On flu shots and bloodwork

Last Thursday, I posted Tips on fighting the flu. I thought it was a good time for these tips as we are entering flu season. Also, I had an appointment to get my own flu shot on the following day. Please check out that post as there is a lot of good information in it for you relevant to protecting yourself in flu season. Also, Dr. Jonathan, who writes the blog All About Healthy Choices had some very informed ideas on fighting the flu which he offered in comments.


I know that there is a division in opinion about getting flu shots. I sometimes think flu shots, like politics, religion and unions are third rail conversational topics. Some people swear by flu shots (me) and some swear at them. The decision is yours, of course.  I would offer anecdotally that I started getting them around 16 years ago when I was teaching journalism at Northwestern University. One of my students interviewed a senior citizen who said that she had been getting flu shots for 10 years and in that time she had not only not caught the flu, but she didn’t even catch a cold. That was good enough for me. I have been getting them ever since with similar results. Continue reading

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What do artificial sweeteners do to our blood?

I have strong feelings about the damage done by artificial sweeteners, particularly in diet sodas. You can check out my page – What’s wrong with soft drinks? for more details. I cover both offenders, artificial and sugar-laden drinks.

A recent study by investigators at the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health measured how much artificial sweetener is absorbed into the blood stream by children and adults after drinking a can of diet soda. Results of this study are published in Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry.


The team measured the artificial sweeteners sucralose and acesulfame-potassium, which are found in a wide range of packaged foods and beverages. These artificial sweeteners, also including saccharin and aspartame, have received a lot of attention lately because it has been found that they are not inert chemicals with a sweet taste, but active substances that can affect the metabolism. (my emphasis) Continue reading

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Fitness trackers aren’t making us healthier – Time

This week’s Time magazine has an article on why fitness trackers aren’t making us healthier. This is even as the U.S. market for wearables hits $7 billion this year.


Duh, what a shocker! The piece quotes Eric Finkelstein, a professor at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, who led the effort, “There’s confusion among people about a measurement tool and an intervention,” Finkelstein says. A scale counts pounds, for example, but won’t teach you how to eat less.

I have quoted the statistic in lots of posts that more than 60 percent of us are overweight and 30 percent outright obese. Time offers the following, “The U.S. has an exercise problem, with 28 percent of Americans ages 50 and over considered wholly inactive. That means 31 million adults move no more than is necessary to perform the most basic functions of daily life.”

Wow. No wonder we have a healthcare crisis. We are killing ourselves with overeating and underexercising, maybe under-moving would be more accurate.

I think this whole thing with the fitness trackers goes back to our hunger for a ‘quick fix.’ How can I drop those extra pounds in a week or two, and with minimum effort? You can’t, at least not in any healthy way.

I know that during the many years I struggled with a weight problem my mind reasoned similarly. I would work at losing the extra pounds so that I could hurry back and indulge in all my bad eating habits. Not surprisingly, my weight yo yo-ed all the time. It wasn’t until I started writing this blog that I came to understand that losing weight is a stop gap measure not a way of life. The idea is to live healthy. If you do that you don’t have to worry about extra pounds. The ones you had will have melted off and you won’t be putting on new ones.

I didn’t create this post to condemn fitness trackers. There is nothing wrong with them. I have an Apple Watch. Got it just after they came out. I love it. I can track my bike rides, stair climbing, dog walks,etc., and get a little report on how many calories I burned, how far I went, my heart rate, how long it took and more. But, the Watch is just a tool. I was doing these things before I got the Watch, I just didn’t have all the information it provides. So, I consider this fitness wearable  a positive addition to my way of life. You can read How my Apple Watch promotes my good health if interested.

I have never owned or used a Fitbit or any of those other trackers, but I would imagine that they could fit into your healthy lifestyle in the same way. Just remember, as Professor Finkelstein pointed out, these fitness trackers are measurement tools not an intervention. We still have to make the decision and carry out the actions on our own. Until we adjust our mindset, no amount of neat new gadgets are going to solve our health problems.



Filed under Exercise, fitness calculator, fitness myths, fitness trackers

Tips on Fighting the Flu – WebMD

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that nearly 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year. More than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized every year and between 3,000 and 50,000 deaths occur due to flu. There is a good chance that these statistics would improve dramatically if more people got a flu shot.

WebMD queried doctors on flu prevention and reported that doctors had the following recommendations on fighting the flu.:

Wash your hands to keep germs away.
“I wash my hands or use a hand sanitizer before and after every patient,” says Christopher Tolcher, MD, a pediatrician in the Los Angeles area and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles. “Hands are veritable germ factories, so keep them away from your nose and mouth. Also keep them away from your food during cold and flu season.”

They also recommended alcohol based cleansers and antiseptic wipes.

Exercise for Immunity
“I try to get 20 to 30 minutes of cardio every morning before I go to work,” Fryhofer says. “There’s something about making your heart pump that’s good for your body. It strengthens your heart and strengthens your immune system,” says Sandra Fryhofer, MD, MACP, clinical associate professor at Emory University School of Medicine and a general internist in Atlanta.

Chicken soup
Although doctors use over-the-counter drugs when their symptoms are severe, they only do it sparingly. They recommend nice hot chicken soup because the vapor clears nasal passages and relieves throbbing in the sinuses

The key is prevention
The experts agree that prevention is the key. They all say that a flu shot is essential and they recommend staying in the best health year-round.

Regular readers already know that I strongly favor getting a flu shot and early in the season. That would be late September or early October. It usually takes the vaccine two weeks to start working. As flu season extends into the new year, the vaccine should be effective for several months of protection.

To read further on flu fighting check out my page How to Fight the Flu.



Filed under flu season, flu shot, preventing the flu

Coffee drinkers have better arteries – Tufts

Drinking three to five cups a day linked to lower risk of arterial plaque.

I enjoy coffee and have some every morning. I drink decaf because I don’t like to introduce unhealthy chemicals like caffeine into my system. That’s just me. I am not trying to proselytize here, just get the facts down, because the latest from the Tufts Health Letter interested me as a coffee drinker and blogger who covers health.


“Scientists may now better understand at least one way in which coffee could help to protect against cardiovascular disease. A large new Korean study reports that people drinking three to five cups of coffee daily were 41% less likely to show signs of coronary artery calcium than non-coffee drinkers. This calcification is an early indicator of the artery-clogging plaques (atherosclerosis) that cause coronary artery disease, which afflicts nearly 16 million Americans.  Continue reading


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12 +1 Rewards of Exercise

WebMD is offering a nice slide show with what they call the top 12 rewards of exercise.

I called this post 12 +1 Rewards because I have included my own observation adding one  reward from working out that WebMD didn’t mention.


They list Better Mood pointing out that exercise releases endorphins – the feel good’ chemicals in the brain.

Next is More Energy, noting that “when you exercise regularly that fatigue goes away and you find yourself with a lot more pep.” Continue reading


Filed under Exercise, exercise and brain health, exercise benefits

What are some actions that prevent or delay Dementia and Alzheimer’s?

The question of brain games and other cerebral activities to prevent or delay dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease was taken up by The Ask the Expert column in the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry.

“What kinds of brain activities did we find to be beneficial? While more research is needed to learn the best types of activities, the studies we reviewed included a wide range of possibilities….”


“Here are some ideas:
•    Read a novel, a non-fiction book, a magazine, or newspaper.
•    Play board games with your children or grandkids.
•    Volunteer for a local organization.
•    Host a weekly card game for friends.
•    Register for an adult education class at your local college.
•    Look for art, cooking or other fun classes in your community.
•    Play video games with a young person in your life.
•    Attend a play or visit a museum.

Continue reading

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Vitamin D – Do you get enough?

Vitamin D is the new rock star of the vitamin world. To read further on its benefits check out: Vitamin D and Cognitive Function, Vitamin D Deficiency May be Linked to Heart Disease, Vitamin D Deficiency May Compromise Immune Function, Calcium and Vitamin D Help Hormones Help Bones, Vitamin D Improves Mood and Blood Pressure in Women with Diabetes, Vitamin D and Your Body – Harvard, What are the ABC’s of Vitamins?



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An afternoon at the movies – The Accountant

in November of 2012, I wrote a post somewhat off topic for the blog asking the question “What about heroes without empathy?” I was am confused when it comes to admirable people with heroic dimensions who just happen to be unable to relate to other fellow human beings.

While the post had nothing to do with losing weight or living a long, healthy life, it proved very popular and stimulated interesting comments from readers.

That brings me to yesterday. I went with my girlfriend to see Ben Affleck’s new film, The Accountant. Lo and behold, here we are three years later with a powerful hero very much unable to relate to his fellow human beings.

The Accountant suffers from autism. Autism Speaks defines this as  a general term for “a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.”

The film surprised me on a number of levels. After seeing the trailers, I expected a high level thriller with Ben Affleck kicking butt.

I was pleasantly surprised to experience not only a high level thriller with Ben Affleck kicking butt, but also a detailed exposition of autism and how it affects personal development.

With only one reservation, I would like to recommend the movie as an engaging couple of hours in a dark theater with a bag of popcorn on your lap. Continue reading

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10 Health benefits of coconut water

The coconut tree must be one of the healthiest plants on the earth. I am such a believer in coconut oil that I have a Page – Coconut oil – Why you should include it in your diet devoted to it. Seems that coconut water also conveys health benefits. I use some of this every morning in my breakfast smoothie.




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Can exercise erase damage from excessive sitting? – Harvard

I confess that only last year I was ignorant of the fact that sitting for a prolonged period was very hazardous to your health. Since then, I have erased much of my ignorance with a number of posts. You can check them out on my Page – Do you know the dangers of too much sitting? So I was gratified to read the latest info on sitting from the Harvard Medical School.

“Can an hour of brisk walking counteract the downsides of sitting for most of the day? Maybe, according to a study published online July 27, 2016, by The Lancet.

BTD 22012.jpg

Since biking is one the of the suggested exercises, I thought I would include this shot of Gabi and me riding in Chicago’s annual Bike the Drive on famed Lake Shore Drive. 

Continue reading


Filed under cardio exercise, Exercise, exercise benefits, prolonged sitting, regular bike riding, sitting too long, walking

Low-fat diets – a failed experiment – Harvard

I have written numerous times about the nutritional benefits of coconut oil. For starters you can check my Page – Coconut Oil – Why you should include it in your diet. But that is just coconut oil – a saturated fat – but only one kind of fat.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health nutrition expert David Ludwig says that the low-fat diet remains “deeply embedded in public consciousness and food policy.” Recent research suggests that eating a low-fat/high-carbohydrate diet—which Americans were advised to do for about 40 years—is not a good idea.


In an October 6, 2016 CNN.com article, Ludwig, professor in the Department of Nutrition, wrote that longstanding recommendations about avoiding dietary fat—from the government and all major professional nutrition associations—were based on limited scientific evidence. Experts who touted a low-fat diet said it would help people stay lean and healthy. But, instead, rates of obesity and diabetes surged.

Experts now say that not all fats are bad—in fact, some are healthy and important in a balanced diet. Several recent studies found that high-fat diets actually produce greater weight loss than low-fat diets. And while the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have now lifted the limit on dietary fat, “you’d never know it, because a full accounting of this failed experiment has not been made,” Ludwig wrote. He called for a rigorous examination of “the low-fat diet debacle” and for more government funding to test new ideas in nutrition.

Read the CNN.com article: Doctor: Low-fat diets stuffed with misconceptions.

As I have said previously, living a healthy life and eating intelligently is the answer, not fad diets that don’t work and often through your body out of balance.



Filed under fat, healthy fats, low fat diet, saturated fat, Uncategorized


Doctor Jonathan has some really good ideas about living a healthy life. This post is a fine example of that.


All About Healthy Choices


 “In the womb and in early infancy, several risk factors can influence susceptibility to the development of diet-related chronic diseases later in life.”
During childhood and adolescence, the adoption of habits such as unhealthy dietsandlow-levels of exercise, has been shown to increase the risk of developing certain chronic diseases. An unhealthy diet contributes to high blood pressure in children causing changes in the body which are associated with the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and obesity. A high calorie intake in childhood is also linked to an increased risk of cancer in later life.
Most chronic diseases are expressed in adulthood. Risk factors that prevail during adulthood have been strongly linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes including obesity, physical inactivity, high cholesterol level, high blood pressure and alcohol consumption. An individual’s ability to take control over his or her life and to make…

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Filed under chronic disease, coronary heart disease, Exercise, exercise benefits, heart disease

Brain exercises – all hype? – Wall Street Journal

As a senior citizen, 76 years old as of this writing, I think that the condition of my brain is probably my number one priority. Right there along with the physical condition of my body. Also, regular readers know that I have several cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family on both parents’ sides. So the concept of impaired cognition has my full attention.

I know that most of my contemporaries and younger compatriots are also very sensitive about their mental condition. Everyone experiences ‘senior moments,’ but they are not funny to those of us over 60.


When I attended the ‘Healthy Transitions’ talks at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (for folks over 50), the most well-attended were the lectures on cognitive impairment and dementia. Always a packed house. This is a very hot topic for seniors.For these reasons, I have particular contempt for the snake oil salesmen who try to prey on seniors’ fears of cognitive impairment. These include the drug companies that offer surefire memory boosters and particularly the brain games. I have written a number of posts about the ineffectiveness of these games. You can access them by checking out my Page – Brain games for seniors – What you need to know.

Continue reading


Filed under brain exercise, brain function, brain games, brain health, exercise and brain health

7 Habits That Make Your Brain Work Better

Lots of good information here. Because of my family  history of Alzheimer’s and dementia, these positive habits rang a bell with me.


To read further on them, you can check my pages:

Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits)

How important is a good night’s sleep?

I have written a number of posts on dealing with stress. You can check them out by typing in the word s t r e s s in the search box. I recommend the following one which I wrote in 2010 as one of the most useful:

Some super tools for handling stress


Our Better Health

In a hyper-competitive world overflowing with information, our brains need to be able to keep up and outpace our competitors. Who doesn’t want their brain to process faster, remember more information or be able to come up with elegant solutions to complex problems? Cogito ergo sum. I think therefore I am. Our brains more or less define our existence and who we are. So how can we get our brains to work better, faster and more efficiently?



Exercising promotes blood flow, cardiac health and releases beneficial hormones and proteins into your body. These hormones and proteins protect your neurons, which are the cells that make up most of your brain, and encourage them to multiply and make new connections. Studies have shown that exercise helps you learn faster and remember more information. Further studies have shown…

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Filed under aging brain, brain, brain exercise, brain function, Exercise, relaxation

Stave Off Cognitive Decline With Seafood – Rush

I have written repeatedly about the benefits to the brain of cardiovascular exercise. You can fill yourself in on details from my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits).

Eating a meal of seafood or other foods containing omega-3 fatty acids at least once a week may protect against age-related memory loss and thinking problems in older people, according to a team of researchers at Rush University Medical Center and Wageningen University in the Netherlands.


Their research findings were published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging and the Judith Zwartz Foundation.

The age-related memory loss and thinking problems of participants in the study who reported eating seafood less than once a week declined more rapidly compared to those who ate at least one seafood meal per week. Continue reading

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Filed under aging, aging brain, cardio exercise, cognitive decline, Exercise