Heart Health


  

The Spices of Life

This week’s blog, The Spices of Life, was inspired by Dr. Herbert Schub. In addition to his vast medical experience and expertise, he’s a close personal friend, frequent travel companion, and an international man of mystery. He is also one of the healthiest persons on the planet. 

Herb is a fitness fanatic and follows a strict nutritional program. When the occasional slice of pizza finds its way into that program, it is followed shortly thereafter by an extra hour on the eliptical machine. In addition to his healthy diet, Herb takes a number of supplements to make sure he’s getting sufficient vitamins and antioxidants. While this is not uncommon among many of us seniors, are you also getting the health benefits from selected herbs and spices? Herb does.

I want to stress I’m not a doctor, well not a medical one anyway, and anyone considering adding these items to their diet would be well advised to consult with their personal physician. While researchers are now looking more closely at this health phenomenon, current research now suggest these seven herbs and spices have valuable health benefits:

Rosemary – May help prevent damage to blood vessels and prevent heart attacks; it may also stop gene mutations which lead to cancer.

Garlic – May destroy cancer cells and/or disrupt the metabolism of tumor cells. After my father found out he had protate cancer, he began taking garlic each day. He lived nearly twenty more years and the cancer was not a factor.

Ginger – Seen as a remedy for motion sickness and a natural pain killer. Has also been shown to decrease swelling from arthritis and is a blood thinner.

Turmeric – Contains an ingredient called curcumin that can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Paprika – Contains capsaicin that has been shown to be an anti-inflammatory and is also an anti-oxidant that can lower the risk of cancer. (Capsaicin can also be found in cayenne and red chile peppers)

Cinnamon – Can lower blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.

Oregano – The USDA reports that Oregano has the highest antioxidant activity of 27 fresh culinary herbs.

MEDIA ALERT: Possible cure for prostate cancer. Fox News reported today the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology has announced preliminary findings that oregano, which contains the main component of carvacrol, “is an extremely potent anti-cancer agent – eliminating nearly all the prostate cancer cells it was tested against.”

 

www.TheBestOfOurLives.com  

 

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Free Radicals

No, this isn’t a call to release a group of protesters, it’s about good health. In previous posts I’ve talked about various foods and beverages that are beneficial in maintaining our health during retired life. I thought it might be useful to explain why foods high in antioxidants are so vital.

While you may have heard or seen the term “antioxidants” before, do you know why it’s so important we get large quantities in our diet? It all has to do with the oxidation process. Have you ever cut open an apple and noticed how it starts to discolor in the open air. This is the oxidation process in which the cells become damaged and die. Cells within our bodies are constantly dying and being replaced. Sometimes due to things like toxins from cigarette smoke, air pollution, poor diet, etc., cells become damaged. At this point they have become free radicals and  begin to attack other cells in an attempt to repair themselves. Once this chain of free radicals has begun it becomes the seed for disease.   

It’s much the same as the oxidation process that takes place in our automobiles.  Oxidation can damage the fuel system and gum up the works. At that point there are additives we can put  into the fuel that will repair the system. Foods and beverages high in antioxidants are the additives for our body. They can actually repair the free radicals making them healthy cells again.

If anyone should doubt the power of antioxidants, let me share this brief story. On a recent trip a friend of mine accidentally hit his head and suffered a severe gash above his eye. An ambulance was called as the blood flowed. He insisted he would be fine and didn’t even get any stitches. He said his abundant antioxidant diet would heal his wound in short order. He was right. It was like something out of a science fiction movie. His severe gash quickly became a small cut and in just a few days had virtually disappeared. Antioxidants, along with exercise are the keys to good health at any stage of life. 

Here is a list of the top twenty antioxidant foods:

 You may have also heard that chocolate, tea, and red wine have antioxidants. They do, but be careful. Only dark chocolate with very little sugar is good for you. Tea is great but you need to be careful with wine. Recent studies have shown that large amounts of alcohol can trigger free radical production. Probably not a good trade-off.

Media Update

Yesterday, February 26, my wife Trisha and I were guest speakers for the Oakmont Sunday Symposium. It was lots of fun and we certainly enjoyed meeting all the good folks who live in that beautiful wine country paradise. Our presentation was streamed live on the internet and I’ve provided this link for anyone who might be interested in viewing it:      Trisha and John Parker

Photo Credit: Dick Green

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

 

Personal Choice

Many seniors may believe their longevity is a matter of genetics or simple luck. The fact is, a study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry indicates the determining factor in one’s longevity is a person’s personal choice.

The study, which tracked mental and physical health, was conducted over a period of sixty years with nearly 1,000 subjects from various socio-economic backgrounds. Only the factor of clinical depression was deemed to be outside the control of subjects in regard to their longevity.

