Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

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High blood pressure and healthy eating

It’s always wise to make healthy food choices. It becomes even more important when treating hypertension.
Changing the foods you eat is a great way to help lower blood pressure. Eating healthier foods at home and outside of the home is an important part of reaching a goal of lower blood pressure. Here are some tips on eating to help lower blood pressure:
  • Limit your alcohol intake to 2 drinks daily or less, to a maximum of 9 drinks per week for women and 14 drinks per week for men.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet (e.g., increase the amount of fruits and vegetables, grains, and cereals).
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist first before adding foods or supplements that are rich in potassium.
  • Read food labels to get more information about the nutrients in the foods you are eating.
  • Eat less saturated fat and cholesterol whenever possible (e.g., choose lean cuts of meat and avoid foods containing saturated fats; choose low-fat dairy products).
  • Get plenty of fibre.
  • Eat more whole grains and get more of your dietary protein from plant sources.
  • Reduce the amount of salt in your food.

More on salt

The majority of people consume much more than the recommended limit of 2,300 mg of sodium per day, when in fact, your body only needs 1,200 mg to 1,500 mg per day to function healthily. The good news is that there are many simple ways that you can cut down on your salt intake, starting today.
  • Replace salt with other tasty seasonings. Try adding flavour to your food with herbs and spices such as oregano, basil, thyme, or pepper. Garlic and lemon are also delicious options to boost taste.
  • Consume processed foods less often. About 80% of our daily salt intake comes from processed foods, especially pizza, breads, soups and sauces. An easy way to consume less processed food is to avoid buying anything in a can, box, or bag, as these often contain high amounts of salt. Fresh foods do not contain added salt and are lower in sodium than pre-packaged foods.
  • Read the nutrition labels. The nutrition facts will tell you the amount of sodium in the serving size indicated at the top of the table (read this number carefully as it is dependent on the indicated serving). It will also tell you the percentage of the daily value (%DV) of sodium it contains.
  • Choose low-sodium products. Many food products now offer a reduced or low-sodium alternative.
  • Be aware of salt or sodium in disguise. There are other compounds that can increase the sodium content of food. These include monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking powder, baking soda, disodium phosphate, and sodium nitrate or nitrite. Read the ingredient label to determine if these compounds are included.
  • Remove or cut down the amount of salt in recipes. Cut the amount of salt called for by half and your taste buds won’t even know the difference!
  • Ask for the nutrition facts when eating out. Nutrition information is often available on restaurant websites or can be given to you upon request. Use this information to choose meals that are lower in sodium.
  • Try to limit the use of condiments. Condiments can contain high amounts of salt, so cutting back or limiting their use will help reduce your daily salt intake.

The DASH diet

A common diet that is often used to manage blood pressure is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. This diet is rich in fibre and nutrients and contains much more potassium, calcium, and magnesium than the average diet.
Many studies have shown that in as little as several weeks, people on this diet significantly reduced their blood pressure, and that it is a very effective diet in reducing the risk of diabetesheart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.
The key to success with any new diet is in not making drastic changes all at one time. It takes time to develop new eating habits and make food choices that make you feel healthier and satisfied.
There are some useful tips that you can use to adjust to the DASH diet:
  • Add more fruits and vegetables slowly to your diet. Try replacing fatty snacks with a fruit instead.
  • Increase your daily intake of dairy products. If you have trouble digesting dairy products, there are lactose intolerance pills that can aid in digesting these foods.
  • Replace enriched flour breads with whole grain bread.
  • Choose whole-grain cereals without large amounts of additives and sugar.
  • Eat fruit-flavoured gelatin or dried fruit snacks.
  • Add more nuts, seeds, and legumes to your daily diet.
  • Eat more potassium-enriched fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep to modest amounts of protein foods, preferably soy, fish, and poultry.
Visit Health Canada’s website to get a copy of Canada’s Food Guide for more information on healthy eating.
source: Canada.com

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California teens eat fewer calories in school

By Kerry Grens

Fri May 18, 2012 

(Reuters Health) – High school kids in California, a state that limits the junk food sold in vending machines, eat fewer calories in school than kids in states without such regulations, according to a new study.

“We were definitely pleased by the size of the differences, particularly for calories and sugar,” said Daniel Taber, the study’s lead author and a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The study doesn’t show that students are necessarily replacing unhealthy foods with healthier ones, but the California law “was a bold first step” to improving children’s diets, said Patricia Crawford, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study.

