Many women may think they have no real issues with body image - but you can't fool an MRI. Researchers at Brigham Young University used functional brain imaging to see what really was going on in the heads of women who easily passed psychological tests relating to body image. The idea was to use these images from healthy women's brains as a point of "normal" reference when screening anorexic and bulimic women. But the MRIs revealed that when shown photos of overweight female strangers the brain's self-reflection center (the medial prefrontal cortex) of the "no-body-image-issues" women lit up in ways suggesting extreme unhappiness, even self-loathing. The measured response wasn't as dramatic as it is among anorexic and bulimic patients, but it was closer to the pattern seen in these diseases than it was to responses seen in men (who were given MRIs and didn't show anything like the changes seen in women). The findings were published in the May issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
Eating more foods rich in folate and vitamin B6 seems to lower women's risk of dying from stroke and heart disease and to reduce men's risk of death from heart failure, according to new research from Japan. Investigators analyzed food questionnaires completed by 23,119 men and 35,611 women age 40-79. After about 14 years of follow up, the researchers found that 986 participants died from stroke, 424 from heart disease and 2,087 from all diseases related to the cardiovascular system. When they looked at levels of B vitamin intake from the questionnaires, they found that men whose consumption of folate and vitamin B6 was highest had significantly fewer deaths from heart failure and that women whose reported folate and B6 intake was highest had significantly fewer deaths from stroke, heart disease and total cardiovascular diseases. Vitamin B12, another nutrient the researchers looked at, wasn't associated with any reduced risk. Even after the adjusting for other cardiovascular risk factors and for dietary supplement use, the investigators found that folate and B6 remained protective. The report was published online April 15 in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
As many as 30 percent of adult Americans have Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) also called Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), possibly as a result of consuming too many foods and beverages containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Whatever you call it, this disorder can cause scarring and hardening of the liver, which can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. Because of rising rates of obesity, NAFLD has become increasingly common. The newly-identified link to HFCS comes from a study at Duke University Medical Center. Researchers looked at dietary questionnaires completed by 427 adults with NAFLD. Only 19 percent of these patients reported no consumption of fructose containing beverages; 52 percent consumed between one and six drinks per week; and 29 percent consumed beverages that contained HFCS daily. There's no treatment for NAFLD - all you can do is lose weight and lower your triglycerides if they're elevated. The Duke study's findings may suggest another strategy - "healthier diets that are more holistic," said study leader Manal Abdelmalek, M.D., MPH - and less HFCS.
My take? High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is definitely bad for you. I believe that it is a major driver of the obesity epidemic, and there's an environmental impact to consider. Journalist and agriculture industry critic Michael Pollen notes that growing all the corn needed for HFCS depletes soil nutrients, which increases the need for pesticides and fertilizer. Giving up products containing HFCS will benefit your health, help control your weight, and if enough people get the message, protect the planet as well.
It's fairly simple: getting regular, moderate exercise for 30 to 45 minutes every day will help to keep your body and mind healthy and resilient. Use these four tips to overcome any excuses:
- Excuse: You don't have time for it. Physical activity is one of the most important investments you can make in long-term health and healthy aging. It has to be a priority. Aim for 30 to 45 minutes a day of aerobic activity, 30 minutes of strength training two or three times a week, and aim for the same number of minutes for flexibility and balance training.
- Excuse: You're too old to start. Sports physiology has demonstrated that the body can build muscle and improve strength well into the ninth decade. At whatever age you commit to regular physical activity, the benefits will accrue. It is never too late to start.
- Excuse: You don't know how. Read books, watch DVDs, work with trainers, and take classes. All are great introductions to a variety of exercises.
- Excuse: You just don't like it. Most people who are not in the habit of exercising have to struggle at first to build positive inertia. The inactive body can be lazy and sluggish. Most people who stick with their physical activity routines soon find them rewarding. Physical activity makes you feel better, physically and emotionally, in part, perhaps, because of endorphin release and changes in metabolism. Even if you feel sluggish when you start your aerobic exercise, it is likely to soon become pleasurable.
Information courtesy of Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging.
We know that meditation can help lower blood pressure, decrease heart and respiratory rates and increase blood flow, and now two new studies suggest that Transcendental Meditation can help reduce symptoms of depression. Research at Charles Drew University in Los Angeles and the University of Hawaii in Kohala each gathered a group of study participants, age 55 or older who were at risk for cardiovascular disease and found to be depressed on the basis of a standard clinical test. Both groups were able to reduce their depressive symptoms by 48 percent by practicing Transcendental Meditation. The Los Angeles study group included 59 African American men and women; the Hawaiian study included 53 native Hawaiian men. The significance of these initial findings is that they may help point the way to improving mental health without drugs or psychotherapy in older people at risk for cardiovascular disease. The results of the two studies were presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in Seattle on April 9, 2010.
- Get your exercise: Regular, moderate exercise helps maintain the health of blood vessels; strengthens the heart muscle; and can help reduce cardiac risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and stress. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity on most days of the week.
- Schedule a test: If you have a family history of heart disease, schedule a screening test for high blood pressure this week. It is fast, simple, and important for optimal heart health.
- Surround yourself with positive people: Start with our spiritual assessment, and create a list of people in your life who make you feel more alive, happy, and optimistic, then make an effort to spend more time with them now and in the future. Studies indicate that people who are upbeat and stay connected socially enjoy better health.
- Don't smoke. Not only is smoking a major risk factor for heart disease, it has negative health consequences for your entire body, from your taste buds to your energy levels to your skin. Seek support and guidance when quitting. If you quit now, you'll reduce your risk of heart attack by one-third within just two years.
Information courtesy of Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging.
This bright green vegetable is a veritable powerhouse of nutrients, and one that I recommend you have on hand in your kitchen not only for its taste, but for its health benefits as well: Spinach may help promote gastrointestinal health and healthy vision, and help prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer and inflammatory disorders.