In the news
Romaine lettuce and E. coli – again!
The hazards of mega-farming became apparent again with the recent outbreak of E. coli that contaminated romaine lettuce. The outbreak is apparently over but it might be a good idea to avoid romaine lettuce, whether packed separately or in a mixed salad, at least until the end of December.
Most strains of E. coli are benign and they comprise much of the probiotics, the bacteria that thrive in our large intestine but some cause diseases that range from diarrhea to kidney failure. There have been many instances of contamination of leafy green vegetables, an especially serious one back in 2012. Sanitary facilities for farmworkers are rudimentary (have you ever seen a porta-sink alongside a porta-potty?) and one infected worker among scores can affect produce that is shipped to half the states in the country.
What can you do about it besides not eating leafy greens? Unfortunately, not much. Vigorous rinsing can still leave some bacteria but it’s worth doing. Also, discard the outermost leaves of lettuce but wash your hands thoroughly after doing this.
The industry is taking steps to reduce contamination but one measure that would eliminate most of the problem is not being taken advantage of: irradiation. Irradiating foods has been known to be effective and safe for more than half a century. Zapping a salad doesn’t make it radioactive any more than a chest x-ray makes you radioactive! There is a slight but inconsequential loss of some vitamins. Emotional public perception and opposition by misguided activists are the deal-killers. So E. coli continues to make thousands of persons ill every year.
Avoiding dementia – a BIG step
High blood pressure is a major factor in developing dementia of the type that involves blood vessels. Its role in Alzheimer’s disease, the other major form of dementia, is not as obvious.
Nearly half of adult Americans have at least mild hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure) and the number went up when the definition of hypertension was revised a few months ago. That happened because it has been found that even small increases in blood pressure cause measurable changes in thinking ability and problem-solving. Treating high blood pressure lowers the risk of dementia as well as reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Here’s a link to the new guidelines published by Harvard Health: http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/reading-the-new-blood-pressure-guidelines.
There are three simple and safe ways to lower blood pressure without prescription medication. Considering that certain prescription blood pressure medications have just been shown to be associated with a higher risk of cancer, these make sense.
Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Increase physical activity.