Monthly Archives: September 2016

Health Boost or Health Risk of Drinking Alcohol

A large number of studies have shown that moderate alcohol intake can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. Moderate drinking means one drink per day for women and one to two for men, says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. “The difference in amounts is because of how men and women metabolize alcohol,” Dr. Novey explains.

“When you say one drink, the size of that drink matters,” Novey adds. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture one drink is equal to:

12 ounces of beer or
5 ounces of wine or
1½ ounces of spirits (hard liquor such as gin or whiskey, 80-proof)
The Dangers of Drinking Too Much

Unfortunately, some people can’t stop at just one or two drinks. Too much alcohol can result in serious health consequences. Heavy alcohol intake can damage the liver, causing cirrhosis, a fatal disease. Excessive drinking also can raise blood pressure and damage the heart, and is linked to many different cancers, including mouth, esophagus, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. The health risks are even greater for those who not only drink but smoke as well.

The consequences of excessive drinking can be serious not only for the alcoholic, but also for their friends, family, and even innocent bystanders. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 16,000 people die each year in automobile accidents that involve drunken drivers. Other data indicates that one in three violent crimes involves the use of alcohol and as many as three out of four violent incidents against a spouse involve alcohol. “Alcohol is a depressant. It makes people sad over time, not happy,” Novey says. When depressed, people can do some rather unfortunate things to themselves and their loved ones.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

How can you tell if you or someone you know might have a drinking problem? Physicians often use the CAGE test, which involves four simple questions, Novey says:

Cutting down. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
Annoyance by criticism. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
Guilty feeling. Have you ever felt guilty about drinking alcohol?
Eye-openers. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (an “eye-opener”)?
If the answer to just one of these questions is yes, a drinking problem is likely and professional help is needed, Novey says.

Other signs of a drinking problem:

You find you can’t stop drinking once you start.
You’re having problems at work or at school.
Other people notice your drinking and comment on it.
You can’t remember what you did when you were drinking alcohol.
Moderation Rules

Consuming no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks for men is safe, and perhaps even heart healthy. On the other hand, excessive drinking can have serious consequences. If you think you may have a drinking problem or suspect that someone you love does, seek professional help. Contact your family physician or a support group for substance abuse before irreparable damage is done.

Let’s Learn About The Best States for Your Brain

Congratulations to the Old Line State: Maryland has emerged as the state with the best brain health in the 2011 America’s Brain Health Index. Developed by National Center for Creative Aging, the index ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 21 brain health indicators including diet, physical health, mental health, and social well-being. This is the second time the index has been calculated; the first one appeared in 2009.

In the 2011 report, Maryland edged out the District of Columbia, which slipped to No. 2 from its first-place 2009 ranking. Maryland took top honors because it experienced a decrease in Alzheimer’s disease-related deaths, and because residents consume a high amount of fish, a natural source of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid that is tied to brain and eye health. Residents of Washington, DC, came in second due to its high proportion of active readers – more than any of the 50 states.

The Brain Health Index was created by health experts including Michael Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and creator of the RealAge concept, and Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD, chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness and assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. The index was created as part of a national health education campaign called Beautiful Minds: Finding Your Lifelong Potential, aimed at encouraging adults in the second half of life to develop and maintain brain health. It’s sponsored by Life’sDHA, a supplement created by the nutritional products company Market Biosciences Corporation.

Wondering How Your State Stacks Up?

Here are the top 10 states in the 2011 index and the factors that give them a brain health advantage:

1. Maryland: Marylanders consume plenty of omega-3-rich foods, such as fish, and have a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease-related deaths.

2. District of Columbia: Residents of Washington, DC, are the top active readers and have a high consumption of healthy foods.

3. Washington State: The Evergreen State is among the top five states in consumption of DHA-rich fish.

4. Colorado: Residents of colorful Colorado consume a healthy diet and have a low incidence of diabetes.

5. Vermont: People in the Green Mountain State keep their minds engaged by reading and are active community participants.
6. New Hampshire: The state has a high level of mental engagement through game playing, and residents tend to consume healthy diets of fruits, vegetables, and fish.

7. Oregon: Oregonians are bookworms, fish lovers, and involved in their community.

8. Utah: Residents are active in their communities and have a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

9. Maine: This coastal state has a high level of fish consumption, and reading is a popular pastime.

10. New Jersey: Despite what you’ve seen on the Jersey Shore, the Garden State ranks relatively high in education, and has a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

The states that fall at the bottom of the index are:

42. North Dakota: North Dakotans are active game players, but the state has a high prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease.

43. Kentucky: Kentucky does boast a high level of religious activity, but is tied with West Virginia for unhealthy smoking habits.

44. Indiana: Indiana ranks high in education, but has many smokers and low fish consumption.

45. Tennessee: The Volunteer State does have a high level of religious activity, but has a high incidence of Alzheimer’s disease-related deaths.

46. West Virginia: Another state with high religious activity, West Virginia has a large number of smokers and the second-worst diabetes rate in the nation.

