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Archive for the ‘FOOD & DIET RELATED DISEASES’ Category

As we push beyond the 40-year mark, we detect slight physical changes. Maybe eyesight isn’t as keen. We have difficulty keeping up with that two-year old grandchild, or even our teenager. What other changes draw our attention? Along with our bodies reminding us of creeping age, our brains no longer function as we would like. We notice subtle decreases in our ability to recall names of people or events. Maybe forgetting a friend’s name is far into the future, but for many, by the time 50 rolls around, remembering facts and faces could require more effort.

The 60s may send attacks of panic as we go from room-to-room and wonder why we are there. While memory losses occur with advancing years, many can be slowed and become less frequent. What can we do?

Someone recently asked me if any foods are directly related to health or disease conditions. Well, yes. Let’s start with memory (See “Part 1: Can Diet Affect Memory?” and “What’s On Your Mind?”).

An article published in Neurology on December 20, 2017 reported the effect of green leafy vegetables on the aging brain. Researchers found that one serving daily of green leafy vegetables helped slow cognitive decline―that’s thinking and remembering. For the approximately 1,000 participants over a period of almost five years, that lone serving was equivalent to being eleven years younger mentally compared to those who rarely or never ate their spinach or similar greens. However, eating greens does not guarantee slower brain aging, but it does suggest an association between the two.

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And what are the best choices? Spinach, kale, and collards seem to top the list. As a side note, if you have a yard, kale grows easily among flowers or shrubs. The curly type adds a nice touch to the landscape. Kale prefers a sunny location. Generally, plants die down during the hot summer season but revive in the fall to produce until frost. If you live in an apartment, try sowing seeds in planters or pots. You can enjoy this healthy food for salads or cooked as a vegetable serving. It’s great mixed with other types of greens or in many entrees.

Growing your own kale gives you the option of omitting pesticides and harmful chemicals. To harvest, clip or pinch stems close to the base of the plant. Within several days or a week, new leaves will produce enough for another harvest. While other green leafy vegetables are good, I find kale the easiest to grow. Before using wash thoroughly and remove any thick stems. Store in the refrigerator in a covered plastic container (not bag) for a few days. To leave in the refrigerator longer, place in a covered container and wait until ready to use before washing. This food is not only rich in antioxidants to help the brain, it is also high in vitamin A and other nutrients that are part of a healthy diet.

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While green leafy vegetables aren’t the only foods to thwart aging brains, it is one easy way. Try adding to your diet, regardless of your age. It’s worSee the source imageth a try.

 

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News reports and advertising alert us to the connection between many types of foods and health. Most recognize that too much sodium (salt) may increase blood pressure. We know that obesity may make us more susceptible to many health conditions including type 2 diabetes and cancer. Certain types of fats have been linked to heart disease. We don’t hear as much about the effect of foods on our brains. Do certain diets make a difference? For the next few weeks, I will share current research on the impact of what we eat and memory.

As we age, every little slip in remembering someone’s name or misplacing our car keys may stir fear and panic. While a few blunders here and there may be no cause for worry about developing dementia, or worse, full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), memory loss is real. More than five million Americans now live with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), a common form of dementia. What if certain foods or diets could make a difference? Would we pay attention? For several years, research has sought answers. We now know that the foods we eat can make a difference.

Dr. Lisa Moscone, author of Brain Food, compared brain imaging scans of healthy dementia-free 30- to 60-year-olds. One group ate the typical Western diet of high saturated fats, red meat, and refined sugar. The other group followed a Mediterranean diet which consisted of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein such as fish or chicken. Good fats (mono- or poly unsaturated) like avocado and olive oil replaced saturated fats, and the diet limited red meats and added sugars. Scans at the beginning of the study showed that those who ate Western-style foods had more beta-amyloid deposits and less brain activity, both indicators of early development of dementia.

Follow-up studies two or more years later revealed increases in beta-amyloid deposits and reduced active energy levels in those who ate Western diets, regardless of other potential risk factors for AD, i.e. sex, age, and a specific gene linked to AD. Changes in brain scan images showed up in areas of the brain most likely to be affected by AD.

What does this study tell us? Diet does make a difference. What is more important, to modify our diet in younger years with the potential of improved memory in later years or eat what we want, a Western diet, and wonder why we are so forgetful? Is our priority to eat whatever we want with no regard for the future or had we rather make a few changes to improve our odds of reaching old age with our brains mentally intact? Alzheimer’s Disease is a devastating condition. Even if we aren’t concerned about our future mental health, is it fair to our potential caregivers―children, spouses or friends―not to take care of ourselves? Diet may not prevent all memory loss, but it can make a difference for us and our families.

 

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Who knew? May is National Egg Month, and I almost let it slip by. But don’t be deterred from celebrating. This versatile food is great all year.

The poor egg has been maligned for decades. In the 1970s, I taught a nutrition class in New Orleans to nursing students. My office, on one side of the river, required I traverse the old Huey P. Long bridge connecting to the other side. It was scary. The rickety bridge rattled and reaching the other side safely seemed dubious. It revved my adrenalin and blood pressure.

