Friday, 28 February 2014

Reducing Your Risk of Getting Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition where your bones weaken. Rather than being dense and sturdy structures, they become porous and fragile. This leads to fractures. The most common fractures are the hips, the spine, and the wrists. Hip and spinal fractures, as you might imagine, can be debilitating and take years to recover from.

So what are you doing to make sure your bones are strong and healthy all through your life? As we age, we begin to lose bone mineral density. This puts our bones at a greater risk for fracture and we’re talking about life threatening fractures like the hip and spine.

If you’re under 30 you may not think much about your bone health and osteoporosis. However, now is the perfect time to take action. You can increase bone strength and density up to age 30. After age 30, you start to lose bone density. 

There are certain populations that are at a greater risk for osteoporosis. If you’re in these risk groups then it’s even more important to take action to build strong bones or to take steps to reduce bone loss.
  • Female – Women get osteoporosis more often than men.
  • Age – You start losing bone mass after age 30. After age 40 the loss increases to around .5% a year.
  • Body Type – If you weigh less than 127 or have a small frame, you’re at a greater risk.
  • Ethnicity – Caucasian and Asian women are at highest risk.
  • Family history – There is a genetic link for osteoporosis. If a family member has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you have a greater chance of being diagnosed as well.
  •  Eating disorders - Anorexia nervosa and bulimia can both lead to osteoporosis.
  •  Smoking – Studies have shown that cigarette smoking reduces bone density.
  • Alcohol consumption – If you have more than two alcoholic beverages a day, there’s a link to osteoporosis.

The good news is that you can take simple and easy steps to strengthen your bones. The two key nutrients to focus on are calcium and vitamin D. The following foods are jam packed with both and make a nice addition to your daily diet.
  • Dairy Products – Cow’s milk dairy is high in both calcium and vitamin D. If you cannot have dairy, look for fortified non-dairy products like soy milk and almond milk.  Cheese and yogurt are good dairy sources too.
  • Fish – Many types of fish have both calcium and vitamin D. Herring, trout, tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel are just a few to consider trying.
  • Beans – Beans are a good source of calcium. Try lentils, navy, black, and pinto.
  •  Nuts and Seeds – Nuts and seeds like hemp, almonds, and walnuts are very nutrient dense foods. They not only contain calcium but also many other essential minerals and healthy fats.
  • Dark Leafy Greens – If you enjoy salads then you’ll be pleased to learn that the kale, collards, and spinach you’re eating also contain calcium.

Remember that any food that is fortified will also likely contain a good amount of both vitamin D and calcium. Fortified orange juice is a tasty way to start your day and strengthen your bones.

Adding a few of these foods to your daily diet isn’t difficult. Choose your favourites and enjoy delicious meals and stronger bones. 

Friday, 21 February 2014

Allergies and how to avoid them

An allergy is an exaggerated reaction by our immune system in response to exposure to certain foreign substances. These foreign substances are normally seen by the body as harmless in non-allergic individuals and so no response is elicited. In allergic individuals however, the body recognizes these substances as foreign and one arm of the immune system generates an exaggerated response. Substances that generate such reactions are called ‘allergens’

A family history, in parents or siblings makes an individual more susceptible to developing an allergy, even though the environment plays a significant role. Allergies can develop at any age but many individuals outgrow them over time. It is estimated that between 10% and 30% of individuals living in the industrialized world live with allergic conditions.

When the body’s immune system reacts to harmful foreign substances, it produces antibodies which are protective proteins that are specifically targeted against these antigens. These antibodies are protective and help destroy the foreign particle by attaching to its surface, thereby making it easier for other immune cells to destroy it.

In allergic individuals however, a specific type of antibody is developed in response to certain normally harmless foreign substances. There has to be prior contact with a foreign substance in order for the immune system to be poised to react against it. There is often a period of sensitization ranging from a few days to a few years before an allergic reaction occurs. It is therefore impossible to be allergic to something an individual has truly never been exposed to in the past.

The areas of the body most commonly affected by allergic reactions are the skin, nose, eyes, the gut and the lungs. They are responsible for common conditions such as hay fever, asthma, conjunctivitis, atopic dermatitis, urticarial and a severe condition known as allergic shock. Common allergens include, dust mites, pollens from trees and grasses, mould spores, plants, dyes, chemicals, cosmetics, insect venoms, medications, vaccines and a host of others.

What are some of the measures that can be taken to minimize exposure to foreign substances that provoke allergic reactions? We can use a dampened cloth to minimize the distribution of dust through the air. Grasses, weeds and trees tend to pollinate during the early morning hours. Susceptible individuals should keep windows closed during this period.

Allergen-proof casings should be used for pillows and mattresses and tapes can be applied over zippers to prevent leaks. Feathers or foam rubber should be avoided for pillows as they tend to trap moisture and promote mould and dust mite growth. Use Dacron or other synthetics instead. It is best to avoid upholstered furnishings but to  use wood, leather, vinyl or rubberized canvas furniture instead.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Keep Your Heart Healthy

Heart disease accounts for more than 40% of deaths in the United States alone. It is therefore imperative that you and others you love learn how to keep the heart healthy. The good news is that this leading cause of death can be prevented. How? By learning the signs and reducing the risk of developing heart disease.

Smoking is the single biggest risk factor you can control. A person that smokes is at a much greater risk for developing heart disease. In fact, as few as two cigarettes a day increase the risk, and second hand smoke isn’t any better. Smoking exposes your lungs to carbon monoxide, which depletes the oxygen in your blood and causes plaques to build up in your arteries. These plaques not only result  in clogged arteries, high blood pressure, and an overworked heart, they  also cause strokes.

If you have diabetes or your doctor has told you that you’re pre-diabetic, then you’re automatically at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Both diabetes and pre-diabetes mean that your insulin response isn’t working as it should. It’s not telling your body to use the sugar in your blood for fuel. This means that your blood glucose levels stay high. This causes inflammation in your arteries and gets plaques to build up. Because oestrogen provides some protection from plaque build-ups, peri-menopausal and menopausal women with diabetes or pre-diabetes are at an even higher risk of developing heart disease.

People who are overweight or inactive have a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease. The heart has a much bigger job to do when a person is overweight. In addition, obesity is often caused by a diet that is high in fat and sugar. These tend to make plaques develop on arterial walls, which also cause the heart to work harder. A deranged body metabolism  is caused by inactivity, high blood pressure, a high fat and high sugar diet amongst other things. Eating a healthier diet and getting regular physical activity can reverse both obesity and poor body metabolism, thus eliminating or significantly reducing the risk of heart disease.

High cholesterol, high blood pressure, birth control pills, poor diet and lack of regular exercise are all factors that can contribute to a higher risk of heart disease. Simple lifestyle changes can make a significant difference in reducing the risk of heart disease leading to a healthier and happier life.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Take Control of Your Health by Keeping Your Emotions in Check

Life is full of stresses, surprises, challenges, and frustrations. There are days when even the most optimistic and resilient people may feel pushed to their limit. This stress is not only bad for your disposition, it can also have a detrimental effect on your health.  It’s important to be able to determine if your emotions are having a negative effect on your health and take action to correct the situation. Take a look at these scenarios.

You work hard and plan for time away from it all. Sure enough, on the first day of vacation you feel it coming on. You’re getting a cold. This is a sure-fire sign that you’ve been pushing just a bit too hard. Your immune system held the germs off as long as they could. Now you’re sick. It happens to millions of people ever year. Fortunately, getting adequate rest often rectifies this situation. Ensure that you get enough of rest while you are on vacation. Do not use this period to catch up on other chores you may have been putting off.

This one is actually quite common with students. They push through, study hard, and make it through the finals week. They head home for break or they take a trip and they are sick the entire time. If you experience this, it means your stress is a bit out of balance. Find simple things you can do on a daily basis to find a sense of calm and ensure that you take adequate care of yourself.

Daily stress impacts your systems at just about every level. Your body has to work harder to manage basic life sustaining activities. It uses more energy to simply survive. Thus, you’re tired. Stress also affects your sleep. If you’re feeling exhausted more days than you feel energetic, take a look at your emotions. Do you consistently feel stressed, frustrated, or overwhelmed? If so, it may be time to create a few positive habits to bring your emotions back into balance.

Chronic stress causes obesity and weight gain. Hormones released in response to stress tell your body to store fat. Additionally, you may be receiving signals from your body to eat more because it needs energy to function. So you eat more and unfortunately that fuel you consume is stored as fat – it provides little energy for your body. That’s the cycle that chronic stress creates. If you’re gaining weight and you’re not sure why, take a look at your lifestyle. Ask yourself how you can reduce stress and create habits that better manage it.

Other signs that your emotions are affecting your health include, feeling depressed, acne breakouts and other skin conditions, as well as a low sex drive. Simple habits like meditation, exercise, and journaling can help reduce stress and improve your health.