The “magic pill”


If there were a drug that prevented and/or cured most diseases, would you take it?
What if it were free, safe, and readily available?

This miracle drug already exists, but is largely ignored by doctors and patients around the world.

picture of exercise
Is there a miracle drug?

According to Dr. Jordan D. Metzl, that miracle drug is exercise.  In the article “The Exercise Cure” from Slate Magazine, Dr. Metzl shows why exercise really is a miracle drug.  Exercise benefits every system in the body:

  • exercise treats and prevents disease
  • it improves memory and concentration
  • lessens sleep disorders
  • aids heart disease by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure
  • assists with sexual dysfunction
  • deters cancer and its recurrence
  • reduces general inflammation in the body

Exercise has also widely been shown to benefit in these areas:

  • it assists in relieving symptoms of depression; elevates mood
  • exercise improves digestion
  • aids the immune system
  • assists with weight management
  • stabilizes hormones
  • is a natural de-stressor

So, why is exercise not more widely “dispensed” as preventive medicine in health care today?

Money could be one reason.  There are financial incentives for treating disease. Tests, medicines, procedures, they all cost money.  And, they make money.  Yet, there is no financial burden, nor financial incentive, in prescribing exercise to patients.  However, as noted above, exercise is often as beneficial as any prescription written today, sometimes even more so. And, unlike most drugs, there are no side effects with exercise.
This isn’t to say that exercise fixes all ailments, because it clearly doesn’t.

But, if lack of fitness is the public health epidemic of our time, it can be cured.

In 30 minutes, five days per week.

Is it worth it?

 

Related articles:

The Exercise Cure (Slate.com)
Ways to Prevent Cancer (allthingshotpink.wordpress.com)
Exercise: is high intensity better? (allthingshotpink.wordpress.com)

Reasons to run a 5k race


Joe Carey, President of the Houston Area Road Runners Association (HARRA.org), wrote something interesting about 5k races in the June issue of the HARRA newsletter, printed in Texas Runner & Triathlete magazine. His words were “5ks get no respect”.

That’s an interesting quote, and I think for many long distance runners it is probably an accurate statement. And, I realize that while many of you reading this blog may already be runners, some of you aren’t.  But, no matter where you fall in the running spectrum, whether you are new to running, whether you are a long-time runner, or even a seasoned athlete in general, are there reasons why you should run a 5K race?

Some thoughts for distance runners.

Mr. Carey’s article, outlined several great reasons why long distance runners should consider running 5k races (in addition to their longer races).  Here are some of his thoughts:

  1. The post-race food at 5ks are often just as good as at the longer races and the wait-time is less;
  2. You can run a local 5k almost every weekend year round no matter where you live;
  3. You can run several 5ks for the price of one marathon;
  4. You can go faster during the race because it’s a shorter distance than you normally run;
  5. You don’t need to train “a bazillion miles a week” to be prepared for the race;
  6. You already do the distance (you can’t run a marathon without running eight 5ks on the way);
  7. You don’t need a fuel belt for the race;
  8. The whole family can participate;
  9. You can be home for breakfast more frequently on the weekends; and
  10. It’s just plain fun!

For those new to the 5k race idea, here are reasons why you, too, should sign up to run a 5k race.

This past March, some of my relatives signed up for a 5k race for the very first time.  My whole family signed up for the event, which was sponsored by MD Anderson and benefited colorectal research and prevention (the SCOPE 5k run, which is held annually in Houston).  Although my relatives weren’t really new to running, they had never before signed up for or participated in any sort of fun run or race activity.  Needless to say, there were lots of questions ahead of time about what to expect during the race, what people normally wear, etc.  But, after the initial jitters were over, we all ran and/or walked in the race, we supported a good cause, got in some excellent exercise, and generally had a great time.  And, then we all went to brunch to celebrate our accomplishment!

So, if you have not participated in a 5k before, but might be interested in doing  one in the future, here are several reasons why I think you should sign up for one and go for it:

  1. It’s great incentive to get yourself out and running;
  2. It’s a fun activity the whole family can do together;
  3. It’s a neat way to see how many people actually do this kind of thing (and to meet new people);
  4. People involved in the race (whether volunteers, participants, or spectators) are really nice and cheer you on along the way;
  5. The money you spend benefits a good cause;
  6. They give you goodies, like t-shirts and other cool things;
  7. They provide water along the way, and then food and refreshments at the end;
  8. There’s nothing like the feeling of crossing the finish line;
  9. You can invite your friends and make it a party;
  10. You can go out for brunch and a nice frosty beverage afterward.

What’s not to enjoy about that?

Picture of finish line

Molly B. Roman and Kathryn Blackbird (from l-r) crossing the finish line.

Ways to prevent cancer


Regular screenings are the best way to find cancer in its early stages and treat it. It’s well known. But are screenings all we need to do to protect ourselves from the various types and forms of cancer?

Cancer Screening

Are regular screenings all we need to do?

It’s a good question.  Why?  Because experts feel that one-third of cancer can be prevented.

Preventing Cancer

Evidence shows that weight management, proper nutrition and regular exercise are the top three controllable factors that can decrease a person’s risk for cancer. So, for the whole list of controllable factors, read on:

  1. Keep a healthy weight.  One of the most important controllable risk factors.  Extra weight can secrete extra hormones like estrogen, which over-stimulate body tissues, leading to cancer.
  2. Exercise.  30 minutes daily. Physical activity assists with weight management, and lowers cancer risk.  Exercise also improves digestion, boosts immune system, and stabilizes hormone levels. And, it makes you feel better physically and mentally.
  3. Avoid sugar and processed foods. This includes sugary drinks, soda, juice, processed cereals and chips, which increase the risk of obesity and the risk of cancer. Fat and sugars have been shown to slow down the metabolism; they also don’t satisfy the body and promote increased consumption of fats and sugars.
  4. Eat a plant based diet.  2/3 of what you eat should be fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains. They contain valuable vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and other things that protect against cancer.  They also contain fiber, which improves digestion, decreasing cancer risk.
  5. Limit your intake of red meat and processed meats.  Red meat consumption has been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer, as do sausage, ham, bacon, and hot dog consumption.  These items contain carcinogens, which can cause cancer.
  6. Limit alcohol.  While moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce the risk for heart disease, alcohol increases risk of cancer.  For limiting risks of cancer, eliminate alcohol.
  7. Reduce salt.  Too much salt can promote stomach cancer.  It is recommended that salt intake be below 2400 mg. daily.  And, that’s not just table salt; processed foods and canned foods often have high sodium levels.
  8. Eat a balanced diet.  A variety of foods are better than supplements.  Fruits and veggies have so many nutritional benefits that simply cannot be obtained from a supplement.

Related articles

Beets: nutritious, healthy and good for endurance?


Endurance athletes take note.  Beets, and specifically beetroot juice, are the new endurance booster.  All natural and super nutritious, they pack a punch.  Ask Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall, or ultra-marathoner Chris Carver: beetroot juice improves athletic performance.

beets good for health

beets: healthy goodness

Beets and beetroot juice are known for their high nitrate content.  Nitrates are converted in our bodies into nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to relax and widen. This process allows more oxygen-rich blood to flow through the body—and the more that oxygen reaches the muscles, the longer they’re able to perform at high intensity. Athletes have sought to trigger this process called vasodilation for years, even with banned substances. But simply consuming large amounts of vegetables that are high in nitrates, such as spinach, carrots, radishes, and especially beets, can offer the same performance boost.

Studies have confirmed the effects of nitrates on athletic performance, and the result?  Beet juice improves athletic performance and reduces blood pressure.

Regarding the research behind this finding, an article in HuffingtonPost.com cited two specific studies that were performed at the University of Exerter’s School of Sport and Health Sciences in England. The studies found that “cyclists who drank a half-liter (about a half-quart) of beetroot juice several hours before setting off were able to ride up to 20 percent longer than those who drank a placebo black currant juice.” Researchers analyzed these cyclists and their energy requirements and discovered that the cyclists were able to exercise using less oxygen than normal.  “The beetroot juice was effective even without any additional training,” researcher Stephen Bailey said. “It reduces the energy requirements on your muscles so you can last longer.”

