Category: Health

The Angelina Effect Is Real

Posted on Oct 8, 2015 by No Comments

When Angelina Jolie had her breasts removed in 2013 because she tested positive for a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, it was inspirational to some and controversial to others.

But no matter what side of the issue you might fall on, there is something being called the “Angelina Effect” that has taken place as a result of Jolie’s choice – an increased women’s awareness of reconstructive breast surgery options.

While this effect has been a matter of speculation until now, a new study from Austria confirms that it is real.

The new study from Austria looked scientifically at the impact of Jolie’s actions.

Researchers found that after Jolie’s announcement, 92.6 percent of women in the study said they knew that breast reconstruction was an option after a mastectomy which was up from 88.9 percent in the same poll conducted the month before the announcement was made. These polls were conducted online, and each one included 1,000 Austrian women.

Dr. David Lumenta, an assistant professor of plastic surgery at the Medical University of Graz in Austria and lead researcher on the study, said in a statement, “This is the first prospective report to prove the media’s effect on the healthcare-related issue of breast cancer among the general public.”

The same study showed the largest increase (up 57.6 percent) in awareness regarding the use of a woman’s own fat tissue in breast reconstruction as opposed to synthetic breast implants, and another large impact on awareness dealt with knowing that breast reconstruction surgery could be conducted at the same time as the breast removal surgery up 40.5 percent from the first poll.

Along with comparing this information, researches added questions to the second survey to gather more detail regarding the impact of media coverage on the participants. One-fifth of participants admitted that Jolie’s media coverage forced them to “deal more intensively with the topic of breast cancer.”

Other retrospective studies have been conducted, and one 2014 United Kingdom study looking at the “Angelina Effect” found the demand for genetic testing for breast cancer nearly doubled, and women asking about risk-reducing mastectomies also went up.

Here in the U.S. another 2014 study found that while 75 percent of Americans knew about Jolie’s announcement and surgery, less than 10 percent of respondents totally understood how the BRCA gene affected her risk for the disease.

Lumenta admits that it is important for doctors to consider the effects of media coverage on their patients saying, “Since individual choice will become a driving force for patient-centered decision-making in the future, cancer specialists should be aware of public opinion when consulting patients with breast cancer.”

Photo credits: wikimedia

Study Shows Effect of Sitting too Much on Kids

Posted on Oct 5, 2015 by No Comments

We’ve known for a long time that sitting too much is not good for our health. We sit in our cars, at our desks, in front of the computer or TV, and all that sitting has caught up to us. It can lead to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

As a writer, it is very easy for me to sit all day, unless I make a plan to get up and move around. Aside from a two-mile walk each day, I wear a pedometer and shoot for at least 10,000 steps a day. That’s a big difference from the 1,500-2,000 I was putting in before making an effort to move.

While I know many of us struggle with trying to overcome a sedentary lifestyle, have you even considered how much your kids sit? The reason I ask, is that a new study that looked at girls between ages 9 and 12.

For this experiment, they asked this group of girls to sit in comfy beanbag chairs for three hours uninterrupted. They were allowed to watch movies, play with iPads, and when they needed to use the restroom they were wheeled to one.

You wouldn’t expect much to happen in one three-hour session of sitting, but the findings are really disconcerting.

“After a single session of prolonged inactivity, the children developed changes in their blood flow and arteries that, in grown-ups, would signal the start of serious cardiovascular problems.” – New York Times

By the end of the sitting test not one girl had arteries that function as well as they did before the test. The normal widening of blood vessels dropped by 33 percent.

To give you an idea of what that means, in adults just a one percent decline has proven to boost cardiovascular disease risk by 13 percent.

That’s scary news for our kids, for sure. The good news with this test, though, is that when the girls moved on to another phase of the experiment that included mild activity every hour, their arteries quickly returned to normal.

It doesn’t take a genius to see none of us are made to sit for hours upon end. Encourage your kids to get up and move, even if it’s a walk to the end of the driveway and back.

Photo credits: SevenPerfectAngels

Alfonso Ribeiro Agrees DWTS Handled Kim Zolciak Right

Posted on Oct 5, 2015 by No Comments

When reality star Kim Zolciak experienced a mini stroke, it left Dancing With the Stars fans speculating whether the 44-year-old contestant would be able to heal quickly enough to make it back on the show for the next competition.

