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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Diabetes Awareness Day

Sorry I missed it but Tuesday was Diabetes Awareness Day and the American Diabetes Association encouraged everyone to take a quick online test to determine your level of risk for having or developing diabetes.  I took the test myself and scored 2; anything below 4 is a low risk.  I strongly encourage everyone to take the test which takes less than 5 minutes.  So many Americans already have diabetes or are pre-diabetic and are totally unaware of it.

I have ranted before about the dangers of diabetes and how terrible the disease is but I guess I can never do it enough if just one person listens each time.  Diabetes often leads to heart disease, kidney disease and blindness.  Diabetes is also the leading cause of non-injury related amputations.

To take the test, go to Diabetes Risk Test - American Diabetes Association.  Please share this important information with your friends and family.  You could save a life.

Once again, eating a proper diet is a key to preventing Type II diabetes.  The rate of diabetes is soaring in the U.S. due to poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and ignorance of the disease.  Diabetes affects certain ethnic groups such as Hispanics and Blacks more than Caucasians but don't think that lets you off the hook if you are white.

I know people think that eating the kind of food I recommend and exercising is too much trouble.  They don't want to go to the effort to cook and prefer their fast food and sedentary lifestyle.  But I can tell you with 100% certainty that they will not like their lifestyle at all when it revolves around doctor visits, expensive medication, hospitalization, and restrictions on what they are capable of doing.  Health problems don't just affect the patient, they cause stress and financial difficulties for the whole family.  No one wants to be a burden to their loved ones so do the right thing.

The symptoms of diabetes include:
1. frequent urination
2. unusual thirst
3. extreme hunger
4. unusual weight loss
5. extreme fatigue or irritability
6.  frequent infections
7. blurred vision
8. cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
9. tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
Type II diabetics often have no symptoms but if you have 2 or more of these symptoms, please discuss it with your doctor as soon as possible.

People with the following risk factors may develop diabetes.
1. family history of diabetes
2. injury to or disease in the pancreas
3. obesity - this is the single best predictor of type 2 diabetes
4. being insulin resistant
5. high blood pressure
6. sedentary lifestyle
7. age - those over 45 are more likely to develop diabetes but due to the obesity epidemic, type 2 diabetes is spreading in increasingly younger people as is heart disease

Take the time to take care of yourself before it is too late.  I plan to enjoy life to the fullest, not sit in a wheelchair without my legs or dragging an oxygen tank everywhere.  I hope you can too.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Health News Tidbits

I'm always looking at new ways to loose weight safely and over spring break I did find a way.  If you are having your kitchen remodeled, it is an excellent time to loose a few pounds as you can't access your food.  You do have to be careful not to go out and eat large, fattening meals though.  Just kidding.  I did lose a couple of pounds over spring break but I think that was due more to nerves.  We were all a bit stressed from the constant loud noise as they tore out tile and installed new floor supports.  The animals didn't eat as much either, not that they need to lose weight.

Anyway, I did hear some interesting things on the news last night.  Lately the news has been full of health related news.  BPI or Beef Products Inc. has suspended operations in 3 out of 4 plants due to the negative public reaction to pink slime and the fact that several top grocery chains will no longer purchase it.  They have promised to pay workers for 60 days as they try to convince the public that pink slime is perfectly ok to eat.  If you haven't read up on pink slime, check my post on March 13th.  You can read BPI's side and make up your own mind.  At least, meat containing pink slime should be labeled as such so the public can know exactly what they are buying.  Personally, I don't want to eat anything that has chemicals like ammonia sprayed on it.

On a more positive note, ABC news reported that popcorn is a more wholesome snack than we thought, IF you don't drown it in butter, salt and other oils.  One serving of popcorn has more antioxidants than a DAY's worth of fruits and vegetables.  Popcorn is the only food that is 100% whole grain and whole grains have more fiber and antioxidants that fruits and vegetables.  Other foods labeled 100% whole grain have other ingredients mixed in, like bread.  Popcorn hulls have the highest concentration of antioxidants.

This old popper has been in use since the mid 80's and is still going strong!

What are antioxidants you ask?  That is a pretty complicated answer but I'll do my best.  Antioxidants are substances like vitamin C which prevent or slow oxidative damage to our body.  When our body uses oxygen, free radicals are produced which cause the damage.  Antioxidants act to "mop up" the free radicals.  All you need to know is that free radicals are bad, antioxidants are good.  Antioxidants can help protect against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases.

So dust off your popcorn popper, break out the Redenbachers and canola oil.  You do have a popper don't you?  I don't think that microwave popcorn is as healthy as most is filled with stuff you don't need.  If you do use microwave popcorn, buy the most natural, additive free version you can find.  Better to pop your own in an old fashioned popper like mine so you can control the oil, salt and other ingredients.  I should think popcorn popper sales will rise after this report.  Try using different spices to jazz up your popcorn in place of salt and skip the butter.  A serving is 3 popped cups by the way, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Last but not least, I had a great time at the Women's Health Conference on Saturday.  The women I spoke to were funny and interested in learning how to be healthier.  Try to make it next year.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Break

Due to the next week being spring break I will not be posting anything this week.  Not because I will be on a lovely trips somewhere but because I will have a house full of men, replacing my kitchen floor, installing new doors and a support beam downstairs.  I will be trying to corral the cats and the dog who will all be scared and fighting the dust and dirt.  I will be trying to keep my kids out of the house as much as possible.  But at the end of the week, I'll have a beautiful tile floor without loose, cracked tiles and doors that work properly.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Can Sugary Drinks (Sodas) Be BAD For You?

What a week it has been for heart health news!  First the disgusting revelations about pink slime (which is in your children's school lunches), then the bad news for beef eaters and now the soda industry is taking the hit on the chin.  Just yesterday a new study was in the news which shows that men who drink one 12 oz. sugary beverage each day have a whopping 20% increased risk for developing heart disease.  You may be thinking that 20% isn't so much but if I could earn a 20% return on my investments, I'd be deliriously happy.

Let's look at this a bit closer.  A typical 12 oz. soda contains 10 tsp. of sugar but many people opt for the convenient 20 oz. bottle which ups the sugar content to 18 tsp.  And how many soda drinkers limit themselves to just one soda a day?  If you are a sweet tea drinker, don't start congratulating yourself yet.  I have no idea how much sugar is in an equivalent glass of sweet tea but I'm sure it's not in the healthy range either.  What about lemonade or other popular "fruit" drinks?  The point is that continually subjecting your body to high levels of sugar stresses the body's normal functions, resulting in heart disease and diabetes.

This is what 18 tsp. of sugar looks like.  Would you eat it with a spoon?  Why drink it then?

This study, done over 22 years, was only done on men but other studies show that women are just as much at risk; after all, our bodies process sugar the same way.  Less frequent drinkers of sodas and those who drink diet sodas did not show such an increased risk.  It is also possible that soda drinkers have other unhealthy habits that contribute to the increased risk for heart disease and diabetes such as not exercising and eating processed foods.

I have been harping for years to my family, friends and readers that you are what you eat.  If you stuff your body with chemicals, sugar and fat, you have to expect to get sick at some point, in some way.  Think cancer, heart disease, strokes, gout, diabetes, kidney disease.  Give your body what it needs: vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean protein!  It's an ugly battle to regain your health once you've wrecked it, one that you may lose at a painfully early age.  I am so thankful that I gave up Mountain Dew years ago and have mostly replaced it with water.  I am also thankful that I have never really liked red meat so the we don't eat it very often at all.  Most of all, I am thankful for my healthy body and that of my family.  I have seen first hand the financial, emotional and physical toll that disease takes on the whole family, and if I can help prevent that from happening again, I'm glad to do what it takes.

So what can you do today to be healthier?    

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Beef, To Eat Or Not To Eat

There has been a lot of bad publicity for the beef industry in the last week and if you missed it, I'm here to fill you in.  First, Diane Sawyer exposed that as much as 70% of ground beef in the U.S. contains pink slime, a filler once used only for dog food.  Hamburger patties contain as much as 25% of pink slime.  Pink slime is made from the waste trimmings from the cow, fat and connective tissue, which is simmered at a low temperature, spun in a centrifuge and then mixed with ground beef.  Oh, I left out the part where they spray it with ammonia to kill the bacteria.  I don't know about you, but I use ammonia to clean with, not spray on my food for that bit of extra flavor.

The USDA has said that pink slime is "meat" so it doesn't have to appear on the label.  The only way to be sure you aren't serving up slime and ammonia to your children is to buy USDA organic beef which is pure meat, no fillers.  Interestingly enough, the USDA official who approved pink slime later took a job with the beef industry and made a hefty salary.  The former USDA scientist who exposed pink slime to the world says that pink slime is not nutritious and does not buy beef at any store.  The beef industry uses pink slime to increase their bottom line and doesn't have your health in mind at this point.

Then just last night, Diane Sawyer again hammered the beef industry with further bad news.  A new study shows that eating a serving a day of red meat greatly shortens your life span.  Eating red meat can raise your risk of premature death by 12%, your risk of heart disease by 16 % and your risk of certain cancers by 10 %.  Keep in mind that a serving is about the size of a deck of cards and that the average serving of beef is several times that size.  In fact, Americans eat an average of 120 pounds of beef each year.  Processed meats such as hot dogs, lunch meat and bacon are even worse.

I hope this makes you think.  Our family eats very little red meat.  I substitute ground turkey in almost everything such as spaghetti and meatloaf.  My family has never complained and guests never seem to notice.  Before I knew of the health risks of beef, I didn't really like the taste and few people can make beef inedible like I can.  So we have long since eaten a healthier diet of chicken, fish and some pork and I encourage you to do the same.

Dr. Richard Besser of ABC news encourages people to eat no more than two servings of beef a week.  If President Clinton, once famous for his love of hamburgers and other "bad" food can turn into a vegan, you can learn to eat better too.  He became a vegan after his experience with heart disease and a quadruple bypass.  He says he feels better on a diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  I bet he does.  I know I feel better now that I eat more salads and less heavy meals myself.  So do soul searching.  Do you really want that steak now or that hamburger?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I Feel Naughty Coming On

Who wouldn't feel naughty - this week is the 100th birthday of Oreo cookies!  Right now you may think you are reading some other blog but no, it's me, the cardiologist's wife.  The one who urges you to exercise and give up fat and sugar.  But when someone or something beloved turns 100, we have to celebrate.

I am not usually a fan of store bought cookies.  They just aren't as good as something you baked yourself, especially nice and hot from the oven.  To be honest, I really don't eat Oreos very often now (maybe once a year at Christmas) and didn't as a kid either.  I am impressed with the success of Oreos however.  How many companies have products that have stood the test of time for 100 years?  Indeed, how many businesses last more than a few years?  Coca cola is over 100 years old and Welch's jellies and juice drinks have been around 100 years but the 100 club has few members.

Just in time to celebrate, I'm going to share the recipe of my most popular cookie at our annual Christmas cookie party - the Oreo truffle.  They are super easy to make and no baking required.  You've been warned - no fat, sugar or preservatives are spared.  They are rich and indulgent and can be decorated to suit any holiday or occasion.

Oreo Truffles
1 package Oreo cookies, not double stuffed though you could use the vanilla ones if you like
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, let come to room temperature so it is softened
1 package almond bark
Process the cookies in a food processor until they resemble coffee grounds, trying not to eat too many.  Place crumbs in a large bowl.  Thoroughly mix in the cream cheese until you have a ball of dough.  Using a teaspoon, scoop out a bit of dough and roll it into a smooth ball.  It should be about an inch in diameter.  Set on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  When all the dough is rolled, place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator about an hour to chill.  They dip better chilled.  When ready to dip, melt the almond bark in a microwave safe bowl according to package directions.  Dip the Oreo balls in the melted almond bark and return to the wax paper to dry.  You can sprinkle them with all kinds of decorative sugar or drizzle with colored icing at this point, your imagination is the limit.  Store in the refrigerator but let come to room temperature to serve.  If the balls are too crumbly as you dip them, you didn't mix in the cream cheese well enough.  Also, be careful to follow the directions on the almond bark package.  Don't try to add liquid food coloring to the almond bark or it will seize up and not melt.  I learned that the hard way and had to throw out a package of almond bark and make another trip to the store.  By the way, it probably won't take an entire package of almond bark to cover the truffles, so melt a few chunks at a time.

So there, go ahead and celebrate!  I bought a package of Oreos to take to the swim meet this weekend to share with everyone.  I'm too lazy to make the Truffles today.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We Must Have Coffee Cake Once In Awhile!

I just want to mention that the cardiologist in my life, the couch potato, has really gotten into swimming the last few months.  Finally he has found some exercise that he doesn't want to skip, that he enjoys doing and which doesn't strain his terrible knees.  (Three ACL tears + a torn meniscus + four surgeries = terrible knees)  To give him credit, he also enjoys the Latin dancing we do every week and has gotten really good. It more than qualifies as exercise.  But he swims on his own, not because I drag him there and has is pretty obsessed with doing it on a regular basis.  Kudos to Barry!  Just goes to show that we all can find some type of exercise we'll enjoy and do it often enough to reap the benefits.

But what about the coffee cake you ask?  That sounds more interesting than Barry's exercise routine!  Now you know that while I advocate avoiding sugar, fat and excess calories most of the time, I do indulge once in awhile.  I was very pleased to find this recipe recently which wasn't terribly high in sugar, (something I'm trying to cut way back on!) or fat, if you use non fat plain yogurt or sour cream.  My family all gave it a thumbs up and it was easy to throw together for a nice Saturday breakfast.  It also doesn't make a very large cake which I like because then I don't have cake for days.  A treat one morning is fine, to snack on it all day or for several days not so fine.   Best of all, it has fresh raspberries in it, a real treat!

  Raspberry Coffee Cake
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
Mix dry ingredients and set aside.
1 egg
1/2 cup plain non fat yogurt or sour cream
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix egg through vanilla in a separate bowl and stir well.  Add to dry ingredients and stir till combined.
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup fresh raspberries
Gently toss brown sugar with raspberries.  Grease an 8 inch round cake pan and spread 2/3 of the bater in it. Sprinkle brown sugar/raspberries over the batter, then top with the remaining batter.  Bake for 35 to 40  minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Make a glaze of 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 tsp. milk and 1/4 tsp. vanilla.  Drizzle over cooled cake.  I actually thought there was a bit too much sugar in it so next time I will cut it back a bit.  I won't tell my family though.  Sam's Club has had very good raspberries all winter.  You could substitute frozen but thaw first and drain well before using.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Walk With A Doc

This weekend, take someone you love out and walk with a Doc.  "What's that?", you say.  Walk With A Doc is a new program in the Jonesboro area designed to get people off the couch and moving.  We all know that exercise makes us feel better and even 15 minutes three times a week can have health benefits.  Still there are many people who need help to get started.

I got the idea for Walk With A Doc after reading The 17 Day Diet by Dr. Mike Moreno who started a similar program.  My husband agreed that it was an excellent idea so he collaborated with Christina Ryan of HMG to get a local program started.  The plan is that once a month, there is a scheduled walk for anyone to join led by at least one local physician.  The program is aimed at those who don't exercise currently to encourage them to get started.  At the first Walk last month, my husband gave a short talk about the benefits of exercise and a nurse checked blood pressures.  One of my husband's patients came out  and bravely walked.  I walked most of the way with him as he struggled due to his shortness of breath.  We were all so proud of him.

Anyone can join the walk, young, old, fit or not so fit.  Bring the family out to exercise before getting some shopping done.  If you know of someone who could use some motivation in starting an exercise routine, pick them up and bring them out.  Last time a father and his teen aged son joined us.  They had planned to do some shopping but stopped to see what we were doing.  After the walk, the father who was huffing and puffing, said he really needed to keep this up as he was out of shape.  I'm hoping he did.

My husband will again lead the walk which will be at the Mall at Turtle Creek.  It starts at 9 a.m. this Saturday, March 3, in the food court.  You will also have the opportunity to ask questions of my husband as you walk.  As the weather improves, the walk will move outdoors and doctors from other groups will join us.  This will be a great opportunity to visit with these doctors about health concerns and questions you may have.  I will keep my readers informed about the date, time and location of each walk.

I won't be able to attend this month's session as I will be attending a Bar Mitzvah and I don't think it would be appropriate to show up all sweaty.  I'll be sorry to miss it though.   I also apologize for the blurry photo from our first walk.  I didn't adjust the camera properly.  Look for the black t-shirts with Just Walk on the front and HMG on the back.