Category: Health

Are Your Habits Putting You at Risk for Dementia?

Posted on Jul 29, 2015 by No Comments

While some studies show that dementia is more prevalent in some blood types, there is also research that suggests how we live may also play a factor.  That means we are all vulnerable.

According to Donna B. Fedus, M.A., gerontologist and founder of Borrow My Glasses: Aging and Caregiving from a New Perspective there are things we can do to help reduce our risk of developing dementia.

Exercise

We know that living life as a couch potato or someone who sits at a desk all day can put us at risk for heart disease, but it turns out that not exercising is also bad for our brain.

According to Fedus, “Exercising regularly does reduce risk for multiple diseases of old age, including dementia.” And when it comes to our brain, exercise can actually improve cognition and even slow the decline for those who are already struggling with dementia.”

Eat a Balanced Diet

Eating the right foods can help boost your chances for preventing dementia. Be sure to include foods rich in the B vitamins.

If you eat a varied, balanced diet this should not be too difficult because B vitamins are widely available throughout all food groups and include: eggs, fortified grains, meat and legumes.

Nzinga Harrison, M.D. also points to obesity as another risk factor saying, “The buildup of fats and other substances in the walls of your blood vessels can reduce blood flow to the brain, cause multiple mini-strokes, and lead to vascular dementia.”

Moderate Alcohol Use

Heavy alcohol use is another risk factor for dementia.

The thing that may surprise many people is that for women, drinking three or more drinks in a single day (or more than seven in a week) is considered heavy drinking. For men that number is five or more in a day and more than 15 in a week.

Regular Sunshine

Vitamin D deficiency is another factor that increases your chances of developing dementia. Get outside and boost your vitamin D levels just by spending 10 – 15 minutes outdoors several times a week without sunscreen.

Along with these proactive lifestyle habits, be sure to manage health conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol which can contribute to dementia.

If you look at all these lifestyle suggestions it really goes back to eating a healthy balanced diet and getting regular exercise. The key is to take steps now.

Photo credits: wikipedia

Grass-Fed Fat Is Good for You

Posted on Jul 27, 2015 by No Comments

Expert advice on what is good for us and what’s not continues to evolve. I think we are still recovering from all the low-fat misinformation we were fed for a couple of decades.

With low carb diets, the Paleo diet and others, we are re-learning that fat is good for us. However, not all fats are the best for us.

I’ve recently learned that grass-fed animal fat is better for us that grain fed. This makes logical sense to be because the grass would be low carb while the grain would not.

Anyway, grass-fed animal fat includes bone barrow, tallow, and lard, but doesn’t include the fat of chickens or other poultry. According to a recent study, what makes them better is that they are high in nutrients, essential fatty acids, protein, minerals, antioxidants, and fat-soluble nutrients.

As we’ve heard over and over, we are what we eat. And the same goes for cows. Cows that feed on carotenoid-rich grass and forage assimilate substantial amounts of these compounds into their tissues.

Carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, are forerunners to vitamin A and are found as pigments in plants, so the carotenoids give the fat from grass-fed beef a more yellow hue than that found in the fat from grain-fed beef. Consider that a good indicator.

Grass-fed beef has also been shown to contain significantly higher levels of vitamin E and other nutrients used in the protection of our cells from oxidation. Antioxidants like vitamin E and beta-carotene also work synergistically to protect the meat against damage as it makes the journey to our plates.

Butter from grass-fed animals is also high in fat-soluble vitamins, antioxidants, vitamins A, E, D, and K, and healthy fats, while butter made from grain-fed cows offers lower levels of these beneficial compounds.

In a way, I look at grass fed meat as taking low-carb to one more level and the benefits are clear.

Photo credits: Neeta Lind

How Toxic Is Nutmeg?

Posted on Jul 24, 2015 by No Comments

Nutmeg is a potent spice that comes from the nutmeg tree which is native to many of the Indonesian islands.

