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What to Know About Cholesterol & Your Health

How Much Do You Know About Cholesterol?

“I’m watching my cholesterol!” It’s a common saying that you have likely heard before. It’s so common because, as the CDC reports, around 38% of American adults have higher levels of cholesterol than they should. Though most people know of cholesterol, few actually know what it really is and the incredibly important role it plays in the body. Do you have ‘good’ cholesterol levels…or ‘bad’?

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-like waxy substance that is found in all of our cells. The liver actually produces all the cholesterol that our body needs, but it can also come from dietary cholesterol, or cholesterol we consume from our food. Dietary cholesterol is most abundantly found in animal based food, like meat and dairy products.  So what does cholesterol do? For starters, it helps us produce the stomach acids that we need to break down and digest food. It’s also needed for our bodies to be able to produce hormones and vitamin D, both very important players in our bodies. Cholesterol also acts on a cellular level, contributing to the structure of cell walls. 

Health Risks

Though cholesterol is very necessary, it also disproves the saying “you can’t have too much of a good thing.” Too much excess cholesterol can lead to the formation of plaque, which can build up along the walls of your arteries. If too much plaque builds up, the deposit can burst, causing blood to begin clotting against the buildup of plaque. Once the clot becomes large enough, it can either partially or totally block the artery, restricting the supply of oxygen-infused blood flowing towards the heart. When this happens it can cause chest pain, and it significantly increases the risk of a heart attack. The same thing can happen in other areas of the body as well, including the brain and the limbs. A bad enough blockage in the limbs can even lead to amputation, this occurs most commonly in the legs or feet. In the brain, the clotting of blood can trigger a stroke.

“Good” and “Bad”

A common topic that comes up when talking about cholesterol is “good” and “bad” cholesterol. While these designations are indeed true, they don’t tell the full story behind what they mean.  What we call good cholesterol is actually High-density lipoprotein, or HDL. We call it good because it takes the excess cholesterol that’s in the body and transports it back to the liver, which can safely dispose of it. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, also transports cholesterol, but instead of taking it back to the liver, it causes the excess cholesterol to build up in the arteries. Basically, LDL is the person that leaves their shopping cart in a parking spot, while HDL is the person that responsibly returns their cart to the cart coral. VLDL, or very low-density lipoprotein is another form that is considered bad, it mostly transports triglycerides instead of cholesterol, but like LDL, it contributes to plaque buildup.

Causes and Risk Factors

There are several possible causes of High Cholesterol, and if you have read our past entries, some of them are going to sound familiar. Lifestyle is a big factor when it comes to cholesterol. A diet with a high intake of unhealthy fats, like trans fats and saturated fats, significantly raises LDL levels, and lack of physical activity will lower HDL levels. Smoking is able to cause both LDL levels to rise and HDL levels to fall, while also damaging the blood vessels and making it more likely that fatty deposits will gather in them. Unsurprisingly, being overweight or obese is not only linked to these causes, but it too makes one more susceptible to high cholesterol.

 All of these factors also increase the risk of diabetes, which also is able to affect cholesterol levels. Diabetes usually means very high levels of VLDL, high triglycerides, lower HDL, and even elevated LDL. It will also damage the arteries and other blood vessels. This creates a prime situation for the buildup of plaque, and with the combination of high cholesterol and diabetes, there is a much greater risk of cardiovascular disease. 

As with most chronic conditions, high cholesterol has risk factors that are often out of our control. Age is one of the most prominent, though younger people are not immune to high cholesterol, we become more at risk as we get older. This is because the liver isn’t able to remove bad cholesterol from the body as efficiently as we get older. Family history is another important risk factor. Not only do families often share lifestyles and habits that increase the risk of chronic conditions, genetics play a part as well, and risk can be passed down to younger generations. Other factors include race and ethnicity, medications, and medical conditions such as liver or kidney disease, pregnancy, and hypothyroidism (under active thyroid).

Diagnosis and Treatment

High cholesterol on its own has no symptoms, and that’s a problem because of the health risks it’s associated with. The only way to know for sure where your cholesterol levels are at before it lets you know in a potentially lethal way is by getting your blood tested. The American Heart Association recommends that this occur at least every 4-6 for those over 20 years old, and more frequently as you age or if you carry any risk factors for cholesterol or heart disease. Treatment may require that you take medication to help you control your cholesterol levels if necessary, but it will always require that you make lifestyle changes. These changes include eliminating unhealthy habits like smoking, getting more physical activity, managing your weight and stress, and sticking to a heart conscience diet.

The best treatment is prevention, especially when it comes to a disease that doesn’t have symptoms. Comprehensive blood testing includes measuring cholesterol, and since blood measurement is recommended for preventing high cholesterol, you might as well get everything else checked at the same time. It will not only help you control your risk factors for high cholesterol, but for other chronic conditions as well. You might even find that you have a very healthy cholesterol level, but maybe something else like your insulin is high, which is a sign that you could be trending towards diabetes, which is closely linked to high cholesterol. 

This full picture of your health is the benefit that Ways2Well provides. A regular check of your cholesterol in this situation would have made it seem like things were perfectly fine, when another risk factor that doesn’t seem immediately related slips in the back window. Once you have a full picture of your health, we are able to help you devise the best treatment and plan for yourself, one that takes into account the entire picture, and not just one small part of it. Not only can it help you live longer, you will live without the fear that something like high cholesterol is silently working against your health and your life. 

September is National Cholesterol Education Month. This is an excellent time to assess your health, your risk factors, to educate yourself about cholesterol, and take steps towards preventing high cholesterol or addressing the problem if you have it. 

