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Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Living In A Greener Neighbourhood Could Lower Your Risk Of Death: Study

Not just parks but also streetside trees and lawns could have health benefits, study suggests

Trees stretching their canopies over city streets and grass tickling the sidewalk near your home are more than just pretty, they could actually be helping you live longer, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick used census and tax data to track 1.3 million non-immigrant Canadian adults living in the 30 biggest cities across the country, from Victoria to St. John’s, over 11 years starting in 2001. They measured the amount of greenery from trees, shrubs, grass and other plants within 250 metres (about two blocks) of the study subjects’ homes, using postal codes and satellite data. And they found that as the amount of greenery increased, people’s risk of death decreased “significantly” from natural causes.

“There was a lot bigger effect than I think any of us had been expecting,” said Dan Crouse, a health geographer and lead author of the study published this week in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health.

‘Really, just having trees around where people are living is really important.’
– Dan Crouse, University of New Brunswick

Using NASA’s Aqua satellite, the greenery was measured on a scale of 0 to 1. (Zero represented bare ground; 1 was complete coverage by dark green leafy plants.) The study found that each 0.15-point increase in greenness near the subjects’ homes was associated with an eight to 12 per cent decrease in the risk of death.

Crouse said the link between greenness and lower death rates remained even after researchers accounted for the effects of air pollution.

While previous studies have shown that exposure to green space and parks can improve mental health and in some cases physical health, the researchers say this is the first big study to show a clear link between green surroundings and a lower risk of death.

It also suggests that green spaces don’t have to be actual parks in order to have health benefits.

“What we’re able to show with this study is really just having trees around where people are living is really important,” Crouse said.

The study found that the positive effect of green surroundings was greater for people in middle age than in other age groups.

The effect was also greater among those with higher incomes and more education, and among men compared to women. The researchers aren’t sure why.

The study also couldn’t tell what kind of greenery was being measured, although trees gave a higher score than grass. Nor could it explain why exposure to greenery had that kind of effect — researchers didn’t know how much access people had to the green spaces or whether they were getting more exercise in greener areas, for example.

View of nature

But Crouse said there are benefits to living near green spaces such as golf courses even for people who don’t use them.

“That space is still representing an absence of traffic congestion, an absence of the noise and pollution from cars. It’s going to have a real cooling effect in an urban area,” he said. “Just having a view of nature from your window … can be restorative. There’s a lot of ways that the greenness could be benefiting your health.”

Dr. Gillian Booth is a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital who recently found that people who live in more walkable city neighbourhoods have lower rates of diabetes and obesity. She says the design of Crouse’s study looks sound, and she has used similar techniques in her own work.

She added that the results make her wonder what it is about green surroundings that are lowering death rates, and what threshold of greenness is needed to get those health benefits.

“Where do you draw the line and say there’s insufficient green space? And how much should you invest in it?” she said. “I think this is really exciting work in that it raises these types of questions.”

The study, she added, highlights that the way we design our communities can have a profound influence on residents’ health: “The potential reach is huge in terms of the number of people who could be benefiting from these health effects.”

By Emily Chung, Science and Technology Writer CBC News       Oct 12, 2017
source: www.cbc.ca
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You Say Turmeric, I Say Curcumin

Either way, we say healthy

Who doesn’t love the flavours and aromas that turmeric imbues our lives with? But we can also thank this delicious spice for some powerful therapeutic properties. Find out what this yellow jewel can do for you.

If you’ve eaten curry, you’ve likely consumed turmeric. Not only does this spice lend its flavour and yellow colour to delicious curry dishes; it’s also played an important role in ancient medical practices like Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine.

Curcumin, found in supplement form at your natural health store, is the active ingredient of the turmeric plant. Over the last few decades, the extract curcumin has been the subject of wide-ranging scientific research for its medicinal properties.

The colour of health may be yellow

Prized for its yellow hue and medicinal properties for, reportedly, 4,000 years, turmeric’s unique qualities are found in its curcuminoid components. Extracted from the turmeric (Curcumin longa L.) plant, curcumin research has uncovered plenty of reason to turn (to) yellow.

Burns and scalds

While you’re in the kitchen cooking up a batch of your favourite curry, you may have occasion to remember that the curcumin in that turmeric you’ve just added to the pan is also useful in a gel to help heal minor burns and scalds.

