Why BMI Might Not Be the Best Barometer of Health

Your body mass index (BMI) is calculated based on your height and weight. It has been historically used to gauge how healthy a person is because it helps to determine if you are overweight or within the recommended range for your height and gender. For years, doctors and insurance companies have relied on a person's BMI as an indicator of their overall health. The presumption has been that if a person falls in the overweight category for BMI, then they are also unhealthy. New evidence now suggests that this is not always the case and can be a sloppy way of measuring someone's health. In fact, new research shows that more than half of U.S. adults who are technically overweight on the BMI scale are actually quite healthy. 

New studies suggest that we have been improperly equating a BMI score above the normal range as unhealthy based in part on our cultural biases towards overweight people. The research further suggests that it may actually be riskier for overweight people to try to diet in order to get their BMI score to fall within the normal range. There are some diseases, such as osteoporosis, for which being slightly overweight can actually mean that adults have a reduced rate of getting the disease. For other diseases, such as heart disease or stroke, it can be far more dangerous to be overweight. 

Rather than encouraging people to drop the weight at all costs, these new studies suggest that a more holistic view of a person's health is necessary. By fixating on a person's BMI score, a doctor may ignore that a patient is otherwise very healthy. If a doctor recommends that a person lose weight in order to be at a certain range within the BMI scale of normal weight, then that person may diet unnecessarily. This could end up resulting in overexertion and injuries as well as nutritional deficiencies. Proponents of the recent studies on the flaws within a BMI score argue that doctors are giving misguided advice to patients in regards to the need to undertake diet and exercise in order to change a number on the scale. 

Instead of focusing on a patient's weight as simply a number, supporters of the new BMI study suggest that doctors should be teaching patients how to live a healthy lifestyle in general. This means that instead of focusing on cutting calories and controlling portion sizes, adults should be much more concerned with eating the right amount of nutrients for them. Also, while physical activity for adults is important for a variety of reasons, it should not necessarily be prioritized over other healthy choices. For instance, if a patient is pushed to exercise with the sole purpose of losing weight, they may become easily disenchanted with the results and be less likely to live a generally active lifestyle. Instead, patients should be encouraged by their doctors to stay active for the simple sake of enjoying their quality of life. For instance, walking outdoors as a way to enjoy time outside and clear your head of stress can be a much more important goal than simply burning calories. 

Blueberries Take On Alzheimer's, Nature's Secret Fighter

You have probably heard that blueberries make for a great addition to your daily diet, but did you know that they have also been proven to fight off Alzheimer's? Alzheimer's is a very common form of dementia. Blueberries have already been proven to help reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer, but new research shows that the antioxidants found in blueberries could also be the key to helping you fight off Alzheimer's as well. This is great news because Alzheimer's already affects an estimated 5.3 million adults in the U.S. This number is expected to increase by 2025 to 7 million people. Taking positive steps to reduce your risk for Alzheimer's is a great way to tackle this disease head on. 

Another reason that blueberries retain their status as a super fruit is that they have been shown to boost memory and overall cognitive function. This is especially true for older adults and for people who have actually suffered from cognitive impairments at some point. The driving force behind the positive effect of blueberries on your overall brain function is anthocyanins, which are antioxidant pigments. While all forms of berries are generally healthy for you because they are very high in antioxidants, one of the things that make blueberries stand out is that they have the highest antioxidant content of all berries. Antioxidants work to fight harmful free radicals in the brain.

If you are looking for additional ways to keep your brain sharp and Alzheimer's at bay, then you consider adding foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. A great source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish, including salmon and tuna. You might also be able to take a supplement to get your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids if you are not able to eat fish on a regular basis. 