Other studies have shown that beetroot juice also helps the heart by lowering blood pressure.

For athletes, this is an interesting concept, perhaps worthy of note.  For other health conscious individuals, there are even more reasons to enjoy beets.

Note the following benefits, as mentioned on Voices.Yahoo.com:

1. Beets are high in carbohydrates which means they are a great instant energy source, but unlike processed foods which are high in carbohydrates, beets give you energy.

2. Beets contain sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron and phosperous. They contain fiber and vitamins A and C, folic acid and niacin.

3. Beets contain folic acid which is necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells.

4. Studies have shown that beets guard against cancer, especially colon cancer.

5. Medical studies have also shown that including beets in your diet helps protect against heart disease.

6. Beets are available all year round.

7. Beets can be eaten raw, boiled, steamed, roasted or sauteed. Additionally raw beets can be juiced. And, mix with some carrot or apple juice and ginger for something a little tastier.

8. Beets contain Betacyanin, the pigment that gives beets their red color, which is responsible for their cancer fighting properties.

9. Beets have been shown to help cleanse the blood, cleanse the colon and strengthen the gall bladder and liver.

10. “Beet Therapy” is known for helping people with blood diseases and leukemia.

11. Some people have used beats to treat and cure boils, abscesses and even acne.

Best exercise for strength and fitness


Men’s Fitness Magazine had an excellent article recently regarding a particular exercise that shouldn’t be neglected when it comes to fitness.

What is this must-do exercise?

squats

The greatest exercise ever.

Squats!

Why are squats so beneficial?  They help you build more muscle, help you become a better athlete, and they may well be one of the “best moves in fitness.”

Here are some of the reasons why incorporating squats into your fitness routine is a great idea:

1.  Squats are a total body exercise, so they help you build muscle and strength everywhere, not just your lower half.

2. They increase the strength of your core.

3. Squats boost flexibility, especially in the hips, and can assist in reducing back pain.

4. Strengthen the muscles around the knees and hips, reducing chance of injury.

5. Strengthen and tone your lower body.

6. Assist with improved workout efficiency.  Squats get your heart rate up and your legs burning in no time.

They are the perfect exercise to boost your overall fitness – fast!

Setting yourself up for success


success

Accomplishing your goals.

It’s true that anyone can succeed in making changes and having personal success in their lives.  But, when it comes down to the numbers, why is it that not many are successful in achieving their goals?

If we are one that wants to make some changes in our habits or activities, what are the things that will help us succeed?

An article in the USA Today about diet and exercise habits presented some information on what it is that leads to success when we’re wanting to make changes in our lives.

1)  Taking control of things that influence our behavior.  Joseph Grenny, author and founder of coachalba.com, studied the attempts of 5,000 people to change some unwanted habits.  His findings?  People who were successful took control of their surroundings.

  • They identified people in their lives who would encourage them make the changes.
  • They changed their environment in such a way that the better choices are easier to make.  For a dieter, perhaps eating off a smaller plate.  Or, keeping sweets out of sight.
  • They developed new skills to support the new habits; perhaps developing better ways to deal with stress or emotions.
  • They rewarded themselves for even small achievements.
  • When the better choices aren’t made (which will happen), learning to analyze what went wrong, and reflecting on how to take control of that situation the next time.  Changes become easier if we don’t give up.

2)  Start with small steps.  Notes health psychologist Jim Annesi, “Starting one healthy habit may help you build other good habits.  A little bit of exercise can improve your self-control, feelings of success and levels of stress.”

  • Make the program manageable.  If it’s exercise, start with a program of two or three times per week.  Once you have control over that and it becomes habit, it may encourage better eating habits as well.
  • Set moderate goals so as to attain them.  Reaching incremental goals assists with long-term success in weight loss.

3)  Deal with the emotional challenges along the way.  Psychologist and author Joe Burgo suggests the following:

  • Think about the reasons behind our unhealthy habits.  What will we do constructively instead of the unhealthy habit?
  • Don’t go it alone.  Go through it with someone you can talk to about it.

Why set goals?


The only one who can tell you “you can’t” is you.  And you don’t have to listen.  -Nike

Goals are an important part of our life and are a measure of our progress toward where we want to go.  Many times, we think about setting goals at the start of the new year, sometimes due to reflection of the past year and analyzing what we’d like to change or do differently.

Do you have goals that you have set for yourself?   Or, are there things that you want to accomplish, but maybe haven’t formulated into goals yet?   You won’t know if you’re on the right road if you don’t know where you want to go.

goals are important

why set goals?

Goals are important for a number of reasons, whether they are personal, work-related, or fitness-related.  Successful goal-setting helps us to define what it is specifically that we want to do, and then how we plan to accomplish it.

Is your goal to get more exercise?  Run a faster 5k?  Eat healthier?  Lose a few pounds??

An article from TheExtraGear.com mentions why goals are important.  For athletes, goal-setting can be an important part of a training plan, whether a goal is to improve in physical skills, mental skills, or just to get more enjoyment out of a sport.  Setting goals helps athletes focus on what’s most important to them.  Goals provide motivation for them to stick with a plan, to  consider new strategies to accomplish said goals, and assist in tracking progress.

Things to keep in mind when setting goals:

  1. Set the right kind of goals.  For goals to be effective, they should be specific, measurable, and realistic.
  2. Set short term and long term goals.
  3. Make goals moderately difficult.
  4. Pinpoint target dates to achieve your goals.
  5. Create strategies to achieve goals.  How do you plan to achieve your goal?
  6. Write down your goals.
  7. Share your goals with others.  They can support you and your efforts.
  8. Track progress and be flexible in changing your goals, as needed.

I mentioned some of my goals for the foreseeable future in one of my previous posts, one of which is to run a marathon, and at some point qualify for Boston.  Being as that may be more of a long-term goal, I’ve been planning more short-term goals to help me to get there.  So, for my more immediate goals:  I want to drop a few pounds; I’d like to get faster at running a 5k; I need to buy some bike shoes so I can put clips on my bike and learn how to ride without seriously injuring myself; I need to swim more on a weekly basis; and, I’d like to improve my sprint triathlon time by 15 minutes.  All of these things are doable (at least in my head), but I need to formulate an action plan and get into the specifics of what I want to accomplish and how.  Then, I’ll have a better sense of how flexible I will need to be with my goal-setting (item #8 above)!

So, that’s what I’m working toward.

What are your goals?  Let me know and keep me posted on your progress.  🙂

Related articles

Overcoming excuses to exercise


I don’t have time.  I’m not feeling up to it.  The weather is lousy.  These are a few of the common excuses we tell ourselves when we don’t feel like exercising.

Reasons not to exercise.

Reasons why we don’t exercise.

We all feel tired from time to time, and may not have the energy to exercise as regularly as we would like to.  Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for us not to exercise.  Maybe we are fighting a physical injury.  Maybe today we had to work late, which cut into our workout time.  Maybe, just maybe, we had a killer workout yesterday and need a rest day.

But, sometimes we make excuses not to exercise when we don’t have a legitimate reason.  Maybe we just don’t want to.

Okay, but can we at least go for a 15-30 minute walk?  What about taking the stairs in the office building, instead of the elevator?  Walking around the block?

Why does it matter whether we exercise or not?  There are so many reasons why it matters.  Here are just a few:

  1. Exercise is a natural de-stressor.  Do you have stress?  I know I do.  If you get in some exercise, you can alleviate some or most of your daily stresses.
  2. Exercise boosts your mood.  It makes you feel good.  Even if you don’t feel good while doing it, you will feel great when it’s over.  It clears your mind, releases endorphins in your brain, increases self-esteem, and provides a feeling of accomplishment- because you did what you set out to do.
  3. Exercise gives you more energy.  It doesn’t seem like it would, but it does.  It helps with muscle strength, boosts endurance, helps your heart work more efficiently.
  4. Exercise assists with weight control.  Weight maintenance can be difficult, but with exercise we expend more energy and burn more calories than we otherwise would have.  And, the more we exercise, the more calories we burn.
  5. Exercise lowers your blood pressure, boosts good cholesterol, lowers triglycerides.
  6. Exercise lowers your risk of heart disease, helps prevent strokes, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, certain types of cancers, and arthritis.
  7. Exercise assists with better sleep.  It helps you fall asleep faster, and you sleep more soundly.
  8. Exercise is fun.  Find activities that you enjoy: walking in the park, bicycling, swimming, taking a dance class, going for a jog…  If you enjoy it, you’ll want to keep doing it.

