Friday, July 31, 2015
Listen to why this weight loss doctor says America’s obesity epidemic is because the government’s nutrition guidelines are backwards. They promote a diet high in carbohydrates and low in natural fats.
He says as a result of the low-fat, high-carb diet, heart disease and other health problems are also on the rise. He says the low-fat craze led to people replacing healthy fats with unhealthy sugar and starches, which translates into Americans consuming an average of 500 calories more per day than in the days before the low-fat diet was recommended.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Here's a quick rundown of what's making health news.
Friday, July 24, 2015
Divorced women do worse than divorced men when it comes to heart health. Family therapist Linda Mintle explains why the sudden shift in lifestyle is oftentimes more stressful for women than men.
Surprisingly, the trend even extends into remarriage. When divorced men remarry, their heart health improves, but divorced women who remarry still are at high risk for heart attack.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Many of us have experienced the sting of personal failure. We try to break a bad habit, but go back to it. We start a good habit, but stop.
The good news is, we don't have to live this way!
By understanding how our brain works, we can re-program it and gain control over our behavior.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
No matter what our age, we all want our brains to function their best. However, this is of particular importance as we age. We all know people who are of an advanced age who are as sharp as a tack, and others who are that same age who don't think clearly or quickly. We wonder what we need to do to end up like the first person.
Recently the Institute of Medicine, which is the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, released a report that identifies what helps and hurts brain function as we age. The results were published in this month's AARP bulletin.
Let's start with the bad news first so as to end on a positive note.
THINGS THAT CAN HARM THE AGING BRAIN
1. Depression: People who suffer from depression have an astounding double the risk for brain dysfunction, including dementia. One possible explanation is that depression causes changes in the brain's hippocampus.
2. Difficulty Seeing and Hearing: Being able to see and hear well are directly associated with healthy cognitive function, including memory. People who can't see or hear often avoid social interaction, which is a key factor in brain health. Also, according to a Johns Hopkins study, adults with hearing problems appear to have a greater rate of brain shrinkage as they age.
3. Medications: Antihistimines, sleep aids, and antidepressants have been shown to increase the risk of dementia. So if you are depressed, which is also a risk factor, try to deal with it naturally, such as with adequate sleep, exercise, a healthy diet, and prayer.
4. Stress: Daily stress can cause memory problems, but stress that lasts for months and even years is associated with a faster decline of brain health. Many of us can't eliminate the stress in our live, such as traffic jams and difficult relationships, but we can deal with stress effectively, in the same ways we deal with depressions: adequate sleep, exercise, healthy diet, and prayer.
5. Air Pollution: Long-term exposure to air pollution is linked with brain shrinkage, brain damage, and impaired brain function, according to one new study.
6. High Blood Pressure and Diabetes: These are also risk factors for heart disease. Doctors have been linking brain health and heart health for years now. Exercising, eating right and maintaining a healthy weight can lower blood pressure and reverse diabetes.
THINGS THAT HELP THE AGING BRAIN
1. Exercise: The best is exercise that causes you to breathe heavily for at least 30 minutes straight....combined with weight lifting. People whose brains benefitted the most from exercise were people over the age of 65.
2. Intellectual Stimulation: When it comes to the brain, "use it or lose it." Having a natural curiosity and continuing to learn are excellent for brain function. Some of the best ways to help your mind stay fit are learning a new language, reading, and writing.
3. Social Stimulation: Connecting in a positive way with other people has been proven time and again to keep our minds young. Spending time with friends and loved ones, such as at church activities, volunteering, and playing games all help preserve brain function.
4. Healthy Diet: Stay away from processed foods containing hydrogenated oils (trans fats) and sugar. Research shows a link between packaged food and brain shrinkage. On the other hand, scientists have discovered healthy fats are good for the brain. These include fish oils and other Omega-3 fats as well as the fats in nuts, avocado, coconut oil, and olive oil.
