Upcoming presentations in the San Diego area are scheduled for the Osher Lifelong Learning Center, Cal State San Marcos (www.csusm.edu/olli) and the OASIS Adult Learning Center (www.oasisnet.org). Dates, times and locations are posted on their websites.
Avoiding modern diseases – Osher Lifelong Learning Center at the Temecula Higher Education Center, February 19 and 26, March 5 and Mission San Luis Rey, March 22 and 29, April 5. Topics include Ten steps to avoid cancer, Baby Boomer blindness and Ten ways to avoid dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sleep, light and health, Mission Valley Library (OASIS) February 20, 1:00 p.m.
In the news
After a few decades of being warned of the danger of cholesterol in eggs Americans are now being told that hen’s fruit is not the risk that we thought that it was. First, not all cholesterol is bad. “High cholesterol” is a meaningless term. It usually refers to the total cholesterol level but there are several different forms of cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is a beneficial marker of heart health while low-density and very low density lipoproteins (LDL and VLDL) should be the targets of treatment. It is these latter two forms of cholesterol that are clearly linked to the risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack but that is not the whole story. Persons whose blood cholesterol levels are normal often are victims of heart attack. Several other factors, especially high blood pressure, are part of the picture. Inflammation, largely due to excess body fat, plays an important role in heart attack and stroke.
Second, unless the intake is very high, cholesterol in the diet does not raise the level of cholesterol in the blood. The more cholesterol we eat the less the liver manufactures. This feedback mechanism ensures that we will maintain enough cholesterol to produce hormones, vitamin D, bile (needed for digestion) and other vital components. It also keeps blood levels from going too low, a condition that is associated with significant neurological problems, including depression and aggressive behavior.
Eggs have been part of the human diet since the Stone Age and our ancestors had a huge variety of birds’ eggs compared to chicken eggs, our only one. Even so, chicken eggs are a valuable source of protein, vitamins, calcium and iron.
When we eat eggs they are almost always part of a meal that includes saturated fat, the real cause of elevated cholesterol. Bacon, sausage, ham and other “egg helpers” that include butter and hash brown potatoes are hardly heart-healthy. On the other hand, an omelet made with assorted vegetables eliminates the saturated fat and includes healthy fiber, more vitamins and antioxidants.
Is there a limit to the number of eggs that we can safely eat in a week? One or two eggs most days of the week will have zero effect on your blood cholesterol. The exception might be persons with a genetic trait that keeps their cholesterol levels abnormally high. For the rest of the population, enjoy those veggie omelets – without the saturated fat!
Hypertension, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer share some important characteristics. They affect large numbers of people, they are silent for long periods, they are difficult if not impossible to cure when they become established and they can be identified in their earliest stages with non-invasive screening tests. To be sure, there are other conditions such as coronary artery disease that kill more Americans but in that specific example there is no simple, reliable, non-invasive test that can identify its victims. In fact, among the 1,000 persons who die each day of sudden cardiac arrest, death is the first symptom of heart disease.
Yet, many heart disease victims’ lives could have been extended, perhaps for decades, if they had been screened for high blood pressure. Hypertension usually develops gradually over several years and it causes almost no symptoms. It is the single most important treatable cause of heart disease and stroke and it often begins in early adolescence. Everyone should have an annual blood pressure check starting in childhood, especially those who have a family history of heart disease or stroke, or who are overweight or obese.
Blood pressure devices are so inexpensive, reliable and easy to use that every family should have one. Since a single blood pressure reading is not diagnostic, especially in the stressful atmosphere of a physician’s office, measuring it a couple of times a day over several days is worth the time and effort. The upper number (systolic) should be less than 125 and the lower (diastolic) less than 80. It’s true that blood pressure increases with age but that is not normal; it is simply common.
We are in the midst of an epidemic of type 2 diabetes. Everyone should be screened with an annual fasting blood sugar starting at age 40. For those with a family history of the disease, obese individuals or any non-Caucasian, screening should start in adolescence. More than half of those who have type 2 diabetes have at least one complication at the time of diagnosis. The blood test can identify persons with pre-diabetes, half of whom will develop full-blown disease within a decade.
Colon cancer screening begins with a test for blood in the stool, done once yearly from age 50. A colonoscopy should be done at that time and repeated at 60. Yes, the preparation is uncomfortable but sedation makes the procedure itself quite tolerable. It can be a lifesaver.