Author Archives: By Paul A. Achoa

Study: Milk Keeps You from Getting Sick

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The next time you dip a cookie in a glass of milk, you might be warding off potentially dangerous infections.

According to a study appearing online in The BMJ, milk may have the ability to ward off illness, thanks to high levels of Vitamin D. Funded by the U.K. National Institute of Health Research, the research found that the essential vitamin helps the body fend off acute respiratory infections, which are responsible for millions of global deaths every year.

According to investigators, daily or weekly Vitamin D supplementation cut the risk of respiratory infection in half for people who had significant deficiencies. At the same time, it also appeared to offer beneficial effects to subjects who did not have deficiencies before entering the study.

A Major Revelation

Each year, acute respiratory infections send millions of people to emergency rooms in the United States. According to the study’s senior author, Carlos Camargo, a professor of emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School, his research could have a significant effect on the health system by supporting efforts to fortify foods with vitamin D.

Getting More Vitamin D

Traditionally, humans have received the majority of their vitamin D from sunlight; however, rising rates of skin cancer have led many people to avoid the sun. In turn, more and more people are experiencing Vitamin D deficiencies.

According to skincancer.org, U.S. doctors diagnose over 4 million new cases of skin cancer every twelve months. Sadly, many of these new cases are deadly melanoma, which kills thousands of Americans every year. In turn, more and more people have begun staying out of the sun. This has led to widespread vitamin D deficiencies, which can have a serious impact on the nation’s collective health.

Because very few foods naturally contain relevant levels of Vitamin D, some food products are fortified with the essential fat-soluble vitamin. Nearly all commercially produced pasteurized milk is fortified with 100 IUs of Vitamin D per 8-ounce cup. This makes it a practical source for people who fail to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D from sunlight.

If this recent study is correct, it may also mean that milk could be an effective tool for helping people reduce their risk of respiratory infections.

Celery Can Boost Intelligence, says Study

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Most people experience a decline in brain function as they age. Fortunately, new research suggests they might be able to boost intelligence by reversing this process with celery and other foods rich in a specific plant compound.

Reducing Age-related Brain Damage

According to researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, luteolin helps to reduce age-related memory deficits in the brain. Found in celery and a few other healthy fruits and vegetables, the natural plant compound appears to do this by suppressing the release of inflammatory molecules, which are known to damage brain neurons as we get older.

Appearing in the Journal of Nutrition, the study focused on microglial cells, which play a key role in immune function within the brain and spinal cord. Under normal circumstances, infections stimulate microglia to make cytokines, which spark an array of chemical changes in the brain. Over time, however, microglial cells can become dysregulated, causing increased inflammation which can spur all sorts of troublesome issues, including loss of appetite, sleepiness, depressive behaviors and memory deficits.

Past research has shown that this process contributes to cognitive aging, while also playing a role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases. In this study, researchers were able to preserve brain neurons from inflammatory damage by first exposing microglia to luteolin.

What’s more, when they provided older subjects with more dietary luteolin, they demonstrated improved working memory, which rivaled that seen in younger subjects.

Should You Eat More Luteolin?

While this study focused on mice, researchers believe luteolin should have similar positive benefits on human brains. This study further supports other evidence that healthy diets can promote better cognitive health by providing anti-inflammatory effects.

If you would like to increase your luteolin intake but aren’t a big fan of celery, have no fear. Luteolin is also found in carrots, peppers, peppermint, olive oil, rosemary and chamomile.

Burning Belly Fat: Weight Loss Expert Gives 3 Keys

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Burning belly fat is one of the most difficult weight loss goals anyone can take on. Thanks to genetic tendencies, most of us hoard fatty tissue around the midsection. Unfortunately, for most people, love handles or stubborn spare tires tend to be the last things to go. Only after you’ve thinned out your face, arms, back and thighs will you see results around your midsection. To hasten the process consider the following:

Avoid Sugar

According to health and fitness expert Jake Weathers, sugar is a real no-no for dieters who are hoping to burn belly fat.

“Anything that causes a surge in insulin levels is going to cause your body to create stomach fat,” he said. “Truthfully, any sort of high glycemic foods are going to encourage the development of fatty tissue; however, sugar is the mother of all evils.”

Time Your Exercise

Any sort of aerobic exercise will encourage weight loss; however, Weathers says well-timed exercise does the most good.

“If you want to ensure that you are burning fatty tissue, you need to work out when your glycogen reserves are empty,” he said. “Otherwise, you will just be burning what you ate a few minutes or hours before.”

According to Weathers, dieters will have more success burning belly fat when they workout in the morning on an empty stomach or immediately after lifting weights, when their glycogen reserves are depleted.

Eat More Fiber

It may sound silly, but eating is a fundamental part or weight loss. Weathers says high-fiber foods help promote smaller waists by preventing surges in insulin and promoting stomach satiety.

“High fiber foods are low in calories,” he said. “That said, they also aid weight loss by taking a long time to digest. This means they enter the blood stream slowly, which promotes better energy levels and prevents the brain from telling the body to make more fat. They also make you feel fuller, which helps to curb overall appetite.”