Nutmeg is actually a nut, has a spicy aroma and a versatile flavor which can be used in sweet and savory dishes. For instance, I use it in my bread pudding recipe, when I make white sauce, and one of our family favorites, chicken tetrazzini.

With that said, I must also admit that it is not my favorite flavor if it is overused. It can easily overpower the overall piquancy of a dish. In fact, I sometimes leave it out of cookie recipes and just go with cinnamon instead.

Recently I read an article that said nutmeg was ‘toxic.’ Of course that claim piqued my curiosity, and led me to one study that mentions “numerous citations in medical literature” that report the common household spice’s abuse “as a psychoactive agent, primarily for its purported hallucinogenic effects.”

The research suggests that these effects are the result of the compound myristicin.

For this study, researchers reviewed the California Poison Control System database from 1997-2008 and tracked all the cases of single-substance human exposure to nutmeg. The results clearly show people have been known to abuse nutmeg.

For that time period a total of 119 people had experienced nutmeg exposure, with 86 of those people going after the experience on purpose. The rest had unintentionally consumbed too much.

When comparing the two groups, a higher number of the people from the group that had abused the spice on purpose experienced “tachycardia and agitation.”

The study concluded that “nutmeg exposure” is uncommon, but those who do experience it may suffer clinical effects that could require medical intervention. However, “life-threatening toxicity and death did not occur in this series.”

Don’t let this information stop you from using nutmeg though, because according to the study, most of the people responsible for abusing nutmeg were between the ages of 13 and 20. Need I say anymore?

Photo credits: wikimedia

Coconut Water Keeps You Hydrated and More

Posted on Jul 22, 2015 by No Comments

Before I moved to Florida, I’d never seen a palm tree and the only coconut I’d eaten were the big, brown, hairy-looking fruits in the produce section of the grocery store.

When I saw green coconuts on the trees and wondered out loud about how different they looked, someone told me the nuts were inside.

Because I liked coconut, I looked forward to trying a fresh one. When the time came, I marveled at the amount of work it took to get that nut out of its green shell. The person doing all the work used a large hammer and a chisel-like tool.

When it opened somewhat, they used brute strength to pull the fibrous outer shell open a piece at a time. And there it was, a green coconut, which I later learned is how young coconuts look.

“Ready to try some coconut water?” they asked.

At that time, I’d never heard of coconut water, but I liked coconut and I was game. My friend hacked at the green outer part of the coconut revealing a soft white interior. He lopped a hole at the top and handed it to me to drink from the opening.

To my surprise it was clear. The taste was slightly sweet and had a hint of a nutty flavor. It really was more like water than I expected.

At the time, I had no idea that the rare drink in my hands was rich in electrolytes, low in calories or that it offered more potassium than a sports drink.

It wasn’t until I moved to Georgia that I learned about coconut water’s health benefits. It can aid in weight loss, it’s good for our skin, helps us stay hydrated, and can even aid in lowering blood pressure.

Of course now, I have to buy it at the store or travel 50 miles to the farmer’s market that offers young coconuts, which are expensive. Since I don’t like the immature fruit part of the young coconut, for me the convenience of buying coconut water at the store is the best option.

Either way, it’s a treat worth having on hand in the summer months because it really helps keep me hydrated and tastes way better than any sports drink.

Photo credits: wikipedia

Study May Offer Answer for Memory Loss

Posted on Jul 21, 2015 by No Comments

At times my recall isn’t what it once was. Where did I put my car keys? For that matter, where did I park my car? Why did I come into the kitchen?

And while I was once good with names, now when I meet a new person remembering their name is a little bit of a hit and miss.

While these things can be annoying, frustrating, and slightly humorous at times, I admit that in the back of my mind I have wondered if it is the beginning of something more serious.

According to experts, mild memory loss is normal as we age, and now there is a new study published in Nature Medicine that may hold the answer for preventing this from happening.

The study points to a protein called beta2-microglobulin (B2M) which disrupts brain cell repair and gradually builds up. This is the culprit they are zeroing in on since it has been shown to influence how mice perform in memory tests.