In addition to changing your diet to boost your cognitive functions, you can take proactive steps to keep your brain otherwise active. A huge step in the right direction for this is to get regular physical exercise. This can increase your circulation and make sure that enough oxygen gets to your brain to keep it sharp. Along with getting regular exercise, you should try to mix in as much social interaction as you can. Research shows that seniors who make a point of interacting with others on a regular basis are less likely to become depressed or develop symptom's of Alzheimer's. To kill two birds with one stone, you could arrange to exercise on a daily basis with friends. Mix in some blueberries for a healthy snack, and you have yourself a winning combination for beating Alzheimer's.

How To Stay Mentally Strong at 90

Paying attention to your mental health as you age is just as important as your physical condition. There are plenty of ways that you can stay mentally fit at 90 that only require a moderate level of commitment from you.

1. Keep Your Brain Active Each Day.

It is important to exercise your brain daily, just as you would any other major muscle in your body. One great way to engage your brain is to try to learn a new activity, such as a new language or playing a musical instrument.

2. Maintain Your Social and Familial Connections. 

Socialization is a great way to keep you active and stimulated as you age. Staying in touch with your family and friends is very important to your mental and emotional health. Set aside a certain amount of time each day to connect with your family and stay in touch. This could be a phone call or planning a visit with family. Aging adults that maintain an active social life are less likely to report signs of memory loss and tend to be more mentally alert in general. Strong social connections also keep you more positive and upbeat in general.

3. Get Enough Sleep.

Proper sleep is important for keeping your brain sharp throughout the day. You should try to remain as active as possible during the day, but it is vital to get a deep sleep each night. Try turning off your electronics well in advance of going to bed so that you can sleep more soundly.

4. Stay Physically Active.

Physical exercise can help to support brain health. You can try adding in an extra walk each day or planning to meet friends to exercise. This is also great for your heart health and can help to fight off depression. 

Study Confirms Long-Term Effectiveness of Weight-Loss Surgery

A new study confirms that weight lost after undergoing weight-loss surgery appears to remain off for 10 years or longer.

The study's conclusions suggest people interested in some kind of bariatric surgery can expect to lose a significant amount of weight and be able to keep it off for an extended period of time.

Past studies concluded weight loss surgery is an effective treatment for obesity, but there is not a lot of data regarding the long-lasting effects of such surgeries. This is a notable study because researchers followed patients for 10 years after their surgeries.

The research team for the two-part study examined results from 1,800 people who underwent gastric bypass surgery. The team compared weight changes from this group to weight changes of 5,300 obese veterans who had not undergone any formal weight-loss treatment or surgery.

Gastric bypass surgery is a procedure that reduces the size of the stomach and adjusting the small intestine so much of it is bypassed in digestion. People who have this surgery feel full much more quickly than normal. In addition, gastric bypass appears to change gut bacteria, gut hormones, and metabolism.

One year into the study, individuals who had undergone bypass surgery had lost on average 31 percent of their body weight. Non-surgical participants lost an average of 1 percent. A decade after the study began, researchers were able to review data from 564 of the 1,800 initial patients. Only 19 patients had regained significant weight. The surgery group weighed 21 percent less than the non-surgical group.

The researchers then compared adjustable gastric banding, sleeve gastrectomy, and gastric bypass surgeries. Gastric banding involves placing a band at the top of the stomach to produce a pouch and reduce the stomach size. The sleeve gastrectomy involves removing much of the stomach and creating a banana-shaped sleeve. All three of these procedures result in patients feeling fuller faster.

Four years post-surgery, people who had gastric bypass had reduced their weight by 28 percent, sleeve gastrecomy patients 18 percent, gastric banding 11 percent.

Most participants were white and male. They averaged 52 years in age.

JAMA Surgery published the study Aug. 31, 2016.

The study reveals that gastric bypass produces more weight loss than the other two weight loss surgeries, and that the weight loss could be sustained over a long term.

All other things being equal, the gastric bypass surgery seems to be the best option for significant, long-term weight loss. 

