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Archive for the ‘NUTRITION & AGING’ Category

HEALTHY MEAL 2

Who doesn’t want to extend years of life as long as possible? Researchers confirm that even after middle age, we can lengthen our life span. In a study of nearly 74,000 health professionals 60 years-of-age or older, those who shifted to better eating habits lived longer. What changes did they make? Those who increased the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains plus other healthy foods in their diets lowered their risk of premature death compared to those whose diets remained the same. Likewise, those who let their eating habits slip to less healthy fares in their older years increased their risks for dying.

Researchers used three scoring systems based on the Alternate Healthy Eating Index, the Alternate Mediterranean diet, and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. While those diets differ somewhat, all promote fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, low-fat dairy, olive oil, and nuts. Some foods may include more of certain vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, or other nutrients, but all of these received higher scores and are good options. In all diets, less healthy choices such as sweets, processed foods, and red meats received low scores. The higher the overall score, the lower the risk of premature death.

Even changing a few items, such as fish or legumes in place of red meat, made a slight difference.  Alice Lichtenstein, spokesperson for the American Heart Association stated, “The key is to make changes that you can stick with for the rest of your life.” She added, “There are no magic-bullet foods or nutrients.” The message isn’t new. However, many believe if they haven’t followed healthy eating rules throughout their lifetimes, change is hopeless. Not so. It’s never too late to improve eating habits.

Choosing healthy foods helps prevent an early death and assures that the years we live will be less hampered by the many diseases resulting from poor diets. Quality of life is a precious commodity for everyone, especially as we age. Making slight diet changes can improve physical well-being and make those extra years’ worth living. It’s a win-win choice.

 

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It’s strawberry season, my childhood favorite time of year. I grew up on a small farm where my dad grew strawberries. Fond memories linger of those days when fresh-from-the-field strawberries were often a part of every meal. I ate all the berries I wanted throughout the growing season plus unending amounts of frozen berries during the year.

It never occurred to me how healthy thImage result for free clipart strawberriesose bright red fruits were or the many nutritious benefits from eating them. Today, researchers assure us that strawberries are a part of a healthy diet and may contribute to well-being in many ways. They are high in vitamin C, folate, potassium, and phytochemicals. Flavonoids, a type of phytochemical, have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antimutagenic properties. Strawberries have been associated with many health conditions and may help or prevent the following:

  • Reduce total cholesterol, LDL oxidation, and cell inflammation: These factors influence risks of heart attacks. A diet high in strawberries significantly lowers cholesterol levels. Researchers found that women who ate three servings per week of strawberries or blueberries reduced their chances of heart attacks by nearly one-third.
  • Prevent weight gain: According to studies in the British Medical Journal, flavonoid-rich foods like strawberries may help manage weight more easily.
  • Improve insulin resistance: Anthocyanins, responsible for berries’ bright red color, may improve insulin sensitivity. Researchers found that women who ate strawberries at least once a month were at a lower risk for diabetes.
  • Improve cognition: Strawberries and blueberries may help prevent age-related cognitive decline. They offset negative effects of cell oxidation and inflammation in the brain and protect women’s memory. Eating strawberries may delay mental aging in older women by as much as 2.5 years. In one study, women who ate more than two servings a week experienced less deterioration than those who ate one or fewer servings.

As a bonus, strawberries also seem to improve motor skills in women. What a delicious way to improve health and keep our brains intact. Make it a point to include ample servings in your diet. During this plentiful strawberry season, remember you are helping your overall health and brain function while enjoying a tasty treat.

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 If you thought the title referred to your opinions, think again. The more correct question should be what’s on your MIND Diet? That’s right. Although the diet has been around for a few years, we don’t hear much about it. But maybe we should.

Rush University Medical Center developed a diet to slow cognitive decline, namely Alzheimer’s disease, in older adults. The diet combined the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets and was referred to as the MIND Diet―Mediterranean–DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

How significant is finding a diet to thwart this leading neurodegenerative condition―Alzheimer’s disease? More than five million people over age sixty-five are affected. The MIND diet may lower the risk of this disease by more than 50 percent. Even those inconsistent in following the diet can cut their risk by 35 percent.

The MIND diet has fifteen dietary components with ten brain-healthy groups and five unhealthy-brain food groups. See how closely you follow this diet to keep your brain functioning at its peak.

Healthy foods                                                           

  • Green leafy vegetables: Six servings or more per week of foods like spinach, kale, and salad greens.
  • Other vegetables: At least one-half cup cooked or one cup raw once a day.
  • Nuts: Five servings per week. One-third cup equals a serving.
  • Berries: Three servings per week. Blueberries and strawberries are the best choices for a positive impact on the mind.
  • Beans: Three or more servings per week. These include one-half cup of cooked lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, and similar varieties.
  • Whole grains: Three or more servings per day. Look for labels that say “100 percent whole grain.”
  • Fish: At least once per week. Salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines are preferred choices.
  • Poultry: Two or more servings per week. Remove skin and bake, broil, grill, or roast. Avoid frying.
  • Olive oil: Use as the main choice for cooking oil.
  • Wine: No more than one glass a day.

