Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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The Numbers That Matter Most for Staying Healthy

Health often seems like a numbers game. What’s your blood-sugar level? How many calories are you eating? And are you getting the right percentage of macros (or macronutrients)? The problem is that sometimes we track, count and obsess over numbers that don’t matter very much for our overall health. Or worse, we ignore numbers that do matter.

I was curious about which numbers my fellow dietitians consider the most important. I sought feedback from 20 experts who work in either hospitals or private practice. Here are the data that have the most clinical importance, and the ones they tell their patients to ignore.

The numbers that matter most:

Half your plate. Instead of counting every calorie, dietitians recommend that clients simplify food decisions by using a plate model, where you choose the right proportions of each food. That means filling half your plate with vegetables and some fruit; one quarter with protein-rich foods such as fish, poultry or beans; and the final quarter with whole grains such as quinoa or brown rice. The Healthy Eating Plate from Harvard University is a great example of a plate model.

25 to 35 grams. That’s how much fibre a day we need for optimal health, but most Americans get just 16 grams per day. Getting enough fibre helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, prevents certain cancers, eases constipation and keeps you feeling full for longer, which is helpful for weight management. Get more fibre from vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains (or just follow the healthy-plate model, mentioned above).

7 to 8 hours. Are you getting that much sleep every night? Lack of sleep has short-term consequences, such as poor judgment, increased risk of accidents, bad moods and less ability to retain information. Poor sleep over the long term has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. So, turn off the TV, power down your devices and get the rest your body needs.

150 minutes. That’s the recommendation for how much physical activity (equivalent to 2.5 hours) you should get each week, preferably spread through the week in increments of at least 10 minutes. This level of activity helps combat heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, dementia and cancer.

100 mg/dl. Your doctor can test your fasting plasma glucose level to check for Type 2 diabetes (a normal reading is less than 100 mg/dl). Often called a “lifestyle” disease, Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable by eating well and getting enough exercise. If you have diabetes, lifestyle changes can actually help you reverse the diagnosis — but first you need to know your number. A diagnosis of prediabetes is 100 to 125 mg/dl., and a diagnosis of diabetes is 126 mg/dl. or higher.

120/80 mmHg. High blood pressure is known as the silent killer because it often has no obvious symptoms. Left untreated, high blood pressure is a risk factor for having a heart attack or a stroke. That’s why you need to get your blood pressure checked and know whether you are at risk. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg (millimetres of mercury) or less. Elevated blood pressure is 121 to 129 over 80. High blood pressure is 130 to 139 over 80 to 89.

fat skinny health

The numbers that don’t matter very much:

Size 8. Too many people have a diet goal to be a specific size, but the numbers on clothes are inconsistent and arbitrary. A size 4 at one store may fit like a size 8 at a different store, which makes shopping frustrating — and makes your pant or shirt size a very poor measure of your health. If you don’t like the number on your pants, cut the label out. Focus on how you feel, not the number on the clothing tag.

50 years old. Or 86. Or 31, 75 or 27. Age is just a number. You are never too young to need to take care of yourself, or too old to start an exercise program or change what you eat. A healthy lifestyle is important at every age.

1,800 calories. Or whatever number you choose. You don’t need to count every calorie you eat — it’s tedious, often flawed, and it doesn’t help you choose nutrient-dense foods. If you had the choice between 100 calories of broccoli or fries, you’d probably choose the fries, right? But that wouldn’t provide much nourishment and oversimplifies eating into one silly number. If you are a lifelong calorie counter, there’s no need to give it up, but remember that it’s not the most vital number for your overall health.

40-30-30. Or any other ratio of macronutrients, the umbrella term for carbs, protein and fat. Keeping track of macros is a popular diet, and if it works for you, fantastic! But some dietitians warn that it’s difficult to know the precise macro content of every food you eat, which leads to obsessive use of food diaries and macro-counting apps. This promotes a dieting mentality, rather the concept of enjoying food from a balanced plate. There’s nothing magical about counting macros. It’s just a diet.