Want to learn more?

Check out our Getting Started page and set up a free consult with our medical provider. It’s time to get you on the path to great health and keep you that way.

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How to Stay Healthy During Covid-19

You’ve heard it your whole life – take your vitamins and get some rest! Then you’ll feel better! In a time when everything can feel so uncertain, it’s comforting to look back on Mom’s advice and know that by finally taking it, you’re offering the best protection possible for you and your loved ones during COVID-19. This is especially important as medical experts predict that the virus and waves of illness will continue for up to 18 months.

Great health starts with prevention

The best way to stay healthy in any scenario, is to consistently practice great health habits before you are ever in danger of getting sick. This is what we call “preventative care” in the healthcare industry. What it means is taking the time to do things that will prevent illness from occurring down the line. In today’s climate, that means what you’ve been hearing on repeat: wash your hands; cover your mouth when you cough; use sanitizer if handwashing isn’t available; avoid touching your face due to transfer of germs; socially distance 6 feet from other people at all times; wear face masks while out of your home. This is all done to prevent the transfer and onset of Covid-19/Coronavirus. 

Research from the CDC and National Institute of Health has also suggested the use of a few new tools for medical providers battling the Covid-19 pandemic. The great news is, you can also put these treatments to work for you at home too!

Benefits of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for our body; necessary for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues. It’s involved in many body functions, including formation of collagen, absorption of iron, the immune system, wound healing, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth. In the age of Coronavirus, Vitamin C is more important than ever because it directly targets viruses in the body and strengthens your natural resistance to getting sick: your immune system. If your immune system is compromised or weak, your are far more susceptible to infection than you are if you are healthy. You’ve likely seen reports of large doses of Vitamin C being used on patients in New York City, New Orleans and Washington due to it’s effectiveness in battling Coronavirus symptoms and helping patients recover faster. While Vitamin C has not been announced as an official cure, medical experts globally are in agreement that taking it in significant doses right now is the key to strengthening your immune system and increasing your body’s ability to ward off potential viruses.

Vitamin C is a key ingredient (among other virus fighting nutrients) in our Immune Support treatment. If you are in need of this treatment to bolster your immune system and get healthier – you can check it out here to get your prescription. Don’t worry- we will mail it to your door!

Catch Some Zzzzzz’s. Seriously. 

We could list all the adages about sleep and good health; or we could just say this: a good night’s sleep could save your life right now. Ok, maybe not your life – just your sanity. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought on more than just health issues and Coronavirus infections…it’s also brought on a global workforce that is now mostly working from home with new pressures and changes to our normal routines. Taking on things like full time teaching and care taking; managing financial strain; trying to stay sane with a house full of spouses, kids, pets, and a stockpile of toilet paper (you know who you are!). All of this leads to – you guessed it – not great sleep. Lots of stress and anxiety, tossing and turning and too much screen time. We aren’t judging (we are doing it too); but medical professionals are reminding us that sleep cures many evils, and is a great preventative care habit to keep your body in fighting shape. Sleep is one of the main variables that influences the health of our immune system. According to The Mayo Clinic, while you are asleep your immune system releases proteins that promote deeper sleep. Additionally, infection fighting antibodies and cells dwindle when you aren’t getting enough sleep. Simple math! To stay healthy, you need sleep.  

If you can’t sleep right now, don’t worry – you aren’t alone. In times of stress and strain, restful sleep is often the first thing to go. However, it’s paramount to keep your body at it’s healthiest to reduce potential infection. For those having trouble maintaining healthy sleep habits, take a look at CBD Sleep. A better night’s sleep shouldn’t be hard to come by, so we’ve made sure it’s not.  

Want to learn more?

Check out our Getting Started page and set up a free consult with our medical provider. It’s time to get you on the path to great health, and keep you that way. 

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Common Nutrient Deficiencies and How to Solve Them

The human body requires many vitamins and minerals to be able to run, but not getting enough of one or more of these important nutrients is very common. Deficiencies will of course affect our health, and can cause symptoms that range from mild to serious. Since March is National Nutrition Month let’s look at four common nutrient deficiencies, their symptoms, and what we can do to get more of those vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin D

While it is called a vitamin, Vitamin D actually is more like a hormone, because your body produces it on its own when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is important because it regulates the body’s absorption of calcium, and has a few secondary benefits like supporting the immune system. Not getting enough of this nutrient can lead to bone loss, and pain in the back, bones, and muscles. It can also cause a weakened immune response, depression, hair loss, a lessened ability to heal wounds, and having less energy. This is an incredibly common deficiency, but there are some easy ways that you can overcome it. 

For most vitamins and minerals, the best way to get more of them is to eat foods that are rich in that nutrient. Vitamin D however is a bit different, as there aren’t as many foods that are rich in the vitamin as there are for others. Despite this, fatty fish and egg yolks are good natural sources, and there are even some food products, like milk, that are artificially fortified with the vitamin. The best way of course is to get more sunlight. Though the amount needed varies by skin tone and where one lives, getting 10-30 minutes of sun multiple times a week is a good rule of thumb.

Magnesium

One of the most important nutrients in the body is magnesium. This mineral is involved in numerous functions, including the processing of protein and DNA, maintaining bone health, assisting with the proper functioning of the nerves and muscles, and the regulation of blood sugar and blood pressure. Not getting enough magnesium usually doesn’t result in any symptoms immediately, but it can contribute to serious problems if it carries on too long. Complications include weakness and cramps in the muscles, fatigue, headaches or migraines, inflammation, higher risk of anxiety and depression, and it can even contribute to high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and irregular heartbeat. 

