Tag Archives: Prevention

Overwhelmed?

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I am overwhelmed.  Who hasn’t said that?  But what does it really mean?  The definition is “to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything.”  That is certainly true when it comes to all of the health and wellness advice that we hear.

I truly believe that everyone wants to feel good and to be healthy.  There are so many reasons that we have trouble striving for, and reaching, improved health.  These reasons can be emotional, physical, political, and many others.  Add in the vastness of information at our disposal, much of which is confusing and contradictory.  How are we supposed to navigate all of this, and who has the time to do it anyway?

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Sometimes we have to make the time if we are faced with serious illness in our lives.  We need to be able to find reliable and valid information.  Please, please, please remember that what we read is not always true just because it comes from an excellent public speaker and/or a doctor.  Solid starting points are:  WebMDHealthfinder.gov, US Department of Health and Human Services.  Take advantage of their search functions.  Also, Wikipedia is always a great place to start a search, but keep in mind that the information can be posted by anyone at any time and always needs to be verified.

prioritize

So what is the most important aspects of health and wellness to concerns ourselves about?  Exercise?  Diet?  Stress control?  Should we worry about butter vs. margarine?  Alkaline vs. acidic?  Carbs vs. fat?  Organic vs. conventional?  The concerns seem endless.  And for each concern there are multiple and conflicting opinions as to what we should be doing.  Then, just when we think we have it figured out, the experts discover something new and everything we know as true is turned upside down.  Frustrating?  Yes.  Yes it is.  But it is also the nature of the proverbial beast.  As our technology and understanding evolve and increase, so do our core beliefs on what is healthy.

Certainly when our lives are effected by a specific illness we tend to concentrate on that one as the most important.  If we are predisposed to a disease, that should be of greater importance to us to learn about.  Knowledge is power… as long as we are willing to implement that knowledge.  Just how much time and energy do we need to spend researching all aspects of health and wellness in order to improve our health and quality of life?

Good_News

The good news is that for most of us, simply being mindful goes a long way toward improving our health and wellness.  Start with the basics, my personal mantra:  balance, moderation, and variety.  They all are all different, yet each ties in with the others:

download     Balance:
Work and play, good food and junk food, spending and saving, exercising and relaxing… It doesn’t matter what it is.  Too much of one and not enough of the other infringes on our health and happiness.  When we balance all aspects of our existence we can enjoy a healthier, happier life.

images (2)     Moderation:
Anything taken to the extreme can be harmful.  As I’ve mentioned before, that includes drinking too much water.  Not only do we want to balance relaxation with exercise, we also want to exercise in a safe manner and not push harder than our bodies can safely handle.  If we are not active, we need to work up to strenuous activities.  “Weekend athletes” suffer injuries due to their lack of conditioning.  If we “work hard and play hard” we are balanced, but if we are pushing ourselves too hard in each of them, we will suffer from the lack of moderation in both.

Variety of fresh vegetables at market. Siem Reap     Variety:
We all know how important it is to have variety in our diet.  Different colored fruits and vegetables each provide distinct health properties.  We need a variety of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in order to survive and thrive.  Most of us eat wheat (white or processed whole wheat) at every meal and for snacks in between.  Many of our bodies are rejecting the wheat we are consuming at every meal (and it’s not the same wheat our grandparents ate.)  We are complex organisms.  When we consume a large variety of healthy foods we don’t have to concerns ourselves with the specifics of eating the right combination of nutrients.  When we vary our exercise routines we are working different muscle groups and different systems.  By varying our mental activities, we work different parts of our brains.

When we are mindful and aware of what we are doing to and with our bodies, we can do so with balance, moderation, and variety which will increase our health and wellness.  Will you start with being mindful and perhaps throw a little more balance, moderation, and variety in?  I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the outcome!

My poor self-sacrificing telomeres!

Fountain of youth?!  How easy is it to attain?

Fountain of youth?! How easy is it to attain?

Could our telomeres be the key to the fountain of youth?  (If you are not interested in the science, skip the next two paragraphs.  You won’t feel like you missed much.)

The blueprint for everything “us” is in our DNA.  Our DNA is neatly packaged in chromosomes during cell division.  “In human bodies, cells divide nearly two trillion times every day.”  (ASU)  Each time a cell divides, the DNA is replicated, and the end of each chromosome is slightly shortened.  Telomeres protect the DNA by covering the ends of the chromosomes (like an aglet protects a shoelace.)  Each time they replicate, it is the telomere that is shortened, protecting the DNA.  Imagine that you are an architect and you have a blueprint that needs to be duplicated many times for all of your contractors.  But every time you make a copy, part of the original is removed.  The end result would not be a very healthy building.  It would be disastrous.  (UCSF)

And so it is with our chromosomes.  Rather than allowing the ends of the DNA to fray with each replication, the telomeres protect the tips and are whittled away with each copy made.  “The ends of our chromosomes are made up of cells with a DNA sequence that protects the threads of DNA from unraveling, a natural fraying effect that is part of cell division.”  (How Stuff Works)  Thank you, telomeres!  Your selfless acts of self-sacrifice allow me to keep replicating my cells in a healthy way!  But once they are gone, the cell can no longer divide.

