Tag Archives: Harvard

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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Filed under aging, back pain, Harvard, lower back pain, opioids, pain, Pain relief

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.

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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

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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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Filed under dealing with stress, Exercise, exercise benefits, Harvard, stress, stress reduction

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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Exercise can boost your memory and thinking skills

Eat less; move more; live longer. That is the mantra of this blog. moving more keeps the organic machines we know as our bodies in tip top shape. As it turns out exercise is also good for the old cabeza.

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

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.

Exercise boosts your memory and thinking skills both directly and indirectly. It acts directly on the body by stimulating physiological changes such as reductions in insulin resistance and inflammation, along with encouraging production of growth factors — chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance, survival, and overall health of new brain cells.

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It also acts directly on the brain itself. Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are larger in volume in people who exercise than in people who don’t. “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says Dr. McGinnis. Continue reading

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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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Optimism may reduce risk of dying prematurely – Harvard

Having an optimistic outlook on life—a general expectation that good things will happen—may help people live longer, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Based on prospective health data from the Nurses Study in 2004, it found that women who were optimistic had a significantly reduced risk of dying from several major causes of death—including cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and infection—over an eight-year period, compared with women who were less optimistic.

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The study appeared online December 7, 2016 in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Continue reading

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5 Ways to keep your memory sharp – Harvard

Regular readers know that I am a senior citizen; will be 77 in January. So, I have a lot of senior friends. We have all experienced ‘senior moments’ when we find our memory becoming slightly elusive. Because my family has had Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia I am particularly sensitive to any brain stuff. So I was impressed with the suggestions that Harvard brought forward regarding enhancing our memory.

The way you live, what you eat and drink, and how you treat your body can affect your memory just as much as your physical health and well-being. Here are five things you can do every day to keep both your mind and body sharp.

1. Manage your stress. The constant drumbeat of daily stresses such as deadline pressures or petty arguments can certainly distract you and affect your ability to focus and recall. But the bigger problem is an ongoing sense of anxiety — that can lead to memory impairment. If you don’t have a strategy in place for managing your stress, protecting your memory is one reason to get one. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and a “mindful” approach to living can all help.

I have posted a number of times on stress. You can find them by searching s t r e s s in the box at the right. If you want one excellent example check out: Super tools for handling stress.

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11 Stomach-soothing steps for heartburn – Harvard

Everyone I know seems to get heartburn at some time or another. Harvard HEALTHbeat has some good positive suggestions on how to deal with it.

Heartburn, that uncomfortable burning sensation that radiates up the middle of the chest, is the most common digestive malady. It’s the result of a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), often called acid reflux, in which stomach acid leaks upward from the stomach into the esophagus.

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While heartburn should not be ignored, there are many stomach-soothing steps you can try before going to a doctor. These can help cool your symptoms and prevent bigger problems later on.

 1    Eat smaller meals, but more often. A full stomach puts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a valve-like muscle that keeps stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus. Continue reading

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Solar-powered cycling paths and more coming … Harvard

As a daily bike rider here in Chicago, I was thrilled to learn of the advancements for cyclists overseas reported by Harvard.

Solar-powered bike paths that can melt snow and ice; pollution-eating vacuum towers near bicycle paths; bicycle parking stations with lockers, rest rooms, and showers; and bicycle wheels with rechargeable batteries that help propel riders up hills are just a few of the 70 innovations—some already in place, others still on the drawing board—outlined in a new compilation of inventive ideas aimed at encouraging people to bike. “Promoting Bicycling Through Creative Design: Innovations for Bicycles and Cycling Facilities” was compiled by Anne Lusk,  research scientist in the Department of Nutrition, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the League of American Bicyclists, with support from the Helen and William Mazer Foundation.

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Bike escalator in Norway

In a podcast, Lusk talks about ways to make biking safer and easier.

“The hope is that these innovations will move the needle faster in getting people to take up cycling,” said Lusk. There are lots of good reasons for doing so, she said, noting that bicycling is good for people’s health and good for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It may also boost local economies, she said. She cited a 2010 study of a retail area in Melbourne, Australia that found that $31 was generated per hour for each square meter of parking allotted to bikes compared with $6 for similar space allotted to cars—because bikes take up so much less space than cars, thus allowing for more shoppers in the area. Continue reading

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Harvard study links high unsaturated fat consumption to reduced mortality

Consuming higher amounts of unsaturated fats was associated with lower mortality, according to a study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In a large study population followed for more than three decades, researchers found that higher consumption of saturated and trans fats was linked with higher mortality compared with the same number of calories from carbohydrates. Most importantly, replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats conferred substantial health benefits. This study provides further support for the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that emphasize the types of fat rather than total amount of fat in the diet.

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The traditional meat and potatoes dinner is not the way to go.

The study is the most detailed and powerful examination to date on how dietary fats impact health. It suggests that replacing saturated fats like butter, lard, and fat in red meat with unsaturated fats from plant-based foods—like olive oil, canola oil, and soybean oil—can confer substantial health benefits and should continue to be a key message in dietary recommendations. (My emphasis)

The study was published online July 5, 2016 in JAMA Internal Medicine. 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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Preserve your muscle mass – Harvard

The saying goes there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. But men should also add loss of muscle mass to the list.

Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia, is a natural part of aging. After age 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% per decade. Most men will lose about 30% of their muscle mass during their lifetimes.

Less muscle means greater weakness and less mobility, both of which may increase your risk of falls and fractures. A 2015 report from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research found that people with sarcopenia had 2.3 times the risk of having a low-trauma fracture from a fall, such as a broken hip, collarbone, leg, arm, or wrist.

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But just because you lose muscle mass does not mean it is gone forever. “Older men can indeed increase muscle mass lost as a consequence of aging,” says Dr. Thomas W. Storer, director of the exercise physiology and physical function lab at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It takes work, dedication, and a plan, but it is never too late to rebuild muscle and maintain it.”

The hormone factor

One possible contributor to sarcopenia is the natural decline of testosterone, the hormone that stimulates protein synthesis and muscle growth. Think of testosterone as the fuel for your muscle-building fire. Continue reading

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Harvard on Dealing with Abdominal Fat

Belly fat is very bad. It can literally kill  you. I have a Page on it – What are the dangers of a big waistline? that contains a number of articles spelling out chapter and verse on its dangers.

Now comes Harvard Health Publications with more info on this weighty subject.

“Though the term might sound dated, “middle-age spread” is a greater concern than ever. As people go through their middle years, their proportion of fat to body weight tends to increase — more so in women than men. Extra pounds tend to park themselves around the midsection.

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“At one time, we might have accepted these changes as an inevitable fact of aging. But we’ve now been put on notice that as our waistlines grow, so do our health risks. Abdominal, or visceral fat is of particular concern because it’s a key player in a variety of health problems — much more so than subcutaneous fat, the kind you can grasp with your hand. Visceral fat, on the other hand, lies out of reach, deep within the abdominal cavity, where it pads the spaces between our abdominal organs.

“Visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery.
Are you pear-shaped or apple-shaped? Continue reading

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Higher Dietary Fiber in Young Women May Cut Breast Cancer Risk – Harvard

Women who eat more high-fiber foods during adolescence and young adulthood—especially lots of fruits and vegetables—may have significantly lower breast cancer risk than those who eat less dietary fiber when young, according to a new large-scale study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study was published online February 1, 2016 in Pediatrics.

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Before we go further on the study here is a breakout on fiber from an earlier post:

Fiber is a form of indigestible carbohydrate found mainly in plant foods. Over the years, fiber has been hailed as a potential weapon against colon cancer, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Fiber’s vaunted health benefits were diminished slightly by findings that it doesn’t prevent colon polyps (precursors of colon cancer). But fiber slightly reduces LDL cholesterol, improves insulin resistance, and is linked to a lower rate of heart disease. It is considered one of the most important health attributes of foods.

Fiber slows the digestion of foods and therefore lowers their glycemic load, which likely helps to prevent diabetes. By increasing the bulk of foods and creating a feeling of fullness, fiber may also help you avoid overeating and becoming overweight. There is also some evidence that fiber might reduce the risk for duodenal ulcers, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer.
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Harvard on Alzheimer’s in the Family

Regular readers know that my family has had three cases of dementia, including one of Alzheimer’s Disease. So, I am very sensitive on the subject of mental health. I was very gratified to read the item from Harvard on the subject.

Dementia affects the person diagnosed but also raises fears for siblings and children. Here are the facts.

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“Alzheimer’s disease represents a personal health crisis, but it’s also a family concern. What does it mean for your children or siblings if you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? What does it mean for you if a close relative develops the condition?

“‘People think that if their dad or aunt or uncle had Alzheimer’s disease, they are doomed. But, no, that’s not true,” says Dr. Gad Marshall, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. “Even though family history adds to the overall risk, age still usually trumps it quite a bit. It means your risk is higher, but it’s not that much higher, if you consider the absolute numbers.’

Family history by the numbers

“Studies of family history say that if you have a close relative who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease—the most common form of dementia in older adults—your risk increases by about 30%. This is a relative risk increase, meaning a 30% hike in your existing risk.

“If you are age 65, the risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is 2% per year, although this also means a 98% chance per year of not developing Alzheimer’s. In absolute numbers, a 2% annual risk means that two out of 100 65-year-olds will develop dementia every year.

“Family history raises the 2% annual risk by about 30%, to 2.6% per year. That means going from 20 cases in a group of 1,000 to 26 in 1,000, or six additional cases in 1,000. “So the absolute increase is relatively small,” Dr. Marshall says.

“Age raises the chance of Alzheimer’s more than family history. People in their 70s have a 5% chance of being diagnosed—more than twice that of people in their 60s. Family history raises this by 30%, from 5% to 6.5%. Again, the absolute change is relatively small.”

What to do if someone in your family is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

    Contact the Alzheimer’s Association. Find out about resources available to help you and your family. State and county agencies may also be able to help.
•    Plan for the future. This includes legally designating someone to make health care and financial decisions for the affected person when he or she can’t.
•    Investigate long-term care options. Nursing care is expensive, and finding a good place can take time. Start early.
•    Take care of physical health. People with dementia who live a healthy lifestyle tend to progress more slowly to the later stages.
•    Steer away from genetic testing. Even if you have the APOE Alzheimer’s risk gene, it usually doesn’t mean you will develop dementia later in life.

Finally, to add to the Harvard recommendations, please check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise Benefits). I have a ton of positive reassuring information there. So far it seems to be working, I just turned 76 and my brain seems intact … if this blog is any evidence of that.

Tony

 

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