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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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How Well You Age Is All About Attitude, Says New Global Study

VANCOUVER—A simple shift in attitude could improve a lot for the world’s elderly population, according to a new global study.

That’s because how well we age is connected to how we view old age, the study stated, noting those with a positive attitude toward old age are likely to live longer — up to eight years — than their negative counterparts.

And older people in countries with low levels of respect for seniors are at risk for worse mental and physical health as well as higher levels of poverty, the Orb Media study found. By compiling global data, researchers also surveyed 150,000 people in 101 countries to discover levels of respect for older adults, which varied from country to country.

Canada ranked in the lower third of all for respect, along with Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

But one British Columbian expert pointed out that the study may not entirely reflect Canada’s position with the elderly.

“Our human rights legislation, federally and provincially provide protections against age discrimination,” said Christopher McLeod, associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s school of population and public health. “And many countries do not have these protections.”

McLeod said the association between negative views on aging and the relationship to health “made a lot of sense.” But he warned about statements of causality with specific attitudes toward health decline.

Despite that, seniors’ loneliness and social exclusion are key risk factors leading to declined health, he added. A 2017 report by the Vancouver Foundation found that people report high levels of social isolation and loneliness, noting a decline in community participation over the last five years.

“When we think about determinants of health, there are features in our society that are influenced by social or policy decisions, like income, education, your employment and its conditions,” McLeod said. “What we know now, is many of those things are far more important in terms of determining an individual’s health than medical care.”

 

The world is facing a rapidly aging population —
by 2050, roughly one in six people will be over 65.

Countries everywhere are aging rapidly, and if trends continue, by 2050 roughly one out of six people will be over 65 and nearly half a billion will be older than 80, the report noted. Yet, public debate about this demographic shift is often focused on the anticipated economic and social challenges.

Analysis from the World Health Organization found that 60 per cent of people surveyed across 57 countries reported low levels of respect for seniors, viewing them less competent than the young and considering them a burden on society and their families.

Something as simple as how you think about aging can have a huge range of health factors, said Jim Rendon, a journalist with Orb Media.

“There’s less likelihood of dementia, heart attacks and a longer life span according to research out of Yale University,” he said. “If you have a positive attitude, you’re more likely to recover quickly from a disabling accident, like a broken hip. And less likely to be depressed and anxious.”

And the report dispelled some of the cultural myths in the East and West, Rendon said. In fact, the research found the West had more respect for the elderly than eastern countries. He cited the example of Japan — at the leading edge of the demographic shift with low birth rates and long life spans — but ranked low when it came to social respect for seniors.

But in Pakistan, well-being was less associated with youth and Rendon speculated that might have something to do with cultural traditions such as extended families living with older adults.

“Intergenerational relationships can be very helpful in terms of breaking down the stereotypes about age,” he said.

Notably, the study revealed no meaningful connection between the gross income of a country and level of respect. Rendon said that indicates respect is not limited to economic status.

To understand how attitude may impact health, he pointed to studies about biomarkers of stress: The more negative the attitude the higher the stress level. In addition, Rendon said “if you think you’re going to have an active life, you just take care of yourself better.”

And you don’t need to be “old” to have a positive attitude age: Studies out of Yale University followed people in their twenties through a lifetime and found that those with a positive view were less likely to have a heart attack in their 60s.

“That brought home the idea that it’s not just what you think when you’re old,” he said. “But it’s how you perceive aging.”

 

By MELANIE GREEN     StarMetro Vancouver   Wed., June 13, 2018
 


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Mediterranean Diet May Help Protect Older Adults From Becoming Frail

An analysis of published studies indicates that following the Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of frailty in older individuals. The findings, which are published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, suggest that a diet emphasizing primarily plant-based foods — such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts — may help keep people healthy and independent as they age.

Frailty is common among older people and its prevalence is increasing as the population ages. Frail older adults may often feel low in energy and have weight loss and weak muscle strength. They are more likely to suffer from numerous health concerns, including falls, fractures, hospitalization, nursing home placement, disability, dementia, and premature death. Frailty is also associated with a lower quality of life.

