Sunday, February 15, 2009

5 Veggies a Day Keep Strokes Away; Plus Recipe

If your blood vessels aren't happy, the rest of your body isn't happy. After all, it is the blood vessels which bring our bodies nutrition and oxygen - and keep us alive!

Luckily, a new study show a simple "trick" we can use to keep our blood vessels flexible, resilient, and happy - simply eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables, ideally spread throughout the day.

A recent well-designed study presented at the American Heart Association scientific sessions demonstrated that in overweight people with slightly elevated blood pressure, EACH serving of fruit or vegetables per day gave additional improvement in how our arteries functioned under stress. This study backs up another study of 257,000 people which showed a whopping 26% reduction in stroke risk among people who ate five or more portions of vegetables per day! You can read about these at:

The good news is that it can be pretty easy, with just a little planning, to get in at least five servings of fruit and vegetables. Fresh, organic veggies are great, of course, but for people who have trouble getting to the Farmer's Market, it is good to know that frozen vegetables, and even dried fruit, are an inexpensive, convenient, and healthful way to get your servings!

Frozen berries (with no sugar added) can be added to breakfast smoothies, cereal, yogurt, or served as dessert with a little low cal whipped topping.

Frozen vegetables can be added to egg white omelets, or for dinner, into stir-fry, tomato sauce for pasta, hidden as an extra "health boost" into many dishes.

Organic dried fruits with no sugar added can be used as part of your snacks throughout the day. Try Newman's Organic raisins, organic mango, apricots, etc (I choose organic to minimize the pesticide residue.)

Last night my husband Ron tossed together a quick little delicious vegetable side dish, made from frozen "California stir-fry" mixed vegetables (the kind with no sauce added from the store). Here is the simple, healthier way to make your own sauce:

1 Cup low sodium chicken broth (I like Pacific Organics Free Range Chicken Broth, which comes in a convenient resealable box you can keep in your fridge.)
2 Tbs Light Mayo (I really like Hellmann's Canola Oil Mayo)
1-2 Tbs Minced onion (fresh, or dried herb in a jar)
1 Bag of frozen vegetables.

Put the chicken broth and mayo into a saucepan over medium to medium high heat and stir. Once smooth and blended, add the minced onion. Continue to cook until onion is soft; finally add frozen vegetables. Cook and stir over medium heat until vegetables are coated, and most of liquid is absorbed - then enjoy!

This is so easy, I could almost cook it myself (but thanks Ron!) We had this with some easy frozen salmon filets from a "big box store", cooked on the "George Foreman" style grill. Inexpensive, easy, healthy, and delicious.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Exercise: How Much, What Kind, and What if you have a Medical Condition?

Okay, I must be on a Harvard kick this week (apologizes to my Alma Mater, Tufts), but I have to share a very nice article from Harvard Medical School's Health Publications:

This is a very extensive paper on exercise, including links to guidelines ("2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans" (, a fitness test(, the American College of Sports Medicine's fitness planner (, a NIDDK guide to overcoming exercise barriers (, the ACSM's tip sheets on exercise issues related to physical activity, including Alzheimer's disease, blood clots during exercise, anxiety and depression, heart conditions, cancer, low-back pain, and visual impairment, and more!

From the HHS guideline for medical professionals (

Children and Adolescents (aged 6–17):
60 minutes or more of moderate or vigorous physical activity every day.
They also should do muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activity on at least 3 days per week.

Adults (aged 18–64):
Moderate-intense aerobic activity 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) a week, (that comes out to a 30 minute workout 5 days a week) OR
Vigorous aerobic activity 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) a week (that comes out to 15 intense minutes per day, 5 days a week).
Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, preferably spread throughout the week.
Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups performed on 2 or more days per week.

Older Adults (aged 65 and older)
Older adults should follow the adult guidelines. If this is not possible due to limiting chronic conditions, older adults should be as physically active as their abilities allow. They should avoid inactivity. Older adults should do exercises that maintain or improve balance if they are at risk of falling.

For all individuals, some activity is better than none.

People with diagnosed chronic conditions (such as diabetes, heart disease, or osteoarthritis) or symptoms (e.g., chest pain or pressure, dizziness, or joint pain) need to consult with a health care provider about physical activity.

Adults With Disabilities
Follow the adult guidelines. If this is not possible, these persons should be as physically active as their abilities allow. They should avoid inactivity.

I will soon post a reprint of my WebMD University interview on starting an exercise program...don't be discouraged!!! Even 10 minutes a day of exercise will begin to improve your health!

Is It Really Important to Keep Blood Glucose Normal In Adult Onset Type II Diabetes?

How important is it to keep "tight control" of blood glucose numbers if you have Type II Diabetes (Adult Onset Diabetes Mellitus)?

The simple answer: VERY IMPORTANT.

There was confusion last spring when one study (the ACCORD trial), seemed to suggest that people were better off if they did NOT keep their blood sugars at the "normal" range. This made no sense to physicians, and indeed, after looking more closely at the data, it appears that early, tight control of blood sugars gives substantial health benefits. Experts now agree that the best approach is to INDIVIDUALIZE the treatment of patients with Type II diabetes (imagine that!). There are many health benefits from "tight", careful control of blood sugars, as long as dangerously low blood sugars are avoided, and intolerable medication side effects are avoided.

The new study results are fascinting. You can read an abstract of the article published by the New England Journal of Medicine at:

To summarize, this study began with 4,209 patients with newly diagnosed diabetes, and then broke them into groups, with different treatments. One group received only dietary restrictions, another group received insulin or an older type of oral medication known as sulfonylureas, and a third group (who were overweight) received an oral medication known as metformin (or Glucophage.) To make a long story short, both medicine groups were much healthier in the long term than the diet-only group, and the metformin (Glucophage) group was healthier than the sulfonylurea/insulin group.
"In the metformin group, significant risk reductions persisted for any diabetes-related end point (21%, P=0.01), myocardial infarction (33%, P=0.005), and death from any cause (27%, P=0.002). "

Harvard has a nice online discussion of this study, and optimal management of Type II diabetes at:
Highlights from this article: "In the past, doctors usually have told newly diagnosed patients with type 2 diabetes to try diet and exercise first to bring down their blood sugar. Now that should change. They should immediately begin taking medicine. This doesn't mean that diet and exercise are not just as important as before. As blood sugar gets under control, medicine can be tapered. In some cases, it can be discontinued.
For most, metformin should be the first medicine. This is especially true if the person is obese...There are exceptions. People with impaired kidney function probably should avoid metformin. Caution is advised with heart failure and some types of severe liver disease...Whether you were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes yesterday or 20 years ago, you want your blood pressure less than 130/80. Your LDL cholesterol should be less than 100 (preferably closer to 70). Achieving these goals clearly decreases the risks of heart attack and stroke and helps protect the kidneys.
Some doctors already advise their patients to start metformin if they are at high risk for developing diabetes. This would include obese patients with high normal blood sugar who have a strong family history of type 2 diabetes. Research is under way to help answer whether starting medicine even before the onset of diabetes improves results."

As always, discuss all treatment options with your own physician.