Unhealthy foods       

  • Red meats: Less than four servings a week. Use lean cuts and trim fat from those you do eat.
  • Butter/margarine: Less than a tablespoon daily.
  • Cheese: One serving each week. Most cheeses are high in fat and sodium. Swiss cheese is low in both and can add more cheese servings per week.
  • Pastries and sweets: Less than five servings a week. These contain high levels of sugar, fat, and sodium.
  • Fried or fast food: Less than one serving a week.

While this diet has many beneficial qualities that may lower the risks of many health issues―hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other maladies present as we age―there are drawbacks. Due to high levels of potassium and phosphorus, those with kidney disease should avoid this diet. Increased consumption of whole grains and other higher calorie foods may be inappropriate for those with diabetes.

For most of us, efforts to closely follow this diet may keep minds sharp and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. For this eating plan to become a part of our lifestyle, keeping a chart for several weeks helps. Below is one example.

To borrow from part of a cliché, the mind is a terrible thing to let waste away. Keep it healthier with the MIND Diet.

mind-chart-4

 

 

 

 

2016-10-06

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It’s a given—if we keep breathing, we will get older. How do you feel about those years piling up? Do you perceive yourself as “old?”

Researchers questioned more than 900 women ages eighteen to eighty-seven from America, Britain, and Australia as to whether they succumbed to “old talk”—a term referring to body dissatisfaction resulting from physical signs of aging. Women were divided into four age groups. Nearly all women admitted to sometimes engaging in old talk. Surprisingly, nearly half the women in the youngest group (aged 18 to 29) occasionally fell into that category. As expected, old talk was more common in the two oldest groups, women aged forty-six or older.

What about you? Do you freak out over one gray hair or crow’s feet growing around your eyes? If you dwell on bodily appearance and perceive yourself as becoming old, it can affect mental and physical health. Body dissatisfaction correlates with eating disorders, depression, decreased quality of life, and more negative feelings than pleasant ones.

We are an age-conscious culture, especially women. Society may consider older men as distinguished or handsome, but not so with women. A civilized society may base old talk on a false identity of looking like a younger generation. Most U. S. magazines choose models between ages eighteen and thirty. As we naturally become older—through the process of aging—we physically move away from that ideal of flawless skin, glossy hair, and trim figures perpetuated by media. Yet many women tend to hold on to that image. This may help account for the five percent growth in cosmetic surgery from 2011 to 2012. Anti-aging procedures led the way in that increase.

We can’t change the number of years we have lived. Chronological age continues. But we can change the way we think. Positive attitudes can help us remain younger both physically and mentally.

While this study had nothing to do with nutrition, what we eat does influence the aging process. Eating well helps to maintain quality of life into later years. Proper nutrition causes us to feel and look better. But it probably isn’t going to do much for those gray hairs.

Reference:  http://www.jeatdisord.com/content/1/1/6

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If women live long enough, all will experience menopause. Will what they eat affect their quality of life during this phase of the life cycle?

Each day about 6,000 women reach menopause. Some 80 percent will experience night sweats and vasomotor symptoms—better known as hot flashes. Up to half of those will have moderate to severe discomfort.

Women with larger body sizes, whether because of a higher body mass index or greater amounts of fatty tissue, tend to have more frequent or greater severity of symptoms. Likewise, as women gain weight or increase fat cells, they boost their chances of more problems.

A study reported in the journal Menopause supports evidence that weight loss can lessen symptoms. Nearly one-fourth of women who lost at least 10 pounds experienced fewer menopausal difficulties. The greatest relief occurred, however, in more than 50 percent of the participants who lost 10 percent or more of their body weight.

Some studies have indicated that a high-fiber, low-fat diet may reduce symptoms. In the Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial, the women most likely to become symptom-free after one year were those who daily consumed a low-fat diet (20 percent or less of calories from fat) with five or more high-fiber servings of fruits and vegetables and six servings of whole grains. They also lost more weight than the control group.

Questions remain as to whether the high-fiber, low-fat diet lessened symptoms or if improvement resulted from losing weight. Regardless, weight-loss made a difference in the quality of life. The results from these studies seem like a win-win situation for women plagued with unpleasant side-effects of menopause.

What have you got to lose—except weight and hot flashes.

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English: Cacao (Theobroma cacao) Español: Plan...

English: Cacao (Theobroma cacao) Español: Planta de Cacao (Theobroma cacao) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s exciting news for chocolate lovers. New studies have found more health benefits from chocolate.

