Good health starts with teeth

BRUSHING YOUR TEETH and flossing on a regular basis is about so much more than just white teeth and fresh breath. Recent
research suggests that poor oral health can significantly affect one’s overall health, which may cause systemic problems such as heart disease, respiratory infections and even strokes. It’s imperative to be aware of any changes happening within your oral cavity, as minor transformations can be a sign of major bodily challenges.

Inflamed gums can be indicative of inflammation in the blood vessels, making it difficult for blood to  flow properly. The restriction of blood  flow increases plaque buildup in arteries and can cause a host of problems in the body. Discolored gums can be a sign of HIV infection, diabetes, vitamin deficiency or even cancer. Individuals with preexisting health conditions should also be aware of the importance of oral health, as they are more prone to gum disease.

The good news is that it is now easier than ever to regain and maintain oral health. There are numerous products on the market that are ideal for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. These items range from powered toothbrushes and  flossing aids to antibacterial rinses and tongue scrapers.

The most effective way to achieve optimal oral health is to schedule regular visits with your dentist. Regular dental visits include more than cleanings;
they offer a comprehensive exam of periodontal health and the condition of one’s teeth, and even an oral cancer screening. Dentistry is constantly evolving, and new techniques are making visits more comfortable than ever.

A healthy smile will not only preserve your overall health, it can also make a huge impact on your self-confidence. It’s always rewarding to see my patients glow when they talk about the positive effects that come with maintaining their oral hygiene. Your mouth is the gateway to a healthier you. Now that you know how important oral hygiene is to overall health—don’t delay, take that  rst step.

By Dr. Joseph Banker CostcoCnnection

Steer Off Stress

More and more medical studies are showing a link between stress and heart disease, cancer and other chronic conditions. While you can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, there are things you can do to reduce the pressure.

Does this scene look familiar? Rushing on the job. For millions of Americans stress is a serious health problem.

Tracie Meyer is an expressive therapist, “As you drive you see people not only driving, but on the phone with their pagers going off at one time. The communication on one hand is wonderful, but on the other causes a lot of stress for people, but we have to remember our bodies have limits.”

Shelia Bonn says she knew she was under tremendous stress when she found herself crying at work.

Shelia Bonn, “I’d been through some stressful times. My mother died, I had tremendous pressures at work.”

At age 49, Shelia signed up for a stress management class. It’s a class that teaches people how to let go of stress and take care of themselves.

Tracie Meyer, “It’s your body. This is your life. You only get one shot at it so you can make a choice to be healthy and feel good or you can be stressed out and be unhappy.”

For Shelia, the relaxation tapes help her calm down and recognize when she’s getting stressed out. Others turn to aromatherapy to reduce stress.

Marie McClaflin, The Body Shop, “People are looking for an alternative to over-the-counter medications. They want to relax without using chemicals.”

Aromatherapy means using essential oils to bring about well-being of your mind, body and spirit. So people use rosemary oil, y-lang/y-lang and nero-oil to relax body and mind.

Some people have chronic backaches, chronic headaches and ulcers. Doctors say you may gain or lose weight, and some people even start to lose their hair. Often the symptoms mimic those of depression.

A link between the brain and the heart

Have you noticed an older friend or relative feeling a little down lately? A link between the brain and the heart may shed some light on why the elderly suffer depression.

Eighty-five-year-old Margaret Hawkins always enjoyed life. After she lost her husband and two close friends, however, depression set in. “It’s something in your chest around your heart, and you think it’s anxiety,” says Margaret.

Duke psychiatrist Dr. Ranga Krishnan says Margaret is one of many older Americans who is suffering small, almost undetectable strokes inside her brain. “They were not identified as strokes clinically before because they did not affect motor movements,” says Dr. Krishnan. “In other words, they didn’t produce paralysis.”

These mini-strokes occur when blood vessels cut off blood flow to the areas of the brain which affect mood. The result is depression.

Dr. Krishnan is studying more than 200 patients like Margaret and has discovered none fit the profile for depression. Yet they all have classic signs of heart disease like a history of diabetes, high blood pressure and clogged arteries.

Dr. Krishnan says, “It just tells you, don’t treat depression just like a symptom. Don’t just give it a medicine and forget about the underlying medical problems that may be leading towards it.”

He also says medicines that help the heart may help the mind. So patients like Margaret take vitamin E and an aspirin a day.

Margaret Hawkins, “I’m not a depressed person. I’m a pretty happy person, and everybody I see now talks about how good I look.”

Researchers hope studying patients like Margaret will help them refine treatment for others. They believe vascular depression is so common, it could account for as much as 30 to 40 percent of all depression in people over the age of 65.

Connections between nutrition, genetics and disease

Do you think that nutrition needs to get more personalized?
It certainly needs to get more personalized for specific diseases like heart disease and like osteoporosis. Specific diseases that we know have a nutritional connection.