Unlike Vitamin D, there are many foods that are rich in magnesium. These foods include fruits like bananas and avocados (yes an avocado is actually a berry), and dark, leafy vegetables like spinach. Nuts and legumes like cashews, almonds, and peanuts, and meats like fish and organs meats, are all good sources as well. You can also find a good amount of magnesium in whole grains and even dark chocolate. 

Iron

Worldwide, the most common nutrient deficiency is iron. Iron is important because it helps us produce healthy blood cells. Iron binds to hemoglobin, and allows it to carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body, allowing those tissues to survive and carry out their functions. Iron also binds with myoglobin, which helps store oxygen in the muscles. In addition to oxygenating the blood, iron also provides immune system support, assists in the conversion of blood sugar into energy, plays a role in keeping the skin, hair, and nails healthy, and even supports cognitive functions. 

Normally an iron deficiency won’t have any immediate symptoms, but as the problem worsens, so too will the symptoms. These symptoms include dizziness, lightheadedness, and fatigue. Iron deficiency can also eventually cause iron deficiency anemia, where the red blood cells aren’t able to carry oxygen properly. Extreme fatigue or weakness, shortness of breath, elevated heart rate, cold feet or hands, pale skin, headaches, and chest pain are all signs of iron deficiency anemia, and if you believe you are experiencing it, you should talk to your doctor. 

Getting more iron isn’t difficult. One of the best ways to get more iron is to eat meat; red meat, turkey, poultry, pork, and fish are all good sources of iron. Other sources include beans, legumes, broccoli, dried fruit like apricots or raisins, peas, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and dark, leafy greens. Meat however is still a better source of iron because it contains heme iron, which is easier for the body to absorb than the nonheme iron contained in plant based sources. Vitamin C can help increase iron absorption, and it is often needed more when someone relies on nonheme iron.

Calcium

Next up we have calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body. Most of the calcium in our bodies is stored within our bones and teeth, where it is responsible for maintaining their structure and health. A small amount of calcium is needed for other critical functions, like muscle function, nerve function, assisting the blood vessels in moving blood, and even hormone secretion. Calcium deficiency can lead to a condition called hypocalcemia, and the risks of this occurring increase as we age, especially among women. Symptoms of hypocalcemia include aches, cramps, or spasms of the muscles, fatigue, depression, memory loss, confusion, and brittle nails. It also increases the risk of osteoporosis, which results in weaker and more brittle bones that can be injured more easily. 

You can probably guess the first source of calcium that I am going to mention: dairy. For most people, dairy and dairy products are obviously a great and easy source of calcium. Many however, like those with lactose intolerance, must look elsewhere to get the necessary amount of calcium they need. Other good sources of the mineral include almonds, seeds, fish like salmon and sardines, lentils, beans, figs, and edamame. Dark and leafy vegetables like kale, collards, and spinach once again make an appearance, as they are also calcium rich, along with all the other nutrients they contain.

Getting all the proper nutrients may seem difficult, but there are a few steps you can take to make it easier. Educating yourself about the dietary recommendations for your age and sex is the first step. Reading nutrition labels and having a good idea about the contents of what you are putting into your body is the next step. You will have an easier time figuring out what you need more or less of. Sometimes you may find that you will need extra help with some nutrients, possibly even help from supplements, while other times you may just need to cut back on certain foods. Blood testing can provide an even deeper look into what vitamins and minerals your body is getting, and it’s a good idea to utilize this tool if you want the complete picture of what is happening inside your body, especially if you are experiencing nagging symptoms that seem to come from nowhere, preventing you from being the healthiest version of yourself. 

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What’s Wrong With Health Insurance?

The healthcare system in America is far from perfect. One of the reasons for this is because of the state of health insurance coverage. While the goal of having insurance would seem like it should be to know you are taken care in times of medical need, the current system we have can leave us confused, in debt, frustrated, and anything but reassured. Today we will go through some of the flaws of this system, and the burden those flaws place upon our health. 

It’s Expensive

We need healthcare, and there is no way around that. Around $4 Trillion is spent annually on healthcare, and that number is rising. The price of medical care, medical coverage, and medications themselves are also rapidly increasing as time goes by. Though the supposed goal of insurance is to reduce the cost and load on the average person, many are still burdened by its weight. 

First, you have the premium payments needed to keep the insurance, though this is not the problem for the majority of insurance holders. Then you have deductibles, the amount of money you have to pay out of pocket before your insurance will kick in for larger expenses. Almost half of deductibles are $1,000 or more, and for most people that is a huge amount of money to have to pay at one time, often without much warning that it will be necessary. After the deductible is exceeded, most of the time the insurance plan will still leave the patient to foot a portion of the bill, which can still be very expensive depending on the treatment that is required. It’s no surprise that about 60% of all Americans that file for bankruptcy do so because of an inability to pay for medical bills. 

It’s Confusing

There is a strong chance that you don’t fully understand your health insurance plan, but don’t feel bad about this, as only 4% of Americans have a full grasp on their coverage. This really isn’t shocking, and it’s not unlikely that you know someone with health insurance that has gotten saddled with a surprise medical bill at some point in their lives. The answer to questions like if a procedure you need will be covered, what it will actually cost, and if you’ll have to have to fight the insurance company about paying for something, always seem to be that you will find out once it actually happens. There are of course more philosophical questions about the system as well, like why we need separate plans for dental care, eye care, and medications.

