12 Double Duty Health Moves
Source: MSN Health
Eat Cherries...To decrease post-workout soreness and reduce stroke risk
Whether you’re recovering from a workout or looking for new ways to improve your heart health, a handful of cherries may be what the doctor ordered. Tart cherries may reduce stroke risk and also ease post-workout muscle pain. In fact, new animal research from the University of Michigan Health System (April 2013) suggests that tart cherries provide similar cardiovascular benefits to prescription medications. Researchers believe anthocyanins (pigments responsible for the fruit’s red color) in the fruit reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. “Anthocyanins also decrease inflammation, thereby decreasing muscle soreness,” says Maxine Smith, RD, a dietician with the Cleveland Clinic. Currently no specific intake recommendation for stroke prevention is available. To reduce muscle soreness, a mixture of cherry and apple juice equivalent to 12 to 24 ounces a day one week prior to an athletic event works best.
Exercise... and reduce depression and your risk of osteoporosis
Brisk walking and pumping iron on a regular basis not only helps keep off excess weight but also reduces your risk of osteoporosis and depression. Exercise helps decrease depression by triggering the production of endorphins, chemicals that produce feelings of well-being, says Dr. Richard Kelley, a physician based in Austin, Texas, and the author of "The Fitness Response" (2012). “Lifting weights increases bone strength by stimulating the bone to which that muscle is attached. This causes the bone to undergo a process called ‘remodeling,’ whereby calcium is taken up by the bone and the bone becomes stronger.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking) per week and two or more days a week of muscle-strengthening exercise.
Floss your teeth...and reduce gum disease and heart disease risk
The simple act of cleaning between your teeth with a piece of string not only saves your teeth but also reduces your risk of heart disease. Flossing removes dental plaque, helping to prevent gum disease and tooth decay, according to the American Dental Association. Failure to floss can harm your heart by creating inflammation at the gum line and causing a generalized inflammation throughout the body, says Dr. Larry Santora, cardiologist from St. Joseph Health System in Orange, Calif. “Part of the development of plaque in the heart is an inflammatory process; the lining of the arteries become irritated.” Floss at least once a day to save your teeth and your heart.
Practice Tai Chi... to enhance brainpower and protect your heart
The ancient martial art of tai chi helps improve balance, which reduces falls, and studies show that it can also improve memory. Tai chi’s slow stretching and boxing movements do not require special skills, which makes the practice ideal for all fitness levels. According to a study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, participants in one-hour, twice weekly tai chi classes held in senior centers for 12 weeks significantly improved balance and reduced falling. Plus, an eight-month trial study found increases in brain volume and improvements in memory among seniors who practiced tai chi three times a week, according to a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (June 2012). Check out www.AmericanTaiChi.net for practitioners in your area.
Drink coffee...and protect against breast cancer relapse and oral cancers
Your morning cup of joe does more than gear you up for another workday; studies show it protects against two types of cancers. Out of more than 960,000 men and women, those who drank more than four cups of caffeinated coffee per day were at about half the mortality risk of often-fatal oral cancer compared with those who occasionally or never drank coffee, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology (2012). Plus, women on Tamoxifen who drank one to two cups of coffee a day were less likely to experience a recurrence of breast cancer. Coffee may also protect against a type of skin cancer. Coffee drinkers experienced a reduced risk of basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Eat dark chocolate...to enhance brainpower and protect your heart
Dark chocolate may help you finish that crossword puzzle as well as protect your heart, according to research from the University of Oxford, Norway. More than 2,000 people ages 70 to 74 underwent a battery of cognitive tests. Those who consumed chocolate and other flavonoid (powerful antioxidants)-containing foods had significantly higher test scores that those who did not. Prior studies link a high flavonoid intake with lower dementia risk. “Keep in mind this refers to the dark chocolate only, not milk chocolate,” Santora says. These same flavonoids may also protect your cardiovascular system. Cleveland Clinic recommends enjoying one ounce of dark chocolate a few times a week and including other flavonoid-rich foods such as apples, tea, onions and cranberries in your diet.
Meditate... to ease stress and to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke
Practicing meditation eases stress, lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a study published in the American Heart Association journal, Circulation (2012). African Americans who regularly practiced transcendental meditation were nearly 50 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared with African Americans who attended a health education class. “Meditation cuts down on stress hormones such as cortisol,” says cardiologist Santora. “Cortisol causes arteries to squeeze down and it also plays a role in inflammation. Even five minutes of meditation a day can help.”
Take Vitamin D.. to reduce depression and heart disease
Vitamin D isn’t just for bone building. Studies show it can help reduce depression and heart disease risk as well. Correcting vitamin D deficiencies in women with moderate to severe depression improved their symptoms, according to a case report presented at the 2012 Endocrine Society Annual Meeting. Researchers believe a yet-unproven link exists between vitamin D and mood. Three women all reported significant improvements in depression after eight to 12 weeks of vitamin D replacement therapy. Vitamin D also keeps the lining of arteries supple and less prone to plaque formation, says Santora, who recommends vitamin D-3 supplements. “It’s important, particularly as we age, because our body’s ability to convert sunlight into vitamin D declines as we get older.”
Eat more fiber... for weight loss and Gi tract health
Increasing the fiber in your diet keeps your gastrointestinal tract healthy and may also help you lose weight. “Fiber assists in weight loss, mainly by making you feel full and helping you decrease calorie intake,” says Dr. Patrick Takahashi, chief gastroenterologist at St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles. A study by the University of Illinois shows that dietary fiber promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the GI tract. The average fiber intake by adults in the United States is half of recommended levels, particularly among those who follow low-carb diets. To increase dietary fiber enough to meet the recommended 25 to 35 grams per day, add more whole grains, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet.
Eat seafood... to reduce the risk of prostate cancer and viral infections
Eating seafood and other foods high in selenium may protect against prostate cancer as well as against viral infections. The findings of a large Dutch study (2013) presented recently at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2013 associates high selenium levels with significantly reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer. Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition (2007) shows deficiencies in selenium links to altered immune responses and changed relatively benign viruses into more dangerous ones. “The selenium content varies greatly depending on the fish species, the location and the season, however,” says dietician Smith. Fish highest in selenium include salmon, tilapia, shrimp, cod, tuna, trout, swordfish, sea bass, lobster and shark.