Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


The Surprising Secret to Healthy Aging

You probably know that exercise and diet are important when it comes to aging well. But there is something else you control that can help you along: a positive attitude.

Research shows more and more that your approach to life may be just as important in making your “golden years” your best years.

Aging: It’s in Your Mind

Growing older brings with it some natural changes (think those creaky knees). But folks who see good years ahead and who don’t accept stereotypes about aging — such as you’re less useful — may actually live longer.

And there’s science to back that up.

One study found that thinking positively about getting older can extend lifespan by 7.5 years. And that’s after accounting for things such as gender, wealth, and overall health. Some 660 women and men in Ohio joined this study, and they were monitored for more than 20 years.

If you see the glass half full, it could play an even bigger role in living better and longer than things such as low blood pressure and cholesterol, which have each been shown to increase life span by about 4 years.

A good attitude also seems to have a greater effect on living longer than not smoking, low cholesterol, or a healthy weight, a Yale study found.

The researchers’ earlier work showed the power of positive thinking when older people were asked whether they see themselves as “wise” or “senile.” People who thought themselves smart did better with memory, stress, and even with math.

The Power of Optimism

It’s difficult to know what comes first — the good health or the positive attitude.

One possible answer is they build on each other: A rosy outlook may help you exercise more and eat better. And that in turn helps you stay hopeful and happy because you feel better. You may hear that called a “virtuous circle.”

Optimism has been linked to living longer.

The Mayo Clinic found this out in a study they conducted over decades. They gave more than 800 people a test to figure out whether they were optimists, pessimists, or something in between.

Thirty years later, they checked to see just how long these people lived. The optimists did better; the pessimists had a 19% greater chance of dying in any given year.


Less Chance of Getting Sick

Part of the power of optimism is that it may actually lower the chance of getting sick. For instance, it may play a role in keeping your heart working at its best.

Optimism can be good for your blood pressure, one of the most important factors in heart health.

One study of more than 2,500 men and women who were 65 and older used a scale to measure just how positive or negative the people were. They took into account whether they smoked, drank alcohol, and what medications they were on.

What they found: People who were positive had lower blood pressure than those who were gloomy.



Being optimistic may help you with thinking and remembering.

People who are hopeful about their futures are less likely to be forgetful, a recent study out of Europe found. More than 4,500 adults age 65 and older were in it. The optimists were also better at problem solving and making sound decisions.

Learning to Be Happy

What if you feel like you’re a natural-born pessimist? All is not lost. Optimism can be learned; it takes practice like anything else.

Things you can do include:

  • Check yourself. If you’re having negative thoughts, pause and see whether there’s a better way to look at what’s bothering you.
  • Seek out humor and laughter
  • Make time for things that give you joy
  • Find positive people and hang out with them


WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 17, 2016

Levy, B.R. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, August 2002.
Press Release, Yale University.
Maruta, T. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, March 2000.
Ostir, Glenn V. Psychosomatic Medicine, August 2006.
Gawronski, K.A. Psychosomatic Medicine, June 2016.
News Release, University of Michigan.
Mayo Clinic, “Stress Management (Focus on Positive Thinking).”

source: WebMD

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Hot Chili Peppers May Extend Life

Eating hot chili peppers may extend your life, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 16,000 Americans who were followed for an average of nearly 19 years and found that hot red chili pepper consumption was associated with a 13 percent lower risk of death, CBS News reported.

The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

Since this was an observational study, it offers no proof of a cause and effect relationship, but does add to the growing body of evidence that spicy foods may have health benefits that can help people live longer, according to the University of Vermont researchers.

Previous studies have suggested that a spice component called capsaicin may have anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammation and anti-cancer benefits. The authors of this new study say capsaicin may also act as an antimicrobial, CBS News reported.


The University of Vermont team called for further research to investigate the benefits of other spices and the effects of certain chili pepper subtypes.

“Such evidence may lead to new insights into the relationships between diet and health, updated dietary recommendations, and the development of new therapies,” they wrote.

But spicy dishes aren’t suitable for everyone, particularly those with gastrointestinal problems.

“For those who are affected by digestive disorders such as a stomach ulcer, I would be cautious about eating spicy foods,” Lu Qi, Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told CBS News.

Qi was lead author of a 2015 study that found regular consumption of spicy food is associated with a lower risk of death.


Jan. 18, 2017       WebMD News from HealthDay
source: www.webmd.com

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Be Nice, Because People Who Care for Others Live Longer

New research reveals just how much longer

Helping others isn’t just a commendable thing to do, it may also extend your life, according to new research. A recent study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior found that people who occasionally watched and cared for others lived longer than people who didn’t.

