What You Need to Know About Omega-3s | Fullerton, CA

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on October 21, 2020

Not all fats are unhealthy. Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the “good” types of fat. They may help lower the risk of heart disease, depression, dementia, and arthritis. Your body can’t make them. You have to eat them or take supplements.

Omega-3 fatty acids come in more than one form. The types found in fish, called DHA and EPA, seem to have the strongest health benefits. Another form known as ALA is found in vegetable oils, flaxseed, walnuts, and dark leafy vegetables such as spinach. The body can change a small amount of ALA into EPA and DHA, but not very well.

Omega-3 also helps your heart in several ways. They curb inflammation in the blood vessels (and the rest of your body). At high doses they also make abnormal heart rhythms less likely and lower your level of blood fats called triglycerides. Finally, they can slow plaque buildup inside the blood vessels.

The American Heart Association recommends 1 gram a day of EPA plus DHA for people with heart disease. Eating oily fish is best, but your doctor might recommend a fish oil capsule. If you’ve had a heart attack, a prescription dose of omega-3s may help protect your heart. Some studies show fewer heart attacks and fewer heart disease deaths among heart attack survivors who boosted their levels of omega-3s. Omega-3s seem to have a stabilizing effect on the heart by lowering heart rate and helping prevent arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms). Several common sources of omega-3s are fish, walnuts, broccoli, and edamame (green soybeans that are often steamed and served in the pod).

DHA and EPA can lower your triglycerides, a blood fat that’s linked to heart disease. Talk with your doctor before taking omega-3 supplements, because some types can make your “bad” cholesterol worse. You can also bring down triglyceride levels by exercising, drinking less alcohol, and cutting back on sweets and processed carbs like white bread and white rice.

Omega-3s can help lower blood pressure a bit. If you have high blood pressure, limiting salt is probably one of the things your doctor has recommended. Foods and supplements curb plaque buildup inside blood vessels, helping with blood flow. So, they may help prevent stroke caused by clots or a blocked artery. But at high doses, omega-3 supplements might make bleeding-related stroke more likely, so check with your doctor.

Studies suggest omega-3s can curb joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. A diet high in omega-3s may also boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Depression is rarer in countries where people eat a lot of omega-3s. But omega-3s aren’t a treatment for depression. If you’re depressed, talk with your doctor about what might help you feel better. Some studies suggest omega-3 supplements may ease the symptoms of ADHD. Omega-3 fatty acids are important in brain development and function. They may provide some added benefits to traditional treatment, but they don’t replace other treatment.

There’s some evidence that omega-3s may help protect against dementia and age-related mental decline. In one study, older people with a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids were less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease. More research is needed to confirm the link.

Be wary of promises that omega-3s have “brain-boosting” powers for children. The Federal Trade Commission asked supplement companies to stop that claim unless they can prove it scientifically. The American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend that kids eat fish, but it cautions against types that are high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.

The best source of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA is fish. Some varieties deliver a higher dose than others. Top choices are salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, anchovies, and tuna. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings a week of fish. A serving is 3.5 ounces of cooked fish or 3/4 cup of flaked fish. Tuna can be a good source of omega-3s. Albacore tuna (often labeled “white”) has more omega-3s than canned light tuna, but it also has a higher concentration of mercury contamination. The amount of omega-3s in a fresh tuna steak varies, depending on the species.

The FDA encourages people to eat fish, and for most people, mercury in fish is not a health concern. But the FDA has this advice for young children and for women who plan on becoming pregnant, are pregnant, or are nursing:

  • Eat 8-12 ounces of fish per week (which is equal to 2 or 3 servings a week). Provide kids age-appropriate portion sizes. Limit albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week.
  • Choose fish lower in mercury, such as salmon, shrimp, pollock, tuna (light canned), tilapia, catfish, and cod.
  • Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.
  • When eating fish caught locally, check fish advisories or limit fish to 6 ounces for women and 1-3 ounces for children and do not eat fish for the rest of the week.

If you don’t like fish, you can get omega-3s from supplements. One gram per day is recommended for people with heart disease but ask your doctor before starting. High doses can interfere with some medicines or increase risk of bleeding. You may notice a fishy taste and fish burps with some supplements. Read the label to find the amounts of EPA, DHA, or ALA you want. If you don’t eat fish or fish oil, you can get a dose of DHA from algae supplements. Algae that are commercially grown is generally considered safe, though blue-green algae in the wild can contain toxins. Vegetarians also can get the ALA version of omega-3 from foods such as canola oil, flaxseed, walnuts, broccoli, and spinach — or products fortified with omega-3s.

