10 habits and choices that can help you achieve permanent weight loss

10 habits and choices that can help you achieve permanent weight loss

When most people want to lose weight, they usually go on a diet that restricts calories. These may work, but only temporarily because a return to the person’s normal patterns causes the weight to return. That is frustrating because people try to lose weight with the goal of keeping it off. The key to permanent weight loss is a change in habits. Adopting healthy eating habits and getting rid of bad habits can not only help with lasting weight loss, it can lead to an improvement in health. These are wonderful benefits!

  1. Drink 8 to 10 cups of water each day. Cold water is especially helpful because calories are spent when the body warms it. Tea can aid abdominal fat loss, but it can cause insomnia if consumed after 12:00 p.m. It can also cause some people to urinate too much.
  2. Lift weights at a gym. This helps increase muscle cell size and increase the calories burned even when you are at rest. Muscle burns fifteen times as many calories as fat.
  3. Include some monounsaturated fats in your daily diet. These include walnuts and other nuts, seeds, olives and olive oil, plus avocados. These fats decrease hunger, lower cholesterol, and can help decrease cravings. But they are high in calories so limit them to a small amount daily.
  4. Try to exercise every day, even if it is only for fifteen minutes. This burns some calories, and improves mood.
  5. Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, or, to put it another way, eat a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables. Each color is made of different nutrients and when you eat a variety, you are most likely to get all those you need to burn fat and stay healthy. During winter, choose frozen produce, not canned. Some fruits and many vegetables have fiber that helps you feel full and is good for the intestines. Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are especially good at preventing weight gain.
  6. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and have nutrients to help decrease hunger.
  7. Oatmeal is one of the best grains you can eat! It too helps you to feel full, decreases the cholesterol level, is high in fiber but low in calories, and has many important minerals needed for health. It is easy to add other nutrients to oatmeal such as ground flax, wheat germ and wheat bran, ground nuts and berries.
  8. Beans are excellent sources of protein, as well as fiber to help you stay full. They also have many other nutrients.
  9. Another important type of fat to consume each day is omega-3 fatty acids. This is a type of polyunsaturated fat, fats that are essential fatty acids needed for good health. It is most abundant in fatty fish like sardines and salmon. Flaxseeds and walnuts are other sources. They help burn fat, decrease harmful chronic inflammation, and build muscle.
  10. It is important to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Sleeping less than that increases the hormone ghrelin and that increases hunger feelings. Rest and relaxation also help decrease stress hormones like cortisol that increase the blood sugar level and weight gain.

 

This blog article isn’t meant to replace your primary health care provider.

The next article will cover foods, drinks and habits to give up to promote weight loss and good health. The following one will give suggestions on how to make the changes like giving up bad habits and making the good practices part of your everyday routine.

Chromium: The good, the bad, and the not-so-important

Chromium:  The good, the bad, and the not-so-important

Chromium is found and produced in several different forms. The most common forms are metallic, trivalent and hexavalent. The trivalent form occurs naturally and is an essential nutrient. Its needed for fatty acid and cholesterol production and insulin metabolism. It is found in eggs, meat, cheese, whole grains and certain fruits and vegetables. Metallic chromium isn’t pertinent to this article (Pediatric Environmental Health, 3rd edition, Dr. Ruth Etzel, Editor, and Dr. Sophie Balk, Assoc. Editor. Elk Grove Village, IL:  2012).

Hexavalent chromium is the toxic form. The US National Toxicology Program, World Health Organization, EPA, and International Agency for Research on Cancer have all identified hexavalent chromium as a human carcinogen. It comes mostly from industrial emissions and passes into the air, water, and soil. It’s also part of tobacco smoke. Chromium is used in so many ways it isn’t surprising it is found in more than 50% of the National Priorities List superfund hazardous waste sites as well as many landfills. Fossil fuel burning and steel production are major sources of chromium in the air. The movie Erin Brockovich was about The Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s role in the excessive chromium in water and even though it has been out a long time, this is still a real problem.

Absorption of hexavalent chromium from the lungs is high. Gastrointestinal absorption of this form can be as high as 50% but much of it is converted to the trivalent form. Chromium doesn’t stay in the body very long, so antidotes and chelators aren’t in demand. Vitamin C helps convert hexavalent chromium to the trivalent form. Laboratory assessments are not particularly useful, and environmental documentation is more helpful.