The study identified the following factors, all of which were considered to be personal choices, as being the most important in determining an individual’s longevity. They were:

Exercise – Experts recommend 30 minutes of regular exercise.

No Smoking – The list of smoking-related health problems is too long to list. If you smoke, quit.

Appropriate Weight – Obesity can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and joint problems.

Positive Coping Mechanisms – Learning how to deal with stress and control anger is essential.

Stable Marriage – Research shows happily married people have less illness and longer lives.

Moderate Alcohol Intake – The key term is moderate. Excessive alcohol intake can cause liver problems and possible harmful drug interactions.

Depressive Illness – While this is the one factor found to be outside an individual’s ability to make a choice, it is strongly recommended a person seek treatment when feeling depressed.

So, there you have it. It’s the personal choices we make with regard to these factors that are the most important in our longevity. Of course, there are many other factors such as acquired disease and accidents that can play a role. But, for the majority of individuals, it is the choices we make.

Happy Thanksgiving

Sometimes things just work out for the best. Having just returned from some travels recently, my wife and I had not made plans for Thanksgiving. Last week the phone started ringing and we now have at least a dozen or so family members spending much of the Thanksgiving holiday with us. We are very blessed. I wish all of you who read this blog a very happy holiday.  

 www.TheBestofOurLives.com

Lack of Sleep Can Kill You

In talking with several friends and relatives recently, I’m surprised by how many of them have problems getting a good nights sleep. Obviously, this has a negative impact on their energy levels, but it may also become a serious factor in their overall health.

While writing our book, The Best of Our Lives: Sharing the Secrets of a Healthy and Happy Retired LIfe, my wife Trisha and I were shocked by the information we discovered concerning the relationship between sleep and health. Interestingly, The National Institute on Aging found that many older adults wrongly consider poor sleep to be a normal part of aging. It is not. In fact, as seniors we need from 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night, just like a young child.

The NIA also found that 36% of women and 13% of men over the age of 65 take thirty minutes or more to fall asleep. Numerous studies on this topic have concluded that seniors who fail to get enough sleep have been found more likely to suffer depression, attention and memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, more nighttime falls. and use more over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids. Simply stated, seniors who do not get sufficient sleep have a poorer quality of life.

Just this week the results of Norwegian sleep study that followed nearly 53,000 participants over 11.4 years was reported. It concluded that persons who struggle nightly with sleep are 45% more likely to suffer an acute heart attack, and those who have difficulty staying asleep had an elevated risk of 30%. The risk was correlated with the severity of the sleep deprivation. I should also mention it has long been demonstrated that poor sleep is associated with an elevated risk of stroke.

So, what do we seniors need to do? Obviously, if you have a serious problem sleeping, consult a physician. Snoring, Sleep Apnea, and Movement Disorders are very real physical problems that need to be addressed. Often it turns out, we’ve just gotten into too many bad habits over the years. Examples are falling asleep in front of the television, leaving the radio on, having too much light and other distractions near our bedrooms, etc. Some feel a good old glass or two of wine will do the trick. Turns out alcohol may help you fall asleep, but will actually prevent you from a the full and restful night’s sleep you require. The best advice is to turn off the news, eliminate distractions, and try to put the stress of the day behind you. Put together and follow a relaxing nightly routine to help you wind down and sleep peacefully. Sweet dreams.

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

  

Health Benefits of Tomatoes

In tracing the history of the tomato, it was first found in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. Later, in France it became known as pomme d’ amour or the “love apple” because it was believed to recover impotence and increase sperm count. In 1834, Dr. John Cook Bennett from Willoughby University, Ohio, was the first to study the tomato and found it beneficial in treating diarrhea, gall attack, indigestion and restoring liver function.

While it has long been suspected, a recent study conducted in Australia has found that tomatoes possess powerful health benefits. The study examined data from 14 other studies conducted over the last 55 years. While those studies theorized tomatoes had health benefits, it could not be proven. The Australian study simply increased the dose or amount of tomatoes given to subjects and the conclusion became clear. The reason behind these results is due to the fact that tomatoes have the highest concentration of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in other foods such as watermelon, red wine, papaya, and guava. Tomatoes also contain high concentrations of vitamin C and vitamin A, both beneficial in boosting the immune system. Even the pigment in red tomatoes contains high levels of lycopene.

Interestingly, different from other foods, cooked or processed tomatoes are best. It’s not recommended to buy sauces and pastes in the grocery store because they have too much preservative and other additives. One pint of tomato juice or sauce, or about 50 grams a day will provide protection against heart disease, says Dr. Karin Ried from The University of Adelaide and author of the study. Among the most amazing findings from the study was a drop in subject’s LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 10 percent. Systolic (the top reading) blood pressure dropped an average of 5.6. In addition to lowering the risk of heart disease, the study also indicates tomatoes may be effective in lowering the risks of many forms of cancer, slow the decline of eye function due to age, and promote healthy liver and kidney function. Some believe that adding a high level of cooked tomatoes to one’s diet could be as effective as taking statin drugs without the risks.