Elsewhere in the media, some were even questioning whether or not she really had a mini stroke. The bottom line is that couldn’t make it back for this week’s competition, and as a result DWTS decided to eliminate her.

Kim Zolciak
I know some think this is harsh considering she had no control over whether or not she had a stroke, but in a competition, injuries often eliminate a contestant.

Whether it’s a baseball player who’s played well all year and gets hurt just before the playoffs, or someone dancing their best on DWTS, unexpected injuries or other health conditions can eliminate them without notice.

In the case of DWTS it feels a little different to tell a contestant they can’t stay in the contest because DWTS is also a popularity contest. Each contestant and the professional partners have a following.

In fact, that’s one of the reasons the show has done so well for 20 seasons. The audience is engaged. And so when Kim suffered a mini stroke, lines were drawn with some fans saying she should leave the show if she missed Monday’s completion and others hoping she’d get another shot.

When last year’s DWTS mirror-ball trophy winner was asked his thoughts on the decision to have Kim leave the show he said he agreed because it would have been unfair to the other competitors to make an exception to the rules.

In fact, on the night of Kim’s elimination, Alfonso told ET, “I think the show handled it right because it could have been Kim going home tonight. And would it have been fair for her not to dance, and still come back next week, and have someone else go home? That wouldn’t have been fair. […] the rules say, you can’t go the next week if you don’t perform. It truly is unfortunate that she wasn’t able to make it here to perform.”

Alfonso found himself in the same type of predicament as a contestant when he suffered a groin injury in 2014, and then again later in the season when he hurt his back during rehearsals.

Reports were saying he might have to drop out, but he ultimately danced through the pain during the semi-finals and went on to win that season.

And even though Alfonso agrees with the show’s decision based on the rules, he also admitted that he was a fan of Kim’s and disappointed things turned out this way for her.

Photo credits: Entertainment Tonight

Surprising Look at Millennials Struggle to Lose Weight

Posted on Oct 2, 2015 by 1 Comment

Seems every which way we turn there is something to blame for the overweight and obesity problems we see today.

Now research published in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice sheds some new light on the fact that it is more difficult for millennials to lose weight that it was for their parents at the same age. What’s unclear is the reason why.

The scientists conducting this research looked at information collected from 1971 to 2008 from more than 36,000 U.S. adults. They also analyzed data regarding physical activity between 1988 and 2006.

The conclusion they came to is that adults today are about 10 percent heavier than they were in 2008. That’s not a surprise to most of us, but the thing that is a bit shocking is that the weight gain experienced by millennials occurred even when they ate the same amount of food and exercised at the same level as their parents had back when they were the same age and weighed less.

If this study is right, then that blows away the idea that managing our weight is a simple matter of how much we eat and exercise. Jennifer Kuk, PhD, an associate professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at Canada’s York University, and study co author has a few theories.

1) Since older moms tend to have babies with more fat, then because women are waiting longer to have children, this may be playing a role in the unexplained extra weight.

2) Eating later in the day is shown to cause extra weight, and because more of us eat later than we did back then, that could be playing a role in the added weight.

3) It could be related to the effects of medications like anti-depressants and meds to control diabetes that have been linked to weight gain.

While she didn’t mention it, I can’t help but wonder the role food additives might play as well.

For example, high fructose corn syrup was first introduced to the food and beverage industry in the 1970s and many suggest it is a big contributor to the weight issues we face in society today.

The one thing this study does prove is that obesity is a complex problem.

Photo credits: pixabay

Good for You Carbs when Losing Weight

Posted on Oct 1, 2015 by No Comments

In the dieting world we tend to go extreme. We’re either strictly adhering to a restrictive diet like paleo or juicing or we’re off the wagon and gaining back the pounds and inches we lost.

I’m trying to find that happy ground in the middle. I want to be able to enjoy food for food, and not be thinking about every carb or calorie. I don’t really want to weigh or measure everything that goes into my mouth either.

However, that doesn’t mean I can throw out everything I know and just eat what and how much I want without gaining weight.

So here’s my happy place. I’m back to common sense. Eat three meals. Don’t snack unless I’m really hungry – not just stressed or bored. Choose foods that help me stay satisfied.

Among those are good-for-you carbs because they provide energy and endurance, and if there is one thing I need, that’s it. Plus, they provide the fiber my digestive tract needs to keep things moving along. And while I eat leafy greens just about every day, there are times I want healthy carbs that give me that comfort food satisfaction.

