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Processed Foods – BAD!

The last weekend in May, Minnesota Public Radio held the very first Top Coast Festival in conjunction with the University of Minnesota. They brought in speakers from around the nation to talk about new solutions to some of the most vexing problems our country faces today. My husband and I were lucky enough to be able to attend the Festival and hear some phenomenal speakers. For those of you who were not able to attend, MPR began re-broadcasting all of the interviews the week following the Festival.

This is the third in a series of posts linking you to some of our favorite speakers. Please take the time to listen if there are topics that interest you. You are sure to be inspired!

In the book, “Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal,” New York Times writer Melanie Warner takes a look at American food, and its ties to obesity, diabetes, and a host of other health problems.

To read more and to hear this interview, please visit


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Stock Up on These 7 Foods to Help Fight Sun Damage

With the 4th of July weekend coming up, it is especially important for us all to keep sun damage in the forefront of our thoughts.  Of course, keeping out of the sun, covering up exposed skin, and wearing a good sunscreen are your best bets for protecting yourself against harmful rays, but there is one line of defense you could be forgetting: your grocery cart. Whether you have a long day in the sun ahead of you, or you’ve already been burned, with the help of Maria-Paula Carrillo, M.S., R.D.N., L.D., we’ve listed seven foods that work from the inside out to help repair your skin and build up its defense against the sun.

1. Sweet Potatoes

Cancer-causing compounds called free radicals are the enemy when it comes to sun damage. They not only cause damage to skin cells, but also cells inside the body. One of the best ways to help your body fight off free radicals is through consuming a variety of antioxidant-rich foods. An antioxidant is any chemical that can neutralize free radicals, turning them from unstable particles that damage healthy cells into stable particles that are essentially harmless. One of the major antioxidants is beta-carotene. Sweet potatoes are packed to the brim with beta-carotene, so chow down this summer!

2. Green Tea

Green tea is often applauded for its ability to rev up your metabolism, but it’s also a powerful skin food. Green tea contains a high concentration of catechins, which boast anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and antioxidant effects that fight off free radicals from the sun.  Brew fresh tea instead of  bottled, processed teas because the polyphenol count is lowered  once it’s been on the shelf.

3. Sunflower Seeds

These crunchy little seeds contain the powerful antioxidant vitamin E. One ounce of hulled sunflower seeds contains about 10 milligrams, which is about two-thirds of your recommended daily intake. Sprinkle over salads, mix into oatmeal, or eat by the handful. It’s best to get your dose of vitamin E from whole foods, versus supplements, to reap the most benefits. Other potent sources include nuts, eggs, green leafy vegetables, avocados, and whole grains.

4. Tomatoes

Lycopene is another important antioxidant to have in your diet regularly, especially during the summer, and tomatoes are one of the best sources. As a rule of thumb, the redder the tomato, the more lycopene it contains. Additionally, lycopene is more easily absorbed by your body when the tomatoes have been cooked, so reach for tomato paste, juice, soups, and sauces pre-beach day. Research presented at the Royal Society of Medicine in London found that consuming tomato paste significantly enhanced the skin’s ability to protect itself from harmful UV rays and also helped reduce redness from sun damage. Another source of lycopene is watermelon – perfect for this weekend!

5. Salmon

While antioxidant-rich foods are central to protecting your skin against the sun, it’s also important to consume healthy fats. “Foods like salmon, tuna, walnuts, and flaxseed are all good sources of omega-3s and will help maintain that healthy layer of fat underneath the skin and thus prevent skin damage and aging,” says Carrillo.

6. Asparagus

Asparagus is another great source of vitamin E -the green stalks are one of the most effective foods when it comes to neutralizing cell-damaging free radicals.

7. Water, water, water, and more water. The sun dehydrates you, and dehydrated skin is more sensitive and prone to damage.

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New Drug for Alzheimer’s Holds Promise

Researchers working with mice have identified a drug they believe holds promise as a preventive treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.  In the study, the compound cut levels of amyloid beta — a protein associated with this degenerative brain disease — by about half, the researchers said.  Years before Alzheimer’s develops, amyloid beta starts to build up and clump in the brain. Scientists believe that helping the brain remove this protein in late middle age might ward off the disease.