A Cycling Lifestyle and the Benefits it Endows

There is plenty of scientific evidence that cycling is good for your health in general. It is a low-impact form of physical exercise that has many of the same benefits as other aerobic forms of exercise, such as walking and running. Unlike running, however, it is much easier on your joints and can be performed even in old age. This is because it causes less strain on your joints and muscles and is also associated with fewer injuries than other forms of physical exercise. There is very little equipment needed, and it can be a very inexpensive way to get in shape because it does not require a monthly gym fee.

One of the best things about cycling is that it is very easy to fit into your daily lifestyle. For example, you can replace a quick trip in your car to the market with a simple bike ride. It is a great way to sneak in extra exercise without being bored and losing your motivation at a traditional gym. In addition, cycling is a great way to work all of your major muscle groups at once. It is a much more comprehensive and engaging workout than simply going for a leisurely walk. 

Even if you consider yourself to be uncoordinated, it does not take much effort at all to be able to pick up on cycling and get the hang of it for good. In fact, even if you have not tried cycling for many years, you never lose the skills and can literally hop back on a bike again without a problem. 

The major aerobic benefits are that it increases your strength, stamina and general level of fitness. Along those lines, regular cycling can even make other forms of working out much easier if you are looking to mix it up every once in a while. You can also scale your level of cycling to your general fitness level. If you have not worked out in a while, you can build up your level of intensity while cycling over time so that you do not injure yourself or get burned out too quickly.

There are also many social benefits of cycling because it is easy to do as a group activity. Incorporating some socialization into your workout is a good way to stay fit and find some extra motivation to stay on track with your exercise program. If you develop a group of friends who all like cycling, you can plan to meet up to exercise, which will keep you stimulated and active for longer. 

Tips to Find the Tastiest Ways to Eat Healthy

As you get older, eating healthy becomes increasingly important. A lot of people view this as a dreaded chore and see it as the end of enjoying food, but it doesn't have to be that way. You can continue to enjoy food, even while learning to up your game nutritionally.

1) Learn to Shop
Learn how to choose good quality produce. Many fruits and veggies taste good raw or with minimum preparation, assuming they are of good quality to begin with. Melons can often be checked by feeling how firm the rind is. Generally speaking, the flesh of berries and other fruits should be firm, but not hard. If you aren't good at this, ask a friend to teach you all about it.

2) Learn to Store Food Properly
Fresh produce is best if consumed fairly promptly, but if you don't shop daily, you need to learn to store it so it stays fresh. Rinse fruits and vegetables before putting them in the fridge to remove any pesticide residue. Grapes should be pulled off the stem before being put away. Celery should be placed in a glass of water to keep it crisp. Bananas should be hung from a hook to forestall spoilage. Apples should be stored separately from other items because they give off a gas that can hasten spoilage for some items.

3) Learn to Stir Fry
Stir fry involves cutting foods up into relatively small pieces -- because small pieces cook quickly -- and cooking them on high heat for a short period of time. If you aren't a fan of oriental foods, you do not have to eat anything you find weird. You can use the same technique to make familiar foods healthier because stir frying involves less oil and less exposure to heat, thus helping to preserve nutrients and reduce the amount of fat in your diet. If you adapt familiar recipes to a stir fry version, you can improve your nutrition and cut fat from your diet without making big changes to the kinds of foods you like to eat.

4) Learn to Spice
Generally speaking, most healthy diets require you to cut fat and sugar. These are both big sources of flavor for many people. Learning to use spices can help add flavor to your diet so you don't miss the fats and sugars so much. Stir fry some sweet potato slices with cinnamon and nutmeg and you may be happy with just a pinch of brown sugar instead of a spoonful. Add onions, chives or black pepper to your baked potato and you may be less grumpy about cutting back on the butter, cheese and bacon.

Contrary to popular opinion, eating healthy does not have to be a fate worse than death. If you learn to up your game on food selection, storage, and preparation, it is possible to not only enjoy healthy foods, but to enjoy them even more than low quality junk food while also doing your body some good.

