Heart Disease and Vitamin K

by Heidi Toy, NTP

The war against heart disease has largely dictated expert dietary advice over the last 50 years. Based on the principle that our diet – saturated fat in particular – predisposes us to heart disease, well-meaning diet dictocrats took to modifying our meals in specific ways to prevent heart disease. It wasn’t particularly successful. We looked to cultures that have low rates of heart disease – French, Italian, Greek – and found them eating lots of saturated fat. We declared that a “paradox” and inferred that some secret ingredient, olive oil or red wine, is protecting them from the butter and egg yolks that must be killing us.

The French/Italian/Greek “paradox” isn’t a paradox at all. Turns out that many of those rich, fatty “sin” foods are abundant in vitamin K2, the only vitamin known to prevent and reverse atherosclerosis.

The popularity of vitamin D supplements might be compounding the heart disease problem. Vitamin D increases arterial calcification when we are deficient in vitamin K2. Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium from the intestines, which is a good thing for bone health. But then vitamin K2 is critical to the next step, escorting calcium where it belongs – away from arteries into bones.

Vitamin K2 works by activating many proteins that move calcium around the body. Specifically, osteocalcin attracts calcium into bones and teeth. Another protein, MGP, sweeps calcium out of soft tissues like arteries and veins where the mineral is harmful. When vitamin K2 is lacking, the proteins that depend on it remain inactive. The “Calcium Paradox” then gradually rears its ugly head with an insidious decline in bone mineral density and hardening of the arteries. When K2 is plentiful, bones remain strong and arteries remain clear.

It is possible to lessen plaque burden by stimulating more MGP to actively sweep calcium away. Whether your cholesterol is high or low, what really matters is whether calcium-fueled plaque is building up in your arteries, leading to a potentially fatal blockage.

Vitamin K2 comes in two forms:
menaquinone-4 (often expressed as MK-4)
menaquinone-7 (often expressed as MK-7)

The studies showing effects on calcium deposits in the arteries were done with 45 mcg of MK-7. Dr. Cees Vermeer, one of the world’s top researchers in the field of vitamin K, recommends between 45 mcg and 185 mcg daily for adults.

Always take the vitamin K supplement with fat since it is fat-soluble and won’t be absorbed without it.

Vitamin K1 is most abundant in leafy greens, while vitamin K2 is most abundant in animal fats and fermented foods. The richest sources of vitamin K2 in modern diets are egg yolks and cheese, especially hard cheeses.

Two distinct forms of vitamin K – K1 and K2 – were discovered in the early 1930s as the factors responsible for helping the blood to coagulate – when you cut your finger, you want the blood at the site to coagulate or you would bleed to death. The letter K came from the German spelling of koagulation. But it wasn’t until 1997 that researchers reported that vitamin K2 was recognized as being less important for coagulation, and much more important for healthy calcium deposition in bones and prevention of calcification of arteries. In 2007, the final piece of the puzzle dropped into place: vitamin K2 deficiency is very widespread, and this is having a major impact on human health.

Vitamin K2 appears to be much more effective at preventing pathological calcification than vitamin K1, and humans have a limited ability to convert K1 to K2.

Heidi Toy is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, and the owner of Heidi Toy Functional Medicine/Educated Nutrition, located in Eau Claire, WI. Her focus is helping people heal holistically, with an emphasis on autoimmune, digestive, weight, female hormone, and depression issues.

Cranenburg EC, Schurgers LJ, Vermeer C. Vitamin K: the coagulation vitamin that became omnipotent. Thomb Haemost 2007, 98(1):120-25

Connecting with the Why: Achieving Lasting Change in Exercise and Nutrition

By Dave Hildebrandt, FitELITE, IGNITE, FE24 Fitness

Have you ever been on the roller coaster of exercise and nutrition and found yourself doing a particular program for a while and then fall off? Thousands of individuals do this every New Year. You set your intention to make this change, and it seems to fade just a few months later. We ALL strive for lasting change.

Well, the New Year is not yet here, and we don’t need the New Year to make a permanent change. That “someday is today.” Let me explain. I’ve been in the fitness industry going on twenty years. Lifestyle, health, and fitness is my passion—rather, helping individuals find their path to becoming the best they can be in all areas of life is what I truly set my intention for, why I do what I do.

Going back to lasting change, I truly believe change in anything you set out to do has to start with your mind. Your thoughts lead to decisions and decisions lead to actions. Many of us have set the goals to change that are more surface laden and not deep rooted and concrete. Over my twenty years, I have had many clients come to me and set the goal of weight loss. I truly honor this, but I challenge all of my clients to get more concrete and specific as to what they want and “WHY” they want their goal. I believe with absolute certainty you need to be specific about what you want and why you want it. Your goal has to be mapped out.

