Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

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Can Heart Disease Be Reversed?

by  Julie Taylor

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., where someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds. (Yikes!) Many of us believe that once we’ve done damage to our hearts through years and years of eating fatty foods, not exercising, and/or smoking like a chimney, it’s irreversible – do not pass go, do not collect $200. But is it?

The Verdict: Great news! Heart disease can be reversed

“As Dr. Dean Ornish found in his Lifestyle Heart Trial, heart damage can indeed be reversed through diet, exercise and stress reduction,” says cardiologist John M. Kennedy, author of The Heart Health Bible. “In his study, he found that even blocked arteries can be unclogged by focusing on these three factors.”

So how much exercise are we talking here? “I recommend twenty to thirty minutes of moderate aerobic activity three or four times a week,” says Shyla High, MD, a cardiologist at Cardiology Consultants of Texas. “Even if you can just fit in a brisk walk, that uses 200 muscles and is great for heart health.”

Diet is crucial when it comes to reversing heart disease, and most experts agree that your best bet is to eat like a Greek. “The best diet for your heart is the Mediterranean diet, which consists generally of fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, legumes, whole grains and olive oil as the primary fat source,” says L.A. cardiologist Tanvir Hussain, MD. “This kind of a diet is great for prevention of heart disease and stroke, and for managing blood pressure and cholesterol.” Craving a sweet treat? Dark chocolate and blueberries are rich in heart-healthy antioxidants and flavonoids.

The mere mention of heart disease is enough to stress anyone out, but to reverse heart disease, you need less stress, not more. “Relaxation is good for the heart,” says Kennedy. “Guided meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, Pilates, and even watching a sunset all elicit the relaxation response, which lowers heart rate and lowers blood pressure.”

Medication can also help reverse heart damage, which is why seeing your doctor regularly is so important. “For people with high blood pressure, leaving it untreated over time causes microscopic injury to the heart muscle, which can eventually lead to heart failure,” explains Hussain. “Through proper medication management – along with diet, exercise, weight loss and stress reduction – blood pressure can be controlled well, and this scarring process can be reversed if it’s caught in time.”

By incorporating these healthy changes into your lifestyle, you can hop on what High calls the “heart-healthy highway” for a lifetime. “Heart disease and heart damage [are] not a healthy part of aging,” she notes. “It’s not something that has to happen. With hard work and willpower, you can prevent heart disease and reverse heart damage, starting today.” Now that information does a heart good.

source: upwave.com


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Expectant parents urged to avoid ‘entertainment’ fetal ultrasounds

CTVNews.ca Staff   Thursday, February 20, 2014

Expectant Canadian parents, eager to get the first glimpse of their growing baby-to-be, are being urged to avoid visiting commercial ultrasound clinics that offer keepsake images and videos.

In a joint policy statement, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada and the Canadian Association of Radiologists point out there are a number of potential risks with ultrasounds performed for non-medical reasons.

Every ultrasound involves exposure the fetus to targeted energy, they note, and therefore carries a theoretical risk of some harm. But they add that there has never been any definitive evidence of diagnostic ultrasounds’ harmful effects to humans.

With Health Canada also recommending against the use of ultrasound for non-medical reasons, the groups state that “it could be considered unethical to perform these scans” for commercial or entertainment purposes only.

In non-medical ultrasound clinics, the groups say, there is no assurance of proper operator training or qualifications, or proper maintenance of technical safeguards, or standards for infection control.

“As a result, fetal energy exposure may not be appropriately monitored, and operators of the equipment may not be adequately trained to recognize fetal and placental abnormalities,” they write.


There are also other potential risks from the clinics, including the incorrect identification of fetal abnormalities, which would lead to unnecessary investigations and anxiety. There’s also a flipside risk in the potential for false reassurance that everything is “normal” with the fetus.

Finally, the groups warn against using ultrasound to learn the sex of the fetus solely for non-medical reasons.

That warning comes amid mounting concerns that some parents are having ultrasounds performed early, in the first trimester, to determine the sex of a fetus and to have it aborted if it is a girl.

A 2012 article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal warned that ‎Canada has become a “haven for parents who would terminate female fetuses in favour of having sons.” The journal’s former interim editor has urged medical licensing bodies to withhold revealing the sex of the fetus to parents until after 30 weeks of pregnancy.

