recent article in the Denver Post highlighted the findings of a new study that sheds some light on this important issue.

Obesity a major contributor to rising death rates

Ryan Masters, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Colorado’s Institute of Behavioral Science and the lead author of this study, concluded that there are two main drivers of this trend in rising death rates: drug overdoses and obesity.

Masters and his research team identified the opioid epidemic as the bigger problem of these two drivers. According to the study, drug-related deaths of middle-aged white men have increased dramatically since 1980.

Obesity was also identified as a main factor in mortality. “We are just starting to see the real health consequences of the obesity epidemic,” Masters wrote. The study found that decades-long progress in fighting heart disease, diabetes and other metabolic diseases has slowed, contributing to the rising death rates.

Dr. Dirk’s opinion

Dr. Dirk agrees with the study’s conclusion that obesity is killing a lot of people. He also believes that, while the drug epidemic is dramatic, obesity affects far more people. There are many more obese people in the US than drug users, and more people die as a result of obesity because of the wide array of health issues it leads to, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

Dr. Dirk believes the drug epidemic is important and must be addressed. However, he feels that obesity is a more pressing issue with a simpler solution. It is high time to make being healthy financially and physically possible for everyone.


The importance of exercising after surgery

exercising after surgery

Whether you’ve undergone weight loss surgery or another kind of surgery, exercising after surgery is important for a quicker recovery and a more successful outcome. Exercise is a critical part of the healing process, and it has many benefits for people

Why it’s important to exercise after surgery

After surgery, it’s common for muscles to weaken and joints to become stiff from lack of use. For each week you don’t exercise after having surgery, it can take twice as long to regain strength in that area.

Additionally, the recovery time stated by your surgeon depends on whether you follow your post-surgery exercise program. Not exercising often results in a recovery period that’s longer than anticipated.

The benefits of exercise after surgery

Exercising after surgery provides numerous benefits for patients, depending on the specific surgery and the person’s unique situation.

While the following benefits are often seen in patients who exercise after having bariatric surgery, many of them are also seen in patients who exercise after having other types of surgeries.

  • Increased life expectancy
  • Reduced abdominal fat
  • Stronger muscles, bones and lungs
  • Reduced risk of disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced triglycerides
  • Higher good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol
  • Improved blood sugar control
  • Improved insulin control
  • Reduced risk of cancer
  • Increased energy
  • Improved balance
  • Improved appearance
  • Improved motivation and mental alertness

How to ease into exercise following surgery

Before beginning any type of exercise after surgery, you’ll want to check with your doctor and ask when it’s safe for you to start, what types of exercises are safe and how much exercise you should begin with.

While the appropriate time to begin exercise following surgery will vary, a walking regimen is the best place to start once you get the OK from your doctor.

When you first begin, your walks don’t need to be long or intense. Start with a short, casual stroll around the block. Do this every day and gradually increase the amount of time you spend walking each day, whether by increasing the distance you walk or the amount of time spent walking. In addition to increasing the duration of your walks, you’ll also want to slowly increase your speed as your fitness level improves.

The main point is to start walking as soon as your surgeon says it’s safe to do so and then start slowly, working your way up gradually.

Types of exercise to do after surgery

All exercise programs should include components that focus on endurance, flexibility and strength. This is also true for post-surgery exercise.

1. Endurance

As mentioned above, walking is a safe bet following most surgeries. As the walking gets easier, increase the length and intensity of your daily walks. Eventually, you can check with your surgeon about incorporating riding a stationary bike and/or swimming into your exercise regimen.

2. Flexibility

Stretching is an important part of an overall exercise program and offers many benefits. Stretching helps to improve flexibility and coordination, as well as increase blood flow to your muscles, which results in less soreness and more energy.

Begin with basic stretching exercises provided by your surgeon. You could also try a beginner’s yoga class, which is great for increasing flexibility, in addition to building strength.

3. Strength

Strength exercises are the third part of a well-rounded exercise routine. However, these exercises should not be started until you have been doing your endurance and flexibility exercises for a while and your surgeon approves adding them to your routine. Speak with your doctor about using exercise balls or weights.