Among these, and new to my diet, is farro, which offers up to 4 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber in a ½ cup. If you’re among those who label carbs either good or bad, I’d put this one in the good column because it takes longer to break down and supplies the body with a steady stream of energy, unlike white rice which digests faster. Tabbouleh is another tasty option.

Along with grains, winter squash will soon be hitting the produce department, and among them, acorn squash is a good one. Skip the brown sugar, and bake them with a little butter and jerk seasoning for a delicious side.

I cook them face down with some water for about 30 minutes or until tender, then flip, add butter and seasoning and cook for another 10 or so minutes.

And while many low carb diets shy away from fruit, it is still a better option that going for the ice cream, plus they offer fiber, vitamins and minerals we don’t get in other foods.

The key is to be reasonable. Just because foods are good for us doesn’t mean we need to eat them in mass quantities.

Carbs are one of the macronutrients our bodies need. It’s time to bring the healthy ones back to the table.

Photo credits: wikimedia

Have Your Favorite Comfort Foods Turned You Into a Food Addict?

Posted on Sep 30, 2015 by No Comments

When you think of comfort foods, what do you picture in your mind? Truthfully, when I’m stressed it will probably be something chocolate, or something salty, or a little of both. Or it could be something creamy and loaded with carbs, but I digress.

The reason I bring it up is that we eat these foods often because on some level we want to feel good…or better. But according to some recent animal studies, it looks like we might be doing the exact opposite.

Animal studies have found that a diet high in fat, sugar and processed foods leads to higher rates of anxiety and depression, and a recent University of Michigan study shows that highly processed foods or foods with refined carbohydrates (white flour and/or sugar) may even trigger addictive-like eating behavior. They labeled french fries, chocolate and pizza among the most addictive.

On one level, those findings bring a sense of relief, because that means it is the food’s fault when I get in a cycle of eating such foods. On another level, it explains the very behavior that sometimes makes me feel like such a failure in my quest for eating healthier.

For this study, individuals with “symptoms” of food addiction or higher body mass indexes, related that they had bigger problems with highly processed foods.

Researchers suggest this is because some people may be particularly sensitive to the possible “rewarding” properties of these foods. This reminds me of how some of us can have a glass of wine or two without a problem while alcoholics have to stay away from alcohol all together.

Erica Schulte, a U-M psychology doctoral student and the study’s lead author said, “This is a first step towards identifying specific foods, and properties of foods, which can trigger this addictive response. This could help change the way we approach obesity treatment. It may not be a simple matter of ‘cutting back’ on certain foods, but rather, adopting methods used to curtail smoking, drinking and drug use.”

Trigger foods aren’t the same for every person, but I think most of us know what they are in our own lives. If this study is right, that would mean giving those foods up for good!

Photo credits: Extremely Me

Hormonal Help from the World of Herbs

Posted on Sep 28, 2015 by No Comments

Each month our bodies go through a hormonal cycle that leaves many of us coping with menstrual cramps, headaches, fatigue, moodiness and more.

But how do we cope? Most of us pop some ibuprofen, antidepressants, some sleep aid, or other drugs just to make it through.

Did you ever think about how women coped before all that? Before the days when the American Medical Society came into existence and convinced society that herbal medicine amounted to quackery?

Before all that, people turned to nature for relief because they understood the medicinal nature of herbs. But little by little, drugs became the standard alternative, and knowledge of medicinal herbs was lost, but not totally.

For those looking for natural relief from their raging hormones, we can still turn to herb-savvy women like Peg Moline who authored The Doctor’s Book of Natural Health Remedies which talks about treating PMS and menopause with chaste berries! These berries have also been used to treat ovarian cysts.

She also mentions cramp bark which grows in North America and was historically used by Native Americans for treating a number of things including menstrual cramps, inflammation, and as a sleep aid.

Before you run off to get some, though, read up because cramp bark is also used as a diuretic, to induce vomiting, and to empty the bowels.

The roots of the North American black cohosh plant are another popular remedy for menopause symptoms. Today it is considered a natural form of hormone therapy and thought to help relieve headaches, hot flashes, mood swings, problems sleeping, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and heart palpitations.

Studies recommend between 20-40 milligram tablets of a standardized extract twice a day, but some experts say it shouldn’t be taken for more than six months at a time.

