'Tis the season for 'holiday heart'
Whether you're strong or weak, young or not-so-young,
your heart will get a workout over the holidays.
The double-whammy of overeating and overdrinking can
have serious consequences for anyone, whether it's just one
overindulgence or a combination of the two.
Doctors and emergency rooms all over the country
expect to be treating cases of "holiday heart."
In its mild form, it's an abnormal heart rhythm that
can be caused by even moderate amounts of alcohol. Fortunately, the
symptoms are harmless and subside as the alcohol leaves the body.
The second type of arrhythmia is serious atrial
fibrillation. It can be caused by having four or more drinks for several
days in a row. During AF, the two upper chambers of the heart quiver
instead of beating in rhythm. It's especially dangerous if other heart
disease is involved. A clot could form, which could migrate to the brain
and cause a stroke.
Overeating can lead to serious heart problems, but
during the holidays, overeating is common. One Mayo Clinic study found
that within two hours of eating a huge meal, the risk of a heart attack
It pays to plan your eating and drinking over the
Decide, for example, that you will only have a
before-dinner drink and an after-dinner drink. If someone is pouring
drinks, be sure they use one shot of alcohol, not two or more in every
At a big dinner, eat more vegetables than meat, avoid
fatty foods, and just eat part of the dessert.
During the holidays, it pays to eat, drink and be
Four nutrients linked to lower Alzheimer's risk
A study by Columbia University analyzed seven studies
of healthy seniors in New York. Their goal was to identify nutrients and
dietary patterns related to Alzheimer's disease risk.
Those who ate more cruciferous and green-leafy
vegetables, tomatoes, nuts and fish, but less meat and high-fat dairy
products had a lower risk. Omega-3, omega-6, folate and vitamin E in the
dietary pattern were found to decrease Alzheimer's risk. Saturated fat
and (surprise!) vitamin B12 increased risk. Doctors, however, say B12
might have raised risk because it's found in meat, and those eating more
meat might also be getting a lot of saturated fat.
Apples protect aging brain
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but drinking
apple juice can keep your brain sharp as you age.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell
say drinking apple juice increases the production of an essential
neurotransmitter in the brain. It permits communication between nerve
Doctors at Tufts University say maintaining strong
communication between cells is essential for the health of the brain as
well as the body.
Exercising one to three times a month helps the heart
For men in the Physicians Health Study, a little
weight loss or a little exercise significantly reduced their heart
failure risk. Their average age was 53
Losing a few pounds and exercising just one to three
times a month made surprising differences.
Men who were lean but never exercised increased heart
failure risk by 19 percent. If they were overweight and never exercised,
their heart failure risk was 78 percent higher.
For those who were overweight but did exercise, the
heart failure risk was 49 percent higher than it was for a lean man who
exercised vigorously just one to three times a month.
Get your vitamin D anyway
In winter, getting your quota of vitamin D by
exposing your skin to sunlight for 15 or 20 minutes a day is difficult.
Studies show people have lower levels of D in cold months.
A supplement could be the answer. For those up to age
50, 200 IU is recommended, and for those age 51 to 70, 400 IU is
New studies at the University of Cambridge show that
D is important for mental health. Vitamin D is well known for its role
in bone health.