Category Archives: Health

Simple Ways to Eat a Healthy Diet

hh2In order to keep yourself in the best shape possible, it’s essential to eat a healthy diet. Find out exactly what you should be eating on a regular basis.

If you are what you eat, it follows that you want to stick to a healthy diet that’s well balanced. “You want to eat a variety of foods,” says Stephen Bickston, MD, AGAF, professor of internal medicine and director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Virginia Commonwealth University Health Center in Richmond. “You don’t want to be overly restrictive of any one food group or eat too much of another.”

Healthy Diet: The Building Blocks
The best source of meal planning for most Americans is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food Pyramid. The pyramid, updated in 2005, suggests that for a healthy diet each day you should eat:

6 to 8 servings of grains. These include bread, cereal, rice, and pasta, and at least 3 servings should be from whole grains. A serving of bread is one slice while a serving of cereal is 1/2 (cooked) to 1 cup (ready-to-eat). A serving of rice or pasta is 1/2 cup cooked (1 ounce dry). Save fat-laden baked goods such as croissants, muffins, and donuts for an occasional treat.

2 to 4 servings of fruits and 4 to 6 servings of vegetables. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat, making them a great addition to your healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables also provide the fiber, vitamins, and minerals you need for your body’s systems to function at peak performance. Fruits and vegetables also will add flavor to a healthy diet. It’s best to serve them fresh, steamed, or cut up in salads. Be sure to skip the calorie-laden toppings, butter, and mayonnaise, except on occasion. A serving of raw or cooked vegetables is equal to 1/2 cup (1 cup for leafy greens); a serving of a fruit is 1/2 cup or a fresh fruit the size of a tennis ball.

2 to 3 servings of milk, yogurt, and cheese. Choose dairy products wisely. Go for fat-free or reduced-fat milk or cheeses. Substitute yogurt for sour cream in many recipes and no one will notice the difference. A serving of dairy is equal to 1 cup of milk or yogurt or 1.5 to 2 ounces of cheese.

2 to 3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts. For a healthy diet, the best ways to prepare beef, pork, veal, lamb, poultry, and fish is to bake or broil them. Look for the words “loin” or “round” in cuts of meats because they’re the leanest. Remove all visible fat or skin before cooking, and season with herbs, spices, and fat-free marinades. A serving of meat, fish, or poultry is 2 to 3 ounces. Some crossover foods such as dried beans, lentils, and peanut butter can provide protein without the animal fat and cholesterol you get from meats. A ¼ cup cooked beans or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter is equal to 1 ounce of lean meat.

Use fats, oils, and sweets sparingly. No diet should totally eliminate any one food group, even fats, oils, and sweets. It’s fine to include them in your diet as long as it’s on occasion and in moderation, Bickston says.

Healthy Diet: Eat Right and the Right Amount
How many calories you need in a day depends on your sex, age, body type, and how active you are. Generally, active children ages 2 to 8 need between 1,400 and 2,000 calories a day. Active teenage girls and women can consume about 2,200 calories a day without gaining weight. Teenage boys and men who are very active should consume about 3,000 calories a day to maintain their weight. If you’re not active, you calorie needs drop by 400 to 600 calories a day.

The best way to know how much to eat is to listen to your body, says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. “Pull away from the table when you’re comfortable but not yet full. Wait about 20 minutes,” he says. “Usually your body says, ‘That’s good.’ If you’re still hungry after that, you might want to eat a little more.”

Healthy Diet: Exercise Is Part of the Plan
At the bottom of the new USDA food pyramid is a space for exercise. Exercise is an important component of a well-balanced diet and good nutrition. You can reap “fabulous rewards,” says Dr Novey, just by exercising and eating “a healthy diet of foods that nature provides.”

Some Health Benefits of Water

hh3Did you know that your body weight is approximately 60 percent water? Your body uses water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate its temperature and maintain other bodily functions. Because your body loses water through breathing, sweating, and digestion, it’s important to rehydrate by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water. The amount of water you need depends on a variety of factors, including the climate you live in, how physically active you are, and whether you’re experiencing an illness or have any other health problems.

Water Protects Your Tissues, Spinal Cord, and Joints

Water does more than just quench your thirst and regulate your body’s temperature; it also keeps the tissues in your body moist. You know how it feels when your eyes, nose, or mouth gets dry? Keeping your body hydrated helps it retain optimum levels of moisture in these sensitive areas, as well as in the blood, bones, and the brain. In addition, water helps protect the spinal cord, and it acts as a lubricant and cushion for your joints.

