Between bird flu, Rhode Island school closures, conjoined children, the new WHO director, an ethical debate about a disabled daughter, and the ruckus over human-animal DNA splicing, it’s been quite a controversial and bizarre week in the world of science and health.
Frankly, I’ll leave these stories to Google and all the pundits chomping at the 5 o’clock Friday bit. If you’re looking for a little bit of a breather from all this, the Bees have gone hunting for the latest study findings in the field of health, and here’s the best of the catch:
1 – My favorite kind of study: one that’s randomized, placebo-controlled, and long-term (in this case, nearly 7 years!). The findings reveal that supplementing with zinc helps fight aging and age-related diseases, macular degeneration, and oxidation. It’s one of the better-designed studies I’ve seen on zinc. Although, quick note – long-term supplementation with zinc needs to be kept at a fairly low dosage and quality source such as found here. Here is the American Journal of Ophthalmology Clickativity for those who want the nitty-gritty.
2 – A researcher named Bruce. Now here’s a guy I like. He writes a terrific essay on the need for particular nutrients to mitigate certain effects of aging, cancer risk, and cellular function, and is upfront about his conflict of interest (he’s part of a scientific advisory board involved in the licensing of a supplement that supports mitochondria). Nevertheless, he doesn’t profit, his findings are spot-on, and I appreciate the academic honesty. That’s more than can be said for a lot of conflicts of interest in the medical industry that get hushed.
We’ll be getting into ATP, stress, oxidation and mitochondria in the future to help you understand why our bodies age and weaken the way they do, and what can be done about it (first tip: take a potent multivitamin with antioxidants, and lay off the sugar). But Bruce’s summary is worth perusing for a quick minute. The more you can do to stop oxidation at the cellular level, the better your health will be in myriad ways: wrinkling and aging, energy, immunity, cognition, disease prevention, liver function, nervous system function, cardiovascular health, and so on. There is a common component to many diseases, illnesses and dysfunctions of the body – it’s cell damage.
3 – Exercise improves life in your golden years. A study from the Journal of Gerontology highlights the critical need for folks over 60 to continue building their strength through exercise. Aging is essentially a process of tissue wasting away – hair, organs, vital fats, muscle and bone tissue, and even brain tissue. Exercise, particularly strength training, offsets this process to the extent that is possible. Living long is great – but I’m interested in living well, too. I’m sure you are as well. Exercise later in life is also critical for maintaining confidence, emotional happiness, and a sense of security – all important things for everybody but especially seniors. Medline Plus, a public service resource, summarizes the study nicely and offers some fitness tips. It also stresses the importance of a structured workout regimen: we humans do thrive on just a little bit of routine.
Getting annual check-ups and exams is a great way to stay aware of your physical well-being. Some things only doctors can tell you, but there are a number of numerical figures that you can determine on your own to help establish the state of your physical condition.
Discovery Health has put together a number of tools and calculators that allow you to get personalized information about everything from your BMI (Body Mass Index) to what you should target your heart rate to be during exercise in order to “maximize the health benefits of cardiovascular activity.”
Find out how many calories a specific activity burns, or how many calories you burn just laying in bed (basal metabolic rate). Be amazed at how many breaths you have taken or how many beats your heart has made in your lifetime.
Just like the Longevity Game we brought you last week, these simple tools don’t dig deep into serious health issues and concerns, but can wake us up to minor health problems and give us a new perspective. So try it out! Discover how you measure up with Discovery Health Tools.
Oh, the holidays. Before you say “bah, humbug!”, rest assured we’re going to help you stay healthy.
Everyone knows the holidays are a spare tire waiting to happen. Alcohol, rich desserts and indulgent carbs are practically throwing themselves at you, begging to be eaten and taking it personally if you don’t. You know what we’re talking about – food is emotional, and powerfully so. It’s that bizarre twinge of guilt for attempting to say no to foods which, come holiday season, seem to take on actual feelings. It’s almost like you’re insulting the food if you don’t eat it. There’s a reason for this. Rich foods, particularly sugary desserts, have long been combined with emotional events. In the Middle Ages, these items were called subtleties, and they still exist today: in the form of Easter chicks, Easter bunnies, Valentine’s hearts, advent calendars, Christmas cookies, and so on.
That’s really great, you say. But it still doesn’t help me say no to unhealthy foods or avoid gaining ten pounds before the New Year knocks at my door.
Hey, we hear ya. So, here’s a quick-and-easy realistic guide to getting through the holidays, enjoying them, and maintaining your sanity.