One of the most confusing things is the counterintuitive nature of the entire system. Health insurance companies make more money off of healthy people that don’t end up using the insurance that they pay for. This means they aren’t incentivized to actually want to help the people that do need their service, as they will lose money. One would think this would mean insurance companies would want to push comprehensive and complete preventative care measures, but most don’t, instead just covering routine services like immunizations and run of the mill checkups. 

Many Don’t Have Insurance

Health insurance is normally tied to employment, with the employers assisting the employee by paying most of the insurance premium. Though the employees are left to the mercy of the insurance plans that their company supports, which may be good or bad depending on the options provided to them, this generally saves the employee a lot of money while also greatly simplifying the process of acquiring health coverage. This of course will run out if one loses their job, and one that changes jobs or whose company switches supported coverage options may experience a lapse in coverage. Those that are unemployed, employed part-time, or work at companies that don’t provide insurance, are most of the time left out in the cold, amounting to tens of millions of Americans lacking health insurance.

How This Affects Our Health

The biggest consequence of the current medical system is that many don’t seek medical care that they might need because of the cost. In fact, more than 50% of Americans have avoided care at some point due to not wanting to pay for it. Some individuals will even only be able to seek medical care if it is absolutely critical to do so because of the cost. Another effect is that not fully understanding your health coverage, worrying if you will have the treatment you need covered, and having to pay for large medical bills (especially unexpected ones) can cause you a high level of stress. Stress of course, is one thing that can be incredibly detrimental to your health, causing issues like sleep loss, a weakened immune system, and exasperating serious health conditions like high blood pressure. Finally, some individuals not seeking or being able to seek medical care can affect the health of others. This pandemic for example, has demonstrated that one person not receiving care has a chance of getting others sick, damaging the health of the community as a whole instead of just themselves. 

The only real option we have it seems is to avoid health issues as much as possible. At Ways2Well, we strive to help you achieve this, by providing actual comprehensive and complete preventive treatment that will hopefully reduce or eliminate expensive and stressful medical treatments and emergencies in the future. With care that is actually accessible and affordable, you can actually gain time, save money, and become healthier than ever before.

Look out for part 2, where we will talk about the advantages of self-pay.

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The Future of Stem Cells

In our last entry we talked about how stem cells can currently be used to benefit our health. Stem cells are already very useful to us, but we may be just scratching the surface of their full potential. Today we will talk about what research hopes that we will be able to accomplish with stem cells in the near future. 

If you have not read part 1, check it out here

Increasing our Understand of Diseases 

One of the ways stem cells can help advance healthcare is by expanding our knowledge of how disease and chronic conditions form and operate. By studying how stem cells develop, differentiate, and form into tissues, we can learn a lot about how our bodies operate naturally, as well as discern what causes the natural operation to be disrupted and become diseased. For example, we may possibly be able to determine why some cells end up becoming cancerous. 

Just understanding obviously isn’t enough, we have to be able to actually use what we would learn. Any new discoveries would of course become the basis for new treatments, medicines, and hopefully even ways to prevent us from developing serious diseases in the first place. 

Better Medicines and Treatments

A more thorough understanding of disease would allow us to devise better medicines, but stem cells could actually help during the development process as well. The hope is that we could program the stem cells to take on the form of specific kinds of tissue cells, and then test medicines designed for those tissues and see how the cells react. This would tell us a lot about the safety and effectiveness of the drugs. Moving on to human trials would be much safer, and it’s possible we would no longer need animal trials when testing out new drugs. The science could also one day advance to allow these drugs to be customized to each individual, making them even more efficient and likely to succeed. 

An example of future stem cell usage could be to help cure Type 1 Diabetes. This would happen by programming the stem cells to become cells that produce insulin, allowing the diabetic person to produce insulin on their own. Other possible diseases and conditions that may one day be cured with regenerative stem cell therapy include AIDs, Huntington’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis. This also would include conditions that cause people to be immunocompromised or immunodeficient. Beyond curing diseases, we may one day be able to use the stem cells already in the body to fight diseases instead of having to inject them or implant them during a surgery, which would make stem cell therapies much easier to use and more accessible to the masses, as well as eliminate the difficulty that sometimes arises when the body rejects the foreign stem cells.

Advancing Regenerative Therapy

Since we already use regenerative therapy, it stands to reason that being able to expand the scope and effectiveness of this field is the nearest and most likely advancement we will be able to make. It is believed that stem cell therapy may be able to help with many injuries, diseases, and conditions. 

Currently regenerative stem cell therapy therapy is used mostly for injuries involving ligaments and muscles, and is becoming increasingly popular among professional athletes. World Class athletes including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, Rafael Nadal, Hines Ward and many more have turned to stem cell therapy for its effectiveness, reduced recovery time, and because it can allow them to avoid major surgery. A great example of how this is used is on injuries to the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) in the elbow. This injury is most common among baseball pitchers, and usually requires Tommy John surgery to repair. This procedure is risky and carries a recovery time of well over a year, and it is never guaranteed that the pitcher will be able to perform at the same level ever again. Multiple cases and studies have shown that stem cell therapy can be a viable alternative for partial tears, and get the athletes throwing again much faster [1]. Eventually stem cells may be able to correct injuries like these almost 100% of the time, and hopefully even be used to treat serious injuries like severe burns or injuries to the spinal cord. 