Would this be based on a person’s genetic code?
There are breakthroughs in the last several years in molecular biology which will allow determination of whether or not people are susceptible to particular diseases. Some appear to have a relatively simple genetic relationship such as osteoporosis, while others like heart disease have a very complex genetic relationship. There are markers being discovered that will help ascertain whether or not someone is susceptible.

Once we can determine if this person is susceptible then what would happen with their diet, how can we use that information?
One of the things that it will allow us to do is to test whether diet is really going to have an effect on a particular disease, in people who have a susceptibility. One of the things we do right now is use large populations of people for study. The problem with that is we don’t know who is susceptible and who isn’t so we just take a chance that we’re getting a significant number of susceptible people and then determine whether diet has an effect or not. If you happen to get susceptible people then it looks like diet might have an effect and if you happen not to you don’t see a dietary effect, that’s why there is so much confusion in the reports that come out in the literature. This dietary treatment helps in one report and it doesn’t help in the next report, so by working with those who are susceptible then we have a much better shot at determining specifically whether or not a dietary or drug treatment is effective.

What effect might this have on diseases in the future?
One of the things that we tell people for example is to increase the amount of fiber in their diet with the hope that this might reduce the possibility of colon cancer. If we know who is susceptible for colon cancer, and there are particular markers for particular types of colon cancer, then we can determine whether a high fiber diet helps them or doesn’t help them. If it does we can target them for a high fiber diet and not try to get the entire population to eat more fiber.

Do you think this might actually be able to prevent diseases, if people eat the right kind of foods based on their genetic code earlier in life?
This kind of information will help us to be able to determine whether or not eating a particular kind of food is going to be helpful. Right now recommendations are based on statistical probability, not genetics. If we can base them on genetics and work with a susceptible group of people specifically, then we have a much better shot at determining whether any dietary choices are helpful or not.

Explain how this kind of diet might work. Let’s take osteoporosis for example, researchers have suspected a genetic link to the disease right?
There has been a suspicion for many years of a genetic link. One of the genetic links has been discovered in the last few years that a defective gene affects Vitamin D absorption from our diet. In order for Vitamin D to get into the body like anything else it has to cross from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood stream. There is a particular protein required for Vitamin D to get across into the blood stream. People who do not have that protein or not enough of it get more osteoporosis. If you know who those people are you can give them higher levels of Vitamin D and therefore increase calcium absorption and increase calcium utilization. The problem is that you can’t give everybody that level of Vitamin D because Vitamin D is toxic.

If someone has osteoporosis and if you’re able to increase their absorption of calcium through Vitamin D, if they did this early in life could that possibly prevent them from getting the disease later in life?
That’s what one would expect, yes. That if you could get enough calcium absorbed and deposited in the bones early in life then you could prevent osteoporosis later in life.

That would be a really big breakthrough.
Yes, there are potentially several of those kinds of breakthroughs that are coming down the road. Maybe in the next few years, maybe in the next decade but they are certainly coming.

What other kinds of diseases, aside from osteoporosis?
Heart disease, or stroke caused by high blood pressure. There’s been some interesting information coming out on high blood pressure. Muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis have been studied extensively and so have numerous other diseases that affect humans.

When do you think we could be looking at diet based on genetic codes, how many years down the road?
It will vary depending on which particular disease we’re talking about. We expect that the osteoporosis breakthrough will happen in the next few years because it seems to be a relatively simple genetic relationship. On the other hand cancer, that might take a long time because you can either inherit a defective gene that causes cancer or the defective gene can be made through mutation during your life. So that’s going to take much longer.

When researchers get a handle on this what effect do you think it will have on the diseases that the population gets? Do you think you will get a sharp reduction?
Hopefully, it really depends on whether or not you can make dietary or drug changes that affects the progress of that disease. Some cases I think we can, and some cases it may simply not be possible. It may be just part of human existence.

If you could give me in a nutshell why do we need to change the way we tell people what’s good for them to eat, why do we need to get more specific and base it on this genetic code?
Right now we make general population wide recommendations. For example, we’ve recommended that there be about twelve hundred milligrams per day of calcium intake. This is particularly important during the teenage years up through the age of thirty years old. The compliance with that recommendation has been depressingly little. If we knew which particular people were susceptible and which particular people needed the dietary treatment, then I think if we could get those people to comply and leave the rest of the world alone in terms of how much calcium they consume, or at least in terms of needing to consume large amounts of calcium.

We’re doing a one size fits all diet plan and that’s not really working?
We are making general recommendations for the whole population and in a lot of cases it’s not working. People are not doing what those recommendations would suggest that they do. One of the problems in the last eight or ten years has been a wide spread body weight increase. Well one of the recommendations is that you limit caloric intake. People are not doing it and they’re gaining weight. If we knew who was susceptible to particular diseases then I think we have a better shot at getting them to change their particular diet or drug treatment in order to prevent or at least ameliorate the consequence of that disease.

