Global warming with crazy weather happenings, the recent government shutdown, people with economic problems, trying to help patients get well when they cannot afford the medications that will heal them, these are just a few things that have led me to write once again about ….STRESS!
Stress is one of those things that is a natural part of life. And one of those things that can show up physically with new, or worsening, symptoms. Some of us handle it better than others. There are various types of stress. There is acute stress that you feel when you are in danger and that provokes a “fight or flight” response, otherwise known as an adrenaline rush. There is intermittent acute stress that is a hallmark of those with the type A personality. These are people who are stress junkies and thrive on deadlines and rushing around. Finally, there is continuous or chronic stress. This can be seen in people who are oppressed either by a job, relationship or a government.
The most dangerous form is chronic stress. After time, those with this type of stress get so used to it they don’t even notice it. The continuous outpouring of stress hormones can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even cancer.
It is important that you recognize stress in your life and that you do something about it, especially since there are so many ways to relieve stress. I advise starting with a healthy diet (avoid the urge to devour carbs), exercise is key, and then find ways to relax: read a lighthearted book; listen to soothing music; lay on the sofa holding your dog, and pet her nonstop. There are also complementary medical therapies (CAM) such as massage and acupuncture that can help. Meditation and yoga are great ways to relax and manage the stress response. Some may need the help of a therapist. There are chapters in our book, which go into much greater detail about all of these stress-busters including diet, exercise, and CAM therapies
Regardless of which route you choose, it is important to pay attention to your body and if you are chronically or even intermittently stressed get help and stay healthy.
It is estimated that over our lifetime women in the US have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer. There are many risk factors for this disease that include the following: a history of breast cancer in a family member, BRAC1 and 2 mutations, increasing age, early onset of menses, exposure to radiation and pesticides, excessive alcohol (two or more drinks a day), obesity, and lack of exercise.
Certain things such as family history and gene mutations we cannot change. However, there are a few simple things that we can do to decrease the chances that we will develop breast cancer. Here is what I have found.
Exercise. Just two and a half hours a week of vigorous walking can decrease the risk of breast cancer by almost 20%. Put on your shoes and get out there!
Eat a healthy diet that includes ground flax seed. A study done in Canada took 39 women with newly diagnosed breast cancer. For a month they were given either a regular muffin or a muffin made with 25 grams of ground flax. No other treatment was administered. At the end of the month they had another breast biopsy and the activity of the cancer cells was measured. Those who had eaten the daily flax seed muffin had a 31% decrease in the activity of their breast cancer cells. Those with HER-2 oncogenes (a more aggressive form of cancer) showed a 71% decrease in the activity of their cancer cells.
I suggest that you gradually add 2 tablespoons of ground flax into your diet. You can put it in smoothies, salads, and yogurt or in muffins. Make sure you keep it in the refrigerator if it is already ground. Caution: you need to increase the amount gradually or you will be spending a lot of time in the bathroom.
Eat mushrooms. Actually it is better if you get medicinal mushrooms in capsules. I recommend a blend of 17 mushrooms called Mycommunity that includes Reishi, Maitaki, Shiitaki, Turkey tail and Lion’s Mane. I also recommend capsules of Turkey Tail mushrooms in addition to the blend. Multiple scientific studies done around the world have found that mushrooms help to prevent breast cancer as well as improve treatment.
Certain types of mushrooms are able to boost the body’s ability to fight cancer cells. The beauty of these mushrooms is that they are food and have virtually no side effects unless of course you are allergic to mushrooms.
Drink green tea. Studies of Asian-American women found that those who drank green tea had significantly less breast cancer than those who did not drink it. How much to drink is unclear, but it is healthy and you might want to drink up many a cup.
Eat your veggies especially the cruciferous ones such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. The indol-3-carbinol in the vegetables may reduce the negative effect of estrogen on the breast. Soy in the form of food can also help prevent breast cancer through a similar mechanism.
Take your vitamin D and calcium. A recent clinical trial found that supplementing women’s diet with daily calcium (1500 mgs) and vitamin D (1000 IU’s) reduced their overall cancer rate by 60%. Of course it is best to get calcium from the diet. New recommendations have reduced the amount needed to 800 mgs a day but vitamin D is most consistently obtained from a supplement.
Making just a few simple changes to your lifestyle and adding a couple of supplements can have a huge impact on preventing one of the most dreaded diseases for women. You can’t change your parents or your genetic code (yet), but you can be proactive about your health and do what you need to do to make a difference.
When was the last time you or your children had their cholesterol levels checked? Do you have a strong family history of heart attack in your family? Do you want to have a healthy heart?
If you and your family have not been checked and/or you have a first degree relative that has premature heart disease (heart attack in a man <45 years old or a woman<55 years old) then it is time to see your doctor.
One in 300 to 500 people will have one gene mutation for familial hyperlipidemia (FH). This results in total cholesterol levels between 350 and 550 mg/dl. The form of FH with two gene mutations only occurs in 1 in 1,000,000 resulting in cholesterol levels between 650 and 1000 mg/dl. Both forms of these mutations puts patients at high risk for premature heart disease.
If aggressively treated, heart disease can be avoided but the key is to discover it early in life. The easiest way to do that is to have an exam by your physician and have a simple cholesterol panel done.
FH may result in cholesterol deposits on the skin and in the eye. A physician can easily detect these on exam. With the cholesterol blood panel the following results indicate FH in 80% of those with the following:
LDL cholesterol >249 mg/dl in a patient 30 or older
LDL cholesterol > 219 mg/dl for patients between 20 and 29
LDL cholesterol >189 mg/dl in a patient under age 20
Although it is relatively easy to detect and treat this problem, many people are going undiagnosed. That is why it is so important to have your children screened between the ages of 9 and 11. If you have a family history of hyperlipidemia and heart disease the recommendation is to test children by the age of 2. All patients should be tested by the age of 20.
The treatment for FH is the same as that for high cholesterol that is not hereditary, however it is generally started earlier in life and more aggressively with the goal of reducing LDL cholesterol by 50%. A heart healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet and (for those who want to be as aggressive as possible) a vegan diet along with exercise are the first lines of treatment. Statins, as tolerated are the medications that are generally recommended.
It is really important to be proactive about your health. For FH it is essential. The earlier it is detected and treated, the less likely disease will develop. Be smart and take care of your heart (and those of your children).