The researchers looked at survival data for more than 500 people between ages 70 and 103. Among these people were grandparents who were not the primary caregivers for their grandchildren, but still took care of them on an occasional basis. The researchers also looked at people without children who took care of other people in their social circle.

The people in the study were followed for almost 20 years. The researchers found that grandparents who watched their grandchildren, and older adults who helped their adult children, were more likely to be alive 10 years after their first interview at the start of the study. Among the people who did not provide this type of care, half of the group died five years after the start of the study.


Even outside the family, providing care had a longevity benefit. Among older adults who provided care for someone in their social network, about half lived for seven years after the initial interview. The people who didn’t only lived an average of four years later.

“This pattern suggests that there is a link not only between helping and beneficial health effects, but also between helping and mortality,” the researchers write in the study.

Several studies have looked at the link between grandparents and longer living. Some studies have shown caregiving can improve a grandparent’s cognitive functioning and risk for depression. But the authors of the new study have shown that caregiving may provide a health benefit for people even outside of family ties.

The study can’t confirm that caring for someone definitely increases lifespan, but evidence has long suggested that having a social circle can improve a person’s outcome. The researchers believe the positive emotions experienced from helping others may combat the negative effects of emotions like stress. More research will be needed to understand the full mechanisms that underline the health benefits of helping others.

The study notes that full-time caregiving may cause more stress and lack of resources for elderly people, and that striking a balance may be important. But the bottom line remains: helping others is likely worthwhile for health and longer living.

Alexandra Sifferlin @acsifferlin  Dec. 27, 2016     
source: time.com

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Optimism May Propel Women to a Longer Life

Upbeat outlook linked to lower risk of dying from cancer, heart disease and other causes, study says

Women who generally believe that good things will happen may live longer.

That’s the suggestion of a new study that seems to affirm the power of positive thinking.

“This study shows that optimism is associated with reduced risk of death from stroke, respiratory disease, infection and cancer,” said Eric Kim, co-lead author of the investigation.

“Optimistic people tend to act in healthier ways. Studies show that optimistic people exercise more, eat healthier diets and have higher quality sleep,” said Kim, a research fellow in the department of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

Kim added that an upbeat outlook also may directly affect biological function. Research has demonstrated that higher optimism is linked with lower inflammation, healthier lipid levels (fats in the blood), and higher antioxidants (substances that protect cells from damage), Kim said.

“Optimistic people also use healthier coping styles,” he said. “A summary of over 50 studies showed that when confronted with life challenges, optimists use healthier coping methods like acceptance of circumstances that cannot be changed, planning for further challenges, creating contingency plans, and seeking support from others when needed.”

For this investigation, scientists reviewed records on 70,000 women who participated in a long-running health study that surveyed them every two years between 2004 and 2012. The study authors examined optimism levels and other factors that might affect the results, such as race, high blood pressure, diet and physical activity.

Overall, the risk of dying from any disease analyzed in this study was almost 30 percent less among the most optimistic women compared to the least optimistic women.

stay positive

For the most optimistic women, for instance, the risk of dying from cancer was 16 percent lower; the risk of dying from heart disease, stroke or respiratory disease was almost 40 percent lower; and the risk of dying from infection was 52 percent lower, the study found.

Levels of optimism were determined from responses to statements such as “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best,” according to Kim.

While the study uncovered an association between optimism and life span, it did not prove cause and effect.

Dr. Sarah Samaan, a cardiologist at the Heart Hospital at Baylor in Plano, Texas, said healthy behaviors may help fuel optimism.

“It’s easier to feel optimistic when you feel healthy and energetic,” said Samaan, who was not involved in the research. “By choosing a healthy lifestyle, you may open yourself up to greater gratitude and create more energy for deeper relationships and professional satisfaction.”

She added that for people with depression and anxiety, medication may help to improve mental outlook and thus overall health, although this study did not address that specific issue.

The study authors noted that individual actions can promote optimism. The simple act of writing down best possible outcomes for careers, friendships and other areas of life could generate optimism and healthier futures, they suggested.

Kim described a two-week exercise where people were asked to write acts of kindness they performed that day. Another activity involved writing down things they were grateful for every day. Both these exercises were shown to increase optimism, he said.

