General Health

Person Drinking Coffee with Morning Paper

Coffee is Healthy to Drink

I don’t have many health vices. Coffee has always been at the top of the list and, so, I always tell myself it is healthy to treat yourself to some things. I mean, my morning coffee experience–complete with checking email in bed and skimming a trashy gossip magazine before getting ready–makes my day. And I relish the ritual, despite some guilt over the disputed healthiness of regular coffee drinking…

Well…no longer do I feel guilty! Now, research published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association found that women (exclusively) who sip more than one cup of coffee a day had a 22% to 25% lowered risk of stroke. Even more profound, the researchers found that women who drank no coffee actually had a slightly increased risk for stroke.

While this study lacked control for medication use in its subjects, it’s important to take the findings with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, I admit that my morning ritual looks even better now, guilt-free and all. Cheers to that!

Young Family Enjoying Family Time in Allergy Free Home

allergy free!

Got Asthma?

It’s spring in New York.  I know because despite the cold and rain, my annual allergies have arrived with a vengeance. The symptoms: coughing, sneezing, nasal congestion even to the point that it’s hard for me to sleep.

In most people these discomforts would get suffered in silence. But given my tendency toward hypochondria, I a) tell my friends who are of little help, then b) compulsively search the internet and c) inevitably shudder to imagine that, somehow, my entire list of complaints pop up in stories about asthma.

As it turns out, I don’t think I’ve got asthma because, according to my semi-obsessive Google investigations, I don’t fall into any of the high-risk groups. Do you?

Heredity: You definitely inherit the predisposition to asthma. In fact, docs think that 60% of all asthma cases are rooted in heredity.  According to a CDC report, if one of your parents has asthma, you’re 3-6 times more likely to get it than someone without this genetic link.

Gender: In kids, asthma is more common among boys than girls. Once we reach our 20’s, the ratio equalizes. And by age 40, more women have it than men.

Cigarette Smoke: Several studies confirm that smoking increases risk. There’s also research indicating that if you smoked when you were in your teens, you’re at increased risk later on. Even more findings link exposure to secondhand smoke with development of asthma in kids. And finally, if your mom smoked while she was pregnant with you, then you are at increased risk for having been born prematurely and with lower lung function—both of which are linked to developing asthma.

Weight: Seven unrelated studies find that asthma is nearly 40% more common in overweight adults (those with a BMI greater than 25 but less than 30) and almost twice as common in those with a BMI of 30+).

Socioeconomic Background: Asthma is more common in economically disadvantaged communities, so it’s not surprising to learn that in Los Angeles (where one study was conducted) three times as many African-American school children are hospitalized annually for asthma as are white kids.  Twice as many Latino kids are hospitalized compared to whites.

Indoor Allergies: Indoor allergies are definitely an asthma predictor.  These include dust mite allergies, cat allergies and dog allergies. One nationwide study showed that levels of indoor allergens directly linked to asthma symptoms and inhaler use. Another showed that kids living in homes with high concentrations of these allergens are 5 times more likely to develop asthma.

So I’m grateful that my parents are asthma-free, glad I’m a woman, relieved that I’ve never smoked, weighed in at a chubby 7lb 4 oz at birth,  proud I try to stick to a pretty healthy diet (except around pasta!), and have learned to use all-natural allergy products to lower the levels of indoor allergens in my apartment.

Now, if I can just find something to help with my hypochondria. That can’t be fatal, can it?

Man Watching March Madness on TV

post-surgery priority: watching March Madness on television

There has long been contention in the medical research community as to whether vasectomy procedures affect a man’s risk of prostate cancer. And since an average of one in six men over 35 years of age decide to get a vasectomy — a procedure that leads to sterility by means of severing and tying a man’s vas deferentia to prevent the release of sperm — the topic deserves attention. Yet even data and discussion from the National Cancer Institute is as outdated as 2002.

In the meantime, a stranger correlation has come out of the woodwork: vasectomy procedures and March Madness. Intriguing and, as I thought when I first read the headlines, hard to believe.

Sure enough, the trend started in 2008 when the Oregon Urology Institute offered free t-shirts, free food and frozen peas (for swelling post-surgery). Now it seems that men are finding incentives to get a vasectomy during the March Madness month of leisurely basketball watching. By this year, the Cleveland Clinic expects the number of vasectomy procedures to increase 50%.

USA Today reports more on the story here.

Sunny, Sandy Beach in Hawaii

the 'sand-in-your-toes' kind of happy

Advice from “The World’s Happiest Person”

***

Could there really be a “happiest person in America”?

After the research polling group Gallup created their Well-Being Index to understand elements of a happy life, the New York Times came to Gallup asking if there was one single happiest person.

This hypothetical profile, Gallup reported back, is a man: ”He’s a tall, Asian American, observant Jew who is at least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year.”

Well, after some phone calls and digging, the New York Times found Alvin Wong. Sure enough, he matches the hypothetical profile. He lives in Hawaii with his wife, he’s 69, he runs his own business and laughed a lot during the phone call.

Looks like I’m moving to Hawaii…

Colorful Cartoon Allergens

food germs!

Everyone’s done it: drop food on the floor, pick it up, eat it, enjoy it. Oh–and, ignore the fact that it was on the floor…

Even I am subject to such behavior, especially if I drop food in my own home. Here in my kitchen, something about the floor and germs being my floor and germs, I feel less hesitation in eating dropped food.

Perhaps that should be a habit of the past, after I just read an eye-opening Q&A from the New York Times about the five-second rule we’re all taught in elementary school.

Research published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology from 2007 tracked the bacteria transferred to dropped bologna after 5, 30 and 60 seconds on wood, tile and carpet. Unfortunately for those of us that may adhere to the five-second rule: ”more than 99 percent of the bacteria were transferred nearly immediately, and there was no difference by the time of contact.”