Nutrition is thought to play a crucial role in developing frailty, a team led by Kate Walters, PhD and Gotaro Kojima, MD, of University College London, in the UK, looked to see if following a healthy diet might decrease one’s risk of frailty.

The researchers analyzed evidence from all published studies examining associations between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and development of frailty in older individuals. Their analysis included 5789 people in four studies in France, Spain, Italy, and China.

“We found the evidence was very consistent that older people who follow a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of becoming frail,” said Dr. Walters. “People who followed a Mediterranean diet the most were overall less than half as likely to become frail over a nearly four-year period compared with those who followed it the least.”

The investigators noted that the Mediterranean diet may help older individuals maintain muscle strength, activity, weight, and energy levels, according to their findings. “Our study supports the growing body of evidence on the potential health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, in our case for potentially helping older people to stay well as they age,” said Dr. Kojima.

Although older people who followed a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of becoming frail, it’s unclear whether other characteristics of the people who followed this diet may have helped to protect them. “While the studies we included adjusted for many of the major factors that could be associated – for example, their age, gender, social class, smoking, alcohol, how much they exercised, and how many health conditions they had — there may be other factors that were not measured and we could not account for,” said Dr. Walters. “We now need large studies that look at whether increasing how much you follow a Mediterranean diet will reduce your risk of becoming frail.”

Story Source:
Materials provided by Wiley. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.    Date: January 11, 2018

Journal Reference:
Gotaro Kojima, Christina Avgerinou, Steve Iliffe, Kate Walters. Adherence to Mediterranean Diet Reduces Incident Frailty Risk: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2018; DOI: 10.1111/jgs.15251


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How Does Diet Affect Mental Health? A New Study Shows The Way Age Factors In

What you eat can have a huge impact on your mental health, which many people who deal with mental health conditions have learned firsthand. I have clinical depression and general anxiety disorder, and I feel much more stable when I’m eating regularly and prioritizing fresh foods. Previous research has shown that diet can affect mental health conditions like depression, ADHD, and anxiety. But according to a new study, the foods that impact your mental health change as you age. Researchers at Binghamton University in New York say our diet affects our mental health in different ways as we get older, so millennials and baby boomers should actually eat different diets to support their mood.

Researchers surveyed people between 18 and 29 years old and people who were 30 years old and older. They asked them to fill out an anonymous questionnaire about their diet and foods that are linked to changes in mood. After analyzing the data, researchers found that young adults reported benefitting benefited from frequent meat consumption, which can improve brain function. But the story was different for older adults, who need food that increases the antioxidants in your system (antioxidants can help avoid cell damage) for optimal mental health. People over 30 also reported feeling better when they avoided coffee and skipping breakfast, according to the research. What you eat can affect mental health, but if you’re looking for resources to help improve mental health issues, it’s always best to talk to a medical professional.

Lead author Lina Begdache, who is an assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University, said in a press release that one of the study’s biggest takeaways is that diet choices will affect people differently depending on how old they are.

“One of the major findings of this paper is that diet and dietary practices differentially affect mental health in young adults versus mature adults,” Begdache said. “Young adult mood appears to be sensitive to build-up of brain chemicals. Regular consumption of meat leads to build-up of two brain chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) known to promote mood.”

The most effective way to handle mental distress is talking to a doctor or therapist who can help you figure out your options. But if you’re looking to adjust your eating habits to support your mood and you’re under 29 years old, exercise and meat consumption may be the way to go.  The researchers found that people who were sedentary and ate meat less than three times a week “showed a significant mental distress.” If you’re not a meat eater, you can try foods like nuts, avocados and dark chocolate to get a dopamine release. For people over 30, antioxidants are a major key. It’s never a bad idea to consume antioxidants, but the effect is more profound as you age. As you get older, your body produces oxidants that can cause disturbances in your brain chemistry, so eating foods with antioxidant qualities can help avoid unnecessary mental distress. The next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up some grapes, blueberries, sweet potatoes, and green vegetables like kale and broccoli, which can all help improve mental health.