Many food products now boast that they have added omega-3s to support various aspects of your health. But be aware that the amount of omega-3s they contain may be minimal. They may contain the ALA form of omega-3s, which hasn’t yet shown the same health benefits as EPA and DHA. For a measured dose of omega-3s, taking fish oil supplements may be more reliable.

If you would like more information about omega-3s, contact Dr. Gordon C. Gunn MD at 714-912-2211 or visit www.gordongunnmd.com to schedule an appointment today. 

Dr. Gunn proudly serves Fullerton and all surrounding areas.

11 Steps to Lower Your Blood Pressure | Fullerton, CA

High blood pressure is not only a common affliction, but also the precursor of a more serious issue. This is when changes really need to be made in order to improve the way your blood circulates through your system. It isn’t impossible, but it will take an effort getting used to this new way of living…

Monitor blood pressure at home. This will result in a more accurate assessment of your blood pressure.

Exercise regularly. Regular exercise improves blood vessel flexibility and heart function. It can be as simple as walking regularly and may decrease blood pressure by 10 points.

Eat well. The American Heart Association recommends the ‘Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension’ (DASH) diet. This diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts.

Lose weight, if overweight. Losing even 10% of your current weight can make a big difference.

Stop smoking. Nicotine constricts blood vessels and can cause a 20-point increase in your B.P.

Drink alcohol in moderation. Limit to one drink a day for women & two for men.

Limit salt intake. Too much sodium and too little potassium can increase blood pressure in people who are sensitive to salt. Aim for less the 1.5 grams of sodium and more than 4.7 grams of potassium daily.

Sleep at least 7-8 hours a night. Chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to high blood pressure and increased chance of developing heart disease.

Reduce stress. Mental and emotional stress can increase blood pressure. Meditation lowers stress and your blood pressure.

Take prescribed blood pressure medication. Taking blood pressure pills can keep you from having a stroke or heart attack.

Blood uric acid. Make sure your level is optimal.

If you would like more information about lowering your blood pressure, contact Dr. Gordon C. Gunn MD at 714-912-2211 or visit www.gordongunnmd.com to schedule an appointment today. 

Dr. Gunn proudly serves Fullerton and all surrounding areas.

How to be Gluten-Free | Fullerton, CA

Heart Healthy

We’ve all heard this word before, to almost a nauseating degree as of late – but what is Gluten? Gluten is a common name for a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, kamut, spelt and many oats (due to cross contamination). For some people it is irritating to their body and increases inflammation. It is important to remember that wheat-free is NOT necessarily gluten-free.

Gluten is commonly used as a food additive in processed food, so it can be hidden where you do not expect it to be. Ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat are ALSO sometimes added to processed foods to make their flavor more appealing and to extend their shelf life, or in some cases to contribute to the food’s structure, such as salt in bread or sugar in cakes. Buying processed foods can lead to people eating more than the recommended amounts of sugar, salt and fat and can be higher in calories due to the high amounts of added sugar or fat. Unless a food package says it is gluten-free, assume it is not.

Examples of common processed & packaged foods that often contain additives:

  • Breakfast cereals and breads
  • Cheese
  • Tinned or canned foods (e.g. vegetables)
  • Savory snacks, such as fries, chips, sausage rolls, pies, pasties, cakes, biscuits
  • Meat products and substitutes, such as bacon, sausage, ham, salami and pâté
  • Stocks & bullions, gravies and sauces
  • Convenience foods, such as microwave meals or ready meals
  • Beer
  • Drinks, such as commercial milk or soft drinks
  • Commercial yogurt
  • Fruit fillings
  • Candy, gum and inexpensive chocolate
  • Energy/granola bars
  • Dry seasonings
  • Commercial salad dressings
  • Dry roasted nuts
  • Imitation seafood
  • Instant coffee

Foods that are ‘fresh’ and naturally gluten-free:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, poultry and seafood
  • Dairy
  • Beans, legumes and nuts

If you would like more information about a gluten-free diet, contact Dr. Gordon C. Gunn MD at 714-912-2211 or visit www.gordongunnmd.com to schedule an appointment today. 

Dr. Gunn proudly serves Fullerton and all surrounding areas.

Seven Qualities of the Mindfulness Body Scan | Fullerton, CA

Although in some ways it can seem quite simple, mindfulness is a multifaceted skill. The body scan is a great starting practice because it fundamentally trains so many aspects of working skillfully with experience. Here are seven qualities of mindfulness that should be practiced in the body scan.