Research says:

The effectiveness of curcumin gel on the skin is, according to the author of a recent study, related to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Research subjects who were treated with a topical curcumin gel after suffering minor burns had less pain and inflammation and improved healing with less than expected scarring—even no scarring in some cases.

Arthritis pain

People who suffer from joint pain and swelling from arthritis, either from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, may be able to find some relief with curcumin’s ability to reduce inflammation. And it may help them get around much more easily.

Research says:

Clinical studies have shown a positive effect of curcumin on reducing pain and improving physical function and quality of life for osteoarthritis patients through its anti-inflammatory and cartilage-protective qualities. Preliminary evidence suggests that curcumin may also have the same effect for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Cancer

In countries where people eat curcumin at levels of about 100 mg to 200 mg a day over long periods of time, there are low rates of certain types of cancer. Curcumin seems to have a powerful effect on cancer cells. In some cases curcumin has shown the ability to step in and reduce the ability of cancer cells to transform, grow, and spread to other parts of the body.

Research says:

The promising results in laboratory studies have inspired researchers all over the world to continue the search for the exact mechanism by which curcumin could help prevent and even offer therapeutic benefits for certain types of cancer. Researchers, in a recent review of years of curcumin studies, suggest that future studies should take a more holistic approach to account for turmeric’s chemically diverse constituents that may synergistically contribute to its potential benefits.

Ulcerative colitis

There is currently no known cure for ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. One of the goals of treatment is to prevent relapses of its symptoms and promote remission. This is something that curcumin seems to be able to help with.

Research says:

A Cochrane Database systematic review of studies into curcumin’s effectiveness for maintenance of remission in patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) in 2014 concluded that curcumin may be a safe and effective adjunctive therapy for maintenance of remission in “quiescent” UC.

Alzheimer’s disease?

Elderly villagers in India, where turmeric is a dietary staple, have the lowest rate of Alzheimer’s disease in the world; and researchers have been keen to determine if curcumin may play a role in this. They were intrigued because of curcumin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Research says:

Though plenty of studies have focused on exploring this possibility, so far there’s no concrete evidence that curcumin is effective in combatting or preventing Alzheimer’s disease. The research continues, though, since laboratory studies have shown some intriguing and promising possibilities.

October 1, 2017 by alive Editorial
source: www.alive.com


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Child And Teen Obesity Soars Tenfold Worldwide In 40 Years: WHO Report

GENEVA (Reuters) – The number of obese children and adolescents worldwide has jumped tenfold in the past 40 years and the rise is accelerating in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Asia, a major study said on Wednesday.

Childhood and teen obesity rates have leveled off in the United States, north-western Europe and other rich countries, but remain “unacceptably high” there, researchers at Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

“Over 40 years we have gone from about 11 million to a more than tenfold increase to over 120 million obese children and adolescents throughout the world,” lead author Majid Ezzati of Imperial’s School of Public Health, told a news conference.

This means that nearly 8 percent of boys and nearly 6 percent of girls worldwide were obese in 2016, against less than one percent for both sexes in 1975.

An additional 213 million children aged 5-19 were overweight last year, but fell below the threshold for obesity, according to the largest ever study, based on height and weight measurements of 129 million people.

The researchers called for better nutrition at home and at school, and more physical exercise to prevent a generation from becoming adults at greater risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancers due to excessive weight.

Clear food labels on salt, sugar and fat content are needed to help consumers make “healthy choices”, the study said.

Taxation and tough restrictions on marketing of junk food should be considered, it said. WHO has already recommended a 20 percent tax on sugary drinks to reduce consumption.

RAPID TRANSITION

South Africa, Egypt and Mexico which had “very low levels of obesity four decades ago” now have among the high rates of obesity in girls, between 20-25 percent, Ezzati said.

“The experience of east Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean show that the transition from underweight to overweight and obesity can be rapid,” the study said.

If current trends continue, in 2022 there will be more obese children and teenagers worldwide than underweight ones, who now number 192 million, half of them in India, the study said.

Polynesia and Micronesia had the highest rates of child obesity last year, 25.4 percent in girls and 22.4 percent in boys, followed by “the high-income English-speaking region” that includes the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Britain.

Among high-income countries, the United States had “the highest obesity rates for girls and boys”, 19.5 percent and 23.3 percent, respectively.