As infectious disease expert Dr. Roy M. Gulick, of Weill Cornell Medical College, put it: “the five-second rule probably should become the zero-second rule.” Well, there you have it.

Charcoal Drawing of Man in Yoga Pose

Channel the Inner You

Researchers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas have recently reported unique findings for prostate cancer subjects.

The study, whose findings were published last month, examined various forms of support for prostate cancer subjects undergoing radical prostatectomy — which, while highly successful at eliminating cancer, is known to take an incredible toll both mentally and physically.

Specifically, researchers divided subjects into three groups:

  1. one third of the men received routine care through their hospital pre- and post-surgery;
  2. another group was given access to psychologists prior to the surgery and directly following the procedure;
  3. a final third group received stress management training, in which they a) met with a psychologist for support, b) learned deep breathing and guided-imagery techniques to help cope with the stress of surgery, c) were led through a mental imagery exercise to review everything that would happen to them throughout surgery and in recovery, and d) were given mini sessions the morning of the operation and two days after as well as a guide and audiotapes so they could practice on their own.

Two days after surgery, researchers found that men from the third group who had received stress management had a stronger immune response, which aids in the healing process. Most encouraging of stress management training, the men who received meditation and guided-imagery before and after surgery reported better overall physical functioning a year later.

Such findings are, for us here at Amazing Solutions, of particular interest due to our work in alternative prostate health treatment. The dietary supplement, Prostate Health Cocktail (PHC), was developed by our colleague Dr. Jacek Pinski who is among a new breed of scientists focused on integrated medical strategies for prolonging male vitality and treating prostate cancer. PHC is available exclusively through OncoNatural.

To learn more, check out this interview with Dr Pinski about prostate health and disease therapy.

NYC Restaurant Score Card

NYC Restaurant Score Card

Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Perhaps not so much when it comes to where you eat out…

I just heard about a useful new website — DontEat.at — that synchs your Foursquare check-in location (if you’re not tech-y, see below where I explain what this means) with the NYC Department of Health’s sanitation score for the restaurant you’re about to eat at. If the restaurant you’ve checked into received a “C” grade or worse, DontEat.at will text you with a warning.

As a complete germaphobe, I’m thrilled at the prospect of losing my ignorance here. As someone who avoids certain social media tech-y sites, I think I’m just going to bite the bullet and sign up for Foursquare, a cell phone program that allows you to “check in” to restaurants, bars and other venues so that friends will know what you’re up to.

DontEat.at is still fresh up and running, thus only available for New York City. But reports claim that there are plans to expand the service to other cities…so stay tuned!

Living Room with Dimmed Lights

tip: relaxing under soft light before bed may make your sleep more well-rested

We wake up to the sun. We go to work under bright fluorescents. We come home and turn the lights on. In fact, the only time we turn the lights off is to fall asleep every night. But if you’re one of the nearly 70 percent of Americans who have sleep problems, one trick to a better rest might just be found in the dark…

Yes–keeping the lights down may help improve your health. Researchers at Harvard University have found that around-the-clock light may be detrimental to our natural biorhythm. This is particularly the case in the hours before bed, when many of us keep our house lights at their brightest.

According the research, lights left on during sleep suppressed melatonin by 50 percent in subjects. However, when the 116 people in the study were given eight hours of dim lighting before bed, melatonin was produced 90 minutes more per day. In other words, lead author, Joshua Gooley, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, explains: “Our study shows that this exposure to indoor light has a strong suppressive effect on the hormone melatonin [which] could, in turn, have effects on sleep quality and the body’s ability to regulate body temperature, blood pressure and glucose levels.”

Implications from the study go beyond just to suggest a correlation between lighting and restfulness. Given that chronic light suppression of melatonin has been hypothesised to increase the risk of some types of cancer and that melatonin receptor genes have been linked to type 2 diabetes, the findings from this study provide plenty for future research to explore.

In the meantime, light some candles and let yourself unwind for a better rest.

Person Using ATM Machine

caution: wash hands after use!

HEALTH ALERT: Be sure to wash your hands after using public ATM services.

News broke this week that ATMs can be as dirty as public toilets. The study was based on heavy-traffic areas of England with germ and bacteria samples from ATM machines and public restrooms.

Read more and stay clean.

People Sunning Themselves on Blankets in Open Field

direct Vitamin D!

Headlines can be misleading — and recent news about how much Vitamin D we all need is a perfect case in point.

Here’s one headline from the Wall Street Journal: “Triple That Vitamin D Intake, Panel Prescribes.” And another from the New York Times: “Extra Calcium and Vitamin D Aren’t Necessary, Report Says.” While these are just a couple of headlines that may confuse readers, which would you trust?

First, one easy takeaway is that we should be reading our news carefully so that we don’t carry incorrect information from headlines alone. Less easy to sort through is who actually needs more Vitamin D. Now, conventional wisdom has been telling us that low levels of Vitamin D can be linked to depression, various kinds of cancer, diabetes and stroke. And, over the past nine years, supplement sales have risen from $40 billion to $425 billion. Yet — despite the difference in headlines — recent news reports are actually claiming that, across the board, North Americans are getting enough of the vitamin as is from their blood (through the natural process of absorbing direct Vitamin D from sunlight).

For some of us however, it’s crucial that we get more than others. In particular: 1) people over 50 should be increasing their daily intake to support bone strength; 2) people with dark skin contain more melanin, which reduces the skin’s ability to produce the vitamin from sunlight; and 3) people who are obese need extra Vitamin D to make up for the relatively low levels in their blood.

Find out if you’re someone who needs more Vitamin D from the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.