Aim for about 30 minutes a day, and try to get your heart rate up.  Set some goals.  Sign up for a fun run, and give yourself time to train for it.  They’re a lot of fun, if you haven’t done one before.

And, as always, remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any health concerns.

Fitness goals for a non-runner


So I decided that I want to put my fitness goals in writing so as to have something to work toward.  Let me start by saying that these goals are primarily running-related goals, and I’m not a runner.  It’s true; I don’t like to run, and I’m really slow.  That being said, I understand the many health benefits of running (and other types of exercise), and so I try to be regular about doing it.

Not a runner

Not a runner

Fitness goals are good for two reasons.  They help keep you on track, and if you share them with others, you are more likely to achieve them.  And, after the tragedy in Boston recently, I have decided that life is too short to not have goals and try to attain them.

So, what are my goals?  Here are some big ones:

  • Boston Marathon.  After some thought, the first item on my list of fitness goals is to try to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon.  Now, I realize that could be a complicated goal, after what happened at the race this year.  It’s also a pretty lofty goal for a non-runner, and there is the possibility that I might not qualify (I’m not kidding when I say that I’m slow).  But I will complete a marathon, all 26.2 miles, and I will try to qualify for Boston.
  • Pikes Peak Ascent Marathon.  Another goal I’ve been contemplating since last July is to run the Pike’s Peak Ascent Marathon.  That’s another endurance race that you have to qualify for, and it’s an even more long-term goal than a marathon for me.  I’m still not sure why I would want to put myself through that…  It is a thirteen mile race straight up a mountain (altitude sickness and all), and then the descent back down the mountain to total the 26 miles.  It’s crazy for me to even consider it.  But, my dad completed the Pike’s Peak Ascent Marathon at the age of 61!  He was an incredible fitness freak.  When most people are thinking about how they will spend their retirement years, he’s driving an hour to downtown Houston several times per week to run stairwells in high-rise buildings for hours at a time.  He did the training, and completed the race.  How awesome is that?
  • My third big fitness goal, but not quite as big as the first two, is to race an Olympic distance triathlon.  I’ve done plenty of Sprint distance triathlons (1/2 mile swim, 12 miles biking, 5k run), but because I hate to run I’ve never challenged myself to go for a longer distance.  To me, anything more than a 5k at the end of a triathlon sounds miserable.  And, the Olympic distance is double the length of the Sprint:  1 mile swim, 24 miles biking, and a 10k run.  In mulling it over in my mind, that’s double the training, and double the torture.  But, it’s a good goal, and I think if I’m training to do a marathon, I should be getting enough running miles in my weekly workouts to make it more feasible for me to complete a longer tri.

So, these are a few of my goals for the foreseeable future.  And, how well I reach these goals really depends on how the running goes.

Like I said…  I am not a runner.

Why stress is bad


Stress.  We all have it.  Whether it’s due to work demands, economic pressures, job insecurity, family difficulties, the list goes on.  But, for the sake of our physical and mental well-being, and many other reasons, we should take reasonable steps to manage our stress.

stress

too much stress

Why is it important to manage our stress?

Stress is our body’s response to external pressures.  It includes the many demands and pressures that we all experience to some degree each day.  Sometimes stress is beneficial, for keeping us alert, motivated, and ready to avoid danger. Or, it can be detrimental if stress becomes prolonged or if it continues without relief.   Stress activates our sympathetic nervous system, releasing stress hormones throughout the body. These hormones give us energy when we need it, but can cause other changes in the body as well.  Long-term stress can suppress our immune system, and can lead to physical distress, causing headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and even problems sleeping.  Long-term stress can lead to depression, panic attacks, or other forms of anxiety and worry.  It can even bring about (or worsen) certain symptoms or diseases.

Stress is linked to six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and even suicide.  So, it is important to keep our stress in check.

How prevalent is stress today?  Consider the following information, from an article on WebMd:

  • Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
  • Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
  • Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually.
  • The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.

Six tips for getting stress under control (also courtesy of webmd):

  1. Identify sources of stress. Try to figure out what’s causing your stress. Too many commitments?  Once you identify the sources of stress, try to minimize these as much as possible.
  2. Talk it out. Talk about it to a friend or family member. It’s good for our mental health.
  3. Take time out. Before you reach your breaking point, take time out for solitude. Take time away from the cares and responsibilities of life.  Go for a walk, sit outside.  Clear your head.
  4. Set limits. Never hesitate to say “no” before you take on more commitments. It’s important to prioritize; saying “no” can help give you more control over your life.
  5. Try exhaling. Breathing can affect your psychological state, making a stressful moment increase or diminish in intensity. Often, people who are anxious or upset take shallow breaths or unconsciously hold their breath. By paying attention to your breathing, particularly exhaling during tense moments, you will feel more relaxed.
  6. Exercise daily. Exercise is thought to increase the secretion of endorphins in the brain that induce feelings of peacefulness. Many studies show that exercise, along with the boosted endorphin levels, really does increase confidence and self-esteem and reduce tension. Exercise also helps you focus on something else for awhile.

Sources:

A dieter’s dream food


kale

kale: a dieter’s dream food

Kale is part of the cabbage family (along with collards, and Brussels sprouts); it has high nutritional value, a distinct flavor, and great health benefits.   Here are a few reasons why it’s so beneficial.

What it contains

  • Great source of fiber.  Fills you up, is low on calories, and it is slow to digest.
  • Nutrients and Vitamins.  Kale is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese. It is a very good source of copper, tryptophan, calcium, vitamin B6, and potassium; and a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B2, protein, vitamin B1, folate, phosphorous, and vitamin B3. One of the best sources of beta-carotene (an antioxidant) and other carotenoids.
  • Kale has over 45 different flavonoids, which are plant-based compounds with powerful antioxidant properties.

Why it’s beneficial

  • Assists in lowering cholesterol levels.
  • Natural detoxing benefits.  Provides comprehensive support for the body’s detoxification system.
  • Reduces inflammation and fights aging.  Its antioxidant properties assist in reducing chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, promoting healthy arteries, and fight aging by preventing and repairing cellular damage.
  • Lowers risk of disease.  Kale assists in lowering the risk of bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, ovary cancer, and prostate cancer, as well as protects against dementia, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

So, while kale may not be on your list of go-to foods yet, it has many nutritional reasons why it should be.  🙂

Exercise: is higher intensity better?


High intensity exercise is all the rage.  But, just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s the most beneficial for you…

swimming

Swimming is great exercise. Photo credit: Pennathletics.com

Adapted from an article at Livestrong.com, here are some reasons why moderate to low intensity workouts are beneficial:

1)      You’ll live longer.  Recent studies showed that joggers who moved at a moderate intensity (10-11 minute miles) had a lower mortality risk than those who ran more than 20 miles/week at much faster pace (7+mph), and that they have longer life spans.

2)      Reduced risk of injury.  Less wear and tear on the body.  A combination of moderate and vigorous activity is good.  However, performing only vigorous activity frequently (more than 5 days/week) may increase chance of injury.

3)      More enjoyment.  Too much intensity can also affect our enjoyment of exercise; it can make exercise less enjoyable, which usually means we won’t keep it up.  To keep the enjoyment high, mix it up with higher and lower levels of intensity.

4)      Moderate intensity exercise helps with baseline fitness level and recovery so you have more to devote to your bigger workouts.

5)      You may eat less afterward.  Studies show that many eat more after a high intensity work out vs. a lower intensity workout.  Moderate exercise may also lessen food cravings.

6)      Better sleep.  Moderate exercise doesn’t keep you amped up as much when it’s time to sleep.