Several years ago, California mandated that schools offer so-called competitive food — that is, food sold in vending machines or other sources outside of the school lunch service – that meets calorie, fat and sugar limits.

Each snack has to have fewer than 250 calories, no more than 35 percent of calories from fat and no more than 35 percent of its weight from added sugars.

To determine what impact California’s regulations have had on students’ diets, Taber and his colleagues compared how much children in California ate each day to kids who lived in 14 states that did not have such limits on the foods sold in school.

The study — published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine — used survey information, collected in the first half of 2010, from more than 100 kids who lived in California and about 560 kids who lived in other states.

The researchers found that the California kids ate 158 fewer calories each day than the other kids, primarily because they ate fewer calories during school hours.

Although the study did not look at whether kids’ diets had an impact on their health, “a difference of 158 calories can go a long way toward preventing excess weight gain, particularly if students maintain a healthy level of physical activity,” according to Taber.

Students have a nutrition break mid-morning consisting of milk, juice, an orange and either mini sausage roll or Vegetarian Italian bagel at Belmont High School in Los Angeles, California May 18, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

The California children also ate 17 fewer grams of sugar than the other kids.

“These laws were specifically designed to improve students’ intake at school, and that is exactly what the evidence suggests they achieved,” Taber told Reuters Health in an email.

The kids don’t necessarily choose healthy foods over unhealthy foods, however.

The Californians ate the same proportion of vitamins and minerals as the kids from other states.

“All states could focus on providing more healthy foods in schools, in addition to banning high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie foods and beverages,” said Taber.

Taber said other states have taken action to restrict the least healthy foods in school, but California has been the one of the most ambitious in terms of also offering healthier foods.

“They should definitely be applauded for their actions. But I think the lesson is that even their laws were only a starting point,” Taber said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is developing federal standards for what foods kids would have access to in vending machines or from a la carte lines at schools.

A recent poll found that most parents support the stricter guidelines (see Reuters Health story of April 19, 2012).

The USDA has already set standards for school lunches that are expected to make the meals healthier.

Crawford said the study is a good first step in examining the dietary benefits of California’s laws.

“I’m glad they did the first step here to look at the nutritional benefits,” she told Reuters Health. “Because they are benefits, we just need to go further.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/KfPcUS Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, May 2012.   Reuters.com

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Sleep Apnea: Treatment May Help Keep Blood Pressure Low

CPAP Linked to Lower Hypertension Risk, but Questions Remain
By Salynn Boyles
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD
May 22, 2012 — People with obstructive sleep apnea have an increased risk for high blood pressure and heart disease, and now two new studies suggest that treating the disorder may lower this risk.
In one study, patients with obstructive sleep apnea who slept with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment appeared to have a reduced risk for developing high blood pressure.
Another study that included patients who used a CPAP machine for more than four hours a night, but not less, appeared to have a lower high blood pressure risk.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airways become narrowed or blocked during sleep, leading to pauses in breathing from a few times a night to hundreds of times.
CPAP opens airways by forcing air into the nostrils through a mask worn while sleeping.
The studies, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, add to the evidence that positive air pressure treatment lowers heart risk in patients with obstructive sleep apnea — but important questions remain, experts say.
“We know that obstructive sleep apnea is a potential cause of high blood pressure, and we know that CPAP use is associated with reductions in blood pressure in people with hypertension,” says sleep specialist Vishesh K. Kapur, MD, of the University of Washington, Seattle. “And now there is reasonable evidence that this treatment can prevent high blood pressure in patients who don’t already have it.”

Sleep Apnea Often Not Diagnosed

Almost 1 in 5 adults in the United States has mild to severe sleep apnea, but only about 10% have been diagnosed with the disorder.

CPAP has been shown to improve quality of life and daytime sleepiness, but adherence is an issue because many patients find the masks too uncomfortable to wear.

While studies strongly suggest a causal role for obstructive sleep apnea in high blood pressure, confirming the association has been difficult because the disorder is common in people with other risk factors for high blood pressure, such as obesity.
In one of the newly published studies, researchers from Lleida, Spain’s, Institut de Recerca Biomedica recruited around 700 sleep apnea patients and treated half with CPAP.
At a follow-up of around four years, patients treated with CPAP had a slightly lower incidence of high blood pressure, heart attackstroke, and other heart-related events than patients not treated with CPAP, but the difference was not found to be significant — a finding the researchers themselves admitted, though, might have had a more positive outcome if the study had been longer or had more participants.
Use of CPAP for more than four hours per night did however appear to lower high blood pressure risk, suggesting that adherence with treatment may be critical in this group of patients.