As a result, they are working to find drugs that can clean up this buildup or destroy B2M. Once they do, it will allow researchers to test to see if the same can offer a solution in humans.

This discovery is attributed to Saul Villeda of the University of California San Francisco. His is the first detailed study of a so-called “anti-elixir” factor — one that builds up with age and causes brain degeneration.

“Right now, the idea is to develop antibodies or small molecules that can either block the effects of the protein or help to remove it from old blood.” — Saul Villeda

If what Villeda has found holds true and they find a way to either block the effects of B2M or can eliminate it from our blood, there’s a chance our memory won’t be the first thing to go.

Photo credits: borehamwoodcc

Mammograms May Not Lead to Fewer Deaths

Posted on Jul 20, 2015 by No Comments

For years our doctors have pushed mammograms. I had one when I turned 40 and decided I wouldn’t be doing that again any time soon.

That’s not what I’m recommending to everyone out there; I’m just saying it is my personal choice. I didn’t make this decision because it was an uncomfortable experience, but because I’m one of those people who is proactive about her health.

Based on my family history, the fact that I didn’t want to expose myself to radiation on a regular basis, and watching my mother and friends get frantic with false readings requiring more tests, I decided I didn’t need to get regular mammograms.

I even toyed with the idea that it was one more way for the insurance companies to dip into our pockets on a regular basis. But on the other side of the issue is the fact that early detection saves lives. Or so we thought.

Now a new study is suggesting that breast cancer screenings may not lead to fewer deaths but may lead to overdiagnosis. This doesn’t mean they didn’t find tumors.

In fact, the study looked at areas in the U.S. with high levels of screening and found more tumors were diagnosed, but the death rates due to cancer were no lower than in the areas with lower levels of screenings. (Mind you, these results are not definitive.)

What the report published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows is that the number of breast cancer diagnoses went up with the number of screenings, but that the number of breast cancer deaths over the following 10 years stayed the same.

That means more people knew they had cancer while the same amount of people died from it.

According to the National Cancer Institute, every year around 230,000 U.S. women are newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Screening guidelines vary, but U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says that women of average risk should have mammograms every other year from ages 50-74.

When I had my one and only, 40 was the age recommended to get a base-line mammogram so they could compare scans in the future, but things change.

The researchers admit more research is needed and warn that their findings may be limited by ecological bias which can come about when assumptions are made about individuals from data based on a large group. Other ecological studies have shown that mammograms contributed to a decline in breast cancer deaths.

With so many conflicting studies, it can be hard to figure out what we should do. So once again, we as women must sift through the information and decide what we think is best for us as individuals.

Photo credits: wikimedia

Antibiotics Can Contribute to Weight Gain

Posted on Jul 13, 2015 by No Comments

We have all kinds of reasons to point our fingers at when it comes to weight gain. At the top of the list are the two biggies: overeating and lack of exercise.

But beyond those obvious contributing factors are things like lack of sleep, eating foods that sabotage our efforts, and sometimes medications. Antibiotics fall within this last category.

In a study, New York University Langone Medical Center researchers gave mice doses of a popular childhood antibiotic with doses similar to those kids receive.

They discovered pervasive clinical implications, “potentially affecting everything from nutrient metabolism to obesity in children.” In plain English, the mice on the antibiotics gained more weight, and experienced more interference in their good gut bacteria.

None of this is really surprising. It’s one of the reasons it is important to follow up with probiotics once you’ve finished your prescription.

However, the lead author of this study, Martin Blaser, MD, director of the Human Microbiome Program at NYU School of Medicine, says what is interesting is how long these changes lasted.

For instance, antibiotic treatment was stopped on day 39 of the study, and on day 160, evidence still showed differences in the guts of medicated mice, and while the research was limited to mice, Blaser says results are “consistent with the idea that early-life antibiotics affect how the microbiome is developing and may affect how a child might be developing.”

