This strategy worked among women who paced their breathing at half the normal rate - they were able to significantly reduce the pain from heat pulses on their palms. Paced breathing was even effective for women with fibromyalgia, which causes chronic pain. But women who were overwhelmed by negative feelings, including sadness and depression, found it less helpful. Researchers at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in collaboration with investigators from the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University tested two groups of women aged 45 to 65; one group was composed of women earlier diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The women in the other group were healthy controls. When heat pulses were administered, practicing slowed breathing led to an overall reduction in pain for the women in the control group. And this breathing technique also worked in women with fibromyalgia whose personalities were positive, but not among those whose lacked a positive perspective. The investigators noted that fibromyalgia patients cultivating a positive attitude might be able to use the controlled breathing to help reduce their pain. The study was published online on Jan. 13, 2010 in PAIN.
If you suffer from asthma, take note: the lower your levels of vitamin D, the worse your symptoms may be. What's more, low vitamin D levels also appear to influence how much benefit you'll receive from treatments - the lower the levels, the poorer the response to steroidal asthma medications. These results were demonstrated in a small study of 54 asthma patients at the National Jewish Health Center in Denver. The investigators suggested that vitamin D supplements might improve matters for patients with low levels of "D," but the study wasn't designed to test whether this intervention actually would work. However, it did show that vitamin D levels were also lowest among the patients who were the most overweight. The study was published in the Jan. 14, 2010, online edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. I recently raised my recommendation to 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily because of emerging evidence that the higher dose is more appropriate to help maintain optimum health. The asthma study adds to what we already know about the importance of vitamin D.
Does losing your train of thought or the inability to come up with the right word mean more than just a passing "senior moment"? Maybe so, concludes a study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Senior moments don't suggest that Alzheimer's is near, the researchers reported, but these minor lapses could be meaningful among those being evaluated for thinking or memory problems. The investigators collected information on 511 seniors, average age 78, all of whom already had memory problems. The participants took tests of standard thinking and memory, and the researchers interviewed their family members to find out whether other key symptoms were present: staring into space, illogical or disorganized thinking or daytime sleepiness. The investigators detected three or four of the symptoms in 12 percent of the study participants and determined that those affected were 4.6 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's. Of 216 participants with very mild or mild dementia, 25 had mental lapses, which were seen in only two of 295 of participants with no dementia. Commenting on the findings, other experts said it is more important to identify physical biomarkers that can be measured on medical tests to reveal both Alzheimer's progression and the effectiveness of treatment.
My take? Rather than worrying about the meaning of senior moments, it is more prudent to take action to lower your risk of Alzheimer's. Since the disease is believed to have an inflammatory component, follow an anti-inflammatory diet, get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise (walking, biking, swimming) most days (exercise can cut your risk by 50 percent) and challenge yourself intellectually to build up neural connections that function as insurance against later brain-tissue losses. Don't smoke, and maintain a healthy weight to further reduce your risks.
More information on Alzheimer's disease.
Usually found in tropical gardens, ginger root - which is actually an underground stem, or rhizome - sprouts large pink and orange flowers that look as if they've been carved out of wax. Although they are a much more common sight in home gardens, carrots (a member of the parsley family) aren't given to such showy blooms. Nevertheless, carrots pack a nutritional punch as impressive as any ginger blossom. Put the two roots together and you've got one of the most delicious flavor combinations I know of. Buy smooth ginger pieces (wrinkled ones are old and dry) and peel the skin away. Ginger is a wonderful digestive aid that strengthens the lining of the upper gastrointestinal tract, protecting against ulcers and parasites. The carotenes from carrots fortify the immune system and help maintain healthy skin and hair. When buying carrots, avoid those with cracks and be sure to remove carrot greenery, as it leaches moisture and vitamins from the roots.
2 teaspoons expeller-pressed canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger root
3 cups carrots, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
8 cups vegetable stock
Salt to taste
Dash of dry sherry
Dash of nutmeg
Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro (optional)
1. Heat the canola oil in a large pot, add the onion and ginger, and sauté, stirring, just until the onion is translucent.
2. Add the carrots, potato and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and boil gently until the vegetables are tender, about 30-45 minutes.
3. Purée the soup in batches in a blender or food processor.
4. Add salt to taste and flavor with the sherry and nutmeg. Serve plain or garnished with chopped fresh parsley or cilantro.
Food as Medicine: Ginger has been shown to significantly reduce both nausea and vomiting associated with "morning sickness" that some women experience during pregnancy.
A chemical used in nonstick pans and water-resistant fabrics may play a role in thyroid disease. This finding by British researchers isn’t at all certain - the investigators identified a link between PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and higher rates of thyroid disease but didn't show that the chemical actually causes the disease. They discovered that adults with the highest concentrations of PFOA in their blood serum were more than twice as likely to report thyroid disease as those whose blood levels of PFOA were lowest. The study participants were nearly 4,000 American adults age 20 and older. At this point, we don't know whether this finding means that the PFOA disrupts binding of thyroid hormones in the blood or alters metabolism of the hormones in the liver. It could be that the thyroid disease occurs first and alters the way the body handles PFOA. Another possibility: since thyroid disease often is caused by an immune system malfunction, PFOA may be affecting the immune system. The study was published online in the Jan. 20, 2010 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.
Here's a possible explanation for the old saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Danish researchers looked into the question of why apples are good for us by analyzing the microbial content of the digestive systems of rats. The study animals were put on a diet rich in apples, apple juice, and apple purée and their gastrointestinal flora was compared to the microbial content of animals on a regular rat diet. They reported that rats eating a diet high in pectin¸ a component of dietary fiber in apples, had increased amounts of beneficial bacteria - the kind known to improve intestinal health. The investigators concluded that as a result of eating apples regularly, the friendly bacteria "help produce short chain fatty acids that provide ideal pH conditions for ensuring a beneficial balance of microorganisms." They also found that the good bacteria produce butyrate, a chemical that is an important fuel for cells of the intestinal wall. More research is needed to see if pectin has the same effects in humans. The study was published Jan. 20, 2010 in BMC Microbiology.
Simply not having enough awareness about eating could be the culprit. A recent study designed to examine the attitudes of middle aged American women toward food, found that those who tended to eat impulsively or who were described as "guilt-ridden dieters" were the most obese among a group of 200 women who participated in the study. Those who weighed least were women who were concerned about nutrition and were determined to eat well and those who were creative cooks focused on healthy food for their families. In the middle was a group of women who led busy lives and were preoccupied with responsibilities and activities other than food, and therefore tended to avoid cooking. The average age of the women in the study was 46. This was a well-educated group - two-thirds of the participants had four-year college degrees. The researchers compared the groups of women by percentage of body fat, waist size and body mass index. The study was published in the December 2009 issue of Health Education & Behavior.
My take? It's not surprising that impulsive eating was linked to weight problems in this study. When you reach for chocolates, snack foods or other "comfort" foods, it's often because you're stressed, depressed, or bored. When you eat in response to social cues - such as having lunch or dinner when you're not hungry - or when you eat unconsciously, you're not really tuned in to your nutritional needs or your body's signals of hunger and satiety. To successfully control your weight, you have to pay attention to what you eat - both quality and quantity - and carve out the time to think about your nutritional needs and prepare healthy meals.
Shelled or unshelled, pistachios are a sweet and meaty green nut to add to your diet. One ounce of pistachios contains more fiber than a half-cup of spinach and the same amount as an orange or apple. They are also a good source of vitamin B-6, thiamin, copper, phosphorus, and magnesium. I recommend avoiding dyed pistachios and instead eating only the natural ones (any green hue of the actual nut is natural and comes from chlorophyll.)