“Children are not getting physical activity in the school days, there is poor food opportunities in many schools, walking and cycling to school is going down in many countries, unsafe in many other countries, and parents are not being given the right, sufficient advice on nutrition,” said Fiona Bull of WHO’s department of non-communicable diseases.
“It’s the changing environments, food, behaviors, portions, consumption patterns have completely changed over the last 40 years. Highly processed food is more available, more marketed and it’s cheaper,” she said.

 

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay Editing by Jeremy Gaunt     OCTOBER 10, 2017 
source: reuters.com


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The Science Behind Why Breaking A Bad Habit Is So Hard

Engaging the goal-directed side of your brain can help you override the part that controls your bad habits.

Habits are your brain’s version of autopilot. They allow you to get ready for work, navigate your way to the office, and find your way home without having to reinvent the wheel every day. They save time and energy . . . except when they involve grabbing a candy bar from the vending machine every afternoon at 3 p.m. In cases like this, bad habits can feel like a battle of wills.

To find out why some habits can be hard to make or break, researchers from the University of California performed experiments with mice and found that the brain’s circuits for habit- and goal-directed action compete for control in the area of the brain that makes decisions.

“Neurochemicals called endocannabinoids allow for habit to take over by acting as a sort of brake on the goal-directed circuit,” writes Christina Gremel, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California San Diego who headed up the study that was published in the research journal Neuron.

Endocannabinoids are chemicals that are naturally produced by humans and animals, and receptors are found throughout the body and brain. This system is involved in a variety of physiological processes, such as appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory.

Earlier studies found that the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is the part of the brain that relays goal-directed information. When researchers increased the output of neurons in the OFC in mice using optogenetics–a technique that involves flashes of light–goal-directed actions also increased. And when they decreased activity in the OFC using chemicals, the mice acted on habit.

A good balance of habitual and goal-directed actions helps with everyday functioning and task management. “We need to be able to make routine actions quickly and efficiently, and habits serve this purpose,” writes Gremel. “However, we also encounter changing circumstances, and need the capacity to ‘break habits’ and perform a goal-directed action based on updated information.”

The brain shifts from habit to goal-directed behavior when we need to drive to a different location, for example. The decision to make or break a habit also relies on goal-directed behavior in the beginning. Healthy mice had no problem shifting from one type to the other, but people with conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction may have a physical problem that inhibits goal-directed action, the study suggests. “It does appear some things we think of as more maladaptive like addiction seem to have a bias toward habit system,” Gremel says. “The goal-directed system is still there, and you can still rescue it. Treatment could be pharmaceutical or might involve behavioral therapy. Further research is needed.”

So what does this mean for that afternoon trip to the vending machine? It’s time to engage the goal-directed side of your brain. If you walk by the vending machine every day on your way back from a meeting, for example, alter your path.

“If you change the context or go about things in a different behavioral pattern, it can help you break out of habit,” says Gremel.

BY STEPHANIE VOZZA        06.20.16


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Fun Fact Friday

  • Smelling green apples and bananas can help you lose weight.

  • Deja Vu occurs when your brain tries to apply a memory of a past situation to your current one, fails, and makes you feel like it’s happened.

 

  • Daydreaming is said to help people focus on what they want in life.

  • Crying is good for your health – Flushing unhealthy bacteria out of your body, strengthening the immune system and relieving stress.

 

~ Happy Friday!~


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Give Yourself More Credit for Doing These Things

Let’s do a roll call: who here has been giving themselves a hard time lately? If this is you, it’s time to cut yourself some slack! You may not realize it, but there are countless things you accomplish every day that are absolutely praiseworthy.

No, really! If we don’t give ourselves credit for the small stuff, how can we feel comfortable patting on ourselves when we accomplish something massive?

The next time you start doubting yourself and your capabilities, reflect on this list as a reminder of all that you do that is right as rain. And give yourself some credit – you really deserve it.

1. Catching Some ZZZs

Getting enough sleep every night is not an easy feat! Whether we’re a working parent of triplets or someone who is struggling with managing their anxiety levels, the fact that we get as many ZZZs as we can is a huge accomplishment.

2. Facing Small Challenges

When is the last time you had a day with absolutely nothing worth worrying about? No deadlines or housework or difficult social interactions to manage? Take as much time as you need… but you’ll probably find that most days contain these minor challenges. The fact that we get through a handful of them each and every day is a bigger deal than you think.

3. Taking a Much-Needed Break

When those minor challenges start to add up and we decide to take a well-deserved break, that is called self-care. It is absolutely essential that we establish boundaries for ourselves and what we can handle – just like how it’s essential we establish the same kinds of boundaries in relationships. Reward yourself for not putting too much on your plate to handle.