The thing is that we do have medicinal options in the plant world, but we need to learn and understand how to use those resources. If you are already taking medications, it is important to know about possible interactions and risks.

The information is available, and it is worth the research for those of us who want to feel better naturally.

Photo credits: Aaron Carlson

What About Collagen Supplements – Do They Work?

Posted on Sep 28, 2015 by No Comments

Getting older sure has its complexities. Hormonal shifts help us gain weight in different places and loss of collagen helps skin start to sag, lips to thin, and to put it in a nutshell, makes us look old!

I hadn’t really realized the fact that lips get thinner until I watched some of my favorite actors age. Harrison Ford (73) and Patrick Stewart (75) never had really full lips, and now with age their lips have become almost nonexistent.

This happens because collagen is the main structural protein found in our connective tissues. I’ve heard it described as scaffolding. It is found in our bones, muscles, and in the tissues of our organs. What keeps us looking young is a combination of collagen, keratin, and elastin which work together to give our skin the elasticity, structure and strength that gives us a young appearance.

When we are younger, our body naturally produces collagen, but production gradually is interrupted as part of the natural aging process.

As for women, we produce less collagen than men to begin with and then we lose it at a rate of around one percent a year. So by the time we see our 50th birthday, we have basically lost about half of the collagen from our skin. That explains a lot.

Along with the effects of natural aging on collagen, sun exposure, nutrition, cigarette smoke, recreational drugs, and exposure to other toxins all decrease collagen. As a result, we start to notice wrinkles and even sagging as our skin loses its natural elasticity and firmness. Loss of collagen can even affect our bones.

That leaves us with the question of what we can do about it. Collagen supplements promise to restore our youth but there is little evidence that these beauty supplements do what they claim. That’s because when collagen is ingested, it’s broken down in the digestive tract into individual amino acids.

The best thing to do is to take steps to reduce collagen degradation with a proper sun care regimen. Other lifestyle changes to help protect what collagen supplies you still have include getting enough sleep and avoiding cigarette smoke.

Plus a nutritious diet rich in antioxidants is important to collagen production. For instance, tomatoes, grapefruit, and watermelon contain the powerful antioxidant lycopene which helps prevent collagen degeneration.

Along with all of this, be sure to take care of your skin. Include regular exfoliation with a gentle exfoliator scrub and use skincare products which offer antioxidant properties like retinol (vitamin A derivative) also known as Retin-A which helps stop collagen degradation resulting from UV exposure and is said to boost collagen production.

This is my next step and I’d love to hear from others who have tried it.

Photo credits: pixabay

Tap Into Brain Power with the Right Foods

Posted on Sep 25, 2015 by No Comments

Today we have games sites that claim to exercise our brains and diets that claim to help us build a better brain. I tried the brain games but found them boring.

As for the foods that can help keep us sharper, there is actually research published in the medical journal JAMA, that makes a couple of important points in this regard. The objective of this study was to test the effects of oral supplementation with nutrients on cognitive function. The findings are interesting.

I’ve long held the belief that meeting my nutritional needs with healthy food is far better than taking a synthetic supplement created to mimic the benefits of natural nutrients.

For this study, they looked at older adults who took nutritional supplements including: omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish and walnuts) and a combo of lutein and zeaxanthin (which are found in leafy greens). A second group took a placebo.

The results showed that both groups of participants experienced the same level of cognitive decline over a five-year period. And this isn’t the first study to confirm such disappointing findings regarding supplements.

However, a number of studies suggest certain diets do make a difference in slowing memory loss and other signs of brain aging. It turns out that the same diets that are good for our hearts also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

While evidence that specific foods are the “best” when it comes to brain health is incomplete, many suggest foods like blueberries, fish, walnuts, and kale are healthy brain foods.

Truthfully, what we need to embrace is a healthy balanced diet that includes such foods instead of focusing on one or two foods like they are a supplement to be taken.

Recommended diets include the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, along with the MIND Diet which combines the two with additional emphasis placed on foods that are thought to offer brain-boosting promise.

For instance leafy greens are eaten daily, along with one other serving of vegetables. It also includes whole grains, nuts, beans, poultry, berries, olive oil, one glass of wine, and limits red meat, cheese, butter, sweets and fried foods.

I don’t see any surprises in this diet. It healthy for body and mind.

Photo credits: Amazon