7)      Moderate exercise improves blood sugar and insulin levels. As much as 50% in the following 24 hours.

8)      Keeps you looking and feeling younger.  Moderate intensity workouts have shown to lessen the effects of aging on our cells, effectively reducing the effects of aging on our bodies.  And, really, who doesn’t want to feel and look younger?

Jogging, walking, lifting weights, swimming, cycling, yoga or pilates are some examples of moderate intensity exercises.  But, if you prefer other types of exercise, that’s okay, too.  In most cases, any exercise is better than none…  🙂

Beautiful Blogger Award


So, what’s up with that?  My blog?  An award winner, really?

award

beautiful blogger award

I’m absolutely thrilled.  Now, for my acceptance speech…  Just kidding.  But, really, I am thrilled.  So, thank you, JoJo, for the nomination!  JoJo and Stacey have this great blog called “No excuses health“, which was a recent recipient of the Beautiful Blogger award (congratulations!), and I’ve been a fan since they started blogging.

But, this award, the “Beautiful Blogger Award,” is awarded to bloggers by our peers for creativity, originality, and overall contribution to the blogging community.  For me, I think the key to writing in general is to find something you love and that you are passionate about.  I started this blog for many reasons, but mainly because I’m an information junkie and I was into all these articles about how to be healthier, and I just wondered if anyone else would care about the information.  Frankly, I don’t think my blog is really any different than most.  But, I really care about the subject, I want to be healthy myself, and I strongly believe that exercise and eating well is vital for a good, long life.

So, how the award works is that once you receive it, your job is to then nominate others to receive it as well, and then write 7 things about yourself.  A few of the blogs I really enjoy have already been nominated for this award  (no excuses health being one of them!), and are out of the running.

But, here are my picks for the Beautiful Blogger Award:

  • thin in my head – she writes a great blog about the struggles of losing weight and not giving up.  Very inspiring to me.
  • FITgirl training – Carla is a personal trainer that always has interesting information and good quotes to keep me motivated to get fit and stay fit.  A regular read of mine.
  • Fit trim – their blog addresses a lot of the health issues I’m interested in like how to prevent disease, being healthier, eating better, and keeping weight down.  Great job!
  • pass me another cupcake – she writes about her journey with cancer, and is very open and honest about what she’s going through. Her blog is captivating, enlightening, and touching to me.  I’m certain she’s probably won other awards; she’s even written a blog for the Huffington post!  But she deserves it, no question there.

Now, for the seven things about me… where do I start?

1) The most thrilling thing I think I have done (so far) is when my family and I went zip-lining in the jungle of Belize.  It was a jungle, and I’m afraid of heights.  But my mom got up there and wanted to be first in line, and so I knew I had to follow.  It was awesome!

2) I like to do triathlons.  I’m not very good at them, for sure.  But, they’re fun, challenging, having one on deck makes me train and work out, and I don’t get bored working out, because i train in three events, not one.

3) One of the destinations on my bucket list is Egypt.  I know it’s not probably the safest destination, but the pyramids fascinate me.  I’d also love to see the Sphinx, and sail down the Nile, and scuba in the Red Sea.  Awesome.

4) I love to blog.  I didn’t know it until I started, but it’s awesome!  I love researching, and writing has always been fun for me, and I love health issues, and it’s just a win-win for me.  And, it keeps me busy.

5) I hate problems.  Doesn’t everybody, though?  But, I deal with problems every day as a manager of operations at a small state agency with lots of challenges, and it’s my job to fix them.  It keeps me over the top busy, but I guess that’s good.

6) I’ve played tennis since I was six.  Really.  My dad was an avid tennis player, and he wanted all his kids to enjoy tennis.  So, (back in the days of wooden tennis rackets) he got one of his trusty Jack Kramer rackets with red gut strings, and literally sawed off 5 inches or so from the handle of the racket so it could be “my” sized!!  I was six!  It was awesome!  My first tennis racket.  And, I still play tennis, too.  I love it.  I will always treasure that racket.

7) I absolutely love being outdoors.  It makes me feel alive.  Being indoors, there’s walls, fluorescent lights, concrete, etc.  I honestly think it sucks the life right out of me.  But being outside, things are alive; things move.  Leaves rustle and blow on the ground; the sun feels warm, the blue skies are beautiful (when it’s not hot!!).  Birds, bugs…  I love it all.

So, those are seven things about me.  Thanks so much for reading, and thanks for the award!

Health benefits of green tea


Green tea.  It’s good.  It’s popular.  What is it and why should you drink it?

green tea

green tea, photo courtesy of onaninhale.com

Green tea is made from Camellia Sinensis leaves; it is regularly consumed in Asia, and it has recently become popular in the U.S. and western countries as well.  Green tea is a powerful antioxidant, and drinking it regularly provides a growing list of many health benefits.

Drinking a cup of green tea each day may reduce the risk of lung cancer, according to a recent study in Taiwan.  Scientists believe that the “polyphenols” naturally found in green tea prevent cancer cells from growing and reproducing.

Other health benefits of drinking green tea include:

  • reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease
  • reducing your risk of developing other cancers
  • increasing bone density
  • improving cognitive function
  • reducing the risk of kidney stones
  • assists with weight loss through thermogenesis
  • assist in preventing cancer
  • keeping your teeth healthy
  • assists with lowering cholesterol levels

So, do you drink green tea?

With all these benefits, why not?

Related articles

Why be screened for colon cancer?


Because it is preventable if we follow the recommendations of screening and preventing it.  March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and it is the third most common cancer diagnosed in American men and  women.

colonoscopy

Schedule a colonoscopy.

 

So, when should we be screened? 

Everyone (men and women) older than age 50 should be screened for colon cancer.  However, if you have a close relative such as a parent or sibling with a history of colorectal cancer or adenoma polyps, it is usually recommended that you start screening earlier, depending on the age that your relative was diagnosed.

Why is screening so important?

Colorectal cancers start as a precancerous growths called polyps or adenomas. If adenoma polyps are detected early and removed, this prevents colorectal cancer from forming. The procedure for removing polyps is a colonoscopy, which allows for both detecting and removing pre-cancerous polyps during the same procedure.

  • A recent study showed that having a colonoscopy with removal of an adenoma polyp cuts the risk of dying from colon cancer in half.
  • Additionally, using colonoscopy to screen average-risk people can reduce the overall risk of a  late-stage colorectal cancer diagnosis by about 70 percent, according to a new  study.

So, if you are in the recommended age group to get screened, don’t put it off.  Call your doctor and make an appointment.

It could save your life.

Mental benefits of exercise


As a pharmacist for many years, my dad always said that 30 minutes of daily exercise can do more for our brains than most medicines.

exercise

Exercise benefits our brain.

And, he was absolutely correct.  It’s not that I didn’t believe him; it was pretty much a subject of regular conversation with him.  But he was always ahead of the curve when it came to the benefits of exercise; it has only been more recently that the research and information to back him up on this subject has become readily available.

But, the great news is, he was right, and here is why.

  • Research shows that when we exercise, our nervous system releases serotonin and dopamine, which affect our feelings of happiness, calmness, and even euphoria.
  • Research also shows that exercise helps to create new brain cells.

These benefits occur almost immediately when we exercise.

Other benefits include:

  • Improvement in thinking and memory.
  • Improvement in brain function.  Experts say that exercise raises brain focus for 2-3 hours after exercise.

Summary:  Make it a goal to do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily.  Even if it is walking.  That way, if we miss a day (which will happen), we will still have had the recommended amount of exercise to reap these mental benefits.  And, keep in mind that exercise can also be performed in 10 minute increments, so as to spread it out over the day and/or week.  And if you can squeeze in some time per week to devote to strength training, or muscle building activities, that also is good for the brain.

As always, though, please keep in mind your current fitness abilities, and contact your health care provider before you start any new exercise program.

Related articles:

Why eat beans?


Why should beans be an important part of your diet?

beans

why beans are important. 

Here are the top 10 reasons why beans should be incorporated into our diet:

10) Beans are an inexpensive source of vegetable protein.  They’re cheap.  Good source of protein.  And they’re not meat-based.

9) They are an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fiber.  Dietary fiber is so good for our insides.  In a previous article, entitled “Why we need dietary fiber”, the many benefits of fiber are outlined.

8) They are a good source of vitamins and minerals.  Beans are an excellent source of thiamin and folate.  A good intake of folate is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in some individuals.  Beans are also rich in magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese, and are a good source of potassium, riboflavin, vitamin b6, and contain some calcium and selenium.

7) They are naturally low in sodium.

6) Beans are naturally low in fat and contain no cholesterol.

5) Because the starch in beans is digested much slower and less completely than cereal starch, beans have a naturally low glycemic index.  Low glycemic index foods are beneficial because they assist with stabilizing blood sugar levels in the body.

4) Legumes contain a number of compounds that have potential health benefits, including saponins, phytic acid, plant sterols, phenolic compounds, enzyme inhibitors, and lectins. Much interest has been generated in examining some of these compounds with respect to chronic disease prevention (see the article “Dry Beans and Human Health“).

3) Beans aid in the prevention and/or management of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and cancer.

2) By incorporating beans into our diet we can reduce our risk of premature death due to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancer.

1) And, while beans may cause some abdominal discomfort due to the slower and somewhat incomplete digestion of bean starch, they may also help protect against colon cancer for that same reason.

So, if beans are not a staple in your weekly meal plans, there are numerous reasons why they should be.

Learning to enjoy exercise


nike

the iconic nike “swoosh”

Enjoying exercise.  All of us know people that love to exercise.  You might be one.  But, we also know people that don’t enjoy exercise.  You wouldn’t catch them going to the gym or taking a daily jog before or after work.  Not intentionally, that is.

But, why is it that some people enjoy exercise, while others don’t?  Is it simply that some people have more motivation?  More discipline?  That may not be the case, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.  Scientists are now looking at “biological and chemical processes” to see whether more is at the heart of the issue, and what they’re finding is simple, yet extremely profound.

What they’ve found

Everyone has a physical capacity for exertion.  If, though, we engage in more physical exertion than our body has the capacity for, our body can become stressed and begin to feel bad.  According to Panteleimon Ekkekakis, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State who studies the psychophysiology of exercise, that is often what happens.  Many people push themselves beyond their “intrinsic range” by exercising too quickly or intensely, and they end up either hating exercise, or not wanting to continue, or both.  There are many factors that play into this finding; the article refers to ventilatory thresholds, maximum thresholds, intrinsic ranges, and how these levels affect what we are able to do physically.  And, then there’s how we perceive and interpret our actual exertion…  (the article in the WSJ cited below is worth a read).  But, to me, the long and the short of it is: we personally have a threshold.

What is the solution? How can we get to the point where we, too, enjoy exercise?

If we feel like we are one of those people that doesn’t enjoy physical activity, don’t despair.  And, don’t give up.  Take exercise a little at a time.  Build up to your goal, whatever that goal is.

One thing to consider, though, is:  have we set our goals too high? If so, then we could be setting ourselves up for failure.

For instance, many of us have been active throughout our lives.  Many haven’t.  And, sometimes, we just feel like we “should” be able to do something, and do it well, even though it may be beyond our personal threshold.  I feel like I should be able to go out and run a mile because I want to (and, because I have done it in the past).  But, when I go through the process of actually going out and running a mile, invariably one of two things will happen.  It’s either torture to me, because my body isn’t physically up to the task, or I fail because I can’t do what my mind says I should be able to do.  But, let’s think about this.  If my goal to run one mile is really too high of a goal for my current physical ability/threshold, then essentially I’m setting myself up for failure. It doesn’t matter whether I actually performed that activity or not, because even if I did, it was torture, I hated it, and I won’t be doing it again.  To me, that’s a set up for failure, and it’s a lose-lose proposition.

What’s your threshold?

So, what’s your threshold for physical activity?  I challenge you to find out.  Experiment with it.  Go for a short walk, jog, bike ride, or attend a gym class.  Monitor yourself and how you feel, and keep track of your results.

And, try to think about your exercise activity in a “less is more” frame of mind.  If lower levels of exertion will get me out there, and will also help me enjoy it, then less is good!

My new motto is:  “Just do less.”  The only thing is, you still need to get out there and do something.  And, note to Nike:  if you decide to make a shirt with my new motto on it “Just do less” (along with your iconic swoosh), let me know.  I’ll order one.  In hot pink, of course.

Related articles:

Health risks associated with being overweight


scale

Health risks associated with being overweight

 

We hear it all the time.  Americans are overweight.  And, it’s true.  As a population, we’re eating more.  Combine that with eating more unhealthy foods, and being less physically active…  It’s no wonder many of us are overweight.
So, what can we do about that?  Do we want to be part of the 1 in 3 adults that are overweight or obese?  I really don’t.

Consider some of the serious health issues we face from being overweight, as provided by the American Cancer Society.

Shorter life expectancy.  Overweight and obese people, on average, do not live as long as people who maintain a healthy body weight throughout their lives.

Health risks.  Some of the health risks of being overweight include an increased risk of the following: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, respiratory issues, arthritis, infertility in women, and certain types of cancers.

Cancer risks.  Being overweight or obese is also linked to an increased risk of MANY cancers, including: breast cancer, colon and rectum, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gallbladder, liver, non-hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, cervix, ovary, and aggressive forms of prostate cancers.  And, new research shows fat cells actually support tumor growth (see previous post “obesity research…”).

It’s estimated that 1 out of every three cancer deaths in the US is linked to excess weight, poor nutrition, or physical inactivity.  And, while these all are contributing factors to cancer risk, body weight seems to have the “strongest evidence linking it to cancer”.  Excess body weight contributes to as many as 1 out of 5 of all cancer-related deaths.

It is also believed that excess body weight affects immune system function and inflammation, and it even affects insulin and estrogen levels.  These may be contributing factors to the above mentioned health risks.

So, now what?

  • Think about weight loss in small steps
  • Try to balance how much you eat with how active you are
  • Limit calories through smaller portions
  • Burn more calories through physical activity
  • Limit between-meal snacks
  • Limit food and drinks that are high in calories, fat or added sugars
  • Eat more veggies and fruits, whole grains, beans, and lower calorie drinks

And, recognize that being physically active is important.  It’s good for our waistline, for our mental outlook, and for our health.  That’s a win-win.
See also:

World Cancer Day


Monday, February 4, 2013 is World Cancer Day

Because many of us are or have been affected in some way by cancer, I would like to highlight two upcoming events that are raising money for colon cancer awareness and prevention, one is in Houston, Texas, and one is in NY.

SCOPE 5k.  First, the MD Anderson SCOPE 5K fun run will be held in downtown Houston on Saturday, March 23, 2013.  This is the 8th annual SCOPE 5K fun run, and my family and I will be participating for the second time.  This specific event is important to me for several reasons:

1)  The first reason is because last year’s SCOPE run was the last fun run I was able to participate in with my father.  Al Blackbird, affectionately known as “Poppy”, died last July after a four year fight with colon cancer.  Our family was always doing fitness activities, from as early as I can remember… Fun runs, triathlons, mud races; if it sounded fun and/or challenging, we were there.   Even three months before he passed away, my dad was still a part of them.  Shoot, he even did the Pike’s Peak Ascent Marathon when he was 61!  My hero.  🙂

2) The second reason I like the SCOPE 5k event is because Cathy Eng, MD, a world-renowned Colorectal Cancer Researcher at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, heads it up. Dr. Eng is one of the top doctors in her field, and she was my dad’s oncologist, and Poppy adored her.  Now please don’t misunderstand; he didn’t always follow her directions to stay out of the sun and take his pain pills, but he adored her.  Poppy sent her e-mails almost weekly about his activities, his various exercise routines (invariably including of thousands of squats weekly among other items), and he would send her pictures of the lake where he lived, and the many things he was interested in.  Dr. Eng, to quote his words, “is the greatest”.  We even had shirts to show it (see below)!!

picture of Cathy Eng and Al Blackbird

Dr. Cathy Eng and Al Blackbird at the 2012 Scope 5k Fun Run

the Blackbirds

The Blackbirds (l-r): Drew, Kathryn, Al (Poppy), Steve Roman and Molly B. Roman, Barbara, Will, Maureen B. Chmelik, and Dr. Craig Hurwitz.

