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Body Size, Not Shape, Ups Heart Disease Risk

If you're packing extra pounds in your hips and thighs, you should be aware that excess weight may present the same health risks as a big belly. A new international study including more than 222,000 adults in 17 countries may have refuted earlier findings that being overweight is worse for heart health if the excess fat is in the abdomen. The study, published online March 11, 2011, by The Lancet, concluded that it doesn’t matter where you carry your fat - being overweight itself presents a threat. But the investigators found that, overall; the most important predictors of heart disease are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. They stressed, however, that while measures of excess weight alone may not be the best indicators of risk of heart disease, being overweight or obese can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all of which contribute to heart disease. No matter how you look at it, those extra pounds still matter.

Learn about metabolic syndrome - a collection of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.



Preventing Mouth Wrinkles?

It's one of life's small injustices - women are more prone than men to form wrinkles around the mouth. There are a few reasons why:

  1. According to a recent analysis by dermatologists in the Netherlands, women have fewer oil-producing sebaceous glands around the upper lip - meaning less oil to keep the skin soft and supple.
  2. Women (particularly postmenopausal women) have fewer blood vessels in the upper lip area resulting in less blood flow to the region.
  3. The muscles around the mouth are closer to the skin in women than they are in men; this can mean the skin is pulled closer, leading to wrinkles.

Short of cosmetic surgery, there's not much you can do to eliminate wrinkles, but you may be able to minimize them by not smoking, avoiding sun damage and keeping your skin well moisturized.

Learn other ways to age gracefully.


Potassium May Protect Against Stroke

If you're eating lots of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables such as bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, and raisins, along with beans, dairy foods and nuts, you may be less likely to suffer a stroke than those whose diets provide less potassium. This finding comes from a review of 11 international studies that followed more than 247,000 adults for up to 19 years. The investigators found that for every 1,640 milligram increase in daily potassium intake, the odds of suffering a stroke dropped by 21 percent. Although potassium helps lower blood pressure, results of earlier studies have been inconsistent on whether or not a diet providing plenty of potassium protects against strokes and heart problems. This review didn’t find a strong link between potassium intake and lowered risk of heart disease, and doesn’t conclusively prove that potassium intake alone accounts for the lower stroke risk seen. The difference could be due to healthier habits among those whose diets were high in potassium, or from other healthy micronutrients in the fruits and vegetables. The study was published in the March 8, 2011, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

More on potassium.


Tasting Metal in Your Mouth?

A metallic taste in the mouth is a surprisingly common complaint. While there are a variety of causes, the most typical are related to medications and dental issues. If you are experiencing a metallic taste in your mouth, try the following: 

  1. Look at your meds. Discuss any you are taking with your physician to rule out ones that may contribute to the problem at hand.
  2. Get a thorough general checkup to rule out any undiagnosed health problems.
  3. Visit your dentist to address any dental health issues such as gum disease or previous dental work that needs to be repaired.
  4. Practice good oral hygiene - brush and floss your teeth carefully at least twice a day and use a tongue scraper to remove the bacteria and debris that can collect on your tongue.
  5. Increase the amount of water you drink. Keep quality water with you and drink a little more than you think you need.

Good News About Hot Flashes

If hot flashes are depriving you of sleep and driving you nuts during the day, look on the bright side: if you've just reached menopause those flashes may mean that you won't have to worry so much about having a heart attack later in life. These findings follow a new analysis of data from a previous study. The earlier clinical trial, published in 2002, indicated that hormone replacement raised the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and strokes in older women. The investigators noted, however, that women in the study who had hot flashes and night sweats early in menopause had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke, an 11 percent lower risk of heart disease and an 11 percent lower risk of death from any cause during the study period. Women who developed hot flashes or night sweats later on in menopause, on the other hand, had a 32 percent higher risk of heart attack and a 29 percent higher risk of death compared to women whose hot flashes arrived early in menopause. The study was published online on Feb. 19, 2011, by the journal Menopause.


3 Reasons to Eat Asparagus

A good source of vitamins K and C, potassium and folate, asparagus is a perennial with 20 edible varieties. A springtime favorite, it may help support heart health, healthy fluid balance and prevent birth defects. Asparagus is prized worldwide as a gourmet vegetable, yet it is easy to grow, fairly inexpensive to buy and simple to cook. Look for:

  1. Green asparagus - the most common variety.
  2. White asparagus - grown underground to inhibit its development of chlorophyll content, it has a more delicate flavor and texture.
  3. Purple asparagus - smaller than the green or white varieties, it has a fruitier flavor. Purple asparagus also provides benefits from phytonutrients called anthocyanins that give it its distinctive hue.

When selecting asparagus, look for stems that are thin and firm, with closed tips that are deep green or purple in color. When preparing to eat, an easy way to determine where to cut the ends of asparagus stems is to hold one stalk and break it - wherever the break naturally occurs is your guideline for trimming the rest of the stalks.

Try this delicious recipe: Brown Rice Soup with Asparagus


Eat More Fiber and Live Longer

That’s the conclusion of a large National Cancer Institute study involving 219,123 men and 168,999 women. When the participants enrolled in 1995 or 1996, they filled out a food frequency questionnaire. Later, the researchers linked information from those forms to causes of death. They found that reported fiber intake was associated with a significantly lower risk of death in both men and women. Those that consumed the most fiber (29.4 grams daily for men and 25.8 grams daily for women) were 22 percent less likely to die during the nine years of follow up than those whose diets contained the least amount of fiber (12.6 grams daily for men and 10.8 grams for women). In addition, the risk of cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases was 24 to 56 percent lower in men and 34 percent to 59 percent lower in women whose fiber intakes were highest. Here, dietary fiber from grains (not fruits) was linked with the decreased risks. The study was published online Feb. 14, 2011 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Try cooking with millet or quinoa - two of my favorite whole grains - both high in fiber!


4 Steps to a Positive Outlook

Being pessimistic can be more than just an emotional drain on yourself and those around you - pessimism has been linked to a higher risk of dying before age 65. The good news is that expressing positive emotions such as optimism is associated with a variety of health benefits: lowered production of the stress hormone cortisol, better immune function and reduced risk of chronic diseases. If you are stressed-out or anxious, which can be either a cause or an effect of a pessimistic outlook, try the following:

  1. Take care of yourself by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting adequate sleep.
  2. Express your emotional reactions honestly so you can effectively deal with what's bothering you.
  3. Confide in someone - your mate, a good friend or a trusted relative.
  4. View the cup as half full instead of half empty.

You can also benefit from positivity in the form of laughing, celebrating friends and family, learning to forgive and more!