Healthy Choices

News and inspiration for healthy living in Northern California

August 8, 2013
Cups of hot chocolate can improve memory in seniors

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Whether in summer or winter, a couple of cups of hot chocolate daily may be just what seniors need to boost their memory.

A study of 60 seniors with an average age of 73 was just published in the journal Neurology.

To measure the power of flavanol-rich hot chocolate on the brain, all were asked to drink two cups of hot chocolate daily for a month.

Eighteen of the seniors showed impaired blood flow to the brain at the beginning of the study. By the end of the month, however, they had an 8.3 percent improvement to the working areas of the brain. Plus, they scored better on memory tests.

In the same journal, another study following over 30,000 Swedish men found that high chocolate consumption lowered the risk of stroke.

So, go ahead, indulge in some chocolate today.

August 7, 2013
September 11 attacks drove 1 million former smokers to light up

cig.jpeg Researchers curious about former smokers' ability to stay off cigarettes in times of severe stress took a look at smoking patterns after the September 11 terror attacks.

Many smokers who'd quit -- estimated at about 1 million -- picked up the pack again after the attack on the World Trade Center.

Results of this study revealed a hidden health cost stemming from the stress of a horrific terror attack, researchers said.

The Weill Cornell Medical College researchers published their work in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy.

The same pattern was not found after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

July 29, 2013
Diabetics should know about this recall of glucose test strips

Diabetics, for your safety you should check the maker of your diabetes care strips.

If you are using a brand called Nova Max Glucose Test Strips and/or have them in your Nova Max Plus glucose meter kits, get rid of them. Toss them or return them to the store from which you purchased them.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that Nova Diabetes Care is voluntarily recalling the test strips because they may give false results -- specifically abnormally high blood glucose results.

A false, abnormally high blood glucose could, under certain conditions, result in an insulin dosing error that could lead to a serious health risk.

Customers can call Nova Diabetes Care for information on the lot number of their test strips at 1-800-681-7390. Or, check online for the lot numbers being recalled.

July 23, 2013
Too little vitamin D may make you older, faster

Vitamin D, whether in its natural form -- manufactured by the body from exposure to sunlight or diet -- or as a supplement, is one of the most important vitamins to take for strong bones.

This is especially true as you age. HealthDay, a publication of the National Institutes of Health, recently reported that a lack of vitamin D may hasten disabilities in older people.

In other words, a deficiency of vitamin D can make you older, faster by limiting your mobility and winnowing your lifestyle.

About 90 percent of older people do not get enough vitamin D, risking a loss of bone and muscle mass.

Those with the deficiency also had trouble completing daily tasks such as climbing stairs or getting dressed.

So be sure to get out in the sun -- when it's not too hot, that is. Dermatologists say you can soak in at least 10 minutes of rays a day without risking skin damage.

June 28, 2013
More pomegranate kernals recalled in Hepatitis A virus outbreak
June 28, 2013
What is your sun safety IQ?

The Fourth of July is next Thursday, and many of you are looking forward to the mid-week break and some outdoor play during the holiday.

Whether you're headed for the trails, the beach, state parks or merely hanging out around the grill in the backyard, be aware of how much sunlight you soak in.

Surely, the vitamin D supplied by the sun is crucial for your good health. But protection against too much sun is a must due to skin cancer risks.

Take this quick quiz from the American Cancer Society to find your "sun safety IQ."

And feel free to comment and let us know how you plan to celebrate the holiday.

June 4, 2013
CPR: Use the beat of the Bee Gee's "Stayin' Alive" to save a life

And you thought disco was just a distant, fading memory.... Not so, according to the American Heart Association.

Just two simple steps and the beat of Disco-era's classic Bee Gee's song "Stayin' Alive" may be all it takes to save the life of someone who collapses of heart failure, the heart experts say.

Step 1 is to call 911.

Step 2 is to place your two hands in the middle of the chest (squarely between the nipples), one on top of the other and start pumping heavy and hard. Start pushing on the chest with all your strength at a rate of 100 beats per minute -- the exact beat of the the Bee Gee's hit tune "Stayin' Alive."

CPR experts say blowing into the victim's airway with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is no longer needed.

But when it comes to pushing on the chest, just remember push hard and often. CPR experts said do not stop compressions even if you sense the victim's ribs are breaking. They can heal easily after your victim regains a heart beat. The main concern is getting the heart to resume beating.

Check out this brief video from the American Heart Association for a demonstration.

May 31, 2013
CDC report say most adults are eating less fast food

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes a document with the slightly creepy title of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The MMWRs provide excellent data on the health of the U.S. general population.

One of the latest reports measures how frequently adults ate at fast food restaurants. The report compares figures from the period 2003-2006 with more recent statistics from 2007-2010.

