"Once You're Through Learning, You're Through"
-John Wooden, retired UCLA basketball coach, age 99-
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OK, guys, bear with me. I'm going to do something I rarely do--be brief.
I'm long on information and short on time.
If I don't blog now about some of the thought-provoking new articles I've read this week--and some recommendations from readers--they'll get pushed aside by the next new studies or articles to cross my path.
So here's what I've been reading this week:
It's Time to Ditch the Sugar Once and For All! Sugar is Shown to Increase Triglycerides, Lower HDLs, and Increase the Risk of Metabolic Syndrome, Cardiovascular Disease, and Stroke.
We already know that excess sugar can pack on the pounds, put you at risk for type-2 diabetes, and cause blood sugar spikes that damage the brain--no I'm not making that last one up--click here for "that story".
The JAMA article is based on the latest analysis of data from the 1999-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)--and it backs up recent findings from the Framingham Heart Study.
Bottom Line: Increased sugar consumption promotes elevated triglycerides and lower HDLs--which are strong markers for metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. And if you want to know exactly why high triglycerides are so nasty read my earlier post: "Why You Might Want to Keep Your Triglycerides Under 80. Following the New AHA "Ditch the Sugar" Guidelines Will Help!"
And there's more bad news when it comes to high triglycerides--it increases the risk for strokes. "Bad News: High Triglycerides Are Linked to Stroke Risk. Good News: You Can Do Something About It!"
Being Fat Is Bad for the Brain--New York Times' writer & evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson has compiled the latest research on why belly fat is bad for the brain. Click here for her article, Brain Damage in the April 21, 2010 New York Times.
- Belly fat at age 40 puts one at a higher risk for dementia in one's 70's--California study.
- Folks who were overweight in their 40's had a more rapid decline in their brain function as they aged--compared to their thinner counterparts. Swedish study.
- A study of middle-age people (44-66 years old) found "that the obese tended to have smaller, more atrophied brains than thinner people."
Judson's well done piece continues with more studies, complete with journal citations, and she speculates as to the reasons why overweight people are at a greater risk for dementia--and more importantly--is it possible to turn the process around? Seems fairly obvious to me--inflammation, elevated cholesterol, hypertension, type-2 diabetes all affect the blood vessels of the brain--as well as the heart.
Is Marriage Good For Your Health? That All Depends. But It Pays To Be Nice To Your Spouse!
Tara Parker-Pope's article, Is Marriage Good For Your Health, published in the April 18, 2010 New York Times Sunday Magazine is fascinating. Click here for the article.
It's a worthy read, based on 30 years of stress/immune function research conducted by the Ohio State University duo, viral immunologist Dr. Ronald Glaser, and his wife, psychiatrist Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser-- as well as researchers from the University of Chicago, the University of Utah, and the University of Virginia.
- Your marriage affects your immune system--for good or for ill.
- A good marriage brings health & well-being--with less chance of having pneumonia, surgery, cancer, and heart attacks.
- A troubled marriage, or a nasty divorce will adversely affect your immune system.
- If you're single and never married--you're apt to be healthier than those who have divorced.
- Any health advantage from marriage comes from the quality of the relationship--not the institution of marriage.
Here are some gems:
1. The Glasers conducted a fascinating experiment on married couples to measure how quickly their skin healed when their arms were subjected to eight tiny blisters--using a dermatologic blistering device. After the procedure the couples were asked to talk for 30 minutes. At one session they were asked to talk about subjects that evoked conflict and tension. At another session they discussed topics that evoked pleasant, loving, supportive feelings. The results were remarkable. When couples argued it took a full day longer for the blisters to heal, than when they discussed something pleasant. The couples who exhibited the highest hostility when they argued, took two full days longer to heal their blisters, than those who had less animosity.
2. "Kiecolt-Glaser told [Parker-Pope] that the overall health lesson to take away from the new wave of marriage-and-health literature is that couples should first work to repair a troubled relationship and learn to fight without hostility and derision. But if staying married means living amid constant acrimony, from the point of view of your health, 'you're better off out of it."
3. From Timothy W. Smith's research on couples who have been happily married for around 36 years: Smith found the quality of one's marriage even affected coronary calcium scores. "The solution isn't to stop fighting. It's to fight more thoughtfully. Difficulties in marriage seem to be nearly universal. Just try not to let the fights be any nastier than they need to be. Saying, "Honey, you're driving me crazy!", a pat on the back or a squeeze of the hand, all signal affection in the midst of anger. "Most of the literature assumes that it's how bad the arguments get that drives the [negative health] effect, but it's actually the lack of affection that does it."
Advice from the Glasers based on 30 years of studying the effects of stress on health & marriage:
- Take time off together and make sure disagreements don't degenerate into personal attacks.
- Don't fight dirty. Never go far enough down the road where you hurt each other. Know enough to avoid those kind of arguments.
- Some level of stress is inevitable--even in the happiest of marriages. So use those moments of stress as an opportunity to repair the relationship--rather than damage it.
- An on-going disagreement is so uncomfortable. "It's a pit-in-your-stomach kind of thing. But when your marital relationship is the key relationship in your life, a disagreement is really a signal to try to fix something."
Advice from Six Top Minnesota Physicians Who Practice Integrative Medicine.
A big "Thank You" to the Minnesota reader who sent me this Minnesota Monthly article, Heal Thyself, by Sarah Moran, that appears in the magazine's May 2010 issue. Click here to read the sage advice of these six physicians.