What is the key ingredient to lasting change? What will this specific weight loss do for you in your life? Will this weight loss bring you renewed energy to get down on the ground and play with your kids? Will this energy bring you the self-confidence that you may have been wanting for so long in your life? Will this weight loss give you the vitality to enjoy your retirement in the coming years? Answering these questions shows you how specific you need to be. What does it truly mean from deep within you to obtain the goal you are after? What is the internal (personally for you and you only) and external (for family or another external reason outside of you) meaning as to why you NEED and WANT to conquer the goal you set out to accomplish?

Once you established your “WHY,” make it a concrete statement and place the goal in front of you where you read it on a daily basis and as a constant reminder of the importance of conquering this goal to make it lasting. It is a constant reminder of how badly you truly want lasting change. Put it on your bathroom mirror, in your planner, your fridge, etc.

Just like nature has seasons of change, so does life. It is inevitable that you will encounter the winter and with it the trials will come, but you will have the power of your “WHY” to help guide you through to find the springtime and ultimately your lasting change. Truly anything and everything that leads to growth in your life comes through challenge.

So, the next time you set out to establish the next area in your life of personal development, take the time to reflect “WHY” it is so important to you. Make this “WHY” statement concrete, very specific, and get in depth within yourself to find the importance of conquering it for lasting change. Just like in the weight room, to make a muscle grow, you have to continually do repetitions just like we do in the personal development area of our minds. Read your “WHY” statement through daily repetition. You become what you focus on.

Define: Hunger

by Corbin Burkard, Head Trainer, Burn Boot Camp – Eau Claire

Ever feel hungry? Of course you have. Feeling hungry is our body’s natural way of letting us know it is time to eat. What is often misconstrued is understanding how truly “hungry” we actually are. As a trainer who is dealing with nutrition questions on a daily basis, one of the first questions I ask people is, “Do you feel hungry during the day?” Often the answer I receive is, “No.” For many people this is simply because we are undereating and need to gradually increase calories in order to boost our metabolism so we can actually burn MORE calories by putting better food into our bodies on a more consistent basis.

On the other end of the spectrum are those of us that eat a sufficient amount (or too many) of calories on a regular basis. If we are eating enough calories during the day, odds are we feel hungry, or at least we certainly would if we missed snack time! Some foods make you hungrier without actually doing anything for you, like sugars and refined carbs. Whereas foods high in fiber, healthy fats, and proteins can assist to not only increase your metabolism and nourish your body, but can also help so you aren’t hungry constantly. From here, I put “hungry” into six different categories to help explain what type of hunger we are actually experiencing, and how to combat those types of hunger!

  1. Starving – The feeling that you could “eat a horse.” At this point you are more than likely shaky, lightheaded, and possibly sick feeling.
  2. Pretty Hungry – This is go time! Time to definitely be eating some food. You are maybe even a little past the point of when you should have last eaten. Right now there are some pretty empty sounds coming from your stomach, and this feeling more than likely came on gradually.
  3. You Could Eat – This is my typical response when I am not all that hungry, but know I will be within an hour. At this point there is no reason to be eating. Drink some water, see how you feel, and then start to plan or prepare for your next meal.
  4. Content – If you are not hungry, and also not full, why would you need to eat? This is one that gets a lot of people late at night. You have had dinner, you are going to bed in an hour, and there is no reason to eat! Don’t feel bad though, this is a common, learned, habitual movement (my favorite suggestion is to do air popped popcorn with light olive oil!). Typically I tell people to either drink some water or substitute something with essentially no caloric value to wean themselves away from late night snacks.
  5. Full – Stop! Slow down, put that fork down between bites, eat slower, take a drink between each bite, use a smaller plate, put the rest of the food away in containers for tomorrow! Going beyond this point is usually what makes us sick, wastes our money, and keeps our waistband tight.
  6. Overfull – Typically overeating happens often when we waited to eat until we were starving. You get all excited to eat again and start to cram anything and everything we can into your face too quickly! Afterward you feel sluggish, slow, tired, and sometimes quite uncomfortable. This can be easily avoided by trying to stay between numbers 2 and 5 at all times!

The Secret to Sleeping More, and Better!

by Corbin Burkard, Head Trainer, Burn Boot Camp – Eau Claire 

I am the head trainer at Burn Boot Camp – Eau Claire, which if you don’t already know is a gym where 99% of our camps are female only! In my time here, I have learned that strong, hard working women seem to value the little sleep they get. 🙂 Aside from getting in your workout, sending the kids off to school, running to work, somehow putting food on the table, tucking your kid into bed for “the last time”, your day is full of time for naps, I am sure!

I am ready to let y’all in on a little secret about how to fall asleep quicker, stay asleep longer, and overall, sleep better. Exercise. Really, it can be that simple!

Exercise helps the release of chemicals in your body such as serotonin, and dopamine which are some of your “feel good” chemicals. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that assists in your sleep cycle. This chemical helps to influence your mood, and high levels can assist in decreasing anxiety and stress. One way to elevate this is through consistent exercise! Aside from directly helping you sleep, it also is a destressor which allows you to wind down after a long day and get to sleep quicker, rather than lying awake thinking about everything!

Dopamine is another chemical that is released during exercise. People commonly refer to this chemical as the one that makes you happy. Again, increased levels of dopamine help to decrease stress, and give you the feeling of a “runners high”.

Even though this is an article relating to how exercise affects sleep, it is still important to know that one of the first changes you will notice, when you begin exercising is having more energy! Exercise does make you tired, and will help wear you out to sleep better at night, but when in a regular exercise routine, those people have more energy throughout the day, and have an easier time getting up and out of bed in the morning!

Sleep is important in your day to day life, and is especially important when in a regular exercise routine. The time that your body is asleep, is the time that your body uses to recover! This can often be overlooked, when we are a society driven by success, and we don’t typically give ourselves 6-8 hours a night for quality sleep. A suggestion I usually make is set an alarm when it is time for you to go to bed, and stick to it!

There are so many various benefits to sleep, and we need to unlock ways to get more rest, maybe, as it turns out, we have had the answer right in front of us the whole time. So next time someone tells you they go to bed at 8:30, you should follow their lead!



What Is Pulmonary Rehabilitation?

We’ve all heard of cardiac rehabilitation. You know, it’s for people who have had a heart attack, to help them recover after an event or medical procedure, right? Well, what about those who struggle with lung problems? It’s not like a heart problem that comes on suddenly and can be life threatening.  Lung problems develop slowly over time, and those suffer in with emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and long-term asthma, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), can feel there is no help for them. In fact, people with COPD often feel their lung disease is their fault, mostly because they were or are cigarette smokers. While cigarettes are a factor for COPD, they are not the only reason it occurs. Heredity plays a big part, and occupational hazards, like exposures to dust, chemicals, and fumes, also contribute to lung disease. We don’t blame diabetics for eating sugar or those with heart disease for not managing their stress better. I don’t see the need to blame smokers either. COPD has risen to the number 3 killer in the United States. And while the mortality rates for heart attacks and strokes (the number 1 and 2 killers) are decreasing, the rate for COPD continues to rise.

So, what is pulmonary rehabilitation? Like cardiac rehabilitation, pulmonary rehab offers exercise and education to help those struggling with COPD learn skills that can help them cope with their lung disease and improve the quality of their lives. What’s important to understand is that every time a person with COPD has an episode or exacerbation, they lose ground physically. As their breathing worsens, they stop doing some of the things they like to do. Over time, they start doing less and less, until they can’t even do some of their basic self-care, like bathing or dressing.

As our body and muscles become deconditioned, our ability to breathe also worsens. It takes more energy for oxygen to move through deconditioned muscles. A decrease in muscular strength also means we are less able to fight off infections. We need to stay strong to live with COPD! Pulmonary rehab is about stopping that progression and even reversing it. How? By getting people to slowly bring exercise back into their lives. Typically, pulmonary rehab programs run for twelve weeks and develop exercises specific to the person’s needs. For example, if a person with COPD gets short of breath with walking, seated exercises would be used to first increase muscle tone and overall core strength. Additionally, if the person is severely deconditioned, exercise might only be for two minutes at a time with frequent rests.

Besides the exercise, education is a key component of pulmonary rehab. The individual will learn many breathing techniques to calm shortness of breath, help with cough and phlegm removal, and improve the activities of daily living. They will learn how to fuel their bodies to breathe better and either gain or lose weight. And they will develop skills to conserve energy, so they can have more for the things they want to do.

As a registered respiratory therapist, I am trained to work with all types of critical and chronic lung conditions. I have forty years’ experience in the hospital setting and over twenty years working in pulmonary rehab.  As a life-long asthmatic, I know how it feels to be short of breath and bring my personal as well as my professional experiences. In fact, my passion for working with patients experiencing pulmonary issues stems from my personal experience and from watching my mom struggle with cigarette addition.

So, is pulmonary rehabilitation right for you?

Do you struggle to catch your breath, more and more frequently? Have you stopped doing the things you love? Don’t wait! Learn how pulmonary rehabilitation can help you and your family better cope with your lung disease.

Pulmonary rehabilitation programs are typically run as hospital outpatient programs and ordered by a physician, but individuals can also refer themselves to a program. A breathing test showing moderate to very severe lung disease is also required by most insurances. Both Sacred Heart and Mayo Hospitals offer pulmonary rehab, as well St. Joseph’s in Chippewa Falls. Contact your personal physician or the rehab program at one of these hospitals to get started.