Urban green space boosts mental health – Study

For the record, I pretty much live in downtown Chicago. I am a city guy and love the fact that I have access to everything a great city has to offer. Within a mile of my apartment, I have dozens of restaurants of every kind, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Public Library for starters. In the evening, there is the Chicago Symphony, the Lyric Opera and tons of smaller, but very professional theater groups. Those are some of the high points of living in a major metropolitan area. Nonetheless, despite this uber-urban environment, my favorite aspects of where I live are Lake Michigan over which I get sunrises every morning, along this lakefront lie a bike path stretching for miles. In addition, there is also the wonderful nature scene along the shore where rabbits, squirrels, ducks, geese and other wild life flourish. I carry nuts and seeds on the bike when I ride so I can feed the sparrows, ducks and squirrels.

I truly believe I have the best of both worlds – an urban environment as well as the beauty of nature – here.

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So, I was very happy to read about how urban green space relates positively to mental health in a study from Australia. Continue reading

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Filed under Exercise, exercise benefits, exercise outdoors, green space, nature, outdoors

Weekend funnies …

Workers of the world, unite. It’s almost Friday night. Here are some little items I picked up in my web wanderings for your amusement.

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Tony

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The Importance of Portion Control – Rush

I think the first lesson I learned when I started writing this blog 10 years ago was the importance of portion control and serving size. If you aren’t paying attention to portion size and serving size for the food you eat, you are just kidding yourself about getting control of your weight. Here’s what the Rush Health and Wellness Bulletin has to say:

Are you having trouble losing weight even though you’re making healthier lifestyle choices — sacrificing sweets, swapping French fries for a side salad and sweating bullets at the gym? Do you continue to mount the scale, week after week, only to discover the same stubborn number staring back at you?

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The problem might not be what you’re eating, but how much you’re eating. In fact, portion control is often the most challenging hurdle on a person’s path to weight loss. Continue reading

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Filed under eating habits, portion control, portion size, serving size, Weight, weight control, weight gain

Facts about fasting diets – Tufts

Ten years ago when I started writing this blog it was all about dieting and losing weight. It has long since morphed into a general good health and successful aging blog. Once I lost my weight it never came back because I lost my old lifestyle with it. No more eating food for the fun of it and not paying attention to getting enough exercise. I think one of the great open secrets of folks with weight problems is their sedentary lifestyle.

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While I haven’t done any dieting for weight loss in years, I realize that a lot of people are interested in ways to cut back. Herewith is the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter discussing fasting diets.

So-called “fasting” diets have recently received a lot of buzz in the media and attention from researchers as a possible means to promote weight loss and improve health. Data from animal studies are promising on several fronts, but data on humans are limited and short-term. Let’s take a closer look at the current science on this increasingly-popular diet trend. Continue reading

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Serious falls are a health risk for adults UNDER 65

As a senior citizen I am well aware of the danger of falls for my age group The Natiional Council on Aging reports: “Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs.”

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So, I was surprised to learn that adults UNDER 65 were also very much at risk for falls.

Adults who take several prescription medications are more likely to experience serious falls, say Yale researchers and their co-authors in a new study. This heightened risk can affect middle-aged individuals — a population not typically viewed as vulnerable to debilitating or fatal falls, the researchers said.

To identify factors that put adults at risk for serious falls, the research team used patient data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS), a national study of individuals who receive care through the Veterans Health Administration (VA). They identified 13,000 fall cases and compared them to controls of similar age, race, sex, and HIV status. The fall risk factors included prescription medication use, and alcohol and illegal drug use.

The researchers found that falls were a problem for middle-aged patients. “Providers typically think about falls in people over age 65. But these people were primarily in their 50s and falls were an important concern,” said Julie Womack, lead author and associate professor at Yale School of Nursing.

The study also noted that the simultaneous use of multiple medications, known as polypharmacy, plays a significant role in serious falls among patients who are HIV positive and those who are not. The researchers examined HIV status because people treated for HIV take several medications and often at a younger age.

Medications that were associated with serious falls included those commonly used to treat anxiety and insomnia (benzodiazepines), as well as muscle relaxants and prescription opioids.

Another important finding is the role of alcohol and illegal drug use in falls, Womack said.

