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      The stats tell it all: The number one cause of death in the United States is heart disease. That’s right, more than any other disease – even cancer (a close second) – heart disease is the most likely to kill you. The United States is currently facing a “diabesity” epidemic, or a substantial increase in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome leading to diabetes and obesity, all serious risk factors for heart disease.

      According to the American Heart Association, every 34 seconds someone in the US dies of a heart attack. By the time you finish reading this paragraph, another person will have lost their life. Sadly, many people do not even know they have heart disease until they experience a heart attack. These facts alone make Heart Health a critical topic to understand.

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      The gut-skin connection is very significant. Inflammatory processes present in the gut may manifest on the skin. Toxins are expelled with sweat, and can cause the skin to react. Like the inside of the digestive tract, the skin is covered in microbes which can be neutral, protective or pathogenic. Skin reaction may reflect what is going on inside the body. Therefore treating skin conditions only from the outside will often be ineffective and lead to other chronic issues.

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    • Brain Health

      The gut-brain connection occurs in two directions—from the brain to the gut, and from the gut to the brain. When a person has a “gut feeling,” or an emotional upset causes a stomachache or loss of appetite, they experience examples of the first, most familiar direction. When the gut is out of balance, inflammation results leading to a condition commonly known as leaky gut. A leaky gut will allow undigested food particles and toxins to enter into the bloodstream. Some may cross into the brain, setting the stage for diseases like Alzheimers and dementia. Recognizing the underlying contributing factors that created the gut imbalance in the first place is the first step to achieving optimal brain function .

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Healthy Gut Function 101

Filed in Constipation, Diarrhea, Digestive Health, Enzymes, Exercise, Gut Solutions, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 03/16/2017


Healthy Gut Anatomy - brendawatson.com

In this post let’s continue looking at digestive functions, in honor of Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Understanding good digestion is key to a healthy gut. So I’m offering a quick review of how your digestive system works, top to bottom – when it’s working properly that is.

Let me show you the path your food takes in a healthy gut.

Did you realize that the digestive process – the breakdown of your food into nutrients that can be absorbed – actually begins in the mouth? It starts with the secretion of the enzyme ptyalin. At the other end from the colon! This enzyme, mixed with saliva, is crucial to proper digestion of carbohydrates. Food properly chewed into small particles will be completely mixed with the saliva/enzyme mixture. When a person swallows their food after only a few short chews, as so many of us busy people do, there is insufficient time for ptyalin to do its job. Consequently, when you gulp your food, your digestion is impaired. Those large, inadequately chewed food particles are harder for the body to handle and can result in gas, bloating and indigestion. Sound familiar?

In addition to chewing food thoroughly, care should be taken to restrict fluid intake with meals. Over-consumption of liquids may dilute some specific digestive agents which are manufactured in your stomach. The breakdown of protein requires an extremely acid environment, and to handle that job, HCl and the enzyme pepsin are synthesized there. Diluting these digestive substances can result in impaired digestion as well.

It’s important to know that enzymes are complex proteins that cause chemical changes in other substances. They are the basis of all metabolic activity in the body, facilitating more than 150,000 biochemical reactions. They literally empower every cell in the body to function. There are three types of enzymes in the body: metabolic, digestive and food enzymes.

Metabolic enzymes run, heal and repair the body. Your body could not function or heal without them.

Most enzymes required for digestion are manufactured by the pancreas. There are about 22 pancreatic enzymes, chief of which are protease (digests protein), lipase (for fat digestion) and amylase (for carbohydrate digestion).

Food enzymes also digest food: however they are supplied to the body solely through the diet, only from raw foods. These raw foods primarily supply enzymes to digest the food in which they’re found, and aren’t particularly helpful to digest other foods.

By the way, cooking at temperatures of more than 116 degrees destroys food enzymes. Enzyme deficiencies are widespread in the American culture because virtually all food in the standard diet is heated during processing.

The majority of nutrient absorption is accomplished in the small intestine through intricate interactions between enzymes, probiotics (good bacteria) and the various foods being digested. In a healthy gut the food particles have been broken down well. If not small enough, bloating and gas can be the uncomfortable result.

In addition to absorption of nutrients, your intestinal tract is also home to a large part of your lymphatic system. That system consists of the spleen, lymph nodes, bone marrow and other tissues responsible for defense against infection. In fact, the number of cells of gut associated lymphatic tissue (GALT) exceeds the number of plasma cells in the other parts combined! Your intestinal tract is a huge player in your immunity as well as your digestion.

I could share many blogs just focused on the amazing abilities of your intestine as it maintains your healthy gut, but I promised a brief discussion here.

So on to the colon! The final stages of digestion occur in the colon with the absorption of water and a small number of nutrients not absorbed by the small intestine.

Important point – one needs to have one good bowel movement per day, but two to three are ideal. A “good” bowel movement is one that is walnut brown in color, with a formed consistency, about the length of a banana. The stool should be free of odor, leave the body easily, settle in the toilet water and gently submerge. (Forgive me for TMI!)

Take a look at this chart to determine if you have a healthy gut!

The transit time for food – the elapsed time it takes for a meal to enter the mouth and then exit the rectum – should ideally be less than 24 hours. However, too short a transit time may result in a loose stool. Transit time is related to exercise and the consumption of fiber and water. When transit time slows, putrefied material stays in the colon longer, and toxins can enter the bloodstream through the intestinal wall. One possible result might be constipation.

The colon houses three types of bacteria: good, neutral and bad. In fact, the majority of bacteria can be found in the colon. A balance of approximately 85% good to no more than 15% neutral or bad is desirable for health maintenance. This balance will assist the body in normal elimination of solid waste.

Now that you have a sense of good digestive function, in my next post I’ll take a look at factors that negatively impact your healthy gut. An unhealthy gut will ultimately set the stage for different disease processes.

Dementia Concerns? Speed-training!

Filed in Brain, Dementia, Digestive Health, Exercise, Mental Health, The Skinny Gut Diet, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/05/2016


Dementia in Brain Strengthened by Speed Reading - brendawatson.com

Have you ever worried that dementia might creep up on you? If so, do you have any idea what you might do now to lessen your chances of dementia developing? I know that I’ll do just about anything to maintain the sparkle in my brain! I think I found something great for us. I’d like to introduce you to a computer exercise named “speed-training”.

An article I read in the Wall Street Journal described the results of a 10-year study regarding dementia. It was reported that speed-training may greatly reduce our future risk of developing dementia.

The study funded by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Nursing Research, involved 2,832 healthy individuals between the ages of 65 and 94. Research was conducted at six sites around the US. It was a random trial where participants would receive one of three cognitive training programs, with a fourth group set up as a control. The study continued for 10 years!

The results of the ‘first of its kind’ study were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference last July 24th. Toronto was the site of this event which was the world’s largest gathering of Alzheimer’s researchers in one place. The study, named ‘Active’ (Advanced Cognitive Training in Vital Elderly) was very happily received.

The speed-training subjects were initially given 10 one-hour training sessions over five weeks, with an instructor on hand should help be needed. Booster sessions were provided for certain participant groups a year later and then three years later. As I mentioned earlier, the subjects were followed for 10 years.

Some participants only received an initial 10 hours of training at the start of the study. This group demonstrated on average a 33% lower risk for developing dementia all those years later. The group that received the additional follow-up sessions showed a risk reduction of 48%! Please note however that these results are still considered preliminary pending peer review and publication.

No matter, I find these initial findings very hopeful! I was pleased to learn that the computer program is available now since it’s common for exciting research data to be presented years ahead of our ability to actually make use of it.

I was interested to read that the Active study included previous research on other brain training as a part of their report. At different points, I have initiated these types of programs into my own daily routines. 

As presented, tthree different types of brain training studied all led to improvements in cognitive function and the ability to perform daily living skills, such as preparing a meal. Especially relevant is that speed-training surpassed the other techniques in reducing the incidence of at-fault car crashes and averting declines in health. I was truly excited to learn that it seemed to be effective in preventing symptoms of depression too. Now that’s some computer program, I’d say!

The specific exercise used in the study was developed by the research team. However usage rights were acquired by Posit Science of San Francisco. They’ve developed a more user-friendly version of the game called Double Decision. That program is now part of the company’s BrainHQ online service. A monthly subscription including access to Double Decision is $14/month or $96/yr.

Speed-training is designed to improve the speed and accuracy of processing visual information and expand the useful field of view (UFOV). UFOV is the visual area within which a person can make quick decisions and pay attention without moving their eye or head. It seems UFOV decreases as we age, and a decline in UFOV is associated with a decreased ability to perform daily tasks, particularly driving a car.