Water Helps Your Body Remove Waste

Adequate water intake enables your body to excrete waste through perspiration, urination, and defecation. The kidneys and liver use it to help flush out waste, as do your intestines. Water can also keep you from getting constipated by softening your stools and helping move the food you’ve eaten through your intestinal tract. However, it should be noted that there is no evidence to prove that increasing your fluid intake will cure constipation.

Water Aids in Digestion

Digestion starts with saliva, the basis of which is water. Digestion relies on enzymes that are found in saliva to help break down food and liquid and to dissolve minerals and other nutrients. Proper digestion makes minerals and nutrients more accessible to the body. Water is also necessary to help you digest soluble fiber. With the help of water, this fiber dissolves easily and benefits your bowel health by making well-formed, soft stools that are easy to pass.

Water Prevents You From Becoming Dehydrated

Your body loses fluids when you engage in vigorous exercise, sweat in high heat, or come down with a fever or contract an illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea. If you’re losing fluids for any of these reasons, it’s important to increase your fluid intake so that you can restore your body’s natural hydration levels. Your doctor may also recommend that you drink more fluids to help treat other health conditions, like bladder infections and urinary tract stones. If you’re pregnant or nursing, you may want to consult with your physician about your fluid intake because your body will be using more fluids than usual, especially if you’re breastfeeding.

How Much Water Do You Need?

There’s no hard and fast rule, and many individuals meet their daily hydration needs by simply drinking water when they’re thirsty, according to a report on nutrient recommendations from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. In fact, most people who are in good physical health get enough fluids by drinking water and other beverages when they’re thirsty, and also by drinking a beverage with each of their meals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re not sure about your hydration level, look at your urine. If it’s clear, you’re in good shape. If it’s dark, you’re probably dehydrated.

How to Boost Women’s Health

Women’s health concerns are a little different from those of men. If you’re a woman, these tips will soon have you feeling fit and energetic.

To look and feel your best at every age, it’s important to make smart lifestyle and health choices. Here are six simple things that women can do every day (or with regularity) to ensure good health:

Health Tip 1: Eat a healthy diet. “You want to eat as close to a natural foods diet as you can,” says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. That means a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. Eat whole grains and high-fiber foods and choose leaner cuts of meat, fish, and poultry. Include low-fat dairy products in your diet as well — depending on your age, you need between 800 and 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily to help avoid osteoporosis, Dr. Novey says. Avoid foods and beverages that are high in calories, sugar, salt, and fat.

Healthy eating will help you maintain a proper weight for your height, which is important because being overweight can lead to a number of illnesses. Looking for a healthy snack? Try some raw vegetables, such as celery, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, or zucchini with dip made from low-fat yogurt.

If you’re not getting enough vitamins and nutrients like Obat Pembesar Penis in your diet, you might want to take a multivitamin and a calcium supplement like Pembesar Penis to make sure you’re maintaining good health.

Health Tip 2: Exercise. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in America, but plenty of exercise can help keep your heart healthy. You want to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, if not every day. Aerobic exercises (walking, swimming, jogging, bicycling, dancing) are good for women’s health in general and especially for your heart, says Sabrena Merrill, MS, of Lawrence, Kan., a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor and a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise.

Health Tip 3: Avoid risky habits. Stay away from cigarettes and people who smoke. Don’t use drugs. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Most women’s health studies show that women can safely consume one drink a day. A drink is considered to be about 12 to 14 grams of alcohol, which is equal to 12 ounces of beer (4.5 percent alcohol); 5 ounces of wine (12.9 percent alcohol); or 1.5 ounces of spirits (hard liquor such as gin or whiskey, 80-proof).

Health Tip 4: Manage stress. No matter what stage of her life — daughter, mother, grandmother — a woman often wears many hats and deals with a lot of pressure and stress. “Take a few minutes every day just to relax and get your perspective back again,” Novey says. “It doesn’t take long, and mental health is important to your physical well-being.” You also can manage stress with exercise, relaxation techniques, or meditation.

Health Tip 5: Sun safely. Excessive exposure to the sun’s harmful rays can cause skin cancer, which can be deadly. To protect against skin cancer, wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 if you are going to be outdoors for more than a few minutes. Even if you wear sunscreen faithfully, you should check regularly for signs of skin cancer. Warning signs include any changes in the size, shape, color, or feel of birthmarks, moles, or freckles, or new, enlarging, pigmented, or red skin areas. If you spot any changes or you find you have sores that are not healing, consult your doctor.