Topical chromium is a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis. Swallowing a large amount of hexavalent chromium could cause nausea, vomiting and acute kidney failure.

The biggest concern is with chronic inhalation of the hexavalent form of chromium. Those at highest risk are those working or who have worked in industries where chromium is used. These individuals have an increased chance of developing nasal and lung cancer. The latter risk increases with the duration of an exposure and there’s about a 13 to 30-year latency period. In “Profiling stainless steel welding processes to reduce fume emissions, hexavalent chromium emissions and operating costs in the workplace,” (by M. Keane, et al in Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 2016, v. 13#1, pages 1-8) almost half a million Americans do some welding in their work, and that is a potential exposure. Gas metal arc welding was found to create less exposure to toxic gases.

In “Hexavalent Chromium Is Carcinogenic to F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 Mice” (by M. Stout, et al, in Environmental Health Perspectives, v117, #5, for May 2009, pages 716-722), the possibility of an increased risk for oral, stomach and duodenal cancer with chronic consumption of water polluted with excess chromium was raised. The research done involved giving water with various levels of hexavalent chromium in it to the test animals for 2 years. Before you decide that this isn’t relevant to humans, consider the fact that rats and mice are used in research because they share many biological processes and tissue structures with humans.

This all lends support to having water tested, including well water, before even a sip.

What can harm or help preserve memory

What Harms and what Helps preserve Memory

There’s a plethora of research on things that can harm the brain including memory. Not surprising, many of these are things that also harm other organs and can cause or advance diseases. Some of the top offenders:

  • Stress – especially long-term stress when cortisol production is prominent, interferes with thinking and learning.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea significantly increases the risk for dementia.
  • Obesity – fat cells secrete inflammatory chemicals that damage many tissues
  • A lack of sleep – regularly sleeping less than 5 hours a night is associated with worse cognition (compared with those getting 7 to 8 hours a night).
  • Sedating medications – older antihistamines, strong pain medications, some beta blockers used for high blood pressure and heart problems, to name just a few. Discuss this with your health care provider if you are on a medication that can cause drowsiness or problems with clear thinking.
  • High blood sugar – from diabetes or poor diet. Processed foods, especially high in sugar baked goods, soft drinks and candy can increase the blood sugar and cause harm even if you don’t have diabetes.

What helps preserve and even strengthen memory and thinking ability? This list is also long!

  • Exercise – even a thirty minute walk each day helps with blood circulation and with special memory. Physical activity is also associated with an increase in brain cells and improved long-term memory.
  • Relaxation – just looking out a window for ten minutes a day is helpful.
  • Healthy foods – those high in antioxidants are especially beneficial – for example berries, green vegetables, whole grains, fish, and beans. Turmeric and sage tea are also credited with brain protective effects.
  • Social engagement – talking with others, even if the subject isn’t theoretical physics or other deep topics, aids memory and other brain functions.
  • Music and art (making and appreciating), crafts like knitting, jigsaw puzzles and word games all can help.

This article is not intended to replace your health care provider. The intent is to make important information about medications and other things that can affect your health available.

The best way to prevent an infection

The best way to prevent infections

Since we’re living in an era when there isn’t an antimicrobial drug for every infection, prevention is critical. Although there have been a lot of advances in medicine, proper hand washing is the best way to prevent picking up or spreading an infection. Proper in italics because this is key, and I would venture to say most people don’t do that. That changed after reading Dr. Frederic Saldmann’s Wash Your Hands! (New York: Weinstein Books, 2008).

It’s no secret that hands carry a lot of germs, and not just those that cause skin infections or gastroenteritis. We cough into our hands, touch computers and elevator buttons, shake hands, touch our face, grab onto the handrails of stairs, touch toilet seats and sink faucets, touch our face, pick up fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, touch our face, and then do a split-second wash that may be giving the germs just the chance they need to start a very big family and also get free housing.

Proper hand washing includes washing every part including the space between fingers and cuticles. In the article “Implementing Infection Prevention and Control Precautions in the Community” by Deborah Ward (British Journal of Community Nursing, March 2017, vol. 22, #3) it’s noted that fingernails and fingertips have the highest number of organisms. The author adds that rings and other jewelry can also be a reservoir for germs. She also notes that alcohol-based sanitizers don’t kill the germs that cause the pseudomembranous colitis, a serious lower GI infection.