Will Special Shoes Alleviate Your Arthritis Pain?

New research indicates "unloading" shoes do not offer any benefits over traditional walking shoes for people who suffer from arthritic knees.

"Unloading" shoes have modified midsoles and are meant to reduce the load, or force, placed on the knee joint with each step, according to the manufacturer of the shoes.

A study out of Australia focused on the Gel Melbourne OA, made by Asics, and concluded they were no better at relieving arthritis pain than standard shoes.

According to researchers, the unloading shoes do significantly reduce the forces on the knee joint, but wearers of the shoes did not report more pain relief with the modified shoes when compared to regular shoes.

Both the unloading shoes and standard shoes improved physical function and created significant pain relief among study participants; this led the researchers to question whether supportive lace-up athletic shoes should become the recommended footwear.

Knee osteoarthritis results in the wearing away of knee cartilage over time. This leads to stiffness, swelling, and pain around the joint that can impede a person's ability to walk, climb, or even complete tasks they do every day. It is most common after age 60.

There is no cure, so treatment focuses on lifestyle. Doctors recommend low-impact exercise like swimming, as well as maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if necessary. In addition, if any activity becomes painful, it's best to avoid it if possible.

Anti-inflammatory medications, ice, heat, and pain relief creams may also provide relief. In addition, physical therapy can help improve mobility and flexibility by strengthening the surrounding muscle groups, among other things. In more severe cases, patients may undergo surgery—from partial or total joint replacement to joint-lining removal.

Some clinicians may also suggest the use of a knee brace, a cane, or new shoes such as standard walking shoes. The manufacturer says unloading shoes include shock-absorbing inserts as well as stiffer-than-normal soles. These modifications aim to reposition the foot and reduce the load on the knee. It encourages pronation, or an inward roll of the foot.

This study involved 160 knee arthritis patients over the age of 49. They were split into two groups and randomly assigned to wear conventional Asics shoes or the Asics Gel Melbourne OA.

After six months, roughly 54 percent of each group reported improved pain levels. Forty-four percent of the unloading group reported improved physical function compared to 48 percent of the conventional Asics group. 

Finding the Right Food Plan and What it Means for You

We have all heard that eating right and getting enough exercise are the keys to maintaining a healthy weight and staying healthy in general. Rather than simply going on a crash diet plan or deciding that you are going to only eat a select few foods, the way to make sure you are starting out with a sustainable eating plan. While one of the reasons you may be considering ways to improve your diet is that you want to lose weight, there are also many other health benefits of sticking with healthy eating, such as higher energy levels, improved overall mood and lowering your risk for many preventable diseases.

When you are picking the right food plan, you need to do more than simply figure out the unhealthy foods to eliminate from your diet. In addition to this, you need to find the specific foods that will boost your nutrient intake and help you fight off cravings throughout the day. As you find foods to eliminate, make sure to replace them with healthy, low-calorie alternatives. Along with eliminating unhealthy foods, you should pay attention to your portion control. Eating too much of relatively healthy foods can still contribute to weight gain. If you need help with portion control, you can try preparing your meals ahead of time using containers with the correct proportion sizes for your needs.

You should also think about your daily schedule and ask yourself if you are eating at the right times during the day. For example, if you are skipping breakfast every day and then snacking before lunch, this could be an opportunity to adjust your meal time and save on unhealthy calories. One of the best methods for portion control and a healthy eating schedule is to make sure that you eat breakfast during the day and then consume more frequent, smaller-sized meals rather than a massive lunch and dinner. Another cardinal rule is to avoid eating late at night because your metabolism will be slower.

While everyone may have different specific nutrient needs, a good general rule of thumb is to reduce the amount of sugar that you are eating during the day. Consider replacing sugary drinks with water and sugary foods with fruit as healthier alternatives. This will also help you stay fuller longer and avoid snacking on unhealthy choices in between meals. If you need a good transition from sugary drinks like soda to water, try switching to unsweetened iced tea first.