So, if you are near the Houston area and like to do fitness activities, sign up for a fun event and help raise funds for colon cancer prevention and education.  My family and I will be there to honor the memory of my dad.  If you see us (you’ll recognize the shirts!), please say hi…

 
Another event I would like to bring attention to is the Colon Cancer Challenge, a fundraising event in New York also to raise awareness and support for colorectal cancer research and prevention.  It will take place on April 7, 2013 in Central Park (a great place for any activity!).
“The Challenge not only helps spread the word about colorectal cancer, but it also helps raise funds for life-saving prevention and research programs to help eradicate the world of colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Thomas K. Weber, MD, FACS founder of the Colon Cancer Challenge Foundation.  There are three different walks or runs: a 1.7-mile remembrance and prevention walk, a 9 mile race, or a shorter 4-mile run.  If this is in your area, or you want to travel for a good cause, sign up here:  events.coloncancerchallenge.org.
 
 
In summary, cancer sucks.  There’s no real way to describe the devastation it causes.  But, if we can do our part by getting screened when appropriate (aka colonoscopy, mammogram, pap smear, etc.), eating healthy things including fruits, vegetables and whole grains, getting regular exercise, and making sure we get our fiber, we’ll be doing what we can to minimize our risk of developing colon cancer and other diseases.
 
 
Please let me know if you sign up for the SCOPE 5k.  We look forward to seeing you there!
 
 
 
 

More veggies for me, please…


vegetables

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is healthy and can assist in preventing colon cancer

Over 100,000 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year and 50,000 people will die from the disease.  Those are staggering statistics.  Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts and Figures 2012.

Why does this matter?  Because colon cancer in many cases is preventable.  The CDC estimates that at least 6 out of every 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented if all men and women aged 50 years or older were screened routinely.  Not only does screening assist in identifying precancerous growths, but screening also finds cancers in the early stages, when there is a greater chance that treatment will be effective and lead to a cure.

How do more veggies fit in? 

Well, a recent study showed that younger and younger individuals are being diagnosed with colon cancer.  This is a newer trend, because historically it is a disease that affects  individuals aged 50+.  But what the information indicates, as reported in the Taipei Times, is that “a lack of consumption of vegetables is the main cause of younger people developing the cancer.”  This may well be true for all that develop colon cancer.  But, according to the EU, the consumption of about 28.5g of fiber daily can decrease a person’s likelihood of developing colon cancer by 33%.  Sounds like fiber is the way to go! (see previous posts regarding the benefits of fiber and reducing our risk factors)

In addition, other research suggests that by incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our diet, we can reduce our risk of colon cancer, other cancers, and many other chronic diseases.  Increasing our intake of fruits and veggies is a win-win.  They provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other substances that are important for good health.  They assist us in managing our weight, and are naturally low in fat (and calories) and are filling.

So, in light of this research, I’ll be having more veggies, please.  You?

Obesity research and weight loss motivation


 Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge for many, including me.  I can lose it, and I can gain it back.  Seemingly effortlessly. 

 

scale

healthy weight

 

But it is increasingly evident how important maintaining a healthy weight is.  Current statistics for 2012 show that two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.  The overweight classification refers to having a body weight that is greater than what is considered healthy for a certain height; it is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher.  Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher.

 

The CDC outlines some of the increased health risks associated with being overweight, which include coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint), and gynecological problems.

 

But, the health risk I’m most concerned with is cancer.  Researchers have found that being overweight or obese is linked to the development of cancer.  As published in the journal Cancer Research, and subsequently reported on by Dr. Dubois at www.swisschiropractic.com, “the cells that create fat, called adipose stromal cells, are the same ones that help supply oxygen to cancerous tumors.” 

 

Dr. Dubois goes on to report the following in his article:

  • Obesity is the second-leading cause of cancer after smoking, according to experts from the World Cancer Research Fund  
  • Researchers claim that obesity increases the risk of at least nine different types of cancer, including that of the breast, bowel, prostate, ovary, uterus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder and esophagus
  • There were 1.4 billion obese individuals worldwide in 2008, according to the World Health Organization, and the numbers have been climbing steadily since.  
  • Statistics show that those who are obese have far worse prognoses for cancer survival than their leaner counterparts.

 

He refers to a study that was conducted at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston which showed that the adipose stromal cells (the cells that create fat) were recruited by tumors to either “become fat cells in the tumor, or were turned into cells that became part of the network of blood vessels that supplied oxygen and nutrients to the tumor.”

 

Their conclusion based on the study?  The experiment was important in that it demonstrated that obesity in itself—not only poor diet and lack of exercise—may be a major contributor to cancer.”

 

My conclusion?  It’s time to get serious about our health.  If your current weight, like many, is in the range of overweight or obese, there are significant health risks you should consider, including an increased risk of getting cancer.  That being said, keep in mind that any positive, healthy changes you can incorporate into your lifestyle are worth the effort. 

 

Think long term, think lifestyle, think health.  It’s not about looks, it’s not about what others think, it’s about you. 

And being the healthiest you you can be. 

 

Source article

Related articles

Common spice that fights cancer?


 

It’s a common spice with uncommon health benefits.  What is it, and why is it important?

Picture of turmeric spice

Turmeric

Curcumin, a natural extract from the spice turmeric, has been used for many centuries in India and Asia.  It is a major ingredient in curry powder, and has a bright, distinctive yellowish color.  Curcumin has long been known for its health benefits.  Research and medical papers show it has been used to treat disorders such as digestive problems, urinary complaints, skin conditions and wounds.  Some researchers claim it can even assist in treating Alzheimer’s, diabetes, allergies, and arthritis. 

Does it fight cancer

Curcumin is a known antioxidant that counteracts free radicals in the body.  Free radicals are responsible for many physical ailments including inflammation, swelling, and promoting cancer growth.  Studies of curcumin show that it can assist in treating and even preventing cancer in several ways.  It can assist in blocking the cancer causing effects of certain chemicals in the body.  It may assist in blocking the growth of cancer cells.  And, it may stop the formation of blood vessels to tumors, which can prevent tumors from growing. 

It is believed that curcumin can even cause cancer cells to self-destruct.

Should it be used as a supplement?

Please note that while benefits of Curcumin have been shown, research is still ongoing.  Please note, too, that adverse health effects have been associated with taking in too much Curcumin, so it is advisable to do research and consult a physician before making any changes to your diet. 

This topic is for informational purposes only; no recommendations or suggestions are being made. 

Getting motivated to exercise


running

Running

Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to exercise.  Hard.  What with the winter weather being cold and rainy much of the time, it can be really hard to get up and get going. 

So, here are some practical tips to assist in getting a little exercise more regularly:

1) Set some goals.  Do you want to get in an extra 15 minutes of exercise per day?  You can do it.  Find activities that you like to do.  Do you like to walk?  run?  bike?  Why not set a goal to walk or run a 5k?  Train for a half-marathon? a triathlon?  Decide what it is you want to do, and start setting some goals.  

2) Get a schedule.  If you’re like me, you need to write it down.  If it doesn’t get scheduled, it doesn’t get done.

3) Get a workout partner, if practical.  It’s good to have someone that counts on you to be there.  Whether it’s weekly Zumba class at the gym, going for a run or walk in the neighborhood, or even lifting weights.  Having that extra nudge to get you out there is good.

4) Keep a bag in your trunk with workout clothes ready to go, so you can stop at the gym for a short workout on the way home… 15-20 minutes of cardio on the elliptical, or the stationary bike, treadmill, or even laps in the pool. 

5) Set reminders for yourself.  If it’s hard to pry yourself from your desk at work, set a reminder for yourself through MS Outlook or your phone at a certain time daily so you can take 15 minutes to walk up the stairs, or around the building to get active.  Most employers will allow a short break during the day to get some fresh air.  If not, utilize a portion of your lunch break. 