When my class discussed the role of LDL (low density lipoprotein), known to have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system, I would say to my students, “If I have a heart attack on my way to class, it isn’t the egg I had for breakfast. It was driving across that bridge.”

Stress remains a factor in heart disease, but eggs? Now some forty years later, my stand on eggs has been vindicated. For many years, researchers have known that cholesterol in the foods we eat has less effect on blood cholesterol levels than does the type of fats we eat. Individuals with diets high in saturated fat (those mostly from animal sources) are more likely to have increased cholesterol blood levels (LDL) than those who consume unsaturated fats (mostly from plant sources).

Many still argue that those who eat the yolk, which contains small amounts of cholesterol, should limit intake to three to four eggs per week. While an egg yolk has about 200 mg of cholesterol, the effects may be more positive than negative.

A nine-year Chinese study of nearly a half-million people compared the risk of heart attacks and strokes of those who consumed an average of a half to one egg per day with those who never ate eggs. Researchers concluded that eggs eaten in moderation had no effect on elevated risks for developing heart disease or stroke.

Naysayers pointed out that the study wasn’t a controlled experiment. They claimed results might not apply to other parts of the world such as the U. S. where westernized diets prevail, and most people are overweight. Other recent research suggests that eggs may block the production of LDL in the liver while at the same time boosting HDL, known as the good cholesterol. The Egg Nutrition Center is one source of more  nutrition information about the value of eggs in the diet. 

A study published in the May 7, 2018 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the effect of a high-egg diet on the cardiovascular system of people who were pre-diabetic or had type 2 diabetes. Compared to a low-egg diet (less than two per week) the high-egg diet had no adverse effects on the heart. Both diets were weight-loss diets and results from the two diets were similar.

That’s not the only good news about eating moderate amounts of eggs. Besides its many nutrient benefits and its quality protein, studies find more health attributes for this wholesome food. Eggs are significant sources of choline and lutein (a xanthophyll carotenoid). These nutrients may influence cognitive functions. As the number of Americans over age 65 rapidly increases, so does the incidence of cognitive decline. Scientific evidence substantiates the role choline and lutein in brain and neurological development post conception, and it is believed that lutein may influence cognition across the lifespan.

I remain a proponent of eggs as part of a healthy diet. Unless advised otherwise by a qualified health professional, add eggs into your diet with the assurance they are unlikely to affect heart conditions in a healthy person. It just may keep your brain more healthy and active during the latter years of life. Most of us need all the help we can get.

                                                     

 

 

 

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While heart disease, at slightly more than 23 percent, remains the number one cause of death in the United States, cancer with 22.5 percent of deaths, leads the way in mortality we can help prevent by behavior. According to the American Institute on Cancer Research (AICR), nearly 50 percent of the most common cancers can be prevented. February is “Cancer Prevention Month.” What are we doing to help thwart one of these cancers?

Image result for free clip art cancer preventionUp to 90,000 cases of cancer per year are thought to relate to obesity. Those most prevalent include colorectal, breast, endometrial, esophageal, gallbladder, kidney, liver, lung, pancreatic, prostate, stomach, and ovarian. Diet in general affects our risk. If this is an area we need to address, the AICR recommends several steps for cancer prevention.

  • Avoid underweight. While many facts are known regarding the problems of too much weight, underweight is not the answer. The wise will remain within a recommended weight range.
  • Avoid components in foods that can hamper weight loss or a healthy diet. Some of these include too much added sugar, especially sugary drinks and high calorie foods, excessive salt/sodium in the diet, and processed foods.
  • Avoid too much red meats and choose fish or white meats such as chicken.
  • Do exercise or remain physically active for a minimum of 30 minutes per day.
  • Do eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Several of these foods are high in antioxidants that are known to fight cancer. A few of those include the following:
    • Apple antioxidants come from several phytochemicals, namely quercetin, epicatechin, and anthocyanins. The peels have additional antioxidants.
    • Blueberries, one of the highest fruits in antioxidants, also contribute high levels of vitamins C and K, manganese, and dietary fiber.
    • Legumes, in addition to antioxidants, contain lignans (plant-based substances that may act like human estrogen) and saponins (health-promoting complex compounds) and other substances that may protect against cancer.
    • Dark green vegetables such as spinach, kale, romaine, mustard greens, collard greens and others provide excellent sources of carotenoids including lutein and zeaxanthin plus saponins and flavonoids. These chemicals may possibly protect against cancers of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx, plus slow growth of certain cell types associated with breast, skin, lung, and stomach cancers.

No one can guarantee you will not get cancer, but how you treat your body can make a difference. Think about the foods in your diet that may contribute to your susceptibility to cancer. Then consider ways you can add or remove foods that may protect you from this dreaded disease. It’s no guarantee, but isn’t it worth a try?

Image result for free clip art cancer prevention

 

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February brings to mind Valentine hearts of love, but when it comes to the human heart, the month is so much more. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared February as American Heart Month. At the time, nearly half of deaths in America resulted from cardiovascular disease (CVD). Although today that number has decreased to about one in four, CVD claims 17.9 million lives worldwide each year. About 2,300 Americans die of CVD each day for an average of one death every 38 seconds.