This decadent food comes from cacao (or cocoa) beans. Actually, they aren’t beans but seeds from the theobroma cacao tree. The name Theobroma originated from the Greek “food of the gods”—theos meaning “god” and broma meaning “food.” Few would disagree that tasty chocolate morsels fit that definition. Unlike many fruits and seeds, cacao grows along the tree trunk. Once harvested, seeds are fermented, dried, roasted, and milled to produce chocolate liquor.

Health benefits of chocolate come from flavanols, one of several well-known antioxidants. Chocolate, like other foods with high flavanol levels, seems to lessen risks of cardiovascular (heart) disease. Likewise, it lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases HDL (good) cholesterol. Chocolate influences other health conditions which may or may not relate to heart disease.

  • Cognitive function: By the age of seventy, 6% of older adults have developed mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Those with MCI who are otherwise in good health may benefit from chocolate. Three groups of elderly participants consumed drinks with 990 milligrams (mg), 520 mg, and 45 mg of cocoa flavanols daily for eight weeks. The two groups who consumed drinks with more antioxidants seemed to think faster, respond more rapidly to questions, and demonstrate better verbal fluency. Additionally, they showed improvement in insulin resistance and blood pressure.  Results could be directly from flavanols in cocoa or as a secondary effect related to better cardiovascular function.
  • Blood Pressure: Healthy people who used approximately 100 grams daily of chocolate or cocoa experienced a drop in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Flavanol promoted vasodilation and thus reduced blood pressure.
  • Stroke: In a ten-year study, men who ate high levels of chocolate had a lower risk of stroke. Typically, the subjects ate the equivalent of one-third cup of chocolate chips each week. Those who ate chocolate had a 17% lower risk of stroke than those who avoided it.

Is chocolate a panacea? Chocolate can be part of a healthy diet for those of appropriate weight. For the overweight and obese, increased amounts of chocolate may aggravate weight problems since foods with chocolate tend to be higher in fat, sugar, and calories. Other foods with high flavanol content may be better choices for the weight conscious, but who wants to choose broccoli over chocolate? Indulge your taste buds occasionally with chocolate but stay mindful of the calories.

Additional information on these studies can be found at:

http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/020612p24.shtml

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/769223

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/08/14/elderly-brains-get-boost-from-dark-chocolate/

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How long do you want to live? We seem to have a built-in urge to live longer. Normal healthy people don’t want the grim reaper at their doorstep.

Deaths occur from numerous causes. Several things may cut the lifespan, but science is closing in on many factors that seem to increase longevity. Some lifestyle patterns, like smoking, may shorten life while others such as exercise seem to add more years. Unscrupulous wonder-potions with claims to extend existence surface then disappear. Do specific foods or nutrients impact survival?

Insufficient amounts of vitamin D may cause or worsen several health conditions—osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, some cancers, auto immune diseases, infectious diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. These infirmities decrease quality of life, and some shorten the lifespan. Sufficient quantities of vitamin D may help prevent various health problems, especially certain types of cancers and diabetes.

Researchers studied the role of vitamin D in more than 10,000 people with an average age of fifty-eight. Based on blood levels below thirty nanograms per milliliter, they classified seventy percent as vitamin D deficient. Those with deficiencies were more prone to high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, and increased mortality. Survival rates improved when they treated the vitamin D-deficient with supplements.

How much vitamin D do older adults need? Like other nutrients, it’s best to get vitamins from food sources. Unlike other nutrients, the sun is an excellent source of vitamin D. In the elderly, loss of the skin’s ability to generate vitamin D from sunshine aggravated by immobility or limited exposure to outside physical activities causes even greater risks for deficiency. The most plentiful natural food supply is fatty fish. Mushrooms, eggs, cheese, and liver contain limited amounts. The food industry supplements many products— namely milk, yogurt, cereal, and orange juice—with vitamin D to close the nutrient gap in diets.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D after age seventy is 800 International Units (IU) per day. The Institute of Medicine set a level of 4,000 IU as the upper limit for supplementation. Although other health professionals increase that limit to 10,000 IU, the lower level reduces the potential for harm from an overdose.

While studies show definite health improvements in those treated for deficiencies, too much vitamin D has a downside. We cannot assume that if a little is good, more is better. Doses of vitamin D above the upper recommended levels can cause health issues, especially for those with kidney problems. However, the potential consequences from deficiency outweigh the less life-threatening conditions of overdose.

Will vitamin D delay aging and cause you to live longer?  Maybe. Evidence seems clear that vitamin D plays a role in longevity. If you fail to consume vitamin D rich foods, either natural or fortified, supplements may make a difference. You don’t have to wait until old age to start. After all, if you delay consuming adequate amounts, you may not get there.

 “Healthy Eating & Diet,” http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/are-you-getting-enough-vitamin-d

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