Attention. By consciously choosing to place the mind on an object, we are training our capacity to pay attention. Attention is also trained by moving the mind from one object to another, and by coming back to an object when we notice the mind has wandered. Training attention in a body scan is a bit like doing resistance work in the gym—it takes some effort, but it cultivates strength and flexibility. Remember, each time you practice a body scan, you are strengthening the muscles of mindfulness.

Awareness. When they first practice the body scan, most people notice that their mind seems to roam all over the place. We intend to pay attention consistently, but that’s not quite what happens. This is not a problem—part of the practice is to bring awareness to whatever is happening in the mind, even if it’s not exactly what we’d like it to be. Knowing our patterns is the first step to working with them skillfully. With awareness, we are open to the landscape of the mind, able to see the terrain of our being.

Note: Part of the practice is to bring awareness to whatever is happening in the mind, even if it’s not exactly what we’d like it to be.

Embodiment. Repeatedly bringing attention to our bodies balances the tendency to “live in our heads.” The body senses rather than thinks, so, by allowing body sensations to be felt, we can drop into a fuller sensory palette. Living from our bodies, we tune into a mode of perceiving that’s more centered, grounded and directly in touch with the world around us, rather than always getting caught up in concepts.

Letting be. Many of us are used to driving ourselves hard. We think of training as a way to try to force change, push, pull, cajole and badger ourselves into becoming something different. Mindfulness training encourages a different approach. Each time we come back to attention in the body scan, it’s suggested we do so gently. When we notice the mind is wandering, we do so with acceptance—this is just the way the mind is, for now. While we may not always like what we find, we can practice allowing it as our starting point, rather than trying to resist it or try to force change, which just creates struggle and stress.

Note: Many of us are used to driving ourselves hard. We think of training as a way to try to force change, push, pull and badger ourselves into becoming something better. Mindfulness training encourages a different approach. When we notice the mind is wandering, we do so with acceptance—this is just the way the mind is, for now. We can practice allowing it as our starting point, rather than trying to resist it or try to force change, which just creates struggle and stress.

Leaning into unpleasant experiences. As we move into body sensations, we may discover feelings that we don’t like. Discomfort and pain, irritation and boredom, sadness and numbness are all common experiences for people practicing a body scan. Our usual way of meeting these sensations is to try not to meet them—to escape from their unpleasantness by distracting from, ruminating on, or battling with them. Sometimes, though, there isn’t anything we can do to make them go away on demand—physical or emotional pain tends not to listen to reason. So, rather than exacerbating our misery by struggling with it, the body scan teaches us how to lean gently into discomfort. Although this seems counterintuitive, it reduces the unwelcome sensations’ power to derail us. When we approach our experience with interest, although we feel even unpleasant sensations fully, we also drop our attachment to the stressful thoughts and reactions that are typically layered on top of them.

Appreciation. It’s easy to go through life taking things for granted. But contemplate it for a moment. Isn’t it amazing that we have a body at all, and a mind to experience it? By paying attention to body sensations, and noticing what arises in awareness, we incline our interest into being alive, not as a set of philosophical ideas, but as actual phenomena—the very experience of things. This enables us to tune into the actuality of moment-by-moment living, generating appreciation that can nurture a sense of awe and gratitude.

Getting unstuck. When we pay attention with mindfulness, we come to observe and feel the reality that everything is always changing. We notice how stress arises when we try to hold on to pleasant sensations and/or reject painful ones, and we see how sensations are moving, shifting, rising and falling in intensity all the time. We may even see how we are no longer so caught up in ourselves when we drop our sense of fixed identity (“My leg hurts!”) and invite an awareness of the aspects and processes of experience (“There is an ache right now, and a thought about that ache”). Getting unstuck from mistaken assumptions about how things are—and how we are—can start to bring some relief.

Curious to find out more? Click here to continue reading this article.

If you would like more information about mindfulness, contact Dr. Gordon C. Gunn MD at 714-912-2211 or visit www.gordongunnmd.com to schedule an appointment today. 

Dr. Gunn proudly serves Fullerton and all surrounding areas.

10 Tips to Improve Your Sleep | Fullerton, CA

Stick to a consistent sleep schedule and routine. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. A set sleep routine will “train” you to fall asleep and wake up more easily. Keep a sleep diary and chart your sleep for 2 weeks.

Use your bed only for sleep and sex.

Improve your sleep surroundings. Keep the television, laptop, mobile devices, bright lights, and any other distraction turned off or out the bedroom. This reinforces the idea that this room is meant for sleeping. An ideal environment is quiet, dark, and relatively cool, with a comfortable bed and pillow and minimal clutter. If you tend to “watch the clock”, turn the clock’s face away from view so you do not worry about the time.

