Herbalife Chief Health and Nutrition Officer Shares Three Ways to Improve Heart Health
By Dr. John Agwunobi, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., Chief Health and Nutrition Officer, Herbalife
As part of American Heart Month in February, Herbalife is spreading the word about the basics of good heart health.
But before we address heart health in more detail, let me share a little about my professional background and my role here at Herbalife. My job is to support our expert advisory boards, the Herbalife Nutrition Institute and our clinical, scientific and quality oversight leadership teams around the world. I am a pediatrician who, in the past, had the honor of serving as the Assistant Secretary of Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, overseeing the Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the office of the U.S. Surgeon General, and numerous other public health offices and programs.
My passion for public health is why I’m excited to be working for Herbalife. The ability to reach and touch so many people, in their communities, all around the world, makes Herbalife unique. It is a global nutrition company that touches the lives of millions upon millions of customers through its direct selling membership. In more than 90 countries around the world, Herbalife members are purpose-driven change agents, nutrition coaches and mentors in their communities. They work to improve lives by sharing their passion for nutrition Herbalife® products and healthy, active lifestyles with their customers.
Now, let’s get back to heart health. As part of American Heart Month in February, we have three simple tips to share:
- Get active – 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day will support cardiovascular wellness.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight – If you’re overweight or obese, weight loss can have a significant positive impact on your cardiovascular system.
- Eat healthy – Add more nutrition to your plate by eating fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy.
The Argument for Getting Active
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the benefits of regular exercise are numerous and documented. Regular exercise can help you:
- Control your weight
- Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- Reduce your risk of some cancers
- Strengthen your bones and muscles
- Improve your mental health and mood
- Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, if you’re an older adult
- Increase your chances of living longer
A Lot of People Still Fall Short
The benefits of regular exercise are plain to see, but more than 40% of adults in the United States, according to a 2015 Gallup Poll, are NOT exercising on a regular basis (defined as 30 minutes or more, 3 days a week). Among other findings, the poll results showed that:
- 5% of Americans exercised 3 or more days in the last week.
- Men are more likely than women to report exercising frequently.
- Hispanics are slightly more likely to report exercising frequently than whites, and much more likely than blacks.
Samantha Clayton, senior director, worldwide fitness education, Herbalife, says that exercising just a little bit every day is a great way to improve heart health. “It’s always better to do some exercise instead of no exercise,” said Samantha. “When you’re feeling busy and stressed, promise yourself that you’ll manage at least 10 minutes, even if you can’t find time for a longer workout session. A great way to truly benefit from a short session is to focus on one specific area of the body or one element of fitness such as strength, cardio or flexibility.”
According to the CDC, “…the bottom line is – the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks of getting hurt.”
Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Weight
The CDC also reports that there are important health benefits with modest weight loss (5 to 10 percent of your total body weight), including lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugars. With significant weight loss, people report improvements in physical health, energy levels, physical mobility, general mood and self-confidence.
Despite the benefits of losing weight, a 2015 Gallup Poll found that more than half of overweight people in the United States are not seriously trying to lose extra weight. The poll also found that:
- 90% of Americans who are more than 20 pounds overweight want to lose weight.
- 31% think their weight is 20-plus pounds more than it should be.
- Your chances of being overweight are affected by age, gender and income.
You Are What You Eat
A healthy diet consists of the right balance of macronutrients (like protein, fats and carbs) with vitamins and minerals. Protein from lean meats, nuts and plants is especially important to weight management. “There is evidence that modestly increasing the proportion of protein in the diet, while controlling total calorie intake, may improve body composition, facilitate fat loss and improve body weight maintenance after weight loss,” said David Heber, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.S.N., Chairman, Herbalife Nutrition Institute and Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board (NAB).
“A heart-healthy diet is one that calls for a variety of good-for-you foods – including lean proteins, plenty of fruits and vegetables, adequate amounts of fiber and modest amounts of sugar, salt and saturated fat,” said Susan Bowerman, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., F.A.N.D., director, worldwide nutrition training, Herbalife.
We know what’s healthy to eat, but as a country, we still struggle with healthy eating. According to a 2013 Gallup Poll, 63% of Americans said they “ate healthy yesterday” and 57% said they had five or more servings of fruits and vegetables. The poll also found that lower-income Americans report eating healthily more frequently than do middle- and upper-income Americans. The fact that Americans overall ate less healthily in 2013 is especially troubling, particularly as the obesity rate reached a new high.
Make This Healthy Meal at Home
According to Bowerman, a healthy sample meal, made at home, might include:
- A colorful salad. Bright orange carrots, red tomatoes and deep-green spinach owe their colors to a group of heart-healthy antioxidant pigments, called carotenoids. For added benefit, toss in some avocado and dress your salad with a little olive oil – since carotenoids are fat-soluble, the addition of small amounts of heart-healthy fats to your salad will help your body absorb these beneficial compounds from the vegetables. Cooked beans make a heart-healthy addition, too, since their water-soluble fiber can help to keep cholesterol levels in check.
- Fresh fish is generally low in total fat and saturated fat – and is also one of the best sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which help to control the levels of certain fats in the blood, like triglycerides and cholesterol.
- Tree nuts like almonds, walnuts and pistachios are rich in compounds called phytosterols that can help keep cholesterol in check. Try toasting them lightly in the oven or a dry frying pan – it brings out their natural flavor – and then you can sprinkle them on top of some steamed veggies for a great side dish, or add them to your salad.
- And for dessert, have a little bit of chocolate. Naturally occurring compounds in cocoa, called flavonoids, act as antioxidants – and the darker the chocolate, the more flavonoids you get. So have a bite of dark chocolate to finish your meal, or – for a doubly healthy dessert, drizzle some melted bittersweet chocolate over fresh berries. The natural red-purple pigments that give berries their beautiful color act as antioxidants, too.
Promoting Healthy, Active Lives
Around the world, our members host fitness camps, where people work out, have fun and keep each other motivated in a group setting that reinforces positive habits.
We also sponsor more than 200 sporting events, teams and athletes around the world that exemplify the company’s commitment to a healthy, active life. Herbalife is the Official Nutrition Sponsor of international soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo and the Presenting Sponsor and Official Nutrition Partner of the Los Angeles Galaxy. We also sponsored the Special Olympics World Games: Los Angeles 2015 and, through the company and our members, we provided direct assistance to more than 10 percent (about 700) of all the athletes who participated in the games.
We are looking at new ways to promote heart health and public health. We started the Herbalife Family Foundation Casa Herbalife Program, a non-profit corporation dedicated to improving the nutrition and lives of children in underserved communities around the world. We also support Common Threads, a U.S. non-profit organization that provides hands-on cooking and nutrition education programs to nearly 80,000 students across eight cities.