Health Tip 6: Check for breast cancer. The American Cancer Society no longer recommends monthly breast self-exams for women. However, it still suggests them as “an option” for women, starting in their 20s. You should be on the lookout for any changes in your breasts and report any concerns to your doctor. All women 40 and older should get a yearly mammogram as a mammogram is the most effective way of detecting cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable.

A woman’s health needs change as she ages, but the basics of women’s health remain the same. If you follow these six simple healthy living tips, you will improve your quality of life for years to come.

Should You Know About What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Exercising

hh1There comes a point in almost every fitness lover’s life when they consider throwing in the towel after a workout—both figuratively and literally. Blame it on your looming work deadlines, or the stubborn needle on the scale, or even just plain old boredom.

That’s normal. But here’s why you shouldn’t follow through on the temptation to just quit: There are plenty of benefits to exercise, but they’re not permanent. In fact, many of those hard-earned gains will start to disappear in as little as two weeks, says Farah Hameed, MD, a sports medicine physician with ColumbiaDoctors.

Here’s exactly what you can expect to happen to your body if you give up exercise:

Within 10 days: Your brain might start to change

For years, researchers have suspected that exercise is good for your brain, too—according to one 2013 review, it might be able to help offset age-related memory loss. Now, a new study in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that even a short vacation from your workout might cause changes to the brain.

In the study, when a group of long-term endurance runners took a 10-day exercise hiatus, their subsequent MRIs showed a reduction in blood flow to the hippocampus, the part of the brain that’s associated with memory and emotion. The researchers point out that although the runners didn’t experience any cognitive changes over the period, more long-term studies are needed.

Within two weeks: Your endurance will plummet and your vitals may spike

After just 14 days, you might have a harder time climbing a flight of stairs or keeping up with your colleagues during the monthly kickball game. The reason you’re so winded? Skipping sweat sessions causes a drop in your VO2 max, or the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use. It can dip by about 10% after two weeks, says Dr. Hameed. It only gets worse from there: After four weeks, your VO2 max can drop by about 15%, and after three months, it can fall about 20%—“and those are conservative estimates,” Dr. Hameed notes.

Staying even slightly active can help: One 2009 study found that male kayakers who took a five-week break from their training saw an 11.3% drop on average in their VO2 max, while those who worked in a handful of exercise sessions during each week only saw a 5.6% drop.

Even if you don’t notice a change in your speed or strength, you might experience a sharp rise in your blood pressure and blood glucose levels—something that could be more serious for people with diabetes or high blood pressure, says Dr. Hameed.

Researchers from South Africa found that a two-week exercise break was enough to offset the blood pressure benefits of two weeks of high-intensity interval training; another 2015 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that people who did an eight-month bout of resistance and aerobic exercise saw an improvement in the blood glucose levels, but lost almost half of these benefits after 14 days of inactivity.

Within four weeks: Your strength will start slipping

Dr. Hameed estimates that some people will notice their strength declining after about two weeks of inactivity, while others will begin to see a difference after about four weeks. The silver lining: Our strength probably diminishes at a slower rate than our endurance, and one 2011 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that when one group of men stopped doing resistance training, they still had some of their strength gains up to 24 weeks later.

Within eight weeks: You might gain fat

Dr. Hameed estimates that people will start to notice a physical change—either by looking in the mirror, or at the number on the scale—after about six weeks. Even elite athletes aren’t immune to the rebound. A 2012 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that competitive swimmers who took a five-week break from their training experienced a 12% increase in their levels of body fat, and saw a boost in their body weight and waist circumference. (We should also point out that these athletes weren’t totally sedentary—they still did some light and moderate exercise.) And a 2016 study found that elite Taekwondo athletes who took an eight-week hiatus from exercise experienced an increase in their levels of body fat and a decrease in muscle mass, too.

That said, there’s a difference between breaking up with exercise for good and taking a well-intentioned rest. The distinction: “You need to do some type of activity [every day],” says Dr. Hameed. For example, maybe you just ran the Chicago Marathon and can’t run another 16 miles, let alone 26—in that case, says Dr. Hameed, you should do some cross-training. (Think: cycling, using the elliptical, or even light walking.) Just don’t quit moving altogether—your body, brain, and waistline will thank you.