Stressed Out Dads May Influence Toddler's Development

A new study suggested dads who stress out about parenting could negatively effect their toddler's development.

The study involved 730 families and concluded that families in which the fathers experienced high levels of stress over parenting had sons with lower language skills at 3 years old than other families. Both girls and boys tended to score lower on cognitive tests, which involve skills such as learning, reasoning, and paying attention.

This study's findings add to a growing body of research explaining how fathers influence the development of their children. Most studies regarding kids' well being focus primarily on the mothers' influence, rather than the fathers'. More recent studies have begun looking into the influence of both parents or that of the father.

This study found that dads involved in their child's upbringing affect their preschoolers' emotional development and language skills, in addition to older children's risk for depression and behavioral problems.

Gender roles are shifting as times change. There are more fathers sharing responsibility for raising kids, as well as more fathers acting as stay-at-home parents. The study focused on lower-income couples in the United States, with a focus on their parenting related stress in particular. Participating families filled out a standard questionnaire for researchers to assess stress levels. They had to agree or disagree with statements such as "Sometimes I feel my child doesn't like me" or "I feel trapped…"

The study overall concluded the fathers' level of parenting stress influenced cognitive development and language development in young children. In addition, the study concluded kids more often had behavioral problems throughout their childhoods if the father experienced depression symptoms or was chronically stressed.

The researchers noted that the fathers' influenced seemed independent of the mothers; in other words, the fathers were not stressed because their wives were stressed.

The study established an association, not a cause-and-effect relationship, but nonetheless either parents' stress could influence a child's development. For example, if a parent's mind is racing, frantic, or busy, they may be less responsive to cues from their child, including words and behavior.

This study supports growing research on the importance of fathers in children's behavioral and cognitive development. In general, fathers can provide unique encouragement. For example, fathers are generally more likely to encourage young children to take risks, explore, and be clearer with their words.

This study underlines the importance of a father's wellbeing to the development of their child. As with many care-giving situations, it is very important to care for yourself in order to better care for your family. 

Summer Strong: Keeping You Kids Active While School’s Out

A local Physical Education teacher has been working with UCLA on a study that encourages children to stay active during summer months while school is out.

Martin Wurmlinger is that physical education teacher and he is working with the University of California in Los Angeles’ Sound Body Sound Mind organization. He has stressed that “getting out and finding an activity that keeps [kids] moving and raises heart rate levels” is the most important thing a child can do to keep healthy during the summer months.

While the simple task of raising heart rate levels is important in Mr. Wurmlinger’s opinion he offers a five-pronged approach to maximize a child’s athletic performance. The five important areas to focus on are: muscle strength, heart endurance, muscle endurance, flexibility, and body composition.
There are various ways to tackle these areas of athletic performance.

To fight the summer heat Mr. Wurmlinger suggests that children exercise in a pool, if they have access to one. Swimming can activate more than one of these five core areas of athletic competency.

Another full-body exercise that the organization from UCLA suggests is the burpee. With these exercise your child will start in a standing position, squat into a plank position, then jump into the air from that plank. You can find out more how to do a burpee in THIS YouTube video.

Finally, one of Mr. Wurmlinger’s most unique ideas is to give your child a pedometer. You and your child should sit down at a map and find a location that is far way that your child might like to travel to. This could be Disney World, China, or maybe even around the world. Determine how far in miles these locations are from your front door and have your child try and travel this distance on his or her pedometer over the course of the summer, or even year. This gives children a goal, something to strive towards.

It’s easy to let your kids stare at the TV screen or play video games all summer long. This summer we suggest that you take some of the advice that the Sound Body Sound Mind organization have presented in this new study and get your kid moving.

To learn more about Mr. Wurmlinger’s project and the Sound Body Sound Mind organization you can find their website HERE.