IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  September 1, 2005

Apricot Energy Booster

If you were to check with NASA, they would tell you that apricots have been on the menu for astronauts in flight on many occasions including Apollo 15's trip to the moon. They are included in puddings and snack bars as quick sources of energy.

In ages past, Chinese brides ate apricots to increase fertility. They didn't know why it did, but we now know that apricots are high in a mineral needed for the production of sex hormones.

Many of apricots' health benefits come from their high levels of carotenoids including alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene. The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which has many healing qualities. It's a powerful antioxidant that protects the eyes from macular degeneration and greatly reduces the risk of getting cataracts.

Apricots protect your heart. Whether you eat this velvety fruit by hand or include it in recipes, you'll get plenty of lycopene, an important heart protector that fights formation of cholesterol, the bad kind. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture say lycopene is one of the strongest antioxidants.

Tasty apricots are high in fiber. That means eating them can help you lose weight, control high blood sugar, and lower cholesterol levels. Fiber is essential for keeping digestion regular.

To get the most from apricots, buy them when they are still slightly firm. Once they are soft, healthful compounds begin to break down. Avoid those with green spots, because apricots don't ripen after they leave the tree. Pick yellow or orange fruits.

Apricot Breakfast Treat.

Spread 3/4 C of low-fat granola without raisins into a glass serving bowl. Top with 1 C nonfat plain or lightly sweetened vanilla yogurt.

Pit and thinly slice eight apricots and spread over the yogurt. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Then top by sprinkling with 1/4 C of granola.

Doctor's Book of Food Remedies (Rodale)


Here's How To Do It

Keep your heart healthy now to prevent Alzheimer's disease in later life.

Maybe it was inevitable that scientists would find that almost every late-life condition is linked to how we live our lives for decades before. But they are surprised at how the link between heart health and Alzheimer's disease has emerged.

Neuropsychiatrists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine say it appears that reducing your risk of heart attack or stroke also helps to keep oxygen-rich and nutrient-rich blood pumping into your brain.

Brain cells can then stay healthy and keep areas of the brain from withering. Withering causes symptoms of Alzheimer's disease such as memory loss, disorientation, and erratic behavior.

Some experts say the buildup of plaques in the arteries of cardiovascular patients is similar to the buildup of plaque in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.

The new discoveries provide hope that the strategies used to prevent heart attack and stroke can also prevent Alzheimers. Their advice:

Control blood pressure. Keep it at 120/80 or less, whether by diet, exercise, or taking drugs. A Swedish study shows that lowering blood pressure with medication significantly reduces the risk of Alzheimer's.

Prevent or control type 2 diabetes. Diabetes damages blood vessels, which reduces blood flow to the brain. Maintaining a healthy weight is important.

Fight bad cholesterol. Studies show elevated low density lipoprotein (LDL) may contribute to beta-amyloid plaques that are typical of Alzheimer's.

Increase good cholesterol with diet and aerobic exercise. People with the highest levels of HDL are far less likely to get Alzheimer's.

Eat well. Get plenty of antioxidants, B vitamins, and folic acid. Eat fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Buy whole grain bread, rice, and pasta. Get healthy fats from nuts, seeds, fish, and olive oil.


Exercise and Loving It

You know you want to get more exercise, but how do you find the time and the desire?

Making it something you can look forward to and enjoy doing is the key. Here are a few ways to do it.

  • Join up. Go with the fun crowd to play tennis, soccer, basketball, even bowling. When you will be with people you enjoy, you'll make time for the activity even if you're not good at it. You'll get better.
  • Get outside. Hiking in beautiful surroundings, swimming, biking, or skiing in winter will make you physically and mentally healthier. And you'll burn more calories. Studies at Utah State University show that people hiking outdoors burn more calories than people using a treadmill.
  • Walk to the music. Going with the beat is great whether you walk outside or on a treadmill. At East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., doctors found that men listening to the tunes of their choice upped their speeds and burned more calories but didn't even realize they were working harder.
  • Get an instructor. Find one at your health club who cares about you, your program, and your measurements. Don't focus on body shape, focus on training and health instead.


    Prevent Life-Threatening Infections

    Vaccines are a key to a healthy life for people of all ages and cultures. They have been used since the 1700s and are recognized as among the safest and best ways to prevent a variety of diseases.

    Before school starts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children receive vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), mumps, rubella, chicken pox, and polio.

    Adolescents should be vaccinated against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and meningococcal disease, as well as any immunizations they have missed earlier. Because of the recent rise in pertussis cases, those who have not been vaccinated against it for five to 10 years should get a booster shot.

    Those recommended for adults include vaccines against influenza, pneumonia, tetanus, and diphtheria.