The study suggests that programs designed to prevent serious falls in older adults may need to be modified to address risks for middle-aged adults. “Fall risk factors are highly prevalent in the Baby Boomer generation more generally. The next step is to look at interventions for the middle aged,” said Womack. Those interventions could address drinking and illicit drug use in addition to polypharmacy. “When we’re thinking about fall prevention programs we have to think about alcohol and substance use. We need to help individuals cut back.”

Reducing falls in middle-aged and older adults is vital because falls contribute to increased risk of injuries, hospitalizations, and death, said Womack.

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Filed under falling, medications, seniors falling

U.S. Healthcare spending vs life expectancy

It appears from this chart in The Economist that we here in America are spending more on healthcare than any place else in the world, but not getting our money’s worth. Life expectancy in the other countries dwarfs that in the U.S.

Americans smoke less than people in other wealthy countries do, but we have higher rates of obesity and infant mortality.

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Weekend funnies …

I hope you are looking forward to a wonderful couple of days off. Hopefully, here are some items to get you started.

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Tony

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Harvesting energy from walking

I consider walking to be the Cinderella of the exercise world – totally unappreciated – for all its good works in our health regimen. You can check out my Page – Why you should walk more to read further on its benefits.

Imagine powering your devices by walking. With technology recently developed by a group of researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, that possibility might not be far out of reach.

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The group describes the technology in Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing. An energy harvester is attached to the wearer’s knee and can generate 1.6 microwatts of power while the wearer walks without any increase in effort. The energy is enough to power small electronics like health monitoring equipment and GPS devices. Continue reading

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Are Added Fibers Good for Our Health? – Tufts

In a lot of ways fiber reminds me of what Mark Twain said about the weather. “Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.” So, here is an excellent rundown on fiber from the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.

It is recommended that adults consume between 25 and 30 grams of dietary fiber a day. The average American currently gets about half that amount. According to the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, dietary fiber is a “nutrient of public health concern,” meaning this low level of intake could actually be detrimental to our health. So, it’s potentially good news that food manufacturers are adding fiber to processed foods. But is that fiber as good for our health as fiber found naturally in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains?

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Health Benefits of Fiber. According to a research review co-authored by Nicola McKeown, PhD, a scientist with Tufts’ Nutritional Epidemiology program and an associate professor at the Friedman School, there is reproducible evidence that dietary fiber found naturally in foods has a role in lowering cholesterol, improving glycemic control, and preventing constipation. And fiber may have more health benefits as well. “Research in this field is continually expanding,” says McKeown. “We’ve only begun to consider things like how the gut microbiota utilize different types of dietary fibers to potentially impact health.” Continue reading

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Filed under blood pressure, cholesterol, Fiber, high fiber foods

Seniors Improve Brain Function by Raising Fitness Level – University of Kansas

Science Daily reported that a professor of neurology at KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center, led a six-month trial conducted with healthy adults ages 65 and older who showed no signs of cognitive decline.

The randomized controlled trial attempted to determine the ideal amount of exercise necessary to achieve benefits to the brain.

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Before proceeding, I would like to add that I am now in my tenth year of writing this blog. To continue that long at a healthy pace (+3000 posts) you have to be motivated and get positive feedback.

Reading about this new study on exercise benefiting the brain was extraordinarily positive feedback. I have written about the benefits of exercise and the brain for several years. You can check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise) for more details. Suffice it to say that the KU report was most welcome. Continue reading

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Filed under aging, aging brain, brain function, brain health, Exercise, exercise benefits

Giving up alcohol may boost mental health – Study

The debate whether moderate drinking is good, bad, or has no effect on health has been ongoing for years. Now, a new study suggests that people — especially women — who give up alcohol can experience better mental health and reach levels of well-being almost on a par with those of lifelong abstainers, according to a report in Medical News Today.

Many people drink socially at, for instance, work functions or family events. Some of us may also relish having a glass of wine or beer with our dinner at the end of a long and tiring day.

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Numerous people fall into the categories of “light” or “moderate” drinkers. But is this habit harmless, or would all of us be better off abstaining from alcohol?

Even among researchers, opinions tend to vary greatly whether drinking any amount of alcohol is safe or healthful.

For instance, earlier this year, a study published in The Lancet argued that moderate drinking can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular events.