The study tells people over 30 to stay away from foods that trigger the sympathetic nervous system, like coffee. It can feel impossible to stay away from the sweet taste of caffeine, but it increases activity in your sympathetic nervous system, which can lead to stress. According to Begdache, “our ability to regulate stress decreases” as we age, so if you’re looking to adjust your diet for mood support, know that carbohydrates can also potentially trigger the sympathetic nervous system.

The study shows that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to diet and mental health. Your brain changes as you get older, so it makes sense that you may need to make adjustments to your diet as you age if you choose to include foods that support your mood. It’s not always realistic to eat healthy foods, especially because eating regular meals and keeping a balanced diet is a hard adjustment to make for people who are mentally healthy, let alone those who already deal with mental illness. Healthy foods can also be inaccessible to people who can’t afford them, or who live in food deserts. But if you are looking for ways to change up your food routine with an eye toward your mental health, this study is something to keep in mind. I have a few years left before I need to avoid coffee, so I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

By AYANA LAGE     December 12, 2018


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This Fruit Reverses Brain Ageing

A natural compound found in strawberries can reduce the mental effects of ageing.

The antioxidant fisetin, when given to mice, was found to reduce their mental decline with age and inflammation in their body.

Fisetin is also found in many other plants, such as apples, onions, cucumbers and persimmons.

Dr Pamela Maher, who led the research said:

“Companies have put fisetin into various health products but there hasn’t been enough serious testing of the compound.
Based on our ongoing work, we think fisetin might be helpful as a preventative for many age-associated neurodegenerative diseases, not just Alzheimer’s, and we’d like to encourage more rigorous study of it.”

Previous studies in the same lab have found that fisetin can reduce age-related memory loss.

The study was carried out on mice that had been genetically modified to be susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Maher said:

“Mice are not people, of course.
But there are enough similarities that we think fisetin warrants a closer look, not only for potentially treating sporadic AD but also for reducing some of the cognitive effects associated with aging, generally.”

The mice were given food with fisetin in it for 7 months and compared to a control group.

Dr Maher said:

“At 10 months, the differences between these two groups were striking.”

Those given the fisetin had hardly suffered any age-related deficits.

The study was published in the Journals of Gerontology Series A (Currais et al., 2017).

 
JULY 16, 2017
source: PsyBlog


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Breathe and Focus: How Practicing Mindfulness Improves Mental Health as We Age

As we age, it’s natural to worry about possible declines in our mental and brain health. Many older adults are concerned about things like memory loss and poorer attention, forgetting names, and taking longer to learn new things. As a result, as we get older we may feel more distress, sadness, and/ or anxiety that can decrease our quality of life. However, we can do something to address these concerns. The answer is mindfulness. Research shows that it can improve brain functioning, resulting in thinking and feeling better as we get older (e.g., Chambers et al., 2007; Chiesa et al., 2010; Prakash, 2014).

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an Eastern meditation practice that originates from Buddhism (Baer, 2003). It involves directing our attention to the present moment. Mindfulness can help block irrelevant information and enhance emotional control which in turn can improve the mental health of older adults. For instance, mindfulness could be sitting quietly and not letting your mind wonder, but instead focusing on your breathing. You would breathe in slowly from your nose and breathe out slowly from your mouth.

Mindfulness helps cognitive health 

Practicing mindfulness improves functioning in certain brain areas associated with paying attention and keeping focus. It can help us become less distracted and increase our focus on what we want to pay attention to (Prakash, 2014). Research on mindfulness demonstrated improvements in concentration, attention, and even memory (Chambers et al., 2007; Chiesa et al., 2010; Prakash, 2014).