Tips to Make Yourself Poop Before a Run

There’s a reason porta potty lines rope around the block at running events: Most runners want to empty out their system before going out and running miles upon miles.

It’s a valid concern—not being able to go to the bathroom before a race means you may get hit with the urge mid-run, and in turn, cramps and gas or a need to pause mid-race and make a bathroom pit stop.

“The vertical movement of running causes things to move through the colon, so not going to the bathroom before a long run or race may increase the chances of feeling something you don’t want to feel while you run,” says Jason Karp, PhD, a running coach and the owner of Run-Fit.

Fear not: We polled the experts on exactly what to do to get your bowels moving first thing (plus what not to do).

Do drink coffee

Hollis Lotharius, a coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City, swears by a cup of Joe to help prompt a bathroom run.

“I am one who likes to run ‘light,’” she says. “I have found that a strong cup of coffee is the best way to dump, pun intended, extra weight prior to stepping out the door.”

And it works, says Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, Health’s contributing medical editor and a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Caffeine is what we call a cathartic,” she explains. “It stimulates the colon to contract and works as a laxative for many people.”

For the non-coffee drinkers, Lotharius has tried and tested a healthy (and yummy) alternative that works for her. “Combine 1 to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, 1 teaspoon of honey, juice from one fresh lemon, and some grated raw ginger in a mug of hot water,” she says.

Do give yourself plenty of time

“The problem is typically more about not having the time to go before the race start—because of long lines at the porta potties or getting to the race late—rather than not being able to go,” says Karp.

Unfortunately there’s no exact science to how long your body needs before being “ready” to have a bowel movement, Dr. Raj says. “But waking up extra early allows you to have enough time for the crucial steps of eating, having coffee, et cetera.”

Lotharius agrees: “I set my alarm clock an hour early,” she says. “I honestly believe that the one hour less of sleep is far better than the alternative.”

Do eat breakfast

Most people feel an urge to go to the bathroom after eating something, Dr. Raj says. “There is something cause the gastrocolic reflex,” she explains. “When you eat and the food moves into your stomach, there’s a reflex that stimulates your colon to contract a bit.”

The reflex may be more pronounced for some people than others, she adds, but having a bite first thing in the morning is a promising way to get things moving.

Don’t park it on the toilet

It may be tempting to coax your body into going by sitting on the John for a while. But kicking back with a newspaper and waiting it out can end up doing more harm than good, Dr. Raj warns.

“First of all, if you’re sitting for a long time, that suggests that you’re not going naturally and you may be straining or pushing for a lot of that time,” she says. “Also, sitting in that position puts pressure on the veins within the anal area, which is what causes hemorrhoids.”

Instead, move about, eat breakfast, have your coffee and wait for the urge to set in. Then sit down for just a few minutes so that the bowel movement comes on its own.

Do fill up on fiber

Upping the fiber in your diet can help keep you regular and prevent constipation, Dr. Raj says (a smart move whether you’ve got a race looming or not).

Insoluble fiber is the matter in foods that doesn’t get broken down by the gut and absorbed by the bloodstream. It adds bulk to stool in the digestive system, which helps keep it passing through smoothly and frequently.

Increase your fiber intake far in advance of your race so that your body has time to get used to a higher intake if you normally don’t get enough (adults should aim to get between 21 and 38 grams of fiber per day, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine). Try adding one serving a week; eating lots of fiber in a short period of time can cause your GI tract to protest in the form of gas or cramping, issues you don’t want to deal with during a race.

Find insoluble fiber in whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Prunes are particularly rich in fiber, with roughly 1 gram per prune. A heads up: Prunes also contain fructans and sorbitol, which are fermentable sugars that can have a laxative effect, so you’ll want to see how your body reacts at a time other than right before a race.

Don’t try a laxative

…even if the label says something promising, like “gentle overnight relief.”

“Laxatives can end up having a painful effect, or they may work so strongly that you’re going for several hours or even the whole next day as opposed to the one, or maybe two, bowel movements that you were hoping for,” Dr. Raj says. “Especially if your body has never seen it before, it may have a super-strong reaction.”

The same goes for smooth-move teas, Dr. Raj adds, which can cause uncomfortable cramping or abdominal pain for some people.

Do warm up

“Typically the more active you are, the more regular you’ll be,” Dr. Raj says. “And physical activity tends to bring more activity to the colon as well.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean doing 20 jumping jacks in your living room will suddenly spur the need to go number-two, she says. But stretching out, doing a dynamic warm up, and getting your body up and moving may be worth a shot.

Don’t stress about it

Constipation can sometimes stem from stress and anxiety, Dr. Raj warns. “So sitting there worrying about whether or not you’ll be able to clear your system while the clock is ticking can definitely block you from going,” Dr. Raj says. Focus on getting your head in the game for your run, maybe try some deep breathing exercises, to take your mind off of your GI concerns.

And if your corral is creeping toward the start line and your poop is still a no show? That doesn’t mean your run is doomed. “I don’t really know why physiologically it would be such a big problem to not have emptied your bowels before a race,” Dr. Raj says. “It’s sort of like giving birth; women are always freaking out that they’re going to need to have a bowel movement midway through. But it rarely happens, even though people are so paranoid about it.”

Karp says the bummer is when you do get a strong urge to go in the middle of a race. “Having that feeling affects you physically and psychologically,” he says, be it in the form of cramps that you need to walk off or as extra stress on your mind about whether you’ll be able to finish without needing to stop for the bathroom.

But if you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go—and tacking on an extra minute to your time is better than having an accident or running in discomfort the whole way. “Don’t overthink it,” Dr. Raj says.

Do practice in advance

Curious about sipping prune juice the night before? Planning to add extra beans and spinach to your dinner plate to wake up and “go”? Take any poop-related tricks for a trial run (literally) weeks in advance, Dr. Raj suggests. You don’t want any surprises about how your body reacts to these changes on race day.

The bottom line: “Give yourself some peaceful time in the morning, and start any new poop-related habits far in advance so that your body has time to adjust and get in sync,” she says.

Some Reason to Work Up a Sweat

Exercise does more than just tone muscle and burn calories in the moment: New research shows that a hormone released during exercise actually helps the body shed fat and keep it off.

The hormone, called irisin, has been shown to play a role in transforming energy-storing white fat cells into energy-burning brown fat cells—a process scientists call “browning.” Now, University of Florida scientists say that irisinhelps inhibit the formation of new fatty tissue, as well.

These findings highlight a new and additional benefit of physical activity, said co-author Li-Jun Yang, MD, a professor of hematopathology in the University of Florida College of Medicine, in a press release, because irisin levels are believed to surge when the heart and other muscles are exerted. (In addition to exercise, studies show that shivering can trigger irisin production, as well.)

To examine the effect of irisin on human fat tissue, the researchers collected fat cells donated by 28 women who’d had breast reduction surgery. In their lab, they exposed some of the samples to the hormone and watched for changes in cell activation and gene expression.

As predicted, they found a nearly fivefold increase in activity among cells that contained a fat-burning protein known as UCP1. “We used human fat tissue cultures to prove that irisin has a positive effect by turning white fat into brown fat and that it increases the body’s fat-burning ability,” Dr. Yang said.

But they made another discovery, as well: After 18 days, the fat tissue samples that were exposed toirisin had a 20 to 60 percent reduction of mature fat cells, compared to a control group. This suggests that irisin actually hinders the process that turns undifferentiated stem cells into fat cells, the authors wrote, and pushes them toward becoming bone-forming cells instead.

The study, published recently in the American Journal of Physiology—Endocrinology and Metabolism, is believed to be the first of its kind to investigate how irisin affects human fat cells. Previous research on animals has suggested that it can improve heart function, boost calcium levels in the body, and reduce plaque buildup in arteries. Next, Dr. Yang and her colleagues hope to study the hormone’s effect on dangerous abdominal fat.

Findings about irisin’s role in regulating fat cells shed some light on a complex issue that scientists still don’t fully understand: how exercise helps people not only slim down, but also stay slim.

“Irisin can do a lot of things,” said Dr. Yang. “This is another piece of evidence about the mechanisms that prevent fat buildup and promote the development of strong bones when you exercise.”

It’s possible that irisin’s benefits could be used to develop weight-loss medications, Dr. Yang said, or even treatments or preventatives for diabetes and osteoporosis. But that likely won’t happen anytime soon; more studies are needed, and it can take years for a new pharmaceutical to be conceived, tested, and approved for sale.

For now, her message is simple: “Instead of waiting for a miracle drug, you can help yourself by changing your lifestyle,” she said. “Exercise produces more irisin, which has many beneficial effects including fat reduction, stronger bones and better cardiovascular health.”

How To Make Your Sleep Will Seriously Suffer

How glued are you to the main screen in your life? Very, if you’re like most of us; survey data suggests that Americans collectively check their phones 8 billion times each day.

All of that smartphone screen time is likely taking a toll on our sleep, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE. People who used their phones more, especially around bedtime, got less and worse sleep than their peers.

That’s concerning, says Dr. Gregory Marcus, one of the study’s authors and director of clinical research for the division of cardiology at University of California, San Francisco. “There’s growing evidence that poor sleep quality is not simply associated with difficulty concentrating and being in a bad mood the next day,” he says, “but may be a really important risk factor to multiple diseases.”

For the 30-day study, 653 adults all across the country downloaded an app that ran in the background of their phones and monitored screen time. The people in the study recorded how long and how well they slept, following standardized sleep scales.

People interacted with their phones about 3.7 minutes per hour, and longer screen activation seemed to come at a detriment. “We found that overall, those who had more smartphone use tended to have reduced quality sleep,” Marcus says.

The study doesn’t prove that using screens more causes worse sleep. (In fact, it might be the other way around: “We can’t exclude the possibility that people who just can’t get to sleep for some unrelated reason happen to fill that time by using their smartphone,” Marcus says.) But other research supports the idea that screens work against slumber. Some data suggests that the blue light your phone emits suppresses melatonin, a hormone that helps the human body maintain healthy circadian rhythms. “We also know that emotional upset, or just being stimulated apart from smartphone use, can adversely affect sleep quality, and that engaging with Twitter or Facebook or email can cause that sort of stimulation,” Marcus says.

Reactions to extended screen time might vary from person to person. But if you have difficulty falling asleep or getting good sleep, look to your smartphone, Marcus says. “Because sleep quality is so important, I think it’s useful for individuals to take these data and at least give avoidance of their smartphones an hour or so before they go to bed a try to see if it helps.”

Three Things Should Doing For Alzheimer’s

Eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and maintaining a normal weight appear to reduce protein buildups in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

These lifestyle factors are already recommended for safeguarding against dementia, and have previously been shown to reduce shrinkage and atrophy of the brain. But this is the first study to demonstrate how they can directly influence abnormal protein growth in people who have subtle memory loss, researchers say.

This is significant, the study authors wrote in their paper, because it’s been estimated that up to half of Alzheimer’s cases can be attributed to modifiable risk factors such as low education, smoking, physical inactivity, and obesity. Even a 10 to 25 percent reduction in these risks could potentially prevent nearly 500,000 cases in the United States.

The study included 44 adults, ages 40 to 85, who’d been experiencing mild memory problems but had not been diagnosed with dementia. They provided information about their diet, exercise levels, body mass index (BMI), and other lifestyle factors. Then they were given a PET scan—a type of brain imaging test—to measure different levels of protein in their brain.

The researchers were looking for two specific types of protein: deposits of beta-amyloid plaque and knotted threads of tau protein tangles. Both types are considered key indicators of the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Although the study could not prove a cause-and-effect relationship, it did find “moderate but significant” differences between participants with healthy lifestyles and people without. Specifically, people who got plenty of physical activity and had a normal BMI had fewer plaque deposits and tangles than those who got less exercise and had higher BMIs. The same went for those who followed a healthy diet—in this case, the Mediterranean diet—versus those who didn’t.

“The fact that we could detect this influence of lifestyle at a molecular level before the beginning of serious memory problems surprised us,” says lead author David Merrill, M.D., Ph.D., assistant clinical professor at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

Merrell says that doctors have long appreciated the fact that exercise and diet can improve muscle and heart function. But there seem to be additional effects they’re just starting to understand: “Some older patients of mine report similar benefits for their sharpness and memory on days when they go for a long walk or eat fish like salmon,” he says.

The new study reinforces the idea that habits that are good for the body are also good for the brain, says Merrill—and that they seem to have an impact on abnormal protein buildup “for years, if not decades, prior to the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.”

In their paper, the authors also suggest that improving more than one of these lifestyle factors may lower Alzheimer’s disease risk more than focusing on any one factor alone. Luckily, they point out, eating healthier, getting more exercise, and losing weight often go hand-in-hand.

Merrell says it’s never too early, or too late, to adopt healthier habits—a belief he puts into practice when treating patients at UCLA. “We try to meet all patients and family members where they are,” he says, “recommending a guided increase in physical activity along with greater adherence to a Mediterranean style diet.” This helps to improve both their physical and mental health over time, he adds, no matter where they started.

Information About Probiotics Help People With Alzheimer’s

Probiotics are well-known for their digestive health perks. But scientists have wondered if the “good” bugs might also affect our brains, since the brain and the gut appear to be closely connected.

Now, a study suggests that taking a daily probiotic supplement may slightly improve memory and thinking skills in older adults. According to the Iranian researchers, the beneficial bacteria might potentially protect against Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive decline, although more studies are needed.

Other research has shown that mice fed probiotics had improved thinking and memory skills. Until now, however, no placebo-controlled trials had been conducted on people, the authors say. For their study, they gave 60 men and women diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease either a daily glass of plain milk or milk treated with probiotics—including Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus fermentum, and Bifidobacterium bifidum.

At the beginning and end of the 12-week study, the participants took tests designed to measure brain function, such as giving the current date, counting backward from 100 by sevens, naming objects, repeating a phrase, and copying a picture. They also gave blood samples to measure other metabolic changes.

Over the 12 weeks, those in the probiotic group reported no side effects and their average cognitive score rose slightly—from 8.7 to 10.6 out of a 30-point maximum. In the placebo group, scores went down a bit, from 8.5 to 8.0.

This is only a mild improvement, say the study authors, and all of the participants remained severely impaired. But the findings are still important, they add, because they are the first to show any brain benefits from probiotics in humans. The authors say they have no financial conflicts of interest, although a supplement maker donated the probiotics for the study.

In their conclusion, the researchers wrote that “probiotic supplementation shows some hopeful trends that warrant further study to assess if probiotics have a clinically significant impact on the cognitive symptoms.” Larger patient groups, and longer study periods, could show if the small, but statistically real effects seen here could become stronger over time, they say.

The study, which was published yesterday in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, revealed other probiotic-related perks, as well: Daily consumption was associated not just with improved memory and thinking, but lower levels of two types of cholesterol (triglycerides and VLDL, or very low-density lipoprotein) and two common measures of insulin resistance as well.

It also appeared to lower levels of a marker of inflammation found in the blood of people with Alzheimer’s (called high-sensitivity c-reactive protein)—although it had no effect on other biomarkers of cell damage or inflammation.

“These findings indicate that change in the metabolic adjustments might be a mechanism by which probiotics affect Alzheimer’s and possibly other neurological disorders,” said senior author Mahmoud Salami, PhD, professor of physiology at Kashan University in Iran, in a press release. “We plan to look at these mechanisms in greater detail in our next study.”

Louisiana State University neurology professor Walter Lukiw, PhD, said in a press release that the study provides important evidence for the theory that the gut microbiome can play a role in neurological functioning—and that probiotics seem to influence both.

“This is in line with some of our recent studies which indicate that the GI tract microbiome in Alzheimer’s is significantly altered in composition when compared to age-matched controls,” said Lukiw, who reviewed the new study but was not involved in the research.

As another potential explanation for the link between brain and gut, Lukiw cited evidence that “both the GI tract and blood-brain barriers become significantly more leaky with aging,” potentially allowing toxic bacteria and other substances from the GI system to access the central nervous system.

Healthy adults can safely consume up to 20 billion CFUs of probiotics a day, says Health’s medical editor Dr. Raj. If you want to try a supplement, check out our recommendations and talk to your doc about what products and dosage she recommends.

Of course, you can also get the beneficial bugs by eating fermented foods. To work more of them into your diet, here’s a list of 9 probiotic foods other than yogurt.

Know More About Best Foods for Crohn’s Disease

What to eat if you have Crohn’s
If you’ve got inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you need to make calories count.

Certain foods won’t speed gut healing, but there are plenty that can help you stay well-nourished without aggravating symptoms, says Tracie Dalessandro, RD, a nutritionist based in Briarcliff Manor, NY, who also has Crohn’s disease.

Here are 13 foods that should be easy on your digestion. However, the right Crohn’s diet is highly individual—so use trial and error to see what works for you.

– Almond milk
Many people with Crohn’s are lactose intolerant. Luckily, there’s a great dairy alternative: almond milk, which is made from ground-up almonds and can be fortified to contain as much calcium as regular milk (check the label).