Drying is just as important because, per Dr. Saldmann’s book, moist hands carry five hundred times as many pathogens as dry hands! Yet another study found that about a third of hand washers don’t dry their hands. And using a damp towel can contaminate washed hands. The most startling news is that using a warm-air dryer actually leads to a significant increase in the number of germs on hands compared with the number before washing them!

After shaking hands with someone that had a recent trip to the bathroom and didn’t wash their hands, there’s a 33% chance you’ll get some of the bacteria from their feces in your mouth within a couple hours. If you think it’s rare for someone to not wash their hands after using the restroom, guess again. In one study, almost half of the research subjects didn’t wash their hands then if they were alone; that’s five times the rate of those who are in the bathroom with other people around. Proper hand washing takes less than a minute – a worthy investment!

Citrus versus Cancer: Guess which one Wins!

Citrus versus Cancer:  Guess which one Wins!

Before plunging into all the nutrients and cell protectors found in citrus fruits, it is worth stating an important fact once again. That key concept is that with these foods, as with most super foods, the benefits add up to much more than the sum of its parts. To put it another way, you can’t take the specific molecules, even in the amounts proportionate to what they are in the fruit, and reap the same rewards. These compounds work together. This writer can think of no other comment on this amazing aspect of many foods than the word miraculous. To profit fully from these foods, eat them as they are – the whole food. Even juices are often far inferior to their original containers. And really, why do we want to add time, effort and expense to our diet?

Numerous anticancer compounds are found in citrus fruits, maybe more than any other food, and per the National Cancer Institute a complete package of natural cancer inhibitors. Some of these cancer fighters include the following:

 

  • Pectin which is a soluble fiber, impairs growth factors that cancers need to keep growing. This same compound benefits the cardiovascular system as well. The white lining of citrus fruit is especially high in pectin.
  • Citrus flavonoids in the juice, pulp and skin are antioxidants (protecting cells from free radical damage – something that comes from many sources including normal energy production and inflammation). They are also antimutagenic – preventing the cell mutations that are the first step in cancer development. Flavonoids are also anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. They also strengthen blood vessels as well as tendons, cartilage and ligaments.
  • Folate in citrus is another compound that helps protect the DNA. Folate also helps protect the cardiovascular system.
  • Limonene is a phytonutrient (nutrient found in plants) in the oil of citrus peel. They function to detoxify – another cancer fighting action of citrus. Animal research has shown this compound can help shrink tumors. These chemicals may also have antimicrobial properties. Add citrus zest to fruit dishes and coleslaw.
  • Vitamin C helps protect against nitrosamines, carcinogens associated with GI cancers such as stomach cancer. Vitamin C’s effects are strengthened by bioflavonoid polyphenols that are also found in citrus. C also decreases stroke and cataract risk.

Carotenoids are found in particular in tangerines and grapefruit. These also fight cancer. Citrate levels in urine are increased with orange juice consumption and that helps stop kidney stone formation. This was noted in David Grotto’s book 101 Foods that could save your life (Nutrition Housecall, 2007).

Other references:  Tonia Reinhard’s Super Foods (Firefly Books, 2014), Eat This and Live by Don Colbert (Siloam, 2009) and Fourteen Foods that will change your life SuperFoods (HarperCollins, 2004).

Medications that can increase the risk of Pneumonia

Medications that can increase the chance of getting Pneumonia

While colds usually spread easily from person to person, the germs that cause pneumonia often are found in a dormant state in people and the lung infection doesn’t develop until the immune system is weakened and/or stomach contents backs up into the throat and into the airway. Germs in that fluid can thus get into the air sacs and start an infection there. As with any foreign invader, the pathogens (germs) are detected by the body and the inflammatory process starts. Part of inflammation includes the production of an exudate, a fluid with white blood cells and debris. This exudate fills some of the air sacs and decreases the surface area where oxygen can be absorbed and carbon dioxide eliminated. The lack of oxygen makes people feel weak and short of breath. If severe, it can kill the person.

The pneumonia vaccines can decrease the chances of getting severe, invasive (spreads throughout the body) pneumonia, but it doesn’t always prevent it. In “Use of Opioids or Benzodiazepines and risk of pneumonia in Older Adults:  A Population-based Case-Controlled Study” by S. Dublin, et al (Journal of the American Gerontological Society, 2011; 59: 1899-1907) over 90% of the people who gotten pneumonia had received the vaccine. Although the vaccine can help protect, clearly much more must be done to decrease pneumonia risk.