Some conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis become more common as we age, and stem cells may one day be able to help cure these conditions or at least make them more manageable, and thus make the process of aging itself easier. Stem cells may also be able to eventually fix sensory related conditions like hearing loss, as well as treat the disease that could cause someone to lose their eyesight. One of the most important advances that could be made with stem cell research is repairing some of the damage done by heart attacks and strokes. After one of these major health events occurs, doctors would be able to implant stem cells that would begin to repair the damaged tissues, and allow them to heal when they would not be able to on their own. Similar research is being conducted that would allow the body to fight and possibly even reverse the effects of Parkinson’s disease. 

It’s important to remember that not all of these ideas will end in success, and the ones that are promising may not come to fruition for a long time. However, it is still vital that we remain inspired and continue to move forward towards a brighter and healthier future, which stem cells may very well one day provide.

Sources:

  1. B. (n.d.). MLB Pitchers Choosing Stem Cell Therapy Over Tommy John Surgery. Retrieved from https://www.bioxcellerator.com/blog/mlb-pitchers-seeking-out-stem-cell-therapy-for-tommy-johns-surgery#:~:text=Los%20Angeles%20Angels%20pitchers%20Andrew,mixed%20for%20 
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What are Stem Cells?

Science constantly strives to advance the human race, and one of the most important areas that we have advanced in is the field of health. Since the 1970s, the usage and research of stem cells has proven to be an incredibly useful advancement that we are likely just scratching the surface of. Today we will talk about what stem cells are, where they come from, and some of the amazing things we are able to use them for.

What are Stem Cells?

Most cells in your body serve one specialized purpose. They may be muscle cells, blood cells, or cells that are a part of any organ, tissue, or structure in your body. Stem cells on the other hand are undifferentiated, meaning they do not yet have a specific role. They can however become differentiated, and take on any role in the body. This is important because when a specialized cell in your body dies, a stem cell will be able to step in and replace it and be able to perform the job exactly as the old cell did. 

Stem cells can also divide to form more cells, which can remain as stem cells or become specialized cells just like the original stem cell. This occurs naturally in the body, but scientists are also able to recreate the conditions needed for the stem cells to divide in a lab. This allows them to take advantage of the stem cells ability to replicate indefinitely, something differentiated cells can only do a finite number of times. A single cell in a lab can produce a group of cells called a stem cell line, which will keep growing without specializing. Portions of the line can be taken for storage or for research. 

How are Stem Cells Acquired?

There are a few different kinds of stem cells, each with different ways from which we are able to harvest them. The first kind is embryonic stem cells. These come from voluntarily donated embryos that are left unused during fertility treatments. These embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning they are able to become any kind of cell in the body. 

The next type are adult stem cells. These cells are found in most tissues in an adult’s body, waiting for when they are needed to differentiate and take on their duties as a specialized cell. These cells can also be harvested from the body, usually from bone marrow, but they are less numerous and less versatile than their embryonic counterparts. Scientists are however able to reprogram some of these adult cells to act like embryonic cells and become pluripotent. 

Stem cells can also be extracted from the blood of umbilical cords at birth. Like adult stem cells, umbilical cord cells are able to be used in regenerative medicine, but also aren’t as versatile as embryonic stem cells. The umbilical cord fluid is actually much more rich with stem cells than bone marrow while also being quite easy to extract, giving umbilical cord cells a distinct advantage over regular adult stem cells. Stem cells are also found in the amniotic fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb, and research is ongoing into their nature as well as how we may be able to make use of them.

How Can Stem Cells Be Used

Stem cells are commonly used for regenerative medicine, or stem cell therapy. This therapy is usually performed through a bone marrow transplant, which can come from a bone marrow donor or even from your own body. This can be used for a number of reasons, such as to replace bone marrow that is damaged or not working properly. This is commonly used to treat a person that has undergone chemotherapy. It can also fight certain cancers in other ways, by having the new stem cells attack the cells that are cancerous. This stem cell therapy has already been used to treat diseases like leukemia and lymphoma. 

Stem cell therapy can also be used to help someone recover from an injury. Typically this is used to repair injured tissues like muscles, tendons, cartilage, and ligaments. Stem cells can be applied directly to the damaged area during a surgery, but they can also be delivered by injections that are much less invasive than a full surgery. Researchers hope that this can soon be applied to bone injuries, and perhaps even be able to help repair a damaged spinal cord. 

While the things we can already do with stem cells are life changing for many people, the research being put into stem cells may show that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Further discoveries in the field will hopefully allow us to better understand our bodies and the diseases that try to attack us, and develop drugs that will be even more effective in keeping us healthy. The possibilities are so vast that they may even be able to one day help us repair or replace entire organs, fight chronic diseases, correct genetic defects, and help prevent neurological conditions.

Be on the lookout for part 2 where we will discuss some of these possible future developments. 

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10 Ways to Help Keep Your Heart Healthy

February is American Heart Month, where focus is put on Heart Disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States and worldwide according to the CDC. In honor of American Heart Month, we are kicking it off with a list of things you can do to increase heart health, and reduce your risk of heart disease. 

1. Reduce Your Sodium Intake

Sodium is necessary to carry out certain functions in your body like regulating the balance of fluids and the contraction of muscles. Despite this, too much of it can dehydrate you, harden your arteries, and raise your blood pressure. Most Americans, 90% of them in fact, consume too much salt. This means it is very likely that making your diet low sodium or at least making an effort to reduce your sodium intake is going to be beneficial to you. It is recommended that we consume less than 2,300 milligrams (about a teaspoon) of sodium daily, but on average Americans consume over 3,400 milligrams per day. The CDC estimates that over 70% of this sodium comes from processed food and food we eat at restaurants. Replacing these foods with more home cooked meals and replacing high sodium snacks with vegetables, fruits, or unsalted nuts can make all the difference. It may also be beneficial to check to see if a salt substitute is right for you, or turn to other ways to flavor your food like garlic or lemon juice. 