6) Decide you are worth it.  If you want to get fit this year, set your mind to do it.   And, research shows that the more people you involve in your goals, the better your chance of achieving success.  Tell your friends.  Tell your family.  

Then, just get on out there and do it.

Should we stop eating wheat?


Wheat sensitivity, wheat allergies, celiac disease: it seems that these issues are getting more attention lately.  Why?

picture of wheat

wheat field

Most of us are carb junkies (even if we don’t want to be), and wheat plays a major role in our diets.  Overall, it supplies about 20% of the total food calories worldwide, and is a staple in most countries.   

However, wheat is being increasingly blamed for the onset of some health conditions, like obesity, heart disease, and the prevalent wheat intolerance issues we keep hearing about.  Wheat raises blood sugar levels, causes problems with the immune system, inhibits the absorption of minerals, and can cause problems in our intestines.

What’s up with wheat?

According to George Dvorsky in Food Science, the issue goes back to the 1950’s when scientists began breeding wheat to make it “better”.  He indicates that this breeding mechanism introduced some compounds to wheat that aren’t good for us.  Sodium azide, for one, is a known toxin, and is present in today’s hybridized wheat products.  Also present are proteins which are difficult, if not impossible, to digest, and which are not found in the plant itself. 

Also present are glutens.  Glutens are present in other grains also, like rye, barley, spelt, etc.  It’s what gives breads the soft, chewy texture that we all love.  But it is hard to metabolize, and most people don’t have the enzymes to break it down. Because of this, glutens can trigger systemic inflammation, which can lead to autoimmune diseases.

Should we eat it?

I don’t know.  The fiber found in all whole grains is beneficial and assists in fighting cancer and other health problems. And, really, we need fiber in our diets, as one of my previous posts highlighted.  But, if we can obtain the necessary insoluble fiber and other nutrients by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, wheat may not need to be as big a part of our diets as we thought.

Breath test used to detect cancer?


Is it possible to detect cancer from a breath test?  Researchers believe so. 

breath test image

Testing for cancer

In a study published this month in the British Journal of Surgery, researchers were able to successfully detect the presence of colorectal cancer with 75% accuracy through breath analysis.  Breath sampling is a relatively easy and non-invasive method of screening, but it is still very early in its development, according to lead author of the study Donato F. Altomare, M.D. 

At the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, United States, physicians have already developed a breathing test to diagnose lung cancer.  Dr. Peter Mazzone, M.D., pulmonologist and director of Cleveland Clinic’s Respiratory Institute, refers to it as a search for a “metabolic signature”, and hopes that breath testing will be utilized to recognize “the chemical compounds and combinations of many diseases.”   In one study conducted by Dr. Mazzone in 2011, the breath test used had up to an 89% accuracy rate, and it also discriminated among different types of cancer.

So, while testing continues, it is believed that breath testing will eventually be employed on a more comprehensive basis, offering an abundance of information about a patient’s overall health.

Universal blood test to detect cancer?


  lab-testing

New research suggests that a universal blood test to detect cancer could be closer than previously thought. By sequencing the normal DNA that a tumor releases into the bloodstream, researchers believe they can develop a single blood test that can detect early tumors as well as advanced cancers.

 

DNA tests that have been previously used detect tumors by looking for known alterations in cancer genes.  Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore took these tests a step further.  Observations have generally shown that tumor cells in the body almost always have substantially altered chromosomes, like swapped pieces, or extra copies of certain genes.  Therefore, a blood test that could detect such chromosomal abnormalities, even without knowing the genetic makeup of the cancer beforehand, could serve as a general test for all types of cancers.

 

Secondary benefits.  These tests, which are able to isolate “free tumor DNA” in blood samples, may also be able to assist in tracking whether a patient’s tumor is responding to treatment, or regrows after surgery.  The test could also assist in deciding which drug would be most beneficial for treatment, without having to biopsy the actual tumor.

 

At this time the tests are not cheap or quick.  Each test can cost several thousand dollars, and may take as much as a month to analyze, though the researchers believe the costs will decrease.   Experts think these tests are a breakthrough, and that such tests could be available within 5-10 years.

 

Sources and related articles:

New “smart drugs” target only cancer cells


 

Chemotherapy drugs

New research from Dr. John Lewis, a medical researcher and associate professor in the Department of Oncology and Fellow with the National Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Alberta, shows that nanotechnology is assisting greatly in the quest for new and effective cancer treatment drugs.

 

Chemotherapy, widely used in cancer treatments today, travels throughout the body and kills any cells that divide, including healthy cells.  This is why cancer patients often experience immune system problems, loss of hair, nausea, and skin issues.  But, according to Lewis, these new “smart” drugs are able to determine which cells in the body are cancer cells and which aren’t, and then they selectively kill only cancer cells, not normal cells.  These “smart” drugs even find cancer cells that have spread to other areas of the body.  This targeted approach to treatment means that side effects would decrease dramatically.  And, these drugs may be used for different types of cancer.

 

These new drugs have only been tested to date in animal laboratory models, so they are not available yet for physicians to use with patients.   In the meantime, Lewis and his research team continue to work on figuring out why cancer cells spread to other areas of the body.  They have discovered that cells that move from the original cancer site have different and numerous genes that differentiate them from the cells that stay put.  This research has allowed them to develop a drug that uses a “tumor glue” to keep cancer cells from spreading from the main site.  Also in development are new blood tests to assist with predicting whether prostate and other cancers will spread. 

 

Many thanks to the hard work of Dr. Lewis and his team of researchers.

 

Sources:  Phys.org

Why we need dietary fiber


 

I know what you’re thinking… fiber?  really???  I agree, it is an odd subject.  Something we really don’t want to talk about, or sometimes even think about.  But fiber in our diets, especially the type that comes from whole grains and cereals, is really good for our health.

 

Here are a few reasons to increase your intake of dietary fiber:

First and most obvious, it assists with regularity.  Hate to talk about it; but it’s simple:  eat fiber, and stuff will keep moving.  That’s enough on that… 

Another reason to eat more fiber is that it helps to maintain a healthy weight.  High fiber foods take more time to chew, which means we eat slower and are less likely to over eat.  Higher fiber foods also tend to have fewer calories for the same amount of food.  And, because being overweight increases the risk of developing different illnesses as well as different types of cancer, any effort in that area will benefit us.

More fiber lowers the risk of diabetes and heart disease.  Those are issues that affect many people today.  Fiber helps.  In fact, soluble fiber (fiber which dissolves in water) which is found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran lowers bad cholesterol levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.  Studies have shown that it may also reduce blood pressure and inflammation.

Fiber also assists with blood sugar levels.  Especially in people with diabetes, it helps to slow the absorption of sugar into our blood stream.  It also may reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Fiber lowers the risk of colon cancer.  Researchers from Britain and the Netherlands found that “the more total dietary fiber and cereal fiber people consumed, the lower their colorectal cancer risk”.  In fact, consuming an extra 90 grams of whole grains per day could lower the risk of colon cancer by 20%.  However, the same was not true of fiber obtained from fruits and vegetables.

Additionally, in reviewing 25 studies including approximately 2 million people, researchers found that for each additional 10 grams of total dietary fiber and cereal fiber consumed a day, the person’s colorectal cancer risk decreased by 10 percent.

 

Ways to boost your intake of fiber

Try to incorporate whole grains, fruits, veggies, beans, peas, nuts and seeds into your daily diet.

Remember that refined or processed foods are lower in fiber. 

Supplemental fiber is okay, but it’s not known if supplements provide the same health benefits as fiber from naturally occurring sources.

Keep in mind that increasing fiber intake should be gradual.  Make sure and drink lots of water. 

And, just so you know, I will be upping my fiber intake.  I can’t write about these things and not at least try to follow them.  That would be crazy.  So, for dinner tonight?  Crockpot pintos and whole grain brown rice.  After all, gotta get that fiber!

