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PFCs and Early Menopause

The perfluorocarbons (PFCs) found in household products ranging from carpeting to plastic containers and clothing may be to blame for early menopause in some women. A study from the University of West Virginia University School of Medicine found that women over the age of 42 with higher than normal blood levels of a type of PFCs called PFOA were more likely to have already gone through menopause and to have lower estrogen levels. The investigators looked at 26,000 West Virginia women whose drinking water supplies had been contaminated with PFCs in 2005 and 2006. In this population, levels of PFOA were 500 percent higher than the average American's. This data doesn't prove that PFCs caused early menopause, but the information suggests a correlation that has to be investigated further. Early menopause puts women at risk of osteoporosis and heart disease sooner than they would be otherwise. PFCs are due to be phased out in the U.S. by 2015. To lower exposure to these chemicals, avoid stain and water resistant fabrics, nonstick cookware and food packaged in grease-resistant containers.


3 Ways to Support Your Stomach

Gastrointestinal health is an important, if often overlooked, aspect of overall health. While bowel function may not be at the top of your list of health priorities, it should be - irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer are all serious issues. To help keep your bowel healthy, try the following supplements. Each can be found in health food stores or at your local grocer.

  1. Psyllium. This dried seed husk derived from the plantain does double duty: it can be used as a laxative when you experience constipation, but may also prevent diarrhea by adding bulk to your stool. It is helpful for those with IBS, and is good for general bowel maintenance. Always take psyllium with plenty of water.
  2. Probiotics. If you plan on traveling, are taking antibiotics, have slow digestion or experience excessive gas, probiotic supplements may help by promoting healthy levels of friendly bacteria. Choose a probiotic supplement containing at least one billion colony forming units (CFUs) or more per standard dose, and always take them with food.
  3. Triphala. This ayurvedic herbal mixture is designed for ongoing use. Triphala promotes regular bowel function through its mild laxative properties and helps regulate bowel tone.  Consider using triphala (capsules only) for 10 weeks, then taking a two-week break.

More at the Gastrointestinal Health Center.


High Fiber Foods and Your Heart

Eating lots of fiber when you're young - or middle-aged - could cut your lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease. A study from Northwestern University's medical school shows that consuming 25 grams of fiber daily - whole foods, not supplements, drinks or fiber bars are best - can result in a statistically significant lower lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease. The investigators examined data from a nationally representative sample of about 11,000 adults. Taking into consideration diet, blood pressure, total cholesterol, smoking status and history of diabetes, the researchers predicted lifetime risk for cardiovascular diseases. They found that adults between the ages of 20 and 59 who had the highest fiber intake had a significantly reduced lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those whose fiber intake was lowest. Fiber might exert its influence on cardiovascular health through its known beneficial effects on weight control, cholesterol and blood pressure. A related study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the VA Boston Healthcare System showed that eating breakfast cereal - especially whole grain cereal - daily can decrease the risk of high blood pressure by 20 percent.

Whole grains are a great source of fiber. Learn how to cook them!


How Much Do You Use Your Cell Phone? (Poll)

Here's a recent Q&A on my site about the World Health Organization's recent findings that cell phones can cause brain cancer. I think it makes sense to implement precautions I've recommended in the past, such as using landlines and headsets when available.

Are you concerned? How often do you use your cellular phone or device?


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.