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Tuesday
Sep092014

Good News for Short Guys

They may look up to their taller peers, but they live longer. A study in Hawaii found that the longevity gene, FOXO3, is more common in short men – those who are 5’2” or shorter – and that they lived the longest among the more than 8,000 American men of Japanese ancestry participating in the study. Researchers monitored the men’s health for nearly five decades and found that within the group, the taller the man, the shorter his lifespan. The gene in question results in a smaller body size, lower prevalence of cancer, lower blood insulin levels as well as longer life, the researchers reported. All the men in the study were born between 1900 and 1919 and 1,200 of them lived into their 90s and 100s; about 250 are still alive. The researchers noted that similar genes in mice, roundworms, flies and even yeast are also associated with longevity. They also reported that taller guys (and women) who don’t have the longevity gene can compensate for it with a healthy lifestyle.

Sources:
Bradley J. Wilcox et al “Shorter Men Live Longer: Association of Height with Longevity and FOXO3 Genotype in American Men of Japanese Ancestry,” PLOS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094385

Monday
Sep082014

Biggest Risk Factor for Heart Disease in Women Over 30?

You might guess the answer is smoking, high blood pressure, or being overweight, and all those contributors play a role, but a new study from Australia has shown that lack of physical activity presents the most significant risk of heart disease in women over 30. The researchers used a mathematical formula to determine reductions in heart disease if specific risk factors were eliminated, and followed more than 32,000 women in three age groups to arrive at their conclusion. Predictably, in women under 30, the biggest risk turned out to be smoking, but in all the women over 30 lack of physical activity proved the strongest risk. For women in their 70s, being active would lower the risk of heart disease nearly three times as much as quitting smoking and significantly more than lowering blood pressure or reaching a healthy body weight, the study showed. Overall, it found that for all women over 30 those who are inactive were nearly 50 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease in their lifetimes than women who regularly get at least 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise every week.

My take? Women often don't realize that heart disease is as much of a threat to them as it is to men. True, the risk for men is higher when they're younger, but by the age of 65, the rate of heart disease in women equals that of men and is the leading cause of death in women, claiming nearly 500,000 lives per year (compared to about 40,000 for breast cancer, a disease women tend to fear more). This study’s findings emphasize the importance of daily physical activity for lowering women’s risk of heart disease. About 60 percent of American women don't get the recommended 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise. While a sedentary lifestyle may be the biggest risk, the others – smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and being overweight – shouldn’t be ignored.

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Sources:
Wendy J. Brown et al, “Comparing population attributable risks for heart disease across the adult lifespan in women,” British Journal of Sports Medicine, doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-093090

Friday
Sep052014

How Many Prescription Drugs Do You Take? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed prescription drugs and whether we are too dependant upon them: Too Many Prescription Drugs? Check out the article and let us know how many prescription drugs you take on a daily basis.

Thursday
Sep042014

More Exercise After 65 Lowers Heart Attack Risk

If you think being a senior is a good excuse to cut back on working out, think again - a newly published study suggests that you’re better off exercising more rather than less as you get older. That’s the message from researchers who analyzed heart monitor recordings of 985 seniors (average age 71) taken over a five-year period. The investigators were focused on heart rate variability – differences in time between one heartbeat and the next in everyday life. Over the course of the clinical trail, the researchers found that seniors in the study who walked longer and faster and were more physically active than their peers had better heart rate variability, fewer irregular heart rhythms, and an estimated 11 percent lower risk of heart attack or sudden cardiac death. “Any physical activity is better than none, but maintaining or increasing your activity has added heart benefits as you age,” study leader Luisa Soares-Miranda, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Faculty of Sport at Portugal’s University of Porto said in a press release.

