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4 Ways to Reduce the Risk of BPH

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland that is common in American and European men over the age of 50. While the actual cause of the tissue growth is not completely understood, experts believe it is closely linked to hormone levels. Try the following to help reduce the risk of BPH:

  1. Eat a diet low in saturated and trans-fats, focusing instead on the healthier monounsaturated and omega-3 fats.
  2. Eat more whole soy foods. Asian men have a lower incidence of BPH and some researchers believe it is related to their intake of whole soy foods.
  3. Avoid symptom triggers such as caffeine and alcohol, which increase the need to urinate and may irritate the bladder. Avoid constipation by increasing fiber in your diet. The pressure from constipation may make the symptoms of BPH worse.
  4. Have regular check-ups. The National Institute on Aging recommends that men get regular medical checkups including a prostate exam.

More information on BPH.


Meditation's Effect on Pain


Meditation can help lower blood pressure, decrease heart and respiratory rates, increase blood flow, and now new research from England helps confirm that it can also reduce perception of pain. Investigators from the University of Manchester recruited individuals who had varying experience with meditation - from months to many years - to study how meditation affects the brain in anticipation of pain. They found that the most experienced meditators showed unusual activity in the prefrontal cortex when anticipating pain from a laser device. This is the brain area involved in controlling attention and thought when danger is perceived. The research team leader said that the study results confirm that meditation “trains the brain to be more present-focused and therefore to spend less time anticipating future negative events.” Still at issue: how meditation changes brain function over time to produce the effects seen in the study.

Read more about the benefits of meditation.


Diet and Incontinence

Excess weight puts women at an increased risk for urinary incontinence, and now a study suggests that what you eat can raise the risk as well, regardless of weight. Investigators from the New England Research Institutes examined the diet and lifestyle habits of 2,060 Boston women aged 30 to 79 years. They also measured the women’s height, weight and waist size and questioned them about urinary symptoms. Slightly more than 12 percent reported moderate to severe urinary incontinence - meaning leakage at least once a week or significant leakage once a month. The study showed that the risk of incontinence was nearly three times higher among the women with the highest average calorie intake and among those whose diets were highest in saturated fat. The study wasn’t designed to show whether dietary changes can prevent incontinence, although the researchers observed that losing weight works better than anything else to treat this problem. The amount of saturated fat in the diet might affect incontinence by influencing chronic inflammation, and that in turn could raise the risk of incontinence, one of the researchers suggested.

My take? These interesting findings need to be confirmed by further research, but they don’t change the fact that weight loss can help relieve urinary incontinence in women. I also recommend avoiding such bladder irritants as caffeine, alcohol, black pepper and other spices in foods. Smoking is also a risk factor - urinary incontinence is twice as common in smokers as it is among nonsmokers.

Read more about stress incontinence and effective ways to treat it.


Stepping Closer to Early Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer

Because there are no early symptoms, most cases of ovarian cancer are already in advanced stages when they are found, but a new strategy could help identify these cancers early when they are curable. The approach was studied in more than 3,200 postmenopausal women age 50 to 74 at average risk of the disease. Over nine years, all participants received an annual test for CA-125, a blood protein associated with ovarian cancer but not a reliable marker for the disease. When the initial test results indicated low levels of CA-125, the women were retested a year later. Those with elevated levels were retested in three months. If these follow up results were elevated further, the women were referred for transvaginal ultrasound to examine their ovaries and to a gynecologic oncologist to assess the need for surgery. Of the 3,200 women, eight had surgery. Three had early stage ovarian cancer (the others had benign or borderline tumors). There were virtually no false positives. Results of a larger study due in 2015 will tell us whether the new approach should be recommended for all older women. The strategy was described at a May 20 news conference in advance of the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. 


