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Ideal Weight: Something to Die For?

Here's new and somewhat shocking evidence of how big an issue weight remains for some women. A survey at 20 colleges in Britain revealed that women students would be willing to reduce their lifespan by a year in order to achieve and maintain their ideal body weight. Even worse: 10 percent of these women said that they would give up two to five years of life in order to be thin, and three percent were willing to give up 10 years or more. Most of the women were young - under 25 - but some were as old as 65. Of the 320 women who participated in the survey, 78 percent were within or under a healthy weight range but four out of five still said they wanted to weigh less. Five percent reported having had some type of cosmetic surgery and 39 percent said they would have a cosmetic procedure if they could afford it. The survey also showed that 25 percent of the women would give up more than $8,000 of their annual salary, a promotion at work, spending time with their families and even their health to meet their ideal of slimness. The survey was sponsored by England's Succeed Foundation and led by Professor Philippa Diedrichs of the University of the West of England. The foundation's mission is to raise awareness of eating disorders and support people affected by eating disorders.

My take? Unfortunately, this survey suggests than an unhealthy preoccupation with weight is still prevalent. This new information indicates that even after adolescence (when girls are most at risk of eating disorders) women remain focused on what may be unrealistic weight goals. These aspirations are influenced by socio-cultural factors including the powerful influences of the entertainment and fashion industries, which have fostered the perception that beauty and sexual attractiveness equate with being ultra-thin. The danger is that some of these preoccupations with weight and body image will escalate into full-fledged eating disorders. I hope that with maturity, the young women surveyed will put their weight and body image into perspective and strive instead for good health.


My 69th Birthday

For my birthday today, my web team surprised me with this video album of my life and a kind message. Thank you!

Dr. Weil was born on June 8th, 1942 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since then he has pioneered the field of integrative medicine and now, at age 69, is an exemplar of the healthy aging he advocates. Happy Birthday, Dr. Weil!


Shop 'Til You Drop: You'll Live Longer

That's the word from a nine-year study conducted in Taiwan that shows seniors who shopped several times a week or daily lived longer than those who never shopped or shopped rarely. The investigators analyzed questionnaires filled out by nearly 2,000 Taiwanese over the age of 65 who were living independently. Of those who shopped frequently (22 percent said they shopped several times a week; 17 percent said they shopped daily) those who shopped daily were 27 percent less likely to die during the course of the study than those who shopped rarely or never. The investigators said that shopping may provide a way to get heart-healthy physical activity compared to formal exercise programs. They also noted that the longer lives seen among the shoppers might be due to improved nutrition, since more trips to the store could translate to more fresh, healthy food. The study was published online on April 6, 2011, by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

More: How to Live to Be 100


3 Healthy Aging Tips for Men

Following a healthy lifestyle is important for all of us, and the general advice for healthy living applies to both men and women equally. As we age, however, gender may play a larger role in the health issues we experience, and how we address them. If you are a man, consider this information or pass it on to a male loved one!

  1. Lose the extra pounds. Research shows that, among men who are overweight to any degree, losing 5-10% of your body weight can significantly improve your health. Stored body fat acts as an endocrine-system organ, producing hormones that can promote inflammation, diabetes, osteoarthritis and heart-related health issues. Reduce your daily calories by 25% per day; start exercising regularly; eat an anti-inflammatory diet; and practice stress-management techniques.
  2. Keep your prostate healthy: Prostatitis - inflammation of the prostate - can be a painful problem at any age, and the risk of prostate cancer increases about 10 percent per decade beginning at age 60. Get regular checkups, follow a healthy diet, get regular exercise and consume lycopene-rich foods, such as tomatoes and watermelon, to help reduce prostate risks.
  3. Stay flexible. Men’s joints can become less flexible with age, and this inflexibility can lead to falls, a major cause of disability for older people. Flexibility and balance training should be integral parts of your daily fitness routine - try practicing yoga or tai chi to help improve balance and flexibility, and make it a point to incorporate gentle stretching into your daily fitness routine, which can help maintain a full range of motion.