2. Eat more whole grains

Whole grains are an important staple of a heart healthy diet. They can help control many of the aspects that affect the risk of heart disease like blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and even your weight. One of the reasons for this is the high amount of fiber contained in many whole grain foods. Fiber is excellent at reducing the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood, and it helps prevent high blood pressure as well. Some easy ways to get more whole grains in your diet is to replace white bread with whole grain bread, white rice with brown rice, and cereal with oatmeal. 

3. Cut back on Sugar

You probably saw this one coming. High sugar consumption makes you much more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes, and have other issues like obesity and high blood pressure. Reducing sugar intake can be one of the easiest areas to identify ways to improve, even if actually putting it into practice may not be as simple. Cutting out sugary beverages, snacks, and not having dessert as often will go a long way in decreasing your sugar intake, and have the added benefit of lowering your calorie count. Another option is to use alternative sweeteners, or replacing sugar with other natural sweeteners like pure maple syrup or honey, though you should still be careful and not consume too much of these either. 

4. Watch your portion sizes

Eating too much can make us lethargic and miserable in the short term, but the excess calories affect us in the long term as well once they are converted and stored as fat. Eating meals that are actually properly portioned is a good way to prevent this, and it can also help with cutting back on things like sodium. How many calories you need to consume daily can vary depending on many factors like your activity level, age, and whether or not you want to lose or maintain your weight. Generally, women that are moderately active should get around 2,000 calories and day, and men that are moderately active should get around 2,500. If you want to lose weight however, you need to decrease this amount by about 500 calories. Taking the guesswork out can be helpful, and there are many apps available that allow you to do just that by tracking the food you eat and telling you how many calories you are consuming.

5. Plan out your meals

The prior planning and even pre-preparing of meals can make it many times easier to actually accomplish the above points and maintain a healthier diet and lifestyle. Planning ahead allows you tailor your meals to fit what you need while cutting out the things you do not. It also makes it easier for you to stay on track, since you won’t have to make last minute decisions about what to do for dinner that ultimately lead to you going and getting a cheeseburger. 

6. Lose Weight

 Being overweight or obese is linked to every major risk factor for heart disease, and the risk increases as one becomes more overweight. Getting to a healthy weight and maintaining it can be difficult, especially for those that have tried time and time again with little success. Doing so can be one of, if not the most important thing you can do to prevent heart disease and lead a healthier life. We’ve already talked about how portion control and reduced calorie intake is a great way to start losing weight, but throwing in exercise will take it to the next level. Great ways to start are by making sure you hit a daily step goal with a step tracker (10,000 steps daily is considered active), or setting aside time every day to go on a 15-30 minute walk. 

7. Cardio

Walking is one of the many forms of aerobic exercise, all of which are great ways to lose weight. While walking is the easiest, other great cardio based exercises include running, swimming, biking, rowing, and boxing. These forms are more intense than walking, but they also will bring about even better results. Even if you just stick to walking, you will still get other benefits as well, like lower blood pressure, lowered cholesterol, improved blood and oxygen flow, and it will make your blood vessels and heart stronger. Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week, or 75 minutes if you go for a more intense workout like running. 

8. Get quality sleep

Like most things related to your health, getting better sleep can have a positive impact on the health of your heart. One of the reasons for this is that your blood pressure naturally decreases when you sleep, and since high blood pressure is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease, missing this blood pressure down time can be potentially dangerous. Sleep also helps control blood sugar, and even prevent unwanted weight gain. While everyone’s sleep needs are different, most adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night according to the National Sleep Foundation. If you have trouble sleeping try taking time to relax and destress before you go to bed with something like a bath or reading a book instead of watching TV or using your phone. Cutting back on caffeine can help as well, especially if you tend to have a caffeinated drink later in the day. 

9. Don’t Smoke

Smoking is bad for you in general, and along with the lung problems and increased risk of cancer, comes a negative impact on your heart. Smoking can cause a buildup of plaque in your arteries, increasing your blood pressure, and then at the same time cause damage to your blood vessels. The best solution to this is to never smoke in the first place, but the second best is to stop immediately and allow your cardiovascular system to begin healing. Quitting smoking can be difficult, but it’s worth it to pull out all the stops to quit if you need them. When a craving hits, going on a walk, chewing gum, or eating a healthy snack can help you fight off the urge to smoke, and help you hold out until you have overcome the addiction. 

10. Only Drink in Moderation

Drinking is also just bad for you in general, but heavy drinking can have a significant effect on your heart. One of the reasons for this is that drinking increases your heart rate even while you rest, which increases your risk of a cardiac event all by itself. It also can damage your heart muscle, which can in turn impede its ability to pump blood. When this happens your entire body is affected and it can lead to severe complications both in your heart and away from it. You don’t have to cut alcohol out completely, but sticking to only drinking in moderation is important to maintaining heart health. The CDC considers drinking in moderation to be 2 or less drinks a day for men, and 1 or less drinks a day for women, and less than that is even better.

The health of your heart is vital to your overall health, and these steps are a great start towards keeping your heart strong and preventing serious conditions like heart attack and stroke. Since heart disease is the leading killer, preventing it can be one the best ways to live healthier and live longer. 

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Health During the Winter

During the winter, certain health problems can be more commonplace than they are during other times of the year. Some of these issues are minor and can be solved with relative ease, but others can actually be quite serious, and it is important to be aware of them. Today we will go through how we can prevent some of the challenges our bodies may face during the Winter.

