Category Archives: Harvard

5 Habits that work for weight loss – Harvard

I think that deciding to live a healthy life is a far more rewarding goal than ‘losing a few pounds.’ Unfortunately, I think peoples’ eyes glaze over contemplating the general idea of living a health life. Whereas, lopping off a few offending pounds resonates. Statistics show that 60 percent of us are overweight and half of those folks are outright obese. So, we need to know some weight loss techniques. I think Harvard does a good job on this list from the Harvard Heart Letter.

1. Make time to prepare healthy meals

Home-cooked food tends to be far lower in calories, fat, salt, and sugar than restaurant food and most processed food. But it takes time and effort to choose recipes, go to the store, and cook. Take a close look at your weekly schedule to see if you can carve out a few hours to devote to meal planning and shopping, which is more than half the battle, says Dr. Blackburn. It could be on Sunday afternoon or in 15- to 30-minute increments throughout the week. Continue reading

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5 ways to protect your eyes from AMD – Harvard

At 77, I have had minimal problems with my eyes. Sound of me knocking on wood. I get my eyeglass prescription boosted every so often so I can read the fine print, but other than that, no problemmo.  Here is Harvard Medical School on Age-related macular degeneration.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition in which the macula, the part of the eye that’s responsible for your sharpest and most detailed vision, begins to thin and break down, causing vision loss. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness.

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There is no surefire way to prevent AMD. However, there are things you can do to delay its onset or reduce its severity. Here are 5 of our favorites: Continue reading

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7 questions to ask when you’re given a prescription for an opioid – Harvard

I really have to confess ignorance on the subject of opioids. I make it a point to keep my drug use at a bare minimum. Naturally, I have heard of opioid abuse. Who didn’t see those shocking pictures of golf great Tiger Woods the night he tried driving under the influence of opioids?

I recently suffered some severe back pain from hanging my bike on the rack carelessly. I went to the hospital for rehab work, but didn’t take any drugs.

I wanted to report what Harvard has to say on the subject because it offers a lot of information on asking questions of your doctor.

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Opioid misuse is now one of most important health problems in the United States, rivaling smoking as a cause of death. Although news reports tend to focus on an opioid crisis among the young, the opioid epidemic is increasingly affecting older people as well. In fact, the rates of hospitalization for opioid overdoses among Medicare recipients quintupled from 1993 through 2012. Although older people are still less likely than younger ones to become addicted or succumb to opioid overdoses, they are more likely to suffer side effects from extended opioid use, including memory and cognition problems and falls.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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Harnessing stress – Harvard

Dealing with stress seemed like a daily occurrence back when I was in the working world. These days, being retired, it’s a different story. I know that many of you are still  working and deal with severe stresses on a regular basis. For that reason, I have written numerous posts on the subject. I offer some examples at the bottom of this post.

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Here is Harvard taking a positive look at stress:

Changing your mindset doesn’t mean taking a Pollyanna view of the world. The key isn’t to deny stress, but to recognize and acknowledge it — and then to find the upside, because a full-throttle fight-or-flight response is not the only possible reaction to stress (at least when the stress does not involve a potentially life-threatening situation).

In people with a more stress-hardy mindset, the stress response is often tempered by the challenge response, which accounts for the so-called excite-and-delight experience that some people have in stressful situations, such as skydiving. Like the typical stress response, the challenge response also affects the cardiovascular system, but instead of constricting blood vessels and ramping up inflammation in anticipation of wounds, it allows for maximum blood flow, much like exercise. The balance of hormones is different, too, including more DHEA. Continue reading

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Stress relief tips – Harvard

Stress is like some kind of shark that has gotten into our private swimming pool and threatens to ruin our otherwise perfect day. I have written about it numerous times. At the bottom of this post, I list some of my favorites.

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Here is what Harvard  has to say.

Stress in adults, especially older adults, has many causes. You may experience it as a result of managing chronic illness, losing a spouse, being a caregiver, or adjusting to changes due to finances, retirement, or separation from friends and family. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do for stress relief.