5. Good Sleep: This means getting plenty of deep, restful sleep. Some people suffer from sleep apnea, a condition that usually affects people who are overweight. It is a condition whereby the throat closes during sleep and causes the person to stop breathing temporarily and wake up momentarily, then go back to sleep...a cycle that repeats itself all night long. As a result of the constant waking-up, people with sleep apnea never enter into the deep, restorative sleep necessary to repair our brains. People with sleep apnea are at increased risk for memory problems and dementia. If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, see your doctor as there is a non-pharmaceutical treatment called a CPAP that works great.
Tuesday, July 07, 2015
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released shocking new statistics showing heroin use climbed to staggering proportions. According to a 10-year study, heroin use more than doubled in the last decade among teenagers, women, and people with higher incomes (people earning more than $60,000 annually).
The number of heroin-related deaths nearly quadrupled over the same time period -- 8,200 people died from heroin overdose in 2013, the most recent statistics available.
Nine out of 10 heroin users also use other drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine. But mostly, by far, they use prescription painkillers.
Forty-five percent of heroin addicts are also addicted to prescription painkillers. These are the powerful opiates that are prescribed by thousands of doctors every day to offer patients relief after an injury or surgery or for headaches or back pain.
They have names like OxyContin, Vicodin, Methadone, Darvocet, Lortab, Lorcet and Percocet. It is very easy to get hooked on these drugs. Oftentimes, the patient unknowingly becomes dependent when that’s the last thing they ever intended to do.
The reason it happens is because these powerful narcotics cause an increasing physical tolerance. The patient starts needing more of the drug to achieve the same effect. On top of that, the body starts craving the drug in order to feel normal, even after the pain for which he or she was taking it has subsided.
The federal government has started cracking down on the issuance of prescription painkillers. As a result, people abusing them are discovering they are harder to get and are more expensive than they used to be. In fact, a single OxyContin pill can sell for up to $80 on the street.
Painkiller addicts will do anything to get them - even kill. Pharmacists on the job and even customers are too often gunned-down by junkie robbers who took only one thing from the drug store: prescription painkillers.
It’s because of the expense and difficulty obtaining prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons that so many painkiller addicts are switching to heroin. For a hard-core addict, the daily cost of heroin is about one-fourth that of painkillers. And heroin is easier to get than painkillers. Both drugs allow the user to achieve the same "high." The user experiences the same euphoric effect from heroin as they do from prescription painkillers.
Dr. Debra Houry, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said painkiller addition is the gateway to heroin addiction.
"In only 10 years, heroin use has more than doubled among people who abused or were dependent on prescription opioid painkillers," she said, "In fact, in this study, the strongest risk factor for heroin abuse or dependence was abuse or dependence on opioid painkillers."
If you suspect someone you know might be addicted to prescription painkillers, here are some warning signs:
1. Usage increases
2. Use continues after medical condition improves
3. Change in personality
4. Change in sleeping/eating habits
5. Social withdrawal
6. Spending large amounts of time obtaining prescriptions
7. Diminished personal hygiene
8. Cough, runny nose, glazed, red eyes
9. Neglects responsibilities
10. Increased sensitivity to normal sights, sounds and emotions, including hallucinations
11. Blackouts and forgetfulness
12. Defensive about drug use
If you or someone you know is addicted to prescription painkillers or heroin, seek help from a substance abuse treatment center, including medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. Naloxone has been shown to reduce opioid overdose deaths.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Fireworks safety is personal to me. When I was in junior high school, one of my classmates had to have his hand amputated because he was holding a firework that exploded too soon, right in my classmate's hand. He was just 13 years old.
Earlier, when I was a little girl, I was badly burned by a sparkler. For some reason the general public commonly regards sparklers as benign, and therefore safe for children. But they can burn as hot as 2,000 degrees, which can catch clothing on fire.
Fireworks mishaps are at their peak on the Forth of July, but as well all know, people get a bit antsy and start with the fireworks before the 4th and continue for about a month. More than 600 people will be treated on the Fourth of July for fireworks-related injuries. Aside from that spike on the 4th, every day during the first three weeks of July over 200 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries.