Effects of taking antibiotics on weight is not limited to children though. Another study looked at a million people. They found people who suffered from diabetes had received more antibiotics than people without the diabetes.

According to Blaser, this suggests antibiotics are changing the microbiome even in adults by affecting metabolism and predisposing some to diabetes.

The answer is not to stop taking antibiotics, but to make sure you don’t take them when you don’t really need them. Make sure the infection you are fighting is bacterial infection before you pop those antibiotics.

Photo credits: Insider Medicine

Eat Earlier Rather than Later for Healthier Weight

Posted on Jul 10, 2015 by No Comments

There are so many bits of “wisdom” passed on through the years, but many times as an adult I’ve learned they are not wise or true. Like “don’t go swimming for an hour after eating or you can drown due to stomach cramps.” Turns out that is totally false.

I thought about that recently when I saw a headline talking about weight and eating late. Have heard that one for years but is it really true? According to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, this one happens to be true.

Turns out that research consistently supports the fact that people who eat late at night weigh more than those who eat earlier in the day, and with today’s schedules that explains why some of us struggle with weight as much as we do.

By the time we get home from work, picking up the kids from soccer practice, or even if we are stay-at-homes waiting for our husbands to get home from work, we tend to eat later. Not only that, but most of us tend to have a snack to help us unwind while we watch TV or sit at the computer.

According to the study, people who eat most of their food at night tend to have a higher BMI. In further research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, those who ate between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. gained more weight than those who avoided snacking late at night.

Even if you can’t help but eat dinner late, it is best to avoid snacking after dinner – especially after 10:00. If you do decide you must have something, avoid high-fat and high-sugar foods because they are easily stored as fat. Instead, reach for a piece of fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Another detriment to eating before bed is that it can disrupt your sleep. This in turn can increase cravings the next day because appetite-triggering hormones increase. This is one of the reasons poor sleep can contribute to overweight.

I’ve sort of made a rule for myself, that if for some reason I can’t sleep and find myself awake during those late night/early morning hours, if I’ve eaten enough already I don’t allow myself to eat anything. It’s easy to think you want to snack because you’re frustrated or bored, but just have a drink of water or some herb tea.

This leaves one last question. How late is late? The basic rule of thumb to follow is to stop eating around 1.5 to 2 hours before going to bed.

Photo credits: pixabay

Nutrition for a Healthy Mouth

Posted on Jul 2, 2015 by 1 Comment

Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned a lot about how to have a healthy mouth as my husband has fought to eradicate gum disease.

Regular dental checkups are important and oral hygiene plays an important role, but that means more than just brushing your teeth. It also includes flossing, using a water pick, and learning about which toothpastes and mouthwashes are best for your teeth.

Along with all these proactive steps, there is an aspect that is often overlooked and that’s nutrition.

The old adage, “You are what you eat,” holds true for our mouths, too.

So instead of focusing on what we shouldn’t eat, I’ve started to concentrate on what we should eat for a healthy mouth and that starts with vitamin C. It helps protect our gums from cell damage and bacterial infections and can be found in strawberries, citrus fruits, kiwi, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables.

Eating crisp raw fruits and vegetables like apples and celery can also help keep plaque from building up on our teeth.

And speaking of vegetables; be sure to include dark leafy greens as well as other dark green veggies like broccoli, spinach, asparagus, and others which provide good sources of folic acid which also promotes a healthy mouth by fostering cell growth and repair.

Be sure to include calcium in your diet, too, because it has been shown to help protect against periodontal disease.

The key to getting calcium is that it needs to be combined with vitamin D to help your body absorb it. So choices like yogurt, milk, cheese, and other dairy products make good options. I have been using the Activia brand for the added probiotic benefit because gut health can also influence our mouth health.

Lastly, it is important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water or unsweetened green or black tea. This helps your mouth produce saliva which contains proteins and minerals which fight enamel-eating acids. The polyphenol found in tea also slows the growth of bacteria

If you look at the big picture, it is easy to see that if we eat healthy our mouths will be healthier.

Photo credits: pixabay