5 Cholesterol lowering foods – Infographic

FullSizeRenderDear Dr. Mo: What are some of the foods that could help lower my cholesterol?

Dear reader: Eating a healthy diet in general can be challenging and tailoring it to a specific health need only adds to that challenge. Before embarking on any significant change in your diet, I suggest you first speak with your doctor who could give you useful pointers, link you with a specialist and follow up on your progress.

 

To get you started, I’ve written about such foods here

To answer your question, I’ve made this useful infographic to serve as a quick reference point to what’s out there Continue reading

Hypertension – how to get an accurate measurement?

Dear readers: Many of your questions revolved around Hypertension – elevated blood pressure, which is the most common condition seen in primary care and leads to myocardial infarction, stroke, kidney (renal) failure, and death if not detected early and treated appropriately.

Measuring your own is the best way to track itWhether you are checking your blood pressure (BP) at home as advised by your physician or at your physician’s office, it is important to do it right and get an accurate measurement.

Check out this infographic with 7 simple tips to help you get the most precise BP measurement.

Continue reading

Here’s Why You’re Really Gaining Weight

Dear Dr. Mo: Could obesity be contagious?

Dear reader: Obesity is of course not infectious per se but it’s well known to be ‘socially contagious’ and in that sense your question is spot on – eating habits of eating companions or groups exert significant influence on us; and we are mostly unaware of this fact.

Social contagion

Social contagion

One is more likely to be overweight if one has a lot of friends who are overweight and a very good way to gain weight is to have lunches or dinners with other people, especially if they are overweight.

On average, if you grab a meal with a friend, you will eat about 35% more than what you would eat if you were eating alone.

If you are eating in a group of 4, you will eat about 75% more and in groups of 7 or more people, you will probably eat 96% more! Continue reading

How to choose adequate UV protection for your eyes?

Dear Dr. Mo: How to be sure my sunglasses protect my eyes well from UV light? Is the price tag sufficient as guidance?

Dear reader: Your question is well timed and important and wherever we go, even when the skies are overcast with clouds, our skin and eyes are constantly exposed to UV light – invisible to us, but potentially damaging nonetheless.
Choosing the right protection becomes an integrative part of a healthy lifestyle.

Glasses UVThe two forms of UV (Ultra Violet) light that affect our health are UVA and UVB. There’s also UVC, which can be extremely damaging but our atmosphere’s ozone layer filters it out completely so it does not figure in our review here.

UVA is responsible for skin tanning and aging and UVB is linked to sunburn and skin cancer; a large portion of UVB is also absorbed by the ozone layer.

UV light also affects eye health and darker lenses may not necessarily provide better protection from it. In fact, a dark lens with poor or no UV protection can do just the opposite – it can damage the eye by allowing more UV rays into it. Continue reading

Zinc for the Common Cold – Does It Work?

Get your Zinc from food

Get your Zinc from food

Dear Dr. Mo: Is Zinc helpful in treating the common cold? Should I use it?

Dear reader: When we catch the infamous cold (acute upper respiratory tract infection), sometimes the symptoms may be severe enough that we reach out to anything that has even a hint of a promise of a quick cure.

 

The truth is, there’s no effective cure other than our own immune system and yet, many supplements are out on the market claiming to boost the immune response and help us fight off the virus.

Evidence is strong against any substantial effectiveness of any of these supplements.

Healthy diet and exercise remain the only sure fire ways to overcome the common cold – yes, even while you’re sick, if you can, you should moderately exercise (or at least stay active) and not rest for too long – this will speed up the recovery.

Zinc time and again emerges as one of the supplements suggested to help us fight the common cold but, does it work? Continue reading

Stroke – The Brain Under Attack – know when to act and do it fast

Early symptoms can be elusive and missed

Early symptoms can be elusive and missed

Dear readers: Some time ago, father of a friend of mine had suffered a stroke – he’s still alive and on his way to recovery mostly because of the prompt and immediate reaction of the people who were there when it happened.
Those first few hours following a stroke are what decide between living or dying, between serious and irreversible brain damage and a minor, repairable one.

Identifying and treating a stroke as quickly as possible can and does save brain cells, brain function, and ultimately, lives. With this in mind, all of us need to know the warning signs of a stroke and when to get help as fast as possible.

So, what signs to look for to suspect a stroke?

I like The U.S. National Stroke Association’s mnemonic FAST as it both conveys the urgency of the situation and it helps us memorize the most important clues. Remember it as Act FAST!

Here’s what it stands for: Continue reading

If you don’t have your health, everything is ruined

Dear readers: In a recent interview for Esquire, titled “What I’ve Learned”, Woody Allen says an interesting and important thing he’d learned from his dad: “My dad didn’t even teach me how to shave — I learned that from a cabdriver. But the biggest lesson he imparted is that if you don’t have your health, you have nothing. No matter how great things are going for you, if you have a toothache, if you have a sore throat, if you’re nauseated, or, God forbid, you have some serious thing wrong with you — everything is ruined..

Image credit: www.kalisthenixfitnessblog.com

Image credit: www.kalisthenixfitnessblog.com

Inspired by Mr. Allen’s lesson from his father, and in relation to my recent post in which I wrote about some cool health benefits of Butternut Squash that even made it to the list of those healthful foods that can heal your tired legs, I’ve decided to share with you one simple recipe for a quick, healthy and easy way to make a very tasty Squash.

Here’s how to do it: Continue reading

5 easy ways to improve digestion

Dear Dr. Mo: My digestion has not been so good lately. What are some natural ways to try and improve it?

Indigestion could be corrected with a healthy diet

Indigestion could be corrected with a healthy diet

Dear reader: When digestion is not working properly, our entire health my become affected and sometimes indigestion could signal an underlying issue that needs to be investigated by a physician. But, before you go to your doctor, here are 5 easy ways to try and improve your digestion:

1. Fluids

First and foremost, the most essential and simplest thing we can do is stay well hydrated throughout the day. Water is used to create digestive juices, it dissolves soluble fiber and enables it to do its magic, it helps solid food move smoother and get digested quicker and it flushes out unwanted digestion products. Just be careful with the choice of fluids if that’s not water. Pop is not healthy at all and can trigger heartburn.

Too much coffee (I’d say 5 and more cups) becomes a powerful diuretic, which dehydrates you.

2. Beans

Rich in soluble fiber (1 serving contains 12 to 19 grams of it) and low in fat, this food will help your digestion even if at first it may seem to give you more gas and cramps – after some relatively short time, your digestion will adapt and this side effect should decrease and go away. Our daily dose of fiber should be 25 – 35 grams and beans are one great way to get much of that dose.

3. Yogourt

This food contains important probiotics that help digestion – how do they do it? Probiotics are friendly bacteria that naturally augment and support the functioning of our digestive system, keep bad bacteria at bay and interact with other functions in our body like the immune system and even our brain.

Probiotics can help ease the post-antibiotic diarrhea, and even some very serious conditions like Chron’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and a very serious variant of colitis, caused by the Clostridium difficile bacteria. Continue reading

What is Diet Anxiety and what can we do about it?

(Diet) Anxiety may overshadow but can be recon with

(Diet) Anxiety may overshadow but can be recon with

Dear Dr. Mo: Whenever I think of starting a diet, I begin to feel strong anxiety and I fear that I will fail – so I keep putting it off. I’m not having hopes of becoming any super-model looking person but I still cannot bring myself to start my diet. What’s happening to me? 

Dear reader: Losing weight can sometimes become an overwhelming pressure, imposed on us more from the outside than coming really from the inside.

True, we do want to look fit and feel good about our body because this is good for our health but it is the nature of our modern society, which favours skinny looking, (almost) anorexic appearance augmented further by computer programs to unrealistic shapes, that pressures us to achieve the unachievable – and to ultimately, fail.

Humans are the only animal capable of thinking about and more importantly, imagining the future and this unique feature we owe to our frontal part of the brain, the one whose level of development and complexity is so uniquely human. This ability is also responsible for anxiety.

Anxiety is the product of our fear of future and because we are able to imagine our futures, this can cause us to be frightened – to feel anxiety.

One thing that’s very well known to psychologists (but not to most other people) is how bad we are at imagining our futures: the more distant an event is in time the fuzzier it will look in our mind’s eye and the more it will be painted by our present thoughts and feelings (we are thus unable to escape the present – this is called ‘presentism’). The problem is that we won’t know this and will think that the way we imagined it is exactly the way it will happen – and alas, it won’t. Continue reading

The 5-second rule – can you eat food you dropped on the floor?

Dear Dr. Mo: I’ve been told that if I dropped my food on the floor and picked it up within 5 seconds, it would still be safe and clean to eat –

Food gets contaminated immediately

Food gets contaminated immediately

bacteria didn’t have enough time to jump on it. Is that true?

Dear reader: To answer your question on the so called ‘5-second rule’ simply, this rule is not correct and NO, no small amount of time can pass to still allow us to pick the food up from the floor and safely eat it – germs free; and I mean no amount of time – not even a millisecond, or even less than that – not even a nano or a piko or however unimaginably small amount of time you want to use as a yard stick. Continue reading

Resuscitation of the ways we learn

Dear readers: When I was in medical school, teaching methods were still pretty much old-fashioned: huge text books (mostly handed down through 2 – 3

Books are still necessary - but now there's more to them

Books are still necessary – but now there’s more to them

generations of students) with sporadic updates, typically dry lectures and practical exercises with an occasional power point clumsily executed as the most tech we would get – and then after a while you would take your exam and the cycle would repeat itself.

This landscape is drastically different nowadays even though it’s only been about a decade since the first smart phones had been rolled out and even less than that time since the Google, Facebook, the App store, iPhone, iPad and what not. Continue reading

On prebiotics and probiotics – what labels won’t tell you

Dear Dr. Mo: I would like to know more about prebiotics and probiotics, especially in treating specific conditions – I found it difficult to find information on their applications and effects different strains of probiotics may have.

Probiotics can be found in yogurts

Probiotics can be found in yogurts

Dear reader: In response to your interesting question about use and effectiveness of probiotics, I’ve been browsing the dairy sections (containing yogurts, kefirs and alike) of some popular supermarkets here in Vancouver, BC to actually see what are the health claims the manufacturers (are allowed to) put on their probiotic-containing products.

To my surprise I was unable to find any concrete or revealing claim, which would help a person (patient or clinician for that matter) decide which product to choose and whether or not this particular probiotic product is a right choice for a potential medical condition. Most claimed to support or improve a body function but not to treat a condition/disease. Continue reading

The importance of eating breakfast

Dear Dr. Mo: How important is breakfast for my health? Should I skip it if I want to lose some weight? I see some of my friends do this.

Dear reader: To answer simply – breakfast is the most important meal of the day and you should never skip it.

That said; let me quickly give a few important reasons for this.

Make it a healthy choice

Make it a healthy choice

Fist and foremost, if you want to lose some weight or just maintain the one you have (especially if it is a healthy one and feels good to you) eating breakfast every morning is the way to go.

I’ve spoken to people whose strategy was to skip breakfast thinking they would reduce their daily amount of calories – you are guessing already – they have failed at that. The reason such a strategy doesn’t work is because without a proper breakfast, you become very hungry by lunch time and not only that but you drive your body into energy conservation mode in which calories are being conserved and stored rather than spent and where your metabolism slows down – all of which is bad news for weight loss. Continue reading

Alcohol – that social lubricant

Dear Dr. Mo: I want to know some basic facts about alcohol and what it does to me when I drink. Is there a safe amount that’s actually good for health?

Don’t drink and drive!

Dear reader: Sometimes you might hear from a doctor that moderate alcohol consumption is good for health.

The peril lies in the word “moderate” for it is arbitrary; it is not the same for everyone and one could easily slip from moderation to amounts that are not at all useful to health. We could certainly argue if alcohol is useful in any amount because while it may be beneficial to one part of the body, it is damaging to another.

We don’t really need alcohol as far as maintaining our health is concerned so if you’ve never drank, don’t start as risks outweigh potential benefits.