47. Alabama: The state’s high involvement in religious activities boosts social well-being, but its residents’ brain health suffers due to a high incidence of diabetes and Alzheimer’s-related deaths.

48. Oklahoma: Oklahomans engage their brains through religious activities and playing games, but don’t consume many fruits, vegetables, or omega-3 fatty acids.

49. Arkansas: Arkansans are active game players and participate in religious activity, but they’re not big on reading and eating DHA-rich foods.

50. Louisiana: Up from the last spot in the 2009 rankings, Louisiana residents have a high incidence of diabetes and Alzheimer’s-related deaths.

51. Mississippi: The Magnolia State comes in last place because of its high incidence of diabetes, low educational rankings, and low consumption of brain-healthy foods.

Breaking Down the Brain Health Statistics

States that ranked high in the 2011 America’s Brain Health Index share some traits, such as good diets and higher levels of physical activity, and residents of the top states tend to be intellectually curious. “It’s so important to have an intellectual passion and hobbies,” says Cleveland Clinic chief wellness officer Dr. Michael Roizen. The Beautiful Minds campaign also highlights inspiring seniors who are putting their minds to good use by volunteering, teaching classes, writing novels, and even bodybuilding.

Roizen notes that many of the states in the South rank at the bottom of the list, which he attributes to unhealthy diets and physical inactivity, reflected in the high incidence of diabetes.

But Southerners don’t have it all wrong: A positive brain health factor the Southern states share is a high level of religious and spiritual activity, which is a big boost for emotional health. “The benefit of believing in a higher being is that it will help you manage stress better,” says Roizen. “Stress ages you more than any other factor.” Several scientific studies have confirmed the benefits of religious activity: The Whitehall study of British civil servants, a major study on the health effects of stress, found that the participants who said they were more spiritual experienced less aging from stress and aged better. “Spirituality and religious practices may also help slow the regression of cognitive abilities caused by Alzheimer’s disease,” adds Roizen.

Check out the Brain Health Index interactive map for the full ranking of all the states.

Dr. Roizen’s Four Steps to Better Brain Health

Although healthy living habits are always important for your mind and body, they take on special importance in the mid-fifties and beyond. From the age of 55, our faculties begin to decline, and we are less able to multitask. “Our goal with the Beautiful Minds campaign is to motivate people to change how their minds age,” Dr. Roizen told Everyday Health. “Keeping the brain healthy is easier than many people realize.”

Roizen outlines the following steps you can take to improve your brain health:

Get more physical activity. Exercise doesn’t just help your body – “Staying fit can actually help reconstruct your brain,” says Roizen. Although any exercise you enjoy doing is fine, Roizen recommends interval training, meaning doing an exercise at a moderate pace and then ramping up to a faster pace during the last minute, provided that your doctor says you are fit enough. For example, if you spend 20 minutes on a treadmill, spend the last minute running at a higher speed.
Be socially engaged. People who are involved with their family, friends, and community tend to stay sharper than those who aren’t. In addition to socializing with your immediate circle, brain health experts suggest getting involved with your community through religious or spiritual activities as a way to lower your stress levels. “In research, men and women who had the most social interaction within their community had less than half the rate of memory loss as those with the least social engagement,” says Roizen.
Get your blood pressure checked. The brain is dependent on blood supply, and as we get older, these blood vessels age, too. “When we’re older, our brains actually decrease in IQ every five years,” says Roizen. Keeping your blood pressure within a healthy range will help your blood vessels stay as healthy as possible. A study published in the journal Neurology found that treating traditional risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol may also help to prevent the progression of cognitive problems into full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.
Get more DHA in your diet. The Memory Improvement With DHA Study (MIDAS) presented at the 2009 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease found that DHA supplements may help slow the rate of progression of age-related mental decline in healthy seniors. “The best natural sources of DHA are salmon and trout. DHA is also in fortified foods like soy milk, eggs, and nutrition bars, or in supplements,” Roizen says. Of course, eating a healthy, well-rounded diet is important too.

Tips to Eat a Healthy Diet

If you are what you eat, it follows that you want to stick to a healthy diet that’s well balanced. “You want to eat a variety of foods,” says Stephen Bickston, MD, AGAF, professor of internal medicine and director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Virginia Commonwealth University Health Center in Richmond. “You don’t want to be overly restrictive of any one food group or eat too much of another.”