If you’re still awake after 20 minutes in bed, get up and read awhile to relax until you feel sleepy. Otherwise, you’ll set yourself up for tossing and turning and being anxious of not being able to sleep.

Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Both are stimulants. Coffee, colas, certain teas, chocolate all contain caffeine, and its effects can take as long as 8 yours to fully wear off. Caffeine often means a sleepless night and can also increase the need to urinate during the night. Nicotine, acting as a stimulant, often causes smokers to sleep very lightly and to wake up early in the morning because of nicotine withdrawal. If you use tobacco in any form, you know your future health status – QUIT.

Avoid alcoholic drinks before going to bed. Alcohol depresses the nervous system, so a nightcap may help you relax in falling asleep. But this effect wears off after a few hours and often leads to waking up throughout the night. Alcohol can also worsen snoring and other sleep breathing problems (e.g. sleep apnea).

Avoid meals and beverages within 3 hours of bedtime. A light snack is OK. Drink only a small amount of water to take any nighttime medications. Evening fluid intake often causes you to wake up during the night to urinate.

Be physically active. Regular aerobic exercise like walking, running, or swimming provides three important sleep benefits: you’ll fall asleep faster, attain a higher percentage of restorative deep sleep, and awaken less often during the night. HOWEVER, do not exercise within 2-3 hours of retiring to allow your endorphins to return to a resting level, allowing you to relax.

Limit daytime naps. Prolonged napping can disrupt your natural sleep cycle and prevent you from feeling tired enough to fall asleep.

Try to avoid taking sleeping pills. Sleeping pills such as zolpidem (Ambien) or eszopiclone (Lunesta) do not induce the natural, large, deep-sleep brainwave activity. They target the same system in the brain that alcohol does, effectively knocking out the higher regions of the brain’s cortex. Sleep disorders should be evaluated to find an underlying cause. There are natural supplements and meditative techniques that may assist you in falling and remaining asleep.

If you would like more information about getting a good night’s sleep, contact Dr. Gordon C. Gunn MD at 714-912-2211 or visit www.gordongunnmd.com to schedule an appointment today. 

Dr. Gunn proudly serves Fullerton and all surrounding areas.

February Is a Time for Love and Heartache | Fullerton, CA

Because the American Red Cross celebrated Go Red for Women this month, we thought we would take a moment to breakdown the differences between a stroke and a heart attack. After all, many women don’t even know they have an issue because our symptoms aren’t the same as they are for men. And those symptoms that are often chalked up to the flu. We all know women have a higher threshold for pain, and many times women ignore little symptoms as nothing to worry about. Here’s what you should know:

Sweating. Pressure. Nausea. Jaw pain. Believe it or not, these are all symptoms of a heart attack in women. They’re also symptoms that women often brush off as the flu, stress or simply feeling under the weather—which could put their lives in jeopardy. It’s also important to note that women are more likely to experience the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

Symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  • As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort.

Symptoms of a stroke:

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble seeing or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

If you would like more information about getting more heart healthy, contact Dr. Gordon C. Gunn MD at 714-912-2211 or visit www.gordongunnmd.com to schedule an appointment today. 

Dr. Gunn proudly serves Fullerton and all surrounding areas.

Heart Healthy New Year Resolutions | Fullerton, CA

Heart Healthy

Here we are – 2022. And with the new year comes a new set of goals to try to live our healthiest, happiest lives. Some of us go to the gym, others quit a bad habit or two. The point is that now is the time to check in with ourselves in regard to what we want our next year to bring. Because if we don’t, it will likely lead to health problems instead.

Being diagnosed with problems such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol should be a wakeup call to start to strive toward a healthier lifestyle. Good news is, there are many ways to prevent and even go about lowering both your high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Simple changes to your lifestyle will make a big difference to your overall health. And a healthier life will lead to a happier one. Unsure where to start? Here are some ways that will make the changes you’re looking for:

  • Lowering weight and maintaining healthy weight
  • Eat heart healthy meals
  • Become or continue to be more active
  • Reduce blood sugar
  • Manage blood pressure
  • Avoiding tobacco products
  • Control cholesterol

Making heart healthy changes before you develop conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol is extremely crucial. Many of us aren’t aware, but heart disease is actually the No. 1 killer in the US, so taking action to keep your heart healthy is very important. If you need tips to becoming healthier, feel free to contact your doctor. They will be more than willing to lead you down the right track.

If you would like more information about getting more heart healthy, contact Dr. Gordon C. Gunn MD at 714-912-2211 or visit www.gordongunnmd.com to schedule an appointment today. 

Dr. Gunn proudly serves Fullerton and all surrounding areas.