Preventing Alzheimer’s may be more feasible than stopping it once it develops and damages the brain, the NYU Langone Medical Center researchers said.  “The key is to prevent the disease process from going that far,” said the study’s leader, Dr. Martin Sadowski, associate professor of neurology, psychiatry, and biochemistry and molecular pharmacology.  A treatment based on this compound, known as 2-PMAP, might thwart Alzheimer’s, the researchers said. They found that the compound enters the brain easily and specifically targets amyloid proteins, reducing the risk for certain side effects. Since it is non-toxic for mice, they suspect it is likely safe enough to be taken regularly by people over a long period of time.

“What we want in an Alzheimer’s preventive is a drug that modestly lowers amyloid beta and is also safe for long-term use,” Sadowski said in an NYU news release.  “Statin drugs that lower cholesterol appear to have those properties and have made a big impact in preventing coronary artery disease. That’s essentially what many of us envision for the future of Alzheimer’s medicine,” he added.

However, results achieved in animal studies aren’t necessarily duplicated in humans.  In conducting the study, published online June 3 in Annals of Neurology, the researchers screened a collection of compounds and found that 2-PMAP dramatically reduced the production of amyloid precursor protein — the “mother protein” of amyloid beta. In test cells, this lowered amyloid beta levels by 50 percent or more.  The mice involved in the research were engineered to have the same genetic mutations as people with a hereditary form of Alzheimer’s disease. After receiving a five-day treatment with 2-PMAP, the levels of amyloid precursor protein and amyloid beta in brains of the mice dropped dramatically.  Treatment over four months appeared to prevent the mental deficits usually seen in these mice as they get older, according to the news release.

The researchers said they are now working on ways to make 2-PMAP more effective.  Alzheimer’s is currently the most common form of dementia, affecting more than 5 million Americans. Prevalence of the disease is expected to triple by 2050 if effective preventive treatments are not developed.

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Ezekiel Emaunuel on the ADA

The last weekend in May, Minnesota Public Radio held the very first Top Coast Festival in conjunction with the University of Minnesota.  They brought in speakers from around the nation to talk about new solutions to some of the most vexing problems our country faces today.  My husband and I were lucky enough to be able to attend the Festival and hear some phenomenal speakers.  For those of you who were not able to attend, MPR began re-broadcasting all of the interviews the week following the Festival.

This is the second in a series of posts from the best of the Festival speakers.    Please take the time to listen if there are topics that interest you.  You are sure to be inspired!

Ezekiel Emaunuel, Vice provost for global initiatives and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania spoke about the Affordable Care Act on Sunday morning at the Festival.  He made some really interesting points, including some great facts about preventive care, including exercise  programs which are right in line with our philosophies on healthy living at L2BH.

To listen to the interview, please visit

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Are You Dehydrated?

Nothing screams summer like a good sweat under the hot sun, but if you’re not replacing fluid as fast as your body’s pumping it out of your pores, you could be affected by sluggishness, cramped muscles or even life-threatening heat illness. How do you know if you’re in danger? We asked Douglas Casa, PhD, an exertional heat stroke expert and chief operating officer at the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute, to pinpoint five dehydration symptoms to watch.

1. You’re extra thirsty

A dry mouth doesn’t automatically mean danger. But thirst is your body’s way of reminding you to reach for your water bottle when you’re on your way to becoming dehydrated, so don’t ignore the obvious.

2. You’re dizzy or fatigued

If you feel a rush of lightheadedness when you stand up quickly after sitting down to stretch, it’s a good sign that your body’s low on H20. Dizziness is caused by a decrease in blood flow to the brain. And when there’s not enough water in your blood, blood volume and pressure both drop.  What about feeling run-down? Well, virtually every cell in the body needs water to function, so when you’re lacking liquid, your body has to work extra hard to carry about basic functions, hence the reason for increased fatigue.

3. Your heart rate is out of whack

Caught your breath, but heart still racing? When dehydration decreases the volume of blood in your body, your heart speeds up as it attempts to pump out the same amount of blood it would if you were properly hydrated. (In other words, when you’re dehydrated, your heart’s hard at work maintaining your blood pressure.) If you’re extremely dehydrated and your heart really gets going (say, above 100 beats per minute), you may experience palpitations, which are essentially hiccups in your heart’s rhythm.