By Don Rauf    HealthDay Reporter     WEDNESDAY, Dec. 7, 2016
The study was published online Dec. 7 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
SOURCES: Eric Kim, Ph.D., research fellow, department of social and behavioral sciences,
department of epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health;
Sarah Samaan, M.D., cardiologist and physician partner,
Heart Hospital at Baylor in Plano, Texas; Dec. 7, 2016,
American Journal of Epidemiology

WebMD News from HealthDay      www.webmd.com

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Top 25 foods for longevity

The following 25 incredibly healthy foods have the potential to slow biological aging by acting in a number of ways. They provide unique antioxidants and nutrients that bolster our immune system, they defend against free radicals, they maintain a healthy blood-glucose and insulin level and they help to keep inflammation at bay.

Almonds: Rich in vitamin E (an antioxidant) and a good source of monounsaturated fat (an anti-inflammatory).

Avocados: High in monounsaturated fat and an excellent source of folate (which helps to repair DNA in cells).

Beets: Contain anthocyanins (antioxidants) and betaine, a compound that protects cells from aging.

Berries: Packed with many phytochemicals that act as potent antioxidants.

Black beans: Deliver low-glycemic carbohydrate, plenty of plant protein and their antioxidant content outranks other beans with anti-cancer properties.

Cabbage: Rich source of glucosinolates, phytochemicals that mop up free radicals and help rid the body of carcinogens

Broccoli: Contain sulforaphane, a phytoc of glucosinolates, phytochemicals that mop up free radicals and help to rid the body of carcinogens

Dark chocolate: Good source of flavonoids, compounds that have antioxidant, ant-inflammatory and anti-blood-clotting properties (all it takes is one small square!).

Flaxseed: Excellent source of alpha linolenic acid or ALA (an omega-3 fat) and lignans, phytochemicals thought to guard against breast and prostate cancer.

Garlic: Loaded with natural sulphur compounds that help to boost your immune system and may keep your heart healthy.

Green tea: Rich source of flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that may help to prevent heart disease and certain cancers.

Kale: Good source of vitamins A, C and K, folate, calcium and potassium and is plentiful in phytochemicals that help preserve eyesight.

Lentils: Great source of soluble fibre (the type that keeps LDL cholesterol in check) along with slow-burning, low-glycemic carbohydrate and folate.

Oats: Deliver cholesterol-lowering fibre and unique antioxidants called avenanthramides that protect LDL cholesterol particles from free radicals.


Olive oil (extra-virgin): Excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat along with vitamin E and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals

Oranges: Packed with vitamin C, a nutrient that keeps your immune system healthy as you age, as well as limonoids, phytochemicals linked with disease protection.

Pomegranates: Seeds deliver polyphenols, antioxidants thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and possibly prostate and lung cancer.

Red bell peppers: Good source of vitamin C and beta carotene, two antioxidants linked with protection from heart disease and certain cancers.

Red grapes: Contain resveratrol, a phytochemical with anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

Salmon: One of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, anti-inflammatories shown to combat aging in cells by preventing special sequences of DNA (called telomeres) from shortening; telomere shortening is linked with the aging process and poorer health.

Soybeans: Nutrient-rich and an excellent source of isoflavones, phytochemicals that may help to reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer.

Spinach: packed with lutein for eye health and a good source of anti-cancer compounds including vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and flavonoids.

Sweet potatoes: Rich in beta carotene, a phytochemical that not only protects from free-radical damage, but is also thought to guard against cancer by stimulating communication between cells.

Tomatoes: Contain lycopene, a phytochemical shown to help lower prostate-cancer risk when consumed from heat-processed tomatoes (e.g. tomato sauce).

Walnuts: Important source of monounsaturated fat and alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that helps to reduce inflammation.

by Leslie Beck      Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012     Special to The Globe and Mail
From Leslie Beck’s Longevity Diet


The Best Foods For A Long Life

What you eat can affect your health and your longevity.
Here, the best foods for a long life — and which ones to avoid.

Longevity isn’t just about delaying death — it’s about enjoying more years of health and vitality. In her book, The Longevity Diet, dietician Leslie Beck outlines the ways food choices affect the aging process and help to delay the onset of age-related chronic illnesses.

First, certain foods can cause or prevent inflammation in the body. We’re not just talking arthritis; chronic inflammation also contributes to illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease, heart attack and type 2 diabetes. Foods that are high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fat and phytochemicals promote the production of anti-inflammatory compounds. In contrast, foods which are high in fat, refined sugars and refined starches can promote inflammation. (See Can food fight inflammation? for more details.)

Second, foods containing high levels of antioxidants combat the harmful effects of free radicals — compounds which can damage proteins, cell membranes and genes. Free radical damage accumulates over the years when the body can’t produce enough of its own antioxidant enzymes to keep up. You’ve likely heard some of the big names like polyphenols, phytochemicals (such as flavonoids, beta carotene and resveratrol), vitamins C and E and selenium.

