Monday, May 26, 2014

The Danger Of Too Much Added Sugar!

Who do not like desserts? Not too many can give a straight answer by saying “No, I don’t like dessert!” But before indulging in these yummy foods, one should be aware that they have a harmful ingredient called added sugar.

Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared, excluding naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk, vegetables, fruits, and some grains.

While human body uses sugar as fuel, sugar is of no other nutritional value. Nevertheless, it does help food processing in many ways. It can serve as a preservative for jellies and jams, provide bulk to ice cream, assist in fermentation of breads and alcohol, maintain freshness of baked goods, and it really makes food and drinks taste more appealing.

Recently, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified a link between a diet full of added sugar from processed and prepared foods and a higher risk of dying of cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke). They cautioned that people might be unwillingly increasing their risk of dying from heart disease by drinking just one 12-ounce can of sugary soda (about 8 teaspoons of added sugar) every day.

The paper were published online February 3, 2014 in ‘JAMA Internal Medicine’, after examining data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and looking at trends on added sugar consumption from 1988 to 2010, combined with 14 years’ worth of analysis of cardiovascular disease mortality.

They also alarmed that there is a higher risk for cardiovascular disease if added sugar made up more than 15 percent of a person’s daily calories. This is equivalent to about 300 calories for the average person’s 2000-calories-a-day diet, which is about 75 grams or 18 teaspoons, a day.

As a matter of fact, 77 percent of all packaged foods have sugar added to them. For instance, sugar is added to breads, bagels, ketchup and even salad dressing. It is very easy for people to consume more sugar than they require without even realizing it. Recent figures showed that most Americans consume 22 teaspoons of sugar each day.

In order to limit the sugar intake, people should choose a food that is naturally sweet first, and then choose the added sugar wisely. According to nutritionists, people should only get something that they really enjoy. People would not crave sugar as much when they get their body used to eating less sugar. This just needs time and patience.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Should Stroke Survivors Get Evaluation Before Driving?

A stroke is a condition in which the brain cells suddenly die as a result of oxygen deficiency. It can be caused by an obstruction in the blood flow (known as ischemic stroke) or the rupture of an artery (called hemorrhagic stroke) that feeds the brain.

Patients with stroke might suddenly lose the ability to speak, think, see and control their body. A serious stroke condition can even cause a person’s life. Yet according to a study, stroke survivors often resume driving without being formally evaluated.

Researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina revealed that 5.6 percent of stroke survivors had received a formal driving evaluation and 51.2 percent returned to driving, and many of them just a month after suffering a stroke. The findings, after their survey of 162 stroke survivors in South Carolina for a year, on February 13, 2014 at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference held between February 12 and 14 at the San Diego Convention Center.

Participants in the survey had experienced various degrees of stroke, ranging from mild to severe. Many physical and mental skills related to driving competence can be affected by stroke, including vision, muscle strength, dexterity and attention span. Patients whose speech has been impaired often could not read properly that can affect their ability to interpret road signs.

Among those who drove, 31 percent reported that their strokes had some effect on basic activities of daily living like feeding, bathing and dressing themselves, and 11 percent reported that stroke had great effect.

Of those who reported greatly reduced ability to perform daily activities, 16.4 percent were back to driving, with only 3.6 percent having been formally evaluated. On the other had, 35.4 percent of those who had a full recovery in daily activities self-imposed driving limitations. 6.5 percent of this group of people had been formally evaluated for a return to driving. Self-imposed driving limitations means driving close to home or only to church or the grocery stores.

Nevertheless, researchers noted one interesting finding. For those who reported the stroke had no effect on their ability to perform daily living activities, almost 46 percent decided to limit their driving. While researchers had no clue about such reaction, they suspected that these patients might worry what could happen if they do have a second stroke. 

Being a leading cause of death in the United States, stroke affected nearly 800,000 people in the United States each year, and one-quarter of these stroke patients have had a previous stroke.

It is possible to prevent stroke if one can adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes identifying and controlling blood pressure, not smoking, lowering cholesterol, sodium and fat intake, limiting alcohol consumption, managing stress, doing more physical activities and following a healthy diet. In fact, doing all these can as well help prevent the number killer in the world, heart disease. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Is Butter Coffee A Healthy Drink?

Being one of the most popular beverages in the world, coffee is a must-have drink for many especially in the morning. People who drink coffee believe that it will keep them aware because of the caffeine contained therein.

Experts have been debating over the health effect of coffee for quite some time. Mixed evidence has been received so far. The majority of recent research suggested that moderate consumption is benign or mildly good for healthy adults but the diterpenes in coffee might actually raise the risk of heart disease.

Lately, there is a so-called ‘bulletproof coffee’ or ‘butter coffee’ that promises to give people extra kick of energy. By adding a couple tablespoons of unsalted, grass-fed butter, together with a coconut-palm oil blend called MCT (medium chain triglycerides) into the coffee, one will have an extra energy and it will also help lose weight.

The addition of unsalted butter can produce a creamy version that enhances the taste of coffee and meanwhile remove any bitterness. However, such addition can produce certain amount of calories, depending on how much butter is added.

Bear in mind that butter is very high in saturated fat that can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke. So would this version of coffee make one lose weight or gain weight?

Inventor of butter coffee claims that butter from grass-fed cows supplies a ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids that is far healthier than those from conventionally raised livestock. Furthermore, MCT is a unique form of fat that require less energy and enzymes to be digested. Hence, “butter coffee” can boost one’s energy, promote weight loss and increase the brainpower.

While there is no scientific proof to back up such claim, there is some evidence that regular consumption of MCT can induce very mild fat loss over time and MCT might also help regulate cholesterol levels. Nevertheless, the types of coconut oils and sources from which people try to obtain MCTs often contain dangerous amounts of trans and saturated fats.

Because of its high calories (ranging from 100 to 300), “butter coffee” has to replace some food or another caloric drink, or else one would gain an extra weight of 10 to 30 pounds each year by drinking a cup a day.

So, for people who try to reduce calories or saturated fat, “butter coffee” might not be the brew for them. Otherwise, there is no harm trying it. Just aware of its extra calories and do not expect it will help lose weight or boost extra energy.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Exposing To Sunlight Might Lower Blood Pressure!

The 2013 statistical fact sheet released by the American Heart Association indicates that 77.9 million American adults (or 1 in every 3 adults) have high blood pressure. High blood pressure could not only lead to heart disease, it is also a major risk factors for other chronic diseases including stroke and kidney disease.

Despite of its seriousness, many who have high blood pressure are not aware of the condition because it has no obvious symptoms. In addition to medications, healthy lifestyle habits also play an important role in preventing and managing high blood pressure. For instance, people with high blood pressure should cut salt intake, reduce stress, stop smoking, maintain healthy body weight and limit alcohol intake.

According to researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Southampton, exposing to sunlight could also lower blood pressure. In their paper published on January 20, 2014 in the ‘Journal of Investigative Dermatology’, they reported that just 20 minutes of ultraviolet A (UVA) sunlight lowered blood pressure by a small but significant amount. 20 minutes of ultraviolet A (UVA) sunlight is equivalent to about 30 minutes of natural sunlight.

In the study, 24 healthy volunteers were given the equivalent of 30 minutes of natural sunlight at noon on a sunny day in Southern Europe. They were protected from the warming effects, just in case that was the cause. It lowered the blood pressure by 5 points and the effects lasted half an hour.

While the effect of ultraviolet light was modest for people with normal blood pressure - a drop of between 2 and 5 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) in blood pressure, the researchers argued that a more substantial drop would be seen in people with high blood pressure.

It is understood that the sun induces nitric oxide release and modestly lowers blood pressure. Nitric oxide is a chemical linked to blood flow. This might help explain why the high blood pressure levels are higher and there are higher rate of death from heart disease during winter and in countries further away from equator.

Nevertheless, the researchers did not suggest people should sunbathe or use tanning beds hoping to reduce blood pressure. Instead, people should spend a moderate amount of time outdoors.

Excessive exposure to sunlight might raise the risk of developing skin caner, but too little would increase the risk of heart disease. The researchers fear that avoiding sunlight or using sunblock constantly could be a new risk factor for heart disease.  In fact, statistics show that more people die from heart disease than from skin cancer.