Eating a heart smart diet, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. These simple steps can lower your risk of death by as much as 80 percent over 8 years. What are you waiting for?
An important new study from NYU Lagone Medical Center documents the effects of seemingly innocuous plastic products and materials on our own health, and on the health of our children. The additives, known as phthlates, turn up virtually everywhere, so it is nearly impossible to avoid exposure to them. Although the effect on blood pressure may appear to be modest, over time and across individuals, even a mild effect can raise the risk for heart disease, kidney failure, and stroke. Now that we’ve identified phthalates as a potential problem, manufacturers need to take steps to reduce our exposure to these chemicals.
Daily Rx interviewed me for this article about the importance of treating risk factors in stroke patients just as aggressively as we do for heart patients. As I told the story’s author, ” Often after a stroke, a patient may seem dependent and perhaps not mentally sharp, so some physicians may not be as inclined to be as aggressive as they might after a heart attack. However, there is usually some degree of improvement for up to two years after the stroke. Some people will recover nearly completely. A second stroke can be even more devastating than the first, so it’s important we do everything we can to reduce the risk for subsequent strokes and, at the same time, help to protect the heart.”
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Although the link between smoking and lung cancer is well known, most people are unaware that lifestyle choices that raise the risk for heart disease may also increase the likelihood of developing many other forms of cancer. Breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer have all been linked to diet and obesity. Read more about it here:
If you’ve been thinking about checking out my new book but just haven’t gotten around to it, this is the time to do so. Through May 27, the Amazon Kindle edition is only $2.99. No Kindle? No problem. You can get the paperback version for only $5.98.
Risk factors for heart disease, including diabetes, tobacco, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity can also reduce normal brain function and memory. A recent study from The Netherlands found that the more risk factors an individual has, the more poorly he or she performed on tests of memory, reasoning, and planning. The test subjects ranged in age from 35-82. Those with the greatest number of risk factors performed 50 percent worse on testing compared to those without risk factors.
Diabetes and tobacco use were associated with the greatest amount of harm. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and more than 90% of cases can be prevented with exercise, weight loss, and diet. As I told DailyRx, “we need to get rid of the notion that we can
play catch-up on our health later in life and all will turn out well in the end. This is a loud and clear wake up call to take control of our health and well-being today.”
Only about one third of people adopt even one healthy lifestyle habit after a heart attack or stroke. As I told DailyRx, “While many studies have looked at ways to help motivate people to exercise, eat healthier and quit smoking, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. These changes require effort and time, but the payoff in better health and vitality is huge.”
We doctors are very good at prescribing pills and performing operations and procedures, but it’s up to you to choose a life that celebrates and fosters good health.
As I told dailyRX News, “I think that most people would be shocked to know just how much salt is in their diet. The truth is only about 15 percent of our sodium intake comes from the saltshaker. The rest is hidden in processed snack foods, restaurant meals, pasta sauces, soup, lunch meats, even bread and other baked goods.” Cutting back even a little could help drop your blood pressure and reduce your risk for a stroke.
Potassium also benefits heart health. Although most people don’t get enough, there’s usually no need to take a supplement. Simply eating 5-10 servings of fruits and veggies each day will give your potassium level a healthy boost.
In years past, coffee and tea were thought of as vices. While not quite shameful, and certainly not on par with smoking and heavy drinking, caffeine consumption was something that we doctors were sure would eventually lead to dire consequences. Never mind that coffee, tea, and chocolate have been integral to cultures around the world for millenia. Something that makes you feel so good must surely be bad for you.
The good news is that we were wrong. And when it comes to coffee and tea, we were seriously wrong. In fact, both are potent sources of heart healthy antioxidants. For more about some of the latest research, take a look at the piece I wrote for HealthLine.com Of course, we can’t generalize to other caffeinated products such as sodas and energy drinks. While they may be loaded with caffeine, they have little if any of the antioxidants found in coffee and tea, and are often saturated with sugar.
The latest study on caffeine and health (published in the March 19, 2013 edition of the British Medical Journal) takes a somewhat different tack. Australian researchers investigated the caffeine habits of long-distance truckers and found that those who regularly drank caffeinated beverages had a 63% lower likelihood of crashing compared to those who never used caffeine. The study was not designed to look at cigarette smoking, but heavy smokers did appear to have a higher rate of crashes, despite the stimulant effects of nicotine.
If you’re driving long distances, you’re better off getting plenty of rest and exercise than relying on caffeine to keep you awake. However, it’s reassuring and potentially life saving to know that a coffee buzz is a safe and relatively effective way to help you stay awake and alert.
Fried chicken, ham hocks, pickled eggs, and sweet tea are classic Southern fare. Yet regular consumption of these comfort foods can raise the risk of stroke by a heartbreaking 30 percent. As a medical student in Nashville, TN in the 1980′s, I became well-acquainted with the Southern tradition of “meat and three.” Although the “three” in this equation refers to vegetables, the traditionally conservative South is uncharacteristically liberal when it comes to greens. Fried okra, mashed potatoes, even macaroni and cheese are often considered vegetables on par with collard greens (a much healthier choice) and salad. Daily Rx interviewed me for this article. You can click the link to learn more.