Explore the Men's Health Center for more information on healthy aging for men.


More Dental Checkups After Menopause

Brushing, flossing and two checkups per year may not be enough to prevent tooth loss in postmenopausal women. A new study from the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic found that two groups of postmenopausal women - those taking bone-strengthening drugs called bisphosphonates and those with normal bones - had abnormally high levels of dental plaque, a film of bacteria, bacterial waste and food particles that sticks to teeth. All the women had been following recommendations to brush twice a day, floss and have two dental checkups a year. But that amount of care didn’t keep plaque in check. Left on the teeth, plaque sets in motion the conditions that cause gum disease, a process that can erode the sockets that anchor teeth and lead to tooth loss. The answer may be having as many as four checkups a year with deep periodontal cleaning to control plaque. The findings were published in February in the journal Menopause.

More: Does poor dental health determine overall health?


Does Carrageenan Raise Cancer Risk?

Carrageenan, a common and cheap food additive that comes from red seaweed, is used as a thickener and emulsifier in ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, soy milk and other processed food products. Based on results of animal studies, it has been tagged by some as an unsafe product that may cause ulcerations and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. I think the evidence is compelling to avoid carrageenan in any product, and especially if you have irritable bowel disease.

If you are concerned about carrageenan, start by minimizing your consumption of it. Carefully read the labels of the products mentioned above that often contain the additive, and eliminate them from your diet. With a little research you should be able to find healthy products that suit your taste and don't contain carrageenan.

More on the safety of soy milk.


Alcohol for Alzheimer's Protection?

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is bad for the brain, but new research from Germany suggests that a daily drink or two may help protect seniors from Alzheimer's disease and some other types of dementia. A team of physicians, psychologists and gerontologists interviewed 3,327 patients of German general practice doctors, checked on them a year and a half later and then at the three year mark. When they analyzed the drinking habits of the study participants, they found that half were abstinent, about 25 percent drank less than one drink (10 grams of alcohol) daily, about 13 percent consumed 10 to 19 grams of alcohol daily and 12.4 percent drank 20 grams or more daily. Nearly half of those who consumed alcohol drank only wine. At the end of three years, the researchers found 217 cases of dementia, including 111 Alzheimer’s diagnoses. They also found that the subjects who reported light to moderate alcohol consumption were in relatively good mental and physical health and had a significantly lower incidence of overall dementia and Alzheimer's. The study was published in the March 2, 2011, issue of Age and Aging.

My take? This isn't the first study to suggest that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol protects against Alzheimer's disease, and we also know that it also appears to lower the risks of coronary artery disease and heart attack. However, even small amounts of alcohol may increase the risk of breast cancer, and the more women drink, the greater their risk. My feeling is that if you don't drink alcohol, you certainly shouldn’t start for health reasons. You can reduce your risks of heart disease via diet and exercise, and evidence suggests that we may be able to protect against Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia by "exercising" our minds. My own drinking habits are quite modest. I like premium Japanese sake once in a while and, less often, a glass of red wine. Otherwise, I am more likely to drink water or tea.


5 Cheese Considerations

From cheese-stuffed sandwiches to the samples on toothpicks in the grocery store, cheese seems to be everywhere. While it is a good source of calcium, its high calorie (and often high sodium) content means it should be enjoyed in moderation. This is not as hard as it may seem when you consider how flavorful cheese can be - try the following when the cheese plate comes your way:

  1. Choose a small piece of a cheese you really enjoy and savor it.
  2. Fill up on low-calorie vegetables and fruits, and add a piece of cheese on the side.
  3. Try not to eat more than one to two ounces every few days.
  4. Opt for high-quality, organic versions.
  5. If you're pregnant, avoid soft cheeses (such as feta, goat, blue and brie) as they may harbor Listeria, a bacterium that can harm a growing baby. Instead, choose hard cheeses like Parmesan, Gruyere and hard Swiss cheese when you're eating for two.

See where cheese fits into my Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid.