Archive for April 23rd, 2009

REDUCING CHOLESTEROL: HERBS TO HELP YOUR HEART

Tea

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage after water, and archeological evidence suggests it was consumed 500 000 years ago, originally in China and India. Tea refers to the plant Camelia sinensis, and there are three main varieties: black, green and oolong. The difference between these is the way they are processed. Green tea is made from unfermented leaves, and contains the greatest amount of antioxidants. The leaves of black tea have been fully fermented, and oolong tea leaves are fermented for a shorter period of time.

Green tea is very high in a type of antioxidant called catechins. The main catechins found in green tea are epicatechin (EC), epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin gallate (ECG), and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). The last one is considered the most powerful, and research has proven it to have strong disease fighting properties. Tea drinkers appear to have a lower death rate after a heart attack than non tea drinkers. Green tea was found to prevent the development of atherosclerosis in mice. This could be due to the antioxidants in it preventing the oxidation of cholesterol, and damage to the artery walls, and/or because tea has a dilating effect on the arteries.

A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry analyzed the antioxidant activity of 22 vegetables as well as green and black tea. The researchers found that both green and black tea had much higher antioxidant activity against free radicals than all of the vegetables studied. Of the vegetables studied, garlic was the most powerful antioxidant, followed by kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

Eat your herbs and spices

A number of herbs and spices that are used in cooking actually have very powerful protective effects against heart disease.

Garlic has been used as a food and medicine in many cultures for thousands of years. First of all garlic is a strong antibiotic, it is able to kill a variety of bacteria, viruses, fungi and intestinal parasites. This is useful, as several infections have been associated with a higher risk of heart disease. If you eat garlic regularly, you are not likely to have hidden chronic infections in your body. Garlic is also a strong antioxidant, helping to protect our cells and tissues from damage and inflammation.

Studies have shown that garlic can help to prevent blood clots; it thins the blood, helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It may even act to lower blood homocysteine levels. Include garlic in your meals regularly; it is best eaten raw, as cooking destroys some of the active components in it. Onion, leeks and spring onion all have similar properties to garlic; they are just not as strong.

Ginger has been used in India, Asia and Arabic countries as a medicine since ancient times. Modern research has shown that it helps to protect us against heart disease in a number of ways. Ginger helps to reduce inflammation in the body; you may be aware of its positive effects on arthritis and menstrual pain; these conditions are both stimulated by inflammation. By reducing inflammation, ginger is also able to inhibit the process of atherosclerosis in our arteries. Ginger is able to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and because it is an antioxidant, it has the ability to prevent the oxidation of LDL “bad” cholesterol.

Turmeric is becoming known as a wonder spice with the ability to prevent many diseases. It is a close relative of ginger, has an intensely yellow colour and is the main ingredient in curry powder. The main benefits of turmeric are its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. It is able to lower cholesterol levels and prevent the oxidation of LDL “bad” cholesterol. Turmeric also inhibits the accumulation of platelets in artery walls that have been damaged. This is good because it inhibits the formation of blood clots that can block arteries and lead to heart attacks and strokes. Research has also shown turmeric to exhibit anti cancer effects, and inhibit the development of dementia. You can find powdered turmeric in the supermarket, which you can use in cooking. The fresh rhizome is often available in Asian grocery stores.

*52/53/5*

EFFECTS OF NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS ON FERTILITY: FOLIC ACID

There is now a great deal of scientific knowledge about the use of nutritional supplements and their beneficial effects on both male and female fertility. These supplements can be very effective in rebalancing your hormones, as well as improving your and your partner’s overall health – so vital for successful conception.

Folic acid deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency in the world, partly because the body cannot store large amounts of folic acid. It really only has sufficient for one to two months so it is essential to supplement.

Of course, we now know that folic acid can prevent spina bifida and it is essential that it is in good supply before and during pregnancy. But that is not all.

