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For Your Heart's Sake, Don't Just Sit There!

Spending the day in an office parked at your desk can raise your risk of heart disease, even if you exercise regularly. But taking periodic activity breaks - the more, the better - to move around a little may combat the increased risk and help trim your waistline, as well. That’s the conclusion of a study reported in the January 12, 2011 online edition of the European Heart Journal. The research team looked at data on about 4,800 American men and women age 20 and older who took part in a national health and nutrition survey between 2003 and 2006. They found that the most sedentary participants spent more than 21 hours a day sitting or lying down, while the least sedentary sat just under two hours per day. Over the course of a week, the number of activity breaks in some participants totaled less than 100, while the most frequent approached 1,300. The researchers advised standing up, walking over to talk to a co-worker rather than emailing or phoning, and using the stairs rather than the elevator when possible. Even these small, incremental changes can help reduce your overall risk of heart disease, the researchers found.


Is Kava Right for You?

If you are experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, the best course of action is to learn how to manage them without the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, breath work, meditation, regular aerobic exercise, journal writing and eliminating caffeine and other stimulants that can trigger or worsen anxiety can all help; for some people, so can the herb kava.

Kava (Piper methysticum, also called kava kava) can be effective for alleviating the symptoms of anxiety without the overly sedating or habit-forming side effects of potentially addictive benzodiazepine drugs. However, not everyone is a candidate for kava - reports from Europe of cases of liver damage related to kava use have raised concerns about safety. Because of the reported liver dangers, I've recommended following these precautions on kava use from the American Botanical Council:

  • Don't use kava if you have liver problems (such as hepatitis), drink alcohol regularly or take any drug with known adverse effects on the liver, including acetaminophen (Tylenol), statin drugs and niacin.
  • Don't use kava on a daily basis for more than four weeks.
  • Discontinue kava if you develop jaundice (yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes) or symptoms of hepatitis (nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, dark urine and clay-colored stools).
  • Check with your doctor if you have a prior history of liver problems or suspected liver problems before using or continuing to use kava.

If you want to try kava, take one or two 460 mg capsules of a high-quality brand as needed, two to three times per day for up to four weeks.

Check out yesterday's post on another potentially dangerous supplement, lobelia.


Is Lobelia Safe?

Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) is also called Indian tobacco or “puke weed” (in the 19th century, American physicians used lobelia to provoke vomiting as a means of removing toxins from the body). It is an herbal remedy that, in appropriate dosages, can be helpful for addressing acute asthma symptoms.

Lobelia is sometimes referred to as a toxic herb, because high doses cause serious effects: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, profuse sweating, tremors, rapid heartbeat, mental confusion, convulsions, hypothermia, coma and possibly even death.

However, as a home remedy for a mild asthma attack, lobelia can be safe and effective when used appropriately - do the following:

  1. Mix three parts tincture of lobelia with one part tincture of capsicum (red pepper, cayenne pepper).
  2. Take 20 drops of the mixture in water at the start of an asthmatic attack.
  3. Repeat every 30 minutes for a total of three or four doses.

Remember that asthma can be a serious health condition and that herbal remedies like lobelia are not substitutes for standard medical treatments. I strongly recommend that people with asthma work closely with an integrative medicine practitioner for optimal care and advice about effective alternative and conventional medical therapies.

Tomorrow's post will feature another potentially dangerous supplement: kava.


Post-Exercise Drink? (Poll)

Here's a recent Q&A from my site on the recent trend of coconut water. I recommend drinking plenty of pure water after exercising. What's your preference?


Why You Should Check Your Blood Pressure at Home

Monitoring blood pressure at home can help keep it from rising and may help reduce the need for medication. A recently published analysis of 37 international clinical trials, compiling data on more than 9,400 men and women with high blood pressure, showed that patients asked by their physicians to track their blood pressure with home monitors were more successful in reducing their pressure than patients who had readings done only in the doctor's office. The researchers who performed the analysis noted that home monitoring appeared to work better as part of a general plan that included adjusting medications in response to the home readings. Interestingly, what worked best was telemonitoring - the use of wired or wireless technology to send blood pressure readings directly to the doctor's office. One possible explanation for the lower readings seen at home is elimination of the "white coat" effect - the increase in pressure triggered by the stress of being in the doctor's office. The study was published online Nov. 29, 2010 in the journal Hypertension.

More on high blood pressure treatment.


A Year’s Worth of Health Information at Your Fingertips?

Want to learn how to promote energy naturally? Achieve better rest and sleep? Encourage a healthy heart and brain, optimal vision and a digestive system that runs smoothly? Have you wondered what small, preventive steps you can take to encourage better health, no matter what your age or state of health? Then don’t miss our newest addition to The Balanced Living 2010 Annual Flipbook!

This free, online magazine-style tool allows you to browse through all 12 issues of 2010’s Andrew Weil’s Balanced Living: Your Guide to Living Life Fully. From information on the anti-inflammatory diet to preventing Alzheimer’s disease, each month focuses on a specific topic and includes in-depth articles, checklists, quick tips and more - including a recipe!

See Dr. Weil’s 2010 Balanced Living Annual!


Fruits and Vegetables for a Healthy Tan

New research from England suggests that the safest route to a golden glow is eating lots of fruits and vegetables. What's more, the tan you get from healthy eating looks better than the one you could get from baking on a beach. That’s the word from the Perception Lab at the University of Nottingham published online in December, 2010, from Evolution and Human Behavior. The investigators said that the carotenoids in fruits and vegetables are the driving force for the change in skin color. Carotenoids are antioxidants that are responsible for the red, orange and yellow colors of fruits and vegetables. The researchers reported that given the choice between skin color caused by suntan and skin color due to carotenoids, people in their studies preferred the carotenoid skin color. The lead investigator said that the findings are important because evolution would favor individuals who mate with healthier men or women. It also would seem to suggest that healthy eating is better for the appearance of your skin than tanning.


What Makes a Nutritious Lunch?

Ever wonder what nutrition researchers eat? See what was presented to the world's leading nutrition scientists and educators, who gathered in Chicago, Illinois in May of 2009 for the Nutrition and Health Conference developed by Dr. Weil. The annual conference is co-sponsored by the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and Columbia University.

What makes a nutritious diet overall? I explain how to eat the Anti-Inflammatory Diet.