Improve Your Health

Springtime Weight Loss & Health Goals

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe doldrums of winter have passed. With shorter nights and warmer days, the grass is greener, flowers are blooming and the birds are singing. It’s spring!

If you are an outdoor winter sports enthusiast, you may be fit and at your ideal weight. But, if icy weather kept you indoors and sedentary, you may have added a pound or two. If so, this is the time to get started on a healthy routine. Forget spring cleaning, instead, dust off your shoes and take a walk.

Before you begin, hop on the scale and record your weight. Use the baseline to track your progress to better health. According to the National Institutes of Health, excess weight can put you at risk for a multitude of health problems. Cardiovascular problems are at the top of the list, including heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure. Close behind are: Type 2 diabetes, unhealthy pregnancies, sleep apnea and even some types of cancer.

Now that you have your weight, you need see where you are based on accepted parameters using the Body Mass Index (BMI) categories of weight:
• Normal = 18.5-24.9Scale, Tennis Shoes, Calculator
• Overweight = 25-29.9
• Obesity = 30 or higher

So, how do we measure BMI? The easiest way is to go to: BMI Calculator
Input your numbers and the internet program will give you the value.

If you like math and you’d rather calculate your BMI, you need your weight, height, a metric conversion multiplier and a calculator to square your answer and divide. It’s Easy – follow the steps below:

1. Multiply your weight in pounds by 0.45. Ex: 125 pounds x .45 = 56.25 kg

2. Multiply your height in inches by 0.025. Ex: 63” x .025 = 1.575 m

3. Square the answer from step 2. Example: 1.575 x 1.575 = 2.4806

4. Divide Step 1 answer by Step 3 answer. Example:56.25 divided by 2.480625 = 22.7 BMI

• If your BMI is normal, exercise is still important.
• If the BMI is elevated, get started on the Mediterranean 5/2 eating plan combined with walking at least 30 minutes a day plan to drop the unwanted pounds.

Go to: Your Heart, our other blog, to find details regarding both Mediterranean food choices and guideline for the plan of eating two low calorie days per week – allowing easy weight reduction.
Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight may lower your chances of developing heart disease? If you weigh 200 pounds, this means losing as little as 10 pounds could prolong your life. Weight loss benefits include:
• Improved energy, sleep, sex life and self-image
• Lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and lowered risk of heart attack
• Reduced cancer risk
• Fewer aches and pains
• Reduced risk of dementia
Spring Forward. Put on your tennis shoes and start walking. Listen for the sweet sounds of returning birds. Watch for spring flowers and pussy willow buds. Take a dog for a walk. Ask a friend to join you.

Lift your spirits and improve your health.

Betty Kuffel MD and Bev EricksonTall Grass

Lipstick Logic

Your Heart Book Cover- Final FINALMore information about heart health and losing weight can be found in our book: YOUR HEART

ESTROGEN IS BACK IN THE NEWS

Estrogen Supplements May Reduce Dementia Risks

musicinbrainTwo recent studies show a possible benefit of estrogen supplements in menopausal women to reduce dementia risk. These studies are very important because women are living longer and any improvement in mental function or delay in the onset of dementia could provide great benefit for women.

Loss of ovarian hormone production following menopause or surgical ovarian removal, results in important changes throughout the body. Bone density decreases, osteoporosis develops and more fractures occur. Hot flashes, mucus membrane dryness, reduced libido, hair loss, skin wrinkling, all become issues. The list goes on. Some problems related to estrogen loss seem minor, but decreasing risks for heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia are major considerations for long term health.

In the past, physicians provided prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for women following menopause. In the summer of 2002, physicians stopped prescribing hormone replacement therapy after the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) concluded the risks of estrogen treatment far outweighed its benefits. The large WHI study also reported the combination of estrogen plus progestin not only increased the risk of both breast cancer and heart disease, but women had an increased risk for dementia.