Mindfulness helps emotional health 

In addition, mindfulness can benefit our emotional health as we age. It promotes an increase in self-awareness that allows for better control of our feelings. We can use mindfulness to focus on positive feelings, and less so on the negative feelings. Research (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Chambers et al., 2007; Ostafin et al., 2006) has shown that mindfulness can:

  • Decrease depressive symptoms;
  • Reduce focus on negativity;
  • Reduce focus on distress; and
  • Increase self-control.
mindfulness

Mindfulness benefits us in the short term and long term

In research studies, short-term practice of mindfulness (i.e., practicing mindfulness for 10 days) has helped to improve attention and focus by reducing the effects of distraction (Chambers et al., 2007; Ostafin et al., 2006). Long-term mindfulness training shows greater effects in being able to maintain focused attention which leads to better thinking and mood. So, as with most things, “more” is “better”. The more we practice mindfulness consistently, the better our mental health will be as we age!

For more information, check out this essential guide to mindfulness for older adults and these 6 mindfulness exercises!

 

By Flora Ma (Clinical Psychology PhD student, Palo Alto University) and 
Rowena Gomez, PhD (Associate Professor, Palo Alto University) 
MAY 25, 2016
 

Biographies:

Flora Ma is a Clinical Psychology PhD student at Palo Alto University. She graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2014, with a major in Cognitive Systems.  She has particular research and clinical interests in aging, neuropsychology and life span studies. She is also a student member of the American Psychological Association.

Dr. Rowena Gomez is Director of Clinical Training for the PhD Clinical Psychology Program and Associate Professor at Palo Alto University. Dr. Gomez’s research focus has been in geropsychology, neuropsychology, and depression.

References:

Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. http://doi.org/10.1093/clipsy/bpg015

Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822–848. http://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.822

Chambers, R., Lo, B. C. Y., & Allen, N. B. (2008). The impact of intensive mindfulness training on attentional control, cognitive style, and affect. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32(3), 303–322. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-007-9119-0

Chiesa, A., Calati, R., & Serretti, A. (2011). Does mindfulness training improve cognitive abilities? A systematic review of neuropsychological findings. Clinical Psychology Review. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2010.11.003

Ostafin, B. D., Chawla, N., Bowen, S., Dillworth, T. M., Witkiewitz, K., & Marlatt, G. A. (2006). Intensive Mindfulness Training and the Reduction of Psychological Distress: A Preliminary Study. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 13(3), 191–197. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbpra.2005.12.001

Prakash, R. S., De Leon, A. A., Patterson, B., Schirda, B. L., & Janssen, A. L. (2014). Mindfulness and the aging brain: A proposed paradigm shift. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2014.00120


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The Fascinating Way Age Will Improve Your Personality

There are three things that naturally happen to people’s personality with age.

People get nicer as they get older, in contrast to the stereotype of the grumpy senior.

The finding may be a surprise to those that believe people never change.

They do — even if only a little.

The three main changes to personality that occur, on average, with age are that people get:

  • more conscientious,
  • more agreeable,
  • and less neurotic (moody).

The study examined the brain scans of 500 volunteers.

The researchers found that typical changes in brain structure that occur with age were linked to changes in personality.

Dr Roberta Riccelli, the study’s first author, said:

“Our work supports the notion that personality is, to some degree, associated with brain maturation, a developmental process that is strongly influenced by genetic factors.”

aging

These changes in personality suggest a genetic influence, explained Professor Nicola Toschi, a study co-author:

“Of course, we are continually shaped by our experiences and environment, but the fact that we see clear differences in brain structure which are linked with differences in personality traits suggests that there will almost certainly be an element of genetics involved.
This is also in keeping with the notion that differences in personality traits can be detected early on during development, for example in toddlers or infants.”

Dr Luca Passamonti, a study co-author, said:

“Linking how brain structure is related to basic personality traits is a crucial step to improving our understanding of the link between the brain morphology and particular mood, cognitive, or behavioural disorders.
We also need to have a better understanding of the relation between brain structure and function in healthy people to figure out what is different in people with neuropsychiatric disorders.”

The study was published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (Riccelli et al., 2016).
 
source: PsyBlog