4. Being a Good Friend

Did you let a friend use you as a support today? Did you offer a kind word to a loved one having a crummy day? Did you text a funny meme to a friend who needed a pick-me-up? These small signs of affection and caring mean a whole lot to the person on the receiving end.

5. Letting Someone Else be a Good Friend to You

Were you the person who needed that pick-me-up today? Being open to help and support is just as important as offering it to the important people in our lives who need it.

6. Thinking a Positive Thought about Yourself

Disappointment, judgment, and criticism are such powerful factors in our self-talk every day. But, if we are able to find one nugget of positivity in the way we speak to ourselves, consider it a victory. Even if it’s simply “I tried today”, take it as a win. You were nice to yourself when you needed it.

7. Having patience with your growth

Living in such a demanding and busy society can take its toll. We can end up expecting a whole lot more from ourselves than we can reasonably give. It is important to remember this fact when we take the time to reflect on our overall progress with personal goals or development. Consider a person you really admire: did they obtain the traits you love overnight? No! They struggled and stumbled and learned along the way – just like you are doing. It’s all a part of the process.

By: Katie Medlock      October 7, 2017
 
source: www.care2.com


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Boost Bacteria to Bolster Your Brain

How can boosting bacteria in your body improve your brain health? Called the “second brain” by leading scientists, a healthy balance of flora in the gut helps to determine whether you’ll have a great memory and a strong resistance to brain disease.

And what happens in the gut plays a significant role in your brain health.  Restoring beneficial bacteria and some healthy yeasts in your intestines (yes, some yeasts are beneficial, just not the ones that cause yeast infections) can go a long way toward protecting your mental faculties and preventing brain diseases altogether.

Frequently when I tell people about this connection between intestinal and brain health—what is known as the gut-brain axis, they tell me that they are covered because they eat yogurt on a regular basis.  While yogurt may (or may not) help boost intestinal flora depending on whether it contains any live cultures at all, we need to give our guts a lot more than yogurt to help us establish a strong and healthy brain for life.

Let’s explore some of the exciting research into the link between beneficial microbes in our gut and our overall brain health.

Some probiotics actually function as antioxidants within the body, which can not only reduce the effects of free radical damage and aging, it is especially good news in the prevention and treatment of brain diseases.

That’s because the brain is vulnerable to free radical damage. Additionally, research at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) found that consuming certain strains of probiotics could actually produce many brain health benefits, including improved sensory and emotional processing.

Since the brain plays a significant role in whether we suffer from mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, probiotics may also be helpful in addressing these serious health concerns. In animal studies conducted by the Department of Medicine at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and published in the medical journal Gastroenterology, the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum eliminated anxiety and normalized behavior.  It appeared to work by reducing the excitability of the nerves in the gut that connect through the vagus nerve to the central nervous system, and in doing so, eliminated anxiety.

Hungarian researchers found that intestinal inflammation is one of the key factors involved in depression and that treating the inflammation with probiotics (along with B complex vitamins, vitamin D, and omega 3 fatty acids) reduced depressive symptoms.

Additional French research demonstrates the power of boosting specific strains of probiotics to boost mood and psychological health.  They found that healthy study participants experienced reduced psychological stress, depression, anxiety, and anger and hostility, as well as improved problem-solving skills when taking the Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum for 30 days.

While you can still enjoy yogurt if you are already doing so, please keep in mind that the above strains are not typically found in yogurt.  I’m not aware of any yogurt that contains the best brain-boosting strains.

Take a probiotic supplement containing proven strains of brain-boosting probiotics such as  Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium longum, and Lactobacillus helveticus on a daily basis.  Store your probiotics in the refrigerator, and take them on an empty stomach. First thing in the morning with a large glass of water tends to work well for most people.

Additionally, kimchi—the national dish of Korea which is typically a fermented mixture of cabbage, chilis, and garlic—frequently contains a much more diverse group of beneficial microbes than yogurt, making it an excellent choice as a brain boosting food. Some types contain fish sauce so if you’re vegan be sure to choose a fish sauce-free option. It is delicious on sandwiches, over brown rice, or as a side-dish to many foods.  Be sure to choose kimchi that hasn’t been pasteurized to ensure the cultures are still intact.

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook           October 5, 2017
source: www.care2.com