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Act now to make a difference October 28, 2009

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“Women today live by the myth that they can clean everything up after the age of 40.  So at 40, they walk into my office like it’s a warranty station and say, “Here I am! Fix me!” –Pamela Peeke, M.D., Assistant  Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore and Author of Fight Fat After Forty (Viking Press).

The average 30-years-old has an unprecedented chance to live to 100—if she takes care of herself.  “But what’s relevant to her now,” says Dr. Peeke, “is sliding into a pair of size 2 jeans every morning, finding the love of her life or scoring an excellent career.”  True, you can develop heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer long before you’re a centenarian.  But you’ll lower your risk fo all of these disorders by following one simple prescription:  “Avoid smoking, eat well and exercise,” says Dr. Mosca.  “All the fancy research we can come up with is never going to change that.”  (Sound easier said than done? 

The Best Stay-healthy Measure at …

20  Stop smoking already!  Kicking  the habit now can add 15 years to your life, according to the American Legacy Foundation

30  Watch your weight.  Stick to a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise, especially after having a baby.  Pregnancy is a major reason women put on weight in their thirties.

40  Keep watching your weight.  Staying trim reduces your risk for heart disease, which kills nearly three times as many women as their forties as in their thirties.  –Caroline Bollinger

Source:  “ Women’s Health Handbook ”  Mary Duenwald

Prehypertension October 25, 2009

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What is it?

Blood pressure is the force of blood against artery walls.  When this force increases beyond optimal level, it is known as high blood pressure or hypertension.  High blood pressure causes the heart to work too hard and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.  When blood pressure rises above the normal range but hasn’t quite reached hypertension status, it qualifies as prehypertension.  Having prehypertension makes it more likely that high blood pressure will develop unless you make diet and lifestyle changes.

How did I find out if I have it?

A sphygmomanometer—the technical name for a blood pressure cuff—gauges blood pressure.  Normal blood pressure is 120/80 and below.  High blood pressure begins at 140/90.  Prehypertension falls in the middle of these reading.

Should I get tested?

“All adults should have their blood pressure checked every two years, even if it has been normal,” say Nieca Goldberg, MD, national spokeswoman for the American Heart Association and author of Women’s Healthy Program (Ballantine, 2006).

How can I ward it off?

“A good first step to lowering blood pressure is to reduce your intake of salt to no more than 2 grams of sodium per day,”  Goldberg recommends.  Part of the ongoing DASH diet study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, recently showed that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products reduced blood pressure (Current Atherosclerosis Reports, 2005, vol. 7, no.6).  in addition, regular aerobic exercise (several times a week) lowers blood pressure—even if you don’t exercise enough to lose weight.  Of course, shedding a few extra pounds can slash blood pressure even more. – Victoria Dolby Toews

Doctor Pepper October 23, 2009

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Green and Red Pepper

Green and Red Pepper

Sweet red pepper often cost two times more that green ones, but they might be worth it. Red peppers contains nine times as much vitamin A as green peppers do. vitamin A is a disease-fighter known to speed the healing of wounds. Also, red peppers have more than double the vitamin C of their green cousins. – Jeffrey Csatari


Photo courtesy: gardenplotter

Better Heart Test October 19, 2009

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Better Heart Test

A blood test that detects inflammation predicts heart disease better than cholesterol tests in women, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Boston researchers tracked 27,939 women for over 8 years and found that half of heart attacks and stokes occurred among seemingly healthy women who had normal to low levels of LDL cholesterol levels can still have heart attacks.  “We now understand that heart attack and stroke are inflammatory disorders, very much like arthritis,” says lead study author Paul M. Ridker, M.D.  in the case of heart disease, fatty deposits (plaques) in the blood vessel walls become inflamed, causing them to rupture, which leads to a blood clot and blood flow blockage, says Dr. Ridker.  Having the new blood test, called a c-reative protein blood test, with your regular cholesterol screenings can help doctors better assess your heart disease risk. – Christine Brophy

Is It an Allergy or an Intolerance? October 15, 2009

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Food intolerances are different from allergies.  “Virtually everyone has an intolerance to a food at some time in their lives’” according to Dan Alkins, M.D., director of ambulatory pediatrics at the National Jewish Medical  and Research facility in Denver.  Intolerances, while unpleasant, are rarely life-threatening.  Drinking too much coffee or a fatty meal, for example can bring on a stomachache in some people.  If you always experience uncomfortable symptoms when you eat a particular food, talk to your doctor about it, who can help determine the cause of the reaction.  Following are some of the most common substances that can cause problems.