Because some medications increase the risk of pneumonia, this under-rated topic was selected by this author. It came to my attention after listening to “Pneumonia Diagnosis” by Willian Sonnenberg (FP Audio Digest 452, January, 2017, by the American Academy of Family Physicians). The drug classes implicated:

  • Proton Pump Inhibitors, medications used to treat ulcers and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), increase stomach content pH so fewer germs that cause pneumonia are killed. These drugs have only been implicated in strep pneumoniae as a cause of pneumonia
  • Drugs with anticholinergic effects – some of those for urge incontinence, older antihistamines, and certain tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) can increase pneumonia risk
  • Inhaled corticosteroids (used for asthma and COPD) may increase the risk up to 69%
  • Benzodiazepines, used for anxiety and sleep, could also increase pneumonia risk
  • In the Dublin article, the research didn’t confirm the link with benzodiazepines and pneumonia but did find that some opioids can make pneumonia more likely to develop.
  • Morphine, codeine and fentanyl were found to suppress some aspects of the immune and inflammatory response. This effect was particularly strong the first few weeks of use.
  • Use of benzodiazepines were associated with an increased chance of infection in the critically ill, increase the chance of community acquired pneumonia and increase the 30-day mortality following pneumonia per an on-line pharmacology journal (Formulary.journal.com for January, 2013 based on an article on such in the medical journal Thorax).

 

This article is not intended to replace your health care provider. The intent is to make important information about medications available.

Antibiotic Resistance – A very real Danger

Antibiotic Resistance – A very real danger

The emergence of bacteria that are resistant to various antibiotics has been deemed a major public health threat. This sobering judgment if from an article in the Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports. The article, “Elements of Outpatient Antibiotic Stewardship” by G. Sanchez, et al (MMWR for November 11, 2016, Vol. 65, number 6), was written for prescribers but the message is applicable to everyone.

We are all stakeholders in the use of antibiotics. Health care providers may be tempted to give a patient a prescription for an unnecessary antibiotic course because they are rushed or in an effort to please survey-writing patients. It is much easier to do that than to take the time to explain why an antibiotic isn’t needed and to describe other things that may speed recovery from a viral infection or help the person feel better.

Patients encourage the inappropriate use of antibiotics when they visit a health care provider when they have a cold or allergies, imagining that antibiotics will help. Furthermore, if the provider hedges about prescribing the coveted antibiotic, the patient may ignore the providers experience- and education-based decision and continue to push. It can get to the point where the provider senses a negative and damaging comment from the patient may result, or just feel too tired or rushed to bother with more education.

It may not seem like a big deal, this overuse of antibiotics, but the research and statistics reveal how damaging this situation is. Bacteria that are resistant to many antibiotics contribute to an estimated 23,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. They are also responsible for some 2 million infections every year. Although antibiotics can be life-saving, inappropriate prescribing and use of antibiotics is the major reason why there are disease-causing bacteria that aren’t killed or kept from increasing in number.

Bacteria reproduce so quickly, it isn’t surprising that mutations develop. Mutations are abnormalities in an organism’s genes that develop because of exposure to a mutagen (a vague name for anything that instigates the error in DNA). Usually mutations don’t give the affected cells an advantage. Indeed, mutations usually make for weaker organisms, but because some mutated bacteria aren’t harmed by an antibiotic they were exposed to, they increase in number and spread, causing infections that are hard to treat.

Antibiotic resistance develops when antibiotics kill, or keep from reproducing, some bacteria in the body, but not all bacteria. Those that survive increase in number because the antibiotic has destroyed much of the competition. These bacteria can easily be spread to others and can also spread their mutated genes to other bacteria so that they’ll also be resistant to the same antibiotics.

The best way to stop antibiotic resistance isn’t with new antibiotics but with careful and appropriate use of the ones we have. In a November of 2015 article in Reader’s Digest, “When to Say No To an Antibiotics Prescription,” (reproduced from a Consumer Reports on Health), people are encouraged to not push for antibiotics for viral infections such as influenza, colds, acute bronchitis or sinus infections when there are no serious symptoms. If someone is unsure about what constitutes “serious symptoms” or signs, they should contact their health care provider. As with all information on this website, readers should not substitute it for the advice and care of their health care provider.