Tailor the treatment

The type of stress relief that works best depends on what someone is experiencing. For example, if insomnia is a considerable source of stress in adults, a special type of cognitive behavioral therapy designed to treat insomnia, called CBT-i, may help. It aims to correct ingrained patterns of self-defeating behavior and negative thoughts that can rob you of sufficient amounts of sleep. In fact, the American College of Physicians now recommends CBT-i over medications as the first-line treatment for insomnia.

If disability is a source of stress, changes in your home may help you live more independently. Turn to your doctor, a geriatrician, an occupational therapist, or a staff member at your local council on aging for guidance. Continue reading

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Harvard on the health aspects of eggs

Don’t feel bad for harboring any confusion about just how healthy or unhealthy eggs are in your diet. There has been a lot of information and, it turns out, some misinformation about the little chicken nuggets over the years. So, to put it eggs-actly straight here is the latest from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Long-vilified for their high cholesterol content by well-meaning doctors and scientists researching heart disease, eggs now seem to be making a bit of a comeback. So what changed?

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While it’s true that just one egg yolk has 200 mg of cholesterol—making it one of the richest sources of dietary cholesterol—eggs also contain additional nutrients that may help lower the risk for heart disease. In addition, the moderate amount of fat in an egg, about 5 grams, is mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. It’s also crucial to distinguish between dietary cholesterol and cholesterol in the blood, which are only weakly related. The focus on dietary cholesterol alone was de-emphasized as more attention was placed on the influence of saturated and trans fat on blood cholesterol. Accordingly, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 removed the prior recommendation to limit consumption of dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day.

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4 Ways to eat your way to lower cholesterol – Harvard

Following is one of those helpful email I get from Harvard from time to time. I thought you might find it interesting.

Many people can reduce cholesterol levels simply by changing what they eat. For example, if you are a fan of cheeseburgers, eating less meat (and leaner cuts) and more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can lower your total cholesterol by 25% or more. Cutting back on saturated fat (found in meat and dairy products) and trans fat (partially hydrogenated oils) can reduce cholesterol by 5% to 10%.

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Here are four steps for using your diet to lower your cholesterol.

Stick with unsaturated fats and avoid saturated and trans fats. Most vegetable fats (oils) are made up of unsaturated fats that are healthy for your heart. Foods that contain healthy fats include oily fish, nuts, seeds, and some vegetables. At the same time, limit your intake of foods high in saturated fat, which is found in many meat and dairy products, and stay away from trans fats. These include any foods made with “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.”

Get more soluble fiber. Eat more soluble fiber, such as that found in oatmeal and fruits. This type of fiber can lower blood cholesterol levels when eaten as part of a healthy-fat diet. Continue reading

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Bear up, don’t hibernate in cold weather – Harvard

Despite global warming, Chicago, where I live, has been suffering from some serious winter weather. I can pretty much ride my bike year ’round here, but I draw the line at single digits. I haven’t been able to find a mask that protects my face from frostbite and at the same time, doesn’t leak my breath up into my glasses – fogging them. Living in a high rise building, I can usually take to the stairs and still get in a workout, with the benefit of weight-bearing exercise, to boot. There is also a health club downstairs, but I really don’t enjoy them.

For those of you who may have similar wintertime woes, Harvard has some suggestions for keeping yourself healthy.

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1. Make some soup

Instead of a snow day baking sweet treats, try making a big batch of soup. You can experiment with different ingredients all winter long, providing you with a healthy distraction from the cold and an endless source of nutritious, warm meals.

Want to increase the fun factor? Try a “Soup Swap” with friends, where everyone makes a different type and divides it into batches for easy sharing. Continue reading

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7 Tips for successful weight training – Harvard

Although I don’t consider it fun, I realize that weight training is a necessity for living a healthy life and keeping my body working.

Here are seven tips from Harvard Medical School that my brother passed along to me.

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“Strength or resistance training challenges your muscles with a stronger-than-usual counterforce, such as pushing against a wall or lifting a dumbbell or pulling on a resistance band. Using progressively heavier weights or increasing resistance makes muscles stronger. This kind of exercise increases muscle mass, tones muscles, and strengthens bones. It also helps you maintain the strength you need for everyday activities — lifting groceries, climbing stairs, rising from a chair, or rushing for the bus.