    C, E Reduce Alzheimer's Risk

    The Alzheimer's Association of Chicago reports that taking vitamins C and E may reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease. It is thought that these antioxidants absorb damaging free radicals in the brain and prevent cell damage.

    A study by Johns Hopkins shows that people taking both C and E were 64 percent less likely to have developed the disease four years later.

    Recommended doses are 500 to 1,500 mg of vitamin C and 400 to 1,000 IU of vitamin E daily. Ask your doctor which dose is best for you.

    Protect Kidneys

    More than one in nine Americans have chronic kidney disease, and many more are at risk. The number of people with end-stage kidney disease doubled during the last decade, mainly because high blood pressure and diabetes are often inadequately treated.

    Most people with kidney disease are unaware of it because it's possible to function well at half of normal capacity. Over time, however, hypertension and diabetes accelerate the decline. Treatment requires dialysis or a kidney transplant. Complications include heart disease, weak bones, and anemia.

    Everyone should be screened for hypertension and diabetes. Guidelines by the National Kidney Foundation say people with these conditions, a family history of kidney disease, and elderly African-Americans, Hispanics, or Asians, require two more tests:

  • A urine test for albumin which is caused by impaired kidney function.
  • A blood test for creatinine to estimate how efficiently the kidneys are functioning.

    Everyone, especially those at risk, can protect their kidneys by losing excess weight, exercising, not smoking, avoiding excessive amounts of over-the-counter pain killers (which are processed by the kidneys), limiting alcohol intake, and eating less salt and protein.

    Kidney damage can't be reversed, but its progression can be delayed or stopped with these measures.


  • Finding an Organ Donor

    MatchingDonors.com is a nonprofit Web site which helps patients who desperately need a new liver or kidney to find living donors.

    Patients can join MatchingDonors for fees starting at $295. Some 2,000 donors now offer organs to strangers for nothing more than goodwill. It is illegal to sell organs.

    Since its startup in October, seven members have received transplants. Some question the ethics of such a search, but with 88,000 people in the federally sponsored United Network for Organ Sharing (17 die each day), ethics are not these patients' main concerns.

    Fast Pulse and Sudden Death

    If your resting pulse rate is more than 75 beats a minute and you are a man in your 40s or 50s, you could be at risk for a sudden, fatal heart attack.

    Research reported in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that an elevated resting heart rate was one of three simple tests that may predict a future risk of sudden cardiac death.

    The study showed that those with a resting heart rate of 75 or more were four times as likely to die of a sudden cardiac cause (in the next two decades) than were those whose resting heart rate was less than 75 beats per minute.

    Caffeine and cold medications raise the heart rate and do not allow a true indication of the resting count.

    A count below 75 doesn't necessarily indicate heart health. But the count is an easy, cost-free test anyone can take.

    Few Have a Healthy Lifestyle

    Everyone knows what a healthy lifestyle is but few people have one. A new study shows that only 3 percent of Americans don't smoke, eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy body weight.

    The Michigan State University study shows that 72 percent don't smoke, 40.1 percent maintain a healthy weight, 23.3 percent said they eat five servings of fruits and vegetables, and 22.3 percent said they exercised five times a week.


    Whooping Cough Case Increase

    Last year, cases of pertussis, often called whooping cough, reached a 40-year high in the U.S. with about 20,000 cases nationwide. About 75 percent were in people younger than age 20.

    Though it is rarely fatal, the disease can linger for weeks or months with coughing so intense it can bring on vomiting fits. Patients are treated with antibiotics.

    Adolescents most often contract the highly contagious bacterial infection say doctors at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana. Young children are generally protected through immunization, but the vaccine loses its potency after five to 10 years.

    The disease can spread rapidly because in its early, most infectious stage, its symptoms are similar to those of the common cold. As a result, people spread pertussis without realizing they are contagious.

    It would be wise to have adolescents immunized against pertussis. Adults should also consider immunization if they have respiratory problems, adolescents in the family, or weakened immunity.


    Promising New Cancer Drugs

    Doctors think a new generation of cancer drugs will cure or manage several different kinds of cancer. They work by blocking cancer's multiple pathways, cutting off the blood supply to a tumor.

     At the same time, they jam the "switchboard" a tumor uses to send messages to grow and spread.

    The new drugs go beyond medicines which have impressed scientists for their ability to target cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

    Pfizer's new drug that for now is called AG-013736 shrank tumors in 40 percent of advanced kidney disease cases. Current treatments do that in only one of 10 cases. It also works on lung cancer.

    Farthest along of such drugs is Sorafenib, made by Bayer Pharmaceuticals and Onyx Pharmaceuticals. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows it for limited use on kidney cancer.