"People are clamoring for--doctors who uncover the root cause of illness instead of just treating or masking the symptoms--physicians who take body, mind, and spirit into account and look carefully at the influence of lifestyle habits like diet, activity, and rest."
Dr. Thomas Sult on Digestive Health:
- For digestive health eat whole foods. Unprocessed fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean protein, and whole grains result in more probiotics, the "good" bacteria in your gut that detoxifies, improves immune function, and aids digestion.
- Choose foods with soluble fiber, like shallots, bok choy, chicory, garlic, and onions. They encourage growth of good bacteria.
- Eat fermented foods regularly. Make or find live fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, and miso, which breed probiotics.
Dr. Carolyn Torkelson on Breast Cancer Prevention:
- Maintain a healthy weight. There's a connection between obesity and breast cancer. Estrogen production in fatty tissue may be to blame.
- Reduce omega-6 fatty acids, found in fast food, and polyunsaturated vegetable oils, and increase omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish. Consider daily supplements of 1-2 grams of fish oil.
- Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D level. There may be a relationship between low levels and breast-cancer risk.
- Drink green tea. Its antioxidant properties may decrease risk.
Dr. Henry Emmons on Dealing With Depression and Anxiety:
- Exercise. Mild aerobic exercise quells anxiety. Vigorous aerobic exercise reduces sluggishness.
- Take a daily B vitamin complex, 2,000 mg of an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement, and 2,000-4,000 IUs of vitamin D
- Calm your mind with meditation, breathing, and yoga practice.
- Develop close, meaningful relationships.
- Eat healthy foods. Learn your Ayurvedic type to further tailor your diet.
Check out the entire article--it's a quick worthwhile read!Hormone Replacement and the Post-Menopausal Brain. Why Timing Is Everything! Here's Hoping.
Don't miss Cynthia Gorney's balanced ground-breaking article, The Estrogen Dilemma, that appeared in the Sunday April 18, 2010 New York Times Magazine. Click here for the article.
Millions of women either stopped taking hormones--or decided not to start them after the Women's Health Initiative was abruptly ended in 2002. Too bad it was studying the wrong kind of hormone replacement--estrogen from the urine of pregnant mares--and a synthetic progestin--Wyeth's Premarin and Prempro.
Gorney does an excellent job of explaining why the W.H.I. didn't end up telling us what we really need to know about the benefits of hormone replacement--or how estrogen can benefit the post-menopausal brain when hormone replacement is started at the right time--within a small window of time--when a women is in her fifties. But timing seems to be everything. And the hormone replacement needs to be the bio-identical kind--estradiol and natural progesterone.
"That’s why University of Southern California brain scientist Roberta Diaz Brinton says that the timing hypothesis — the proposition that estrogen could bring great benefit to a woman who starts it in her 50s while having the reverse effect on a woman 10 years older — makes sense even though it is still experimental.
She and other scientists know there are ways estrogen improves and protects the brain when it is added to healthy tissue. It makes new cells grow. It increases what’s called “plasticity,” the brain’s ability to change and respond to stimulation. It builds up the density and number of dendritic spines, the barbs that stick out along the long tails of brain cells, like thorns on a blackberry stem, and hook up with other neurons to transmit information back and forth. (The thinning of those spines is a classic sign of Alzheimer’s.)
But when estrogen hits cells that are already sick — because they’re dying off as part of the natural aging process or because they’ve been damaged by beta amyloid — something else seems to happen. Dropped in as a new agent, like the wrong kind of chemical solvent sloshed onto rusting metal, estrogen doesn’t strengthen or repair. It appears useless.
Sometimes it sets off discernible harm. You may recall additional W.H.I. news a few years ago about hormones increasing the risk for aging-related dementia; those stories emerged from a subgroup of W.H.I. participants who were all at least 65 when they started the hormones. There are arguments about that data, like nearly everything else connected to the W.H.I., but the age factor alone reinforces what Brinton and other timing-hypothesis researchers observe in the labs when they give estrogen to ailing cells.
“It’s like the estrogen is egging on the negative now, rather than the positive,” she said.
“We know that if you give neurons estrogen, and then expose them to beta amyloid, many more will survive. But when we expose them to amyloid and then give them estrogen — now you don’t have survival of the neurons. In some instances, you can actually exacerbate their death.”
And since once again it will be years before we get to the bottom of the estrogen dilemma--and find out if the combination of right timing and taking natural hormones at ever-decreasing doses as one ages--is a wise decision--Gorney leaves us with this to consider:
"Every midlife woman I know keeps redrawing for herself the defensible lines of intervention in the “natural” sequence of human aging.
Obsessive multiple plastic surgeries are silly and desperate. Muscles kept in good working order are not.
Where on that spectrum is a hormones-saturated pharmaceutical patch? What if the timing hypothesis is even partly right?
Suppose all we learn about replacement estrogen, in the end, is that if it’s started early enough it might protect the heart and the brain, and that its chemistry makes some of us feel more the way we did at 40 than the way our mothers did at 65? Not an elixir of youth. More like . . . reading glasses."
Certainly something to think about!
To read more about the estrogen debate check out: "Is It Time to Reconsider Hormone Replacement Therapy? Winnifred Cutler's "Hormones and Your Health: The Smart Woman's Guide to Hormonal and Alternative Therapies for Menopause"
There are even more excellent reads in the April 18, 2010 New York Times Magazine "The Science of Living a Healthy Life"
Consider taking a look at:Weighing the Evidence of Exercise--Does working out really help your lose weight--or keep it off?
Oops! I did it again. Thought I'd knock this off in one hour. Not even close. Sorry!