 

-M

 

Sources:

Huffington Post

Mayo Clinic

Carbs- linked to colon cancer?


food pyramid

food pyramid

Recent information posted in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows a link between a high carbohydrate diet and an increased risk of colon cancer recurrence.  The study was designed to assess the effects of glycemic load and total carb intake on the survival rate of stage 3 colon cancer patients.

What they found was diet plays a role in colon cancer prognosis.  Cancer patients whose diet consisted of complex sugars and carbohydrate rich foods had an increased risk of cancer recurrence and death.

“We have growing body of data that diet and lifestyle likely matter in colon cancer patients and should be discussed as potential considerations in their overall care,” according to Jeffrey A. Meyerhardt, MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, lead author of the study.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as saying “all carbs are bad” and that we should avoid them; different carbohydrates and sugars have different effects on the body, according to Meyerhardt.  They still recommend a well-balanced diet, focusing on foods that don’t cause a blood sugar spike.

Why is this important to you and me?  The study focused on post-cancer diagnosis.  However, they assert that the research “cannot exclude the possibility that individuals with these dietary exposures acquire tumors that are biologically more aggressive.”  Meaning that these same dietary factors may have contributed to the spread of the cancerous cells in the first place.

Further studies are needed to confirm initial results, but indications show that diet is important to colon cancer survival.

Sources:

NY Times

Cancer Network

Why do we need to be active?


 

We all know that exercise is beneficial for us.  It is still hard to get motivated sometimes.  Here are just a few reasons to get out, get started, or keep up an active lifestyle. 

 

Why should we be active? Researchers show that regular physical activity or exercise can improve health in a number of ways.  Exercise assists in controlling weight; maintaining healthy bones, muscles and joints; reducing the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes; promoting psychological well-being; reducing the risk of death from heart disease; and reducing the risk from premature death.  Those are pretty good benefits, but that’s not all. Physical activity also reduces our risk of developing certain types of cancers. 

 

Breast Cancer:  Physically active women are less likely to get breast cancer.  A review of research printed previously in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, and reprinted in Science Daily, shows that physically active women are 25% less likely to get breast cancer.  Cancer.gov shows the decreased risk rate can be as high as 80% in some cases. 

 

Additionally, an analysis of 62 studies by researchers found that women who had been physically active throughout their life had the lowest risk of breast cancer; and that activity after menopause has an even greater effect than exercise performed earlier in life.

 

Studies also show that the risk of breast cancer decreases as the frequency and duration of physical activity increases.  In other words, the more frequently that we exercise, and the longer we exercise per session, the more benefits we’ll receive. 

 

Colon Cancer: Physically active people are less likely to develop colon cancer (also known as colorectal cancer).  Many studies have confirmed that “the most active people are 24% less likely to develop colon cancer than sedentary people are, regardless of their diets, smoking habits or body weight.”

 

Other studies have found that adults who increase their physical activity, either in intensity, duration, or frequency, can reduce their risk of developing colon cancer by 30-40% regardless of body mass index (BMI).  The greatest risk reduction is seen among those who are most active. 

 

Regular exercise can reduce the risk of other cancers as well. 

 

In summary, exercise is really good for us.  And, for exercise to reduce our risk of cancer, exercise needs to be “moderate to vigorous”, and frequent.  We need to sweat.  Researchers may not know specifically why moderate exercise reduces the risks of cancer, but in the end, if it can reduce our risk, it’s worth the effort.

 

Sources:

cancer.gov

sciencedaily.com

NY Times Blog

 

Mammography- effective screening method?


So we’ve all heard about the chemicals, toxins, and carcinogens around us, which are known to be cancer-causing agents.  There’s increased risks associated with red meat and alcohol consumption; the dangers of breathing car exhaust and cigarette smoke, even incidentally.  These are only a few of the noted environmental factors that may contribute to the growth of cancer cells.  

But, one new issue I am reading about (and maybe I’m late on this bandwagon) is the risk inherent in mammograms themselves.  While health experts agree that catching a tumor in its early stages contributes to survival rates, is mammography the most effective screening method in the detection of breast cancer?  It is currently the standard method of breast cancer detection used today.  As far as its effectiveness, I’m not sure if it is the most effective screening tool, and here’s why: 

1) Mammograms boast a high error rate.  Statistics show that 70-80% of all positive mammograms end up not being cancerous after biopsy results. 

2) False negatives. According to Dr. Samuel S. Epstein in his book “The Politics of Cancer”, approximately one in four instances of cancer in women aged 40-49 is missed by mammography.  The National Cancer Institute actually places the false negative rate at 40% among women in the same age group.  That’s an incredibly high percentage of cancer that’s missed in the standard screenings.  

3) Radiation risks.  As with all x-rays, mammograms use doses of radiation to create an image, and then the image is analyzed for any abnormal growths.  Apparently, mammograms use a fairly high amount of radiation, and because of that it is developing some opposition in the medical community.

The National Cancer Institute has presented evidence that, for women under 35, mammography could cause 75 cases of breast cancer for every 15 it identifies. 

What’s the solution?  I’m not sure.  I’ve read that there are other options for detecting breast cancer.  Ultrasound technology, for one, which has shown favorable results in some ages and ethnicities.  Unfortunately, there may not be a “one size fits all” solution.   More about effective screening in future posts.

Thanks for reading!   

-M

Reducing your risk factors


Interesting information was reported this week in the Huffington Post.  While we’ve heard that heredity plays an important part in our susceptibility to cancers, Dr. Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc notes in the article that 90 to 95% of breast cancer cases are not based on genes and heredity.  While we know heredity plays a part in influencing the spread of cancer tumors, many cancers are activated by external factors, things such as diet, lifestyle, environment, even age.

 

Some Recommendations for reducing your risk factors:

 

1) avoid unnecessary radiation when possible, from x-rays, cell phone usage, etc.

2) avoid over exposure to toxins.

3) avoid smoking, too much alcohol, and inadequate sleep.

4) avoid red meat and fried foods and sugar; focus your eating on whole foods, fruits and vegetables that have natural antioxidants, and plenty of water.

5) avoid uncontrolled stress, pessimism and anxiety.  We’ve all known these things are bad for us!

 

For more information, see the full story at the Huffington Post.  Thanks for reading!

 

Why hot pink?


Pink is great. Hot pink is even better.  Pink to me represents things that are feminine, pretty, and awesome.  But pink also is a means of supporting cancer research and prevention. People everywhere are affected greatly by the effects of cancer; and whether directly or indirectly, it affects everyone. 

When it affects you personally, there is a real need to do something positive in that regard. But what positive things can be done?  There are a lot of ways to assist when it comes to cancer research and prevention.  Many are monetary.  It takes money to do pharmaceutical research, develop new treatments, optimal dosages, conduct drug trials.  There’s also the natural view of healing, which is getting more attention recently. 

But there are other things that can be done, as well.  We’ve all heard it before.  Eat well.  Get regular exercise. Get enough rest. That’s where the health and fitness topics come in.  There are lots of studies and information out there showing that cancer is preventable.  Yup, I said it.  Preventable. 

Here are the goals I will attempt to accomplish with this blog:

1) I will do my best to highlight information I find that is interesting, new or important when it comes to cancer research and studies that are being conducted. Cancer research is going strong, but there are always new findings.  If it is important, if it is interesting, or inspiring, I’ll write about it.  Otherwise, I won’t. 

2) I’ll also include bits about health, fitness, and things we can do to assist in cancer prevention.  Believe it or not, there’s a lot of information out there that says it can be prevented.  More about that in future posts.

3) I also want to include a calendar of athletic type events, like fun runs, walks, rides, that all benefit cancer foundations and research. There’s good information that regular exercise reduces risk factors for many health problems, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, to name a few.

4) That’s where hot pink comes in.  Don’t get me wrong, I like regular pink and all.  Even ribbons.  But give me some awesome hot pink products that also benefit cancer research, and I’m so there.  I aim to have a page that will present cool products that not only are hot pink, but that support cancer research.

Doing what I can about promoting women’s health matters to me.  I hope it will matter to you.  Thanks for reading. This is my first blogging attempt, so any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks for reading, and think pink!

-M

%d bloggers like this: