Why is Mango so healthy?

Dear readers: Since my mind constantly confuses Mangos and Avocados and I never

the king of fruit

the king of fruit

know which name to attach to which fruit, and since I’ve recently written about Avocados, it is appropriate that I should write a short post on Mangos too.

This is only fair because Mangos are an awesome addition to a very healthy diet!

Mangos originate in India and their relatives are niceties like Cashews and Pistachio – I bet you didn’t know that. Continue reading

Avocado, the super fruit

Dear Dr. Mo: I’ve been eating a lot of Avocados lately (not really sure whether they are fruit or vegetable) – are these any good for my health or is it just a

The only trick is to know when it's ripe enough to eat

The only trick is to know when it’s ripe enough to eat

quirky addition to a salad?

Dear reader: Avocados are very interesting and old food originating from South and Central America – they are fruit, not a vegetable.

My baby girl loves to eat them, which is great because Avocados are extremely healthy.

Personally, I will never learn to immediately tell a difference in my head between Avocados and Mangos, as for some strange reason my mind confuses these two words and no amount of mental effort will ever help; of course I always know an Avocado when I see one. Continue reading

Chocolate & health

Dear Dr. Mo: Are there any health benefits I could possibly get by eating chocolate? I just love it so much.

Dear reader: What a sweet question (and I mean literally).
The answer is YES but let me make one clarification right from the start: when we talk about potential health benefits of chocolate, we always refer to dark chocolate, which has a high cocoa content.

Dark chocolate has health benefits

It is the Flavanols in cocoa beans that have antioxidant effects responsible for most of the benefits that come from dark chocolate consumption. Flavanols reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease and also help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function. In addition, some research has linked chocolate consumption to reduced risks of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate was associated with a lower risk of being hospitalized for heart failure.

Flavanols are thought to also reduce the levels of stress hormone Cortisol and its metabolic effects and they are being researched for their sun protecting abilities, doubling the time before which skin turns red in the sun, marking the beginning of a sun burn. Continue reading

Saunas and health

Dear Dr. Mo: Is sauna really healthy and should I go there when I have a flu?

Dear reader: When you are in most saunas, its dry heat, which can become as high as 85° C (in some saunas, even higher), can have some intense effects on the body.

Your skin temperature spikes to about 40° C within minutes. The average person will pour out a half a liter of sweat during a short stay in a sauna.

Saunas have been around for centuries – its relaxing and well-being effects on the body are well known

The heart rate jumps by 30% or more, allowing the heart to approximately double the amount of blood it pumps out each minute (its minute volume).
Stress hormones ACTH and Cortisol rise substantially while Adrenalin and Noradrenaline are reduced; other changes in hormonal balances happen as well.

These effects (vigorous sweating, increased heart rate and hormonal changes) are similar to those induced by a moderate exercise, which is why saunas could be so appealing.Circulation patterns change while in sauna and most of the extra blood flow is directed to the skin, which becomes reddish; the circulation actually diverts blood away from the internal organs.

Blood pressure in saunas is always unpredictable, rising in some people but falling in others, which might be a health risk for some people with blood pressure problems. Saunas generally should not be considered as a therapeutic approach to hyper or hypotension – visit your doctor first. Continue reading

Foods to lower your Cholesterol

Dear Dr. Mo: I’m worried about my cholesterol levels and I am thinking of ways to avoid foods that will keep on raising it. What to do to bring my cholesterol down?

Dear reader: Following a healthy diet usually brings up the question of which foods to avoid. The follow up thought in our heads leads us to figuring out which foods could raise our cholesterol levels and add kilograms.

Normally, you’d want to avoid too much saturated fats from meat, full fat-dairy products (cheese, high fat milk) and trans fats found in many processed foods like pastries, processed cheese like the ones in a fast-food burger, cakes, cookies, biscuits, creams, candy etc. Even your favorite chips or pretzels are packed with trans fats (these hide behind tech terms like hydrogenated plant-based fat or palm fat so don’t be fooled).

Go nuts – it will regulate your cholesterol

These foods hurt our bodies not just by raising cholesterol levels (mostly the ‘bad’ one – LDL) but by exposing our cells to un-natural compounds, which we were simply not designed to handle.

