arteries

  1. The health benefits of chocolate

    The 'forbidden food' that's good for your arteries

    Eat more chocolate? It's not often you hear that kind of advice from a doctor -- but today I'm giving you permission to tear open that foil wrapper and treat yourself to a square or two of the best chocolate you can find.

    No, it's not a reward for good behavior. Eating chocolate IS good behavior -- it's good for your heart, good for your brain and new research on the health benefits of chocolate shows how it's especially good for your arteries in at least two critical ways.

    First, a daily dose of chocolate can improve flow-mediate dilation by 1 percent. FMD, as it's known, is such an important measure of vascular health that even a 1 percent improvement can cut your heart risk by 12 percent.

    And second, chocolate can also stop white blood cells from sticking to artery walls, which in turn will help make sure those arteries remain flexible, according to the study in The FASEB Journal.

    Put it together, and you have a delicious and healthy habit that can reduce your risk of serious cardiovascular problems, especially if you make it part of an already-healthy lifestyle.

    The one caveat here is the obvious one: It's easy to go overboard on chocolate and eat too much -- and too much chocolate contains too much sugar, which can hurt you in other ways.

    The new study of the health benefits of chocolate used a fairly large amount of chocolate, too: 70 grams per day, or nearly 2.5 ounces. That's almost the size of a "king-size" Hershey bar, and if you ask me that's probably a little too much.

    Eat a little less.

    If you're a chocoholic who can't stop once the package is open, buy individually wrapped squares instead to help control your portion size.

    I also recommend paying a little more for high-quality dark chocolates with fewer preservatives and other additives. It's worth the extra money, and not just because it's better for you.

    It tastes better, too.

  2. Sleep apnea and hardening of arteries

    Diabetic risk without the diabetes

    You could have the worn-out, run-down, beaten-up heart of a diabetic... and not even have the disease itself. All you need is sleep apnea, the frightening condition where you stop breathing in the night.

    When you don't breathe, cells throughout your body don't get the essential oxygen they need to function. And when they don't get that oxygen... well... just take a look at the apnea patients in the latest study of the hardening of arteries.

    Their arteries were so stiff that researchers say they looked pretty much exactly like the hardening in arteries of diabetics who took part in the same study -- which is not a good sign right off the bat.

    The hardening of arteries of both apnea patients and diabetics restrict blood flow, forcing the body to up the pressure to keep it pumping -- and that puts you at risk of heart attack, stroke, and more.

    Now, if you're diabetic, you already know all about these and the other heart risks you're facing. Apnea patients usually don't -- because up to 90 percent of them don't even realize they have apnea in the first place.

    After all, it takes place while they're asleep -- and while it might be hard to believe, most people sleep right through these breathless episodes.

    That's why the best person to spot the condition isn't yourself. It's your spouse. Your spouse may notice heavy snoring, or heavy snoring followed by periods of total silence when you stop breathing.

    Other signs to watch for include waking up tired, morning headaches, and daytime sleepiness -- but the only way to know for sure is to spend a night in a sleep clinic where you can be observed.

    If you think there's any chance at all you may have this condition, it's essential that you get it checked out -- because hardening of arteries isn't the only risks associated with apnea.

    This condition has also been linked to other serious heart problems as well as stroke, brain damage, and more. One study I told you about recently found that apnea patients are up to five times more likely to die of cancer than people who don't have the condition.

    There are surgical treatments and dental devices that can ease apnea and some patients sleep with an oxygen mask. However, since apnea is often caused by obesity, losing weight is often the best cure.

  3. The cancer-busting diet you can start today

    What do tumors and bellies have in common? They both get bigger on a high-carb diet.

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