Keep the post-surgery benefits above fresh in your mind so they’ll motivate you to stick with your exercise routine on the days you’re tempted to skip it. Making physical activity part of your daily routine will become easier and easier over time and will eventually become a habit that you won’t have to think twice about.


Artificial sweeteners are not as sweet as they seem

artificial sweeteners

For years, people have used artificial sweeteners to lose weight. Once they begin a diet, they switch from consuming sugar to using products such as aspartame (Equal), sucralose (Splenda) and steviocide (Stevia) in hopes of satisfying their sugar cravings without interfering with their weight loss efforts.

But do artificial sweeteners really help with weight loss? According to a recent ABC News article, they don’t. In fact, studies show the opposite: Over time, artificial sweeteners are actually linked to weight gain.

Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Gain

Thirty studies from the Canadian Medical Association Journal that followed groups of people using artificial sweeteners over several years have recently been newly reviewed. The new analysis of these studies looked at the long-term heart health, stroke incidence and blood pressure levels of more than 406,000 people who said they use artificial sweeteners in place of sugar.

Instead of finding that consuming artificial sweeteners had positive effects, the analysis found that regular consumption of these sweeteners was associated with:

  • Modest long-term increases in weight and Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Higher risk of obesity
  • Higher risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Higher risk of hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Higher risk of stroke

Even people in studies that took place over a shorter period of time did not show any consistent weight loss after six months.

Why Artificial Sweeteners Don’t Help Weight Loss Efforts

In the ABC News article, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief women’s health correspondent, states that any sweetener can trigger the same response from the brain, whether it’s regular table sugar, honey or an artificial sweetener. Ashton says that all sweeteners trigger the reward centers in our brains, ultimately leading us to want more — so we end up eating more.

When people use “diet” products like sodas, food or sweeteners, they tend to eat more calorie-heavy foods as a “balance.” The medical world has known for quite some time that artificial sweeteners can lead to weight gain, and some experts believe that the chemicals in artificial sweeteners may create a reaction in the human body that causes weight gain.

What does this mean for people looking to lose weight? It’s pretty simple. Forget the “diet” foods and drinks and focus on learning proper portion control and eating a healthy, balanced diet.


Preparing yourself for surgery with 5 easy to follow steps

If you’re feeling nervous about your upcoming surgery, don’t worry — there are a few things you can do to get yourself ready for surgery and the recovery process. Going into surgery feeling relaxed and confident will help you have a better experience and an easier recovery.

5 helpful pre-surgery steps

Following the five steps below will help you prepare for surgery and the recovery process. Putting in this effort beforehand will be worth it when you’re feeling calm and prepared on the day of your surgery.

1. Learn about the surgery

As early you can, get good information about your surgery from reliable sources, including Dr. Dirk and his team. Make sure you understand the expected outcomes, success rates for the surgery, the risks that are involved and the average recovery time. The more you know about your surgery, the better you’ll feel going into it.

2. Get some exercise

People who are active tend to handle surgery better and are more likely to have less pain, fewer complications and a faster recovery.

Talk to Dr. Dirk to find out which specific activities you can do before surgery. Depending on your current health condition and activity level, Dr. Dirk may suggest activities like yoga, stretching or walking.

3. Eat the right foods

Talk with Dr. Dirk about which foods you should be eating as you get ready for surgery. You may need to stay away from certain foods or drinks before surgery. You may also need to fast (stop eating) for a certain number of hours before surgery.

For certain surgeries, including weight loss surgery, you will need to change to a healthy diet after surgery to get the best results.

4. Stock your pantry and freezer

Be sure to fill your home with plenty of healthy foods and drinks before the day of your surgery. Not only will this keep you from having to shop during your recovery, but it will also help you stick to your new healthy diet after surgery.

If you run out of time to do this step, don’t be afraid to ask family or friends for help. They’ll be happy to pitch in, and you’ll feel good knowing you have people in your life you can rely on.

5. Arrange for help during your recovery

Whether or not you end up needing help stocking up on food before surgery, you’ll definitely want to line up family and/or friends to help get you through the recovery process.

Depending on the type of surgery you’ll be having, you may need a ride home or help doing daily tasks, such as cooking and cleaning. It can also be very helpful to have someone stay overnight with you on your first night home after surgery.

Follow these steps, and you’ll be surprised at how positive and in control you’ll feel on the day of your surgery.


Spices with health benefits

spices with health benefits

Do you use spices regularly in your cooking? If not, you should start. Here’s why.

The Benefits of Using Spices

Not only do spices add a ton of flavor to your food, but they offer great health benefits. Here are a few ways spices are good for your health:

1. Aid Weight Loss

Spices can help to increase your metabolism, helping you to lose weight. For example, studies have shown that capsaicin (found in chili peppers), may cause the body to burn extra calories for 20 minutes after eating.

2. Improve Heart Health

Research has shown cultures that eat spicy foods have a lower rate of heart attack and stroke. This may be because chili peppers can reduce the damaging effects of bad cholesterol (LDL). Additionally, the capsaicin in chili peppers may fight inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease.

3. Protect Against Cancer

According to the American Association for Cancer Research, capsaicin has the ability to kill some cancer and leukemic cells. Also, turmeric (a spice found in curry powder and some mustards) may slow the spread of cancer and the growth of tumors.

4. Protect Against Diabetes

Inflammation and high blood sugar levels both largely contribute to diabetes. Spices can improve blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation, helping to prevent or improve diabetes.

5. Improve Your Mood

Spicy foods increase your body’s production of “happy” hormones, like serotonin, which can help lessen stress and mild depression.

How to Get Spices into Your Diet

Small amounts of both dried and fresh spices can provide health benefits, so don’t worry if you’re not a spicy food person!

Below are some easy and delicious ideas for using spices in your cooking:

  • Put some slices of ginger or a pinch of cumin in a cup of hot tea
  • Add chopped chili peppers to soups, stews and chili
  • Coat shrimp in cumin and coriander and then sauté
  • Grate fresh ginger into vinaigrette
  • Add red pepper flakes or chopped ginger to stir-fry dishes
  • Make chicken curry
  • Sprinkle ground ginger on cooked carrots
  • Add cumin to brown rice or red lentils
  • Sprinkle ground cloves on applesauce or add to quick bread batters
  • Sprinkle turmeric* on egg salad, add to a chicken or seafood casserole or add to water when cooking rice

*To absorb 2,000 percent more turmeric, pair it with black pepper

Start with the suggestions above and then let them inspire you to experiment with your own ideas. In no time, you’ll be a pro at using spices in cooking and will enjoy the great taste of your food, as well as the added health benefits.


The alarming health effects of drinking soda

health effects of drinking soda

Let’s be honest: Few things are as refreshing as a nice, cold soda. But while drinking the occasional soda is OK, it’s not healthy to make fizzy, sweetened beverages a regular part of your diet — and not just because it can add inches to your waistline. Drinking soda can also cause a wide range of health problems in addition to obesity.

Soda can contribute to type-2 diabetes

There is strong evidence that shows a connection between regular soda consumption and type 2 diabetes.

People who consume soda regularly (one or two cans per day or more) have a 26 percent increased risk of developing the disease than people who rarely drink soda.

A study of 90,000 women that took place over eight years found that women who reported consuming at least one serving of a sugar-sweetened drink per day were twice as likely to have developed type-2 diabetes.

Soda can increase your risk of heart disease

Regularly drinking sugary drinks also has a negative impact on your heart health.

A study conducted over 20 years found that men who consumed a can of soda per day had a 20 percent higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease than men who rarely consumed soda. Studies show the same link between soda and heart disease in women.

In fact, in the same study of 90,000 women mentioned above, women who drank more than two servings of a sugary drink per day had a 40 percent higher risk of heart attacks or death from heart disease.

