To My Patients and Friends,
In this newsletter installment, I highlight a couple of articles that discuss the positive impacts that an active, healthy and engaged lifestyle can have upon our cognitive health. On this note (pun intended), I don’t think it’s possible to overemphasize the important role music can play in keeping our brains (and bodies) fit. Music is language. It can inspire us, it motivates us to get up and move, it stimulates us emotionally, it adds meaning to moments, it enables us to remain connected to important memories and to one another, and it enlivens many critical neural circuits in our brains.
Check out this nice article for more on music’s many health benefits.
Now on to the latest health news…enjoy!
Which number matters most?
Patients often ask which blood pressure reading (i.e., the “top” or “bottom” number) is most important? Back in the day, physicians generally felt as though the systolic reading mattered more, but over the course of time, research has proven otherwise. According to a large study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, both the upper (systolic) and lower (diastolic) blood pressure readings matter in terms of long-term risk for strokes or heart attacks.
For informational purposes, the systolic reading reflects blood pressure in our vessels during the contraction of the heart, whereas the diastolic reading reflects “baseline” blood pressure between contractions. And they both matter. In order to maintain optimal blood pressure, we always encourage that patients optimize their lifestyles with regular exercise, a healthy diet and avoidance of all tobacco products. In some cases, medications are necessary. Please make sure you check in with your physicians on a regular basis in order to monitor your pressure.
Do stricter gun laws matter?
States that have stricter gun regulations and rules that require universal background checks for gun purchases were found to have lower rates of firearm-related deaths among children, according to research recently published in the journal Pediatrics. In 2018, 73 children died in the U.S. from firearm-related accidents. That translates into way too many broken hearts and destroyed lives and families.
Update on Omega-3s
The use of omega-3 (fish or algae oil) supplements have been controversial in recent years. Some recent clinical studies have been unable to demonstrate a significant health benefit to using the supplements on a regular basis, leading many physicians to recommend against using these supplements routinely. However, a large study that was recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that those who have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their bloodstream have a lower risk of developing heart failure.
In terms of the risk-to-benefit ratio, it may be reasonable to continue using Omega-3 supplements for the purposes of preventing heart failure as well as for their other known anti-inflammatory effects. For what it’s worth, I do take a daily algae-based omega-3 supplement.
Here’s an interesting connection
According to research recently presented at the 61st annual meeting of the American Headache Society, a mom’s history of migraine headaches significantly increases her newborn’s risk of being a colicky baby. The research suggests that colic in newborns may be associated with a brain-related rather than a gut-related phenomenon.
Previous studies have shown that children with migraines are more likely to have experienced colic during infancy. So colic may simply be an infantile expression of a variant of migraines. The researchers of this latest study suggest that parents with a history of migraines who happen to have a cranky baby may want to minimize their newborn’s exposure to bright light and loud noises. In this particular case, an ounce of prevention may help parents get a good night’s sleep!
Another ounce of prevention…
A healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of developing dementia, even in those who are genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The most important lifestyle factors included being a non-smoker, engaging in regular physical activity (150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise), following a healthy diet including a large variety of whole-food plant-based meals, and low to moderate alcohol intake (no more than one alcoholic beverage per day for women or two per day for men—sorry, ladies!
On a related note, in another study recently published in the Journal the American Medical Association Neurology, stimulating cognitive and social activities over the course of a lifetime are associated with a significantly lower risk of developing dementia.
According to data from 60 million patients recently published in The Lancet, HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination programs achieved reductions in genital infections and anogenital warts in both men and women, and precancerous changes in womens’ cervical cells—all of which are known to be caused by HPV.
And finally, some news that’s not so sweet
Researchers who studied over 100,000 adults in France found that even moderate sugary drink intake is associated with increased overall cancer risk, including a notable increase in breast cancer in premenopausal women. Of note, these findings did not apply to artificially sweetened beverages. The researchers involved in the study, which was just published in the British Medical Journal, suggested numerous potential biological explanations for this association, including the known impacts of obesity, prediabetes and diabetes on cancer risk, as well as the potentially carcinogenic impacts of numerous chemical compounds found in these beverages.
Given that there are absolutely ZERO health benefits to using sweetened beverages, I would encourage you all to eliminate them completely, full stop.
That’s all for this newsletter installment…happy summer to everyone!