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Your Heart & Your Hearing

Some decreased hearing ability seems inevitable with age - a new study found that the prevalence of partial hearing loss is about 21 percent in adults aged 48 to 59 years, but rises to 90 percent in those over 80. The investigators, from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, analyzed data on nearly 3,300 men and women ranging in age from 21 to 84. The research team also evaluated hearing impairment and measured word recognition at different sound levels (using both male and female voices) in the study participants. Their analysis showed that hearing impairment was more likely in men, in those who had lower education levels, worked in noisy occupations or had a history of ear surgery. But they also found that there may be a cardiovascular link to hearing impairment, as hearing loss was also correlated with the use of statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs), a higher hematocrit (a marker of blood viscosity) and the thickness of artery walls. The report was published online on Feb. 21 by the Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery and will appear in the journal's May print issue.

My take? The link between hearing impairment and cardiovascular disease is interesting. We also know that heart attack risk is higher among people exposed to chronic noise, and a study published in 2005 showed that partial hearing loss is 54 percent more prevalent among those who have a history of heart disease than it is in the general population. Encouragingly, the same study showed that individuals who exercised at least once a week reduced their risk of hearing loss by 32 percent compared to sedentary people.

Smoke and your hearing.


A Yoga Pose for Digestion?

Yoga can help tone and strengthen all parts of the body, including internal organs. The Full Boat Pose is an abdominal and deep hip flexor and strengthener, requiring you to balance on the tripod formed by your sitting bones and tailbone.

The benefits of the Full Boat include:

  • Strengthened abdomen, hip flexors, and spine
  • Stimulation of the kidneys, intestines and thyroid and prostate glands
  • Stress relief
  • Improved digestion

There are variations of this pose, including one you can perform while sitting at your desk! Learn more about this pose, including what it looks like, how to properly execute it, and who this pose may not be right for. See the Full Boat Pose.


Lifestyle Trumps Heredity in Predicting Life Span

If you expect to live into your nineties because your parents did, think again. A new study from Sweden has found that lifestyle factors are much more important than heredity in determining who lives longest. The researchers from Gothenburg University found that not smoking, drinking moderate amounts of coffee and having low cholesterol and good socioeconomic status at age 50 (based on housing costs) plus being in good physical working order at age 54 are key to living to 90 or longer. The study began in 1963, enrolling one third of all 50-year-old men in Gothenburg. Since then, a new group of men has been added to the study every 10 years (women were first included in 2003). The original group of men - all born in 1913 - were examined at ages 50, 54, 60, 67, 75 and 80. Of the 855 who enrolled at the start, 13 percent were still alive at age 90.  The study was published online on Dec. 22, 2010 by the Journal of Internal Medicine.

Here are some tips from my Healthy Aging book on how to live to be 100.


Do You Have a Food Allergy, Intolerance or Sensitivity?

Here's a Q&A on my site on adult food allergies. Only a small minority of adults have "true" food allergies, but many people have food sensitivities and intolerances.

What about you? Are there certain foods that you cannot eat, or that you simply feel better avoiding?


Chocolate May Help Control Cholesterol

Savor your Easter chocolate - it may help control your cholesterol. The latest good news about chocolate’s effects on health comes from a study showing that antioxidants that it contains, called polyphenols, boost levels of HDL (the "good" cholesterol) and lower LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) at least in the lab. Japanese researchers used cultures of human liver and intestinal cells to analyze the effect of cocoa polyphenols on cholesterol. They found that these polyphenols increased levels of apolipoprotein A1 (ApoA1) a protein that is a major component of HDL, while lowering levels of apolipoprotein B (ApoB), the main component of LDL. They reported that the polyphenols work by boosting the action of specific proteins that attach to DNA and switch on genes that raise HDL levels. They also observed that cocoa polyphenols appear to increase the activity of LDL receptors, which helps lower levels of this "bad" cholesterol. The study was published online on Jan. 12, 2011 by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Not all chocolate is created equal: A Healthier Chocolate?


Build Your Brain with Exercise

Aerobic exercise - in this case, walking - can shape up your brain as you get older. A new study has shown that over the course of a year, walking around a track for 40 minutes three times a week can increase the size of the hippocampus, the brain area vital to memory (it normally shrinks as we get older, leading to "senior moments" or worse). A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Illinois, Rice University and Ohio State recruited 120 adults ages 55-80, none of whom exercised regularly. Half were assigned to the walking program. The others did stretching exercises and also worked out with weights. Both groups were coached and monitored. MRIs at the study’s end showed increases in the size of the hippocampus among those in the aerobic exercise group compared with MRI results at the outset. Hippocampus size declined among those in the other group. Participants in the aerobic group also did better on spatial memory exercises. The study was published online Jan. 31, 2011 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Mental exercises for the health of your brain.


Happy Earth Day - My Organic Vegetable Garden

Today is Earth Day, a time to celebrate and pay respect to our planet. Growing your own organic food is one of the most effective ways to diminish your carbon footprint - not to mention the positive effects it has on your health and wallet.

Here are some of the vegetables I've grow through the years in my various organic gardens in Arizona:

Small steps and individual responsibility can make a huge difference all over the world. Start an organic garden today - and encourage others to do the same! - and make every day Earth Day.


Polenta with Roasted Bell Peppers

Polenta, or cornmeal, is made from dried corn kernels that have been ground into fine, medium and coarse textures. It is cooked to a thick and moist consistency and either served hot - right out of the cooking pot - or cooled in a baking pan and cut into triangles. Here it is cooked with cheese to give it added flavor. The simple act of roasting peppers for the puree spread gives them a sweet, smoky taste - just right for mild-tasting polenta.

Food as Medicine: Red peppers are rich sources of lycopene, a carotenoid that may help reduce the risk of cancers of the prostate, bladder, cervix and pancreas.

Makes 12 (2 per person)


3 cups purified water
1 cup cornmeal (polenta), medium ground
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
1/4 cup freshly grated cheddar or Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 large red bell peppers, seeded (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped parsley 
1 1/2 tablespoons additional Parmesan cheese
6 fresh basil sprigs


1. Prepare the polenta: Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Slowly pour in a continuous stream of cornmeal, stirring constantly. Add the salt. Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the polenta begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 20 minutes. Shut off the heat and stir in the basil and cheese. Working quickly, grease with olive oil a medium-size (approximately 9 x 7 inches) shallow casserole dish or pan and pour in the cornmeal, spreading it out over the whole surface. Let the polenta set and cool for 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 400° F.

3. Prepare the Roasted Bell Pepper Puree: Cut the sweet red peppers into large pieces. Smear a little of the olive oil over the bottom of an ovenproof casserole dish and lay the peppers inside. Cover and bake for 20 minutes until they become soft. Remove from the oven (leave the oven on to bake the polenta) and let cool. Put the peppers in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients including all but a teaspoon of the remaining olive oil, and process until thoroughly blended. Scrape the dip into a serving bowl. 

3. When the polenta has cooled completely, cut two vertical lines through it, so you have three rectangles. Make diagonal cuts from corner to corner of each rectangle to make an "X," creating 4 triangles within each of the 3 rectangles. 

4. Smear some olive oil over a baking sheet and with a spatula remove each of the 12 triangles and arrange them on the sheet, leaving space around each one so that the edges can crisp. Bake on the top rack in oven for 15 minutes, or until browned.

5. To serve, pour 2 tablespoons of the Roasted Bell Pepper Puree on each of 6 serving plates. Arrange 2 Polenta Triangles alongside, sprinkle some chopped parsley and Parmesan over them, and place a basil sprig on the side.

Round out your elegant meal with a small slice of Almond Fruit Tart.