Below 25. The body mass index (BMI) is a clinical tool that groups people in categories of normal weight, overweight or obese depending on their height and weight. But BMI doesn’t take age, gender or bone structure into account, and athletes are often classified as overweight because BMI doesn’t distinguish between muscle and fat! So, don’t rely on this number as your primary measure of health.

By CARA ROSENBLOOM       The Washington Post       Thu., July 5, 2018
 
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Small Changes To Make That Can Have a MAJOR Impact on Health

Big changes like cutting out all carbs or training for a marathon are great—but you don’t have to remake yourself to have a dramatic impact on your health. Try a few of these baby steps to get you started in the right direction.

Add a fruit or veggie to every meal

Not ready to give up a bad habit yet? Start by creating an easy good-for-you habit instead. “Less than one in three individuals gets even two servings of fruits and vegetables per day,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, LDN, CPT, author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet. “By adding one serving to each meal, you can get in at least three servings per day and be ahead of the curve. A half of a banana on your breakfast cereal, a small side salad with your sandwich at lunch, and adding 1/2 cup of cooked veggies into your pasta can pack in more fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients—all which have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain cancers.”

Work on your hips

“If you have a sedentary job, focus on some hip opening exercises to start and end your day,” suggests trainer Jonathan Hertilus, ACE, owner of BFF Bootcamp in Nutley, NJ. “For instance,” says Hertilus, “hip bridges can be done anywhere—even in bed—as soon as you wake up or right before you go to sleep.” Just a few minutes of hip exercises can do wonders to keep your back and core muscles engaged.

Lose a little weight

Setting a goal to lose 40 pounds or more to get out of the “overweight” category can be daunting. So aim for smaller, more attainable goals, which can make a big difference in your overall health. “Small steps can be very powerful,” says Jill Crandall, MD, professor of endocrinology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and an attending physician at Montefiore Health System.” For people who are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, which includes many adults who are overweight and have a family history of diabetes, modest changes can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by over 50 percent.” Dr. Crandall suggests focusing on losing about 7 percent of your overall weight—or about 15 pounds for a 200-pound person.

Lighten your load

Cleaning out your purse or backpack could go a long way toward preventing neck, back, and shoulder pain. When you are carrying things, balance your load, and avoid backpacks or purses with more than 10 percent of your body weight,” suggests Robert Hayden, DC, PhD, a chiropractor in Griffin, Georgia.

Be careful with condiments

You might want to take a second to consider before you slather your next salad in ranch dressing. “Ketchup, barbecue sauce, mayo, and salad dressings can all be a major source of calories, sodium, fat, and added sugar,” says Palinski-Wade. “Opt for condiments on the side, rather than on your meal and read those labels!”

Skimp on the sugar—and pump up your probiotics

More and more studies show that sugar wreaks havoc on your health, including slowing your metabolism, impairing brain function, and increasing your risk of heart disease and cancer. But there are other health issues you can keep at bay with a little less sugar and a little more healthy bacteria. “Decreasing intake of sugar and processed food as well as taking probiotics can help decrease yeast infections,” says Jessica Shepherd, MD, MBA, OB/GYN, director of minimally invasive gynecology at University of Illinois at Chicago.

Straighten up your sleep habits

A bad sleep posture could make for more aches and pains when you’re awake. “Most of us don’t really think much about posture while we are asleep—but really, posture while you are asleep is at least as important as when you are awake because the muscles that protect your joints are quite loose while you are asleep,” says Dr. Hayden. “I recommend sleeping in a side posture whenever possible. Make sure your pillow is firm and just high enough to keep your head level with the mattress so that your head is neither pushed up nor down. Use a body pillow to hug, throwing your upper arm and upper knee over the pillow so that the pillow supports the weight of the extremities while you are asleep. This prevents you from inducing torque into the lumbar spine and offloads the weight of the upper extremity from the structures at the base of the neck. This simple approach to rest keeps your body straight and as stress free as possible while you catch those zzzs.”