Some of those injuries are fatal. In 2013, the most recent statistics available, there were eight deaths due to fireworks-related injuries. There were more than 11,000 injuries, which was an increase of about 3,000 over the previous year. Many of those injuries resulted in the amputation of fingers and hands. Injuries also affected the head, face, and ears as well as the torso, legs and eyes.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued these tips on how to stay safe around fireworks-related products:
1. Make sure the fireworks you want to buy are legal in your area before buying or using them
2. Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers.
3. Always have an adult nearby to supervise fireworks activities if older children are allowed to handle devices.
4. Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper, which is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers.
5. Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
6. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
7. Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
8. Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
9. Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
10. Light fireworks one at a time, then move away from them quickly.
11. Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
12. After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device to prevent a trash fire.
Fireworks-related items can permanently damage your hearing. We should only be exposing our ears to sounds that are below 85 decibels, which is about as loud as someone shouting across a room. Anything above that can damage the inner ear and lead to hearing loss. Fireworks are far above the safe level, at 162 decibels.
The best way to protect your ears from noise damage is to separate yourself from the noise, and if that's not possible, wear personal protective equipment like noise-cancelling headphones.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives encourages the public to report the manufacture or sale of illegal fireworks to your local law enforcement agencies or to the ATF hotline at 888/ATF-BOMB (888/283-2662).
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Most of us would like to know which foods are good for us and which ones to avoid. But when you try to figure this out, do you find yourself confused and overwhelmed?
You're not alone. Dietary recommendations keep changing as we learn more how various foods affect our bodies. To make matters worse, many health professionals are still stuck in the past and haven't caught up with the latest research. The end result is conflicting advice from doctors, dieticians, and other leaders in the healthcare arena.
One of the biggest divides is whether we should eat saturated fat. Back in the 1990s saturated fat, such as the type in eggs, butter and meat, was demonized. We were told if you consumed saturated fat, such as cream, you'd keel over with a heart attack.
Now, however, we know that's not true. In fact, the latest research shows saturated fat is actually good for us, provided it's natural, meaning it's not corrupted with chemical additives. Saturated fat is the best means by which to raise your HDL cholesterol, also knows as "good" cholesterol.
You want your HDL to be as high as possible. So by all means, eat saturated fat, provided you don't have any other intolerance to it. For example, red meat can raise estrogen levels and inhibit weight loss, so for this reason, I eat it sparingly. Dairy products such as cream, cheese, and butter cause some of us problems because of the casein, which has been linked to cancer, and allergic reactions. For these reasons some folks should limit dairy consumption, but not because of the saturated fat content.
There are fantastic sources of saturated fat. Topping the list is coconut oil. This has been linked to brain health, even mitigating symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, ALS and dementia. I take a tablespoon a day and cook with it almost exclusively. It's also a natural antimicrobial so it strengthens your immune system.
Eggs are also a fantastic source of saturated fat. Recently the U.S. goverment reversed its previous warnings to steer clear of eggs, saying now, that the cholesterol in eggs does not translate into higher blood cholesterol. So go ahead and eat eggs, even the yolk. The best eggs are ones that are pastured...not to be confused with "pasteurized." Pastured eggs are from chickens that roam around outside and eat bugs, which is what they are supposed to eat. The other kinds of eggs are from chickens that eat an unnatural diet of things like corn, which is not what chickens would eat in the wild.
Another great source of fat are the Omega-3 fats, such as fish oil. The best type of fish oil is derived from wild, cold-water fish, such as salmon. Try to eat it a couple of times a week. Albacore tuna is also good. The problem with fresh fish is you don't want to eat too much of it because of the mercury content.
So a good idea is to supplement with a fish oil. Get one that has the EPA and DHA amounts on the label. Take enough to get about 750 milligrams to one gram of DHA every day.
Polyunsaturated fats are wonderful, such as walnuts, almonds, and other nuts, avocados, and olive oil. Consume these every day if you can. I manage to do it by making a salad each day that includes walnuts and a half an avodaco, topped with salad dressing made with olive oil.
Hint: make your own salad dressing. It's easy and the ones in the store are bad, even the ones that contain olive oil because it's usually only a tiny amount of olive oil combined with other unhealthy ingredients.
On the other hand, Omega-6 oils should be avoided. These are the vegetable oils, like soybean oil, corn oil, etc. which includes margarines and mayonnaise. Technically, Omega-6 oils are not bad for us. The problem arises when we eat too many of them compared to how many Omega-3 fats.
We should be consuming just about equal amounts of Omega-3s and Omega-6s. Most Americans, however, consume 20 times more Omega-6s than Omega-3s. That imbalance causes massive inflammation. The reason we eat so many Omega-6s is because they are in many processed, packaged foods as well as fast foods. Omega-3s, on the other hand are pretty rare, and as I stated above, are usually only consumed in cold water fish.
Undoubtedly the worst fat of all, the one that should be avoided at all costs, is hydrogenated oil. Hydrogenated oil is also called trans fat. Like the name suggests, hydrogenated oil is oil that has been infused with hydrogen. This process is highly unnatural. It was invented to prolong the shelf life of packaged foods, among other things.
Shortening, such as Crisco, is a trans fat. Other than that, you will almost exclusively find trans fats in processed foods, especially baked goods, like cookies and crackers.
On a molecular level, trans fats are similar to plastic. Our bodies have no idea how to process them because they are completely foreign, as they are manufactured in a lab, not grown in nature. Trans fats have been strongly linked to heart disease and brain dysfunction.
The way to avoid them is to read the list of ingredients on any item you are thinking about eating. If you see the word "hydrogenated" you know that food contains a trans fat. Do not eat it.
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
We spend a lot of time talking about preventing sunburn, and for good reason. A person's risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. More than 90 percent of melanoma cancers are due to skin cell damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure. Melanoma is responsible for more than 9,000 skin cancer deaths each year. In 2011, more than 65,000 melanoma cancers were diagnosed. I was one of them.
I noticed a mole on my back always itched when I got out of the shower. So I went to the dermatologist, who took one look at that mole and said, "That's melanoma." Of course, to be certain, he performed a biopsy on that mole, and of course, it tested positive for melanoma.
I was sent to a surgeon, who cut-off the mole (and a huge chunk of skin surrounding it) and was told he THINKS he got it all. They never promise they got it all. After all, it only takes one microscopic, stray cell to migrate to the lymphatic system, at which point it can travel to any part of the body, such as the abdomen, and grow into a sizeable tumor.
As with all cancers, the survival rate for melanoma largely depends on how soon the melanoma was detected and removed. We should all see a dermatologist once a year for a full body exam. However, most melanomas are detected by the patient at home, not the doctor in the office.
Therefore, get familiar with what your body looks like. Be on the lookout for moles that could be melanoma. Look EVERYWHERE, such as between your toes and between your legs! Get someone to look in areas you can't see, or do some fancy work with your mirrors. As I mentioned, moles that itch, like mine did, should be looked at by your dermatologist, but there are many other things to consider. In a nutshell, they are called...
THE ABCs OF SKIN CANCER
A=Asymmetry (a word that means NOT symmetrical): If you draw a line through the middle of your mole and the two sides match, that means it's symmetrical, which is good. But if the two halves do not match that means it's asymmetrical, a warning sign for melanoma.
B=Border: You want to be on the lookout for uneven borders, which can be trouble. See a dermatologist if the edges of your mole are notched or scalloped. Non-cancerous moles have smooth, even borders.
C=Color: If your mole is more than one color, it could be melanoma. Benign moles usually are just one color, and that color is usually brown. However, problem moles that should be looked at by a dermatologist have a number of different shades of brown, tan or black. Some melanomas could even be blue or red, even white.
