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Wondering about Thyroid Health?

According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, about one in eight women will develop a thyroid problem in her lifetime. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that influences metabolism and the function of the kidneys, heart, liver, brain and skin. It is important to make sure your thyroid is functioning normally - learn about the symptoms of thyroid disease, such as changes in sleep and energy levels, weight loss or gain and hair loss; create a personal health history and then talk with your physician if you have questions or concerns. Simple tests can help determine if your thyroid is over- or under-functioning, and proper medications and lifestyle changes can help address any concerns. 


Folic Acid Levels and Hearing Loss

No one knows for sure why we're prone to become hard of hearing as we get older. But a new study suggests that low levels of folic acid may play a role. The study was small - only 126 healthy Nigerian men and women over the age of 60 took part - but it found that low blood levels of folic acid were significantly associated with hearing loss in high frequencies. Folic acid, a B vitamin, is found in spinach, other green vegetables and beans as well as fortified products such as orange juice, baked goods, and cereals. Other natural sources include asparagus, bananas, melons, lemons, legumes, yeast, and mushrooms. The study was published in the December, 2010, issue of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. In addition to its potential role in the auditory system, the researchers noted that folate has important roles in cellular metabolism, the nervous system and vascular function, and they called for further study into the role of vitamins in hearing, particularly in developing countries where malnutrition is common.

Watch and learn how to make a folic acid-rich Turkish Spinach Salad in my healthy kitchen.


A New Way to Prevent Colds

In addition to washing your hands, avoiding people who are sick and eating a diet rich in antioxidants, you may want to add a new strategy your preventing-a-winter-cold list: getting exercise five days per week.  Researchers found that individuals who reported performing regular physical activity at least five days a week spent 43 percent fewer days suffering with a cold than those who exercised no more than once a week. An added benefit, when they did catch a cold, was reduced severity and symptoms among those who exercised most. Most likely these reductions in colds and symptoms are linked to the increased immune system activity that occurs during aerobic exercise.

Make it a point to walk (indoors, if necessary) for 30-45 minutes per day, or if you don’t already have a gym membership, buy one and use the aerobic equipment such as stationary bicycles, treadmills or elliptical trainers.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Exercise


How Pomegranate Juice Affects Cancer Spread

We've known for some time that pomegranate juice extract helps slow the progression of prostate cancer, not only in the lab but in humans as well. Now researchers at the University of California, Riverside, have identified the components of pomegranate juice that provide the beneficial effect. Their discovery could lead to better treatment of prostate cancer by modifying the active components to make them even more effective. In addition, the investigators learned that pomegranate juice inhibits the function of a bone-marrow protein that induces cancer cells to metastasize to bone, where they can then form new tumors. Because the proteins and genes involved in the movement of prostate cancer cells are pretty much the same as those involved in the movement of other kinds of cancer cells, the modifications of pomegranate juice envisioned could possibly work in other types of cancer treatment. The study was presented on December 12 at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology.


Are You Getting Enough Lutein?

If you or someone you know is getting on in years, you may want to consider supplementing your diet with lutein. Lutein and another carotenoid, zeaxanthin, form the yellow pigment of the retina, and absorb blue light which is a potentially harmful component of sunlight. There is very good evidence that the lutein in food helps protect against cataracts and macular degeneration, which are common age-related eye disorders. The best thing you can do for your eyes this month, and in the future, is to make sure your diet contains plenty of lutein-rich produce, including:

  • Fruits - Mangoes, watermelon and tomatoes are good sources of lutein
  • Vegetables - Corn, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, squash and dark leafy greens (such as kale, collards and bok choy) provide lutein

In addition to the foods listed above, you can get zeaxanthin through orange bell peppers, oranges, corn and honeydew melon. I recommend eating five to seven servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day. If you are unable to get adequate lutein through your diet, you may want to consider a vision-supportive supplement; talk with your doctor. For more information on supporting healthy vision, check out Dr. Weil’s Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide!


Job Stress and Women's Hearts

The more on-the-job strain, the more likely women are to have a heart attack, stroke or clogged arteries. These findings come from an analysis of the health of more than 17,000 working women, average age 57, participating in the long-running Women's Health Study, which is looking at heart disease and cancer prevention.  Most of the women participating were health professionals, from nurses' aides to Ph.D.s. They filled out questionnaires about their jobs that were then divided into four groups depending on the extent of the stress the women reported. Ten years later, the researchers found that women with demanding jobs and little control were nearly twice as likely to have had a heart attack as women with less demanding jobs and more control. Those with the most stress had a 40 percent higher overall risk of heart attacks, strokes or clogged arteries that required bypass surgery or angioplasty, a procedure to open the arteries. In addition, women who were worried about losing their jobs had higher blood pressure, cholesterol levels and body weight than those who weren't worried about job security.

Check out the Women's Health Center.


Pickled Vegetables

Pickled carrots, jicama, cauliflower and string beans make a healthy snack to have on hand. The carrots offer a great deal of beta-carotene and iron. The jicama and cauliflower provide vitamin C and potassium, and the string beans have a good deal of antioxidants and also add some color to the combination. The vinegar here is well seasoned with the essence of mustard, dill weed, and garlic, all offset with a hint of sweet and balancing brown sugar. The pickling liquid makes an excellent dressing for any salad.


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3 Ways to Practice the Slow Food Movement

The Slow Food Movement - which started in Italy in the 1980s - encourages people to slow the pace of life in order to truly savor not only foods and beverages but the pleasure of eating and the companionship of friends and family sitting around the table. Traditional foods that are fresh, made from local ingredients and served during leisurely meals are the focus of this movement. From a health perspective, this philosophy is a much-needed departure from "fast food," which is designed to be eaten on the run. If you want to get involved in the Slow Food Movement, try the following:

  1. Shop for fresh, organically grown local produce and baked goods at farmers' markets.
  2. Patronize restaurants that specialize in local or regional foods.
  3. Keep family traditions alive. Think about the foods your grandparents prepared for holidays or family gatherings, and try to replicate what you can.

Make your food even "slower" by growing your own vegetables!