Stress: Symptoms, Causes and Managing | Fullerton, CA

As we get ready to begin a whole new year, we tend to take stock on things we’d like to change and improve upon. One of the main causes of lots of health issues comes from stress that we carry in our lives. Financial issues, problems at work or home, health problems and social isolation are just some of the major factors that lead to stress in our lives. It is a crazy world we live in, but we need to find ways to curtail our stress levels in order to keep ourselves healthy for the year ahead. Here are some common symptoms of stress:

  • Headaches
  • Backaches
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Recurring nightmares
  • Irritability
  • Loss of concentration

Chronic stress is believed to raise the risk of increased blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic back pain, depression and a reduced immune response. If you find that you are getting stressed on a frequent basis, try some of these ideas:

  • Discuss your symptoms and your feelings about them.
  • Keep a diary to gain insight into your concerns and emotional patterns.
  • Exercise regularly engaging in both aerobic and weight training.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation deep breathing exercises.
  • Maintain your immune system by eating well balanced meals, exercising regularly and getting sufficient sleep.
  • Avoid destructive behaviors, including overindulgence of alcohol, caffeine or smoking.

Seek professional help if any of your symptoms persist, interfering with your sense of wellbeing and/or your personal/work relationships. You may be prescribed a medication based on your particular symptoms:

Recurrent acute anxiety (episodic anxiety): Diazepam (Valium), Lorazepam (Ativan), or Alprazolin (Xanax).

Depression: Selective serotoninuptake inhibitors: Fluoxetin (Prozac), or Paroxetine (Paxil) or other antidepressant medication.

Insomnia: Zaleplon (Sonata), Zolpiden (Ambien) or Temazapan (Restoril).

If you would like more information about dealing with stress, contact Dr. Gordon C. Gunn MD at 714-912-2211 or visit www.gordongunnmd.com to schedule an appointment today. 

Dr. Gunn proudly serves Fullerton and all surrounding areas.

What Is an Echocardiogram? | Fullerton, CA

As we continue to age, we will find that health problems will begin to arise and need to be addressed by a doctor. If these issues are mainly in the chest area, additional tests may be conducted. One of these tests is an Echocardiogram. An Echocardiogram (ECHO) is a special non-invasive office ultrasound examination that determines the health of the heart by evaluating both its anatomy and function.

Before you get nervous, please understand not everyone will need a test like this. Who should have an Echocardiogram? Individuals of any age who have any of the following should expect to have one of these tests done in their lifetime:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Heart murmur or other abnormal heart examination finding
  • Mitral valve prolapse (MVP)
  • Irregular heart rhythm or palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Ankle swelling
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • History of diet pill use
  • History of congenital heart defects

Like we’ve stated before, this is a non-invasive test, but it will be a test that could possibly save your life. As for what results you can expect, an Echocardiogram of your heart will measure the following:

  • The four heart chambers that receive circulating blood (atriums) and then pump the blood (ventricles) to the lungs and body. Both the size of the chambers and the thickness of the chamber walls are measured. (Note: High blood pressure can cause wall thickening and subsequent weakening of the heart muscle.)
  • Pumping function of the heart muscle, while in motion.
  • Heart valve structure including prolapse (MVP) or leaking.
  • Pressure within the heart and lungs in patients with a history of diet pill use.
  • Detects blood clots, masses or infections of the heart.
  • Detects inflammation or fluid accumulation around the heart.

If you would like more information about echocardiograms, contact Dr. Gordon C. Gunn MD at 714-912-2211 or visit www.gordongunnmd.com to schedule an appointment today. 

Dr. Gunn proudly serves Fullerton and all surrounding areas.

Breast Cancer Awareness: Checking Your Breasts | Fullerton, CA

Breast cancer awareness isn’t something that should only be once a year because it is something that affects us year-round. And while we love to wear our pink stuff, making sure you are healthy is the best kind of support you can give. We can do this by regularly checking our breasts in between yearly mammogram appointments. Here is a quick breakdown:

Step 1. Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips, looking for unusual size, shape, and color, visible distortion or swelling. Make sure to schedule a doctor’s appointment if you notice anything odd.

Step 2. Raise your arms and look for the same changes.

Step 3. While you’re at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).

Step 4. Feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with using your finger pads, keeping them flat and together. Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter.

Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.

Step 5. Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower.

If you find that you may be feeling something strange in any of these areas, make an appointment for a medical exam.

If you would like more information about self breast exams, contact Dr. Gordon C. Gunn MD at 714-912-2211 or visit www.gordongunnmd.com to schedule an appointment today. 

Dr. Gunn proudly serves Fullerton and all surrounding areas.