CPAP: If at First You Don’t Succeed…

The second study included close to 1,900 sleep apnea patients without high blood pressure who were followed for an average of 11 years.
Researchers from Zaragoza, Spain’s, Hospital Universitario Miguel Servet found that patients who were prescribed CPAP but declined the treatment had about twice the risk for developing high blood pressure as people without sleep apnea.
Patients who were non-adherent with prescribed CPAP therapy had about an 80% greater risk.
Sleep specialist Yosef P. Krespi, MD, of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says adherence with CPAP therapy could be improved if more clinicians worked with patients to get the treatment right.
As many as half of people who try CPAP abandon it after a few days or weeks, studies suggest.
“We used to tell patients who said they couldn’t use CPAP not to worry about it,” he tells WebMD. “Now we tell them to come back in and we work with them. We can readjust the pressure, change the mask, and even add a humidifier if it is too hot. We can do a lot of tweaking.”
SOURCES: Martin, J.M. and Barbe, F. Journal of the American Medical Association, May 23/30, 2012. Vishesh K. Kapur, MD, Department of Medicine and University of Washington Sleep Center, Seattle, Wash. Yosef P. Krespi, MD, FACS, otolaryngologist and sleep specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York. Press release, JAMA. Finkel, K.J. Sleep Medicine, August 2009.

                                                             source:   WebMD     medicinenet.com

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There is a story by Leo Buscaglia that beautifully illustrates our uniqueness.

The animals got together in the forest one day and decided to start a school. There was a rabbit, a bird, a squirrel, a fish and an eel, and they formed a Board of Education. The rabbit insisted that running be in the curriculum. The bird insisted that flying be in the curriculum. The fish ...insisted that swimming be in the curriculum, and the squirrel insisted that swimming be in the curriculum. They put all of these things together and wrote a Curriculum Guide. Then they insisted that all of the animals to take all of the subjects.

Although the rabbit was getting an A in running, perpendicular tree climbing was a real problem for him; he kept falling over backwards. Pretty soon he got to be sort of brain damaged, and he couldn’t run anymore. He found that instead of making an A in running, he was making C and, of course, he always made an F in perpendicular climbing. The bird was really beautiful at flying, but when it came to burrowing in the ground, he couldn’t do so well. He kept breaking his beak and wings. Pretty soon he was making a C in flying as well as an F in burrowing, and he had a hellava time with perpendicular tree climbing.

The moral of the story is that the person who was valedictorian of the class was a n- brained eel who did everything in a halfway fashion. But the educators were all happy because everybody was taking all the subjects, and it was called a broad-based education.

So please embrace your oneness, your uniqueness and do not conform to something just because others want you to be (the eel). Be you.

The story links to our current education system also. Please don’t assume that if you don’t do well in one subject or two subjects you are a failure for life. You are the genius in your own field.

– Leo Buscaglia 

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Bike Month: Group Commutes, Free Breakfasts, Events & More Across Canada Throughout June

June is almost here, and with that comes perfect cycling weather! June is traditionally Bike Month across the country and a number of major cities are taking part. Here are some of the free events to look forward to:

  • Vancouver: Bike To Work Week runs May 28-June 1. Each day, there will be “Commuter Stations” set up around the city where you can take advantage of free refreshments, bike mechanic services and chances to win prizes. By registering for Bike To Work Week and logging your trips, you also get entered to win daily prizes.
  • Edmonton: Throughout the month, there are lots of events taking place. On Fridays at 7AM, there will be breakfasts at various restaurants around the city. Each Wednesday from 4-6PM, they will be hosting “Mocktails on the Bridge” at Ezio Faraone Park, where you can have a drink and get your bike tuned up. Other events planned for the month include a bike-in movie night, bike art workshops, bike salons and more. For the full calendar of events, visit the Bikeology website.
  • Ottawa: Two days of Bicycle Rodeos! Bicycle games, products, demo’s, education, and fun! Over $2000 in cycling prizes to be won! Saturday June 2nd – Ottawa City Hall : 11am – 5pm / Tour La Nuit – Ottawa City Hall, 5pm – 11pm : Light up your bike decorating / Live Music / A community ride on streets closed to vehicles) … Sunday June 3rd – Brantwood Park :  10:00am-1:00pm – Kitchissippi : 6pm  … Visit http://www.capitalvelofest.ca/
  • Toronto: Bike Month kicks off on May 28 with the Group Commute and Pancake Breakfast. Groups of commuters will be meeting at a series of city and community start points, then converging at Yonge and Bloor for a ride down to City Hall. If you participate in the ride, you’ll receive a free Bike Month t-shirt and enjoy a free pancake breakfast at City Hall. There are dozens of events running through the month, including group rides, free pancake breakfasts, used bike sales, free bike repairs and more. Visit the Toronto Cyclists Union website for the full calendar of events.
  • Montreal: Montreal Bike Fest runs from May 27-June 3. Though the Tour de l’Île and Tour la Nuit events require registration, they are hosting “Operation Bike To Work” on May 30, which appears to be free. From 7AM-6PM, there will be bike tune ups, used bike collection stations, and more at Parc La Fontaine.
  • Halifax: Bike Week runs through June 3, with events organized by local organizations and stores. Mountain Equipment Co-op is hosting Bike To School Day on May 30, and from 7-9AM, they will be providing a free pancake breakfast at the MEC on Granville Street and on Macdonald Bridge. Moksha Yoga Halifax is also hosting a free yoga class for cyclists on June 1.