Part 1: It Ain’t Just the Sugar
A lot of holiday health guides point to the obvious no-no: sugar. Of course you want to stay away from sugar, but that’s probably not realistic, no matter how disciplined you are. We suggest you instead focus on limiting portions. A lot of times, we simply expect too much from ourselves. “No sugar, period. I will be healthy and eat only bean casserole, being careful to remove the crispy fried onions.” This works fine for about five minutes, until peer pressure, Aunt Louise and mulled wine conspire to destroy your best-laid plans. Before you know it, you’ve eaten three cookies, two slices of pie and eighty-three truffles. You feel guilty, bloated and sick, you give yourself a pep talk, and at the next party…you do it all over again.
Step 1: No ridiculous standards. Do not set a goal for yourself that you know you probably won’t reach (from past experience or awareness of your weak points). This just makes you feel bad, and no one is putting that pressure on you, so be nice to yourself. Who needs the added stress? Find a middle ground. If you normally end up indulging through the holidays, try giving yourself a “one freebie” rule: one treat at every party or event.
Step 2: Portion control. The amount of indulgence is more important than anything else. If you love carrot cake, eat a big bite or two, and stop. It won’t taste any better if you eat the entire thing, and you’ll have accomplished two great things: some enjoyment and some discipline. One bite of sugary cake isn’t great, but it’s not going to be cause for regret. You can try out a few of your favorite treats this way without doing any serious damage to your health or waistline – but limit yourself to just a few things at each party or event.
Step 3: Stress! Do you ever wonder why people get sick during the holiday season? It’s not just because we’re indoors and sharing the same old air. It’s not just because of all the sugar in everything. It’s also because of the stress. The holidays are the most depressing, dangerous, stressful time of year. That’s a fact with no sugar coating. Yet it’s supposed to be the happiest time of year. And therein lies the problem: pressure. Combine lack of activity from being indoors with excess amounts of sugary foods with the pressure of gift-giving, travel and entertaining, and it’s no wonder people have a hard time when Santa comes to town. Give yourself a break. The best thing you can do – possibly even better than obsessing or feeling guilty about food – is to get as much exercise, rest, and “me time” as possible. Part 2 of our Holiday Survival Guide will tell you just how to do that.
My Inaugural Sherlock Award goes to Health Day News, as posted by the Poughkeepsie Journal. The Sherlock Award is given to the latest MOTO – Master of the Obvious. It’s for “breaking” health and fitness news that isn’t breaking anything except my patience. To be clear, the Sherlock Award isn’t about making fun of that news – the news is accurate. Rather, it’s about my puzzlement over reporting on things I thought were already part of the general knowledge bowl we call “Common Sense.”
This article reports that exercise can help treat depression, anxiety, insomnia, stress, Alzheimer’s, and a host of other mood imbalances, mental disorders and health problems.
It’s human nature to compare life now to life “in the good old days.” And in the good old days, it seems nobody had a shrink or took Prozac. This doesn’t mean people weren’t depressed or stressed out “back then”; nevertheless, if you believe the statistics (always a dicey proposition), a significant number of Americans have something really unpleasant going on upstairs, whether it’s trouble sleeping, dealing with stress, or feeling good about life.
Isn’t it obvious? Most of us sit in front of a computer all day. We go home and sit in front a television. It doesn’t take a genius to surmise that moving around might be something humans were meant to do. In fact, scientists know that exercise – even mild movement like walking or doing chores – releases dopamine, serotonin and all kinds of other wonderful enzymes, compounds and hormones into our bodies. Our brains are natural little medicine factories; many of the drugs created to treat issues like stress and depression or insomnia and anxiety mimic the very compounds our bodies are capable of making – when we move.
Read the article, savor their glorious triumph, and treat your body right today.
Have you ever dreamed of having a personal trainer at your side to offer guidance, advice and words of encouragement when the going gets tough? (Wouldn’t that be nice!) Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone at your beck and call to give you direction, and assist you through your rigorous workouts? Now you can have all this without it breaking the bank. PumpOne is an innovative approach to providing exercise and workout routines to people on the go. All you need is a compatible iPod, Blackberry, Zune, or any other similar such hand-held device that allows you to store and view color images (jpegs). Their site provides dozens of downloadable workout routines in the categories of strength, weight-loss, endurance, flexibility and heart-health so that you can target your fitness goals. Each routine costs between $19 and $29 and has numerous exercises. With the varying types of workouts and levels 1, 2 and 3 difficulties there is bound to be a routine that fits your needs. Still, don’t be discouraged if you don’t see exactly what you are looking for right away as an expanded inventory is coming this fall when ‘sports specific training for golf, skiing, triathlon training, tennis, wakeboarding, and outdoor pre/post natal and senior workouts’ will be released.
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