Women can reduce stroke risk with physical activity

A few weeks back we blogged about the Journal of the American Medical Association’s new guidelines for physical activity being raised for women. The study suggested that for women to be successful in maintaining normal weight and gaining fewer pounds, they need to exercise for about 60 minutes per day of moderate-intensity activity (1). That’s a whopping 420 minutes per week! It always seems like the more chaotic our lives get, the harder it becomes to implement guidelines like this within it.

The good news is that it doesn’t take as much activity or even the same moderate intensity to reap the benefits of lowering your risk of chronic disease. A study published this month in the Journal Stroke involved 39,315 healthy women who took part in Women’s Healthy Study. It examined their activity levels and risk of stroke. Over an average follow-up of approximately 12 years, 579 women had a stroke. Although there was no association between vigorous physical activity and stroke risk, there was an inverse relationship between walking time and pace with the risk of having a stroke (2). For women who walked more than two hours per week at a brisk pace (3 to 3.9 mph), there was a significant reduction in their risk of suffering a stroke (3). Almost twice as many women in the United States die of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases than from all forms of cancer (4). This becomes something simple women can do to lessen their risk and can even be broken up into 10 to 15 minute increments a day to make it more realistic to implement.

1. Lee IM, Djoussé L, Sesso HD, Wang L, Buring JE. Physical activity and weight gain prevention. JAMA. 2010 Mar 24;303(12):1173-9.

2. Sattelmair JR, Kurth T, Buring JE, Lee IM. Physical Activity and Risk of Stroke in Women. Stroke. 2010 Apr 6. [Epub ahead of print]

3. Brisk Walking Reduces Stroke Risk. Available at:
http://www.webmd.com/stroke/news/20100406/brisk-walking-reduces-stroke-risk. Accessed: April 6, 2010

4. Women, Heart Disease and Stroke. Available at:
http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4786. Accessed: April 12, 2010.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Grains are good for us… right?

You want to be sick, have low energy and take a handful of medications?

Of course not. Your health is more than just eating what most people believe is “healthy.” You need a basic understanding of the hormonal effects of the food you eat. We often hear, “but I eat organic, free-trade, hand-milled, seven-grain, sprouted, whole-grain breads and pasta just like the USDA Food Pyramid recommends.”

The problem is while it’s politically correct, it’s poor nutrition. Consuming too many carbohydrates elevate blood sugars and insulin. When you compare the vitamin and mineral content of various carbohydrates, the non-starchy, colorful vegetables far exceed those from grains.
See: http://drsears.com/ArticlePreview/tabid/399/itemid/45/Default.aspx

If you believe that grains are the staff of life, and you need them in your diet, you may find Dr. Sears’ new baked goods to be an excellent substitute without the drawbacks of “regular” grain products. For information of “Why It Works” and the “Science Behind It”
See: http://www.zonediet.com/WeightLoss/Overview/tabid/259/Default.aspx

Wait, you said grains are not as good as vegetables. Correct. That’s why Dr. Sears recommends adding in non-starchy colorful veggies (Mediterranean) to his Zone baked goods.

If you want to look and feel better, here’s a recipe that will offer you a quick and easy way to experience a Zone meal.

Zone Pasta Primavera

Ingredients:
1 package of Zone Fusilli
Olive oil spray
½ cup red bell pepper – matchstick cut
½ cup summer squash – matchstick cut
½ cup zucchini – matchstick cut
¾ cup red onion – sliced thin
1teaspoon Italian spice mix (oregano, thyme etc.)
1 leaf Swiss chard
Parmesan cheese – sprinkling
Salt and pepper

Directions:
Cook fusilli as directed.
Meanwhile, heat skillet sprayed with olive oil over medium heat.
Sauté red pepper, summer squash, zucchini and red onion quickly. Remove while al dente (a little crunchy).
Add vegetables to large bowl and toss with drained pasta. Lightly spray with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Place on Swiss chard leaf. Enjoy pasta and the Swiss chard.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

One more notch in the belt for the Mediterranean Diet

Diet plays a critical role in disease prevention. Often times we hear about “super foods” or individual foods that are packed with vitamins, minerals or antioxidants and are known for their health-promoting and disease-fighting properties. Since foods are typically consumed in combinations rather than individually, it’s important to consider the synergistic effect they may have, and how they may work together to prevent disease.

A study recently published in the Archives of Neurology examined the relationship between the combination of foods people eat, specific nutrients, and the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Two thousand one hundred and forty eight elderly individuals 65 and up with no history of dementia participated. Individuals were evaluated every 1.5 years for 4 years for neurological and neuropsychological markers as well as dietary intake (1). Based on food frequency questionnaires, foods were placed into 30 pre-determined food groups, and dietary patterns were established based on their ability to explain variation in seven nutrients related to dementia risk (saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin B12, and folate). At the study’s end, 253 cases of Alzheimer’s disease were identified. With regards to specific nutrients, individuals who had a diet rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E and folate and those with low intakes of saturated fatty acids and vitamin B12 had the lowest risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A dietary pattern very similar to that of the Mediterranean diet consisting of salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, cruciferous vegetables, fruits, dark and green leafy vegetables; and low in high-fat dairy, red meat, organ meat, and butter showed the lowest risk of disease (1). This is just one more study to support the benefits of a Mediterranean-like diet and the implications for the role diet plays in disease prevention.

1. Gu Y, Nieves JW, Stern Y, Luchsinger JA, Scarmeas N. Food Combination and Alzheimer Disease Risk: A Protective Diet. Arch Neurol. 2010 Apr 12. [Epub ahead of print]

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Exercise recommendations increased for women

Just when you thought you couldn’t possibly add one more thing to your plate each day, the Journal of the American Medical Association boosts the physical activity recommendations for women. The latest study suggests that for women to be successful in maintaining normal weight and gaining fewer pounds, they need to exercise for about 60 minutes per day with moderate-intensity activity (1).

The benefits of exercise are numerous from lowering the risk of chronic disease to mood-lifting abilities, but it’s important to remember that diet plays more of a role when it comes to weight loss, whereas exercise becomes more important during the weight maintenance phase.

To put this in perspective, a McDonald’s Big Mac has 575 calories, which could take about 2 ½ hours of moderate walking to burn off! You can see where watching what you eat becomes critical for weight loss versus trying to do it solely through exercise.

Diet and exercise do go hand in hand and have an important role in overall health, but the key to both is to make gradual changes so that they become sustainable. Even little changes make a big difference, whether it’s cutting back on the amount of cream and sugar you add to your coffee each day or deliberately parking at the end of the parking lot when running errands to get in more activity.

Instead of getting overwhelmed by what guidelines you should or shouldn’t be following, make one small goal a week and continue to add to it week after week, and before you know it, you’ll be on the road to a healthier you!

1. Lee IM, Djoussé L, Sesso HD, Wang L, Buring JE. Physical activity and weight gain prevention. JAMA. 2010 Mar 24;303(12):1173-9.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Like you needed a reason to eat chocolate …

You couldn’t walk into a pharmacy like CVS or Walgreen’s over the past few weeks without getting bombarded with the pastel colors of Easter eggs and chocolate candy displays. Come the day after Easter all this candy will be on sale, and even if you don’t celebrate Easter, you might be apt to pick some up on your next trip in. It doesn’t take much for us to justify indulging in our favorite treats. When a research study comes along promoting the benefits of green tea, red wine, or even chocolate, people automatically use it as an excuse to jump on the bandwagon and indulge more.

A recent study published in the European Heart Journal may make you inclined to run out and take advantage of these Easter sales (1), but proceed with caution. The study looked at 19,357 individuals over eight years who were free of myocardial infarction, stroke, not taking anti-hypertensive medications and their dietary intake of chocolate. What they found was that individuals who consumed chocolate had a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes, which they believed was due to the effects of the chocolate on lowering blood pressure (1).

How much chocolate were they consuming exactly? About one small square a week. The authors believe that a group of polyphenols, called flavonols found in cocoa, may be what lowered people’s blood pressure (2). Unfortunately, you won’t be able to find much of this group of flavonols among the Easter candy selections. Generally the more flavonols, the more bitter the chocolate, so the darker the better.

Just remember chocolate is a calorically dense food and high in saturated fat, so if you do consume, consume in moderation!

1. Buijsse B, C Weikert, D Drogan, M Bergmann, H Boeing. Chocolate consumption in relation to blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease in German adults. Eur Heart J March 30, 2010.
2. Chocolate ‘can cut blood pressure and help heart’. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8593887.stm. Accessed: March 30, 2010.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.