Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Do you like purple-skinned potatoes?

Here's an amusing little study that I had to share.  Do you like purple-skinned potatoes?  A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry indicated that consuming a small amount of purple potatoes each day can lower blood pressure in people with obesity and hypertension without increasing weight.

Eighteen volunteers, most of whom were overweight with high blood pressure ate two small purple potatoes or no potatoes daily for four weeks then switched to the opposite for another four weeks.  Researchers monitored blood pressure, body weight and other health indicators.  Average diastolic blood pressure dropped by 4.3% and systolic blood pressure by 3.5% when potatoes were consumed.  Hmm.......purple potatoes are high in healthy antioxidants, but I think we need more data.  :)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tips for Staying Healthy This Winter

Why do we always seem to get sick this time of the year?  According to experts, there are several reasons for this.  First, it’s cold outside and this reduces immune system functioning.  Second, we spend a lot more time indoors with others, increasing exposure to germs.  Here are a few things that you can do to boost your immune system and improve your chances of staying healthy.

  • Wash your hands.  Keeping hands clean is one of the most effective ways to avoid illness.  Also avoid touching your face, mouth and nose with your hands.  Carry a small bottle of hand-sanitizer with you for those times when you aren’t near a sink.
  • Get enough sleep.  Adults need 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep a night to rejuvenate.  Create a consistent bedtime routine which includes going to be around the same time every night.  Consider taking a warm bath or reading a book to help you relax before bed.
  • Get plenty of exercise.  Moderate exercise helps generate endorphins.  These chemical strengthen the immune system by increasing the production of “natural killer cells” which are white blood cells that destroy viruses.   Professional massage can also increase natural killer cell activity, boosting immune function. 
  • Laugh.  Laughing can increase levels of antibody IgA which is the body’s first line of defense against germs.
  • Eat healthy foods.  Good nutrition is fundamental to a healthy immune system.  Eat an abundance of bright colored fruits and vegetables as well as plenty of whole foods and grains.
  • Quit smoking.  Smoking weakens the immune system.
  • Take a vitamin D supplement.   The sunshine vitamin can help with everything from depression to immunity. 
  • Take some Astragalus.   According to Dr Andrew Weil, M.D., an expert in integrative medicine, the herb Astragalus can prevent germs from taking hold in your body.  Try taking it daily in the winter.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling

Winter is now upon us here in Maine.    That means piles of the white stuff to clear from driveways and sidewalks.  As most of us know, shoveling is very hard work.  The good news is that snow shoveling can be good exercise when performed correctly.  Just 15 minutes of shoveling counts as moderate physical activity, and we should all strive for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily.  The bad news is that this form of physical activity can put significant stress on your body.    Research has shown an increase in the number of fatal heart attacks among snow shovelers after heavy snowfalls.  Snow shoveling can also place excessive strain on spinal structures resulting in low back strains and disc damage. 

Here are some tips to keep you healthy when shoveling snow this winter.
  • Listen to your body.   Stop shoveling if you experience any pain.  If you are inactive or have a history of heart trouble talk to your doctor before you take on the task of shoveling.
  • Warm up first.  Warm, relaxed muscles are more efficient and less likely to sprain or strain than cold tight muscles.
  • Pick the right shovel.  A curved handle enables you to keep your back straighter when shoveling.  Appropriate handle length is also important.    A smaller blade will require you to lift less snow thus putting less strain on your body.
  • Begin shoveling slowly.  Pace yourself and take breaks.  Push the snow instead of lifting it.  This puts much less strain on the spine.
  • Lift correctly.  Stand with your feet about hip width apart.  Keep the shovel close to your body.  Bend from the knees not the back and tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the snow.  Avoid twisting movements.
  • Drink plenty of water.  Dehydration is just as big an issue in the cold winter months as it is in the heat of summer.