What can we do to preserve our telomeres to protect our DNA?  “One study so far has observed an increase in telomerase activity (which protects and lengthens telomeres) by persons enrolled in a health program including eating a healthy diet, getting daily exercise, and using stress reduction techniques such as yoga and/or meditation.”  (Telomere FAQs)

Bottom line:  Why does it matter?  It matters because it appears that we can actually lengthen our telomeres by implementing a healthy lifestyle, which in turn allows our cells to continue replicating longer keeping us younger and healthier!  What is the latest superfood of the day?  What fad diet it spreading like wildfire?  What is the most recent exercise craze?  The beautify of is that It doesn’t matter!  What does matter is that we adopt healthier lifestyles.  Exercise more.  Eat healthier foods.  Eat less of the unhealthy foods.  When you increase your telomeres, you quite possibly increase your life!

Remember:  Balance.  Moderation.  Variety.

What’s the deal with Type 2 Diabetes, anyway?

obesity-diabetes Map

How many of us truly want to be overweight, obese, or suffering from diabetes or the myriad of other lifestyle diseases?  I haven’t done the research, but my best guess is few to none.

Diabetes is something we all know about, right?  We always hear about it.  Too much sugar causes problems with insulin (however that works) and often leads to overweight/obesity, they say.  Do we really know what diabetes is and what it does to us?  “Diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.”  (ADA)

For the moment, let’s put aside the diminishing quality of life, hardships, and complications that come with this disease.  Even without those tremendous factors, it is a huge financial burden both personally and nationally:

People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year, of which about $7,900 is attributed to diabetes.  AND The total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2012 is $245 billion, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in reduced productivity.(ADA)

By 2050, if our current course as a nation continues, one in three American adults will have diabetes. The cost to this country — in lives, lost productivity and hard dollars — will be an enormous personal and societal burden that could overwhelm our healthcare system and bankrupt our nation.  (ADA)

I was not aware at the breadth and depth of complications associated with diabetes type 2.  Also found on the ADA website is a list of complications.  Some of these include:  Glaucoma, cataracts, blindness, many skin conditions (including bacterial and fungal infections), nerve damage which can be painful or dangerous if it results in lack of feeling, foot disfigurement, foot and leg amputations, high blood pressure, mental health issues leading to depression, hearing loss, gum disease, kidney disease, stroke, and others.

Here’s the kicker:  For most of us:  IT’S ALL PREVENTABLE!

Research as found that it’s not just the sugar:  “Being overweight does increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and a diet high in calories from any source contributes to weight gain. Research has shown that drinking sugary drinks is linked to type 2 diabetes.”  (ADA)

If you have type 2 diabetes your body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, your pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels.  (ADA)

So, why is it so hard for us to eat right and exercise to simply prevent this, and many other lifestyle diseases?  Consuming a healthy diet and getting our daily exercise can be so elusive it is frustrating to us all.  The answer to this question is more complicated than most of us can imagine.

The importance is to start.  Start where?!  That depends on knowing ourselves and what works for us and what is important to us.  It starts with awareness.  Why do we eat what we do, when we do?  Can we make small changes for ourselves and our families toward greater health?  It isn’t always easy, but the answer is a resounding YES!

It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s a Super-Bug!

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Photo Credit:  National Geographic 

Okay, so they’re not in the sky, and they certainly aren’t super!  Antibiotic-resistant bugs are more like super-villains than superheros.  The only difference is that they are a real threat.  Where do they come from and what can we do?

When used properly, antibiotics are an important component for health and disease prevention.  “Antibiotics are effective against bacterial infections, certain fungal infections and some kinds of parasites. Antibiotics don’t work against viruses.”  (MayoClinic)  It is extremely important to take antibiotics as directed and only when prescribed to us to treat an existing condition – but not a virus!  Our bodies are great at adapting.  Bacteria are too.  Resistance:  “The ability not to be affected by something.”  Addiction is an example.  When our bodies get used to a drug they begin to fight it.  We then need more of that drug (or a stronger one) to get the same drug-effect, which is why addicts so often end up overdosing.  The same is true of tiny bacteria like the harmless Staphylococcus aureus that has become resistant to methicillin and is now the dangerous methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA (pronounced mur-sah.)  When an antibiotic is introduced to a bacteria, the bacteria is simultaneously being killed off and learning to outsmart the drug.  This is why it is imperative that we follow the doctors orders and take only the antibiotic prescribed for our particular condition, and that we FINISH the prescription as ordered.  “Every time antibiotics are used in any setting, bacteria evolve by developing resistance,” said Steve Solomon, MD, director of the CDC’s office of antimicrobial resistance.   They can also share this information with other bacteria!  (CDC)  

Also important to remember:  When we take an antibiotic we are unable to direct it to only the harmful bacteria that is troubling us.  It effects the beneficial bacteria in our bodies as well.  We are more bacteria than human on the best of days!  I love Bonnie Bassler’s TED Talk, a quite interesting and entertaining video that I may have posted before, on bacteria in our bodies.  

