Friday, January 10, 2014


   The word health means different things to different people, depending on the situation. If somebody says "I was worried about my husband's health when he climbed Mt. Everest", it is clear that the woman is referring to her husband's physical health, possibly his heart, skin (frostbite) and risk of developing hypothermia (when the body's temperature drops too low.   On the other hand, if you hear the phrase "With all these deadlines, presentations and working weekends, I wonder what the effect will be on her health," most likely the word "health" refers more to mental health than physical health (although the two are often linked).
   The words "health" or "healthy" can also be used in non-medical contexts. For example "A healthy economy needs an ideal GDP growth rate that is sustainable, one that remains in the expansion phase of the business cycle as long as possible."
   The English word "health" comes from the Old English word hale, meaning "wholeness, being whole, sound or well,". Hale comes from the Proto-Indo-European root kailo, meaning "whole, uninjured, of good omen". Kailo comes from the Proto-Germanic root khalbas, meaning "something divided".
   Medilexicon's medical dictionary has three definitions for health, the first being "The state of the organism when it functions optimally without evidence of disease or abnormality" (click here to read the other two).

World Health Organization's (WHO's) definition of "health"   The most famous modern definition of health was created during a Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948. 
   "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
   The Definition has not been amended since 1948. 
   During the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion in 1986, the WHO said that health is: 
   "A resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities."

Friday, May 31, 2013


   Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act, which allows employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid but job-protected time off for medical reasons. Yet millions of American workers continue to be at risk of losing their jobs should they or a child, spouse or parent become seriously ill for any length of time.    Workers such as Danielle Buchman, whom Washington Post reporter Brigid Schulte featured on Sunday in an article marking FMLA’s anniversary:

Eight weeks before Danelle Buchman’s baby was due, an artery ruptured in her uterus, which nearly killed her and her child. Delivered by emergency C-section in 2010, her newborn daughter, Avery, spent one month in intensive care. Buchman survived only after an immediate hysterectomy. When she tried to return to a PR job she loved and had won rave performance reviews for at a Maryland nonprofit a few weeks later, Buchman’s employer first demoted her and cut her salary by a third. Then it fired her.
   According to the results of a U.S. Department of Labor survey released last week, FMLA has been working well for employees and employers alike. “Employers generally find it easy to comply with the law, and misuse of the FMLA by workers is rare,” the DOL noted in a statement that announced the survey results. “The vast majority of employers, 91 percent, report that complying with the FMLA has either no noticeable effect or a positive effect on business operations such as employee absenteeism, turnover and morale. Finally, 90 percent of workers return to their employer after FMLA leave, showing little risk to businesses that investment in a worker will be lost as a result of leave granted under the act."   But that hasn’t kept some business interests from continuing to contend that the law is too generous to employees and too burdensome to employers. A lobbying group with the Orwellian name the National Coalition to Protect Family Leave has been trying to rein in the law since its inception. One of their oft-repeated claims is that FMLA allows employees to take unpaid leave for “pink eye, ingrown toenails and colds.” 
   Many labor and health officials argue, however, that FMLA needs to be expanded, not tightened. The United States trails most of the rest of the world when it comes to taking care of sick employees, they point out. Indeed, we’re the only industrialized country without mandatory paid sick leave. And we’re one of three countries (out of 177) that does not have mandatory paid parental leave. The other two: Papau New Guinea and Swaziland.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Blood pressure is typically recorded as two numbers, written as a ratio like this:

Read as "117 over 76 millimeters of mercury"


The top number, which is also the higher of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle contracts). 


The bottom number, which is also the lower of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood). 

What is the AHA recommendation for healthy blood pressure?

This chart reflects blood pressure categories defined by the American Heart Association.
Blood Pressure
mm Hg (upper #)
mm Hg (lower #)
Normalless than 120andless than 80
Prehypertension120 – 139or80 – 89
High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 1
140 – 159or90 – 99
High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 2
160 or higheror100 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis
(Emergency care needed)
Higher than 180orHigher than 110

* Your doctor should evaluate unusually low blood pressure readings.

How is high blood pressure diagnosed?

Your healthcare providers will want to get an accurate picture of your blood pressure and chart what happens over time. Starting at age 20, the American Heart Association recommends a blood pressure screening at your regular healthcare visit or once every 2 years, if your blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg.

Your blood pressure rises with each heartbeat and falls when your heart relaxes between beats. While BP can change from minute to minute with changes in posture, exercise, stress or sleep, it should normally be less than 120/80 mm Hg (less than 120 systolic AND less than 80 diastolic) for an adult age 20 or over.About one in three (33.5%) U.S. adults has high blood pressure.

