Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. One person dies every 37 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. About 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
The following is from the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard.
When heart experts talk about prevention, they usually refer to one of three types: secondary, primary and primordial prevention.  All three have similar elements, but different starting times and different effects.
Despite the power of individual behavior change, it must be noted that unfavorable eating patterns are driven by a variety of biological, social, economic, and psychological factors. This is acknowledged in a 2018 review paper, which recommends that “governments should focus on cardiovascular disease as a global threat and enact policies that will reach all levels of society and create a food environment wherein healthy foods are accessible, affordable, and desirable.”  The central illustration of the paper (below) highlights several policy strategies that may help boost healthy eating, such as improving nutrition labels, regulating food marketing, and promoting healthy school and work environments. Continue reading
As an old retired guy, I don’t have much time pressure in my life these days, but I remember how imposing work, family and social obligations can be on your schedule. Don’t let that keep you from working on living a healthy life. As Harvard says in this Women’s Healthwatch post, it all counts.
Good news for people who struggle to find time for exercise: every little bit matters, even if your “workout” is broken up throughout the day. To come to this conclusion, researchers who published their results March 23 in the Journal of the American Heart Association looked at data from 4,840 people ages 40 and older who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003 to 2006. People who spent the shortest amount of time in moderate or vigorous activity — 20 minutes or less daily — had the highest risk of dying during the roughly six-year follow-up period. But those who got at least an hour of moderate or vigorous activity cut that risk in half, and those who got at least 100 minutes a day cut their death risk by 76%. And they didn’t have to get those 100 minutes all at once. Even short bursts of activity at different points in the day added up to reduced risk.
According to the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services:
Adults 18 to 64 should get:
2.5 hours/wk of moderate intensity exercise.
OR 1.25 hours a week of vigorous aerobic physical activity
Or Some combination of the above – equivalent episodes of at least 10 minutes spread throughout the week.
I am a big fan of sweet potatoes. Drum roll, please. Number one on the countdown of 10 best foods from the Center for Science in the Public Interest is Sweet Potatoes. A nutritional All-Star — one of the best vegetables you can eat. They’re loaded with carotenoids, Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
Harvard School of Public Health says, that sweet potatoes are typically recognized by their copper-colored skin and vibrant orange flesh, though the hundreds of varieties grown worldwide display colors such as white, cream, yellow, reddish-purple, and deep purple. Although they are often found on holiday tables covered in marshmallows or mixed with added sweeteners, there’s no need! True to their name, sweet potatoes have a naturally sweet flavor, which is further enhanced through cooking methods like roasting. They are also one of the top sources of beta-carotene—a precursor to vitamin A. Continue reading
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
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.
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.
One of the 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 superaging.
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 superagers. The term refers to people in their 70s and 80s who have the mental or physical capability of their decades-younger counterparts.
Although superagers’ 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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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?
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.
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%.
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
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.
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
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.
“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
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.
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
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.
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