Medical Gems

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One of the best ways to lose excess weight is to eat a piece or two of fruit with meals. Women who ate a piece of pear or apple have been shown in a study to shed more extra pounds than those who ate the same controlled-calorie meal without eating fruits. The high-fiber fruits obviously satisfy the hunger sooner, leading to lower total calorie intake. Heavier people are more prone to illness and recovery from a medical condition or surgery also takes longer among them. Eating a lot of fruits, which are loaded with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) may also lower one's risk of heart disease, as much as 28% lower. Fresh fruits and fruit juices are better sources of vitamin C than pills.

Listening to relaxation tape, a more economical way to reduce stress and improve sleep, has been found to be as effective the more expensive therapeutic massage or other pricier gimmicks.

Having a lot of good friends, and taking time to enjoy their company, is good for health and mental well-being. Medical studies among hypertensives (high blood pressure patients) have shown that those with the fewest friends in their immediate social circle had the highest blood pressure readings. Properly caring for your overall health can make your physiologic age 16 years younger than your chronologic age.

Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is an inflammatory protein that has been linked to aging and disease, and found elevated in the blood of persons with unamanaged chronic stress. One of the best ways to manage stress and also improve the immune system is to take daily long unhurried walks, listen to soothing music and good jokes, do some regular dancing, and spend time with family and friends.

Laughter is the best medicine. So they say. And they are right. Medical literature is replete with information to show that tickling your funny bone really boosts your immune system. Various data show that those who indulge in cheerful or amusing pastime have higher levels of immunity. This translates to increased resistance to colds, infections and other diseases.

Positive emotions like laughter has been shown to control the roller-coaster or spikes in blood sugar level after meals. Those diabetics who watched funny shows during dinner, compared to those who listened to lectures during dinner, showed lower blood sugar levels. Preventing spikes in the level of blood sugar minimizes complications from diabetes.

Monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, and high-fiber whole grains have been found to help prevent diabetes or help control blood sugar levels among diabetics. So, dipping a slice of whole-grain bread into a little olive oil, is a healthy way to start a meal, especially among those with diabetes. But make sure you obtain the advice of your attending physician on this and other health matters.

Diet high in fiber and folate, coupled with regular exercise, has also been found to lower among men the blood level of homocysteine, a marker substance for heart disease. Among women, similar diet and exercise reduce homocysteine level but the greater impact on this substance appears to be from minimizing coffee and alcoholic beverages.

Is too late for seniors to benefit from exercise? The answer is no, it's never too late to exercise. Studies have impressively shown that even among those who were 65 and over, who lived a sedentary life, before starting a regimented exercise program, reduced the risk of cancer by 51% and of heart disease by 36%. Regular exercises also make individuals feeling and looking 6 years younger. Indeed, it is never too late to do good things. Consult your physician before you indulge in exercises after decades of "hibernation" on the couch, holding a TV remote control and munching on junk foods. By the way, it is not too late either to quit smoking (at any stage) and to start eating the right diet.

And talking about eating right, Dr. Fe del Mundo, internationally renowned Pediatrician, scientist and medical leader, who is still practicing Pediatrics at age 92 (not a typo) at the children's hospital named in her honor, located at 11 Banawe Street, Quezon City, Philippines, gave us the following advice, her formula for longevity: "Leave the dining table a little less full, a little hungry, and you will live longer." Recent studies have corroborated and scientifically validated her "theory." One good strategy in maintaining a good weight is drinking a tall glass of water before each meal, and by staying away from rice, bread, cake, carbohydrates in general. Five small feedings of high-fiber, low-cholesterol food daily (total caloric intake not to exceed what is normal for you) is healthier than 3 big super-meals a day, because the former keeps the blood sugar level on an more even level, without much fluctuation, which is better for your health.

Brushing our teeth vigorously is bad for our teeth. Using too much pressure or brushing for more than two minutes would tend to harm the teeth and gums. Gentle strokes of the daily brushing (at least after each meal) is effective enough to remove plaques. Dental flossing and gurgling with mouthwash are a good adjunct for better oral hygiene.

Viagra, watch out for stiff (no pun intended) competitors. They are both coming. The new anti-erectile dysfunction pills are Levitra (made by Glaxo-Smith Kline and Bayer) and Cialis (by Eli Lilly), both described by their manufacturer as faster in onset of action (25 to 30 minutes) and longer lasting (up 5 hours for Levitra and to 24 hours for Cialis) and both now available in Europe. Viagra, which will soon come out in the form of chewing gum, has generated $1.7 billion in sales for Pfizer Inc in year 2002 alone. It has been on the market for five years, prescribed by more than a million physicians for more than 20 million men in 120 countries, dispensed at the rate of 9 pills per second or 540 every minute worldwide. Viagra, which acts between 30-60 minutes) lasts for about 5 hours, longer among some men. The two new drugs are expected to get approval by the FDA before the end of this year.

The debate as to whether organic food (farmed without pesticides or other artificial aids, produced in the natural way) is superior to the conventionally raised crops is far from over. While hundreds of studies have been conducted to determine if organically grown produce is more nutritious, safer, and contains more phtytonutrients, antioxidant phytochemicals, which substances bolster the immune system and fight cancers and arteriosoclerosis, many researchers questioned the validity of the conclusions of the studies that claim organic foods contain more vitamin C, minerals, polyphenols, salicylic acid, etc. "because the protocols used were not faithfully scientific and controlled and, therefore, flawed." There is no debate on the pesticide issue. The question is whether organically raised food in fact contain higher levels of those phytonutrients, phytochemical antioxidants and minerals. While waiting for the final word from our food scientists, let's wash our fruits and vegetables very well, and eat a lot of them everyday. There is no debate in the fact that fruits and vegetables are good for our health, certainly much much better than high cholesterol eggs and red meat, as far as prevention of cancer and heart disease (and many metabolic illnesses) is concerned. The fruit and/or vegetable pills now on the market are useless junks and a waste of money. These pills are healthy, not for the consumers, but for the financial status of manufacturers, promoters and their fellow purveyors of fraud and deceit.

©2003Raoul R. Diez, M.A.O.D.