Finally, as we age, our bodies become less sensitive to insulin and the pancreas has to work overtime to compensate. The result: a condition known as insulin resistance which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Maintaining low, consistent levels of insulin is essential for longevity, and we can help by choosing foods which release glucose more slowly rather than causing spikes in blood glucose levels. These choices are known as low glycemic foods — the ones that score the lowest on the glycemic index (GI).

Top foods for longevity

Almonds. Love them for their vitamin E and healthy fats. They make a great addition to salads and cereals, or enjoy almond butter on toast, apples or crackers.

What about other nuts? Experts agree that most nuts offer healthy benefits too. For instances, walnuts have a hefty dose of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) content — an omega-3 fatty acid that helps reduce inflammation.

Avocados. This fruit is a not just a source of healthy fat, it’s also got folate (an essential B-vitamin) as well as vitamin B6, potassium and glutathione, a powerful antioxidant. Its creamy texture works well in dips and spreads.

Beets. Those bright pigments are thought to help ward off certain cancers like colon cancer. They’re also high in folate and manganese, and the betaine found in beets can help fight aging and inflammation. Try roasting them along with other winter vegetables or grate them on a salad.

Berries and red fruits. Need another excuse to enjoy berries? They’re packed with antioxidants. Toss them on your cereal or yoghurt, or enjoy them as a snack.

Other red fruits like pomegranates and red grapes also offer a host of protective compounds. Red grapes are known for their resveratrol content, which helps fight inflammation, and pomegranates are packed with polyphenols that are good for the heart and guard against lung and prostate cancer.

Broccoli. This cruciferous veggie contains sulforaphane, kaempferol and other phytochemicals that fight free radicals. Try roasting broccoli for a tasty change of routine or toss it on pizza.

Cabbage. Got to love those glucosinolates — another type of phytochemical that target free radicals. Try it in a sandwich instead of lettuce or braise it with apples and red wine.

dark chocolate

Dark chocolate. Yes, you can treat yourself. Unlike milk or white chocolate, dark chocolate containing 70 per cent cocoa or more is packed with flavonoids. But don’t over do it — a small square is all you need.

Flaxseed. Flaxseed offers cancer-preventing phytochemicals and is an excellent source of alpha linolenic acid or ALA (an omega-3 fat) and lignans, which can help prevent heart disease. It’s easy to add to foods like cereals, cookies, meatloaf and stews, and can also be used to replace eggs in recipes.

Garlic. There are many reasons to enjoy this potent member of the onion family, including sulphur compounds that boost the immune system and prevent many cancers. It’s also good for the heart because it can prevent blood from forming dangerous clots and can help lower cholesterol.

Green tea. Served hot or cold, this popular beverage contains catechins, which fight inflammation and improve blood vessel functioning. Try drinking it hot (with lemon and honey), or iced with a shot of your favourite fruit juice. (For more details, see A cup of tea for your health.)

Kale. It has high fibre content, calcium, iron, vitamins A, C and K. Kale is also packed with antioxidants, and sulforaphane and a compound called indoles — both of which can help prevent cancer. Kale holds its shape in stir-fries and soups, and makes a crunchy snack when baked.

Legumes. While most dried beans provide plenty of fibre and plant-based protein, black beans get the nod for having the most antioxidant content. Beans and other legumes are also low glycemic carbohydrates — meaning they release their glucose slowly.

Short on time? Try lentils — they don’t require pre-soaking and cook up quickly. Toss them in pasta sauce instead of ground meat or add them to any soup, stew or salad.

Oats. They have all the phytochemicals and nutrients of other whole grains, but they really shine for their beta-glucane content (which lowers bad cholesterol) and avenanthramides (which protect LDL cholesterol particles from free radicals).

Extra-virgin olive oil. It’s the go-to oil for its healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamin E content and phytochemicals. It’s not just for cooking — mix it up with some balsamic vinaigrette for a tasty dressing.

Oranges. Famous for their vitamin C, oranges also offer phytochemicals that help prevent disease. Another bonus: enjoying whole fruit instead of juice offers up fibre as well.

Red bell peppers. Known for their vitamin C and beta-carotene content. You’re better off eating red peppers raw or lightly cooked as overcooking can damage the vitamins.

Salmon and other omega-3-rich fish. No surprise, it’s the high levels of fatty acids that make these choices a mainstay in the longevity diet. Trout, Arctic char, sardines and herring are other low-mercury options to try.

Soybeans. Like other legumes, they’re rich in nutrients but they’re also a “complete protein” — meaning they offer all the essential amino acids. They also offer isoflavones, which are thought to reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer.

Spinach. Experts can’t get enough of this leafy green because of the vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and flavonoids content. Other leafy greens top many superfood lists as well.

Foods to cut back

Notice what’s not on this list? The usual culprits: red meat, processed meats, refined sugars and starches and sodium can all contribute to weight gain, insulin resistance and inflammation. You don’t have to cut these foods completely from your diet, but limiting them is a step in the right direction.

What about alcohol? Get ready for some controversy Some studies say a drink a day is good for you, while other research suggests that alcohol can have harmful effects. Ultimately, it’s up to individuals (and their doctors) to weigh the benefits versus the risks of a drink or two a day.

For more on The Longevity Diet, visit Leslie Beck’s website.
source: EverythingZoomer.com          May 6th, 2016


The Surprising Factor That Can Predict Long Life

You’re only as old as you feel? Research says it’s true. Here’s why.

As I get older, I find myself drawn to news reports and research findings that provide information about how long I might live. After all, this is a key piece of information that would help me plan the most strategic and successful retirement, even though I think that I do not really wish to know for sure how long I have left. Much advertising aimed at people in my age group involves dietary choices, vitamin and mineral supplements, and medications that directly or indirectly promise not only more years of life, but more years of healthy, productive life. Many, if not most, of these promises are based upon little more than wishful thinking and anecdotal evidence. Hence, it is always exciting for a researcher like myself to see studies that bring actual scientific data to bear.

In a recent issue of Psychological Science, a team of European scientists including Stephen Aichele of the University of Geneva, Patrick Rabbit of Oxford, and Paolo Ghisletta of Distance Learning University in Switzerland published such a study. The researchers reported the results of a longitudinal study of more than 6,000 British individuals conducted from 1983 to 2012. The average age of the participants was 64.7 years when they first joined the study, but ages ranged from 41 to 93.

Key medical and psychiatric data including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, and tobacco and alcohol use, were collected at three- to six-year intervals throughout the 29-year duration of the study. Daily life measures such as the number of prescription medications taken, sleep patterns, hobbies, and the rated difficulty of activities such as climbing stairs, traveling, preparing meals, and managing social interactions were also examined.


In addition to those measures, each participant had his or her cognitive abilities assessed up to a total of four times at four-year intervals. These included measures of:

  • Crystallized intelligence (the ability to use knowledge you already have);
  • Fluid intelligence (the ability to solve new problems, use logic, and identify patterns);
  • Verbal memory;
  • Visual memory; and
  • Mental processing speed (how long it takes to perform a mental task).

All together, the researchers looked at 65 different mortality risk factors as they tracked participants through the later years of their lives. Once the number crunching was finished, the factor that rose to the top was surprisingly simple and straightforward.

The most sensitive measure of longevity was the individual’s own subjective evaluation of how healthy he or she felt. In other words, a person reporting that he or she feels healthy outweighed any other single predictor of a long life, including any medical measures such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure.    


Other variables that fell into the top group of predictors included being female; not smoking (or at least not smoking for very long); and cognitive processing speed.

The researchers seemed genuinely surprised that psychological variables such as subjective health and mental processing speed were better predictors of mortality risk than all the other predictors they studied. It has long been known that remaining cognitively active is associated with aging well, but it has never been clear if the cognitive activity is the cause of healthy old age or the result of remaining healthy into one’s golden years. The findings of this study confirm the association between the two domains, but cannot resolve how the cause-and-effect relationship plays out.

In a completely unrelated study published in 2003, researchers asked college students to rate the attractiveness and perceived health of individuals in photographs from the 1920s taken from high school yearbooks. The researchers then tracked down the age of death for the people whose pictures were rated. They discovered that having a handsome or beautiful face as a teenager predicted a long life but, ironically, participants’ judgments about the perceived health of the photographed individuals were completely unrelated to how long they lived. I replicated this finding several times in projects in my Evolution and Human Behavior class by having students do the same thing with photographs taken from Knox College yearbooks from the 1920s.

The explanation for a pretty face predicting a longer life appears to be that attractive faces are symmetrical and “normal”—average in terms of things like size of nose, distance between the eyes, etc. These qualities may reflect a lack of unusual genes, good health, and freedom from parasites or physical trauma—all of which are good if you wish to live long and prosper.

Posted May 09, 2016     Frank T. McAndrew Ph.D.     Out of the Ooze