Aging Gracefully Blog

Archive for the ‘Healthy Diet’ Category

Can You Beat Belly Fat?

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Woman measuring her waistlineIf you are frustrated by stubborn belly fat, you're not alone!  It's a common aspect of menopause, affecting not only the way we feel and look in clothing, but also our health risk profile.  So what is the story:  Is there any way we can defeat it?

First, the facts.  In 2012 the International Menopause Society conducted a large review of decades of research and concluded that the hormonal shifts of menopause trigger a redistribution of body fat, causing it to accumulate in the abdomen.  Last year, researchers at the Mayo Clinic compared fat tissue in pre- and postmenopausal women and found that at the cellular level two enzymes that work to store fat were more active in the postmenopausal women, primarily because of the drop in estrogen.

While it's been documented that women gain an average of ten pounds as the metabolism slows down around the time of menopause, studies also show they can lose weight through diet and exercise.  As published in the journal Menopause in 2012, one study randomly assigned 17,000 postmenopausal women to either a control group or one that was put on a healthy diet emphasizing foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  After a year the healthy diet group had fewer hot flashes and was three times as likely to have lost weight.

Another study called the Women's Healthy Lifestyle Project followed 535 premenopausal women as they went through menopause.  About half of them were assigned to follow a low-calorie diet and to burn an extra 1000 to 1500 calories a week through physical activity.  After five years the women in the diet and exercise group saw greater reductions in their waist lines and were more likely to have remained at or below their starting weight.

So the proof is in the pudding!  We can beat belly fat by tightening our belts and increasing our exercise output.  Create a lifestyle routine to cut unnecessary calories, make healthy food choices, rev up your cardio in terms of both volume and intensity, and  lift weights to boost your metabolism.

(A reported by Anahad O'Connor in the Ask Well column of the NewYork Times, 4/1/14)

Working the Weekend: 6 Steps of Wellness

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

I knew I would be at my desk all weekend, reviewing material both for my new book (due out in January) and new website (soon to launch!) So, how to make it a well-weekend in spite of the workload?

This is definitely a time to employ a philosophy of wellness; this is how I did it.

#1 Sleep in:  after all, it is the weekend and I don't have to get up at 5:30 or 6 am, normal wake-up time during the work week.

#2 Shop at the neighborhood farmers market and provision fresh, local ingredients for a couple of delicious dinners (reward at the end of each day!)

#3 Go for a run:  30 minutes in the sunshine, running along the East River, water sparkling in the flowing current.

#4 Conclude run with a full-body stretch and a cool shower.

#5 Eat breakfast:  Fresh berries, yogurt and home-made granola, with a large glass of ice water with lemon.

#6  Sit down at my desk, ready for work!  And feeling not so very deprived at having to work all summer's weekend.

For more about devising a philosophy of wellness, see previous blog posts

Join the Conversation: Clueless, Confused or Just Plain Concerned about Bone Health?

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

LISTEN LIVE: Dr. Radio Show

DATE: Wednesday, June 19

TIME: 8:00-9:00 am ET

LOCATION: Sirius XM Radio Channel.81

Call in with questions/comments: 877-NYU-DOCS

Fact! According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation most women over the age of 45 fail to recognize their personal risk for developing osteoporosis, the disease of "porous bones," even though the majority of women have at least two risk factors for the disease by this age.

Fact! Conflicting results of several major studies and recommendations by the US Preventive Services Task Force have put into question the benefits of supplements containing calcium to prevent bone loss.

Fact! What do experts draw from this controversy?

  • First, that better studies are needed to clarify the possible risks and benefits of calcium supplements and to whom they may apply.
  • Secondly, that the safest and most effective source of calcium is found in food choices, not supplements.
  • And finally that exercise is key to bone health, specifically weight bearing and strength training exercises.

Join us live on Sirius XM's Dr. Radio Show this Wednesday, June 19 from 8-9 am. I'll share all the insider tips that I've learned over the past 25 years as a fitness professional and address questions such as:

  • What are the major risk factors for osteoporosis?
  • What is the difference between weight-bearing and weight-training exercise?
  • How can you work these exercises into your lifestyle, no matter what your fitness level?
  • What kind of exercise is safe if you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis?

Call in with your questions and comments to 877-NYU-DOCS

Vivacious host Dr. Marina Kurian sets a lively tone in her show and engages her audience with humor and personal insight. I'm always delighted to appear with her! Catch us live this week:

LISTEN LIVE: Dr. Radio Show

DATE: Wednesday, June 19

TIME: 8:00-9:00 am ET

LOCATION: Sirius XM Radio Channel.81

Call in with questions/comments: 877-NYU-DOCS

 

 

Confused by the Calcium Controversy? Play it Safe: Eat Right and Exercise!

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

Calcium supplements are in the news because of conflicting results of several major studies and recommendations by the US Preventive Services Task Force. The varying conclusions of researchers showed inconsistent findings, putting into question the benefits of supplements containing calcium to prevent bone loss.