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Looking Away As You Get Needle Does Lower Pain, Study Shows

THURSDAY, May 17, 2012  (HealthDay News) — Averting your eyes when you’re receiving a shot really may help reduce discomfort, new research suggests.

The study, published in the May issue of the journal Pain, included volunteers who watched video clips showing a needle pricking a hand or a Q-tip touching the hand, or a hand alone. At the same time, the participants received painful or non-painful electrical sensations to their hand.
The video clips were shown on a screen located just above the participants’ hands, giving them the impression that the hand on the screen actually belonged to them, the study authors explained in a journal news release.

The participants reported more intense and unpleasant pain when they saw a needle pricking a hand, compared to when they saw a hand alone. The finding indicates that previous painful experiences with needles boost the level of pain when people watch as they get a shot, the German researchers said.

In addition, patients’ expectations about the painfulness of getting a shot influences the actual intensity of pain, the study authors noted.
Clinicians can help by giving patients fair warning, the researchers said.
“Throughout our lives, we repeatedly experience that needles cause pain when pricking our skin, but situational expectations, like information given by the clinician prior to an injection, may also influence how viewing needle pricks affects pain,” lead study author Marion Hofle, a doctoral student at the Charite University Hospital Berlin, said in the news release.
More information
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about pain.
– Robert Preidt

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Want to quit smoking ? Try acupuncture or hypnosis

Sun May 6, 2012 10:21pm EDT

(Reuters) – Acupuncture and hypnosis have been promoted as drug-free ways to help smokers kick the habit, and there is some evidence that they work, according to a research review that looked at 14 international studies.

Researchers, whose findings appeared in the American Journal of Medicine, said that there are still plenty of questions, including exactly how effective alternative therapies might be and how they measure up against conventional methods to quit smoking.

But the alternatives should still stand as options for smokers determined to break the habit, said researchers led by Mehdi Tahiri of McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

In general, smokers who want to quit should first try the standard approaches, which include nicotine-replacement therapy, medications and behavioral counseling, Tahiri said.

“But some people are not interested in medication,” he said, adding that in many cases the standard therapies had not worked. “Then I think we should definitely recommend (acupuncture and hypnosis) as choices.”

Researchers found that some studies showed that smokers subjected to acupuncture were more than three times as likely to be tobacco-free six months to a year later.

Similarly, across four trials of hypnosis, smokers had a higher success rate with the therapy compared to people who had minimal help.

But there were some caveats, researchers said. The success rate was not consistent in all the tests conducted, although the broad trends pointed to the benefits of alternate treatment.

A 2008 study that ran a few sessions of laser acupuncture on 258 smokers found that 55 percent who’d received the treatment quit the habit in six months, compared with four percent who were not given the treatment.

But a 2007 study from Taiwan that looked at needle acupuncture around the ear, the area typically targeted for smoking cessation, reported a lower success rate.

Only nine percent of those who were given acupuncture had quit after six months compared with six percent who stopped smoking without the treatment.

The situation was similar across the hypnosis trials. Two studies showed a significant impact : 20 to 45 percent of hypnosis patients were smoke-free six months to a year later. The other two trials showed smaller effects.

Nonetheless, Tahiri said, there was a “trend” toward a benefit across all of the studies of acupuncture and hypnosis.

There are still definitely questions, he added, about how many sessions of acupuncture or hypnosis might be necessary, or which specific techniques are best.

Other research reviews, though, have concluded that the jury is still out on alternative therapies for quitting smoking.

SOURCE: Reuters.com