2012 Top 10 Health Lists

December 5, 2012 at 9:34 am , by

Don’t you just love those end-of-year top 10 lists? Time magazine’s “Top 10 Everything of 2012” is a must-read—even if just to disagree with the editors. (Their #4 pick on the movie list was my fave.) Don’t miss the health-related lists. The Top Medical Breakthroughs are fascinating, while the Top 10 Ridiculously Obvious Study Findings provide a fun “duh” moment.

Our friends at Yahoo! just released their Year in Review, too—covering everything from the serious (Libya, the election) to the sublime (Mars Rover, the U.S. women’s gymnastic team) to the ridiculous (Gangnam style, Honey Boo Boo). The trends based on the daily search habits of millions of people include health, too, of course. Among the top 10 searched health symptoms of 2012 on Yahoo!, four were stories we covered in a major way in the pages of Ladies’ Home Journal. Here’s something surprising we learned about each:

1. Diabetes
No surprise this was number 1, as the numbers are skyrocketing. Nearly 26 million people in the United States have diabetes now, according to the CDC, while another 80 million may have prediabetes. And women are more at risk of dying from it, we learned in the story that ran in our September issue. You’ve probably heard that the major warning signs are being really thirsty and having to pee all the time. But those symptoms usually show up only after damage has already been done. “Early on, especially in the prediabetes phase, most people have no symptoms at all,” says Gerald Bernstein, M.D., director of the diabetes management program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. That’s why it’s so important to get a glucose test, especially if you’re overweight.

2. Lung cancer
Lung cancer kills more women than breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined, yet it gets the fewest research dollars of any cancer. That’s one of the things we learned in our touching story by Wesley Fay, “Just Breathe,” in our November issue. Each breast cancer death correlates with $19,419 in federal research funding. For lung cancer, that plummets to $1,888. This gap has real consequences: Since the early 1970s, breast cancer’s five-year survival rate climbed from 75 to 90 percent, while lung cancer’s barely budged from 12 percent to 16 percent. Blaming the victim won’t help: 20 percent of women with lung cancer never smoked, and experts say those numbers are climbing.

4. Colon cancer
Doctors are seeing colon cancer in younger people more than ever, we learned in our October story on colon health. “For women, getting a colonoscopy at 50 or sometimes even sooner is crucial, especially since I’ve been seeing women as young as their 30s being diagnosed—and with no family history,” says Robynne Chutkan, M.D., medical director of the Digestive Center for Women in Washington, D.C., and a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board. Don’t ignore symptoms such as blood in the stool, unusual abdominal pain, a change in how often you go to the bathroom, anemia or unexplained weight loss. For more information, read our candid interview with Dr. Chutkan.

6. Heart attack
When Rosie O’Donnell had a heart attack in August at age 50, she scared the crap out of a lot of women. (I’m one of them!) She researched online and knew her symptoms could be a heart attack. She even took an aspirin. But she didn’t call 911. That happens way too often, says cardiologist Holly Andersen, M.D., a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board. In our blog that week, we learned that “40 percent of women having a heart attack never feel chest pain,” says Dr. Andersen, director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital. For lots more information on women and heart disease, see our February story, “Heart of the Matter.”

Photo copyright Ocskay Bence, Shutterstock.com

Get Off Your Butt

September 12, 2012 at 5:07 pm , by

If you sit all day long, you’re putting your health at risk—even if you exercise later, according to a growing pile of studies.

I’ll be the first to admit that when this started popping up again and again in the news recently, I ignored it every time. What am I supposed to do? Quit my job? I have to be at my desk! That’s why it was so refreshing to meet Anup Kanodia, M.D., assistant professor of Clinical Family Medicine at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. He gave me a much-needed crash course in why sitting is so bad and what you can do about it right now. (That’s me, right, after Dr. Kanodia revamped my cube so I could see how it felt to work standing up.)

LHJ: What goes wrong when we sit?

AK: The problem is that without even realizing it, we’re sitting way more than we should. Our bodies are built to sit around three hours a day. The average person now sits eight, maybe even 12 hours a day. There are a few reasons this is bad for you.