D=Diameter: The size of mole matters. Look for ones that are larger in diameter than a pencil eraser, which is about 1/4 inch, as a warning. Smaller moles tend to be benign.
E=Evolving: Evolving means changing. Know what your moles look like and see your dermatologist if a mole doesn't look the way it used to look. That was something I noticed about the mole on my back that turned out to be melanoma. Not only did it itch, but it also was getting bigger! Be on the look out for all kinds of change, not just size, including changing shape, color, elevation, or any new symptom such as bleeding or crusting.
Click on the image to enlarge.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Many sunscreens do not offer the protection we think they do, or even what they claim to offer. Therefore, while we should definitely continue to use sunscreens, we need to avoid developing a false sense of security about their ability to protect us and our loved ones.
Such a miscalculation can lead to sunburns, which can cause deadly skin cancer....not to mention a world of hurt.
There are two types of rays: UVA and UVB. Until recently, health experts thought only the UVB rays were dangerous. For that reason, the SPF number on a sunscreen only refers to how well it protects against UVB rays.
Now we know that the UVA rays are also dangerous. That means the first thing you must do when choosing a sunscreen is make sure it protects against both UVA and UVB rays, by choosing one that offers "broad spectrum" protection.
Secondly, choose one with an SPF of at least 30. But be careful not to be fooled by an extremely high SPF numbers, such as 50.
Consumer Reports tested 34 sunscreens and found that one-third of them failed to meet their SPF and water-resistant claims...some were way-off, up to 70 percent wrong.
Most of those failing products had an SPF of below 30. Then there were errors on the other side. Coppertone ClearlySheer for Beach and Pool SPF 50+ tested as an SPF 37 and Banana Boat Sport Performance with Powerstay Technology SPF 100 tested as an SPF 36.
Another problem Consumer Reports uncovered was that the sunscreens didn't hold up very well in water. The lesson learned from that is that we should indeed purchase waterproof sunscreens, but make sure to re-apply them after getting out of the water.
Towel-dry first so that you apply the sunscreen to dry skin. Even if you're not in the water, make sure to re-apply sunscreen at least every two hours, but more frequently if you do get wet, which includes sweat.
As any parent knows, applying sunscreen every time their child comes out of the water is nearly impossible. That's why it's best not to rely too heavily on sunscreens to protect your youngsters. We must take other precautions.
This goes not only for kids, but for all of us. In fact, research show that people who rely on sunscreen alone tend to burn more than those who stay in the shade and wear long sleeves.
Try to avoid the sun or stay in the shade when the sun is the strongest, which is from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Wear a hat and clothing made from tightly woven fabric. Dark colors are better at blocking UV rays. Hold clothing up to the light. If you can see through it, the rays can get through it, too.
In order to avoid the common mistakes people tend to make when it comes to applying sunscreens, keep these tips in mind:
- Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside.
- Make sure you use at least one teaspoon of sunscreen on each body part. The face, head and neck counts as one body part, as does one arm. Also one leg. The chest and abdomen count as one body part. The back plus the back of the neck is another.
- Watch out for spray-on sunscreens due to the risk of inhaling toxic ingredients. In fact, Consumer Reports recommends avoiding the use of spray sunscreens on children, who are at the gratest risk of complications from inhaling them. If you absolutely must use a spray sunscreen on a child, at least spray it into your hand first, then rub it on your little one. Sprays tend to miss their mark when it's windy. Don't spray directly on your face. And since spray sunscreens are flammable, don't go near an open flame until it dries on the skin.
So when it comes to outdoor activities, make sure to wear sunscreen...shoot for one that offers "broad spectrum" protection with an SPF of 30 to 50. Choose a lotion and use lots of it, reapplying early and often.
But whatever you do, don't rely on that sunscreen as your only protection against the harmful rays of the sun. Try to avoid the harshest midday rays. And while outside, wear protective clothing and seek shade whenever possible.