A New Way to Lower Blood Pressure

Cut back on sugar-sweetened drinks. A study from Louisiana State University Health Science Center School of Public Health found that reducing daily intake of sweetened beverages may lower blood pressure enough to decrease deaths from stroke by eight percent and from coronary heart disease by five percent. The trick is to eliminate an average of two servings a day of soft drinks, fruit drinks, lemonade and fruit punch drinks sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. The study included 810 adults age 25 to 79 who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure or prehypertension. At the beginning of the study, the participants reported drinking an average of 10.5 fluid ounces of sweetened beverages daily; by the end, they were consuming only a half serving a day and their blood pressure had dropped significantly. While part of the decline could be related to weight loss during the 18-month study, the investigators said that the blood pressure change was statistically significant. They now plan to study the effects of cutting back on sweetened drinks in adults who have no blood pressure problems.

Instead of drinking sugar-laden fruit juice, try my recipe for Frosted Orange Ginger Fruit Salad. Not only will you consume less sugar, but you'll get a serving of fiber too.


6 Ways to Help Prevent Cold Sores

Anyone who gets cold sores knows what a pain (literally) they can be. Caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), these uncomfortable lesions on the lips and face can be triggered by stress, such as the onset of a cold or other illness, menstruation, sunburn, fatigue, even emotional trauma. The good news is that cold sores usually go away on their own within 10 days; the bad news is the virus remains dormant in nerve cells, and can reappear to initiate another outbreak. Help lessen the risk of recurrent cold sores with the following:

  1. Avoid foods rich in the amino acid arginine, which can activate the virus. These include chocolate, cola, beer, grain cereals, chicken soup, gelatin, seeds, nuts and peas.
  2. Get a new toothbrush after an outbreak subsides. The virus can live in your toothbrush and re-infect you. Also, help prevent the virus from getting into the toothpaste (and re-infecting you and others in the family) by not touching the brush to the tube.
  3. Always use SPF 15 sunscreen before going out in the sun (summer and winter) and use a lip moisturizer with sunscreen.
  4. Since the HSV is highly contagious, don't kiss or shake hands with anyone who has a cold sore. And avoid these contacts when you have one.
  5. Keep your hands clean by washing them frequently.
  6. Avoid sharing towels and utensils with anyone who has a cold sore.

Managing stress can be a powerful prevention tool as well.


Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is a perennial favorite, but it is often loaded with vegetable oil and laden with a cream cheese frosting. Our version is healthier, using a small amount of olive oil, a full cup of honey for moistness and flavor, and a combination of whole wheat pastry and unbleached flours. The crunchy walnuts even add a bit of omega-3 fats to this sweet treat. With a cup of hot green tea, this cake will make you forget about cream cheese frosting. Enjoy!




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Pesticides and ADHD

Exposure to pesticides used on berries, celery and other fruits and vegetables could raise the risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in youngsters. This report, published in the June, 2010, issue of Pediatrics, suggests that the commercial use of organophosphates could be related to rising rates of ADHD. The investigators analyzed data on pesticide exposure and ADHD in more than 1,100 boys and girls between the ages of eight and 15. They learned that youngsters who had higher pesticide levels in their urine were more likely to have ADHD and that the higher the levels of these chemicals, the higher the risk. The investigators noted that earlier studies have shown an association between exposure to organophosphates and developmental problems. Those studies saw links to ADHD among babies who were exposed to pesticides in the womb as well as after they were born. The research team didn't suggest that kids avoid fruits and vegetables but that parents might help safeguard their children's health by seeking out organic produce, buying at farmers' markets and washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly at home.

My take? I'm not at all surprised by these findings. My colleague, Sandy Newmark, M.D., a California-based pediatrician and member of the faculty at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, has just published an impressive book¸ ADHD Without Drugs, which delves into the causes of the rising rate of this disorder among children. In discussing the causes, he notes that from the moment of conception exposure to damaging environmental toxins has increased dramatically in the past 40 years and that a number of studies have implicated industrial pollutants as a factor in the rising rates of ADHD as well as learning disabilities. I highly recommend Dr. Newmark's book to any parent dealing with this diagnosis.

Learn which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide contamination and should always be bought organic by watching my video on the Environmental Working Group's Shopping Guide.