If your blood pressure reading is higher than normal, your doctor may take several readings over time and/or have you monitor your blood pressure at home before diagnosing you with high bp.

   A single high reading does not necessarily mean that you have high blood pressure. However, if readings stay at 140/90 mm Hg or above (systolic 140 or above OR diastolic 90 or above) over time, your doctor will likely want you to begin a treatment program. Such a program almost always includes lifestyle changes and often prescription medication for those with readings of 140/90 or higher.

    If, while monitoring your blood pressure, you get a systolic reading of 180 mm Hg or higher OR a diastolic reading of 110 mm HG or higher, wait a couple of minutes and take it again. If the reading is still at or above that level, you should seek immediate emergency medical treatment for a hypertensive crisis. If you can't access the emergency medical services (EMS), have someone drive you to the hospital right away.

    Even if your blood pressure is normal, you should consider making lifestyle modifications to prevent the development of HBP and improve your heart health.

Which number is more important, top (systolic) or bottom (diastolic)?

Typically more attention is given to the top number (the systolic blood pressure) as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50 years old. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age due to increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term build-up of plaque, and increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


1. Spinach

For $1.50, the price of a large bag of spinach at most grocery stores, you can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis, lower your cholesterol, and raise your I.Q. Spinach is an excellent bone-builder, containing vitamin K, calcium, and magnesium. It's also high in flavonoids, plant molecules that act as antioxidants, which have been shown to prevent breast, stomach, skin, and ovarian cancer. Spinach is a great source of vitamin A and vitamin C, which not only keep you from getting sick in the winter, but also de-clog your arteries and reduce heart disease.
Spinach contains antioxidants that neutralize free radicals in the brain, thereby preventing the effects of aging on mental activity. Scientific studies have demonstrated that both animals and people who eat a few servings of spinach per day improve their learning capacities and motor skills. 

Serving ideas: Sauté spinach with olive oil, pine nuts, and raisins - the olive oil will help you to better absorb its nutrients. Don't love the flavor so much? Try these spinach brownies from Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious cookbook - you won't taste a thing.

2. Eggs

In the Snackwell-crazed '90s, dieters feared eggs because of their fat and cholesterol content and suffered through millions of tasteless egg-white omelets. But research has shown little, if any, connection between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol, and the humble egg is finally being recognized for the remarkably complete set of nutrients it provides. It makes sense: Something that contains the ingredients for an entire life can give you the fuel you need to get through the morning.

Eggs are a great source of protein, containing all eight amino acids (if you eat the whole thing). As any healthy dieter knows, protein is essential for staying full and having energy.
Serving ideas: For breakfast on the go, roll up a veggie omelet in a whole-wheat wrap. Or, update the classic egg salad by chopping yours up with Italian tuna, black olives, and some olive oil and vinegar. 
3. Blueberries 

A Tufts University study found blueberries were the number one source of antioxidants among 60 fruits and vegetables analyzed. Blueberries contain antioxidants that can (get ready): prevent ulcers, cataracts, and glaucoma; decrease risks of heart disease and various types of cancer; and lower cholesterol. They can also reduce aging of the brain, keeping your memory sharp and diminishing the effects of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Serving ideas: Throw some frozen ones in the blender with honey or agave syrup for a granita-like treat. Or, serve in a salad with spinach, sliced almonds, and balsamic vinaigrette for a light and gourmet lunch. 

4. Apples

Eating an apple a day can keep all kinds of doctors away, from physicians to dentists. Apples contain both insoluble and soluble fiber, which not only make them filling, but also work double time to reduce cholesterol. Some doctors even recommend drinking apple juice after eating a fatty meal to reduce the food's negative effects on your body.
Apples have been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease. And if that's not enough to make you bite into a Fuji or McIntosh, consider this: Chewing apples stimulates saliva, which scrubs stains off your teeth and freshens breath instantly. 
Serving ideas: Spread peanut butter on sliced apples for a yummy taste of childhood. Or, dice them up in your oatmeal before cooking and sprinkle with cinnamon for an apple pie-flavored breakfast. 