Drink half your weight in water

We should all be drinking more water, but the old saw about eight glasses of eight ounces of water doesn’t work for everybody. The better formula? “Take your weight in pounds and divide by two, and you will get the number of ounces of water you should drink every day,” says Mitzi Dulan, RD, founder of simplyFUEL. “Start your day with a big glass of ice water. Ice cold water can boost your metabolism slightly because it takes energy for your body to get it to room temperature—drink six glasses of 16 ounces of cold water and burn an extra 100 calories per day.”

water

 

Stop the midnight snacking

“Avoid eating after 8 p.m.,” says Dulan. “Often times, late-night eating is really boredom eating. This helps your body focus on burning the fat during the night instead of trying to work to digest the food you just ate before nodding off.”

Shut off your electronics an hour before bedtime

Those last hours before bed may seem like the perfect time to catch up on some work or binge watch a little of your favorite show, but experts say that the light emanating from your screens could be disrupting your sleep. That wavelength of light disrupts melatonin production, and tricks your body into thinking it’s daylight, according to Mark Buchfuhrer, MD, medical director of the Comprehensive Sleep Center at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. The fix? Skip the screens and tuck into a good book, do relaxed stretching, or find another way to unwind in the last hour before your bedtime.

Trade refined carbs for whole grains

“Most people eat plenty of grains, but most Americans consume only one serving of whole grains per day,” says Palinski-Wade. “By swapping out a few refined grains for whole grains, you may reduce your waist circumference and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. If you use white bread for a sandwich, switch to rye. If you like rice, opt for brown rice over white rice. A simple switch can add up significantly.”

Take breaks when you’re traveling

Whether you travel by car or plane, taking frequent breaks to walk and stretch is essential. When flying by air, it can reduce your risk of developing a dangerous blood clot in your leg, called a deep vein thrombosis. “I coach our patients who are driving long-distance to get out of the vehicle periodically and walk around it a few laps,” Dr. Hayden says. “Find a bumper that is the right height to put one foot on it. Step back about two feet, square the pelvis, and lean toward the foot that is on the bumper. This has the effect of a hurdler’s stretch, and it will help stretch those gluteals on which you have been sitting as well as the quadriceps and many of the extensor muscles in the back. Always stretch both sides—if you leave one side tight, you may find yourself walking in circles!”

Cut down on the cocktails

Those studies that show red wine’s positive health benefits may encourage us to raise a few more glasses, but there are really good reasons to limit your alcohol intake, including increased risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, and obesity. Cutting back on the booze can decrease the risk of many different kinds of cancer, including breast cancer, according to Dr. Shepherd. For women, one drink a day seems to be the healthy max, while men can have two.

Start squatting

“Everyone asks me to recommend one exercise that everyone can do to improve their overall health,” says Pat McGuinness, personal trainer at the MAX Challenge in Montclair, NJ, and regional director of programming for New York Sports Clubs. “My answer is always squats! Everyone can do them—modifications are easy—and leg muscles make up more than 60 percent of our total body composition, which means you get more bang for your buck!”

Walk for five minutes every hour at work

Studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle can wreak havoc on your health. If you can’t get a standing desk to help you limit your time on your seat, make sure you take a five-minute walk break every hour. That can help you minimize the impact of sitting on your health, and ensure you get even more than the doctor-recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week. That can help you reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to Dr. Crandall.

Swap soda for fruit-spiked water

Whether it’s diet or sugar-filled, study after study shows that soda isn’t the best beverage—unless you want to gain weight, increase your risk of developing diabetes, cancer, or heart disease, and reduce your bone density. But you don’t have to sacrifice flavor if you give up your soda. “Infuse water with fruit for a tasty alternative that’s sure to impress and refresh,” says McGuinness.

BY LISA MILBRAND
source: www.rd.com


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Fun Fact Friday

  • Dark chocolate and cheese have antibacterial properties that inhibit tooth decay, according to experts.

  • Your body is actually designed to get 4 hours of sleep twice per day instead of 8 hours once.

 

  • Studies have found that smiling is 69% more attractive than wearing makeup.

  • Onions have been proven to lower cholesterol, reduce chances of a stroke, and reduce chances of various types of cancer.

Happy Friday!
source: @Fact


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Why ‘get A Good Sleep’ Should Be Your Top New Year’s Resolution

If getting a good night’s sleep is not on your list of New Year’s resolutions, you might be setting yourself up for failure with the other goals on your list, including health-related ones, according to a sleep specialist from Ryerson University.