You’ve done informal research in your classes where you ask people if they comply with different guidelines, dietary, what’s the response when you ask the students that?
One of the things I ask students is to give me a list of their top five favorite foods. Usually pizza tops the list but nowhere on the top five do you find fruits and vegetables for college age students. If you ask them, how many of you drink three glasses of milk a day. Only a very small percentage drink that much milk each day. They are probably not getting sufficient calcium, or at least the calcium amount that’s recommended.

A medical check-up for women

Oil changes, wheel alignments, emissions tests. You get them done regularly to keep your car running, but when was the last time you had a medical tune-up? Unfortunately, a woman’s good health sometimes takes a backseat to family, home and job. Here is a look at what tests can help you steer clear of serious health problems.

When Sue Temple wants to get her car checked, she heads to her mechanic. When she wants to get her body checked, she heads to her doctor. “I want to check myself out once a year and make sure I’m OK and running well,” she says.

Catherine Lynch, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa, says all women need regular medical check-ups. She offers a basic checklist for most women 40 and older.

First, the Pap test. “You should be getting the Pap smear on a yearly basis,” says Dr. Lynch.

Cervical cancer was once the most common cause of cancer death among American women. By using the Pap smear, that number has dropped by 74 percent over the past 40 years.

You can lower the risk of heart disease by getting your cholesterol checked every five years. Dr. Lynch says, “Without hormone replacement, a woman’s risk of heart disease begins to equal that of a man within two to three years following menopause.”

Regular pressure checks are also important because heart disease kills more than half a million women a year. One in nine women will also develop breast cancer, but early detection can increase your chance of survival. The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms beginning at 40.

Despite the dread associated with a colon cancer exam, regular screenings could save your life. “Without it, six percent of Americans will develop colon cancer,” says Dr. Lynch.

Get regular tune-ups like Sue, and you, too, can stay on the road to good health.

Dr. Lynch also recommends having your blood tested for thyroid problems each time you get your cholesterol checked. If you have a history of osteoporosis in your family, ask your doctor for a bone density screening.

Reducing your risk of Type 2 diabetes?

Is it possible to prevent Type 2 diabetes?

If you know that you are prone to diabetes because, for example, you have a family history of Type 2 diabetes or you had diabetes during pregnancy, making lifestyle changes can help you delay or even prevent its onset. These changes include eating more healthily, becoming more active, and losing weight if you need to. Stopping smoking and drinking less alcohol do not affect whether or not you will develop diabetes, but they will help reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

How does keeping to the correct weight for my height help?

Your body will be able to handle glucose and use insulin as efficiently as possible. If you are overweight, your resistance to insulin increases.

Why is it important to stay physically active?

Physical activity helps you maintain your weight in the correct range for your height or to lose weight if you need to. It also increases your body’s efficiency at storing and using glucose. Furthermore, activity keeps your heart and blood vessels healthy – this is very important if you are at risk of developing diabetes.

Could I lose weight by changing my eating habits without doing more physical exercise?

Yes, eating less is the key to losing weight. However, activity can go a long way to help. For example, you can burn off excess calories thorough exercise. Reducing your calorie intake and using more energy than you take in will facilitate weight loss.

I am 50 and have been overweight for most of my adult life. Will losing weight now help me prevent diabetes?.

If you are overweight, losing weight will always improve your health, regardless of how old you are. There is no guarantee of preventing Type 2 diabetes, but being the correct weight for your height will greatly reduce your risk and will be of benefit if you do develop Type 2 diabetes

I’ve always been slim. Will this naturally protect me from Type 2 diabetes?

Being the correct weight for your height is an important part of reducing your risk of Type 2 diabetes. However, body shape is also important; carrying extra fat around your waist rather than your hips increases the risk of diabetes. Checking your body mass index and waist size will help you find out whether your weight and body shape are risk factors.

There is a lot of diabetes in my family and we tend to be overweight. I want to protect my teenagers from diabetes but they eat a lot of junk food. What can I do?

Your children are at risk of Type 2 diabetes due to your family history, and their risk increases if they become overweight (too much junk food can cause weight gain, especially if your children are not very active). Teach them about Type 2 diabetes and the role that high-calorie, high-fat, and junk food plays in weight gain. Including your children in the shopping for and preparation of food, adapting recipes, and helping them learn about food labeling may also help.

I am in my 60s and have Type 2 diabetes. How can I help my young grandchildren avoid developing it?

Encouraging healthy eating habits by offering meals and snacks that are low in fat, salt, and sugar (reserving candy and chocolate for special treats) will help reduce their risk. You could also encourage them to walk rather than being driven short distances, or play active games rather than sit in front of a computer or television.