Heart Attacks in the Winter

The most major problem is the increased rate of heart attacks during the Winter months. The cold itself is one of the causes for this. When it is cold, blood vessels can narrow, leading to an increase in blood pressure, and increasing the risk of a cardiac event. Keeping warm is the obvious solution to this, though you should avoid becoming overheated as that can also increase the risk of a heart attack.

You don’t have to live in a very cold area to have the increased risk of a heart attack. This is because even if you don’t face a tremendous blizzard every other week, the generally cooler weather and the lessened amount of sunlight can lead you to be less active and be more sedentary. This can lead to weight gain, higher cholesterol, and increased insulin resistance and a heightened risk of complications from diabetes. All of these can increase the likelihood of a heart attack, so it is important that we keep active during the winter. This might mean working out inside instead of outside, or moving the time that you exercise around so that you are doing so when it is light outside. 

Immune Health

A second winter problem is how much easier it is to get sick. Colds, flus, and other acute illnesses can thrive in the colder environment on top of the cold negatively impacting your immune system. Lack of activity comes into play here as well, as exercise tends to strengthen our immune systems. We also spend more time inside around other people, which can make it much easier to be exposed to a virus. Staying active, getting enough sleep, and eating right will help. Plus you can always consider an immune support supplement if you feel like you need a little extra help with getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals that your immune system needs to be at full strength.

Another way the immune system is affected is the decreased amount of Vitamin D that we get. This vitamin is important for a variety of reasons, and one of those is the support that provides for our immune responses. We get small amounts of Vitamin D through the food we eat, but we get most of it from sunlight. Since there is less sunlight in the winter, we can end up being left out in the cold when it comes to getting enough of the vital nutrient. The best solution once again is to get active during the daylight hours and do your best to get more of the vitamin in your diet. Since many Americans are deficient in Vitamin D even when it isn’t winter, taking a Vitamin D supplement might be necessary to ensure that you are getting all that you need. 

Arthritis

Many people experience heightened pain and discomfort from arthritis during the winter. There are a number of possible reasons for this, including the effect colder temperatures and change in pressure can have on blood circulation and on the contraction of muscles. Another is the reduced amount of Vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium as one of its prime functions. The less Vitamin D you are getting, the harder it is for your body to maintain strong bones. Lack of activity rears its ugly head once again here, as not being active enough can actually make stiffness or pain in the joints worse.

Staying active and making sure that you are getting proper nutrients is obviously going to be very important, but you may still need some extra help. At Ways2Well we can help with our pain relief gel, Cryogel. Cryogel is a CBD based cold therapy gel that is great for aches, pains, soreness, and even minor injuries. If you struggle with putting a stop to 

Dry Skin

It may not be as serious as arthritis or heart disease, but the cold isn’t kind to your skin either. The dry air and low humidity can wreak havoc on the moisture in your skin, leaving your skin dry and rough. The easiest way to combat this is simply by using a moisturizer or other skincare products that will help you fight the dryness and flakiness. 

Mental Health

What affects your physical health can also affect your mental health, and it is no different in this case. The lack of sun, activity, and the changes that can happen to your diet or sleep schedule can lead to a case of winter blues. Luckily, the solutions are mostly the same. Maintaining your normal lifestyle of getting active, eating right, and maintaining a normal sleep schedule can make a world of difference. As always, if you feel like you need to talk to someone, please do so, whether it is somebody close to you or a professional. 

Even though we may be tempted to hibernate during the winter, and take time off from our normal activities. It is important to remember that our health never takes time off, and that we always need to be mindful of it, especially when it becomes more difficult to do so. Whether you need help with preventing serious health conditions like heart disease, or just reducing the odds that you get a cold, Ways2Well can help you be as healthy as you can be, all year long.

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Healthy Routines You Can Build Into Healthy Habits

At the beginning of every year an uncountable number of people tell themselves that they are going to eat better, start working out, and enact a number of positive changes that will improve their life. Most of the time people keep this up for a month at most, if they start at all. One of the biggest reasons for this is that people are often unprepared, they don’t have a plan aside from “I’m going to start hitting the gym” or they may not really know how to begin living healthier at all. Today we will talk about how to actually start that “new you” that so many attempt to become every year, as well as some ways to actually help you keep that commitment. 

Exercise

One of, if not the most common, New Year’s resolution is to get active and start working out. Obviously, this is a great change to make, but for many it can be the hardest to stick to. Enthusiasm quickly can give way to excuses and apathy, and then before you know it you’ve stopped exercising completely. 

There are a few strategies that can help you maintain your commitment to getting in shape. One is to remember that you don’t have to start doing intense workouts everyday of the week, it is ok to pace yourself. Start by working to exercise consistently, until it becomes a regular part of your routine, and then start to increase the intensity and scale of your workouts. A similar approach can be taken to setting goals for yourself. One reason many people get discouraged and quit is because they don’t see results as quickly as they would like. It is important to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your ideal body won’t be either. Set smaller goals for yourself that you can use as milestones on your way to your main goal. This will make it easier for you to keep your confidence and motivation up while also helping you track your progress. 

Nutrition

Attempting to start a diet is also a very common trend at the beginning of the year. Many people end up carrying at least a few extra pounds into the new year after overindulging on food during the holidays, so this can be a good way to get back on track. Like exercise, it can be easy to get off track and let that completely derail your attempts to be healthier. 