The studies' conclusions ranged widely, finding that calcium pills:

  • Increase the risk of heart attack by as much as 30%
  • Decrease the risk of hip fracture by 35% in post-menopausal women with no increase in heart attack
  • Increase the risk of heart attack by 20% in men (who smoke), but not in women (in men and women aged 50-71).
  • Do not prevent bone fractures and may increase the risk of kidney stones

What do experts draw from this controversy? First, that better studies are needed to clarify the possible risks and benefits and to whom they may apply. Secondly, that the safest and most effective source of calcium is found in food choices, not supplements. And finally that exercise is key to bone health, specifically weight bearing and strength training exercises.

Like muscles, your bones get stronger when you make them work, training them to handle more stress or resistance. Exercise should maximize the load to the bones with a progressive (i.e. gradual intensification) program of weight bearing aerobic exercise and weight lifting. Assuming your joints are healthy, you should aim for:

  • High impact aerobic exercise: defined as activities in which both feet are off the ground at the same time, as in running, jumping rope, and high-impact aerobic dance; also sports like basketball, volleyball and gymnastics.
  • High intensity weight lifting: using the heaviest weights you can lift in good form for 8-12 repetitions with the last few reps being challenging.
  • Balance and stabilization exercises: using a stability ball, BOSU and foam rollers, which recruit the muscles of the core body as you master unstable surfaces. Improving your balance reduces your risk of falling.

Remember: To protect your joints from injury, use good judgment regarding high impact exercise and high intensity weight lifting. Be sure to increase the workload gradually.

If you've already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, downshift into low impact exercise to avoid jarring the spine and other vulnerable joints. The National Osteoporosis Foundation maintains that the benefits of calcium supplements are likely to outweigh any risks in women over 50 who have osteoporosis, broken bones or significant risk factors for fractures.

Of course, this information should not take the place of guidance from your own physician or other medical professional. Always consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program or becoming much more physically active.

Mayor Bloomberg Strikes Out against Sugary Drinks

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

As a resident of NYC, I'm proud of the health initiatives that Mayor Bloomberg has successfully initiated over the past ten years. In addition to banning smoking in bars, restaurants, and city parks, plazas and beaches, he has taken a hard stance in the fight against obesity.

Our Mayor has outlawed the use of trans-fats in restaurant kitchens and enacted a law requiring that city restaurant chains post calorie counts on menus and menu boards. I look for them automatically now, and really miss comparing calorie counts when I travel out of the city!

Some of his measures have been a little hard to swallow, namely the proposed ban on large sugary drinks being served in containers bigger than 16 oz. A NY State Supreme Court judge struck down the proposal last week saying there were too many loopholes and it was too hard to enforce.

But consider this breath-taking statistic, which I read in the March issue of IDEA Fitness Journal: According to a recent study, there is a correlation between frequent use of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and high rates of type 2 diabetes. Forty percent of all caloric sweeteners in the U.S. are HFCS, with most of it appearing in soft drinks.

The U.S. has the highest consumption rate of HFCS, with 55 pounds ingested per person per year, followed by Hungary with 46 pounds per capita. By comparison, the U.K. has only 1.1 pounds per person.

This stunning statistic reflects so poorly on the American diet and our well-being. We are literally killing ourselves by making uneducated food choices, and the food industry is not helping. We need high profile public figures like Mayor Bloomberg to advocate for us by bringing these issues to light.

A Crowd-Pleaser for the Holiday Weekend….or Any Time!

Monday, May 28th, 2012

This morning I made a big batch of granola for my client's son, who just graduated from high school.  Over the years, he's become a big fan of this specialty of mine, which I make as a gift from time to time.  It's become so popular that some clients request it every Christmas!

The trick is to use just enough oil and honey to make the dry ingredients glisten – too little and it tastes too dry; too much and it becomes too heavy.  Keep an eye on the granola as it bakes in the oven, turning it from time to time, until it's a toasty brown.  Add the cranberries and raisins as it's cooling, not before.

I usually make two large baking pans, fill up our canister at home and put the rest in plastic containers to give away or freeze.  Here's the recipe for your enjoyment:

Crunchy Granola

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup slivered unblanched almonds
1 c. coconut flakes
6 T. sunflower seeds
6 T. flax seeds
6 T. sesame seeds
3 T. raw wheat germ
¼ t. cinnamon (optional)
3 T. sunflower or safflower seed oil
3 T. honey
1 c. dried cranberries or raisins

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Toss all the ingredients, except the cranberries or raisins, in a large bowl.

Spread granola thinly on 1 or 2 baking sheets and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring once or twice so that the ingredients brown evenly.  Watch carefully.  If you forget it, it will burn easily.

When the granola is golden and the texture starts to become crunchy, remove and let cool.  Toss in the dried cranberries/raisins as it’s cooling.  Refrigerate or freeze leftover to keep fresh.

Makes about 6 cups of granola