Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lists for Longevity

Back to school, Labor day: is it time to make lists and get organized? Here are ten suggestions from the August issue of Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter. Next week I’ll report on Dr Oz’s 10 simple habits that could help you live to 100.
1. Combining moderate regular exercise and mentally stimulating activities can help protect your memory as you age, according to a Mayo Clinic study.
2. Raisins, a handful eaten 3 times a day, can reduce blood pressure significantly in mildly hypertensive people according to study from the Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Research Center. This may be because raisins are high in potassium, and also in fiber and healthful anti-oxidants. There are opposing views on whether raisins promote or prevent tooth decay, so keep flossing.
3. Your waist to hip ratio can predict you risk of sudden cardiac death. Best measurements are under 0.82 for women and 0.92 for men. Use a tape measure.
4. Regular jogging, at a slow to average pace, increases longevity, according to the Copenhagen City Heart Study. (Be sure to check with your doctor before starting to jog, if you don’t do so currently).
5. Fiber may help to protect against heart disease and stroke, according to a Swedish study.
6.Switching from white rice to brown rice could reduce your risk of diabetes, according to a Harvard study. This is especially important for Asians if they eat a lot of white rice.
7. Skip sugar sweetened beverages to reduce your risk of heart attack, according to the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals study. No increased risk was found for diet sodas.
8. Eating a Mediterranean diet, already linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases, leads to a better health-related quality of life, according to Spanish research. This diet is high in vegetables, fruit, fish or poultry, whole grains, nuts and olive oil, with small amounts of low fat milk as yogurt. There is new evidence that olive oil may strengthen bones. The diet avoids red meat and dairy fat. Get a book on this way of eating – The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Marion Nestle is a winner.
9. Low-fat dairy may lead to fewer strokes, according to a Swedish Study.
10. Any physical activity: formal exercise, gardening, housework and walking may lower the risk of Alzheimers’s disease, according to a study of older adults at Rush University.

These studies in the Tufts newsletter are a good reminder of what you already know about healthy living.

Here are my additional suggestions for people who watch television, home movies and sit at a desk for work. Invest in a minicycle or pedal exerciser. These small devices use no electricity and can fit under your desk or in a corner for storage. They keep your legs moving with mild but continuous exercise while you sit. On a table, they are also used to exercise the arms and shoulders. The Sunny health and fitness minicycle is about $57 and is available from Amazon and Overstock. You can also look at the Carex Pedal exerciser (lighter and about $45) and the Pedlar Pro #316 (about $34). Alternatively, consider a standing desk. Prolonged sitting (at work, in the car, watching TV) is not good for the metabolism. Several recent studies show that prolonged sitting increases mortality. You may be able to raise your desk on a sturdy brick pile until the desk-top is at elbow height, but if it is not stable, make or buy a standing desk. It takes a few tries to get used to a standing desk, but it is worth the effort in terms of leg strength and endurance. Finally, you can invest in a trek desk, which enables you to walk slowly on a treadmill while working on the computer, reading or thinking. There are manual treadmills that do not require electricity.

There’s a famous t-shirt that says “If it’s physical, it’s therapy.”

Sadja Greenwood MD, MPH back issues on this blog
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Sunday, August 12, 2012

More Good News About Exercise and Coffee

We all know that it’s good to get moving, but why? Will walking and other forms of exercise do more than help us stay trim? Here’s a study from Japan, in the British Medical Journal, that shows an association between time spent walking, life expectancy and lifetime expenditure for medical care. Researchers from Japanese medical schools followed 28,000 men and women aged 40-79, and divided them into those who walked an hour or more a day, and those who walked less than an hour. The more active group had a significantly longer life expectancy and lower lifetime medical expenditure. They concluded that increased longevity resulting from a healthier lifestyle does not necessarily translate into an increased amount of medical costs throughout life.

Health care costs are important in Japan, as here, because the country has a universal health care insurance system. People without insurance can join a national insurance program administered by local governments. People can select doctors or facilities of their choice, and cannot be denied coverage. Sounds familiar? This system is similar to the Affordable Care Act being implemented in the US.

A similar study from The University of Texas was recently published the journal Circulation. The authors studied 63,000 men and women over 0-10 years, 10 to 20 years, and beyond 20 years. Their fitness was based on age and sex -adjusted treadmill times, as found at the Cooper Center. High fitness was associated with lesser mortality from all causes and from cardiovascular causes.

A recent article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reviewed the effects of physical activity on people with cancer. Edward Giovannucci of the Harvard School of Public Health, made the following comments in his review of the article. Survival after cancer, although it may be dependent on the destructive behavior of the tumor, is also related to the general health of the patient. Health is often enhanced by activity. In addition, physical activity can have a direct effect on the cancer by altering various hormones, including insulin, insulinlike growth factor 1, estrogen and adiponectin (a protein involved in regulating blood sugar and fatty acid breakdown). These factors can promote or inhibit cell growth; insulin is a possible growth promoter for cancer, and exercise results in lower insulin levels. Observational studies of breast cancer (17 studies) and colon cancer (6 studies) suggest that physically active people have better cancer-specific and all-cause survival. Despite problems in comparing types of breast and colon cancer, and the presence or absence of metastases, the studies look promising. Few other leads have shown as much promise in extending the lives of cancer survivors, and activity can also improve the quality life of survivors. Giovannucci concludes that physical activity should be a standard part of cancer care.

More good news about coffee: In a new study from the National Institutes of Health, coffee drinkers who did not smoke were less likely to die in the next 14 years from a wide variety of illnesses. Total mortality was less in coffee drinkers, but deaths from cancer did not show this trend. Men showed an increasing benefit from coffee for up to 5 cups a day, and women who drank 2 cups a day showed a mortality benefit. Decaf coffee was also helpful.

If coffee helps you get out for a walk, a jog, a game of tennis or a swim, go for all of it! Now that it’s foggy and cool in West Marin, it’s great time to get started and keep it up.

Sadja Greenwood, MD back issues at