Monthly Archives: September 2014

Valley Fever Is Coming Back For Another Round

To this day, my dad still tests positive on every TB test, because as a child, he suffered what’s called Valley fever. For most, it’s a remnant of the past that we’ve never actually heard of. The only reason why I’ve known about it my whole life is because my dad had it, and his mother was told to take him home and hope for the best. They didn’t really have a treatment, and it’s spreading through the American Southwest again.

Also known as coccidioidomycosis, this particular infection is found in California soil and the California central valley. You can experience symptoms ranging from fatigue to a devastating, flesh-eating infection, and no vaccine currently exists. Even now, all you have to do is take a breath where there is currently spores, and there is no mask that can filter them out and therefore protect you from it.

Cases have popped up in 1998, there were 2000 cases. There were over 22,000 cases in 2011, why the increase? More importantly, why have we not been able to find anything that would prevent or fight this? We have no public health program that has targeted this particular problem.

At this point, most people who have been exposed to valley fever don’t know it. Once introduced, the infection never actually leaves the body, but 60% causes no visible symptoms at all. There is still no guarantees of immunity, and even if you never get sick, you will test positive for the rest of your life if you contract valley fever. If you suffer other diseases or other sources of stress like cancer or organ transplants, this could easily cause a flare up as well.

About 40% of the infections look like the flu. Painful boils associated with this infection can clear up with a few months of treatment, but a small number (like that of my dad) can actually become life threatening. We have no way to fully understand as of yet why this particular infection affects some more than others. In those extreme cases, valley fever can lead to meningitis, and sometimes even death.


Simple Ways To Live Longer

I’m not just talking about living longer or living to 100. I’m talking about living healthier and happier. I’m talking about being an active participant in your own life for a longer period of time. You can live as if you were younger, taking advantage of your golden years. Yes, you can do what you want and hope for the best or say you don’t want to live longer. But regardless of what age you live to, do you want to spend your last years not remembering, having heart problems, and otherwise not being healthy? I don’t.

If you want to live longer AND healthier, there are a lot of things that have been recommended. Here are just a few things that you can try:

  1. Run Every Day For Just 5 Minutes: Yes, just 5 minutes. A study of 55,137 adults found that runners had an extra 3 years on their lives as compared to non-runners. These benefits showed up regardless of how long, far, or fast (even frequently) runners ran. Those running less than an hour per week had the same increase in life as those who ran more than 3 hours a week. That’s good news for those who say they don’t have time.
  2. Drink A Daily Coffee: In an April 2014 review in the British Journal of Nutrition, they covered 20 studies of 974,000 people. According to studies, those who drank coffee, especially if it was 3 or more cups a day, had a lower risk of death in general. Yes, there are side effects such as headaches, racing heartbeats, anxiety, insomnia, etc. It depends partly on how tolerant your system is. But overall, the effects seem to be healthy.
  3. Take Responsibility: According to studies in the 1970’s, you can always take responsibility for your life, and it may be the very thing that saves you. If you don’t take responsibility, you always feel like it’s someone else’s fault, fate’s fault. Never being in control can be extremely stressful. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology studied nursing home residents who took responsibility by say caring for a plant. They lived longer than those relying on staff for all decisions.
  4. Take Time To Volunteer: 27% of Americans are estimated to volunteer, and apparently, it gives back. In multiple studies, those who volunteered had a 20% drop in mortality. They lived longer, had lower levels of depression, and they benefited from a higher level of life satisfaction.
  5. Great Sex: Yes, there are other reasons to have sex than reproduction, and while you’re at it, you may as well have fun. According to a Duke University study over 25 years, one of the most significant factors in longevity for women was their enjoyment of sex. Great sex led to high health satisfaction and healthy physical functioning, and it added an average of 23 years onto women’s lives.
  6. Be Willing To Be Sad or See the Bad: It’s perfectly okay to be sad sometimes, and instead of blaming yourself and guilting yourself, try accepting it. It’s okay to be a bit pessimistic from time to time, and letting out that stress can keep it from building up. Just let it out.

Foods That Make You Bloat

You can eat right, get healthy, and yet a kind of inflammation, you can still suffer bloating, which can make you look, or sometimes just feel fatter, especially during bikini season. There are foods that can cause bloating and gas, such as bubbly soda, that you may want to avoid. But if you really want to avoid that effect and take advantage of your best bikini body, you may want to avoid these foods:

  1. Carbonated Drinks: Carbonated drinks are an obvious one. The carbonation bubbles, and for some with sensitive digestive systems, it can upset your stomach. Even for those who do not have more sensitive digestive systems though, you will find that the air may cause gas buildup, leading to a bloated look and feel. This can lead to belching and farting as well, but the effects should only list a few hours.
  2. Sugar Free Gum, Candies, and Desserts: You will find that the sugar based alcohols in these can actually be bloating. Your body has a hard time digesting them, if they can digest at all, and this can lead to more gas and bloating. Xylitol is a perfect example of this, and you will find that if you limit your sugar-free desserts and candy to just one per day, you will stave off a lot of unnecessary bloating.
  3. Broccoli and Cabbage: Yes, vegetables are great, but especially when not cooked, these can be extremely gassy veggies. They are notorious for causing gas, and that does come with bloating. They have plenty of fiber, but even when your body gets used to the higher doses of fiber, broccoli especially is still gassy. You can reduce the effect by cooking broccoli. You can also try a supplement like Bean-o.
  4. Dairy: So you may be lactose intolerant, which could actually lead to more obvious symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and other unpleasant problems. Even if you aren’t necessarily lactose intolerant though, you may find that dairy can be a harder food for your body to properly digest. There are some who suggest that dairy is simply foreign to our systems, and a growing number of people in some areas just don’t have the enzymes to properly digest it.

A High Protein Diet Can Lower Your Blood Pressure

The Paleo has garnered a lot of attention, both good and bad. Everybody is eager to talk about it, and yet, many of us don’t really know how it works. We have heard that it could put you at a higher risk of heart disease. We’ve heard that it can help you to lose more weight and gain more muscle, making you that much healthier. Everybody and their dog has something to say. However, as of late, the evidence has been turning in a positive direction according to Boston University and a study published in the American Journal of Hypertension.

The research study gathered 1,361 and tracked their blood pressure for about 11.3 years on average. They found that people eating the most protein obviously tend to lose weight based on what we have seen time and time again. However, they also have a lower risk of high blood pressure. They had a significant 40% drop in fact of the risk of developing hypertension over the course of the study as compared to those who ate the least protein during that time. It was not just because of the exercise that many low carb dieters also engage in. Researchers controlled for exercise trends in these studies.

Study author Justin Buendia says, It may be that people who eat more protein have healthier diets in general. With higher protein consumption, you may eat less of other high-calorie foods. You may feel full sooner, and that would lead to lower weight, which would lead to beneficial metabolic outcomes, such as lower blood pressure.

Researchers do not suggest eliminating grains from your diet or going low carb necessarily. You need to make sure that you still have plenty of fiber in your diet. I know, there’s no magic bullet or simple plan to lose weight and be healthier, which is why low carb diets are often more complicated than some would like to think.

How Ramen Noodles Could Shorten Your Life

Okay, so I love my ramens. I love combining them with veggies, eggs, and all sorts of other goodies. I know they’re fatty and not the healthiest food, but do I really care? Not much at this point. Instant ramen has become a staple of the college diet. So it can’t be that bad. After all, how many millions of people do this in college? The truth is that it could have some serious risks for cardiometabolic syndrome, which is a risk factor for severe cardiovascular problems for disease and stroke, and this is especially true in women.

Hyun Joon Shin MD released a statement saying, This research is significant since many people are consuming instant noodles without knowing possible health risks. Shin is currently a clinical cardiology fellow at Baylor University Medical Center, and he is also a nutrition epidemiology doctoral student at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Researchers brought together 10,711 adults between 19 and 64 from the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2007-2009. They found that when subjects ate instant noodles, which could be ramen, lo mein, glass, Thai, or another, twice weekly, they had a higher risk of cardiometabolic syndrome, which is a combination of abnormalities in the body that affect the cardiovascular, renal, and metabolic systems.

The specific cause is not entirely clear, but it could stem from the Styrofoam base of many noodles, which contains bisphenol A (BPA), which is a known hormone disruptor. This could also explain why women have been more affected by this phenomena. The truth is though that ramens have plenty of different unhealthy ingredients. So it may be BPA, or it may be something else. It could very well be the MSG or the TBHQ (tertiary-butylhydroquinone), or the fact that it is high in saturated fat.

The study was specific to people in South Korea, which is generally seen to be on the healthier side. However, they also have the highest per capita instant noodle consumption in the world so far. There has been a rise in health problems in Korea in recent years, which includes obesity and heart disease. The findings seem to also apply to consumers who are in the United States, which ranks 6th globally for instant noodle sales.

In 2012, there were those who talked about the unhealthy effects of ramen noodles as well. They took a viral video inside the digestive tract, which was small and inconclusive granted as a study, conducted by Dr Braden Kuo. According to the video, the stomach was working overtime, and it struggled for hours at a time to grind up and digest the food. Malaysian health officials also issued a warning against ramen noodles due to ingredients like stabilizers, sodium, and unhealthy preservatives.

Your Summer Workout At The Pool

Maybe it’s hot, or maybe it’s just getting to that cool time when a dip in the pool is fun, but not necessarily as relieving as it can be in the heat of summer. Maybe you’re actually thinking about how to exercise with the extra resistance water provides you. What some have realized though is that water also provides cushioning. If you have bad knees, a bad back, or some other disability, it can actually help you to avoid greater injury with less impact on your joints and body.

If you are thinking about taking advantage of the pool to work your body and burn some calories, here are a few exercises that you can try:

  1. High Knee Sprints: You can run in place, and you can just do it at a moderate rate. After just 30 seconds, you can drive your knees above the water line, and you can pump your arms and sprint
  2. Wall Walkers: Stand about 2 feet away from the side of the pool. Flutter your hands in the water, keep yourself afloat, and then walk forward and get up the wall as high as you can. Reverse and repeat
  3. Cannonballs: I know, it sounds like something kids do at the pool, in part to be obnoxious. It is actually more effective as an exercise than you think though. Stand with your feet hip width apart. Contract your core and jump with your knees as close as possible to your hands. You want to have your feet on the floor as little as possible
  4. Current Sprints: Stand on one side of the pool with your feet hip width apart. Contract your core and sprint to the other side of the pool. You can then turn around and run back to where you started at
  5. Single-Leg Knee Divers: Stand on your right leg with your left knee raised, and get your thigh parallel to the floor. Extend your arms out to the sides, and jump as high as you can. Get back to your starting position, and then do this with your left leg. Continue to alternate between legs

Foods That Fight Stress

You’re running a million miles an hour. There’s so much to do and so little time to do it in. Without a doubt, you have plenty to deal with, and this could lead to plenty of junk food. After all, it’s a lot easier to run to McDonald’s than to take the time to cook a healthier meal. Unfortunately, these foods we reach for when we’re stressed and in a hurry are not only unhealthy, they are also more likely to raise your stress levels.

Why not help yourself out and at least find foods that are easy to get ahold of, but healthier and able to actually reduce your stress levels? Here are a few:

  1. Blueberries

    Blueberries have an incredibly high concentration of healthy antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation and fight cell damage. It can also help you to regulate your blood sugar levels, and by reducing stress, you might even reduce belly fat. The low calorie, high nutrient density certainly doesn’t hurt.

  2. Peaches

    Peaches have plenty of healthy potassium that can help to lower blood pressure. It also has plenty of beta carotene and antioxidants, fighting harmful free radicals and inflammation once again while giving you that sweetness without all the extra empty calories of many candies.

  3. Cacao

    This is also known as cocoa or chocolate. It’s not the best tasting thing you ever had on its own. However….it does have a lot of phenylethylamine, which reduces stress and improves your mood all at the same time. You can add it to smoothies, and you can also get it from dark chocolate with minimal extra sugar and dairy. The darker the chocolate the better.

  4. Maca

    This is available as a powder, but I understand it’s difficult to get it in whole form. Made from a Peruvian root, Maca has a phytonutrient that can help you to fight anxiety and depression with natural energy and hormone balancing effects. You can easily mix this into a smoothie.

  5. Spinach

    Spinach has plenty of healthy magnesium, and it can improve your body’s natural response to stress while preventing spikes in your blood pressure.

  6. Walnuts

    Walnuts have been through multiple studies, and they have shown that just one ounce a day could actually help to regulate your blood pressure and prevent it from rising. It can also keep your anxiety levels in check. Just put some on your salad.