Almond milk also has vitamin D and E, but contains no cholesterol or saturated fat, and fewer calories than cow’s milk. Many varieties contain added sweetener; choosing an unsweetened product cuts about 20 calories per serving.

– Eggs
Scrambled, hard-boiled, soft-cooked—any way you prepare them, eggs are an inexpensive source of easily digested protein.

Make sure you’ve always got some in the fridge.

Eggs and toast are a standby for Marge McDonald, 46, during a flare up, along with potatoes and egg noodles. “Anything non-greasy,” says McDonald, who directs the Burlington Senior Center in Massachusetts and has ulcerative colitis. “Honestly when I’m flaring I just end up eating carbs.”

– Oatmeal
This comfort food is a great choice if you have Crohn’s. “Oatmeal is even OK when I’m flaring, if I’m not flaring too badly,” McDonald says.

Insoluble fiber—the kind in raw veggies, fruits, and nuts—draws water into the colon and can worsen diarrhea for those with IBD. But oatmeal has soluble fiber, which absorbs water and passes more slowly through your digestive tract, says Dalessandro, who is also a nutritional advisor to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

“If you have very soft-cooked oatmeal, that’s a great breakfast,” she says.

– Vegetable soups
“A lot of people I see are really, really afraid of eating vegetables,” says Dalessandro. “Most of the time their diet consists of a lot of white carbohydrate products, which of course are OK, but they don’t have a lot of nutrients.”

But even during a flare-up, pureed veggies like pumpkins, butternut squash, carrots and parsnips are fine. And you won’t lose nutrients, like you do when vegetables are boiled.

– Salmon
Twenty-five percent of the calories you eat should come from protein, which is key to healing.

Lean protein, like seafood, is your best option. “Fish is extremely beneficial, especially fish that’s high in omega-3s, like salmon,” Dalessandro says.

Shrimp and white fish like tilapia and flounder are also nutritious and easily digestible. Prepare seafood by steaming, broiling or grilling, and skip the deep-fat fryer.

– Papaya
People with Crohn’s may think they should avoid fruit, but even during a flare, tropical fruits like bananas are an easy-to-digest, nutritious option.

“Mango and papaya are super-high in nutrients and very, very easy to digest,” Dalessandro says.

Papaya contains an enzyme, papain, which helps your body digest proteins; this butter-soft fruit is also rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, folate and potassium, and is available year-round. Cantaloupe is a good choice too.

– Pureed beans
Beans may sound like the ultimate no-no for anyone who’s having digestive trouble.

But pureed chickpeas—the main component of hummus—and well-pureed lentils are a terrific source of lean protein and other nutrients, and should be safe even if your Crohn’s is acting up, Dalessandro says.

– Poultry
Chicken and turkey are protein-rich, and lean if you limit your consumption to the white meat.

They’re also mild and easy to digest, making them a go-to protein source for anyone with IBD.

– Avocado
Soft, smooth, and chock-full of good fats, B vitamins, vitamin E, and potassium, avocados should definitely be on the menu if you have Crohn’s disease.

They’re also one of the only fruits that contains digestion-friendly soluble fiber along with the insoluble type.

– Butter lettuce
A Crohn’s diagnosis doesn’t mean your salad days are over, says Dalessandro.

As long as you’re not experiencing severe diarrhea, you should be able to enjoy a salad made from butter lettuce.

Also known as Boston Bibb, this widely available light-green lettuce is much more tender and easily digestible than other salad greens.

– Roasted red peppers
Brilliant and super-tasty, roasted peppers—with skins removed—are delicious, nutritious, and safe for people with Crohn’s to eat, Dalessandro says.

Add them to a salad, slip them into a sandwich, or even use them as a soup garnish.
But see how they affect your digestion; they may not be for everyone. “For me peppers have always been a really bad food,”says McDonald.

– Rice
A traditional choice for anyone who’s suffering from stomach woes, white rice and other refined carbohydrates may not be super-nutritious, but they’re easy on the gut. They can also provide the calories you need during intestinally challenging times.

Just make sure these simple carbs aren’t crowding protein and well-cooked veggies out of your diet.

– Smooth nut butters
Nuts are an excellent source of good fats, vitamin E, and protein, but digesting them presents an insurmountable challenge to most people with Crohn’s.

You can get the benefits of nuts without aggravating symptoms by eating nut butters.
Make sure to choose smooth, not chunky versions of these products. In addition to peanut butter, most stores now stock almond and cashew butter, too.