“If you’re having poor quality sleep it can actually interfere with some of your weight loss and weight maintenance goals,” said Colleen Carney, director of the Sleep and Depression Laboratory at Ryerson University. “It actually affects your metabolism, your ability to process insulin, and makes you hungrier and makes you feel less full when you’re eating so you’re prone to overeating.”

Not only does poor sleep affect a person’s physical health, it’s connected with mental health problems as well, said Carney, speaking on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning.

“Unfortunately, people suffering from insomnia are susceptible to developing depression, so it’s really important for us to understand those links,” Carney said.

Create a routine for winding down

To get 2018 off on the right foot, Carney recommends implementing a routine for winding down that begins one hour before bed.

“You want to make sure that the phone is put away because that’s the device that keeps you plugged in to problem-solving, sometimes bad news or exciting news,” Carney said. “And you want to really cease any goal-directed problem-solving that we regularly do during the day.”

Suitable replacements for looking at one’s smartphone could be any relaxing, enjoyable activity, such as taking a bath, meditating, yoga or hobbies, Carney said. If you use your phone as a wake-up alarm, turn off the notifications so you’re not tempted to pick it up.

Sleeping well makes it easier to achieve other goals such as those for
exercise and weight loss, according to a Ryerson University sleep expert.

Find your perfect sleep cycle

People vary in terms of the times when they typically get sleepy or wake naturally, Carney said. This often changes over one’s lifetime, for example, teenagers generally prefer to go to sleep later than adults, but adults can figure out their natural cycle and plan to sleep accordingly.

“If you typically get sleepy around 11 and your body would actually wake you up around six or seven, then you know that’s pretty much the sweet spot for you and this is largely genetically determined,” Carney said.

As far as how much sleep you really need, Colleen recommends looking at how much you sleep on average over a two-week period. Sleeping nine hours on a single weekend night may not mean you need nine hours of sleep every night.

“Some people are longer sleepers, but you shouldn’t be sort of picking what your longest sleep is and say ‘that’s what I’m going to go for’ because that will create insomnia over time.”

Adults can take a cue from children

While adults push their children to go to bed early and give them routines for winding down before bed, many don’t apply the same rules to themselves, Carney said.

“We know it’s good for how alert they’re going to feel during the day, their emotion regulation and how well they sleep,” Carney said. “But when we become adults we think we outgrow that and we throw all that out the window, and when we feel crappy and have trouble sleeping, we can’t understand why.

“We have to get back to basics.”

CBC News    Jan 06, 2018
source: www.cbc.ca


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This Food May Help You Sleep Better

Forget warm milk. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania says that fish may be the key to a good night’s sleep.

The paper, published Thursday in Scientific Reports, found an association between regular fish consumption and high sleep quality among Chinese schoolchildren, likely thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Largely as a result of that improved sleep, the researchers found, the children also scored higher on IQ tests.

“There’s a relationship between fish consumption and higher cognitive functioning. What what we document here is that it’s the better sleep that explains the relationship,” says Adrian Raine, one of the paper’s authors and a professor of criminology, psychiatry and psychology at Penn. “From A to B to C: From fish consumption to better sleep to higher cognitive functioning.”

The researchers asked 541 schoolchildren in China between ages 9 and 11 to describe their eating habits, including how often they ate fish. Their parents, meanwhile, were asked to answer questions about the kids’ sleep patterns. Researchers then administered IQ tests when the children turned 12.

They found links between eating fish regularly — the more, the better — and both improved sleep and higher IQ scores. But, Raine explains, it appears that many of the cognitive benefits can be traced back to bedtime. “The brain is so much more plastic early on in child development,” he says. “We might anticipate that fish consumption earlier in life may be particularly beneficial for a child’s sleep and cognitive functioning.”

While the study focused on kids, Raine says “it’s quite reasonable to imagine that these findings can also apply to adults,” citing studies that have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can alter psychological functioning in adults.

Eating fish just a few times a month may improve your brain functioning, Raine says. (Fish and omega-3s have also been shown to be good for your heart.)

