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News About Exercise and Breast Cancer

Over the years, a number of studies have shown that regular exercise can help protect women from breast cancer. And now a review and analysis of 37 studies performed between 1987 and 2013 involving more than four million women worldwide has found that exercise is protective regardless of a woman’s age or weight. The only exception to the new finding applies to women who are on hormone replacement therapy, which may offset the positive effects of physical activity. All told, the review found that women who exercise for more than an hour a day could cut their breast cancer risk by 12 percent compared with women who don’t exercise at all. The report didn’t specify the type of exercise or the intensity required, but the lead researcher mentioned walking and biking as options. Results of the analysis also suggested that the exercise benefit extended even to aggressive types of breast cancer and held true regardless of where the women lived. The report was presented at the 9th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-9).

My take? We have ample evidence that regular physical activity can reduce the risk of breast cancer, although findings often have been limited to women who began to exercise when they were young. These new findings are surprising in that the protective effect of exercise encompassed women who were overweight or obese. In the past, we’ve thought that exercise is protective because it helps reduce fat stores where estrogen is produced. A German study published in 2008 may have foreshadowed these new findings – it also showed that the protective effect was independent of body mass index or weight, but that study showed that exercise specifically reduced the risk of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer and found little protective effect for other types of breast cancer. An earlier study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in September 2003 concluded that even women who don’t begin exercising until later in life can lower their breast cancer risk by 20 percent and that a brisk, half-hour walk five days a week will do the trick.

Mathieu Boniol et al, “Regular physical activity reduces breast cancer risk irrespective of age." The European CanCer Organisation (ECCO). ", accessed March 21, 2014

Abstract no: P102, “Physical activity, hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer risk: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies”, Wednesday 19 March 12.30 – 13.30 hrs, poster session, poster area.


How Would You Describe Your Sleep? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed how to improve rapid eye movement sleep, also known as REM sleep: How Do You Improve REM Sleep? Check out the article and let us know how you would describe your sleep patterns.


Omega-3s for a Good Night’s Sleep

A new study from the UK suggests that taking supplements of omega-3 fatty acids may improve sleep, at least among kids. For their sleep study, researchers at the University of Oxford recruited 362 children between the ages of seven and nine. The children chosen weren’t selected because they had sleeping problems, but it turned out that 40 percent of them did. The researchers outfitted 43 of the kids who weren’t sleeping well with wristband sensors to monitor their movements in bed over five nights. All the youngsters received supplements of either 600 mg of omega-3s from algal sources or a placebo, which they took for 16 weeks. The researchers reported the sleep-monitored kids given the omega-3s slept 58 minutes longer than they had in the past and awakened seven fewer times a night than the kids who received the placebo. The study found that higher blood levels of long-chain omega 3 DHA (the main omega-3 fatty acid found in the brain) are significantly associated with better sleep. Study leader Paul Montgomery noted that lower ratios of DHA have been linked with lower levels of melatonin, which he said fits in with the finding that kids with sleep problems may have lower blood levels of DHA.

Paul Montgomery et al. “Fatty acids and sleep in UK children: Subjective and pilot objective sleep results from the DOLAB study – a randomised controlled trial.” Journal of Sleep Research, March 2014 DOI: 10.1111/jsr.12135


Statins, Cholesterol, and Heart Health (Video)

Statins are used for doing one thing in the body: to lower LDL cholesterol. However, as Dr. Weil discusses, many doctors prescribe statins but do not go beyond medication as a form of treatment and fail to discuss the benefits of healthy eating, exercise, stress-reduction and other healthful routes. Watch as Dr. Weil talks about how statins affect cholesterol and heart health, as well as where he believes statins will be in the future in our society.

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Vitamin D and Women's Cholesterol

Here’s more good news about vitamin D: it seems to help lower LDL, also known as “bad” cholesterol, in post-menopausal women. The reduction isn’t huge, but it is significant, according to study leader Peter F. Schnatz, a professor of internal medicine at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. The 576 women who participated in the study were randomly assigned to receive either a supplement containing 400 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily or a placebo. After three years, the women taking the supplement had higher blood levels of vitamin D and lower LDL than they had at the study’s start. In analyzing the results, the researchers controlled for the women’s vitamin D level when the study began, as well as smoking, alcohol consumption and more than 20 other variables. Because of the study’s small size, the researchers said no conclusions could be drawn about the effect of vitamin D on heart health, but they noted that among the women who took the calcium/vitamin D supplement, those whose vitamin D levels were higher also had high levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol, as well as lower triglyceride levels.

Peter F. Schnatz et al, “Calcium/vitamin D supplementation, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and cholesterol profiles in the Women’s Health Initiative calcium/vitamin D randomized trial.” Menopause, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000188


The Real Meaning of Senior Moments

If you’re worried that those occasional memory lapses that are popularly called “senior moments” could be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease, a new clinical trial from Germany might set your mind at rest. Most of those memory lapses are not cause for concern, the study found. Researchers spent three years following more than 350 men and women age 75 and older, all of whom had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment but not dementia. The upshot of their study was the finding that in 42 percent of all cases, the study participants’ normal mental function returned; 21 percent of the participants fluctuated between mild cognitive impairment and normal mental function, while the mild cognitive impairment did not worsen in 15 percent. The final 22 percent went on to develop dementia. The investigators reported that the individuals most likely to develop this diagnosis also had signs of depression, their initial cognitive impairment was more severe than others in the group, and they were older than others in the study. The findings were published in the March/April 2014 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

My take? This news should reassure most people experiencing senior moments. Keep in mind that stress and anxiety can lead to these memory lapses, as can lack of sleep (you need at least six hours a night for memory to perform optimally). To counter stress and anxiety, try breathing exercises, meditation, relaxation training, or yoga. If neither of those two potential causes is a problem, it would be worth your while to have your thyroid function tested (problems can arise at any age and treatment can improve memory). Also consider whether any drugs you’re taking could be responsible – the usual suspects here are sleeping pills, anti-anxiety drugs, painkillers, antihistamines and antidepressants. Recreational drugs and alcohol can also contribute to memory lapses.

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Are You Deficient In Magnesium?

Magnesium - the fourth most abundant mineral in the body – is in your bones, teeth, and red blood cells. It is essential for proper functioning of the nervous, muscular and cardiovascular systems, it helps maintain bones, promotes normal blood pressure and is involved in energy metabolism.

How do you know if you aren’t getting enough? Signs of magnesium deficiency include:

  • Irritability
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irregular heartbeat

I recommend adult males get 270-400 mg per day; adult females get 280-300 mg; pregnant females get 320 mg daily; and breastfeeding females get 340-355 mg. Consider taking half as much magnesium as you do calcium, to offset calcium's constipating effect and to ensure the appropriate balance of these two key minerals in the body. Look for magnesium citrate, chelate, or glycinate, and avoid magnesium oxide, which can be irritating to the digestive tract.

Good dietary sources of magnesium include whole grains, leafy green vegetables (spinach is a great source), almonds, cashews and other nuts, avocados, beans, soybeans and halibut. A diet high in fat may cause less magnesium to be absorbed, and cooking may decrease the magnesium content of food.

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What Foods Do You Crave Most Often? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed food addiction and if it is the cause of obesity: Addicted to Food? Check out the article and let us know what foods you crave most often.