“With recent media coverage of nonmedical clinics performing gender determination in the first trimester,” the SOGC and CAR said they found it necessary to update their previous policy statement on fetal ultrasounds.

source: ctv.ca


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Strategies to prevent heart disease

You can prevent heart disease by following a heart-healthy lifestyle. Here are strategies to help you protect your heart.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Heart disease may be a leading cause of death, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it as your fate. Although you lack the power to change some risk factors — such as family history, sex or age — there are some key heart disease prevention steps you can take.

You can avoid heart problems in the future by adopting a healthy lifestyle today. Here are six heart disease prevention tips to get you started.

1. Don’t smoke or use tobacco

Smoking or using tobacco of any kind is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack.

Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood. This increases your blood pressure and heart rate by forcing your heart to work harder to supply enough oxygen. Women who smoke and take birth control pills are at greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke than are those who don’t do either because both smoking and taking birth control pills increase the risk of blood clots.

When it comes to heart disease prevention, no amount of smoking is safe. But, the more you smoke, the greater your risk. Smokeless tobacco and low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes also are risky, as is exposure to secondhand smoke. Even so-called “social smoking” — smoking only while at a bar or restaurant with friends — is dangerous and increases the risk of heart disease.

The good news, though, is that when you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease drops almost to that of a nonsmoker in about five years. And no matter how long or how much you smoked, you’ll start reaping rewards as soon as you quit.

2. Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week

Getting some regular, daily exercise can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease. And when you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even greater.

Physical activity helps you control your weight and can reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Try getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. However, even shorter amounts of exercise offer heart benefits, so if you can’t meet those guidelines, don’t give up. You can even get the same health benefits if you break up your workout time into three 10-minute sessions most days of the week.

And remember that activities, such as gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog all count toward your total. You don’t have to exercise strenuously to achieve benefits, but you can see bigger benefits by increasing the intensity, duration and frequency of your workouts.

3. Eat a heart-healthy diet

Eating a healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease. Two examples of heart-healthy food plans include the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan and the Mediterranean diet.

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help protect your heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease.

Limiting certain fats you eat also is important. Of the types of fat — saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fat — saturated fat and trans fat are the ones to try to limit or avoid. Try to keep saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of your daily calories. And, try to keep trans fat out of your diet altogether.

Major sources of saturated fat include:

    Red meat
    Dairy products
    Coconut and palm oils

Sources of trans fat include:
    Deep-fried fast foods
    Bakery products
    Packaged snack foods

If the nutrition label has the term “partially hydrogenated,” it means that product contains trans fat.

Heart-healthy eating isn’t all about cutting back, though. Healthy fats from plant-based sources, such as avocado, nuts, olives and olive oil, help your heart by lowering the bad type of cholesterol.

Most people need to add more fruits and vegetables to their diet — with a goal of five to 10 servings a day. Eating that many fruits and vegetables can not only help prevent heart disease but also may help prevent cancer and improve diabetes.

Eating several servings a week of certain fish, such as salmon and mackerel, may decrease your risk of heart attack.

Following a heart-healthy diet also means keeping an eye on how much alcohol you drink. If you choose to drink alcohol, it’s better for your heart to do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. At that moderate level, alcohol can have a protective effect on your heart. More than that becomes a health hazard.

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When Procrastination Is a Problem, and How to Fix It

By Paula Spencer Scott     WebMD Feature     Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH

Procrastination is a long word for this quick idea: later.  It’s telling yourself you’ll do things “tomorrow” or “when I feel more like it.”

When is putting things off a problem?

Everyone delays or puts things off sometimes, and that’s fine, says Timothy Pychyl, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. You might postpone a meeting because of a schedule conflict, or to give yourself time to prepare.
Procrastinating becomes a problem only when it hinders your relationships or getting your work done.
For about one in five adults, procrastination is a real, long-lasting problem.

Why we delay

The things people put off tend to be boring, hard,
time-consuming, or maybe they lack meaning to us. Or we worry that the results won’t be perfect. When you avoid doing what seems less than pleasant, you get a little mood boost. But this bump doesn’t last. The avoided thing still hangs over you, causing guilt and stress.
The real reasons we procrastinate lie deep within human behavior. We tend to view things in the future as less real or concrete. The later risks of not doing something (or the rewards of getting it done) seem less real, too.
Putting things off is a habit. We’re wired to do what’s easy – in this case, delaying doing something we don’t find
pleasant. And habits are hard to break.