Clinical studies on the brain that validate subjective testimonials can be hard to find. That’s why I am excited to discover a study like this.

“For the majority of brain fitness products sold today the marketing hype has exceeded the science. The Active results will definitely provide a big credibility boost to the field,” says Murali Doraiswamy, director of the neuro-cognitive disorders program at Duke University Health System in Durham, N.C.

I certainly imagine this is just the first of many long-term studies with a focus on brain fitness. A future clinical trial has already been proposed to determine the optimal dose of speed-training (that’s a question that occurred to me!). The research team also wants to clarify the effects this activity has on the brain.

Speed-training seems to offer huge benefits with very minimal risk, if any at all. Imagine if we couple brain fitness exercise with food choices that support brain and body health.  Dr. Perlmutter makes excellent suggestions in Brain Maker and I know that Skinny Gut Diet recommendations are great brain food, too! These reasonable efforts can yield giant rewards over time. Brain exercise and brain diet are a natural pair.

By the way, the recommended time to begin speed-training is age 50. Have you tried this exercise or one like it? Did you feel that the time you spent was valuable? Please let me know. My wish for you is a clear mind and healthy body always!

Food Journal Into Summer Clothes

Filed in Adults, Diet, Digestive Health, Exercise, General, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 05/20/2016


Food Journal for Weight Loss - brendawatson.com

As the days get longer (and in this area of the country, much hotter) thoughts turn to swimming prospects, and inevitably to bathing suits. While it’s easy to ignore weight loss goals while bundled in coats and boots, once again at this time of year, they tend to move up in priority.
So let’s dust off an excellent tool that will help jumpstart your quest to attain your perfect weight for your frame – and this year’s bathing suit. Begin a new food journal!

Please don’t groan. The whole experience can now be much less labor intensive than years ago. In the past you could only write in your daily entries manually and then you had to research the nutrient content in a separate way. I’m so grateful to our original Renew HOPE Foundation clients who tracked their foods carefully during the years we offered those programs. The data we gathered multiplied in value later as we gathered research for Skinny Gut Diet.

Fortunately, with the wonderful apps available to anyone with a computer or cell phone, the information gathered by the participants in our Skinny Gut Diet project was considerably less tedious. Today digital options for recording your daily eats abound, even including photo journaling.

I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion of food journaling recently in the Wall Street Journal. While very useful for identifying food allergies and triggers for gut symptoms, far and away food journals are most commonly used for weight loss.

The article points out a number of interesting studies that validate food journaling as a great tool in support of your weight loss goals.

Over the years I have observed the people most successful with their food journal are consistent and accurate, carefully logging their foods until the habit is established. Then the accountability factor kicks in. As weeks go by, “aha” moments are joyfully attained and real and lasting change takes place.

So why do a large number of people find the food journal process, whether computerized or handwritten, nothing but a tiresome chore? Truth is, it takes more than a just few days to achieve those “aha!” realizations, and far too often the commitment to journaling ends in the length of time it takes fish to spoil in the refrigerator!

I appreciate the study info provided by My Fitness Pal stating that people who have friends on the app and connect regularly seem to lose twice as much weight as those who don’t connect with friends. Personally I think that interpersonal support is critical for almost everything in life. Another Power Tool – Sharing with Others!

By the way, My Fitness Pal was the app we were able to edit and use in Skinny Gut Diet and we continue to appreciate it in our community today. Because Skinny Gut Diet focuses on counting nutrients rather than calories, it was fortunate that the program allowed changes to be made regarding nutrients tracked.

I also really liked the suggestion in the article to write out what you plan to eat and record it in your food journal before eating it. It seems the process can be a deterrent to poor choices. Planning ahead has always been the cornerstone of success – for me at least. Great idea!

Some people enjoy merging food journaling with exercise tracking. It seems to help them to maintain interest. Others are best engaged when they can comment on emotional and physical experiences and relate them back to food choices.

In Skinny Gut Diet we used food journaling as one of our Power Tools. Have you had success with journaling in the past? I’d love to hear your experiences!

Toxic Heart, Toxic Body

Filed in Cleansing, Cleansing & Detox, Diet, Environmental Toxins, Exercise, Heart Disease, Heart of Perfect Health, High blood pressure, Inflammation, Skin, Stroke | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/26/2016


As American Heart Month 2016 winds down, I’d like to shift my focus to an area that we don’t always associate with heart issues – toxins. Toxins are everywhere; there is no doubt about it. In the air we breathe, in the water we drink, in the food we eat, in our homes, in most products we use—even in the most pristine places on earth—toxins are there. Truth is, toxin accumulation can directly impact our cardiovascular system, and many times will manifest as high blood pressure, increased atherosclerosis, and ultimately heart issues.

Toxins are chemicals that interfere with normal functions in the body, and most have been associated with adverse health effects. At this point, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regularly measure over 200 toxic compounds, tracking the levels in different aspects of our population. However there are 80,000 chemicals currently in use! Although the CDC adds new chemicals to track annually, it’s simple to see that we will never be able to really understand the full impact of the substances we’re all exposed to. The sad fact is many chemicals contribute to cardiovascular disease – either directly, or indirectly – through an increase in oxidative stress and general systemic inflammation.

So what is oxidative stress, also known as oxidation anyhow? It is one of the main drivers of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is at the root cause of heart disease, and for that matter, all other chronic disease as well.

Consider this analogy illustrating the destructive properties of oxidation: Oxidation is like a punch thrown from a bully (the oxidant), and it can easily lead to a full-blown fight if enough molecules get involved. Destruction results. Oxidation occurs when there are not enough antioxidants (the peacekeepers) around.

Oxidative stress triggers inflammation and regarding cardiovascular issues, it initiates the destruction of the lining of the blood vessels, called endothelial dysfunction.

Atherosclerosis involves endothelial dysfunction and chronic inflammation in the artery walls, progressing to the buildup of plaque and eventual cardiac complications such as heart attack and stroke. So I’m sure you can clearly see how toxins that increase oxidative stress are definitely the enemy. And antioxidants are our friends.

It is a myth that nothing can be done about toxin exposure. The fact of the matter is that supporting the body’s seven channels of elimination – colon, liver, lungs, lymph, kidneys, skin, and blood – through diet and cleansing will help improve the body’s natural detoxification abilities. A healthy eating plan and cleansing routine will fortify your heart right along with every other part of your body.

In addition to the antioxidants your body naturally produces, you also obtain antioxidants from your diet. A diet high in antioxidants includes plenty of deeply colored fruits and vegetables. This important step helps decrease oxidative stress and general systemic inflammation.

Regular exercise stimulates sweating and the release of toxins from your skin. Different herbal formulas help support the organs of elimination. Next month I plan to discuss cleansing in more detail.

In my book, Heart of Perfect Health, I offer information and targeted programs designed to protect your heart for the rest of your life. Toxins may be all around us, but we have ways to release them – and renew our health.

Happy Valentine’s Day?

Filed in Exercise, General, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/12/2016


Valentine’s Day this Sunday evokes a lot of expectations, and in most cases the desired outcome is happiness. However, happiness is really an inside job, as the Dalai Lama XIV expresses so well “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”

Did you know that research shows that about half your happiness is the result of a genetic set point? How do I know that? Because I spent years in therapy trying to figure out why I was not happy. As I dug into my past I realized that when I was in my mother’s womb she was in grief from the loss of her son (my brother). Sometimes there are very real reasons for your unhappiness that you really have had no control over.

But don’t despair! It’s also been found if your focus becomes happiness, you can attain your goal, no matter. It seems around 40% of ‘daily happy’ is the result of positive day-to-day behaviors and activities. So I thought it might be a perfect time to share some quick tips on “getting happy”.

One of the most powerful tools I can suggest is “choose to be happy!” Right now, simply declare “I’m going to be happy today!” When thoughts cross your mind that don’t support that declaration say to those thoughts “I’m not interested in you! Today I’m happy!” It may take a lot of repetition initially, less as time goes on, and the reward is well worth it.

Many times we think we’re earning happiness as we wait for a big event (like Valentine’s Day) or we finally get ‘THE job’, or we get to go skiing. However, that’s really only a tiny piece of the happiness available to us, and if we depend on those types of events to be happy, let-down is inevitable and intense. My second tip is to practice gratitude – for everything, even little things – on a daily basis. Often at the end of the day I’ll make a list of at least 10 things I’m grateful for that day. It’s not a bad idea to begin your day the same way.

In my experience, with regard to mood, there is no substitute for a healthy eating plan. In Skinny Gut Diet we have 3 simple rules. We could have named them “Rules for Happiness” – 1) Eat more good fats, like olive oil and avocado; 2) Eat living foods every day – greens and fermented goodies; 3) Eat protein at every meal and snack to reduce carb cravings. As these suggestions become your habits, you’ll notice how happy you feel as your blood sugar balances and inflammation decreases in your body.

I’ve always found movement to be essential to uplift my spirits. There’s simply nothing like the feel-good brain chemicals that are released whenever we decide to move our bodies and get the blood really flowing. I’m not talking marathons here – walking, biking, even housework (with the music on perhaps) can offer both brain and body wellness. And if you can find a spot in nature for your exercise, better still.

And here’s a short list of supplements that research has shown to boost mood and health – vitamin D, selenium, B vitamins, omega-3 oils, St. John’s Wort, SAMe, and my personal favorite, probiotics. I’m so grateful these natural substances are being applauded for their mood sustaining benefits.

Of course, happiness is a personal affair. Please be in touch and let me know what brings you happiness. And please enjoy Sunday, in your own unique Valentine way.

Is Your Best Friend Constipated?

Filed in Constipation, Diet, Digestive Health, Dogs - Pets, Exercise, Heart Disease, Joints, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/24/2015


Constipation may not be a topic you’d choose for daily conversation, but it’s really nothing to be embarrassed about. We’ve all experienced it at one time or another – and we realize how debilitating it can become. Although in our society, the medical professionals still say that 3 bowel movements weekly is “normal” – let me tell you, you don’t want to be “normal”. A healthy human being should eliminate daily. And it’s the same for our faithful canine companions.

Dogs also suffer from constipation. If your dog is showing signs of having trouble eliminating, take him to the vet to make sure there is not an underlying condition. If there’s not a physical problem, then it’s up to us, and what we provide as owners, to help our dogs eliminate better.

Dogs show signs of being constipated by straining to defecate – with small volume expelled. You may notice hard bowel movements. As I mentioned, dogs need to eliminate everyday to be healthy. They may also look bloated and/or show signs of pain when attempting to defecate. Lack of appetite or even depression could be a sign of toxic buildup or discomfort due to constipation. Be sure to notice any differences in color or texture.

Well, what exactly can we do at home to help our dogs? Making sure they eat a good diet with moist food – not just dry food – is a must. Supply your pet with plenty of clean water and exercise.

Certain supplements have also been shown to help. Just like people, dogs need the good bacteria from probiotics to balance their guts and help with regularity. Choose a supplement that is potent enough to make a difference – at least 20 billion cultures per serving (whether in pill or powder) and containing 10 different strains of lactobacillus and bifido bacteria. Dogs have many of the same strains of good bacteria in their gut as their owners so providing them with a high culture count and multi strain supplement is as important for them as it is for us.

Here’s another important tip that many may not know – Omega 3s, which vets suggest for many other problems in dogs like kidney, heart and joint diseases, is also very effective in relieving constipation. A high dose omega blend of EPA and DHA totaling about 750mg of total omega3 is best.

Chances are good that you regularly clean up as your dog eliminates. That poop helps you to notice any changes that may be occurring in your pet’s health. Our dogs are so willing to give us unconditional love – and we enjoy it thoroughly! However they depend on us totally for their digestive needs. Let’s make sure they have the same opportunities for vital health that we do!

 

Sitting All Day? Reverse the Damage with Short Walks

Filed in Exercise, Heart Disease | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/06/2014


Do you sit for long periods of time throughout the day? Even if you don’t have a desk job, it’s likely that you sit at some point for at least an hour, which is enough to do damage to your arteries, according to researchers of a new study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

“We have shown that prolonged sitting impairs endothelial function, which is an early marker of cardiovascular disease, and that breaking sitting time prevents the decline in that function,” noted Saurabh Thosar, PhD, lead author of the study.

After one hour of sitting, the researchers found that endothelial function, or the expansion of the arteries as a result of increased blood flow, was impaired by as much as 50 percent. In those participants who walked for five minutes each hour, however, artery function remained healthy, most likely due to the increased muscle activity and blood flow, says Thosar.

“Americans adults sit for approximately eight hours a day,” he said. “The impairment in endothelial function is significant after just one hour of sitting. It is interesting to see that light physical activity can help in preventing this impairment.”

Endothelial dysfunction is one of the earliest signs of heart disease. It’s the process that initiates the disease. If you sit for more than one hour each day, be sure to get up and stake a short stroll as often as you can to help mitigate the harmful effects of being sedentary. Your heart will thank you.

Gutbliss Book Review

Filed in Adults, Diet, Exercise | Posted by Brenda Watson on 09/05/2014


I read an excellent book recently that I want to share with you. Gutbliss by Robynne Chutkan, M.D. is an excellent review of digestive conditions and how to treat them naturally, along with many success stories from her patients who have followed the Gutbliss plan.

A conventionally trained gastroenterologist turned integrative, Chutkan embodies what I wish more docs would—she recognizes that when patients take their health into their own hands, they find the healing they were searching for. She experienced this firsthand with her daughter, and now works to empower her patients and readers to heal themselves with the Gutbliss lifestyle.

The book covers a range of digestive conditions and gives helpful solutions for each one. I was particularly impressed by her coverage of parasites and Candida, topics that are skirted far too often by mainstream medicine. She also covers leaky gut syndrome, another topic I hear about too infrequently from medical doctors.

Dr. Chutkan explains the root causes of bloating and gas, offers steps to alleviate symptoms, and outlines a nutrition and exercise plan for optimizing gastrointestinal health. Research-based and gimmick-free, Gutbliss will provide a fascinating trip down your gastrointestinal superhighway.

If you are suffering from bloating, indigestion, constipation and other gastrointestinal ailments, you will find the book to be a valuable read. Her diet recommendations differ somewhat from my own, but they are still sure to help many people seeking better digestion through better eating habits.

Lower Stress for Allergy Relief

Filed in Allergies, Exercise, General, Immune System, Stress | Posted by Brenda Watson on 05/09/2014


Almost eight percent of American adults have allergies, or more specifically, hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis. It seems as though the allergies this spring are at an all-time high. A recent study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology found that among 179 individuals with rhinitis, those allergy sufferers under persistent stress experience more allergy flares than those individuals not under stress, suggesting that stress reduction may be a beneficial practice for people with allergies.

The researchers found that many allergy sufferers experienced an allergy flare within days of increased daily stress. They recognize the potential benefit of reducing stress, “While alleviating stress won’t cure allergies, it may help decrease episodes of intense symptoms,” noted Amber Patterson, MD, lead researcher.

To help reduce stress, and hopefully improve your allergies, experts recommend a few options:

  • Remove or reduce those things that stress you out. Learn to delegate, change your priorities, and organize your schedule to help reduce your stress load.
  • Get plenty of sleep each night.
  • Schedule some time for relaxation every day, even if for just a few minutes.
  • Exercise daily, even if it’s just a 15 minute walk.
  • Learn to meditate.

While it may seem that allergies are unavoidable, there are steps you can take to reduce your suffering. Reducing stress is an important step toward feeling better this season—and every day!

 

Long-Term Study Identifies Factors that Reduce Risk of Dementia

Filed in Dementia, Diabetes, Exercise, Heart Disease | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/06/2014


There are five main crucial factors for living a disease-free life: regular exercise, non-smoking, low body weight, healthy diet, and low alcohol intake, according to a recent 35-year study in Wales that was published in the Public Library of Science ONE journal. People who maintained four or five of these behaviors had a 60 percent decreased risk of dementia and cognitive decline and a 70 percent decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke compared to people who maintained none of these behaviors.

“The size of reduction in the instance of disease owing to these simple healthy steps has really amazed us and is of enormous importance in an aging population,” said Peter Elwood, MD. “What the research shows is that following a healthy lifestyle confers surprisingly large benefits to health—healthy behaviors have a far more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure.”

Less than one percent of the Wales population follows all five recommended behaviors, illustrating the importance for this message to be understood and implemented. As Wales is a Western country, following the Western lifestyle, my guess is that the United States follows a similar pattern.

The study followed over 2,200 men aged 45–59 over 35 years. “The results of this study overwhelmingly support the notion that adopting a healthy lifestyle reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia. These findings will hopefully go a long way in encouraging people to carefully consider their lifestyle and how it will impact on their health in later years,” said Christopher Allen, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, a co-sponsor of the study.

If you have not yet implemented four or five healthy behaviors found in this study, I encourage you to do so. You will live a healthier, more vibrant life by reducing your risk for disease.