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.

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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

8 great health benefits of Green Tea

What a healthy tea!

What a healthy tea!

Dear Dr. Mo: What are the true health benefits of green tea, are these benefits real and should I start drinking it? 

Dear reader: Green tea is one of those foods that potentially has enormous health benefits but for most of them, more research is needed to really ascertain the extent of it for human health outside the lab. For starters, let me mention the 8 great health benefits of green tea that scientists are seriously looking into and I also suggest you read my earlier post which goes into more depth on green tea, its functions and proper preparation.

1. Cholesterol regulation

There’s a group of chemicals in green tea called catechins responsible for a lot of claimed benefits and researchers believe these catechins help prevent the absorption of cholesterol all together but at the same time they increase the absorption of high-density HDL cholesterol, which is the good one.

2. Weight management

Green tea speeds up digestion and slows down fat absorption while increasing the energy expenditure so these properties can help you lose weight when consumed as part of a healthy diet.

3. Good for the bones

Green tea is said to improve bone mineral density thus lowering your fracture risk – this is because green tea contains a group of chemicals that stimulates the formation of bone and helps slow their breakdown although more research is needed to corroborate this claim outside the lab.

4. Oral health booster

Catechins again – think about the green tea as a natural mouth wash, like Listerine, only better. Drinking green tea regularly can contribute to a healthier mouth because catechins can help kill bacteria in your mouth.

5. Keeps some cancers at bay

Studies show that green tea benefits include protection against certain cancers, not all of them but the fact is that we just don’t know yet about the full potential of green tea’s compounds. What we do know is that the data are the most substantial for bladder, ovarian and esophageal cancers. It mostly does this by starving cancer cells to death.

6. Helps prevent Type 2 Diabetes

And not only that but it helps prevent its prelude – the Metabolic syndrome a.k.a. the Syndrome X. Studies show that one cup a day isn’t going to cut it – you need up to 6 or more every day to lower your risks for these ailments – but, why not, it’s good for you so give it a go. Continue reading

Fiber and health

Add fiber-rich foods to your daily diet

Dear Dr. Mo: I am looking to improve my diet and fiber comes highly recommended as something to eat daily. What is it and where to get it from? How much is enough?

Dear reader: The reason fiber is highly recommended as a part of any healthy diet is simple – it is really good for you.

Previously, it was thought that fiber was a significant factor in preventing colon cancer but as it turns out, most of the evidence show that fiber has no such effect in prevention of this disease.

Still, fiber has many other good effects, for which it is considered a must-have in our everyday diets.

So, what does fiber do for us?

Fiber helps prevent heart disease, obesity, diabetes (by improving insulin resistance), constipation and diverticulitis (an intestinal problem). It helps to regulate cholesterol levels by slightly reducing the “bad” LDL cholesterol. And last, but certainly not the least of good effects is the increase of the bulk of foods making us feel fuller for longer – that’s another way fiber helps us in avoiding overeating and being overweight.

What is fiber and where to get it from?

Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate form found in plant foods.There are two types of fiber: Soluble and Insoluble Continue reading

Drink water to stay healthy

Dear Dr. Mo: How much water do I really need to stay hydrated and healthy?

Dear reader: This is the time of year where common colds are indeed common and when you will often hear that advice to drink lots of fluid, usually herbal teas or water. Of course, water is essential to your health but the needs for water vary from person to person and many factors may influence that, like for example your health condition, your daily activities, where you live, your age, metabolic rate etc.

Water means health!

Water is our main constituent – it makes up about 60% of our body mass. We need water to maintain normal functions: we throw out waste matter dissolved in water, water participates in digestion of food, it carries nutrients to cells, we use water to show emotions when we cry etc.

Water also helps to regulate body temperature through perspiration (sweating).

When water is insufficient we dehydrate. Dehydration is a state in which our cells don’t have enough water to function normally. Even a mild dehydration could cause fatigue because when tissues lose water, enzymes are slowing down their functions and energy production drops.

A simple way to see the link between health and water is to observe what happens when we age. As we age, the water content of our bodies is decreasing steadily and while a newborn is 80% water, in an adult this ratio is at 60% and it keeps on decreasing as years go by. Continue reading

Diabetes and weight – what is the link?

Dear Dr. Mo: What is the link between being overweight and developing Type 2 diabetes? Can diabetes be prevented or cured somehow?

Dear reader: First of all it is worth pointing out that diabetes is a chronic condition. For most types (except gestational type) this chronicity means that once it occurs, it stays for life – this is not a disease we can effectively cure with our present knowledge but we can quite successfully manage it.

Before I go into your question, let me first explain the diabetes landscape and basic mechanisms behind it as Type 2 is not the only game in town.

Diabetes occurs either when the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar.
The danger of diabetes lies in a condition called Hyperglycaemia – raised blood sugar level – which is a common result of uncontrolled/undiagnosed diabetes, which over time causes serious damage to the body, especially to blood vessels and nerves.

Food choices affect our health

Diabetes has its types and these differ in both the ways they start and the ways in which we manage them.

Type 1 Diabetes

This type had previously been known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset diabetes. Here, our pancreas gland becomes deficient in insulin production and there is simply no longer enough of it to properly regulate our blood sugar levels. Management requires daily administration of insulin and this type cannot be prevented with our current understanding as the cause is not known although we do think it is due to the self-inflicting damage to pancreas (process called “auto immune response”). Continue reading

Multivitamins – yes or no?

Dear Dr. Mo: How useful are multivitamin supplements and when should you take them? I tend to take them during the winter when I think I might be more likely to catch a cold from my students…

Dear reader:First of all, try to eat a healthy diet – this goes without saying. A multivitamin daily dose does provide some help against nutritional deficiencies but cannot and should not replace the natural way we take in vitamins – through a healthy and balanced diet. This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, nuts and low in red meat and unhealthy fats.  For those people who manage to eat a healthy diet like that, a multivitamin may have little or no benefit.

Healthy diet removes the need for multivitamins

I realize however that many people don’t manage to eat such balanced and healthy diets for a variety of different reasons, some economic, some behavioral, some social etc.  In such cases, as well as in cases like yours (prophylactic), a simple message is this: a daily multivitamin is a good insurance policy for your nutrition!

Taking a daily multivitamin and perhaps some extra vitamin D is an inexpensive way for you to fill in some of the nutritional gaps and make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

There are even added health benefits to such habits – Folic acid found in most multivitamins helps prevent neural tube deficits in newborns if women take it before they become pregnant and during pregnancy; this acid also lowers risk for breast and colon cancer and heart disease. 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

An apple a day? You should take this advice

Dear Dr. Mo: Is there some truth in the old saying that “An apple a day keeps a doctor away”?

Dear reader:  Your question is timed well as we are now in the season of apple picking. This saying could be in principle applied to many fruits and veggies and I always recommend a balanced diet to accommodate for a variety of healthful foods to keep us healthy. Here are some of the reasons why apples are so revered for their health benefits.

Apples belong to ‘super foods’

Apples lower cholesterol – there is about 4 grams of fiber per average-sized apple. Pectin is one of those fibers, which is soluble and is thought to lower your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) by reducing the absorption of it from food and bile and stimulating the body to use the cholesterol rather than to store it.

Apple helps with constipation and diarrhea – Pectin again, increases the volume and viscosity of stool and this relieves both constipation and diarrhea symptoms. Generally, fiber in apple (as with all other fiber-rich food) is beneficial for our digestion. Continue reading

Ordinary foods that keep you healthy

Dear Dr. Mo: Which foods should I always include in my diet to improve my health and why?

Dear reader: It goes without saying that good dietary habits are good for our health – but what is not often emphasized enough is just how good that is.
It has been widely recognized by medical community that by simply increasing your daily consumption of fruits and vegetables you are lowering your risk of heart disease and diabetes – and when I say lowering I mean really lowering it by 50 to even 70%!

Bananas are a nutrient powerhouse

There are of course other benefits too: an antioxidant called Lycopene in tomatoes, watermelon and red grapefruit is linked to protection against breast and prostate cancers, chances of developing kidney cancer are greatly diminished by frequent consumption of fruits and vegetables and fiber rich foods keep your intestines work properly preventing constipation, intestinal illness and help control your weight by keeping you fuller for longer.
We all have different appetites, habits and tastes but vegetables and fruits should be an integral part of our daily diet and many adults need roughly two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables per day.

Here is my selection of some ordinary foods, which I consider rich in all the nutrients you need to turn your daily diet into a health promoting and health protecting habit. Continue reading