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Sleeping Problems? Wake Up to the Risk

Having problems falling asleep may mean that you're headed toward metabolic syndrome, a combination of physical symptoms that raise the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. For some, loud snoring may indicate a doubled risk of metabolic syndrome (difficulty falling asleep raises the risk by 80 percent). The risk also increases - by 70 percent - among those who report unrefreshing sleep. All this news comes from a study published in the December 1, 2010, issue of Sleep. Investigators studied 812 adults ages 45 to 74 for three years to assess the relationship between sleeping problems and the risk of metabolic syndrome, which has symptoms including excess abdominal fat, high triglycerides, low HDL (the "good" cholesterol), high blood pressure and high blood sugar. The researchers reported that loud snoring was associated with the development of high blood sugar and low HDL in particular, but noted that other sleeping problems were only generally predictive of metabolic syndrome. Other sleeping problems weren't associated with the development of any particular symptoms comprising metabolic syndrome but were associated with a higher risk of the syndrome itself. The researchers said that their findings suggest that physicians should screen patients for sleep complaints during routine visits.

Learn more about insomnia, one of the more common sleep issues.


A "Safe" Facelift?

While I believe that attempts to halt or deny the aging process can be roadblocks to aging gracefully, there may be an acceptable alternative to some current “turn back the clock” trends: facial acupuncture. This therapy is far less invasive than a surgical procedure and does not carry the dangers associated with a traditional facelift (not to mention being less expensive). Facial acupuncture is also free of the side effects of therapies such as Botox injections, and it offers psychological benefits - patients may feel relaxed as a result of the therapy. With or without acupuncture, a healthy diet, exercise and stress reduction techniques are still my top recommendations for a healthy lifestyle, and the keys to aging gracefully.


Beet Juice and Your Brain

Drinking beet juice can increase blood flow to the brain, which may help reduce the risk of age-related dementia. This finding comes from a small study at Wake Forest University where researchers found that drinking 16 ounces of beet juice, which is high in nitrates, plus some high nitrate meals, led to increased blood flow to areas of the brain often associated with changes that lead to dementia. With age, these areas can become poorly perfused (blood doesn’t flow there as freely as it does in younger people), the researchers said. Other high nitrate foods that could increase blood flow to these key brain areas include celery, cabbage and other leafy green vegetables such as spinach and some lettuce. When you eat these foods, bacteria in the mouth turn nitrate into nitrites, which can help relax the muscular walls of blood vessels and increase blood flow. Only 14 adults age 70 and older participated in the study. After consuming high nitrate breakfasts the participants underwent MRIs, which showed increased blood flow to the white matter of the frontal lobes. The study results were published online in Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry, the peer-reviewed journal of the Nitric Oxide Society.

Here's a delicious recipe using nitrate-rich leafy greens.


My New Home (Photo Slideshow)

I recently moved from my ranch just outside of Tucson, Ariz. to a smaller home in the city. There's still a lot to do around the house, but in the meantime, I'm cooking, working, and spending time with my dogs, Asha & Ajax. Take a look:


Breast Cancer Prevention - 6 Lifestyle Tips

According to the American Cancer Society, every three minutes, on average, another woman learns she has breast cancer. The good news is that there are several strategies that can help reduce risk. Try incorporating the following lifestyle changes into your daily routine:

  1. Get active. Regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes on most days) has been shown to be protective against breast cancer.
  2. Maintain your health care. Early detection is key: in addition to monthly self examinations, women between ages 20 and 39 should have a clinical breast exam performed by a health care professional at least every three years; women 40 years of age or older should have annual breast exams and talk with their doctor about mammograms.
  3. Supplement wisely. Folic acid, vitamin D and antioxidants all may help decrease risk.
  4. Reduce exposure to xenoestrogens. These chemicals with estrogen-like activity are found in common pesticides and industrial pollutants and as hormone residues in meat, poultry and dairy products.
  5. Avoid exposure to radiation. Limiting the number of chest X-rays you receive, especially at a young age, may decrease the risk of breast cancer.
  6. Talk with your doctor. If you have close relatives with breast cancer, your personal risk is increased. Let your doctor know your family history, and discuss other ways you can help to prevent breast cancer.

More details on lowering breast cancer risk.


Dr. Weil in Pummelvision (Video)

Using Pummelvision, I've transformed my photo collections on Flickr into this fun, fast-paced video. Enjoy!

Make your own at


Feeling Dizzy?

If you often feel dizzy or faint after standing up, consider having your blood pressure checked. Low blood pressure (hypotension) is often due to dehydration, but can also be the result of sodium loss, abnormal heart rhythms, neurological disorders or overly aggressive drug treatment for high blood pressure. Low blood pressure can result in dizziness, lightheadedness or even fainting.

To help address dizziness, you may want to stand or sit up more slowly, and have a person or piece of furniture nearby for support when you do. Any qualified healthcare provider, or even the staff at a local fire station, can perform a simple blood pressure check in minutes.

Learn more about the symptoms, causes and treatment of low blood pressure.


Stress Relief: Flower Remedies

Stress can negatively impact your physical health, mood and social interactions. One way to help address the symptoms of stress is with passion flower (Passiflora incarnata). The dried above-ground parts of the plant can be found in tincture and extract form - look for standardized whole-plant extracts or capsules containing no less than 0.8 percent flavonoids or isovitexin. You can use passion flower for stress reduction, calming without sedation and relief from insomnia (when combined with other sedative herbs). One dropperful of the tincture in a little warm water, or two capsules of extract, up to four times a day as needed is the adult dosage; children should take half that amount. Use caution if you’re also taking MAO-inhibiting antidepressant drugs, and do not take passion flower when pregnant - active compounds may be uterine stimulants.

More ways to reduce stress.