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Smoke-Free Air = Less Breast Cancer

The link between smoking and breast disease is still controversial. While the results of cancer studies have been contradictory, chemicals in tobacco smoke do reach breast tissue and are found in breast milk. Now, new research from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York has found reduced breast cancer rates in women who have less documented exposure to tobacco smoke. The investigators looked at breast cancer rates in states that have higher percentages of non-smoking rules and thus more women working and living in smoke-free areas, and found that deaths from the disease were significantly lower, particularly for younger, premenopausal women. They attributed about 20 percent of the decrease to changes in policies governing smoking at work and at home (some residences prohibit smoking inside apartments where the smoke can infiltrate the living spaces of non-smokers). The investigators said it was “noteworthy” that declining incidence of and mortality rates from breast cancer were linked to state legislation prohibiting smoking in both the home and workplace. The study was published online on March 12 by the journal Tobacco Control.

My take? It is very interesting to learn that there is a positive pay-off to living and working in smoke-free environments in terms of breast cancer risk. We know that exposure to secondhand smoke leads to an estimated 46,000 heart disease deaths each year in non-smokers who live with smokers as well as some 3,400 lung cancer deaths in non-smoking adults. Pregnant women exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of having low birth weight babies. For the sake of your health, don’t smoke, and avoid secondhand exposure to smoke.


3 Reasons to Eat Peas

Fresh green peas are a naturally sweet and delicious addition to any spring meal. They are a good source of vitamins K and C, manganese and fiber, and may help promote bone, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health. There are three popular pea types:

  1. Green or garden peas, which have inedible pods
  2. Snow peas, a version with edible pods popular in Asian cooking
  3. Snap peas, an edible-pod cross between the green pea and the snow pea

Snow and garden peas are available in early spring, and look for snap peas later in the season. No matter which variety you choose, buy them as fresh as possible. Although you can store them in the refrigerator for several days, they are best enjoyed the same day.

Try snow or snap peas in Shiitake Mushrooms and Pea Pods, or green peas in Stir-Fried Rice with Tofu.


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!