“The current national guidelines for physical activity recommend strengthening exercises for all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms) at least twice a week. One set — usually 8 to 12 repetitions of the same movement — per session is effective, though some evidence suggests that two to three sets may be better. Your muscles need at least 48 hours to recover between strength training sessions.

These seven tips can keep your strength training safe and effective.

1    Warm up and cool down for five to 10 minutes. Walking is a fine way to warm up; stretching is an excellent way to cool down. Continue reading

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Heart Disease Prevention Tool Shows Promise – Harvard

Yesterday I posted an item headed “Health and Fitness Ideas.” I concluded it with the statement, “I wish more people would focus on living a healthy life rather than just dropping some unwanted pounds. The first way is positive and long lasting. The second is superficial and most of the time doesn’t result in permanent weight loss.”

I think this news story from Harvard follows right on from that post. I recommend that you take their Healthy Heart Score test at the link provided below.

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and a healthy lifestyle is key to prevention. But the prevalence of healthy behaviors among U.S. adults is low. Current prevention strategies focus mainly on controlling CVD risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension with medication—as opposed to preventing them in the first place.

Now, new research from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that a tool developed at the School two years ago—the Healthy Heart Score— could be a useful tool for doctors to promote healthy behaviors in their patients, according to lead author Mercedes Sotos-Prieto, Harvard Chan research fellow.

The Healthy Heart Score—which measures nine key lifestyle risk factors for CVD such as smoking, high body mass index, and low physical activity—is known to effectively predict the 20-year risk of CVD in adulthood. But it hasn’t been known if the score is also associated with CVD risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia. Continue reading

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Harvard Experts Criticize New Government Diet Guidelines

The U.S. government’s new Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limits on added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats; drop a previous limit on total fats, emphasizing healthy fats instead; and urge overall healthy eating patterns rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. But the new guidelines also have some troubling omissions, according to nutrition experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who were quoted in various media outlets after the new guidelines were released on January 7, 2016.

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The experts also weighed in with an overview and critique of the new guidelines in an article on Harvard Chan School’s Nutrition Source.

Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School, told NBC News that he was disappointed that the new guidelines strayed from some key recommendations made last year by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), such as advice to cut back on red meat and sugary beverages. Continue reading

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Six Tips on Successful Aging – Harvard

Eat less; move more; live longer.

The object of this blog is to eat healthy, exercise regularly and live a long and healthy life with our mental faculties in good working order all the way to the end. (If you have any doubts about your brain working well in your declining years, check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise Benefits.) So, it seems like a good idea to take a peek into the future and get some nitty gritty facts about – old age.  

A Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School addresses these facts. “You’re probably already doing a lot to ensure that you stay in good health and are able to enjoy your later years: eating right, exercising, getting checkups and screenings as recommended by your doctor. But it also makes sense to have some contingency plans for the bumps in the road that might occur.”

The ageless Betty White.

The ageless Betty White.

Here are a half dozen concrete suggestions on successful aging:

1 Adapt your home. Stairs, baths, and kitchens can present hazards for older people. Even if you don’t need to make changes now, do an annual safety review so you can make necessary updates if your needs change.

2 Prevent falls. Falls are a big deal for older people they often result in fractures that can lead to disability, further health problems, or even death. Safety precautions are important, but so are exercises that can improve balance and strength.

3 Consider your housing options. You might consider investigating naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs). These neighborhoods and housing complexes aren’t developed specifically to serve seniors and, in fact, tend to host a mix of ages but because they have plenty of coordinated care and support available, they are senior-friendly.

4 Think ahead about how to get the help you may need. Meal preparation, transportation, home repair, housecleaning, and help with financial tasks such as paying bills might be hired out if you can afford it, or shared among friends and family. Elder services offered in your community might be another option.

5 Plan for emergencies. Who would you call in an emergency? Is there someone who can check in on you regularly? What would you do if you fell and couldn’t reach the phone? Keep emergency numbers near each phone or on speed dial. Carry a cellphone (preferably with large buttons and a bright screen), or consider investing in some type of personal alarm system.