Meanwhile, research featured this month in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that older adults who occasionally drink may live longer than nondrinkers. Continue reading

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Good news for arthritis sufferers …

I suffer from severe arthritis at the base of my thumbs. This means that virtually anything I do with my hands – hurts. Buttoning, unbuttoning, turning a key, working a zipper, you name it – pain. In the past 10 years I have written about a number of topical treatments for arthritis pain. Frankly, they are too numerous to mention, but if you are curious, type arthritis into the SEARCH BOX at the right and you can find all of them. For the record, I started suffering from arthritis pain in my hands in my 50’s. That was more than 25 years ago, so I have lived with the pain for a considerable time.

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What is the good news? One of my neighbors who I often encounter when we walk our dogs, told me about Calendula Officinalis tablets. maybe you have heard of them under their more common name – pot marigold. I had not previously heard of either. Continue reading

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Weekend funnies … Italian jokes

Okay, please chill, PC police. I am Italian and I think they are funny and not offensive. I hope you can enjoy the humor in these ahead of the weekend.

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Tony

 

 

 

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Left brain vs right brain …

The human brain fascinates me for lots of reasons. I have taken several courses in it from The Great Courses and recommend them for anyone curious about this amazing organ that lives inside our heads. I have written a number of posts on various aspects of the brain which I recommend your chasing down. Just type in b r a i n into the SEARCH BOX at the right. Also, you can check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits). Last, but not least, of course, there is the specter of dementia in general and Alzheimer’s Disease, in particular. I have lost three family members to these afflictions and, at the age of 79, I am very focused on my mental functions. Which brings us to this wonderful article in Medical News Today on the two hemispheres of the brain – the left and the right.

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The two hemispheres or sides of the brain have slightly different jobs. But can one side be dominant and does this affect personality?

Some people believe that a person is either left-brained or right-brained and that this determines the way they think and behave.

In this article, we explore the truth and fallacy behind this claim. Read on to learn more about the functions and characteristics of the left and right brain. Continue reading

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Filed under aging brain, brain, brain function, Healthy brain, left brain

Study identifies best healthy eating nudges

Actions speak louder than words. Turns out that just telling people they need to eat healthy doesn’t work nearly as well as some simple physical actions. Clearly, with almost 70 per cent of us overweight, just talking about healthy eating isn’t enough.

Behavioral nudges have emerged as the best way to improve healthy eating, according to a new paper by Pierre Chandon, Professor of Marketing at INSEAD, and Romain Cadario, Assistant Professor of Marketing at IÉSEG School of Management.

Ever since Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize in Economics, “nudge” has been front and center in the interest of researchers and policy makers. A simple definition of nudge is an intervention that attempts to influence behaviors without using economic incentives and while preserving freedom of choice.

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In a meta-analysis of real-life experiments drawn from food science, nutrition, health economics, marketing and psychology, the authors find that behavioral nudges – facilitating action rather than providing knowledge or inducing feelings – can reduce daily energy intake by up to 209 kcal, the same number of calories as in 21 cubes of sugar.

“Just changing the amount of food on a plate or the location of the food – without necessarily educating people about nutrition content or convincing them that they should eat healthily – is the most effective intervention because you don’t need to rely on changing people’s beliefs or their goals,” said Chandon. “There is tremendous potential to help people to eat better.”

Seven ways restaurants and grocery stores can nudge food choices

Continue reading

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How hard is it to ignore alcohol and fast food? – Study

Fast food is popular because it tastes great and is incredibly convenient. The only problem is its general lack of high nutritive values. So we try to reduce or eliminate our use of fast food to satisfy our appetites to some extent.

Have you ever tried to stay away from fast food, but found hard-to-ignore signals that represent its availability – like neon lights and ads – are everywhere?

If you’re stressed, tired or otherwise straining your brain power, you may find it harder to ignore cues in the environment that signal something rewarding.

That’s what a UNSW Sydney experiment by a group of psychologists – published in Psychological Science – has shown.

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This experiment showed – for the first time – that ignoring these cues became harder as soon as participants had to perform a task while also holding other information in their memory. The image is in the public domain.

“We knew already that participants find it hard to ignore cues that signal a large reward,” says study lead Dr. Poppy Watson at UNSW.

But this experiment showed – for the first time – that ignoring these cues became harder as soon as participants had to perform a task while also holding other information in their memory.

Continue reading

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