Tag 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.

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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

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

Is it safe to take ibuprofen for the aches and pains of exercise? – Harvard

I exercise regularly and I also suffer from severe arthritis of the hands, so the subjects of exercise and painkillers touch me where I live. Following is a very informative write up of painkillers in general and NSAIDs in particular by Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

“Not long ago, I took ibuprofen after a dental procedure and was amazed at how well it worked. Millions of people have had similar experiences with ibuprofen and related medications (called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs) when used for a number of conditions, including arthritis, back pain, and headache. That’s why NSAIDs are among the most commonly prescribed drugs worldwide.”

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Coincidentally, I stumbled across NSAIDs by accident. You can read about it in my post – What about a bubble on my elbow?

“More than a dozen different NSAIDs are available, including naproxen (as in Naprosyn or Aleve), celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren) and indomethacin (Indocin). Aspirin is also an NSAID, though it is usually taken in small doses for its blood thinning effects (to prevent heart attack or stroke) rather than for pain.

NSAIDs are fairly safe, but not risk free

“The safety profile of NSAIDs is generally quite good, especially when taken in small doses for short periods of time. That’s why several of them, including ibuprofen and naproxen, are available in low doses over the counter in this country and elsewhere. Continue reading

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Filed under arthritis, chronic pain, Exercise, hand arthritis, joint pain, muscular pain, NSAID, osteoarthritis, osteoarthritis pain, pain, Pain relief, Uncategorized

Keeping your smartphone nearby may not be so smart – Harvard

I am an Apple fanboy and have owned an iPhone for years. I do rely on it very much. I would not consider taking my bike out for my daily ride without checking the radar to see what the chances of rain are. The same is true of weather conditions in general. I love the convenience of the machine as well as the power of having a little computer at my fingertips when I travel. It appears that there is a downside to Steve Jobs’s little godsend, though, according to Harvard Health Publications.

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Imagine you were asked to complete a series of math problems, ones just hard enough to require your attention and focus, but nothing you couldn’t handle. Now, imagine you were intermittently interrupted from these math problems and asked to remember a random list of letters. This might be even tougher. Continue reading

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

4 ways to boost your energy naturally with breakfast – Harvard

Healthy living requires that we make intelligent choices every day. We need to get enough sleep, eat intelligently and exercise regularly. Sleep is one of the  underappreciated aspects of living a healthy and long life. Please check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? for more details.

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As you sleep, your body is hard at work digesting yesterday’s dinner. By the time you wake up, your body and brain are demanding fresh fuel. “Breaking the fast” is a key way to power up in the morning. Do it right and the benefits can last all day. Continue reading

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5 Ways to manage arthritis pain – Harvard

No one has to explain arthritis pain to me. I have lived with it in both my hands, at the base of my thumbs, for years.

Arthritis is a painful problem that can interfere with your ability to do the things you enjoy. But you can take steps to manage arthritis by protecting your joints, reducing discomfort, and improving mobility.

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Physical or occupational therapists can be very helpful in teaching you how to modify activities and accomplish daily tasks more easily in order to manage arthritis. But there are simple things you can do for yourself, starting today. Here are five of them:

Keep moving. Avoid holding one position for too long. When working at a desk, for example, get up and stretch every 15 minutes. Do the same while sitting at home reading or watching television. Continue reading

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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.

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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

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Walking program linked to reduced disability

Falls are a top cause of disability for older adults. But a study published Sept. 26, 2016, in Annals of Internal Medicine, suggests that adopting a regular routine of moderate physical activity, such as walking, helps older adults remain mobile longer and may also help them to recover faster from physical disabilities, according to Harvard Health Publications.

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Researchers analyzed information from a previous randomized controlled trial that divided 1,600 sedentary adults ages 70 to 89 into two groups. One group received ongoing health education classes that included upper-body stretching exercises. The other group took part in a structured exercise program several days a week that included walking and some strength, flexibility, and balance training.

Researchers assessed both groups over a period of three-and-a-half years. The new study concludes that people in the exercise group reduced the amount of time spent suffering from major disability by 25%, compared with people in the health education group. People in the exercise group also appeared less likely to experience disability in the first place, and more likely to recover if they did.