Researchers found that even when the women ate an otherwise healthy diet or maintained a healthy weight, the risk of heart disease lowered only slightly. In other words, soda is harmful to your health even if you’re not overweight and you eat a healthy diet.

Experts believe that soda’s high sugar content affects blood glucose, cholesterol, inflammation and metabolism, all of which can have an effect on your heart health.

Soda is bad for your bones

You wouldn’t think that drinking soda has an impact on your bones, but it does affect bone health, especially in young people. Soda contains high levels of phosphate. If you take in more phosphate than calcium, your bones deteriorate.

In fact, consuming soda tends to decrease your calcium, because you’re then less likely to drink milk, a vital source of calcium.

Soda is linked to obesity

Finally (and most obviously), regularly drinking soda is linked to weight gain. People who consume soda don’t feel as full as if they had consumed the same calories from solid food. As a result, they eat, which brings its own calorie load.

As we’ve discussed on this blog before, weight gain is a simple matter of calories in, calories out. If you consume more calories than you burn in a day, you’re bound to pile on the pounds.

“Soda has no nutritional value whatsoever and definitely has no place in a nutrition plan for healthy living or weight loss,” Dr. Dirk says. “Even diet sodas have no advantage.”

To avoid the many negative health consequences of drinking soda, it’s best to cut soda and other sugary drinks out of your diet. Studies show that reducing or eliminating sugary drinks from your diet can lead to better weight control among those who are initially overweight.

So next time you get a hankering for a fizzy drink, reach for a glass of sparkling water instead.


New study shows lack of fitness connected to risk of heart failure

heart failure

According to a new study from UT Southwestern, reduced cardio-respiratory fitness in individuals with high body-mass index (BMI) is responsible for heart failure.

For years, we have known that individuals who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk for health problems. “Morbid obesity is a medical condition that affects the entire body,” says Dr. Dirk. One of the problems obesity can cause is heart disease.

Now, we have a better understanding of the link between a high BMI and heart trouble. This study found that a low level of fitness — not obesity itself — is the direct cause of heart failure.

In the study, which included 20,000 individuals, doctors found that low cardio-respiratory fitness (meaning the health of the heart, lungs and circulatory system) accounted for 47 percent of the risk of heart-failure hospitalization associated with increased BMI.

The study also found that once low cardio-respiratory fitness is accounted for, changes in BMI do not have a significant association with heart failure risk.

In other words, because low cardio-respiratory fitness (not high BMI) is the direct cause of heart problems, individuals can reduce their risk of heart problems by getting more physically fit. If they do that, changes in BMI (a.k.a. losing weight) have minimal effect on the risk of heart problems.

Because of this finding, the doctors conclude that the “priority should be placed on improving cardio-respiratory fitness over decreasing BMI.”

However, as we’ve discussed on this blog many times, fitness often goes hand in hand with weight. Overweight and obese individuals tend to have less energy, making it harder to do regular physical exercise. Without regular exercise, overall cardio-respiratory fitness declines. And, as the study shows, low cardio-respiratory fitness results in increased risk for heart failure.

Dr. Dirk recommends regular physical activity — along with a low-carb, high-protein diet — for losing weight and keeping it off. However, losing weight and keeping it off also lends itself to regular physical activity, because the body is in better shape to handle the stress of exercise.

It’s important to remember that overweight and obese individuals are at greater risk for other health problems in addition to heart disease.

“Obesity is a total body condition,” says Dr. Dirk. “Beyond heart failure, it can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, acid reflux, sleep apnea, joint pain and even cancer.”

Because high BMI is associated with a range of health problems, it’s important to address the root of the problem by losing weight with a healthy diet, regular exercise and, if needed, additional help through weight loss surgery.

 


The Health Benefits of Walking

health benefits of walkingFrom limited free time to sore joints, it’s easy to find yourself discouraged when it comes to daily exercise. The good news? There are plenty of low-impact options that don’t require an expensive gym membership. In fact, one of the best ways to kick-start weight loss and fight associated diseases like depression and diabetes is one of the simplest: walking.