First, you’re burning fewer calories. When you sit you burn 100 calories an hour. When you stand, you burn on average 150 calories an hour simply because the muscles in your legs and core have to work to keep you upright. So when you’re sitting all the time, managing your weight is harder, especially if you have trouble finding time to exercise. But the studies also show that independent of exercise, sitting is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. So in other words, a half hour or an hour of exercise at the end of the day doesn’t make up for the damage done earlier in the day.

LHJ: Yikes! A lot of us spend so much of the workday with our butts in a chair. Where does standing start to makes a difference?

AK: It sounds too good to be true, but really every second of standing can make a difference. If you can get out of your chair every half an hour for a minute, you can burn 43 percent more energy throughout your day. And the reason this is so important is because of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which among other things, is responsible for converting your “bad” LDL cholesterol to “good” HDL cholesterol. After one hour of sitting, the production of this enzyme goes down 95 percent. But just getting out of your chair and moving a bit restarts it.

LHJ: Wow, that actually sounds doable.

AK: Yes, it adds up to only about 15 minutes a day. But it’s not the time that matters, it’s kick-starting that enzyme throughout the day. You can burn off a Starbucks latte, just by standing for 30 minutes. Now think of what you could do by standing for an hour or more a day!

Easy Ways To Get Off Your Butt

  • In the mornings, park in the far lot to sneak in more walking.
  • Set the timer on your phone to remind you to get up every half hour.
  • Stand during every phone call.
  • Drink more water. You’ll have to get up to pee eventually, right?
  • Suggest standing or walking meetings.
  • Get up while you read the paper or a long report.



Top 10 Health Searches for 2010

December 8, 2010 at 2:09 pm , by

I can’t remember what life was like before search engines—I turn to the Internet for answers about everything, even my health. Like most people with a computer, at the first sign of symptoms, I’m usually hunting down my own diagnosis before I’ve even thought about calling the doctor.
“People turn to the web for quick answers,” says Robert Glatter, M.D., a New York-based emergency room physician. “A lot of times when people come see me they already have an idea of what’s wrong with them.”

So what health woes were on our minds this year? As part of their Year in Review coverage, the folks at Yahoo! parsed data from billions of searches for the top 10 health-related terms for 2010, and the results might surprise you.

The list:

1. Pregnancy, 2. Diabetes, 3. Herpes, 4. Shingles, 5. Lupus, 6. Depression, 7. Breast cancer, 8. Gall bladder, 9. HIV, 10. Fibromyalgia

pregnancyPregnancy is consistently at the top, says Vera Chan, a Yahoo! web trend analyst, but it’s not just moms-to-be doing the digging. “Early symptoms of pregnancy” and “pregnancy tests” were among the top search phrases, which are likely from women concerned that they might be pregnant.

“Pregnancy also figures in reality shows these days—16 and Pregnant, I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant—and celebrity pregnancies spur their own round of queries,” Chan says.

While diabetes and pregnancy aren’t all that surprising, how did herpes get into the top three? According to the latest numbers from the CDC, prevalence of the herpes simplex virus remains high at about 16 percent. Plus, many people are uncomfortable discussing their sexual health with family, friends and even their doctors, so they turn to the web, Dr. Glatter says. The same goes for HIV coming in at number nine.

“I think there’s also an increased sense of the need for testing, so that may be why people are searching for it,” he adds.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, between 75% and 80% of all Internet users have looked online for health information.  But Chan says that women conduct health searches more often than men, which may be why diseases more common in women, like lupus and fibromyalgia, found their way into the top 10.

Dr. Glatter was stunned that autism didn’t make it onto the list this year. What do you think—anything else missing?

Photos by rcv3 and Mahalie

Simple Calorie-Saving Swaps Can Prevent Diabetes

May 5, 2010 at 9:45 am , by

At a recent lunch event, I didn’t notice there wasn’t any bread on the table until Chef Franklin Becker mentioned it. I was too busy noshing on homemade giardiniera (pickled vegetables) and marinated mushrooms, trying very hard not to make a fool of myself in front of him and Howard M. Shapiro, M.D., the authors of Eat & Beat Diabetes with Picture Perfect Weight Loss. As Chef Becker explained that bread has too many carbs that can raise blood sugar, a mushroom rolled off my spoon and onto the white tablecloth. “Don’t worry, it happens,” an editor from another magazine said to me. (Here would be a good point to note that I’m an intern.)

