Category Archives: Wellness


6417366-an-image-of-a-woman-s-waist-while-she-is-pinching-the-love-handles-on-either-side-of-her-hipBelly dancing is an aerobic workout offered in many gyms and health clubs across the nation.  In addition to being more fun than elliptical trainers, it strengthens core muscles most people don’t exercise in a regular trip to the gym.

Any kind of dancing is a good aerobic workout.  It promotes general fitness, conditions the heart and respiratory system, stimulates the immune system and increases stamina.

It also tones the nervous system, reduces stress, develops balance and coordination, increases oxygen flow throughout the body and imparts a sense of well-being and empowerment.

Just compare the expression on the face of a jogger to the expression on the faces of a couple doing the swing—dancing is fun!

SOURCE:   Dr Andrew Weil’s Tip of the Day, August 18, 2013



17282121-woman-suffering-from-heart-gamesResearch headed by Canadian Martha Mackay, a cardiac nurse, concluded there were no gender differences in rate of chest or arm discomfort, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, clammy skin and feelings of indigestion during a heart attack.

She did find, though, that women were more likely than men to experience throat, jaw and neck discomfort.  And that women are less likely than men to believe they’re having a heart attack and are more likely to delay getting treatment.

Dr Weil’s take:  Doctors tend to treat women less aggressively than men.  Women are less likely to receive drugs such as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors or even aspirin after a heart attack.

The incidence of bypass surgery and angioplasties are much lower among women than among men.

Women compose only 25% of all participants in research studies concerning the heart.

Dr Weil suggests that doctors and researchers are in need of consciousness-raising concerning women and heart disease.

SOURCE:   Dr Andrew Weil’s Weekly Bulletin, August 8, 2013


20412595-teenage-girl-eating-chocolate-barThe young woman mirrors my own enthusiasm and facial expression when I open a Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark candy bar.

In a new meta-analysis of recent studies, Luc Djousse, MD, DSc and colleagues from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that consumption of dark chocolate significantly lowered LDL (Lousy) cholesterol.

Overall, eating dark chocolate resulted in average lowered rates of 6.23mg/dL in total cholesterol and 4.9 mg/dl in LDL.  The cocoa had no effect on HDL (Healthy) cholesterol or on triglycerides.  Consuming dark chocolate produced more beneficial results than did drinking hot cocoa.

Despite the saturated fat and calories in chocolate, researchers believe it’s the flavanols (antioxidants) in dark chocolate that inhibit cholesterol absorption as well as the body’s receptors for LDL cholesterol.

Also, it’s possible that the saturated fat in chocolate is different from the fats that boost LDLs.  Stearic acid makes up 33% of the total fat in cocoa butter and more than 50% of the saturated fat.  Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Antioxidants Research Laboratory, observes, “Some lipid experts (and chocolate manufacturers) note that stearic acid is a ‘neutral’ saturated fat as it does not appear to increase LDL.”

He further commented that the new meta-analysis “ . . . “confirms earlier reports that dark chocolate/cocoa does not induce untoward lipid profiles and can even lower slightly LDL and total cholesterol as determined in randomized clinical trials.

“But note well that all these trials were essentially short-term in duration and some used quite high doses.”

OK, so how much dark chocolate can we consume without guilt?  Blumberg says, “The findings suggest that this indulgent treat can reasonably be included in a heart-healthy diet—in small amounts that do not increase body weight.”

 Source: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, August 12, 2013      Studies published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition


17911661-hot-dogPancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the US.  Difficult to detect in its early stages, the frequency of its incidence is increasing.

Susanna Larsson, PhD, of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, and colleagues reviewed studies involving more than 2,000,000 people, 6643 of whom had pancreatic cancer.  They found an across the board link with processed meats—bacon, sausage, ham and lunch meats—and all patients with pancreatic cancer.

But the link between red meat consumption and pancreatic cancer existed only for men, perhaps because men consume larger amounts of red meat than do women.

The study suggests that processed meats likely affect cancer risk because of the compounds, including nitrites, used in curing the meat.  Other studies show that the chemicals induce pancreatic cancer in animals.

The team’s findings support the American Cancer Society’s recommendations to limit red and processed meat intake.

Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter,  August 5, 2013       Study published in British Journal of Cancer, January 31, 2012


12927129-sad-coupleThough discussions of erectile dysfunction (ED) are becoming more mainstream, many men and women don’t have a good understanding of the condition.

Here are 4 important facts about ED:

1.  ED is often caused by diseases or conditions associated with aging.  Or it may be caused by side effects of medications used to treat the conditions.  It can also be caused by prostate surgery, stress, depression and problems associated with relationships.

2.  ED may be caused by tissues’ loss of elasticity and by the slowing down of nerve communication.

3.  Cardiovascular disease often leads to ED because clogged arteries affect blood vessels throughout the body, not just vessels of the heart.  In 30% of the men who consult their doctors regarding ED, the ED is the first clue that they have cardiovascular disease.

4.  The Massachusetts Male Aging Study suggests that there may be a natural ebb and flow of ED.  For some men, ED may occur, last for a considerable amount of time and then partly or fully disappear without any treatment.

Source:  Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, August 3, 2013


r7_brainatrophyalzMRIs of normal and atrophying brains Photo credit Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

Numerous factors determine which people will develop Alzheimer’s disease and which won’t.  Factors such as age, family history and gender are beyond our control.  Those factors within our control are the pillars of a healthy lifestyle—exercise, good nutrition, an appropriate weight.

The factors that assure our physical health have the same effect on assuring our mental health.

Here are 5 steps to follow to keep Alzheimer’s at bay:

1.  Maintain a healthy weight by cutting back on calories and increasing exercise if you need to lose a few pounds.

2.  Measure your waistline.  A National Institutes of Health panel recommends women maintain a waist measurement of no more than 35 inches and men measure no more than 40 inches.

3.  Eat mindfully.  Eat heartily of colorful, vitamin-packed fruits and vegetables while cutting down on calories from sweets, sodas and refined grains.  Avoid unhealthy fats and mindless snacking.  Pay attention to portion size.

4.  Exercise regularly to control weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.   Walk briskly (4 mph) for 2.5 to 5 hours weekly, or jog (6 mph) for half that time.

5.  Monitor important health numbers.  Ask your doctor about your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and blood sugar levels and make sure you keep them in healthy ranges.

Source:  Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, August 10, 2013



Christina Shay, PhD of the University of Oklahoma, and her team of researchers studied the data on 4,166 adults, ages 45 to 84, who were initially free of cardiovascular disease.

Over a period of five years, women who drank two or more sugary drinks daily were more likely to increase waist size and gain weight.  They were also more likely to develop high triglyceride levels and impaired fasting glucose than women who consumed less than one sugary drink per day.

Unhealthy changes in heart-disease risk factors were observed, regardless of changes in weight.  Not all women whose waist size increased were gaining weight.

Shay said, “Most people assume that individuals who consume a lot of sugar-sweetened drinks have an increase in obesity, which in turn, increases their risk for heart disease and diabetes.  While this does occur, this study showed that risk factors for heart disease and stroke developed even when we accounted for whether or not the women gained weight.”

The same results weren’t seen in men drinking sweetened beverages.  “Women exhibit lower energy requirements overall and they may be at elevated risk for . . . cardiovascular risk factors when a greater proportion of calories is consumed in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages,” Shay explained.

Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, reports, “This study adds to the data we already have that people should displace sugar-sweetened beverages with non-caloric beverages, preferably water.”

Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, July 8, 2013         Study presented at meeting of the American Heart Association