4. Your muscles are cramping

Ever notice that you get more muscle cramps during the summer months? When you are sweating , you’re not just pumping water out of your pores; your body’s also flushing out electrolytes likes sodium and potassium. Electrolytes are essential to proper muscle and nerve function, and when they’re off balance, it’s easy to end up with cramp or muscle spasm.

5.  Your urine is almost orange

One of the easiest ways to tell if you’re dehydrated, your urine will be clear or very light yellow. But when you’re dehydrated, your kidneys try to keep every last drop of water in your body and thus decrease the amount of pee that you produce. And the less water that your body has to flush out, the less water there is in your urine, and the more concentrated it becomes.

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Exercise is Key Element in Stroke Prevention for Women

Stroke typically affects women in their later years, but doctors are now beginning to focus on helping them cut their risk earlier in life.  This increased attention to risk factors in early adult years was recommended by new guidelines that were released earlier this year by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.  Those guidelines are now being phased into practice by primary care doctors, experts say. For women, that translates to more screening for risk factors during office visits and more interventions to ensure a healthy lifestyle to reduce stroke risk.  Stroke is a serious interruption or reduction of blood flow to the brain, women have unique risk factors.

Among them are the use of birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy after menopause, which both increase stroke risk. Pregnancy-associated disorders also may have long-lasting effects on a woman’s health and her stroke risk.  An estimated 6.8 million persons in the United States have had a stroke, 3.8 million of whom are women, according to the summary. Women have poorer recovery and worse quality of life than men after a stroke, the summary says.

And here’s what women can expect if their primary care doctor adheres to the new guidelines.  Your doctor will screen for high blood pressure. It is the most changeable risk factor, and it’s more common in women than in men.  Depending on your age, your doctor may screen for atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm, by measuring pulse rate and doing an electrocardiogram.  Your doctor may ask you about any history of headaches. Migraine headache with aura can increase stroke risk, and reducing the frequency of migraine should be the goal as a possible way to reduce stroke risk.

Depression and emotional stress also boost stroke risk.  The guidelines also recommend focusing on a healthy lifestyle that helps prevent stroke. These measures include keeping weight at a healthy level, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, getting regular physical activity and keeping alcohol intake moderate, if women drink.

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Keep Moving – Keep Arthritis Away

Walking the equivalent of an hour a day may help improve knee arthritis and prevent disability, new research suggests.  Because of knee arthritis, many older adults find walking, climbing stairs or even getting up from a chair difficult. But these study findings equate walking more with better everyday functioning.

“People with or at risk for knee arthritis should be walking around 6,000 steps per day, and the more walking one does the less risk of developing functioning difficulties,” said the study’s lead author, Daniel White, a research assistant professor in the department of physical therapy and athletic training at Boston University.  Every step taken throughout the day counts toward the total, he said. The key is to wear a pedometer and take up to 6,000 steps daily, he said.  “People usually average 100 steps per minute while they walk, so (6,000 steps) is roughly walking an hour a day,” White said. “It doesn’t seem to make a difference where the steps come from.”  For someone with knee arthritis who is just starting to exercise, White recommended setting 3,000 steps as a first goal.

Other guidelines recommend walking considerably more than this for good health, but White said he was looking for the fewest steps that would help these patients remain mobile.  The study, published June 12 in Arthritis Care & Research, tracked the number of steps taken over a week by adults who were at risk for knee arthritis or already had it. All used pedometers and were part of a large osteoarthritis study.  Two years later the researchers assessed any arthritis-related functional limitations. They found that for every 1,000 steps taken, functional limitations were reduced 16 percent to 18 percent.

Walking not only builds muscle strength and flexibility, it also helps reduce arthritic pain, White and other experts say.  Many doctors hear complaints from patients who say they can’t walk because their knees, hips or other joints hurt. However,  the less one moves, the weaker the muscles get, and the less stable the joints are, increasing inflammation and pain.  Sitting around also increases the risk of weight gain, which can adversely affect joints.

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