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To Drink or Not to Drink?- 4

In our continuing exploration of the issues surrounding the supposed benefits of moderate use of alcohol, let's look at a two more important areas. 

First, what would be the outcome if alcohol were a newly discovered compound? Would the big drug companies develop and market it as a preventive for coronary heart disease?

Dr. Ira Goldberg of Columbia University in New York eloquently addressed these questions in 2003 when he wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine:

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Pre-menopausal Breast Cancer and Breast-feeding

Women who ever breast-fed have lower risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer.

A number of observational studies suggest that breast-feeding reduces pre-menopausal breast cancer risk, but large prospective studies have been lacking until now. Using a cohort of the Nurses' Health Study II, investigators report that women who had a first-degree relative with breast cancer and ever breast-fed had a lower risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer compared to those who had never breast-fed. This benefit did not seem to persist for women without a family history of breast-cancer.

PositiveTip: Women, especially with a family history of breast cancer, should be encouraged to breast-feed their infants. It's good for the baby and good for Mom!

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Prestroke Physical Activity Improves Stroke Recovery

Physical activity today may significantly improve your odds if you ever have a stroke.

We all know physical activity can reduce our risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. However, new research strongly suggests that physical activity three or more times per week in the year before a stroke significantly increases the likelihood of good outcomes, compared to those who hardly exercised at all. One of the authors, James Meschia, MD says, "It makes sense. A brain that generally has good blood and oxygen flow from aerobic exercise will be in better position to compensate for neurological defects caused by a stroke."

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Nutritional Quality of Organic Foods

Organically grown produce not found to be nutritionally superior to conventionally grown.

The perception among many consumers today is that organically grown produce is nutritionally superior, and more healthy for you, than conventionally grown products. A new study published late last month sheds some important light on this sometimes heated topic. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine reviewed the findings of 162 scientific papers published over the past 50 years on this topic and concluded "there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superority."

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Anxiety May Predict Later Dementia

Staying calm may protect against dementia!

How can one predict the development of dementia in later life? A new prospective study may shed some light on this question. Using a standardized anxiety inventory and later cognitive status in almost 1200 men followed for 17 years, researchers found that those with high anxiety levels at baseline were significantly more likely to develop dementia. While this report does not establish a causal link, it strongly suggests that managing stress and anxiety positively may influence quality of life the later years.

PositiveTip: A wise man once said: "A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones." Proverbs 17:22 

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Encouraging News on the Colonoscopy Front

Putting off having a colonoscopy? "Nicer" alternatives are being developed.

While certainly not our favorite screening procedure, colonoscopy remains the best method of detecting colorectal cancer early. A surprising number of people simply refuse this important screening test. Technology may be coming to their rescue (and ours also). Capsule endoscopy involves swallowing a large capsule with a camera at each end and the electronics to image the entire colon. Patients must prepare carefully before swallowing, then swallow the capsule which goes into "sleep mode" for the transit time to the colon, "wakes up" and for 10 hours images your colon! Is it a viable option yet?

To Drink or Not to Drink? - 3

In the last couple of posts we have been exploring the issue of moderate drinking. Is it really all it is cracked up to be? Alcohol certainly takes a huge toll on society. The case for moderate drinking has a large number of studies to support its benefits, too. Are there alternative explanations? Certainly!

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Global Health and Lifestyle Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. One of the speakers I heard was David Williams, PhD, MPH who is a Harvard University professor. He postulated several very interesting alternative explanations for alcohol's purported benefits.

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Mid-life Marital Status and Cognitive Function in Later Life

Being widowed from mid-life onwards is associated with a significantly greater risk of dementia!

People living in a relationship with a partner in mid-life (average age 50.4) were less likely than those single, separated, or widowed to develop cognitive impairment later in life. This new research also found that those widowed both at mid-life and later life had a significantly higher chance of being cognitively impaired compared to those who were married. 

PositiveTip: Living in a relationship with a partner probably provides cognitive and social challenges that protect against cognitive impairments later in life!

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Modifiable Lifestyle Factors Prevent Most Hypertension

Seventy-eight percent of all hypertension could be prevented with the adoption of 6 protective factors!

With so much attention on healthcare reform, perhaps we ought to focus on personal lifestyle reform! The Nurses' Health Study has yet again yielded evidence in favor of a healthy lifestyle. Almost 84,000 women were followed for 14 years. Those who had the lowest risk of hypertension were those who followed basic modifiable risk factors such as body mass index (BMI) of less than 25, 30 minutes of vigorous exercise per day, compliance with the DASH diet, low use of non-narcotic pain meds, and intake of 400 microg/day of folic acid. Interestingly, the risk for hypertension was 5 times higher in women who were obese compared to those with normal BMI.

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Attenuate Risk for Cardiovascular Disease with Lifestyle

If you want to be healthy tomorrow, start with healthy lifestyle choices today.

When are we going to learn that our lifestyle choices do make a difference for our health outcomes. Last month the Journal of the American Medical Association published yet another finding underscoring this fact! Nearly 21,000 men in the Physicians' Health Study I who were apparently healthy at baseline were followed for an average of 22.4 years. Healthy lifestyle habits, such as normal weight, not smoking, regular exercise, eating breakfast and lots of fruits and vegetables, yielded the lowest lifetime risk of developing heart failure.

PositiveTip: Remember, the choices you make today will influcnce your health many years from now!