The following studies suggest estrogen alone (without progestin) may be beneficial for the brain and memory and not detrimental as the WHI study reported:

+ Neurobiology of Aging published a Norwegian study where researchers studied MRI scans of women taking estrogen. They found an important area for memory, the hippocampus, showed preserved brain volume in women who started taking estrogen supplements before or at the beginning of menopause and continued for a number of years. Since the hippocampus is the area affected in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, the findings in the Norwegian study are hopeful.

+ The National Proceedings of Science reported that a team of scientists at Guelphsynapse photo University in Ontario studied the effect of estrogen on synapses in mouse brains, the location where brain cells communicate. Within minutes of an estrogen injection, a large increase in synapse activity occurred in the hippocampus. Boosting estrogen levels may help strengthen brain connections and result in improved learning and memory. Human studies are needed to validate their findings and any long term benefit.

WHI conclusions are being revisited by practicing physicians and research groups. Estrogen replacement in women may once again be prescribed as an anti-dementia aid. However, if a woman has had clots, strokes or cancer, estrogen is not appropriate.

For additional information on benefits of estrogen from new studies see our blog at:Your Heart Book Cover- Final FINAL
www.yourheartbook.com

http://tinyurl.com/mvpm2y9

The Benefits of Daily Exercise after Menopause

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Women experience menopause with lost ovarian function due to aging or surgical removal. Loss of estrogen in the postmenopausal state affects the body in both obvious and subtle ways. Obvious effects are hot flushes, thinning hair and skin wrinkling, but there are many more silent harmful effects.

Early menopause contributes to osteoporosis. Gradual weakening of bones occurs without the estrogen stimulus to calcium metabolism and bone strength. Further bone loss may evolve to fractures and disability.

We also know the effectiveness of high-density-lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” blood fat, is reduced without estrogen effect. This transporter molecule is responsible for removing cholesterol buildup in arteries. HDL particles without the effect of estrogen are less efficient and the risk for heart attacks increases in women following menopause. Postmenopausal women can offset some of this effect by eating healthy and staying active. Statin medication to modify abnormal blood lipids may also be needed.

A study reported at the North American Menopause Society stated women after menopausal tend to weigh more, have larger waist lines, and a higher percentage of body fat than younger more active premenopausal women. Sedentary behavior correlated with a larger waist size – no surprise. But their findings showed regular exercise brought benefit to both pre- and post-menopausal women. When women increased their daily exercise – energy, mobility, and bone density all improved, along with reduction in waist size. Increased activity and weight control can also reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Last year, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research reported a four year study examining women who walked the equivalent of thirty minutes per day had a lower risk of invasive breast cancer. The exact mechanism is unknown, but we do know exercise carries many positive benefits. Researchers stressed the benefit of lowered risk of invasive breast cancer was lost when exercise stopped — so daily exercise is key.

Walking daily can become a positive routine and is as important to overall health as brushing your teeth. Dogs love to walk. Our dogs provide encouragement to take a hike even in the rain. If you don’t have a dog, find a friend to join you. Exercise and social relationships correlate with happiness and longer life. Find a route that makes you smile and take a daily walk.

Some good advice from Dr. Seuss:
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

20151018_142608Betty and Bev

Alcohol, Women and the Economy

k9293041Alcohol abuse has ruined many lives and relationships. There are few families without these problems. Child abuse, partner abuse and self-abuse are all intertwined when it comes to the use of mind-changing substances. Some people are successful occasional users, many are not.

Recent research articles and experiences with alcoholic friends stimulated this series of blogs on the topic. This will be our last one for now, but I wanted to end with recent information on the topic to help you analyze your own behavior and possibly intervene when you see dangerous behavior occurring.
Microbreweries and small distilleries have become popular everywhere. Tasting a “flight” of either beer or hard liquor samples may put you over the safe driving blood alcohol limit of .08. A designated driver is essential. One in ten deaths among working-age Americans between the ages of 20-64 is caused by excessive alcohol. Drunk driving kills.

Two days ago, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study showing alcohol consumption and costs have accelerated. The economic costs are due to reduced work productivity, the cost of treating people for health problems related to alcohol, and crime. These statistics did not examine the pain and suffering from alcoholic behaviors.
We all understand why pregnant women must be wary of alcohol and its harm to an unborn child. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, also called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a constant reminder that mental and physical changes are attributable to a mother’s behavior while pregnant. There is no amount of alcohol consumed while pregnant that has been proven safe. The primary concern is that small amounts of alcohol could negatively affect the developing fetal brain. Each woman has to decide. Our advice to pregnant women is to wait and have a glass champagne to celebrate after the birth of your child.

Many have a glass of wine for social reasons. Others drink to get drunk, or are addicted and don’t stop until their blood alcohol level causes them to pass out. Tragedies happen every day due to alcohol. Think twice before you drink, and never drive after drinking.

Betty and Bev

BLOOD ALCOHOL DETERMINATIONS

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined the legal alcohol intoxication level as anything exceeding 0.08. A breathalyzer test will determine your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). The legal limit in all states in the United States is a number below .08.

This is 80 mg per deciliter and is sometimes stated as 80 mg% or .08 BAC.
Alcohol can be measured in the blood within minutes of consumption due to rapid absorption. Food in the stomach helps to slow absorption. In fact, a person is more likely to fail a breathalyzer test if they have not eaten.

A common question is: “How many drinks can I drink before I reach the .08 level?” The answer is: “The number of drinks varies by individual.” In some cases, it may take only one drink to put a person into the “Driving Under the Influence” (DUI) category.

Some people don’t need much alcohol at all to be considered legally drunk. Weight, gender and body fat percentage, plus alcohol tolerance, all factor into the equation. So, if you are concerned about how many drinks you can have before driving, the best answer is “zero” – do not drink and drive. Whether or not you consider yourself “drunk,” the law considers you to be an offender if your BAC is above .08%.

A level of 0.05 is significantly below the legal intoxication level of 0.08, but can slow reaction time and result in sedation. As blood alcohol levels increase, common effects include:
0.08 – Legal intoxication with increased impairment in thinking and reaction time
0.10 – Poor coordination, slowed thinking and speech impairment
0.20 – Trouble walking, nausea, vomiting
0.30 – Memory loss, cool body temperature, may lose consciousness (pass out)
0.40 – Coma, trouble breathing and possible death
0.50 – Death

The rate of metabolism of alcohol in the body also varies but an estimate follows:20151007_151522
A 150 pound woman who consumes one “standard” drink over one hour will attain a BAC of 0.03. After two hours, her BAC will be 0.00. One “standard” drink consists of 12 ounces of beer, or a 5% alcohol cooler (5 ounces of 12% alcohol wine), or 1.5 ounces of spirits such as 40% vodka or whiskey.

If a woman weighs 100 pounds and consumes two standard drinks in one hour, her BAC will approximate 0.08, producing legal intoxication.

Alcohol quickly lowers inhibitions and impairs thinking. About 50% of Montana motor vehicle fatalities are alcohol related. These statistics support a zero tolerance for drunk driving and encourage designated sober drivers in all situations.

Betty and Bev

PALCOHOL: Powdered Alcohol

Palcohol labelIn March 2015, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved the use of powdered alcohol in the United States. It appears it will eventually become available in both consumable and non-ingestible industrial forms, but when and where it will be available for purchase is yet unknown. The General Foods Corporation made powdered alcohol as early as the 1970’s by absorbing ethyl alcohol/ethanol into a carbohydrate powder. Many patents exist on the product, but powdered alcohol is still not readily available and some believe that is a good thing.

Turning water into alcohol drinks by just adding powder has generated fear of abuse. Some parents and legislators believe the ease of concealment of powdered alcohol would encourage use among underage drinkers. In spite of liquid alcohol being readily available, some legislators are considering banning the sale of the powdered form. Some states have already banned sale of the product.

Mark Phillips with Lipsmark have recently obtained the TTB’s approval, but authorities are not clear on how to tax the product. Labels have been approved and it appears it will be available soon. Lipsmark, LLC, located in Tempe, AZ, produces six varieties of palcohol including vodka, rum, and four cocktails.

Lipsmark’s products so far include:
“R”- rum, made from cane sugar
“V”- vodka, made from grain
Cosmopolitan cocktail
Mojito
Lemon Drop
Powderita, a margarita-like drink

The Lipsmark website states the reactive legislation is based on misinformation regarding misuse and abuse. Inappropriate use, including snorting the powder is one concern but the company reports it would be difficult to snort, and a very ineffective way to feel alcohol effects. It would take a long time to sniff the equivalent of one shot of vodka up your nose. The powder on mucus membranes generates the harsh burn of alcohol.

In Japan, a powdered product producing a 12% alcohol brandy-like drink is made by Sato Industries. The company released this alcohol drink in 1981. In Germany, a powdered alcohol product sells for about $3 US dollars per drink. The Netherlands also sells a product called Booz2Go.

There are a variety of potential beneficial uses for non-ingestible forms, including: military and industrial applications, medicinal topical use, and a fuel source. Other benefits of the powdered product include its light weight and potential use by back-packers, and for consumption on weight-limited airliners.

The ease of carrying the powder into public events, plus the possibility of covertly spiking the drinks of unsuspecting individuals, generated enough concern for Maryland legislators that they quickly banned the sale of powdered alcohol. Alaska, Delaware, Louisiana, South Carolina and Vermont followed suit.

Failures of Prohibition have not deterred more legislators from considering a ban that could move Palcohol to the black markets. Taxing and controlling its sale would stop that trend. Mark Phillips emphasizes the decisions to ban are based on ignorant speculation. He reminds people of the failure of Prohibition.

We remind people to always drink sensibly and drive sober.

For additional information directly from Phillips’ site consult: http://www.palcohol.com. For additional information from a legal source consult: http://www.bevlaw.com

Betty and Bev

I’ll Drink to That!

Some water flowing in high mountain streams is pristine enough to drink without the need of additives to kill or filter out disease-causing microbes. But, in many places on planet earth, water clean enough for consumption is in short supply. In California and other drought-ridden locations, plants and animals are dying due to insufficient water. In many areas around the world, dysentery from drinking contaminated water is prevalent and life-threatening.

We take water purity for granted in the US where chlorinated water pours from our taps. But, during much of the past 10,000 years, before the availability of pure water, the only safe liquid to drink contained alcohol. Today, we see alcohol through many lenses, with both good and bad views.

Alcohol is the metabolic byproduct of the natural process of fermentation that occurs when yeasts metabolize sugars. In the Middle Ages, alcohol was called “the water of life,” aqua vitae. They learned to make wine from grapes, and beer from fermented grain. People of all ages, including children, drank alcoholic beverages as their primary consumable liquid. The alcohol destroyed many microbes causing disease and made it safer to drink than water. The processes for making wine and beer are simple. Today, many people make them for fun. Microbreweries have sprung up everywhere. There are many suppliers, even health food stores carry the products.

All alcohols are not consumable. Some can cause blindness and death. Disinfectant alcohol is applied to surfaces of the body prior to medical procedures, and is the primary ingredient in liquid hand purifiers. Windshield cleaners spew various colored fluids containing alcohol. There are many industrial uses.

20150626_195841The drinkable form is ethyl alcohol. It is used in celebratory toasts, paired with elegant dining, and has been shown to contribute to cardiovascular health. Undisciplined drinking carries health risks and tragedy. Alcohol is a sedative drug and a toxin. Excessive consumption contributes to loss of mental function, also causing addiction and liver failure. Alcohol has become a common social drink and a problem for many who drink to excess.

Our next blog will review a new powdered alcohol product called palcohol. Additional blogs will provide information on health and social issues related to alcohol consumption, common early signs of problematic drinking, and will discuss blood alcohol determinations.

Here’s to safe drinking, designated drivers, and moderation in all things.

Betty and Bev