  Histamine.  This chemical is released form cells during an allergic reaction.  It’s also present in small amounts in certain foods including some wines and cheeses.  When ingested in large amounts, histamine poisoning is the ingestion of certain fish, if it is spoiled.  Symptoms of histamine poisoning includes nausea, flushing, itching, hives, headache and light-headedness.

  Gluten.  Others are irritated by an ingredient called gluten.  This substance is contained in foods such as wheat, rye and barley.  Gluten damages the small intestine of those with this problem, which  is known as celiac disease.  Such people can suffer diarrhea, weight loss and weakness.  Because celiac disease can make it more difficult for the body to absorb nutrients from food, those sensitive to it should avoid gluten entirely.

  Lactose.  A problem that’s often confused with an allergy is lactose intolerance.  People with this condition are low on lactase, an abdominal enzyme needed to digest lactose (found in diary foods).  Excess lactose can cause diarrhea, pain gas and bloating.

  Yellow dye number 5.  Certain substances that are added to food to enhance color can cause sensitivity reactions.  One coloring agent that can be problematic is yellow dye number 5.  Symptoms can include a skin rash.

  Monosodium glutamate (MSG).  This compound is added to foods to enhance flavor.  Those who are irritated by MSG can suffer chest pain, headache and flushing.

  Sulfites.  Sulfites are an ingredient added to foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables as a preservatives, but it can cause an intolerance in some people.  Those with asthma are at particular risk and can suffer potentially life-threatening reactions.  As a result, the FDA has banned the spraying of sulfites on produce as a preservative, but they’re contained in some foods and wines. – Alyssa Shaffer

Preventing the Problem October 12, 2009

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Scientist are working hard to find a cure for food allergies.  One promising area, says Dr. Sampson, is the development of an anti-IgE  antibody—a once-a-month shot that ties up the IgE antibodies so they can’t bind with mast cells to trigger a reaction.  A vaccine to fight peanut allergies is also in the works at Mount Sinai hospital in New York City.

Until there’s a way to stop reactions from taking place, the only safe course for people with food allergies is keeping the offending foods at arm’s length.  For parents, especially, this can prove troublesome, since they can’t always control what their child eats, particularly at school or a friends’ house.

It’s such a dangerous world out there for Matthew,” according to Montoya, who, when her son was 18 months old, found that he had serious milk, egg and peanut allergies.  “Most parent worry about freak accidents like having their child get hit by a car.  I worry about my son being exposed to milk—an item that’s in almost every refrigerator in the country.”

  Read ingredient lists carefully.  A product labeled “normally,”  for one, may still contain milk-derived ingredients (such as casein or whey), which can trigger allergies in a milk-sensitive individuals, according to Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder and CEO of the Food Allergy & Anaphlylaxis Network (FAAN).

  Inquire about ingredients  in menu items at restaurants.  Also find out whether the food has been cooked next to or with allergy-causing foods.  Depending on the allergy, doctors usually recommend avoiding entirely restaurants or stores that serve the high-risk foods.  For people with peanut allergies, especially, this means Asian restaurants, bakeries, ice-cream parlors and buffets.

  Be prepared with medication that can counter the symptoms of an anaphylactic attack.  The EpiPen contains epinephrine, which stops the allergic reaction.  It does, however, require a prescription.

  Seek out support.  Families with food allergies say advocacy groups can be lifesavers, especially for the newly diagnosed. FAAN, for example, is a clearinghouse that provides information on everything from food label reading to recipe ideas.  Munoz-Furlong, whose own daughter, was diagnosed with food allergies over 17 years ago, says information like this is often the best weapon in the war against allergies.

“Food allergies are serious, but you can’t live your life in fear,” she says. As long as you stay informed about what you or your child is eating, the both of you can have a long happy and healthy life.  – Alyssa Shaffer


Anatomy of an Allergy October 5, 2009

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Allergic reactions can take many forms, but all have one thing in common:

They’ve triggered by the immune system.  Immune proteins (antibodies) fight any intruder that threatens your health.

One type of antibody, called immunoglobulin E (or IgE), likely evolved to conquer parasites that enter the body.  But in people with food allergies, these antibodies treat certain foods as the enemy.

The antibodies attaché themselves to the surface of a type of immune cell called mast cells.  When food enters the body, the antibodies alert the mast cells to release inflammatory chemicals, such as histamine, to produce allergy symptoms.

Mast cells are present in all body tissues.  Depending on their location, they can cause a cavalcade of responses.  Mast cells that are activated in the skin, for example, can cause hives, redness and itchiness.  In the digestive tract, they can set off vomiting, diarrhea or pain.  In the throat, they can cause the airways to close off, which may begin as an itchy mouth or throat and lead to a swollen tongue and constricted airway, and can ultimately be fatal.  – Alyssa Shaffer