IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  September 1, 2007

Greens for flavor and health

Like everyone else, you have read it in many directions for good health: Eat plenty of dark, leafy greens. But what are they, and what do you do with them first?

They include kale, Swiss chard, (the queen of all greens), dandelion greens, beet greens, mustard greens, spinach, and turnip greens. But unless you live in the South, you've probably done little more with greens than sprinkle spinach on a salad.

If that's the case, you're missing out on wonderful side dishes and main dishes. We won't dwell on the health benefits because they've been so widely documented, from their huge vitamin and mineral content to those very important phytochemicals. They are important for cancer prevention.

In parts of the world, where vegetarianism is a way of life, people meet their daily calcium needs not by drinking milk but by eating greens.

To cook any kind of greens, clean them well, cut them up, and boil for about 4 minutes. Even better, put them in the microwave for a couple of minutes. For large-leafed greens like Swiss chard, run a sharp knife alongside the stem and center rib, separating the leaf from the stem.

Sauteing in olive oil and with garlic cloves and red-pepper flakes is also recommended.

Try this delicious recipe.

Creamed Swiss chard with onions.

In a large no-stick skillet over medium heat, warm 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Add 1 medium onion, sliced.

Cook stirring frequently for 5 to 6 minutes or until softened.

Add 1 pound of Swiss chard, cut into bite-size pieces. Cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the chard starts to wilt.

Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour and gradually add 1 cup of canned evaporated skim milk.

Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Add 2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg. Stir to mix.

Makes 4 servings.

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Cynicism creates heart risk

Cynics are distrustful people who generally believe the worst about others. But cynicism is a learned attitude and changing one's outlook can do much to improve life and health.

Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor show that a cynical outlook increases the risk of heart disease. And cynical people are more likely to have diabetes, obesity, and to smoke. The link between these conditions and cynicism will be studied further.


High BP? OK to exercise

People with mild high blood pressure may worry that exercise will strain their hearts. Doctors at Johns Hopkins say moderate exercise on a treadmill or stepper, or with weight training, has no ill effects.

Further, a long-term exercise program benefits the heart, reduces body fat, and counteracts many risk factors for heart disease.

Study: Sleep improves memory, learning

While your conscious mind is off duty as you sleep, your brain cells are on a path of their own. Researchers at Harvard Medical School say that during sleep, brain activity processes information learned during the day. Brain cells replay the memory during deep sleep, and that replay makes memory stronger.

Sleep researchers say most Americans don't get the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep a night. They could be setting themselves up for attention lapses and poorer recall of facts from the previous day.

Blood sugar and cancer

According to Diabetes Care, women with the highest glucose levels have up to a 75 percent greater overall risk of cancer compared with those at the lowest levels. The study showed no significant link between total cancer risk and blood-sugar levels for men. For both men and women, the risk of pancreatic cancer, cancer of the urinary tract, and skin cancer increased with blood sugar levels.

Wiggle your toothbrush

Holding your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle when you brush your teeth is generally recommended. But to assure that you are reaching your teeth at the gum line and below, wiggle your tooth brush instead of scrubbing part of the time. The wiggling brush is also important when brushing the backs of teeth.


Most common eating disorder: bingeing

Researchers at Harvard have found that binge-eating disorder (BED) is more common than anorexia and bulimia nervosa combined. It's the most common eating disorder in the United States.

Binge eating is defined as single bursts of uncontrolled eating that last less than two hours and occur at least twice a week. Because of its association with obesity, it is a major public health problem. About 30 percent of cases are male.

Symptoms may go back to childhood, where cases begin as early as age 8. In his new book, The Good Eater: The True Story of One Man's Struggle With Binge Eating Disorder, Ron Saxon says secret eating and unexplained weight gain are symptoms of BED. Evenings are when binge eaters most often lose control.

Saxon left his career as a model when pressure to be thin was too much. Previously, he was able to hide the disorder, but then he gained almost 120 pounds.

The condition has no proven cause, but is linked with depression and anxiety. Therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, (nacbt.org) can help.


Plantar Fasciitis

What causes heel pain, what cures it?

A number of things can cause a searing pain when you step on your heel. Doctors first rule out a pinched nerve in your back, ankle, or foot, a stress fracture, or inflammatory arthritis.

In most cases, the pain is caused by inflammation of the fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, the plantar fascia. Excessive weight can cause it. Other factors include:

  • Shoes with soles that are thin, lack shock absorption, have poor arch support, or have 2 inch or higher heels. Switching from regularly wearing high heels to flatter shoes increases strain on tissues around the heel.
  • Overloading your feet. Regularly standing in one spot for long periods of time increases risk, as does lifting heavy objects. Making a sudden change in the amount of weight-bearing activities you do, such as walking more on vacation, increases risk, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic.
  • An abnormal walking pattern that interferes with distribution of weight stresses the plantar fascia, as does having flat feet or high arches.