Healthy Diet: The Building Blocks
The best source of meal planning for most Americans is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food Pyramid. The pyramid, updated in 2005, suggests that for a healthy diet each day you should eat:

6 to 8 servings of grains. These include bread, cereal, rice, and pasta, and at least 3 servings should be from whole grains. A serving of bread is one slice while a serving of cereal is 1/2 (cooked) to 1 cup (ready-to-eat). A serving of rice or pasta is 1/2 cup cooked (1 ounce dry). Save fat-laden baked goods such as croissants, muffins, and donuts for an occasional treat.
2 to 4 servings of fruits and 4 to 6 servings of vegetables. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat, making them a great addition to your healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables also provide the fiber, vitamins, and minerals you need for your body’s systems to function at peak performance. Fruits and vegetables also will add flavor to a healthy diet. It’s best to serve them fresh, steamed, or cut up in salads. Be sure to skip the calorie-laden toppings, butter, and mayonnaise, except on occasion. A serving of raw or cooked vegetables is equal to 1/2 cup (1 cup for leafy greens); a serving of a fruit is 1/2 cup or a fresh fruit the size of a tennis ball.
2 to 3 servings of milk, yogurt, and cheese. Choose dairy products wisely. Go for fat-free or reduced-fat milk or cheeses. Substitute yogurt for sour cream in many recipes and no one will notice the difference. A serving of dairy is equal to 1 cup of milk or yogurt or 1.5 to 2 ounces of cheese.
2 to 3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts. For a healthy diet, the best ways to prepare beef, pork, veal, lamb, poultry, and fish is to bake or broil them. Look for the words “loin” or “round” in cuts of meats because they’re the leanest. Remove all visible fat or skin before cooking, and season with herbs, spices, and fat-free marinades. A serving of meat, fish, or poultry is 2 to 3 ounces. Some crossover foods such as dried beans, lentils, and peanut butter can provide protein without the animal fat and cholesterol you get from meats. A ¼ cup cooked beans or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter is equal to 1 ounce of lean meat.
Use fats, oils, and sweets sparingly. No diet should totally eliminate any one food group, even fats, oils, and sweets. It’s fine to include them in your diet as long as it’s on occasion and in moderation, Bickston says.
Healthy Diet: Eat Right and the Right Amount
How many calories you need in a day depends on your sex, age, body type, and how active you are. Generally, active children ages 2 to 8 need between 1,400 and 2,000 calories a day. Active teenage girls and women can consume about 2,200 calories a day without gaining weight. Teenage boys and men who are very active should consume about 3,000 calories a day to maintain their weight. If you’re not active, you calorie needs drop by 400 to 600 calories a day.

The best way to know how much to eat is to listen to your body, says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. “Pull away from the table when you’re comfortable but not yet full. Wait about 20 minutes,” he says. “Usually your body says, ‘That’s good.’ If you’re still hungry after that, you might want to eat a little more.”

Healthy Diet: Exercise Is Part of the Plan
At the bottom of the new USDA food pyramid is a space for exercise. Exercise is an important component of a well-balanced diet and good nutrition. You can reap “fabulous rewards,” says Dr Novey, just by exercising and eating “a healthy diet of foods that nature provides.”

Some Benefits of Water

Did you know that your body weight is approximately 60 percent water? Your body uses water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate its temperature and maintain other bodily functions. Because your body loses water through breathing, sweating, and digestion, it’s important to rehydrate by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water. The amount of water you need depends on a variety of factors, including the climate you live in, how physically active you are, and whether you’re experiencing an illness or have any other health problems.

Water Protects Your Tissues, Spinal Cord, and Joints

Water does more than just quench your thirst and regulate your body’s temperature; it also keeps the tissues in your body moist. You know how it feels when your eyes, nose, or mouth gets dry? Keeping your body hydrated helps it retain optimum levels of moisture in these sensitive areas, as well as in the blood, bones, and the brain. In addition, water helps protect the spinal cord, and it acts as a lubricant and cushion for your joints.

Water Helps Your Body Remove Waste

Adequate water intake enables your body to excrete waste through perspiration, urination, and defecation. The kidneys and liver use it to help flush out waste, as do your intestines. Water can also keep you from getting constipated by softening your stools and helping move the food you’ve eaten through your intestinal tract. However, it should be noted that there is no evidence to prove that increasing your fluid intake will cure constipation.

Water Aids in Digestion
Digestion starts with saliva, the basis of which is water. Digestion relies on enzymes that are found in saliva to help break down food and liquid and to dissolve minerals and other nutrients. Proper digestion makes minerals and nutrients more accessible to the body. Water is also necessary to help you digest soluble fiber. With the help of water, this fiber dissolves easily and benefits your bowel health by making well-formed, soft stools that are easy to pass.

Water Prevents You From Becoming Dehydrated

Your body loses fluids when you engage in vigorous exercise, sweat in high heat, or come down with a fever or contract an illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea. If you’re losing fluids for any of these reasons, it’s important to increase your fluid intake so that you can restore your body’s natural hydration levels. Your doctor may also recommend that you drink more fluids to help treat other health conditions, like bladder infections and urinary tract stones. If you’re pregnant or nursing, you may want to consult with your physician about your fluid intake because your body will be using more fluids than usual, especially if you’re breastfeeding.

How Much Water Do You Need?

There’s no hard and fast rule, and many individuals meet their daily hydration needs by simply drinking water when they’re thirsty, according to a report on nutrient recommendations from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. In fact, most people who are in good physical health get enough fluids by drinking water and other beverages when they’re thirsty, and also by drinking a beverage with each of their meals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re not sure about your hydration level, look at your urine. If it’s clear, you’re in good shape. If it’s dark, you’re probably dehydrated.