While medical advances improve quality of life, heart disease continues to be a threat. For 2018 the focus is on younger adults ages 35 to 64. In many areas, deaths rates from heart disease in this age range are increasing, perhaps as a result of soaring risk factors. Lifestyle changes can alter these statistics. Several situations, both medical and environmental, influence the risk of CVD including:

  • Obesity: More than two-thirds of the American population are overweight with at least half of those considered as obese. Extra weight puts stress on the heart.
  • Diabetes: Sugar (glucose) build up in the blood can damage blood vessels and nerves that help control the heart.
  • Physical Exercise: Sufficient activity keeps heart and blood vessels healthy. Physical exercise is a natural mood lifter and enhances body fitness. It helps to lower blood pressure, boost HDL (good) cholesterol, improve circulation, keep weight under control, and prevent bone loss (osteoporosis). Only about 20 percent of Americans meet recommended guidelines of 150 minutes of exercise per week.
  • Healthier eating habits: Not only do Americans eat too much resulting in weight problems, most continue to make poor choices in their selection of foods. Foods high in sugar, salt, and trans and saturated fats can contribute to CVD.
  • Smoking: While a known culprit for lung disease, smoking directly damages blood vessels and impacts conditions contributing to CVD. While progress has been made in helping to reduce smoking among Americans, more than 37 million U. S. adults continue to use this unhealthy substance. Even worse, thousands of young people each day take up the habit.
  • Blood pressure: Uncontrolled blood pressure is one of the biggest risk factors for CVD. Because nearly three-fourths of individuals are unaware they have hypertension, it is often referred to as the silent killer. Approximately half the people with diagnosed hypertension fail to sustain a normal blood pressure. Adhering to heart medications prescribed by your physician more readily assures a healthy heart.

Many deaths from CVD could be prevented through education and action. Make the 2018 American Heart Month the time to change to a healthier lifestyle and prevent becoming the next CVD statistic.

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March is National Nutrition Month, and today, March 8, 2017, is National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day. Why is that significant? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Academy) is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy represent more than 100,000 credentialed practitioners, primarily registered dietitians nutritionists, who are committed to improving the health of individual patients/clients, families, and the community.
I'm Blogging National Nutrition Month

In 2008, the Academy created a special day for Registered Dietitians Nutritionists. According to their website,  key messages for the public about these leading nutrition and dietetic experts encompass the following:

  • Acquire degrees from Academy-approved programs in colleges and universities in specific fields of nutrition, food service, and dietetics plus additional internship training or plans of study,
  • Translate the science of nutrition into practical application for healthy living,
  • Help individuals achieve positive lifestyle changes,
  • Advocate the advancement of nutritional status of Americans and people around the globe.

The Academy distributes nutrition related educational materials, and for National Nutrition Month has posted a word game for adults. Try it to refresh your memory and challenge your brain.

Celebrate this month with wise food choices. Should you need help with diets or food issues, remember to contact a registered dietitian nutritionist.

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cancer-prevention-monthFebruary may be the shortest month, but it’s a busy time for holidays and health. Valentine’s Day blows warm kisses amid cold winters. President’s Day follows close behind reminding us of extraordinary American leaders in past years. While we observe these two holidays, February additionally focuses on health. Heart-related problems are the number one cause of death in our nation. National Heart Month in February encourages Americans to alter lifestyles to slow progression of this disease.

This is also National Cancer Prevention Month. More than a half million Americans will lose their lives to cancer this year. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) estimates that nearly one-third of cancer cases could be prevented by eating healthy, staying active, and maintaining appropriate weight.

For 2017, AICR provided a 30-day prevention checklist to improve lifestyles. In these few remaining days in February, we can include modified food-related suggestions from their list along with other recommendations to help prevent cancer.

  • If overweight or obese, make every effort to reach your recommended weight. Up to 40 percent of all cancers are associated with excess weight.
  • Distinguish between weight loss myths and facts.
  • Measure portion sizes to avoid overeating.
  • Enjoy meatless dishes. Most American grew up with red meats, from hamburgers to prime rib. While we can periodically enjoy these tasty foods in our diets, to reduce cancer risks limit red meats, especially those that have been cured. Try healthier entrees from vegetables, cheese, or beans.
  • Swap processed meats for better protein sources such as fish or chicken.
  • Substitute water or unsweetened beverages for sugary drinks.
  • Learn the relationship between sugar and cancer.
  • Try new whole grains. Today we have access to familiar grains as well as those unknown to us a decade ago. Common whole grains include amaranth, buckwheat, farro, Kamut, maize, millet, quinoa, rye, sorghum, and teff.
  • Cook cancer fighting recipes.
  • Read labels. Remember, ingredients are listed on the label in order of weight, with the main ingredient first.
  • Take the AICR healthy diet quiz.

The dreaded “C” word affects many lives. Lower your risks by incorporating these suggestions into your routine and adopting permanent changes for a healthier lifestyle.

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