5. Winter Squash 

One cup of winter squash provides 170 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin A, a nutrient necessary for night vision that's hard to find in other foods. Squash's bright orange color comes from a high dose of carotenoids, antioxidants that prevent eye degeneration due to aging and filter out carcinogenic light rays. Makes you think of jack-o'-lanterns in a new "light," doesn't it?
Roast the seeds alongside the flesh and you'll reap a host of other benefits. Winter squash seeds contain a significant amount of L-tryptophan, which can help to prevent depression. They're also a rich source of magnesium, a mineral Americans don't consume nearly enough that's vital to almost every bodily function. Eating your daily dose of magnesium will lower your risks for heart disease, abdominal obesity, and diabetes. 
Serving ideas: Mix canned or pureed squash with cinnamon and the sweetener of your choice for a decadent and surprisingly low-cal treat reminiscent of Thanksgiving candied yams. One-half cup of pureed pumpkin has 40 calories, in contrast with yam's 180 (and that's if you don't add butter or marshmallows). Or, roll the seeds in cinnamon and sugar, crunchy sea salt, or curry powder, then roast them in the oven. And don't limit yourself to pumpkin - delicata and kabocha squash seeds are equally nutritious, with their own unique, nutty flavors.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


    Egg yolks are home to tons of essential but hard-to-get nutrients, including choline, which is linked to lower rates of breast cancer (one yolk supplies 25% of your daily need) and antioxidants that may help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. Though many of us have shunned whole eggs because of their link to heart disease risk, there’s actually substantial evidence that for most of us, eggs are not harmful but healthy. People with heart disease should limit egg yolks to two a week, but the rest of us can have one whole egg daily; research shows it won’t raise your risk of heart attack or stroke. Make omelets with one whole egg and two whites, and watch cholesterol at other meals.

Friday, December 14, 2012


   A few years ago, healthcare professionals such as doctors and nurses used to treat any illness in a fairly standardized way: symptoms were checked against those of a well known condition and there would most certainly be a tablet that we could take to make it all better.    But sure enough, our bodies have a way of letting us know when something is wrong and when we are pushing ourselves too much, and not only in a physical way. We might have a headache because we are very stressed; we take some paracetamol and it goes away, but what brought the headache on in the first place is still there: sooner or later the headache will come back.
    Because of the strict relationship between the way we live and our health, healthcare professionals now assess patients in a ‘holistic’ way. This means that not only they will ask about symptoms, but also about lifestyle, work conditions and family life. So it is not just about tablets anymore, it is also about support and understanding us as patients to improve our general health. This is particularly true in long term and ongoing conditions.
    Diet, exercise, five-a-day, three-a-day, work-life balance: now more than before we can take charge of our health and feel better. Health promotion is a very powerful tool and it is used constantly to remind us that we have the opportunity to make our bodies and our minds feel better. It is no longer the case of spending a few hours in the gym every week, or eating entire meals of vegetables and fruit, or banishing sugar from the kitchen cupboard. Health professionals realized soon enough that by suggesting the gym at all costs or tormenting us with eating greens was not going to get us anywhere healthy soon, so now the focus is different.
    We are told to try a little bit every day, and it will eventually pay off: a little exercise, a few portions of fruit and a little sugar (oh yes, because remember that we have to keep the mind happy as well as the body). This new approach seems to be giving better results than the old fashioned one, so it appears it is the way forward. A lot of problems still remain: obesity and binge drinking, to name just two. But health promotion will continue to be the key to teaching everyone how to take care and feel better, in the hope that, eventually, a few initial attempts will become good habits for life.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Are we more worried about food allergies than we should be?

Of the many things parents are encouraged to freak out about, the fear that a peanut will cross your toddler's lips is way up there. Just how much fear is necessary, and how much is due to the 24-hour news cycle? See more »

The Ultimate Food Allergies and Food Intolerance Quiz

Food allergies and food intolerance have made the headlines in recent years. More children appear to be suffering from severe food allergies and more adults appear to be coping with food intolerance. You or someone you love may be experiencing a food allergy or food intolerance. Take this quiz and learn about how food can cause negative health reactions in the young and old. See more »

Are there any foods that can cause sudden food allergies? 

No food can cause an allergic reaction the first time it's ingested. However, severe reactions can occur any time afterward. See some of the most common foods that trigger allergies. See more » 

Are there food allergies that cause earaches?

Food allergies are responsible for a wide variety of symptoms. Learn whether there are food allergies that cause earaches in this article. See more » 

Are there food allergies that cause edema?

Food allergies can cause a variety of symptoms. Learn whether any food allergies cause edema in this article. See more » 

Can food allergies affect your behavior?

Food allergies can affect your behavior, causing hyperactivity, depression, anxiety and more. Learn whether food allergies can affect your behavior in this article. See more »

Can food allergies cause a rash?

A chemical called histamine causes most allergic symptoms. Learn whether food allergies can cause a rash in this article. See more » 

Can food allergies cause acne?

Food allergies can cause acne, among other skin conditions. Find out whether food allergies can cause acne in this article. See more »
Can food allergies cause ADHD? 

Clinical data suggests that food allergies can cause ADHD. Learn whether food allergies can cause ADHD in this article. See more »