In response, our systems are stressed out and over time, chain biochemical reactions lead to cancers, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, tons of autoimmune diseases, genetic alterations etc.

The list of unhealthful foods would be far too long. Here’s a hint – those advertised the most are usually suspicious.

Instead, and further to my previous post, I will list 8 foods (and functional foods), which strongly help to regulate your cholesterol level and have appropriate ratio of HDL (the ‘good’ one) Vs. LDL (the ‘bad’ one).
Of course, for some people, diet alone is not enough to bring cholesterol under control in which case your doctor may start you on some medication to help you reach desired levels but even in these cases, proper diet is of large significance for success and long term health. Continue reading

Fiber-rich foods – your allies in healthy weight loss

Dear Dr. Mo: I wish to lose some weight and I know fiber is important part of a good weight-loss plan. My diet so far has not been very healthy and I am trying to improve it. Which foods do you suggest as a good source of fiber?

Dear reader: Nutritional super foods, rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other health preserving compounds are all around us. And yet, we succumb to advertising and our own cravings for sugars, greasy junk food and the simple fact that fast food is easier to acquire, it’s more readily available and in truth, it is often cheaper.

Colorful salads are a sure shot when it comes to fiber-rich food

The first step is to become aware of these things and understand that in the 21st century, eating healthy presents a real challenge and asks for will power.

The magic word in today’s healthy diet which attains and maintains a healthy weight and good shape is, planning.

I say that in any weight loss plan, a strategic goal has to be Attain and Maintain.

To Attain and Maintain, you need proper tools, one of which is dietary fiber.
Fiber absolutely has to be on your daily menu – it not only helps in weight loss by keeping you fuller for longer and by regulating your bowel movement, it helps regulate cholesterol levels and ratios in the blood, preventing both weight gain and heart disease, Type 2 diabetes etc.

To help in your planning, here are some fiber-rich (super)foods you could include in your everyday meals: Continue reading

Effective strategies for weight loss

Dear Dr. Mo: What are some of the strategies to loose weight in a healthy way? I am not looking for instant results but something long term.

Dear reader: Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is no easy task these days. We live fast, eat fast and when weight is concerned – most people want to lose it fast, which is not a healthy way to go about it.

A few facts first:

Eat slowly and limit your portions

Our digestive system has several ways in which it talks to the brain to crank our appetite up or down. This conversation is a continuous process and it involves hormones made in the gut and by the cells that store fat, and it also involves nerve signals, especially the vagus nerve, which runs from the digestive system to the brain.

There’s a hormone called Ghrelin, which gets dispatched from the stomach into the blood to go to the brain and flick the hunger switch on – this is how we start to feel hungry. We respond by eating a meal and during this process our stomach and intestine produce hormones called Leptin and Cholesystokinin to tell the brain to start feeling full.

Vagus nerve is also involved as there are stretch receptors in the stomach, which register the stretch as the stomach fills with food and/or liquids. The stretch signals also tell the brain to feel full.

Continue reading

Why are sodas unhealthy?

Dear Dr. Mo: I drink soda every day and I love its sweet taste. I keep hearing this is bad for my health. If that’s true, why is that so? 

Dear reader: Yesterday I was out riding my bicycle with several hundred other cyclists of all ages to mark the beginning of the European Mobility Week. There were people of all kinds of fitness levels and from different parts of the world. There were even entire families with children on bikes big and small and we all took a nice ride down the streets of the city while the traffic was closed just for us. Perfect.

Sodas are sweet – too sweet for health

What a celebration of health and exercise, I thought to myself.

The ride was over in about 45 minutes as we had arrived to our destination in one of the city’s big parks outside the central area. What happened next inspired me to write today’s post and answer your question.

Organizers were thoughtful enough to prepare a supply of drinks to deliver for free to all the thirsty cyclists. There were several types of sodas available and bottles of water.
90% of people took sodas and very few opted for water. Children, adults, seniors.. without exception.

Drinking 500 ml of soda after 45 minutes of nice bike ride entirely defeats the health-related purpose of biking and erases the potential health benefits one may have incurred on a bicycle. Continue reading

Are you a fish fan? You should be!

Dear Dr. Mo: I keep reading and listening about how fish oils are good for your health. I’m not really a fish fan but should I reconsider?

Dear reader: What you’ve been hearing and reading about  is correct. Fish contains oils that are rich in polyunsaturated essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are also called a “healthy fat.” People whose diets are rich in omega-3s seem to have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

Now, why is that?

There are several good things that omega-3s do for our bodies.

Like eating fish – great! That’s awesome news for your heart and wits

They help to reduce high blood pressure and high blood pressure is one of the most dangerous things for our overall health.

They guard platelets from forming clots in the blood and clots may lead to heart attacks and strokes.

They help to regulate blood fat levels and keep them within limits by raising HDL also called the “good cholesterol” and lowering triglycerides. This helps to prevent buildup of dangerous plaques on the walls of blood vessels, and plaques may cause angina and lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Another important effect they have is protection against dangerous and even lethal heart-rhythm disorders that can result in cardiac arrest – I’d even say that this may very well be the most important health benefit of Omega-3s. Continue reading

Aching hearts – anginas

Dear Dr. Mo: I’ve recently been diagnosed with a Prinz-Metal angina and I’ve been told this type is somewhat unusual – what does it mean? And what exactly is angina?

Dear reader: Angina is a clinical syndrome resulting from a transient reversible cardiac ischemia – this means that blood flow through the coronary artery to one part of the heart, carrying all important oxygen, temporarily and reversibly becomes dangerously low leaving that part of the heart undernourished and basically starving – we call that segment of the heart a vulnerable myocardium (myocardium means a heart muscle). Coronary arteries are the ones responsible for feeding the heart.

Clinical presentation of angina is a central chest discomfort or pain – less like a pain, much more like a weight or pressure at times also described as a burning sensation. This intense discomfort and/or pain may radiate to one or both arms, neck, jaw, epigastrium (upper part of the stomach), may not radiate at all or may be felt only in the area of radiation.

This anginal sensation occurs when current oxygen supply to the heart is less than the demand for it and the suffering undernourished (ischemic) heart muscle cries, which causes symptoms felt in angina.

When hearts cry – it’s angina

We say that a tissue is ischemic when the blood supply to it drops below a minimum required level to provide oxygen and other nutrients necessary for normal function. If ischemia is prolonged, and depending on the type of tissue and its oxygen demand, cells die and in some tissues like in the heart or the brain, these cells cannot be replaced.

Duration of each episode of discomfort and/or pain typically shouldn’t last for longer than maximum 20 minutes and it usually spans from anywhere between 15 seconds to 15 minutes.
I am saying that 20 minutes of duration is maximum time within which we are talking about angina because longer ischemia causes myocardial infarction (death of heart cells which is irreversible as these cells are lost).  Continue reading

Coping with Hypertension

Dear Dr. Mo: How to cope with high blood pressure, walking or resting?

Dear reader: First of all, you have a high blood pressure or Hypertension, if you have a sustained elevation of resting systolic reading of at least 140 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) or a diastolic reading of at least 90 mm Hg, or both.

Swimming could help to reduce high blood pressure

The top number in your blood pressure reading is the systolic pressure. It reflects the amount of pressure in your arteries when your heart pumps – it is generated by the heart as a pump and the larger its output, the higher the systolic pressure.

The bottom number is the diastolic pressure. It is the measure of the pressure in the arterial tree in between heartbeats, when the heart is relaxing and it depends on the total peripheral resistance to the blood going out of the arteries into the veins and back to the heart.

High blood pressure is a common condition in which the force the blood exerts against your artery walls is high enough to eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease. Heart has to work harder and harder as blood pressure rises above normal limits and over time, this weakens the heart. It also injures the arteries, which then become susceptible to plaque formation and atherosclerosis in them. At times, high blood pressure may rupture the artery leading to bleeding and strokes.

Blood pressure measurement is one of the most important measurements for any doctor to take in order to determine your health status. Many people have elevated blood pressure, which increases as we age or develop certain health conditions. The trouble is, that if left unchecked, our bodies quickly adapt to elevated values as we go about our daily lives unaware of a serious health problem slowly evolving inside of us – until a big symptom occurs – a heart attack, a stroke, a kidney failure, eye sight problem or internal bleeding.Undiagnosed and untreated elevated blood pressure is among the biggest and most serious threats to our health, both short and long term. Continue reading