My mushroom mishap didn’t stop me from chowing down on the diabetes-friendly food that was being served at Abe & Arthur’s (a restaurant in the Meatpacking District in New York City). It was lunchtime, and I was at a weight-loss book launch where the main course was salmon with misoyaki marinade and stir-fried vegetables. It sure sounded good, but I wasn’t sure it would fill me up. (I’m used to turkey and cheese sandwiches for lunch, not fish sans carbs.) According to Dr. Shapiro, however, a simple switch like this can help maintain a healthy weight and prevent the development of Type II diabetes, the sixth most potent killer of Americans.

Read more

Cooking with Agave

October 21, 2009 at 1:20 pm , by

CookbookFolks who’ve followed my posts may remember that I discovered agave nectar in my search for sweet things to feed the Jam Man, my family member diagnosed with diabetes two months ago. That’s the sweet syrup of the agave plant (used to make tequila). It has a low glycemic index, which means it’s digested more slowly than many other sweeteners so it’s less likely to spike blood insulin levels. One problem: cooking with agave can be complicated; it’s sweeter than sugar and its insulin fiber means liquids don’t cook away as fast. Here’s how Diabetes Forecast, the magazine of the American Diabetes Association explained baking with it, in a story on sweeteners: “To adjust a recipe, replace each cup of sugar with two-thirds to three-quarters cup of agave nectar, then reduce all other liquids in the recipe by a quarter. Lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees to prevent burning, and shorten the cooking time on cookies by 3 to 5 minutes and cakes by 7 to 10 minutes.” Gulp! I stuck to simple things like using it to sweeten a butternut squash purée I used to make with maple syrup.

Fortunately, a few weeks ago Stephen Richards stopped by the office. He’s the author of Delicious Meets Nutritious, a cookbook where all the sweetening is done with agave. Xagave, to be precise—his company’s blend of blue and white agave nectar. Richards, an amateur cook, created the recipes in his Utah kitchen. Amazingly there’s even a recipe for the Jam Man’s favorite jam—raspberry, which we make every summer (we have a raspberry patch). I may have to indulge in some pricey store-bought berries so we can try it sooner. Meantime, with Thanksgiving coming up, I’m definitely planning to make their cranberry sauce. Do you have any good agave recipes to share?

Categories: Health | Tags: , , , | 112 Comments

In Search of Sweet: Recipes for Diabetics

September 16, 2009 at 11:50 am , by

3825303348_f3da0e3740I’m not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. But when you write about health for a living you do get asked a lot of health questions. Which is why I find myself on a hunt for diabetic desserts. It would be the Jam Man—the person with the biggest sweet tooth in my family—who got chosen for this disease. The Carnivore, who could devour an entire Marcella Hazan roast lemon chicken if dieting would permit it, was not hit. Nor were Pasta Guy or the Chocolate Twins.

So far, various family members have tried making granulated Splenda versions of some of our favorite pies and cakes—it did a particularly nice job on apple crisp and made a tasty linzer torte, but doesn’t taste quite like sugar. It also made delicious, but rather fragile, peanut butter cookies. Haven’t tested the sugar blend or  brown sugar versions, but I’m already finding web advice that recommends adjusting baking times and ingredients when baking with some sweeteners.

3782467373_ea66d6f81c_tWith one glass of alcohol a day on the diet, we tried a fresh lemon whiskey sour with agave nectar (blue agave is the succulent used for tequila). One dietitian green-lighted the nectar for its low glycemic index, which makes it digest slowly. The American Diabetes Association puts agave on its list of sweetener options but there’s still a lot of controversy about how healthy it is, especially for diabetics, because it has a high fructose content. The light agave has a very natural taste so I’m hoping to use it more when I find out more about it.

I also converted the famous Weight Watchers pumpkin mousse recipe (this blog has the recipe I remember from my WW class about 10 years ago) by using frozen raspberries (a Jam Man favorite) food-processed with a little milk in place of canned pumpkin. It tasted pretty good, but was more gluey than I remembered the original mousse being. Note for next time: Try just 1 box of pudding mix and stir in some Greek yogurt.

Do you have any great diabetic or sugar-free recipes? Please share them in the comments—we really need them!

In the meantime, I’m getting Jam Man a subscription to Diabetic Living magazine, which is owned by our parent company—and a good family to join when diabetes strikes someone you love.

Jam photo by amiefedora. Agave photo by oonaghs_eye.