You Docs: Sweets, memories don’t go together

11/23/2013 2:01 PM

08/08/2014 10:20 AM

For the 105 million North Americans who have too-high blood sugar levels, memories and sweets don’t go together. According to the journal Neurology, even for people who have normal blood sugar levels (70 to 100 mg/dL fasting), high-normal levels dampen verbal recall more than lower-normal levels do.

What does this mean for you? Your ability to learn and consolidate memories is affected by your diet, physical activity and stress management. (Soon we expect a smartphone app and attachment that give minute-to-minute blood sugar readings – you’ll know which foods and activities are protecting or damaging your memory.)

So, to reduce your risk of memory problems, here’s a simple plan:

1. Guard against midsection belly fat, which is linked to dementia, by eliminating added sugars and sugar syrups, any grain that isn’t 100 percent whole, and saturated and trans fats.

2. Get up and moving – sitting down too many hours a day raises triglyceride levels, lowers good HDL cholesterol and triggers insulin insensitivity (a hallmark of Type 2 diabetes). Dr. Mike’s treadmill desk is one smart solution; so is walking for 10 minutes after every 90 minutes of sitting. And start a daily walking routine, heading for 10,000 steps a day.

3. Reduce your stress with 10 to 20 minutes of meditation using progressive relaxation, mindfulness or breathing routines.

Foods banned abroad

Here are three food additives other countries ban but the Food and Drug Administration says are acceptable:

1. Ractopamine: This beta-agonist is used to increase meatiness in 30 percent to 50 percent of cows, hogs and turkeys raised in North America. Russia stopped imports of North American meats because of ractopamine residue, and 160 countries ban its use in livestock. Why? Beta-agonists in pork sickened hundreds in China, and long-term consumption may trigger ADHD and chromosomal changes. Solution: Buy ractopamine-free organic turkey and nix red meat; it boosts risk of heart disease, diabetes and premature death.

2. Brominated vegetable oil (BVO): Used to help sodas and fruit-flavored drinks retain their artificial coloring, brominate (a flame retardant) may cause neurological problems, changes in thyroid hormones and early-onset puberty. It’s banned by 100 countries. Solution? Read beverage labels, and don’t buy ones with BVO – and stick with no-sugar-added natural beverages, water and black coffee or even caffeinated water.

3. Olestra: A fat-blocker added to snacks such as chips inhibits absorption of fat-soluble vitamins E, D, A and K and may cause dangerous declines in beta-carotene and lycopene levels. Canada and the U.K. say no. Solution: Reduce your fat absorption by eliminating saturated and trans fats from your plate; choose heart-friendly olive oil, walnuts, almonds and omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and sea trout.

Postponing knee replacement

You don’t have to accept the pain or physical limitations of knee osteoarthritis.

Since 1997, the initial go-to treatment for it has been injections into the joint of hyaluronic acid. Recently, however, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons declared that there isn’t proof of significant benefits. But then a new arthritis study found that the injections improved comfort and function significantly, helping people postpone total knee replacement up to three years. So what’s the smart step for you?

We bet the injections’ effectiveness depends on a few factors, including your weight, fitness level and nutrition. We suggest:

•  Lose weight if needed (10 fewer pounds takes 30 or more pounds of pressure off each knee with each step).
•  Eat an anti-inflammatory diet of lean proteins – especially salmon or ocean trout; if you can’t eat them frequently, take 900 mg DHA omega-3. And go for nine servings of veggies and fruit daily, only 100 percent whole grains, and no added sugars or sugar syrups.
•  Start walking; add a few steps daily, heading for 10,000. Plus: 10 minutes of upper and lower leg muscle strength-building sessions three times a week.

Then ask your doc about trying hyaluronic acid injections to see if they might help.

Avoiding MRSA’s mark

What daily risk do competitive high-school fencers face? Contact with unsterilized equipment carries a serious risk of infection with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a nasty bacteria that can thrive on an unsanitized sensor wire worn underneath a fencer’s protective gear and passed around from team member to team member.

Fencing isn’t the only sport where there’s this risk; MRSA is common in wrestling and football teams. It’s ended many NFL careers. Currently Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ guard Carl Nicks and kicker Lawrence Tynes are off the field because of MRSA.

Anytime there is a chance of skin abrasions, physical contact and shared equipment and facilities, there’s a threat of MRSA contamination. The first sign may be a painful boil that requires draining; but unchecked, it can cause life-threatening infections in bones, blood, heart valves and lungs.

So here are tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to make all locker rooms more MRSA-resistant and protect athletes from an opponent who doesn’t ever play by the rules:

• Make sure adequate soap and hot water is always available.
• Do not share towels, soap, clothes or jewelry.
• Establish routine cleaning schedules for shared equipment.
• Encourage athletes to report skin lesions to coaches. Ask coaches to assess athletes regularly for skin lesions.
• Train athletes and coaches in first aid for cuts and abrasions, and recognition of areas/lesions that could become infected.

Taking the pressure off

A new study points out that it’s leisure-time exercise, not physical activity at work, that helps lower your risk of high blood pressure.

Four hours of leisure-time exercise a week cuts your risk of HBP by 19 percent compared with folks who don’t get any (that’s about 25 percent of North American adults). So even if you do physical work, put on your walking shoes (this will relieve a lot of stress) and stride at 100 steps per minute for 10 to 15 minutes; then increase your pace to 130 steps per minute for 2.5 minutes. Your goal is 10,000 steps daily.

But to protect yourself even more (105 million people in North American with diabetes or prediabetes are at increased risk of HBP), here are four foods that’ll move you toward, or keep you at, our recommended BP level of 115/75.

•  Eat two ounces of walnuts daily: After eight weeks you’ll relax blood vessels and reduce blood pressure.
•  Sip beet-root juice: One cup of beet-root juice can drop your systolic BP (the top number) by around five points six hours after sipping the niacin-rich drink.
•  Grab some raisins: A handful of 60 raisins contains 1 gram of fiber and 212 mg of potassium; both help control blood pressure.
•  Flax your muscles: Study participants eating 30 g of milled flaxseed daily for six months saw systolic blood pressure fall by around 10 points and diastolic (the lower number) by around 7.

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