Not Sure What to Add to the Pan? Choose Olive Oil

January 26th, 2022

Jar of olive oilAdding less than a tablespoon of olive oil to their diet lowers a person’s risk of death from heart disease or lung disease, as well as brain disorders and cancer, a new study found.

Choosing Olive Oil

Compared to the participants who rarely or never consumed olive oil, those who added one-half tablespoon or more to their diet daily had a 19 percent lower risk of death from heart disease data showed. They were also 17 percent less likely to die from cancer and 18 percent less likely to die from lung disease, the researchers said. It was also associated with a 29 percent lower risk of death from neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

In addition, substituting 10 grams or just under one tablespoon per day of olive oil for the same amount of margarine, butter, mayonnaise, and dairy, lowered a person’s risk for early death from all causes by up to 34 percent, they said.

However, this was not the case when substituting olive oil for other vegetable oils, the researchers said.

Using participants from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (two ongoing assessments of adults in the United States) the team analyzed data for 60,582 women and 31,801 men over a 28 year period.

Participants’ diets were assessed by a questionnaire every four years, and they were asked how often on average they consumed specific foods and types of fats and oils, as well as what brand or types of oils they used for cooking and eating.

Consumption of other vegetable oils was calculated based on the participants reported oil brand and type of fat used for cooking at home. The intake of dairy and other fats and nutrients was also measured they said.

Olive oil consumption increased from an average of 1.6 grams per day at the start of the study period in 1990, to about four grams per day, or about one-third of a tablespoon in 2010, the data showed. Over the same period margarine consumption dropped to about four grams per day from about 12 grams per day, or nearly one tablespoon while the intake of other fats remained stable, the researchers said.        

Those with higher olive oil consumption tended to be more physically active, were less likely to smoke and had a greater consumption of fruits and vegetables compared to those with lower intake, the data showed.

All participants were free of cardiovascular disease or cancer at the beginning of the study.

This is the first long-term observational study on olive oil consumption and mortality in the U.S. 

The study was published by the “Journal of The American College of Cardiology.”

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Incorporating more olive oil into your dishes can potentially help your health:

  • Brain health: Olive oil appears to prevent mild cognitive impairment.
  • Cancer prevention: Several studies have shown a reduced risk of cancer for those eating a diet high in olive oil. The best evidence was for the prevention of breast cancer and for cancers of the digestive system. Olive oil contains antioxidants that could be protective against some cancers.
  • Diabetes prevention
  • Heart health: Olive oil is a monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA). Researchers have found that MUFAs lower total cholesterol and LDL, the “bad” cholesterol. The polyphenols in olive oil could be responsible for this effect.  
  • Vascular health: One study found that olive oil has a positive effect on the vascular system, which includes the blood vessels that carry blood through the body.
  • Who says food can’t be tasty and healthy?

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New Blood Test Could Help Spot Preeclampsia

January 19th, 2022

Pregnant worman with hands in heart shape over bellyA blood test may help spot pregnant women who are at risk for developing preeclampsia—dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy—before it becomes a threat to both the mother and child.

New Study on Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia occurs in about one in 25 pregnancies in the United States and according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates appear to be on the rise.

When researchers used machine learning to analyze genetic material known as cell-free RNA in the blood of mothers, babies and placentas, they identified 75 percent of women who would go onto develop preeclampsia about three months before any symptoms appeared.

The first step for researchers was to decipher the patterns of gene expression in normal pregnancy. Once they knew the patterns of normal genes throughout pregnancy, it became possible to determine which patients deviated from normal. There are seven genes when activated that indicate an increased risk of developing preeclampsia.

The study involved RNA in more than 2,500 blood samples from 1,840 women in the U.S., Europe and Africa. Factors such as age, race and maternal body mass did not affect how well the test worked.

The findings were published in the journal “Nature.”

Currently, diagnosing preeclampsia involves testing urine for protein, measuring blood pressure and doing other tests if it is suspected. Treatment can involve bed rest, medication, monitoring at the hospital, or inducing labor near the end of pregnancy.

The study’s senior author, Dr. Thomas McElrath hopes that the test could also be used for the detection of other pregnancy complications.

What is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system. Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure has been normal.

Preeclampsia sometimes develops without any symptoms. Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia may include:

  • Changes in vision, including temporary loss of vision, blurred vision or light sensitivity
  • Decreased levels of platelets in your blood
  • Decreased urine output 
  • Excess protein in your urine or additional signs of kidney problems
  • Impaired liver function
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Severe headaches
  • Shortness of breath caused by fluid in your lungs
  • Upper abdominal pain, usually under your ribs or right side

Sudden weight gain or swelling particularly in your face and hands—may occur with preeclampsia. However, these can also be typical of pregnancy.

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Study Shows no Link Between Behavior Issues and Head Impacts in Youth Football

January 12th, 2022

FootballRepetitive head impacts in youth tackle football among children ages nine to 12 are not associated with cognitive or behavioral problems, a new study found.

Youth Tackle Football and Behavioral Issues

For the study, researchers followed 70 male youth football players age’s nine to 12 from four football teams during competitive seasons between 2016 and 2020. Scores on various tests for intelligence, thinking and memory remained largely unchanged, even though participants collectively sustained up to 6,000 head impacts per year, data showed.

Results on assessments for behavior, including those designed to identify symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also were stable throughout the four year study period, researchers said.

Those who scores did change over the course of the study had symptoms of ADHD and behavioral disorders before participating in youth football, according to the researchers.

The researchers measured sub-concussive head impacts using sensors placed on helmets during practices and games. They then calculated a cumulative measure of head impacts per season and evaluated players’ cognitive function and behavior before and after each football season using 10 commonly used tests.

There were no consistent associations between cumulative head impacts and cognitive and behavioral changes and no effects became more prominent over the four years of the study, the data showed. 

The study was published by JAMA Network Open.

Preventing Injuries

All parents want to help prevent their young athletes from sustaining an injury. Here are some ways to help prevent injuries:

  1. Talk with your athlete: Make sure your child understands that he or she should talk with you and seek help if they are experiencing pain or something just doesn’t feel right. Some kids try and push through the pain, which could lead to a more serious condition that could have been prevented with early intervention.
  2. Get a preseason physical: This is a great way to determine if your child is in playing condition.
  3. Stress the importance of warming up: Stretching is an important prevention technique that should become a habit for all athletes before starting an activity or sport.
  4. Make sure they rest: Athletes of all ages need to rest between practices, games and events. A lack of sleep and muscle fatigue predispose an athlete to injury. In fact, the most common injuries seen in young athletes are overuse injuries—too many sports and not enough rest. Along the same lines, parents should plan for an off season for their child, so they have adequate time to recuperate before the next season.
  5. Provide a healthy, well balanced diet: It’s important for athletes to eat a well balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, and to maintain a regular eating schedule.
  6. Emphasize hydration: Heat related illness is a real concern for athletes, especially during hot and humid days. Parents should make sure their children have adequate water before, during and after play and watch for any signs of heat-related illness, including fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, or fainting.
  7. Get the proper equipment: Protective equipment like helmets, pads and shoes are very important for injury prevention.
  8. Emphasize proper technique and guidelines: In every sport there is a correct way and a wrong way of doing things.
  9. Recognize injury and get help early: If parents notice there is a change in their child’s athletic technique, they should pull them out of play.

Regardless of the sport, prevention is a key component of keeping safe!

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Meditation may Help Immune System

January 5th, 2022

Three people doing yogaMeditation done at an intense level may bring a significant boost to the inner workings of your immune system.

New Study on Meditation

The study follows a blood sample analysis that took pre- and post mediation snapshots of genetic activity among more than 100 men and women. The analysis suggested that meditation boosted the activity of hundreds of genes known to be directly involved in regulating immune response.

The study involved 106 men and women, with the average age being 40.

Multiple blood samples were drawn from all participants at several times: five to eight weeks prior to a meditation retreat, just before the retreat began, and three months after the retreat was completed. The result: three months after the retreat’s conclusion, the study found an uptick in activity involving 220 immune related genes, including 68 genes engaged in interferon signaling. The study’s authors pointed out that such signaling can be key to mounting an effective defense against various health conditions, including cancer and multiple sclerosis, given that interferon proteins effectively act as immune system triggers.    

The researchers stressed that their study involved 10 hour daily marathon meditation sessions conducted for eight straight days in total silence. It would be difficult to replicate that in the real world. The findings however do suggest that meditation could have an important role in treating various diseases which are associated with a weakened immune system.

The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Meditation and Your Health

Stress is your body’s natural alarm system. It releases a hormone called adrenaline that makes your breathing speed up and your heart and blood pressure rise. This can take a toll on your body when it goes on too long or is a regular occurrence. Mindfulness meditation provides a method of handling stress in a healthier way.  Meditation could help:

  • Control the body’s response to pain
  • Improve sleep
  • Increase the ability to process information
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Slow the cognitive effects of aging
  • Support the immune system

While meditation can help you manage stress, sleep well and feel better, it shouldn’t replace lifestyle changes like eating healthier, managing your weight and getting regular physical activity.

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Study Finds Doctors Should Tailor Patient Communications

December 29th, 2021

Doctor sitting at laptopDoctors should tailor their language to match each patient’s individual health literacy level to best communicate healthcare information, a study found.

New Health Literacy Study

Research suggests an estimated 80 million adults in the United States have limited or low health literacy, which is the ability to obtain, read, understand, and use healthcare information to make appropriate care decisions and follow directions for treatment.  

For the study, researchers assessed how well the complexity of language used by physicians matched patient health literacy levels by analyzing email exchanges between 1,094 physicians and 4,331 ethnically diverse English-speaking patients with diabetes.

When physicians use simple language to explain health problems and symptom management, they foster better understanding among patients with varying literacy levels, according to the data analysis.

The method that performed better in the study, “universal tailoring,” sees doctors customize the complexity of their messaging based on what the patient’s health literacy level is. This is opposed to the less successful method of “universal precautions,” where doctors always simplify their language in the same way.

About 11 percent of the patients reported poor understanding of their healthcare provider, including 14 percent of those who have low health literacy, the data showed. Of the patients, 47 percent had evidence of “discordance” or different levels of language complexity or sophistication—in their email exchanges with physicians.

Among the 1,560 patients classified as having low health literacy in the study, 53 percent had evidence of “discordance” in their email exchanges with physicians. 

Low Health Literacy

For patients with lower health literacy those with discordant physician communications were more than 39 percent likely to report poor understanding of their physicians, according to the researchers.

Low health literacy has been linked with low overall health, failure to adhere to treatment and worse prognoses when faced with serious or life threatening conditions, according to the federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

The findings suggest that doctors can and should adjust how they interact with their patients—both in how they listen to questions and respond—to achieve precision communication, or matching their language to that of the patients’.

The study was published by “Science Advances.”

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