6 Write advance care directives. Advance care directives, such as a living will, durable power of attorney for health care, or health care proxy, allow you to explain the type of medical care you want if you’re too sick, confused, or injured to voice your wishes. Every adult should have these documents.

To learn more ways to enjoy independence and good health in your senior years, order A Plan for Successful Aging, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

Tony

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8 Techniques to Relieve Pain – Harvard

Everyone experiences pain at some time in their life. As Harvard says in this latest HEALTHbeat, “Sometimes pain has a purpose — it can alert us that we’ve sprained an ankle, for example. But for many people, pain can linger for weeks or even months, causing needless suffering and interfering with quality of life.”

As an old retired guy who suffers from arthritis in the hands, I understand how pain can lower the quality of your life and I welcome any advice on relieving it.

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“If your pain has overstayed its welcome, you should know that you have more treatment options today than ever before. Here, we’ve listed eight techniques to control and reduce your pain that don’t require an invasive procedure — or even taking a pill.”

1. Cold and heat. These two tried-and-true methods are still the cornerstone of relieving pain for certain kinds of injuries. If a homemade hot or cold pack doesn’t do the trick, try asking a physical therapist or chiropractor for their versions of these treatments, which can penetrate deeper into the muscle and tissue.

2. Exercise. Physical activity plays a crucial role in interrupting the “vicious cycle” of pain and reduced mobility found in some chronic conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. Try gentle aerobic activities such as walking, swimming, or cycling.

3. Physical therapy and occupational therapy. These two specialties can be among your staunchest allies in the fight against pain. Physical therapists guide you through a series of exercises designed to preserve or improve your strength and mobility. Occupational therapists help you learn to perform a range of daily activities in a way that doesn’t aggravate your pain.

4. Mind-body techniques. These techniques, which include meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises (among many others), help you restore a sense of control over your body and turn down the “fight or flight” response, which can worsen chronic muscle tension and pain.

5. Yoga and tai chi. These two exercise practices incorporate breath control, meditation, and gentle movements to stretch and strengthen muscles. Many studies have shown that they can help people manage pain caused by a host of conditions, from headaches to arthritis to lingering injuries.

6. Biofeedback. This technique involves learning relaxation and breathing exercises with the help of a biofeedback machine, which turns data on physiological functions (such as heart rate and blood pressure) into visual cues such as a graph, a blinking light, or even an animation. Watching and modifying the visualizations gives you a degree of control over your body’s response to pain.

7. Music therapy. Studies have shown that music can help relieve pain during and after surgery and childbirth. Classical music has proven to work especially well, but there’s no harm in trying your favorite genre — listening to any kind of music can distract you from pain or discomfort.

8. Therapeutic massage. Not just an indulgence, massage can ease pain by working tension out of muscles and joints, relieving stress and anxiety, and possibly helping to distract you from pain by introducing a “competing” sensation that overrides pain signals.

For more on treating common pain conditions and learning about other mind-body solutions, you can order Pain Relief, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

Tony

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5 Ways Exercise Improves Your Quality of Life – Harvard

So many folks consider exercise like a tax they have to pay to lose weight which really cuts down on the amount of exercise people do and the number of people who exercise regularly. I think this kind of negative viewpoint is one of the reasons why 60 percent of us are overweight and fully a third are obese. Harvard puts forward a nice positive point of view in its latest Healthbeat.

“Exercise not only helps you live longer — it helps you live better. In addition to making your heart and muscles stronger and fending off a host of diseases, it can also improve your mental and emotional functioning and even bolster your productivity and close relationships. Read on for five ways in which exercise can improve your quality of life.”

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1. Wards off depression: While a few laps around the block can’t solve serious emotional difficulties, researchers know there is a strong link between regular exercise and improved mood. Aerobic exercise prompts the release of mood-lifting hormones, which relieve stress and promote a sense of well-being. In addition, the rhythmic muscle contractions that take place in almost all types of exercise can increase levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which combats negative feelings. Continue reading

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