What Can Walking Do For Me?

The real question is what can’t walking do. From heart health to lower blood pressure and regulated blood sugar, walking is a great way to benefit all systems of the body. A brisk walk taken daily (or even just a few times a week) is shown to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, as well as breast and colon cancer.

Walking is an easy, cost-free investment in your overall health. Not only does walking extend your lifespan by keeping chronic diseases at bay, but it also improves your quality of life: walking is a great way to trim your waist (and tone those calves, if you throw in a few hills) so you’ll feel strong and confident. The daily dose of Vitamin D that you’ll get from walking outdoors—as well as the rush of feel-good endorphins—is shown to be an effective antidepressant.

Walking and Weight Loss

Complicated workout plans are notoriously difficult to stick with. Walking at a moderate pace, however, is often enjoyable for most people, which means that it’s easy to incorporate into a daily routine. Whether you’re walking solo or with a group (don’t forget your favorite pet!), 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week provides the aerobic exercise you need to help maintain your goal weight. Walking is especially beneficial for patients recovering from bariatric surgery, since it’s a low-impact, self-directed activity that lets you go at your own pace.

Getting Into a Routine

When you’re walking for fitness, you’ll get maximum benefits if you pay a little extra attention to your posture. Engage your core by standing up tall and looking straight ahead, and minimize impact by walking smoothly, rolling from heel to toe. Pumping your arms just slightly will keep those muscles toned, while choosing a few hills is great, low-impact form of strength training. Depending on your fitness level, you may need to work your way up to the recommended 30-60 minutes a day, five days a week. Just remember that, no matter where you start, the most important thing is that you do start.

Dr. Dirk’s weight-loss patients are often advised to embrace walking as an enjoyable way to keep weight off post-surgery. Whether you’re looking for lakeside trails or you march right through the center of town, incorporate the things you love into your daily walks to ensure that you stick with your regimen.


Take Charge of Your Health For American Heart Month

American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month, and it’s a great time to take action to improve your heart health, especially if you’re overweight or obese.

Why Your Heart Health Matters

Did you know that heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for American men and women? Heart disease claims the lives of 1 out of every 4 American adults — that’s about 17 million people every year.

The good news is that there are certain risk factors that can tell you if you’re likely to get heart disease. By learning about the risk factors you may have, you can work to prevent these health problems.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Risk factors are conditions or habits that make it more likely that you’ll develop a disease. So what are the key risk factors for heart disease?

  • Being overweight or obese
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes and prediabetes
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking

In the past, we’ve discussed how obesity can lead to many of these other conditions. Reducing your weight can go far when it comes to improving your heart health.

Take Action: Know Your Numbers

There is no better time than American Heart Month to become more aware of your important health numbers. By learning about and keeping track of these numbers, you can learn your risk factors for heart disease, monitor your progress in reducing them and motivate yourself to stick to good heart health.

The key numbers include:

  • Body weight and body-mass index (BMI)
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood cholesterol
  • Blood sugar

To find out your numbers and to set up a plan to bring them within the healthy range, arrange an appointment with a doctor.

Take Action: Change Your Lifestyle

The best way to improve your health, reduce your weight and prevent heart disease is to make positive changes to your lifestyle through diet and exercise.

To reduce your weight and fight back against heart disease, eating a healthy, balanced diet and committing to an active lifestyle is crucial.

Dr. Dirk recommends a diet that is high in protein, low in carbs and made up of unprocessed foods, lean proteins, whole grains and produce. Committing to daily calorie-burning aerobic exercise is also crucial to effective weight loss.

Sometimes, diet and exercise aren’t enough to help you lose weight. In those cases, weight loss surgery is an option. When paired with diet and exercise, weight loss surgery has been shown to have a real effect on heart health:

  • 95% of people are able to avoid diabetes or make it easier to treat
  • 93% of people see improved blood pressure

Don’t wait until American Heart Month is over to start taking your health seriously. Call (214) 308-0189 today to set up an appointment with Dr. Dirk to discuss your weight loss options.