    What to do for plantar fasciitis:

    In addition to losing excess weight, do some stretches to reduce pain. Stretch several times a day by standing away from a wall and leaning toward it.Soaking only your heel in cold water may help. Or apply a cloth-covered ice or gel pack for 15 minutes, especially after an activity.

    Wear low- to medium-heeled shoes with good support and shock absorption. Avoid going barefoot.

    It could take weeks or months for the small tears in the fascia to heal. Nonprescription pain relievers can help.


    Running, jogging, or walking

    A canine pal will keep you on track.

    If you've been running and walking with friends or family, you know the pleasure of their companionship. You also know the problems.
    Family and friends can show up late, argue about which route to take, or cancel completely. A dog never will.

    On days when the weather is not ideal, on days when you don't feel like going, and every other day, your canine companion will be there, leash in mouth, urging you to get started.

    Dogs love to run. The only time they will complain is when you don't run at all. Runner Kevin Helliker says that's the type of push that personal trainers charge money for.

    Your dog also provides a measure of protection on your route and companionship.

    In his book and on his DVD called, The Loneliness of the Distance Runner, Michael Redgrave writes that during a long run blissful solitude begins to feel lonely and isolated.

    If your dog hasn't run much before, start him on shorter runs. In hot weather, watch for signs of exhaustion. Carry water for you and your dog. Avoid hot blacktop. Make sure the dog has no food for at least an hour before the run.

    Dog psychologists say most doggie behavior problems disappear when the dog has an opportunity to get outdoors and run regularly. Dogs need exercise. So do you.

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  • Dry Eye

    There is a tremendous need for consumer awareness.

    Symptoms of dry eye can range from mildly irritating to almost debilitating. They include painful scratchiness, light sensitivity, and stinging.

    About 25 percent of eye-doctor visits are for dry-eye complaints, but patients say the doctors don't offer much help. They advise blinking more and using over-the-counter lubricating drops.

    What's causing the big increase in dry-eye problems?

  • Age. Most patients are over 40.
  • Soft contact lenses. They absorb fluid on the eye surface.
  • Vision correction surgery. Dry eye can be a side effect of the 1.4 million U.S. surgeries done annually.
  • Eyelid surgery. Sometimes results in a sliver of an opening when eyes are closed, which dries the eyes.
  • Activities in which the eyes are not blinked regularly including computer use and watching television.
  • Wind. Outside or from heating and cooling systems in the home and car.
  • Dust or allergens in the air.

    With a huge need for dry-eye treatments, many pharmaceutical companies are developing new drugs. Right now, here's what's available:

    Lubricating drops such as Systane, TheraTears, and Refresh.

    Proclear and Acuvue Oasys, contact lenses meant to alleviate dry-eye for contact wearers.

    Omega-3 fatty acid (a nutritional supplement). A 2005 Harvard study showed the benefits of tuna.

    Restasis, an FDA approved prescription drug that has good results in many cases but doesn't work for everyone.

    Goggles: Those by Panoptx and others create a moisture chamber around the eye. They are available at ski shops and motorcycle shops.

    Boston Scleral Lens. A custom-fitted prosthetic device that creates a reservoir over the cornea.

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    Lung scans for smokers

    In the U.S., only 16 percent of lung cancer cases are detected in Stage 1, when tumors are still confined to the lung. After that, most cases are terminal.

    A new study shows that screening smokers for lung cancer with computerized chest scans can save lives. People whose lung tumors were detected early by CT scan and promptly removed had an estimated 10-year survival rate of 92 percent, far better than the 5 percent who live that long after the disease has spread beyond the lungs.

    New Resuscitation Technique

    When a person "dies" of a heart attack, it is assumed that if not resuscitated within minutes, his heart and brain cells have died from lack of oxygen. New studies at the University of Pennsylvania, however, show that the cells actually live for several hours after the attack. It is the sudden infusion of oxygen given in emergency rooms that makes the cells die.

    Instead of flooding the heart muscle with oxygen, researchers say the heart should be given a gradual infusion of oxygen. With gradual infusion, they were able to save 80 percent of patients.

    Patients were put on a heart-lung bypass machine to maintain circulation to the brain until the heart could be safety restarted. Lowering body temperature by injecting a mixture of salt and ice to cool the blood also slows cell death.

    Period-stopping pill approved

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first pill designed to halt a woman's monthly menstrual periods indefinitely.
    Lybrel is approved for continuous use. It departs from the 21-days-on and 7-days-off pills sold since the 1970s.

    The pill contains two hormones already used in birth-control pills, ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestre.

    Taking Lybrel daily lets women suppress their periods altogether when taken without a break. Manufacturer Wyeth planned to start sales in July.