Health News You Can Use - Part Five
April to August, 2008

© 2008 Leonore H. Dvorkin

Note: This article was originally published in the September 2008 issue of the Denver publication Community News.

Hello again, everyone! There have been so many interesting health-related items in the news, lately, that I was motivated to do another one of my "Health News You Can Use" articles. So here are summaries of longer articles which appeared from April to August of this year.

I've listed the items in alphabetical order by main subject rather than by date of appearance. This should make it easier for you to find items that interest you and to skip over those that don't.

AIDS, AFRICANS, and AFRICAN AMERICANS: About 10,000 years ago, Africans developed a genetic mutation that helped them fight off the malaria parasite. Unfortunately, that genetic mutation, which persists to this day, increases the person's susceptibility to AIDS by up to 40%. Ninety percent of Africans and 60% of African Americans have this mutation. - The Week, 8/1/08

BENEFITS OF BROWN BAGGING IT: In this worsening economy, many workers who used to frequent restaurants at lunch time are now packing their own lunches. Benefits include lower cost and (generally) healthier eating. - The Week, 8/1/08

Leonore's note: My husband prepares our work lunches the night before, packing everything in firm plastic sandwich containers, thereby eliminating the need for plastic wrap or tin foil. For the sandwiches, he uses whole-grain bread and a variety of organic cold cuts and cheeses. He puts cut-up raw vegetables (carrots, jicama, green peppers, and celery) and a variety of dried fruits into separate plastic sandwich containers. Everything gets nicely chilled overnight in the fridge.

I keep another, smaller plastic container with mixed nuts and whole-grain TLC crackers in my book bag, so I always have healthy snacks at hand. An apple or a banana can easily be added to my purse or David's briefcase. We save even more money by toting our tea in thermos bottles.

BREASTFEEDING and HERBAL TEAS: Herbal teas that are safe for nursing mothers include evening primrose, ginger, mint, orange spice, and rose hip. But herbs that may not be safe include borage, comfrey leaf, and fennel. Sage can decrease milk supply. Fenugreek may increase milk supply, but can lower blood sugar, and is passed on to the infant. Over-the-counter cold remedies can also decrease milk supply.

DEMENTIA and SOY PRODUCTS: A study done on 719 elderly Indonesians revealed that eating high levels of soy products, especially tofu (at least one portion daily) may raise the risk of memory loss. Previous research found a link between high tofu consumption and dementia in older Japanese men.The culprit seems to be the phytoestrogens in soy products; phytoestrogens mimic the impact of the female sex hormone estrogen. Tofu in moderation does not seem to pose a problem. Tempeh, a fermented soy product high in folate, is associated with better memory. - BBC News, 7/4/08

RESISTANCE TRAINING and the ELDERLY: People over 65 can greatly improve their quality of life with resistance training - also known as weight training or strength training - using either free weights (dumbells, barbells, and ankle weights) or resistance exercise machines, such as those in health clubs. Resistance training can improve muscle strength, power, and functional performance in the elderly. This helps them to keep on doing things as basic and important as climb stairs and get out of chairs without assistance, thus allowing them to retain their independence longer. Twice-a-week exercise sessions can reap substantial benefits. Both upper-body and lower-body muscles should be targeted. - Science Daily, 7/18/08

Leonore's note: I teach small Thurs/Sat weight training classes in my SW Denver home for just $8.00 per hour. The simple, safe exercises are all performed with free weights. The exercises are easy to learn, and I carefully supervise my students. All equipment is supplied. Since 1976, I've taught those of all ages, even people in their 70s and 80s. Benefits of weight training also include improved balance, coordination, and body weight control. For more information, please see this page.

HEALTH of the STOCK MARKET (not body-related, but timely, given the upcoming election): Surprise! The stock market performs quite a bit better under Democratic presidencies than under Republican ones. Ned Davis Research has found that the Dow Jones Industrial Average returns 7.2% during Democratic administrations, but only 3.6% under Republican ones. - The Week, 8/1/08

VITAMIN D and BREAST CANCER: There now seems to be a clear connection between high levels of Vitamin D in the body and a decreased risk of contracting breast cancer. This was shown via a study at the German Cancer Research Center, in collaboration with researchers in Hamburg. It involved 1,394 breast cancer patients and an equal number of healthy, post-menopausal women. Good sources of Vitamin D are sunlight, seafood, eggs, dairy products, and supplements. - Science Daily, 4/22/08

Leonore's note: A lot of sun exposure doesn't agree with me or my light skin, so I take 1,000 IU of Vitamin D per day in inexpensive tablet form. Other sources I've consulted indicate that this amount of Vitamin D supplementation is perfectly safe. It's also worth noting that I was not taking that much Vitamin D before I contracted breast cancer in 1998. See here for information on my forthcoming book about my breast cancer experience.