How to get a move on

  • Be concrete. Don’t say, “I’ll start the report in the morning.” Say, “I’ll outline just the three main points of the report while I drink my morning coffee, before I look at mail.”
  • Be realistic about your time. We tend to be optimists about the future and think we’ll get more done than we do. Try jotting down all the things you have to do into your datebook. Include tasks like shopping for food, doing laundry, working out. That way when you make a plan to do something, you can get a true sense of what time you’ll have.
  • “Pre-empt that which tempts,” Pychyl says. Shut off all the things that are a click away from distracting you. Social media and texting require little effort, give you a lot of mood reward, and suck time. Make them a reward after you finish.
  • Know and accept that when the time comes to do the task, you won’t want to – and get past that.
    Just starting, even in the smallest way, creates progress. Then a sense of progress fuels well-being. “It’s an upward spiral,” Pychyl says.
  • Start with the hardest tasks. Willpower is a muscle. You’ll better resist things that distract when you first get started.
  • “Time travel” in your mind’s eye to when the task at hand is done. Think about how good you’ll feel.
  • Pace yourself. Set aside time to make a little progress every day. College students who had to complete small amounts of work before they could go to the next level did better on tests than those who were given all the study material at once, a 2011 University of Kansas study found.
  • Be kind to yourself.  Praise yourself for taking the first steps. Assure yourself that a “good enough” effort is great, and better than putting things off.


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The Pesticide on Your Fruit May Lead to Parkinson’s

A new study links likelihood of the brain disease to a combination of chemicals and genetics

By Alexandra Sifferlin   Feb. 03, 2014

Following a study that showed that the banned chemical DDT was linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, new research out this week shows that pesticides are associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease.

It’s not the first time the chemicals have been linked to the brain disease, but the latest study from UCLA researchers shows that the effect is exacerbated by genetics. Since Parkinson’s is known to be determined by a variety of factors, including family genetics, this new study shows how the two factors could be intimately involved.

In the study, published in the journal Neurology, researchers looked at 360 people with Parkinson’s from three California farming communities that used pesticides. They compared these people with 816 from the same regions who did not have the disease.

Prior research has shown that the pesticide benomyl (which has been banned in the U.S.) interferes with processes in the brain and contributes to the development of Parkinson’s. In this new study, the scientists developed a test targeting other chemicals that could contribute to Parkinson’s, and found that 11 other pesticides contribute to the disease in the same way as benomyl.

Here’s how it works: the pesticides inhibit an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), which is supposed to keep a naturally occurring toxin in the brain called DOPAL in check. When ALDH is inhibited, the detoxifying doesn’t happen, and this causes DOPAL to build up and contribute to Parkinson’s development.

Mostly interesting was that the population from the farming communities who had the gene variant ALDH2 were six times more likely to develop the disease, indicating that the gene variant made them especially vulnerable.

“We were very surprised that so many pesticides inhibited ALDH and at quite low concentrations, concentrations that were way below what was needed for the pesticides to do their job,” study author Dr. Jeff Bronstein, a professor of neurology and director of the Movement Disorders Program at UCLA, said in a statement. “These pesticides are pretty ubiquitous, and can be found on our food supply and are used in parks and golf courses and in pest control inside our buildings and homes.”

Building evidence of pesticide-related brain disorders is supporting the case for the dangers of pesticides, and giving researchers more insight into what treatments may be best for people who develop the disease from these chemicals. 

source: Time

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Can You Really Boost Your Happiness?

WebMD Feature   By Eric Metcalf, MPH   Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD

Happiness is a serious subject for many researchers these days. Some studies show that you have some control over how happy you feel.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor and happiness researcher, writes that your genes decide about 50% of your happiness. Issues in your life that may be hard to change –  like your looks, your health, and your income – only explain about 10%. That leaves about 40% up to you. It’s something you can control.

“Happiness is much better thought of as a skill or a set of skills that we need to learn and practice,” says Christine Carter, PhD, author of Raising Happiness. These skills are like speaking a foreign language: They come easier to some people, but working on them helps you get better at them. “Everybody needs to practice those skills before they can become fluent.”

Connect with others.

“A person’s happiness is best predicted by their connections to other people,” Carter says. Give some thought to how connected you feel to other people, like your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. If you don’t feel close to many people, make an effort to:

  •     Spend more time with your friends and loved ones.
  •     Get out of your house and meet new people:

– Join a club.
– Take a class.
– Check out a church or other religious gathering that interests you.

