Category Archives: Harvard Health Publications

Your brain on chocolate – Harvard

At the risk of repeating myself yet again, my family has a history of Alzheimer’s and dementia, so any info on brain health resonates deeply with me.

Here is Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications on chocolate and your brain.

100915_fobette-main

Did you know that places where chocolate consumption is highest have the most Nobel Prize recipients? It’s true, at least according to a 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Of course, that could be a coincidence. But is it possible that intelligence or other measures of high brain function are actually improved by the consumption of chocolate? A new review summarizes the evidence and concludes with a resounding “maybe.”

Keeping your brain healthy

When it comes to preserving and improving brain function, let’s face it: we need all the help we can get. With age, diseases that cause dementia, such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease, become more common. And since we have an aging population, predictions are that dementia will become much more common in the near future. Yet despite decades of research, there are no highly effective treatments for dementia. Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under aging brain, brain, brain function, brain health, chocolate, Harvard Health Publications, Healthy brain

What does it take to be a super-ager? – Harvard

One of the stated aims of this blog is to live past 100. Posts every day touch on that goal, but mostly in a ‘part of the big picture’ way. Herewith some positive ideas from Harvard Health publications directly on the subject of super-aging.

Finding role models who are older than we are gets more difficult as we age. But in the last few years, medical science has identified a new group we can aspire to join — the super-agers. The term refers to people in their 70s and 80s who have the mental or physical capability of their decades-younger counterparts.

c80992a1012118373be3f673cecdf16bf4f6c32b_original

Although super-agers’ brains show less cell loss than those of their contemporaries, their IQs and educational levels are similar. What sets them apart might be that they view problem-solving differently, Dr. Dickerson says. “They may approach these tasks as a challenge they can succeed at, in contrast to typical older adults who may give up.” Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under cardio exercise, Exercise, exercise and brain health, exercise benefits, Harvard, Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School, super-ager

A fresh look at Obesity – Harvard

I have been writing about obesity for years here. There are included links at the bottom of this post if you want to read further on the subject.

obesity-global-epidemic-fb.jpg

Madeline Drexler, Editor, Harvard Public Health, wrote in the Spring 2017 issue: “According to 2014 national data, 35 percent of adult men and 40.4 percent of adult women are obese—that is, their body mass index, or BMI, a standard calculation of weight divided by height, is greater than or equal to 30. (Normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9; overweight is 25 to 29.9.) Among youth 2 to 19 years old, the prevalence of obesity is 17 percent, and extreme obesity (a BMI at or above 120 percent of the 95th percentile on standard child growth charts), 5.8 percent. All told, more than 70 percent of Americans ages 20 and over are either overweight or obese. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Harvard Health Publications, obesity

Check out interval walking – Harvard

I have written numerous times about the value of walking as an exercise. I have a Page – Why you should walk more which I hope you will check out for further details on this superb form of exercise. Well, now comes Harvard Health Publications with a fresh look at this old exercise – Interval Walking.

walking-posture

Warm weather is here, and you may be walking more to take advantage of being outside. Why not ramp up your routine with bursts of fast-paced walking? The technique, known as interval walking, “is a great way to get the most exercise bang for your buck,” says Dr. Aaron Baggish, associate director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

About interval training

Interval walking is a form of interval training, which describes any form of exercise in which you purposely speed up or slow down at regular intervals throughout the session. The benefits of interval training in athletes and people in cardiac rehabilitation are well studied. Dr. Baggish says interval walking hasn’t been examined as much, but he believes the same benefits apply. “Something about strenuous exercise is good for the body. It improves endurance, reduces blood pressure, and helps with weight loss,” he explains. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under cardio exercise, Exercise, exercise benefits, Harvard Health Publications, interval walking, walking

Exercise can boost your memory and thinking skills – Harvard

Moderate-intensity exercise can help improve your thinking and memory in just six months.

Happy days! More positive information on the benefits to the brain garnered from physical exercise! This time from Harvard Medical School.

brainexercise

You probably already know that exercising is necessary to preserve muscle strength, keep your heart strong, maintain a healthy body weight, and stave off chronic diseases such as diabetes. But exercise can also help boost your thinking skills. “There’s a lot of science behind this,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under aging brain, brain, brain exercise, brain function, brain health, exercise and brain health, Harvard, Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School

5 ways to hold optimism — and reap health benefits – Harvard

As regular readers know, I feel very strongly about positive psychology. I stumbled across it some years ago and it certainly moved my life to a higher plane. You can read more about it at the end of this post. In the meantime, I wanted to share this nice write up from Harvard Health Publications.

A growing body of research indicates that optimism — a sense everything will be OK — is linked to a reduced risk of developing mental or physical health issues as well as to an increased chance of a longer life.

e71e01a9a785e7239322ce01392cf3d1

One of the largest such studies was led by researchers Dr. Kaitlin Hagan and Dr. Eric Kim at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Their team analyzed data from 70,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, and found that women who were optimistic had a significantly reduced risk of dying from several major causes of death over an eight-year period, compared with women who were less optimistic. The most optimistic women had a 16% lower risk of dying from cancer; 38% lower risk of dying from heart disease; 39% lower risk of dying from stroke; 38% lower risk of dying from respiratory disease; and 52% lower risk of dying from infection.

Yes, you can acquire optimism.

Even if you consider yourself a pessimist, there’s hope.Dr. Hagan notes that a few simple changes can help people improve your outlook on life. Previous studies have shown that optimism can be instilled by something as simple as having people think about the best possible outcomes in various areas of their lives,” she says. The following may help you see the world through rosier glasses: Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Harvard Health Publications, Positive Psychology, positive thinking, positivity

6 ways to use your mind to control pain – Harvard

In an effort to keep as many foreign substances outside of my circulatory system, I take as few drugs as possible. Since I suffer from arthritis of the hands, I have to resist the temptation to get into painkillers daily. I fear the side effects more than my hands hurting.

The Harvard Health Publications offer  a number of techniques, some of them age old, that may reduce one’s need for pain medication.

arthritis-pain-new-braunfels-seguin-austin-san-antonio-tx.jpg

No respecter of age, arthritis pain can strike in numerous places.

The following techniques can help you take your mind off the pain and may help to override established pain signals.

1. Deep breathing. It’s central to all the techniques, so deep breathing is the one to learn first. Inhale deeply, hold for a few seconds, and exhale. To help you focus, you can use a word or phrase to guide you. For example, you may want to breathe in “peace” and breathe out “tension.” There are also several apps for smartphones and tablets that use sound and images to help you maintain breathing rhythms. Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under arthritis, hand arthritis, Harvard Health Publications, osteoarthritis

6 Tricks to Eat Healthier – Harvard

I happened upon this from Harvard Medical School’s Healthbeat. It happens to be six of the best ideas that I have written about or heard about for eating healthier and smarter.

1. Ditch whole milk
Not only does this reduce saturated fat in your diet, it also shaves off calories.
How: Switch to 1% or nonfat milk, and nonfat versions of other dairy products like yogurt and ice cream. Can’t bear to go cold turkey? Step down more slowly to 2% milk, then 1% en route to nonfat, if possible.

Most of the people I know have been drinking skimmed or soymilk for years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2. Harness the power of nuts (and seeds)
Almonds, cashews, filberts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, and pistachios pack plenty of beneficial nutrients, including vitamin E, folic acid, potassium, and fiber. Although many nuts are high in fat, the fat is mainly unsaturated — a healthy choice.
How: First, put nuts on the grocery list. Nuts are high in calories, so it’s best to enjoy them in place of other snacks, not in addition to them, and to keep serving sizes small.

Amen, brother. To read further on the benefits of nuts and seeds, check out my posts:
6 Reasons You Should Eat Pumpkin Seeds Year-Round
The Super Seeds: Which is Healthier
What are the Top Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

Are Chia Seeds Good for You?
Are Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas) Good For You?

3. Taste food before you salt it
Break the autopilot habit of reaching for the salt shaker.
How: For two days, don’t put any salt on your food at all. A short break can help reset your taste buds. Then, leave the salt shaker in the cabinet, so it becomes a bit of an effort to reach for it. Make a ritual out of truly tasting your food before you decide if it needs tweaking.

Great idea, but the fact is that most people get overdosed on the salt that is in their processed foods. The more natural food you eat, the better off you will be.

4. Pack lunch once a week
This makes healthy food choices readily available to you at work or on an outing. And since you are controlling portion sizes, you can make sure that you’re not supersizing your meal. Plus, it saves you money.
How: Once a week, before you shop for groceries, write out a meal plan that leaves enough leftovers for one or two lunches.

I love this. I suggested it back five years ago when we first started the blog.  Here are my exact words: “I think if I were still working I would seriously consider bringing lunch from home a day or two each week to keep a handle on my intake. With a fridge and microwave where you work, you are good to go,” I wrote in the About Me Page.

5. Eat five (or more) vegetables and fruits a day
It’s a nutrient-packed way to fill your plate, and is generally low in calories.
How: First, for one week, keep track of how often you eat fruits and vegetables. One serving equals one-half cup of chopped fruit or most vegetables; for raw leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach, a serving is one cup. Once you have your baseline, try adding one fruit or vegetable serving a day.

6. Plan meals that are delightful, delicious, and healthy
In an ideal world, food delights all our senses: it looks beautiful, smells heavenly, and tastes delicious, and its textures feel and even sound satisfying. Start thinking about food as something to really savor and enjoy. How: Pencil in time to prepare and savor one or two special meals a week. Once you’ve assembled great ingredients, set a gorgeous table. Take a moment to truly take in scents, companions, and surroundings, and if you like, give thanks.
For 42 simple changes to help you exercise more, eat healthier, stress less, and live a happier, more fulfilling life, buy Simple Changes, Big Rewards from Harvard Medical School.

Tony

Leave a comment

Filed under harvard health letter, Harvard Health Publications, healthy eating

5 Habits for Heart Health – Harvard

Here are five strategies to protect your heart, arteries and the rest of you, according to Harvard Medical School’s HealthBeat.

1. Avoid tobacco. Smoke from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes is as bad for the heart and arteries as it is for the lungs. If you smoke, quitting is the biggest gift of health you can give yourself. Secondhand smoke is also toxic, so avoid it whenever possible.

2. Be active. Exercise and physical activity are about the closest things you have to magic bullets against heart disease and other chronic conditions. Any amount of activity is better than none; at least 30 minutes a day is best.

For folks with demanding jobs, use the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to work or the train station. Exercise is cumulative. Three 10 minute walks give you the same benefit as one 30 minute walk. Find a way.

3. Aim for a healthy weight. Carrying extra pounds, especially around the belly, strains the heart and tips you toward diabetes. If you are overweight, losing just 5% to 10% of your starting weight can make a big difference in your blood pressure and blood sugar.

See our item on belly fat here.

4. Enliven your diet. Add fruits and vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fat, good protein (from beans, nuts, fish, and poultry), and herbs and spices. Subtract processed foods, salt, rapidly digested carbohydrates (from white bread, white rice, potatoes, and the like), red meat, and soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages.

This sounds a lot like the Mediterranean Diet we wrote about on April 24.

5. Drink alcohol in moderation (if at all). If you drink alcohol, limit your intake — one to two drinks a day for men, no more than one a day for women.
Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Exercise, Fiber, Harvard Health Publications, heart, Weight