Caution: I’m not a medical doctor, and suggest you consult your provider before launching into any change in diet or medications. Additionally, some people do have allergic reactions to tomatoes, so be aware. 

For great tomato recipes, and lots of other great recipes, go to our website and click on Trisha’s Dishes.

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

 

 

Watermelon: The Miracle Fruit

Is there anything that says summertime more than a watermelon. It’s truly an artifact of our cultural celebration of warm weather and good times. Well, there’s more than meets the eye and it’s all very, very good. Turns out watermelon is one of the most beneficial foods we can eat. As seniors concerned with diet and health, watermelon may literally be a miracle food.

Based upon recent research studies, here are some of the wonderful benefits of watermelon:

 

– It’s loaded with very powerful antioxidants, mostly from beta-carotene, which supplies vitamins C and A.

– It’s natures best source of lycopene (better than tomatoes) and many studies indicate it may help reduce the risk of cancer and many other diseases.

– The polysaccharide carbohydrates contained in watermelon increase the body’s levels of serotonin. Eating watermelon before bedtime makes the brain less sensitive to disruptive stimuli during sleep. This can improve sleep up to 27%.

– Research has shown that the lycopene in watermelon cuts the risk of sun-related skin damage by 40%. It appears the lycopene destroys the UV-induced free radicals that cause sunburn and wrinkling.

– One medical journal recently reported the results of a study finding men who eat watermelon and drink green tea on a regular basis are 82% less likely to have prostate cancer.

– Watermelon can give you as much as a 23% boost in energy. It can do this because it contains B6, B1, magnesium, and potassium. The B6 helps the body feel good by synthesizing dopamine.

– Eating watermelon can also help to heal wounds and other skin problems.  It contains high amounts of the acid citrulline, which the body converts to arginine. Arginine helps speed the delivery of white blood cells to the specific sites where it is needed.

– Because watermelon contains arginine, it boosts nitric oxide levels, which can produce a Viagra-like effect. The nitric oxide can also be helpful for treating angina, high blood pressure and other related cardiovascular problems. 

If these studies are correct, watermelon is truly a miracle fruit. All this from something that is 92% water and only has 48 calories per cup. Bon appetite!

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

John Parker is co-author of The Best of Our Lives: Sharing the Secrets of a Healthy and Happy Retired Life

 

 

In the past, I’ve often commented on scientific studies that provided information about the foods seniors should eat in order to promote health and longevity. While it’s long been thought drinking alcohol in moderation may be good for us, more recent studies suggest I should have been writing a blog on wine. 

In a very recent study published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, researchers reviewed 143 studies comprising more than 365,000 participants from 19 countries. Moderate drinkers were found to be 23% less likely to develop signs of memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease. The study could not determine exactly why this is the case, but it’s believed the alcohol plays a role in lessening the inflammation that causes dementia, and is also implicated in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers.

Michael Collins, Ph.D., one of the researchers, has been quoted as saying, “This study is not the final word, but it does provide the most complete picture out there. Low levels of alcohol may have anti-inflammatory effects on the immune system, heart, and brain.” The study also showed that wine drinking was more effective than drinking beer.

Of course, the key to these findings is in the word “moderation.” All alcohol contains calories which can add to weight gain, a considerable health factor, and too much alcohol can lead to many other problems and possible addiction. The study defined moderation as one drink daily for women and two for men. One drink was defined as 1.5 ounces of spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.

While I personally only have an occasional beer with pizza or Mexican food, and don’t recommend alcohol consumption, I do find this study worthwhile for seniors. Besides, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

New Product

Due to her age and a recent stroke, my mother now requires a wheel chair when we take her places. While I’m always happy to push her chair for her, given my height (6′ 4″), the angle at which I have to bend is exactly the angle that causes muscle cramping in my back. I went to the chair manufacturer and retailer looking for a solution, but apparently I’m the only person in the world who has to bend down to push a wheelchair. No solution could be found. At this point, I  went to a local metalwork and welding company. They tried to come up with an answer, but no luck. My next stop was the local hardware store where I was on a mission. You know the feeling of inspiration when you need to construct something, but have no idea of how you are going to do it. Well, long story short, my new invention is complete and works like a champ. My mother and wife have heaped praise on me and the word “genius” has been uttered a time or two. The fact is, it was pretty simple. A little time, some PVC pipe, and a can of liquid rubber was all it took.

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