The meat and poultry industry is increasing the rate of antibiotic-resistant super-bugs the same way that we are, and that in turn affects us as well.  From the CDC:  

I hope this has reminded us how important it is to reduce the use of antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.  The healthier we are (in mind, body, and spirit), the more likely our bodies will be able to fight things on our own.  Our bodies were designed to heal themselves.  Unfortunately, we are bombarding them with more toxins and adverse conditions than ever before, and we are giving them less of the resources (proper nutrients, exercise, and rest) they need to fight.  We can change this dynamic.  One lifestyle choice at a time.  

Understanding Cholesterol. As easy as 1-2-3.

Microsoft PowerPoint - Attia Lipoprotein Trafficking.pptx [Read-

Photo credit:  The Eating Academy

Our bodies (our livers, actually) produce cholesterol because we need it to function properly.  Some of cholesterol’s responsibilites:

  1. It aids in tissue and hormone formation
  2. It protects your nerves
  3. It helps with digestion (WebMD)

When tested, our cholesterol results are:.

  1. HDL (high density lipoprotein) – the good or “happy”
  2. LDL (low density lipoprotein) – the bad or “lousy, lazy, or lethal*” one
  3. Triglycerides (extra calories transported to our fat cells via our blood)  (AHA)

What numbers do we want to see?  Generally speaking:
HDL cholesterol at least 40 mg/dL, optimally higher than 60 mg/dL.
LDL cholesterol under 100 mg/dL. (WebMD)
Triglycerides under 150 mg/dL
A ratio between 3.5:1 and 5:1 (Calculated:  Total cholesterol (including triglycerides)/HDL (
Mayo Clinic)

*The “L” words are only to help us remember which is which.  The LDL takes the cholesterol throughout our body.  It is much needed.  If there is too much, though, it can be deposited on the walls of our arteries, and that’s when our health problems begin which is why it was termed “bad.”  HDL, on the other hand, removes the excess cholesterol from our bloodstream and protects our arteries from the excess. This is why the ratio is so important.  Our bodies produce cholesterol from any type of food – carbohydrates, fats, or proteins.  (Harvard)  

It’s not just genetics, though.  What we eat definitely affects our cholesterol numbers.  Many of us have been eating “low-fat” for a long time in an attempt to be healthier.  Unfortunately, carbohydrates (and especially added sugars) are impacting our cardiovascular health tremendously.  A study on sugar and cholesterol:

“In this study, there was a statistically significant correlation between dietary added sugars and blood lipid levels among US adults… our data support dietary guidelines that target a reduction in consumption of added sugar.”  (Jama)  

One of the theories is that because sugar is inflammatory (unfortunately I can attest to this fact), it can damage the artery walls, giving cholesterol in our blood a rough surface to stick to.  (Dr. Aieta and others.)

So, what do we do if our numbers are too high?  First and foremost, we need to consult our doctor.  But if we want to make positive changes for prevention, it is very simple.  The same habits that increase the HDL also decrease the LDL and triglycerides:

The first steps in treatment to lower triglyceride levels include eating a healthy diet, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and aerobic exercise on a regular basis. A diet low not only in fats, but also sugars; simple carbohydrates (the white stuff….potatoes, pasta, bread); and alcohol helps lower triglyceride levels.  (Cleveland Clinic)

Again, it boils down to a healthy lifestyle of balance and moderation of the “bad” things.  Move more, eat less processed and sugar-added food products, drink less alcohol…  As we make some lifestyle changes (baby steps, one thing at a time), we begin to feel better, our quality of life increases, and we don’t have to worry about cholesterol, diabetes, or the myriad of lifestyle diseases that are robbing us of our health and our wealth.  One day at a time, one choice at a time.  What will you do differently today?

A Gift or a Curse?

Blood Cells - Red MH900438809

So much of what I learned in school fascinates me.  The “gift” of sickle cell was just one of those tidbits. Sickle cell a gift?  Not if both of your parents have passed it on to you and it becomes Sickle Cell Anemia.  But when looked at this way, it looks a bit different:

Sickle cell trait occurred as a natural mutation of the hemoglobin gene. Sickle trait serves as a protective mechanism against malaria. Malaria is a deadly disease found in countries along the equator. People with sickle cell trait are protected from malaria while those with sickle cell anemia and normal hemoglobin are susceptible to it. Over the years individuals with sickle trait migrated to other continents.  (“WHAT IS SICKLE CELL?“)

Having this specific genetic mutation (sickle cell) in your family tree may be the reason your ancestors survived malaria.  None of us would be here today without our ancestors!  What possible genetic mutations did your ancestors have that may cause problems for you today?  Perhaps they are the very same mutations that helped them survive and are therefore responsible for your creation…

What about obesity?  It is clear that our diets and lifestyles are a main cause of the obesity ‘epidemic.’  Yet there are some who eat all the ‘wrong’ foods (and plenty of them) and remain thin,* while others in spite of clean and careful diets cannot lose the extra weight.  Could there be a genetic reason?  Could it date back to our ancestors?

…mice lacking a gene regulating energy balance are protected from weight gain, even on a high fat diet. These findings have implications for the worldwide obesity epidemic and its consequences, such as type two diabetes. (Feast, Famine and the Genetics of Obesity: You Can’t Have It Both Ways)

Turning back to the question of the link between our evolutionary history and obesity, there are no clear answers as yet. We do know that humans have evolved in response to the food in their environment. What’s less clear is whether obesity is best seen as a discordance between previous adaptations and our modern environment, as in sickle cell anemia. (Cyrus Martin, Senior Scientific Editor for Current Biology.)

Whatever ‘gifts’ we have been handed down, we must understand that we cannot change the past, only go forward as best we can.  Embrace who we are, and make the smartest choices possible.  Even if we know we have a predisposition to obesity (or the opposite), we are still responsible to ourselves and our children to remember that our health is our greatest wealth.  It is our responsibility to take care of our bodies.  To do our best to feed our bodies the nutrients they require, perhaps to move a little bit more than we did yesterday, and to listen to how our bodies react to what we do to (and for) them. As you may have heard, knowledge is power, but only if it is applied.  😉  *Reminder:  Thin does not necessarily mean healthy.  It is very possible to be the ‘correct’ weight, or underweight, for our height and still be very unhealthy.  Too much of the wrong food products damages a thin body too!

Resources:
http://www.med.umich.edu/sicklecell/edu/booklet.pdf
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101215133310.htm
http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(12)00992-X

It’s summer, and I’m TICKED OFF!

Seriously…  Those little buggers!

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Photo credit:  http://www.love-those-doggies.com/images/tickhand.jpg

“Prevention” is one of the most powerful words in our language.
When it comes to ticks and disease prevention, there are a few things to consider:

1.  Misinformation is extremely dangerous.  Just because you read something does not make it true!  Check your sources.
2.  Preventing the ticks from attaching is the first line of defense.  Tuck pants into socks, wear long sleeves, use a repellent (natural if you can.)
Always check yourself after being outdoors.
Ticks move up and like warm dark places.  (Seriously?!!  Yup.)
3.  Timely removal is important.  An infected tick does not usually transmit the disease for 36-48 hours or more.
4.  PROPER removal is the most important.  See below.
5.  And of course be watchful for symptoms if you have been bitten or live in (or have visited) a tick-populated area.
6.  Early treatment is MUCH more effective as Lyme Disease is progressive.

Transparent tape is a great quick removal tool before they embed.
Just touch the tape to them, fold over to seal them in, and toss.  It’s that easy.

Once they have embedded, DO NOT, under any circumstances use heat (a match), oils/Vaseline, etc. to remove a tick.  This aggravates the organism, and if it is carrying a disease, it will regurgitate into you.  NOT what you want!

What you DO want to do is to pull it straight out (perpendicular to your skin.)  This can be done with tweezers, but I prefer a tick puller tool.  I love “Ticked Off.”  I got it years ago for my dog and it works great on us human creatures too!  There are others.  Find what works for you.  (I have, when no tools were available, used my fingernails as tweezers and just pulled the tick out.  Of course it’s always advised to thoroughly cleanse the area (and hands), and use an antiseptic as soon as possible.)

Ticks can be tested to see if they carry the pathogens (Lyme or others), but I do not see the value in it.  Just because a tick may carry a disease bacterium, it does not mean that you will be infected. On the other side, a tick may have injected all of the bacterium into you and may no longer be carrying it.

For detailed information, please see:  .

http://www.aldf.com/lyme.shtml or http://www.lymediseaseassociation.org/images/NewDirectory/Resources/LDA_Brochures/LymeRPrimer_2010.pdf

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Photo credit:  http://extension.entm.purdue.edu/publichealth/images/downloads/remove-a-tick.jpg