Folic acid is just one of a number of  vitamins. To successfully produce the genetic materials DNA and RNA, you must have enough folic acid, together with vitamin B12. This co-dependency is common between nutrients and, because of such interactions, it is naive to think that supplementing with folic acid alone before pregnancy, as suggested by the medical profession, is enough.

You have to remember that doctors are not generally trained in nutrition. (They receive only a few lectures on the subject while they are studying if they are lucky.) By giving advice in isolation and without the necessary nutritional training, other complications can arise. For example, since folic acid and vitamin B12 are inextricably linked, it is possible to mask a B12 deficiency (pernicious anaemia), for instance, by giving folic acid alone.

A US study found that women taking a multivitamin before conception had fewer babies with a cleft lip. The immediate assumption was that it was probably the folic acid that was making the difference. But, since all the other vitamins were also being taken, it could have been any one of them that had the positive benefit. More likely, it was the combination of all the nutrients.

Recent research into heart disease suggests that folic acid and vitamin Â12 might be beneficial in controlling an amino acid called homocysteine, found in the blood, that causes damage to the lining of blood vessels. Since high levels of homocysteine are also found in women who have miscarriages, it surely follows that folic acid and vitamin B12 might be helpful to these women too.

When trying to get pregnant, you should also be aware that folic acid deficiency is common in people with chronic diarrhea or malabsorptive states such as coeliac disease and Crohn’s disease. Alcohol causes the body to excrete folic acid, and certain drugs-, such as those for epilepsy and oral contraceptives, can cause a folic acid deficiency. So, if you fall into any of the above categories, make sure you supplement with folic acid before trying to get pregnant.

You should take 400mcg a day. (You also need to take vitamin B12).

*45/73/5*

Tags:

PREVENTIVE MEASURES AGAINST HEART ATTACKS

•     Eat more fish oils. Studies of people who consume large amounts of fish (notably the Japanese and the Eskimos) show that they have very low heart-disease rates. Both groups have low blood-fat levels, high levels of high-density lipoproteins (the good, helpful kind) and a reduced tendency for their blood to clot. These people also have a high level of a particular type of fatty acid called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). This and its close relative, DHA, are found in fish, fish oils and the fat of marine animals. Many research groups have now looked at the role of fish-oil supplements and found that various risk factors for heart disease can be altered beneficially. The main advantage appears to be that the blood becomes less sticky and so less likely to form clots. This must reduce the risk of heart attacks because they are so often triggered off by a clot in one of the arteries that supply the heart. It is especially encouraging to find that the higher the blood fats before taking fish oil, the more they are affected by the treatment. So far there do not seem to be any drawbacks to taking fish-oil supplements-for example, the blood does not go on getting thinner and thinner. So, by increasing your fish consumption and possibly taking a food supplement of EPA, you can almost certainly reduce your chances of having a heart attack.

•     Eat more magnesium-containing foods. Recent work suggests that it is brief spasms of the coronary arteries rather than clots that trigger a significant number of heart attacks. It appears that a deficiency of magnesium could be behind this problem. Eat more fruit, whole grains, vegetables and pulses to enrich your diet with magnesium.

•     Make friends and be sociable. Social isolation has been found to be a factor in heart attacks, according to a study of 4,000 men in the US. The most sociable people had fewest heart attacks. In parallel with this an Israeli study found that men who had a good sex life were much less likely to have a heart attack. There is also evidence that loving care reduces the arterial disease that makes a heart attack more likely by narrowing the coronary arteries.

•     Control your diabetes if you have Type I (insulin-dependent diabetes) and cure it if you have middle-age onset diabetes. Diabetics have a very much increased risk of having a heart attack and this preventive measure is very worth while.

•     Don’t take the contraceptive pill if you have a history of heart disease in the family. It is not known why women have so much less heart disease than men-the hormonal differences are not an adequate explanation-but taking the Pill definitely raises the risk unacceptably for susceptible women, especially after the age of 35.