Spending time on social media web sites isn’t the same as connecting with people in real life, she says. A study of 82 Facebook users found that the more time they spent on the site, the worse they felt. Social media should add to your person-to-person time, not replace it, she says. If you feel jealous that other people appear to be having a happier life than you are, consider cutting back on these sites.

Practice healthy habits.

The practices that are good for your body can also set the stage for happiness. Namely, Carter suggests getting enough sleep and exercise. Studies support this advice.

An August 2013 study found that people who slept more on some nights than others had less sense of well-being than those who got good sleep on a regular basis.

Research has also found that exercise can:

  •     Boost your happiness right away
  •     Help you feel happier in general if you exercise on a regular basis

Consider going for a walk or bike ride with a friend – or group of friends – so you can connect with others while you get active.

Work on feeling grateful.

“Practicing gratitude is one of my favorite instant happiness-boosters,” Carter says. Research supports the idea that regularly feeling grateful can raise your happiness level. Ways to practice gratitude include:

Keep a gratitude journal. Write down the people, events, and things you’re grateful to have in your life, and add to the list and review it on a regular basis.
Take a moment of silence at dinner. Reflect on the food you’re about to eat and the other ways that your needs are being met.
Make an effort to feel grateful. Think of a variety of things, rather than just the same one over and over.

Help others.

Studies have shown that people around the world say they feel happy when they spend money on other people or give to charity. Research has found that even toddlers act happier when they help others.

Helping others doesn’t require giving lots of your time or money. Even small gifts can make you feel happier, Carter says. For instance:

  •     Pay a bridge or highway toll for yourself and the person behind you.
  •     Smile at people and ask how they’re doing.

These gestures can give others a sense that people are kind and the world is a better place, she says. And you come away happy that you’re a force of good in the world.

Christine Carter, PhD, sociologist with UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, author, Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, Ballantine Books, 2010.
Lyubomirsky, S. The How of Happiness, Penguin Press, 2008.
Kross, E. PLoS One, Aug. 14, 2013.
Lemola, S. PLoS One, Aug. 14, 2013.
Wang, F. American Journal of Epidemiology, Dec. 15, 2012.
Emmons, R.A. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Aknin, L.B. PLoS One, June 14, 2012.
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 01, 2013

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8 Ways Eating Tomatoes Keeps You Young

Michelle Schoffro Cook    February 20, 2014

When most people think of tomatoes they think of pasta and pizza, not necessarily their ability to keep people younger-looking and feeling. But tomatoes are an anti-aging superfood that deserves a place in the diet of anyone interested in maintaining healthy skin, preventing age-related diseases like osteoporosis, and even preventing cancer.

1. Lycopene found in tomatoes is one of the compounds known collectively as carotenoids. A large volume of research has shown for decades that carotenoids help protect skin against sun damage.

2. The incidence and risk for most types of cancer tends to increase with age. Research in the CMAJ:  the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that the risk of serious chronic diseases like cancer is reduced with increased tomato consumption. Although lycopene has been credited, the scientists found that other nutrients in tomatoes may play a role.

3. Lycopene, widely considered the most potent antioxidant of the carotenoids, is a powerful antioxidant that not only protects against UV damage it also helps protect against damaging bacteria.

4. Lycopene also appears to strengthen skin by inhibiting the activity of collagenases —enzymes involved in the breakdown of collagen in the skin. Collagen helps ensure the firmness and elasticity of your skin and prevents wrinkling.

5. When scientists analyzed the tissue and blood levels of lycopene in subjects, they found that those people with high levels of this nutrient, primarily found in tomatoes in the Western diet, had a lower risk of chronic diseases.


6. Lycopene found in tomatoes keeps your teeth and gums healthy. In studies it has shown antibacterial and antifungal properties and, specifically aided tooth and gum health.

7. Thanks again to their rich lycopene supply, tomatoes can help protect our bodies against the effects of toxins, especially aflatoxins (a type of mold often found in peanuts and peanut butter) and cadmium, which is found in cigarette smoke, second-hand smoke and frequently in air pollution.

8. Numerous studies show that lycopene can assist with cardiovascular health. Heart disease is often attributed to poor diet and aging. Increased lycopene consumption helps to improve heart health and obviously helps to displace less healthy food choices in the diet.

source: www.care2.com