“The important thing is really having a balanced diet. It needn’t be a lot,” Raine says. “Even if parents could just get fish on the table once a week, that could be enough to make a bit of a difference over at school and in long-term performance, and especially sleep.”

By JAMIE DUCHARME       December 22, 2017      TIME Health
source: time.com


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Lack Of Sleep May Mess With Your Health On A Molecular Level

The impact goes far beyond grogginess and irritability. In many cases, sleep loss can give certain diseases the upper hand.

You no doubt have heard about the need to get a proper amount of sleep. Public health authorities continually declare we all need on average seven hours of slumber every night to be at our best. Yet while these recommendations come with a warning about the troubles stemming from a lack of sleep, when it comes to what happens inside our bodies, the details are usually few and far between.

Now, thanks to a team of Australian researchers, we have a clearer understanding of what happens at the molecular level when we disrupt these needed times of rest. The work reveals the impact goes far beyond grogginess and irritability. In many cases, sleep loss can give certain diseases the upper hand.

The team focused on the effects of what is known as the circadian rhythm. This biological phenomenon exists in all living organisms — even bacteria — and dictates when bodies should be active or at rest. The discovery was considered of such great importance the original researchers were awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine.

When the circadian rhythm was discovered, it was a mystery and any connection to health was speculative at best. But by 2007, researchers began to understand how disruptions in this rhythm can lead to health problems. A new branch of sleep medicine was developed in which disorders such as jet lag and altered timing of sleep became conditions worth documenting and treating based on our wake-sleep schedules.

Yet the studies did not stop there. Secondary consequences — known as sequelae — also were investigated and showed symptoms such as weight gain and poor decision making were directly linked to a lack of proper rest. As for the Australian researchers, they focused on a different problem with a much wider scope for health. Their interest lied in inflammation, one of the most troublesome issues in health today.

Body temperature, blood pressure, feeding times 

… are all affected.

The author’s investigations stems from a relatively recent finding from 2015. Researchers learned of a connection between our immunity and a small section of the brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, more commonly known as the SCN. At just under two millimetres in length, you might think this region would have little effect on us. Yet close to 20 years of research has revealed this tiny region seated deep in the brain is the primary regulator of the circadian rhythm. As studies have shown, the area also impacts almost all of our bodily processes.

The extent of influence on our bodily functions by the SCN is fascinating. Body temperature, blood pressure, feeding times and (not surprisingly) the feelings of wakefulness and tiredness are all affected by this little region. The 2015 study shows the immune system also responds to the calls from this region, altering how it functions during the course of a day. During the day and into the early evening, our immunity is active. Late at night and into the early morning hours, it is at rest. The balance ensures the forces maintain a proper balance and do not end up hyperactive or fatigued.

With this in mind, the Australian researchers explored the consequences to immune balance as a result of sleep deprivation. They found studies both in animals and humans revealing even a slight change in our regular circadian rhythm can lead to the development of low-level inflammation. For the authors, the rise of inflammation could worsen chronic diseases such as allergies, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. No to mention the inflammation also leads to a poorer response to infection.

Thanks to this overview, the Australian researchers have shown at the microscopic and molecular levels why getting those seven hours of sleep is so important. They underscore the necessity of making sure people take better care of their health when faced with disruptions to the sleep cycle as a result of shift work, time zone travel and other disturbances. Perhaps most importantly, for those who cannot change their sleep schedules, the inner struggles may require us to be more observant of our behaviours.

As to how to accomplish this balance, the authors suggested treatment options focusing on inflammation as a target. While this direction will no doubt take years to achieve, there may be more natural options to improve the outlook. Proper diet and exercise can help to minimize the extent of inflammation. In addition, the use of melatonin also can provide some assistance. Then there is the potential for probiotics. While still in the early stages, we may be able to one day find a mixture designed to help us stay balanced when the world around us is being disrupted.

11/06/2017    Jason Tetro Microbiology, Health & Hygiene Expert
 


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Fun Fact Friday

  • Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.

  • 1 out of every 100 people are psychopaths and they look just like everybody else.

 

  • Dancing often increases happiness.

  • A condition called “False Awakening” occurs when you’re dreaming that you’ve woken up, but still are in deep sleep.

~ Happy Friday!~