•     The weather, particularly the invasion of cold fronts and rapid falls in barometric pressure, has been linked to admissions to hospital with heart attacks. Things you can do to prevent heart attacks occurring in these circumstances are to avoid exposure to cold, especially the combination of vigorous exercise and cold. It is no coincidence that so many men die from heart attacks every year shifting snow from in front of their homes. The use of a light face-mask helps maintain temperature and humidity and can be a useful preventive.

*166/72/5*

Tags:

WEIGHT LOSS: TYPES OF GROUP THERAPY

Psychoeducational and Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapy

We heard about many cognitive-behavioral techniques. The same principles can work in a group setting as well.

Groups provide a natural forum for patients to learn the facts about eating disorders. Food diaries can be looked at in groups. Another advantage of groups is that they give patients an opportunity to share strategies for improving unhealthy eating and reworking outmoded patterns of thinking and feeling.

Family Support Groups

Family groups, often led by a social worker, involve members of anywhere from five to ten families of eating disorder patients. Families learn how to be more supportive of their child, how to set limits, and how to handle problems that crop up. In sessions, people share experiences and trade advice, giving each other much-needed emotional support in the process. Many participants report feeling much less shame and guilt following a course of therapy.

Other Types of Groups

These include creative therapy, such as movement or dance therapy, to help patients get in touch with their bodies, and art therapy, where patients draw or sculpt to express their feelings about their bodies, their relationships with others in their family, and so on. In psychodrama groups, patients act out scenes, playing different roles to carry on conversations or demonstrate feelings. This strategy helps a patient uncover her feelings and bring them into the room, where they then take on a life of their own. Women’s issues groups focus on concerns relating to sexuality and the role of women in society. Finally, there are self-help groups that offer emotional support, socialization, and hope.

*89/35/5*

Tags:

STIMULATE YOUR DETERMINATION: SHE LOST THE WEIGHT AND GOT HER DREAM JOB

Phyllis Schmoyer wanted to be a telephone operator, just like her big sister. So shortly after graduating from high school in 1944, she applied for a job at the same company where her sister worked.

“At first, I was told that I couldn’t be hired because it was against company policy to employ more than one person from the same family,” recalls the 73-year-old Pottstown, Pennsylvania, woman. “But when I pressed the issue, I was told that I was too heavy.” At the time, she carried 168 pounds on her 5-foot-5 frame.

“Back then, telephone operators sat very close to one another,” she explains. “Because I was overweight, I would have taken up more than my share of space.”

Phyllis, who had never been too concerned about her weight, suddenly had a very compelling reason to slim down. “I really wanted that job, so I began doing things that I thought would help me get rid of the extra pounds,” she recalls. “I stopped sitting around like I had done all during high school, and I started walking everywhere.” She also tried to eat better, cutting back on both the candy bars that she loved and the rich food that was served in her home. “My parents were Pennsylvania Dutch, so I was accustomed to heavy meals with lots of fried foods,” she says.

Sure enough, the pounds came off—40 of them in all. Triumphant, Phyllis returned to the phone company to reapply for an operator position. This time, she got the job.

Though more than 50 years have passed, Phyllis has maintained her trim figure. “I stay active, and I watch what I eat,” she says. “I think that my weight got to where it was supposed to be in the first place, and it has pretty much stayed there.”

Looking back, Phyllis is convinced that taking off those 40 pounds made a world of difference for her. “If I hadn’t lost the weight, I probably wouldn’t be alive today,” she says. “Heart disease runs in my family, and as heavy as I was, I may have gotten it, too. I truly believe that slimming down saved my life.”

WINNING ACTION

Make slimming down high stakes. If you have trouble sticking with your weight-loss program, maybe you need to up the ante a bit. Maybe you’ve been toying with the idea of changing jobs or going back to school or signing up for an African safari. Make that your incentive to slim down.

*143\89\8*

Tags: