Upcoming presentations

Wednesday, June 6, 1:00 Supermarket suicide and restaurant roulette. Escondido Senior Center. OASIS – see their website http://www.oasisnet.org.

Friday, June 15, 1:00 Emerging infectious diseases and safe travel guidelines, Temecula Higher Education Learning Center. Osher – see their website http://www.csusm.edu/el/olli.

Wednesday, June 20, 2:00 All about Shingrix, the new shingles vaccine, Escondido Senior Center http://www.oasisnet.org

Tuesday, June 26, 9:30 a.m. How wars changed medicine, Oceanside Senior Center, 455 Country Club Lane. Osher – see their website http://www.csusm.edu/el/olli.

Friday, June 29, 1:00 p.m. Emerging infectious diseases and safe travel guidelines, Carlsbad Library Learning Center. Osher – see their website http://www.csusm.edu/el/olli.

In the news

Trans fats are going away – finally!

Trans fats are vegetable oils that have been treated to keep them from becoming rancid. When they are used in baked goods they prolong their shelf life. That’s good for food manufacturers but bad for the heart. Trans fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, make blood more likely to clot in vessels of the heart and brain and increase inflammation, which plays a large role in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and other diseases.

By June 18 – only days away – the FDA has ruled that food manufacturers must remove trans fats from processed foods. Health experts predict that this will prevent several thousand heart attacks per year.

If you are a label reader you have probably seen some nutrition facts labels that state that the trans fat content of the item is zero. Government folks aren’t very good at math: “zero trans fat” on a food label means that it can have up to 0.5 grams of trans fat. Maybe that helps to explain why the U.S. is a financial mess – the people that make the rules can’t do simple math!



Dieting Guidelines

Your mother was right! Eating slowly is better for you but not for the reasons I heard when I was a kid: “Don’t eat so fast! You’ll choke on your food.” “It’ll make you sick..” Well, that second part was right but the sickness would take years, even decades to develop.

When we eat fast we eat more. That’s because it takes about 15 or 20 minutes for our hard-wired appetite-control mechanism to let us know that we’ve eaten enough. It was once thought that this was a simple mechanism brought into play by a hormone called cholecystokinin that was released when the stomach was full. We should have known! Nothing is really that simple in matters of biology. Scientists now know that there are several mechanisms, some regulated by hormone-like chemicals, that control appetite.

Some of this came to light after lots of people had a part of the stomach removed to lose weight. They didn’t get as hungry as they should have when portion sizes were limited to something about the size of a golf ball. The part of the stomach that had been removed contained cells that produced one of the hunger-causing hormones.

The bottom line: follow Mom’s advice and eat slowly. You’ll end up eating less, especially if your meals consist largely of fiber-rich vegetables.



In the news

The anti-inflammatory diet – not so new

The anti-inflammatory diet has been popping up in the media lately but is it really something new? It’s based on two diets that are not just old but ancient, the Mediterranean diet and the Asian diet. Both contain foods that lower inflammation and are devoid of those that promote it. Perhaps the term Mediterrasian is more inviting and less intimidating than anti-inflammatory.

Inflammation is the mainstay of the body’s defense mechanism, ranging from the pain, swelling and redness that we experience from a splinter lodged in a fingertip to the cough, fever and miserable feeling of a bout of the flu. These reactions are relatively brief, unlike the years-long gnawing damage that leads to heart attack, stroke and numerous other conditions.

The true Mediterranean diet and the traditional Asian diet are nothing like what is found on the menus of your local pizza parlor or Chinese restaurant. Both diets are plant-based, which means plenty of fiber, antioxidants and omega-3 fats, all of which lower inflammation. They lack processed foods that are heavy on the sugar, starch and saturated fat that contribute to obesity. Fat deposits don’t just take up unsightly space, they produce inflammatory chemicals that contribute heavily to cardiovascular disease and to cancer, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Both food styles include very little red meat; there is no beef industry in greater Asia or the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. There’s not much of a dairy industry either; most Asians are unable to digest the sugar (lactose) in milk and the Mediterranean climate doesn’t allow milk or its products to maintain freshness. If you think that cheese is the exception that’s correct but it serves as a garnish, not a primary ingredient.

Instead of saturated fat the Mediterranean diet relies on olive oil for almost all of its fat calories. The Asian diet is naturally low in fat but what there is comes mainly from fish, an excellent source of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 variety.

What this hybrid diet lacks is one of its biggest advantages. There is no refined grain (white rice is the exception), no trans fat and no artificial colors or chemical preservatives.

The benefits of the Mediterrasian lifestyle are not entirely due to food. Until fairly recently labor-saving devices were not available to most people and almost every tool and vehicle required muscle power. That not only made obesity less likely it reduced the risk of osteoporosis.


Exercise Tips

Is it pain or just soreness? When you work a muscle hard, especially if it’s the first time, you know how sore it feels the next day and possibly for several days. That is normal and it is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). You can avoid it if you begin an exercise program – or a new type of exercise – with very low weight. I recommend that you go through a routine with no weight at all in your hands for at least two weeks to open up existing blood vessels and grow new ones. Walkers and runners should start with low speeds and short distances. That won’t completely eliminate DOMS but it sure will help.

Pain is different. It sometimes comes on suddenly during or after an exercise, and it’s usually asymmetric – involving only one side of the body, e.g., one shoulder.

Do not try to “work through” DOMS or pain. In the former it’s just not worth the discomfort and in the latter you are likely to make the injury worse.






Upcoming presentations

Wednesday, May 9, 1:00 San Marcos Library Shingrix, the new shingles vaccine. No fee.

Wednesday, May 16, 1:00 Point Loma Library Supermarket suicide and restaurant roulette. OASIS – see their website http://www.oasisnet.org.

Friday, May 18, 1:00 LIFE program at Mira Costa College, Oceanside. How wars changed medicine. http://www.miracosta.edu/life.

Wednesday, May 30, 3:00 Encinitas Library. How to keep your wits; 10 ways to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. http://www.oasisnet.org

In the news

Am I preaching to the choir?

It’s likely that the vast majority of persons who are reading this blog have healthy habits but a recent study should give you even more resolve to continue and to get better if you’re falling short in some areas.

A study just published in the journal Circulation listed five lifestyle factors that lead to good health. What is newsworthy is how many more years are added to one’s life by following them consistently.

There are no great surprises here. Maintaining healthy weight, getting at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise every day, not smoking, healthy eating (at least five servings of vegetables, four servings of fruit, one serving of nuts, no red meat, no sugary drinks and low sodium) and moderate drinking (no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink per day for women).

Women who maintained all five good habits could expect to live 14 years longer than those with the least healthy lifestyles. Men could expect 12 more years than their least health-aware peers.

When these results were tabulated it turned out that only 8 percent of U.S. adults were “five-for-five”.

We have a long way to go!




You need at least 30 minutes a day of moderately intense exercise in order to maintain muscle tone, hold your weight down and keep your heart and lungs working the way nature intended until old age. But do you need a gym membership or hundreds of dollars’ worth of home exercise equipment? Consider these Minirobics, short spurts of activity that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine.

If you use public transportation, don’t get off at the stop nearest your office. If you drive, park your car a couple of blocks farther away than usual. If these simple measures add just 2 blocks – about 1/8th of a mile – to the distance to your place of business, that’s more than a mile a week. Not much but it’s a beginning and you might find yourself stretching that distance by a couple of blocks more every few weeks as you find that you can spare the extra minutes.

Get in the habit of walking up one flight of stairs and walking down three. That’s not just better for your fitness, it’s probably faster than waiting for an elevator.

Stay on your feet whenever you’re on the phone. You’ll burn a few calories and develop better tone in your legs. Standing up while you’re talking on the phone gives your voice more energy.

Don’t park near the entrance to the supermarket. Carrying a couple of bags of groceries to the farthest corner of the parking lot will burn a few more calories. You can usually park in the same place and you’ll never “lose” your car again. Your doors won’t get dinged as often, either.

Stop using the drive-up window at the bank. Wash your own car and save a few bucks per week. At work, use the rest room that’s farthest away from your desk.

If you take a few moments to review your daily routine you’ll find even more ways to use up calories. Some of these Minirobics burn just 5 or 10 extra calories but that’s enough to affect your long-term health. When you use 10 calories a day more than you take in you’ll lose about one pound per year. That doesn’t sound like much but that’s what the average American gains each year between graduating from high school and cashing that first Social Security check.





In the news

Mosquito season is here

Mosquitoes are becoming an increasing threat in disease transmission here in Southern California. West Nile virus has been marching westward from the East Coast for a couple of decades but it took a slight dip last year. That’s small consolation inasmuch as Zika virus is now on the horizon. Almost all the cases of Zika virus infection in the U.S. have occurred in persons who acquired the disease elsewhere but it’s probably a matter of time before it gains a foothold here.

Mosquitoes are remarkably adaptive creatures. They don’t need much water to raise their families. Small accumulations of standing water in discarded containers, flowerpots or even the cup-like leaves of decorative plants can support broods of the two species of mosquito that live in this area. You might want to check your yard about once a week to make sure that there are no mosquito havens there.

Don’t become a target for mosquitoes. Some species bite mainly at dawn and dusk but some, like Aedes aegypti that often carries the Zika virus, are all-day biters. We use perfume, cologne, hair spray and other fragrances to attract others but mosquitoes are drawn to them too. An insect repellent known as DEET has remained effective since it was first used the the Pacific theatre of WWII. You might want to have a spray can on hand if these critters show up in your neighborhood.


Don’t be a slave to a calorie-counter! Unless you weigh and measure every portion of food that you eat it isn’t possible to get within 10 or 20 calories of that food’s actual value. What is important is to stick to foods that are naturally low in calories and to get in the habit of making your mealtime servings about 20 percent smaller than they were before you started trying to lose weight.

Two perspectives to keep in mind: First, if you take in 10 calories a day more than you burn off with physical activity you will gain about one pound  year. Ten calories!!! That’s about one bite of a banana and about one-fifth of an Oreo cookie! One pound might not seem like much but it sure adds up between the time you finish high school and the time you say hello to your first grandchild.

Second, by trimming your usual mealtime helpings by about 20 percent you’ll lower your daily intake by about 500 calories. At that rate you will lose more than one pound every week. One of the secrets to doing that is to eat high-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables that give you a feeling of fullness instead of things like French fries and rice, which have almost no fiber and that leave you wanting to eat more.

If you’re on the carb-reducing program (I hate to use the word diet) you can have larger servings of meat because protein leaves you with a feeling of fullness.




Upcoming presentations

Ten ways to prevent cancer             OASIS Escondido     Senior Center      Wednesday April 4, 1:00 p.m.


A series of four presentations at the Dove Library, Carlsbad,

Tuesdays at 12:30 p.m.

April 10          Sleep, light and health

April 17          The true Mediterranean diet

April 24          How the computer affects your health and your brain

May 1             Ten ways to prevent cancer


Keeping your wits: how to avoid Alzheimer’s disease and  dementia   

Allied Gardens Library/OASIS     Friday April 20, 2:00 p.m.

            Visit http://www.oasisnet.org/sandiego for registration information


Shingrix: The new shingles vaccine       San Marcos Library

 Wednesday May 9 1:00 p.m.

In the news

The obesity paradox isn’t. From time to time journalists describe a study that shows that persons who are slightly overweight – perhaps even more than “slightly” – live longer than those whose weight is normal. Critical analysis usually shows that the lower-weight persons have lost weight due to illness, thus shortening their lives, or there is a sampling error. The correction rarely makes the news.

Perhaps the most recent study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Cardiology in February 2018 will put the myth to rest. This was a large study involving more than 190,000 people and lasted from 1964 to 2015 – rather meaningful numbers. Overweight and obese persons had fewer years of disease-free life, being diagnosed with heart disease earlier than those of normal weight. Among the morbidly obese, being about 100 pounds or more over standard weight, sixty-five percent experienced a heart attack, stroke or heart failure during the study.

Overweight or obese persons live longer after being diagnosed with heart disease because they are diagnosed earlier in life. This study showed that normal weight was associated with a longer life overall. Which is a great lead-in to the item that follows.


Beware of any diet program that claims that you will lose 5 or 10 pounds per week. That’s possible but it isn’t safe or wise. Your target should be about two pounds per week. After all, that’s about 50 pounds in six months, 100 pounds in a year, and there is no reason to lose it faster. You will still amaze your friends!

If you push your body into starvation mode you will lose a great deal of lean body mass, which includes muscle as well as tissue from other organs. There is also a much greater risk of gallbladder disease when weight loss exceeds 2 pounds per week.

Fatigue and irritability also accompany marked weight loss. The former will jeopardize your job and the latter your relationships. It just isn’t worth it.


In the news

 How well prepared are you?

No region of the country is free from the possibility that a natural or man-made disaster will force us to leave our homes, at least for a day or two. If it hasn’t happened yet to you, someone in your circle of friends, relatives or co-workers has probably had to leave their home and nearly all that they own behind on extremely short notice. Wildfires, floods, tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes and landslides are Mother Nature’s doing; gas leaks, chemical plant explosions and the like are the price we pay for technology.

What valuables and living essentials could you gather up with ten-minutes warning – or less? What if you couldn’t use your vehicle? How much could you carry? And what would you carry it in?

As prepared as Pat and I are with our “bug-out bags” that would allow us to survive outdoors for about three days, when we were recently threatened by wildfires and were the next neighborhood that would receive orders to evacuate, that ten minutes went by really fast! But we were ready.

If you are taking prescription medicines be sure to include those. Do you have credit cards, cash and checkbooks within reach? (I almost forgot the last but Pat didn’t.) How about what your pets will need?

You can find emergency evacuation kits on the Internet but it’s easy to make your own. Hint: a wheeled carry-on will hold most of what you need.


How much water should you drink in a day?  “Ounces per pound per day” is meaningless. During a Santa Ana in San Diego when the humidity is less than 10 percent while you’re puttering around the yard it will take a lot more water than sitting in front of the TV on a chilly day. The best indicator is simple: your urine should be light yellow with little odor. If it’s dark and smelly you not only run the risk of developing kidney stones, but being only 2% dehydrated will make your thinking fuzzy. If your urine is almost as clear as tap water you’re overdoing it, and several hours of that might cause a seizure.

It’s not being overzealous to have a bottle of water available in the car, and a glass on the countertop when you’re at home. Stainless steel water bottles only cost about $15 and they will last longer than you will.

How does all this fit it with dieting? What passes for hunger is often thirst, and by drinking 6-8 ounces of water you can usually make the hunger pangs go away. If that doesn’t work, have a piece of fruit – not a handful of jellybeans!

Something to keep in mind: back in the Stone Age there was no beverage but water. That worked out fine for a couple of million years.

Another point: the single most important factor in excess weight gain in America is sweetened drinks. And the average size is now 20 ounces!!


In the news

Fish eat worms and vice-versa

Over the past few years there have been several reports of live or dead parasitic worms in fish that is sold in supermarkets, big box stores and in restaurants that specialize in sushi.  The past couple of months have seen more stories. This is not really news. I learned in medical school that we should avoid undercooked Great Lakes whitefish because of the possibility that an uncooked tapeworm might take up residence in our intestines. Uncooked is the key word. Thoroughly cooked and no longer alive, parasitic worms and their eggs are no threat to our health.

Worms are the largest parasites that live in the bodies of the animals that we have relied on for food for thousands of generations. Fresh water fish often contains the above-mentioned tapeworm’s eggs that hatch in the human digestive tract. Salt-water fish contain several species of worms, and salmon that spend their lives in both salt and fresh water carry them as well. Commercial cod fishermen often find their catch riddled with worms. When sushi is made from fish that has not been frozen there is a risk that a worm within it might make some customer’s stomach its new home.

The term parasite comes from the Greek words for alongside food and they recognized that such creatures were quite common in our food supply. In developing countries parasites are so common that virtually one hundred percent of the population carries them in the intestinal tract. That might explain why autoimmune diseases seldom occur in those groups. A new field of medical research, helminthic therapy, is exploring the ways in which certain parasitic worms favorably influence the course of multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease and asthma.

To be sure, parasitic worms are responsible for a host of diseases. Patients infected with fish tapeworm may develop anemia. Sushi lovers sometimes encounter worms that cause severe pain and discomfort when they attach themselves to the lining of the stomach. Trichinosis used to be fairly common when pigs were fed infected meat from other pigs; it still occurs among hunters who eat improperly cooked bear meat.

Finding a live worm – or several – in a package of store-bought fish can be unnerving and the product should be discarded (or returned for a refund). Cooking destroys worms that might not have been noticed, and so does freezing. Sushi restaurants usually – but not always – freeze their fish before it is prepared and served.

And who knows? Well-cooked worms might be good for you!

Exercise Tips

      Humans have a natural aversion to physical activity. It’s actually hard-wired in us because it’s a survival mechanism: if we expend less energy we will retain more stored energy in the form of fat or glycogen*. Even hunter-gatherers of today rest whenever they are not engaged in something.

Our modern levels of physical activity are so low that we should go out of our way to burn off calories whenever possible. Persons on a diet should seek out ways to do that, even if the movement is not strenuous. Use your car as little as possible. When you do drive, park at the farthest corner of the lot. Takes the stairs instead of the elevator. Those few extra burned calories a day will add up.

Don’t go more than three or four days without moderate exercise, even if it’s only a half-hour walk in your neighborhood. Do a few push-ups while you’re watching the evening news.

* – Glycogen is also known as animal starch. It is composed of chains of glucose molecules and is stored mainly in the liver and muscles.