While falls cause serious injuries to older adults, the exercise walking benefits all ages, please check out my Page – Why you should walk more to see how good it is for you.

Tony

 

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Exercise can ease arthritis pain – Harvard

We don’t need excuses to blow off exercising. It’s too hot/too cold, I’m too tired/too sore, you name it. When you have a chronic condition like rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, you have a built in excuse for not exercising. It might hurt.

As the Harvard Health Publication says, “Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can cause pain and stiffness that makes moving the last thing you want to do.

“But staying active is important. Not only is it beneficial for your general health — it’s also a way to strengthen your joints, improve your range of motion, and give you the opportunity to take part in the activities you enjoy.

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“For people with RA, it’s best to take a cautious and strategic approach when starting an exercise program. An individualized program — ideally developed with the help of a physical therapist — can help you protect vulnerable joints while strengthening surrounding muscles. A well-rounded exercise program should include each of these elements: Continue reading

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It’s never too late to start exercising – Harvard

Exercise can ward off chronic disease and help you maintain your independence and mobility. But the older we get in the United States, the less active we are, according to a study published Sept. 16, 2016, in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Researchers analyzed data from a 2014 national health survey, focusing on adults ages 50 or older. Over all, about 28% of those people had not exercised in a month. But inactivity increased with age: non-exercisers amounted to about 25% of people ages 50 to 64, about 27% of people 65 to 74, and about 35% of people 75 or older, the Harvard Health Blog reported.

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I used this illustration in the post on sarcopenia and loved it enough to repeat it.

The good news? “It’s never too late to become physically active! We have research studies showing that changing from being inactive to active—whether occurring in your 40s, 50s, 60s, or even 70s—is beneficial for health,” says Dr. I-Min Lee, a Harvard Medical School professor. Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking. If you’re unable to meet that goal, remember that any physical activity will provide health benefits, so do what you can manage based on your ability and your doctor’s advice.

Since this is a blog post, I would like to make it more personal. I wrote about sarcopenia back in August. Don’t know the term? The Mayo Clinic Blog said, “It is a simple fact. As we age we lose muscle and strength. There’s even a medical term for this — sarcopenia. It’s derived from the Greek words “sarcos” (flesh) and “penia” (lack of). Continue reading

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Harvard on resuming bike riding

This seems particularly timely as I wrote about my own cycling – Riding a bike on Chicago’s Lakefront on Chicago’s Lakefront yesterday.

The Harvard Health Publications has a nice positive blog post on starting cycling again presumably as a senior.

Heidi Godman, Executive Editor of the Harvard Health Letter, states that she loved riding as a kid, but now only rides occasionally.

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“It’s fun, it’s socially oriented, and it gets you outside and exercising,” says Dr. Clare Safran-Norton, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Plus, cycling is an aerobic activity, it’s easy on the joints, and it helps build muscle and bone. Continue reading

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6 tips to help you keep a walking regimen on track – Harvard

I have written more than once the words walking is the Cinderella of the exercise world, vastly unappreciated. It’s nice to see this further support from a special Harvard Health ReportWalking for Health.

“Regular walks are an incredibly popular way to exercise — and it’s easy to see why. Walking is easy and free (except for a good pair of shoes), and can be done just about anywhere. But it’s those very qualities that can also make it very tempting to skip. If your walking routine is in danger of lapsing, try one or more of these strategies to keep going.

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“1. Have a backup plan. For example, if you sleep in and miss your morning walk, you’ll know that you’re going to walk during lunch instead. Or, maybe you know that dinner with friends will prevent you from taking your evening stroll, so instead you sneak in a 15-minute walk in the morning and another before you meet your friends. And keeping a pair of sneakers in your car gives you the option to squeeze in a walk whenever you have a little extra time. Continue reading

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7 things you can do to prevent a stroke – Harvard

Regardless of your age or family history, a stroke doesn’t have to be inevitable. Here are some ways to protect yourself starting today, Harvard Health Publications said.

But , what is a stroke?

A stroke is a “brain attack.”  It can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost, according to the National Stroke Association.

Stroke by the Numbers
•    Each year nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke.
    •    A stroke happens every 40 seconds.
    •    Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.
    •    Every 4 minutes someone dies from stroke.
    •    Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented.
    •    Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S.

Age makes us more susceptible to having a stroke, as does having a mother, father, or other close relative who has had a stroke.

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You can’t reverse the years or change your family history, but there are many other stroke risk factors that you can control—provided that you’re aware of them. “Knowledge is power,” says Dr. Natalia Rost, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and associate director of the Acute Stroke Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. “If you know that a particular risk factor is sabotaging your health and predisposing you to a higher risk of stroke, you can take steps to alleviate the effects of that risk.”

Here are seven ways to start reining in your risks today, before a stroke has the chance to strike. Continue reading

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Latest Dietary Guidelines Tainted – Harvard

In the ‘news to me’ department, I just ran across this on the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health website and thought I would pass it along in case you also missed it.

We got new dietary guidelines from the government back in January with needed updates on sugar intake and total fat. However, the USDA and HHS didn’t act on all the recommendations of the advisory committee of experts that they appointed.

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On the positive side, they recommended:
•    A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
•    Fruits, especially whole fruits
•    Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
•    Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
•    A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
•    Oils

However, on the negative side,  “Clearly these Guidelines bear the hoof prints of the Cattleman’s Association and the sticky fingerprints of Big Soda. They fail to represent the best available scientific evidence and are a disservice to the American public,” according to the School of Public Health at Harvard. Continue reading

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3 Simple Ways to Get More Restful Sleep – Harvard

Regular readers know that I feel strongly about the nature and benefits of a good night’s sleep. Check out my Page – How Important is a Good Night’s Sleep? for more details.

Meanwhile, Harvard Health Publications, has some very useful information to add to the conversation.

“Even people without insomnia can have trouble getting a good night’s rest. Many things can interfere with restorative sleep – crazy work schedules, anxiety, trouble putting down the smartphone, even what you eat and drink.

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When you wake up in the morning, are you refreshed and ready to go, or groggy and grumpy? For many people, the second scenario is all too common. This report describes the latest in sleep research, including information about the numerous health conditions and medications that can interfere with normal sleep, as well as prescription and over-the-counter medications used to treat sleep disorders. Most importantly, you’ll learn what you can do to get the sleep you need for optimal health, safety, and well-being.

The following three simple steps can help you sleep better.

Cut down on caffeine

Caffeine drinkers may find it harder to fall asleep than people who don’t drink caffeine. Once they drift off, their sleep is shorter and lighter. For some, a single cup of coffee in the morning means a sleepless night. That may be because caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine, a neurotransmitter thought to promote sleep. Caffeine can also interrupt sleep by increasing the need to urinate during the night.

People who suffer from insomnia should avoid caffeine as much as possible, since its effects can endure for many hours. Because caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches, irritability, and extreme fatigue, it may be easier to cut back gradually rather than go cold turkey. Those who can’t or don’t want to give up caffeine should avoid it after 2 p.m., or noon if they are especially caffeine-sensitive. Continue reading

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10 Ways Gratitude Can Change Your Life & 4 Step Gratitude Plan

Here is what Harvard had to say about gratitude in an early post on Positive Psychology:

“Express gratitude. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what you have — from a roof over your head to good health to people who care about you. When you acknowledge the goodness in your life, you begin to recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside yourself. In this way, gratitude helps you connect to something larger than your individual experience — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

Tony

Our Better Health

Gratitude is the new miracle emotion.

Although gratitude has been around for as long as human beings, it’s only recently started to get the big thumbs-up from science.

So here are 10 ways gratitude can change your life, followed by a quick 4-step plan to help maximise your own gratitude, whatever level you start from.

There’s even a trick for those suffering from ‘gratitude burnout’.

1. Happier

Gratitude is different things to different people: amongst them could be counting your blessings, savouring what life has given you, thanking someone or wondering at the natural world.

Whatever form it takes, one of the best known and most researched effects of practicing gratitude is it makes you happier.

Participants in one study were 25% happier, on average, after practicing a little gratitude over a 10-week period.

2. More satisfied

Gratitude isn’t just about feeling better, it’s also about thinking better.

In other…

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