One of the keys of eating healthier is to get right back on the wagon after you decide to have a greasy double cheeseburger instead of a well balanced dinner. You don’t want a cheat day, which is totally fine to have occasionally, to turn into a cheat week. Taking small steps can be helpful with eating healthier too. Start by eating more fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods will help you round out your diet. The next step is limiting or cutting out sugary beverages and processed foods, which can understandably be one of the most difficult changes for many people. Finding out what works best for you is also important. For example, you may not be able to cut out snacking completely, but limiting it and switching to healthier snacks can be an effective way to maintain a proper diet. 

Sleep

One area that shouldn’t be overlooked when trying to be healthier is sleep. Making an effort to get more sleep can improve almost all areas of your life, from your work life to your mood. Getting good quality sleep will allow your body to recover better from workouts and help with muscle growth. You will also feel more energized and be able to get a better workout in, and also be less likely to skip out on exercising in the first place. It can also help you control your weight better, and even help manage blood sugar levels. More sleep will boost your immune system as well, so you will spend less time feeling under the weather. You will also find that you are not as stressed out when you get a healthy amount of sleep, and that’s something we all could benefit from after 2020.

There are a number of strategies that can be used to improve your sleep. Consistently going to bed and waking up at the same times will help your body understand when it is time to shut down for the night. Adding to this, taking time to relax and unwind before you go to sleep can be crucial to improving sleep quality. Instead of using a computer or tv screen, try reading, taking a shower or bath, or another activity that will help you destress. 

At Ways2Well, we can help you on your path to better health. With blood testing, we can determine the areas that most need improvement, and devise a treatment plan and strategy for you. With this insight you will be able to make more informed and efficient changes to your lifestyle, get better results, and hopefully have a much easier time staying on course to achieving your resolution for the new year, and make 2021 your healthiest year yet. 

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Staying Healthy During Flu Season

Staying Healthy During Flu Season

As we all know, we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and as we are now entering flu season, there is a good chance things are going to get even more confusing. The two viruses are alike in many ways, and numerous people are going to end up in a situation where they are unsure if they have Covid-19, or just the flu. On top of that, our immune systems are going to need as much help as they get. Today we are going to talk more about strengthening our immune systems, ways to help ourselves avoid getting sick, and some of the similarities and differences between the flu and coronavirus that you may need to know.

The Flu and Covid-19

As respiratory illnesses, it’s no surprise that the two viruses share many similarities. It all begins with how they are transmitted, and unfortunately, they are both pretty easy to catch. Both diseases are caught through respiratory droplets that are released into the air or onto surfaces by an infected person. From there, the diseases share several symptoms, which is the main reason that it can be so difficult to discern between the two. The symptoms for both often include fever, fatigue or weakness, chills, and a dry cough, but they both may cause less common symptoms like diarrhea, sore throat, and a runny or stuffy nose. The flu comes with aches and pains more often, especially body and headaches. Symptoms like shortness of breath and loss of taste and/or smell are associated with Covid-19, but are rarely, if ever, associated with the flu. 

Severe complications like pneumonia, myocarditis, brain damage, and damage to other organs is also possible with both diseases, especially among the elderly or individuals with chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes. Children are also at a higher risk for a severe case of the flu, but seem to be much less likely to experience a severe case of Covid. A major difference between coronavirus and the flu is when the symptoms appear. With the flu, you will usually begin to experience symptoms within a few days of exposure, while it can take up to two weeks for coronavirus symptoms to show themselves, and sometimes symptoms may not occur at all. 

Currently, the biggest difference is probably how we are able to combat each of them, mostly due to how new Covid-19 is. We are very experienced at handling the flu, with vaccines and treatments that we have developed over the years that greatly reduce the impact of the flu to the point that we barely worry about it. We are still learning about how coronavirus operates, and are figuring out the best way to treat it, all while attempting to develop a vaccine. 

Don’t Get Sick

The good news is that the same precautions will help prevent both diseases. Wearing masks, thoroughly washing your hands, disinfecting surfaces, and maintaining distance from others will reduce the likelihood of contracting either virus. If symptoms do surface, you should proceed with isolating until you are able to seek testing and medical attention. 

Inevitably, not everyone is going to be successful in avoiding contact with either virus, making it a very good idea to help your immune system be as strong as possible. An easy start to strengthening your immune system is to practice healthy habits like frequent exercise, staying hydrated, and getting an adequate amount of good quality sleep. Sleep is one of the best things we can do to help our immune systems, so if sleep is something you struggle with it may be a good idea to read our blog on sleep hygiene. Stress is another factor for our immune systems, and trying to reduce the stress we endure can work wonders for preventing sickness.

Something that we cannot overlook is diet. It’s no secret that people with unhealthy diets get sick more often, both from chronic conditions and everyday diseases, so cutting out unhealthy fats and high amounts of sugar is a good start on improving immune health. From there, eating more fruits and vegetables will boost your immune system even. Making sure you get the proper nutrients like Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc will not only help stop you from getting sick, they can also make it easier to recover if you do get sick. It’s a good idea to consider immune support supplements if you want to make sure you are getting enough of those key nutrients. One example of the effects they can have come from studies that have shown that taking 200mg of Vitamin C a day can reduce the duration of cold symptoms by 8%. 

It’s important to remember that while physical distancing and face coverings are important in the midst of a pandemic, we shouldn’t rely on those things alone and make sure that our bodies are as prepared as possible for anything that comes our way. After all, castles were built with moats and high walls, but they also had soldiers within fighting for them as well. 

If you are interested in reading more about immune health, or learning about the immune support supplements that we offer, check out our page on immune health