Sources:
Luisa Soares-Miranda et al, “Physical Activity and Heart Rate Variability in Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study,” Circulation, May 2014

Tuesday
Sep022014

Cutting Carbs to Reduce Inflammation

A low carbohydrate diet might not pare more pounds than a low fat diet, but Swedish researchers found that it works better to lower inflammation in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Over the two-years of a clinical trial with 61 type 2 diabetes patients, investigators at Sweden’s Linköping University found reduced levels of inflammatory markers only in those who followed a low carb diet. When the trial began, the patients were randomly assigned to either a low carb or a traditional low fat diet and were given menu suggestions and advice by a dietician. At the outset of the investigation, levels of inflammation in the diabetes patients were found to be significantly higher than those of healthy individuals without diabetes. However, after six months, inflammation was significantly reduced among the patients on the low carb diet; no changes were seen in the patients who had followed the low fat diet. Both groups lost about the same amount of weight, 4 kilograms (about 8.8 pounds). Inflammation is believed to be a primary contributor to the higher risks of heart disease and other complications seen in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Sources:
Hans Guldbrand and Fredrik Nystrom et al, “Advice to follow a low-carbohydrate diet has a favourable impact on low-grade inflammation in type 2 diabetes compared with advice to follow a low-fat diet,” Annals of Medicine May 2014 Vol. 46, No. 3 doi:10.3109/07853890.2014.894286

Monday
Sep012014

Surprising Solution to Sleeplessness

It’s not a new pill or any type of high-tech sleeping aid. Instead, researchers at Louisiana State University have shown that insomnia-plagued seniors can sleep nearly an hour and a half longer nightly by drinking two eight-ounce glasses of tart Montmorency cherry juice daily. The cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep/wake cycle, and the juice also contains proanthocyanidins (a type of antioxidant) that the research team credits with helping to promote sleep. In addition, the constituents in the juice help increase the availability of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. The investigators made the point that cherry juice may be a better sedative for seniors than prescription medications, which can increase the risk of falls and related hip fractures. The cherry juice findings were presented Monday, April 28, at the "Dietary Bioactive Components: Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Effects of Dietary Bioactive Components" section of the annual meeting of the American Society of Nutrition, held in conjunction with the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting in San Diego. The findings have been submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

My take? We know that cherry juice can help reduce the pain of arthritis, gout and exercise related muscle pain. The Louisiana State study was pretty small – only seven seniors (average age 68) participated, but its findings are encouraging and it might be worth considering cherry juice to help address sleeplessness, especially for older individuals. I’ve recommended melatonin as an occasional sleep aid for some time. I suggest trying sublingual tablets (to be placed under the tongue and allowed to dissolve); take 2.5 mg at bedtime, making sure that your bedroom is completely dark. A much lower dose, 0.25 to 0.3 mg, is more effective for regular use. I also recommend valerian as an alternative to benzodiazepines and other prescription sleep aids. You can find standardized extracts in health food stores and pharmacies. Take one to two capsules a half hour before bedtime.

Friday
Aug292014

When Was The Last Time You Took An Antibiotic? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed antibiotics and whether they are helping or hurting by creating "superbug" infections: Unnecessary Antibiotics? Check out the article and let us know when the last time was you took an antibiotic for a bacterial infection.

Thursday
Aug282014

10 Foods for Healthy Blood Sugar Levels, Part 2

We continue our look at foods that can help keep your blood sugar levels optimized with five more to add to your diet. Find out what to put on your next grocery list!

Tuesday's post covered five foods for healthy blood sugar levels, from green leafy veggies to onions. Today we look at five more - add these foods to your diet, as they may help lower blood sugar levels.

  1. Maitake mushrooms. One of Dr. Weil’s favorites, maitake not only contain compounds that enhance immune function, but in one study people with type 2 diabetes were given maitake along with diabetes medication, and the result was lower blood sugar readings. Cook some up and serve them as a side dish!
  2. Underground vegetables. Also known as “tubers,” veggies such as leeks, potatoes and yams have been shown in studies to lower or return to normal high blood sugar levels.
  3. Brewer’s yeast. Rich in essential amino acids and B vitamins, brewer’s yeast may also lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, and may improve glucose tolerance, increase insulin sensitivity, and lower cholesterol as well. Shake some on your next batch of popped corn!
  4. Prickly pear. The green pads of this plant are called nopal, and is more than a staple in Mexican cuisine – it is very low on the glycemic index and may have blood-sugar-lowering effects. Look for it at specialty or ethnic grocers.
  5. Bitter melon. When cooked and added to other dishes, bitter melon will impart a unique flavor that may help glucose tolerance of people with type 2 diabetes, and help keep blood sugar levels in the normal range.
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