Monthly Archives: October 2015

Stevia Replaces Sugar

Stevia is healthier than sugar because it has zero calories, has little aftertaste, has no effect on blood sugar, and is 200 times sweeter than sugar(1). The Stevia plant, sterol glycosides, originates in South America and is part of the sunflower(Aster) family. It has been used there for 100s of years to sweeten drinks and food. Stevia was approved for use by the FDA in 2008.

We all grew up on sugar and have been suffering the consequences ever since. Lets count the ways that sugar is quietly hurting us according to studies: 1. Sugar increases your cancer risk 2. It increases your risk of heart disease 3. It causes insulin resistance(diabetes) 4. It decays your teeth 5. It increases your calories and weight 6. It is addictive due to the dopamine effect 7. It can overload your liver leading to fatty liver disease.

According to the Life Extension(1) article, the most important dietary step you can take to decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer and other age related diseases, is to avoid elevations of blood sugar and insulin after eating. A study is mentioned that gave Stevia(250 mg) to subjects three times a day for one year. The results were a significant and lasting decrease in blood pressure for patients with mild to moderate hypertension. The benefits were so effective at lowering blood pressure, it is now suggested as an alternative therapy.

Stevia additional health benefits work as a diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-tumor, and immunological agent. Additionally, subjects who ate stevia felt more satisfied on less calories and did not eat more throughout the day. This is most likely because blood sugar and insulin levels remained stable. Stevia can actually help reverse insulin resistance to prevent diabetes.

I find the contrast between the hazards of sugar and the benefits of Stevia, to be night and day. I find it amazing that the FDA took so long to approve it and that its inclusion into drinks and foods is slow to materialize. But, as health oriented people, we can take charge of our own diets. I have personally been using Stevia for a couple of years now and I have to honestly say that I do not miss sugar at all. In fact, I find myself using less and less sweeteners because Stevia helps me slowly lose the taste for sweetness.

When buying Stevia, I was surprised that it was not in my local grocery store. I find health food stores overpriced in my area, so I head for the internet. Since Stevia is packaged under different brand names, just check the ingredients. It’s okay to be sweet again.   L. Johnson      http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

Iafelice, R. Superfoods: Sweet As Sugar. Life Extension Magazine, 2014 Feb. 95-99

WALKING FOR LIFE

Walking for life is one of the most sustainable and easiest exercises for most people. That’s because walking is already incorporated into your lifestyle and can be done anytime without equipment or expense. When I taught a class in the weight reduction program, we needed to pair people together to ensure long-term sustainability of walking. Social support is very motivational and often the key to personal involvement. If you’re not sure walking is enough of an exercise for you, here are the many benefits.

Benefits of Walking for Life

1. Walking lowers cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure and stroke. This comes as no surprise since exercise stimulates better circulation. Studies show that it increases your good HDL cholesterol while lowering the bad LDL cholesterol. It can lower triglyceride levels especially if done after a meal.

2. It burns calories and reduces your weight. Weight management is clearly a primary concern of most Americans. As you increase your walking speed and distance, you increase your burned calories. Body fat is modestly reduced with regular walking.

3. It improves brain function and reduces dementia. I mentioned in a prior post about brain shrinkage as we age or gain weight. Sending oxygen to the brain is so important as it helps prevent cognitive decline. Studies shows that walking helps you preform better on tests and it even improves memory in seniors.

4. It strengthens bones since it’s a wright-bearing activity. It helps preserve healthy joints thereby reducing arthritis. This is especially important for women who tend to lose bone density with age. Arthritis people tend to tolerate walking better than other exercises.

5. It firms your muscles and waistline. You can easily tone the bottom half of your body and increase arm movements to help with the top half. Adding hand weights increases your heart rate and tones the arms for a better workout.

6. It gives you energy by sending oxygen to your cells. Cells need oxygen to be healthy. This helps prevent physical disability in the elderly.

7. Walking produces endorphins that reduce anxiety and increases mood. Some studies show that exercise is just as effective as anti-depressant medication. You also reduce your stress and improve your sleep.

8. It can be a social activity which also helps lower blood pressure and heart related problems. It increases your immune response, self-esteem and improved mood as well. Studies show that socially oriented people have greater longevity.

9. There is a good chance you will live longer as a regular walker. Studies show that those people who walk the fastest outlive those who walk slower on average. Another study had people walk for 150 minutes a week( 5 days of half hour). This resulted an additional three and a half years to your life.

The great convenience about walking is all you need is a comfortable pair of shoes. I personally walk for as many errands as possible. I’m self motivated, so I walk with or without people. Some people find it helpful to monitor walking with a step-counter or stop watch. Studies show this monitoring encourages people to continually do more exercise, so I’m in favor of it. Since the social part is also very important, try to involve people you know. If you don’t know walkers, you can establish a walking club in your area and you’ll meet new friends and neighbors. The wonder of having workout buddies is that you forget you’re exercising!     L. Johnson         http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

Women Need Vitamin D

According to ScienceDaily(1) Americans have low vitamin D levels. That means we are susceptible to other illnesses including breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. The link between vitamin D and dementia risk is confirmed. D maintains muscle strength helping reduce falls in the elderly. It can reduce your risk of multiple sclerosis which has no cure. It can reduce metabolic syndrome and risk of diabetes. Vitamin D also regulates genes that relate to cancer development and can provide powerful protection against common cancers. If you live in the northern part of the U.S., your are at higher risk during the winter months without sunlight.

Vitamin D deficiency can affect other areas of your body as well. Here are six reasons to get you D levels checked(2).

1. Brain Function: Studies have found that low vitamin D can cause memory and attention difficulties. Many think that mental changes are due to hormonal loss during and after menopause, but it could be your vitamin D level.

2. Weight Gain: This is female specific; when postmenopausal women took 400 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg of calcium daily, they gained less weight and increased their bone integrity.

3. Heart Function: If you are a woman over 50, studies show low levels of Vitamin D can put you in danger of having a heart attack, stroke, or congestive heart failure.

4. Parkinson’s disease:  Parkinson’s is a disorder of the brain that manifests itself as shaking, stiffness, and poor muscular coordination. This disorder mainly develops in people over 50 and increases with age.  Low levels of Vitamin D increases the threat of Parkinson’s disease, while high levels may protect against the devastating illness.

5. Bones Integrity: Studies of bone structure show that Vitamin D deficiency will increase the start and spread of bone fractures. Women are more like to be effected because your bones tend to become brittle and more prone to break.

6. Depression: A study with severely depressed middle age women who were given oral vitamin D supplements revealed a positive response from all participants. We are not sure if this is the cause of the depression, but we know you can feel better as a result.

Life Extension Magazine has confirmed a number of vitamin D benefits similar to the above. They noted that weight loss and reduced inflammation occurred together. It increases survival rates for breast cancer and lymphoma patients. It is associated with less coronary artery disease and premature risk of mortality. It improved cognitive test scores and reduces risk of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. It can protect against uterine fibroids in women and can prevent infections after surgery. So, its importance cannot be under-estimated.

How to increase our vitamin D?

1. Improve your diet: fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel are a good source of Vitamin D as well as beef liver, cheese, egg yolks. Foods fortified with D are dairy products, orange juice, some cereals and milk.

2. Supplements: Although studies have shown that 600-800 IU of Vitamin D per day is safe, always check with your doctor before starting a Vitamin D supplements. Some feel this is not the best way because of the poor absorption rate of vitamins.

3. Sunshine: The article suggests that it’s better if we get at least 15 minutes of sun a day before we apply sunscreen.

I have to admit that I have been taking vitamin D3 at 5,000 IU for a few years now. I originally started after reading some convincing research.  It’s difficult to fell the physical change, except for just maintaining good health. If you’re not sure if you need vitamin D,  just get your levels checked.   L.  Johnson of www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/health_medicine/vitamin+d/         (2)http://www.empowher.com/holistic-health/content/got-vitamin-d-what-women-over-50-should-know-0?page=0,1

Pet Ownership Health Benefits

Pet ownership offers a surprising range of health benefits. Most of us have heard of the pet therapy programs in many hospitals because pets help patients recover faster on less medication. The hospital program is a big success because patients return home sooner, the cost is less, and they’re happier and healthier overall.

The unconditional love provided by a pet is fairly rare in life and has proven to reduce anxiety and depression.  Pets offer companionship that reduces boredom and isolation especially for those residing alone.  This emotional benefit has been scientifically proven to improve our physical health in a number of different areas. Here are health results from a pet study(1).

CARDIOVASCULAR IMPROVEMENT: Dogs and cats provide similar benefits. A study found that, “If you have a cat, you’re 30% less likely to have a heart attack, and you’re 40% less likely to have a stroke.”(1)

BLOOD PRESSURE: So many people are on hypertension medications so early in life. We need to find a better method to control this. The comfort of a pet actually lowers blood pressure and makes the biggest difference if blood pressure is already elevated.

IMMUNITY AND ALLERGIES: Having a pet as a child can reduce allergies and increase immunity. Children raised on farms don’t have allergies, have less illnesses, and attend school more often on average.

DECREASES STRESS: A study gave people a stressful task and found they experienced less distress when with their pets. This relaxation response was better when compared to being with a family, spouse or friends. Pets can reduce stress more than our own spouse or best friend!

PAIN MANAGEMENT: A study in hospitals revealed that surgery patients need less pain medication and recover faster when pets are present. Pets can reduce migraine and arthritis pain as well.

IMPROVED MOOD: A decrease in a range depressive symptoms has been noted. It’s most likely from the unconditional love and companionship pets provide. Pet contact releases endorphins that have a pain killing and mood increasing effect.

EMOTIONAL  DEVELOPMENT: Caring for a pet, especially when young, enables better social skills and a sense of responsibility. Pets even increase literacy skills and self-confidence in children.

SOCIAL BENEFIT: It’s not a surprise that studies show dog owners are better socially connected and friendlier than non-owners.  Taking your dog for a walk twice a day is a form of social networking.

MAY LOWER CHOLESTEROL: Pet owners have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels on average. The causal relationship is still being explored.

If you are already a pet owner, then you are taking care of your health. If you’re considering getting a pet, be sure you have the minimum time available to spend. Each type of pet needs a certain amount of attention because pets can get lonely and depressed too. For those retiring alone, I believe having a pet is an essential relationship for happiness and longevity.  I’ve personally had pets since I was a child and I’ve always enjoyed the special supportive relationship they offer.       L. Johnson       http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)Gekas, A. 2-28-11 10. Benefits of Owing a Pet. Retrieved from: womansday.com/life/pet-care/a2352/10-health-benefits-of-owning-a-pet-116238/

Superfood: CHAGA MUSHROOM

If you haven’t heard of the medicinal Chaga mushroom, this article is for you. The Inonotus obliquus is a fungus that grows on trees by feeding off the lignins without damaging the integrity of the tree itself. However, it doesn’t look like a typical mushroom with a top and stem. It’s visually similar to a piece of bark with red, brown and black colors.

A superfoods site(1)tells why this fungus is so healthy. It starts with the extremely high level of immune boosting antioxidants such as glucans and betulinic acid. Beta glucans boost the immune system, but is not produced by the body. It is found in grains like oats, wheat, rye, and barley besides certain mushrooms. This immune response protects us from breast, stomach and colorectal cancers. It has been used in Russia as an anticancer drug since 1955.

Betulinic acid is an anti-inflammatory and antiretroviral agent that is also found in the bark of trees. It is thought to inhibit melanoma and has been studied by the National Cancer Institute as a treatment for some cancers. Chaga is also considered one of most powerful adaptogens or compounds that promotes homeostasis in the body.

Its even good for your skin. Chaga has the highest melanin content in any food which acts as a gene protector. Melanin, a pigment produced in the skin of all animals, can protect the skin from sun damage as well as hair and eyes. It prevents UV radiation damage from the sun. We all know how UV damage tends to age the skin prematurely.

Here are the vitamins and minerals(1):

  • vitamin B2
  • vitamin D2
  • calcium
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • sulfur
  • potassium
  • rubidium and cesium
  • silicon
  • germanium
  • manganese
  • selenium
  • zinc
  • antimony
  • barium
  • bismuth
  • boron
  • chromium
  • copper

There are different ways to ingest the Chaga mushroom, but it’s mostly ground and used in tea or as an extract in capsule form. I personally enjoy it as a brewed tea, so I buy the ground powder on amazon. I find the taste similar to orange pekoe tea with a bit of an earthy flavor. It’s mild enough that I don’t use sweeteners and my teenage daughter has fallen in love with it.

Side effects: It may increase the effect of anticoagulants like aspirin and warfarin. It may also interact with diabetes medicines like insulin.

(1)Superfoods for Superhealth staff. Changa Mushroom Benefits as an Immune Enhancing Superfood. 2015. Retrieved from www.superfoods-for-superhealth.com/chaga.html on 8-31-15.

by L. Johnson    http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com