Sleep Apnea Worsens during Winter Months

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Countless Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a dangerous sleep disorder that causes sufferers to stop breathing numerous times throughout the night. Most people suffering from the condition must cope with frequent waking, daytime fatigue and snoring. Now, a recent study out of Brazil suggests these symptoms may worsen when the mercury drops.

More Severe During the Winter

According to research conducted at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, weather changes can have a very real impact on the way patients experience sleep apnea. Over the course of a decade, researchers tested 7,500 patients for at least one night to see how many times each stopped breathing. Ultimately, they found that subjects who were tested during the coldest months of the year experienced more nighttime disturbances (18) than those who were tested during the warmer months (15).

Additionally, the study found that, while only 28 percent of subjects were found to have severe sleep apnea during the warm season, 34 percent suffered from severe sleep apnea during the colder parts of the year.

Although researchers weren’t able to determine why cold weather might make the sleep disorder worse, they theorized that wood burning might irritate the condition, as might heating units which can dry the air and dehydrate the sinuses.

Seeking Treatment

Regardless of the season, sleep apnea remains a serious condition that can drastically reduce the quality of a sufferer’s life. The condition has also been linked to numerous health problems, including obesity and dementia. Normally, people find 100 percent relief when they receive CPAP treatments; however, many people suffer unknowingly with the sleep disorder for years before they get help.

In the end, only a sleep physician can diagnose a patient with sleep apnea. Typically, patients are expected to sleep overnight at a sleep clinic; however, these days, more and more physicians are using at-home sleep testing equipment that allows patients to be tested while in the comfort of their own beds.

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Death?

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Millions of Americans suffer from what’s called maintenance insomnia, which leads them to wake frequently throughout the night. While this problem can be caused by a variety of factors, it’s sometimes stems from an underlying sleep disorder, such as OSA. While many consider this condition to be nothing but a troubling nuisance, more and more studies are suggesting that sleep apnea can cause death both directly and indirectly.

Sudden Death

OSA gained a lot of attention back in 2004, when Hall of Fame NFL football player, Reggie White died suddenly in his sleep at age 43. Although medical examiners ultimately attributed his death to cardiac and pulmonary sarcoidosis, they speculated that sleep apnea might have been partly to blame. Although rare, experts agree that it is possible for a sleep apneic to die in his or her sleep due to a lack of oxygen.

Long-term Health Risks

More and more studies suggest that OSA could ultimately kill sufferers by gradually damaging their health. This dangerous sleep disorder has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and dementia, all of which can affect mortality. Furthermore, a recent study suggests that sleep apneics are at a five times greater risk of developing cancer than those who do not suffer from the disorder.

How Many People Have OSA?

While it’s clear that sleep apnea can cause death, it’s not necessarily clear how many people suffer from the sleep disorder. According to one prominent researcher, as much as 85 percent of so-called “clinically significant” sleep apneics have yet to be diagnosed. This is leading some to call OSA a silent killer, especially since many people don’t even know they have the problem in the first place.

What Can People Do?

If you are experiencing common symptoms associated with OSA, including snoring, daytime fatigue and frequent waking, a sleep physician can help. Generally, you will be asked to do an overnight sleep study; however, some physicians are now using at-home sleep studies that prove just as reliable. If you are positively diagnosed, you have a pair of options: most patients receive CPAP treatments, which provide a constant source of oxygen throughout the night; on the other hand, some patients find relief when they use an oral appliance, which is used to clear the airway by adjusting the jaw.

Beating Insomnia with Alternative Strategies

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Millions of Americans have difficulty going to sleep and/or staying asleep. This can occur for a variety of reasons, such as a stressful life event, a sleeping disorder or what’s known as poor sleep hygiene. Most of the time, lifestyle changes can help resolve sleeping troubles; however, in some cases, problems can become chronic. Beating insomnia can be difficult, but there are some alternative methods that could prove helpful.

Blue Light Filters

Our bodies have evolved to be sensitive to the blue component of natural sunlight. When we are exposed to this light, we produce less melatonin; when we are kept from it, we produce more. Unfortunately, modern televisions, computers and florescent light bulbs emit blue light which can interfere with our bodies’ production of melatonin. You can filter out this light by attaching filters to your laptops, televisions iPads and iPhones. If this sounds like too much trouble, you can also buy a pair of blue light filtering glasses to wear in the evening. For many people, this one simple strategy can be the key to beating insomnia permanently.

Acupuncture

While some studies have found that Acupuncture can effectively relieve some ailments, other studies have found that it offers very little relief for others. Fortunately, research suggests it is beneficial to people who suffer from chronic insomnia. When comparing actual acupuncture treatments to so-called “sham” acupuncture in which subjects receive the placebo effect of fake acupuncture treatment, researchers have found that real treatments tend to offer very real help.

Sleep Hygiene

Although some people have great difficulty beating insomnia, most sleep better when they make subtle lifestyle changes. If you are having trouble sleeping, read over these tips to beat insomnia. They provide good advice on how you can get more shut eye by improving your sleep hygiene.

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