From 2003-2006 to 2007-2010, the percentage of daily calories consumed by adults over 20 from fast foods restaurants declined from 12.8 percent to 11.3 percent. That's good news.

Even better, the numbers show a more significant drop in daily calories consumed by adults aged 40 to 59: from 12.7 percent to 10.5 percent.

However, the youngest and oldest among us are holding steady in their reliance on food sold at eating establishments for quick availability or takeout (CDCs definition of a fast food joint).

During both periods studied, the percentage of daily calories from consumption of fast foods was highest among those aged 20-39 years and those over 60.

If you'd like to know more, go to the source.

May 24, 2013
CDC facts about skin cancer from sun or tanning bed exposure

Myth: I have to get a tan to look good. Myth: Only old people get cancer. Myth: Tanning beds are a good way to get vitamin D. Get the truth about tanning. Your natural skin color is great the way it is!Just in time for the summer solstice on June 21, here's some information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the dangers of sun damage:

  • Your skin will pay a price for overexposure to UV rays via too much time in the sun or exposure to UV tanning beds: brown spots, wrinkles, sagging skin, cataract risk, skin cancer risk.
  • Indoor tanning before age 35 can increase your risk of melanoma by 75 percent.
  • Having a tan is actually evidence of skin damage.
May 20, 2013
10 warning signs and symptoms of heat-related illness

It's time to take note of the 10 warning signs of heat-related illness, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For a case of heat exhaustion, rest in air conditioning, cool down with wet washclothes or a cool shower. If you notice signs of a heat stroke coming, call 911.


Heat Exhaustion:


  1. heavy sweating

  2. weakness

  3. cold, pale, clammy skin

  4. fast, weak pulse

  5. nausea or vomiting


Heat Stroke:

  1. high body temperature (above 103 F)

  2. hot, red, dry or moist skin

  3. rapid and strong pulse

  4. possible unconsciousness

May 16, 2013
What you need to know about strokes: the acronym F.A.S.T.

May is American stroke month, a time when the American Heart Association teaches awareness about the signs of a stroke.

Using the acronym F.A.S.T. tells people first and foremost to act quickly when these signs are present:

F = Face drooping, typically one side of the face.
A = Arm weakness, again typically on one side of the body.
S = Speech is slurred or senseless.
T = If any of these signs are present, call 911.

If you've had a stroke, share your symptoms with others in the comment section.

Most stroke patients ask friends or family to drive them to the hospital. Only one in three calls an ambulance.

But calling 911 increases chances that a stroke will be caught early and treated early because ambulances have mini-Intensive care units aboard. And first responders use these mini ICUs to stop the damage to your brain fast.

May 14, 2013
An apple a day keeps chronic disease away

Gala_Apple.jpgAn El Dorado County reader writes that he's taken to eating four apples a day the past few years. And he hasn't been sick since. Not even a cold.

Research supports the healthy qualities of apples, which originated in the mountains of what is now Kazakhstan.

In the journal Advances in Nutrition, author Dianne Hyson presents: "A Comprehensive Review of Apples and Apple Components and Their Relationship to Human Health."

As Hyson reports, the phytochemical profile of apples -- flavonoids, antioxidants, antiproliferative and cell-signaling -- helps fight against heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's.

Eating apples can also help keep you smart; the fruit halts or slows cognititve decline due to normal aging. Apples also lower your risk of diabetes, strengthen your bones, your lungs and aid in digestion -- not to mention help you maintain a healthy weight.

Four-a-day may be a bit much for some of us, but there's clearly good reasoning behind the saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

PHOTO: American Heart Association

May 14, 2013
How mindfulness helps your health: Tips from a congressman

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio's rust belt, knows about mindfulness. He's written a book called "A Mindful Nation" in which he talks about how he benefits from mindulness practice every day.

And now he's on the cover of the June issue of Mindful Magazine.

Studies about mindfulness' benefits to our health show the practice has "a 'cooling' effect on the inflammatory processes of the body," Ryan says.

Have you tried mindfulness meditation? Talk about your experience in the comments section below.

Dr. Susan Bauer-Wu, associate professor of nursing at Emory University, says: "Conceivably, if you begin these practices earlier, you may be able to prevent some serious chronic illnesses associated with inflammation."

Inflammation is a factor in dementia, Alzheimer's and cancer, among other diseases.
Mindfulness practice also helps to control stress, another risk factor in chronic disease, such as heart failure.

Something to think about, yes? Here's my story on the growing trend.

May 14, 2013
Work out for an hour each day, add 2 hours to your lifespan

Eat right. Exercise often.

According to Dr. Reetu Sharma, a cardiologogist at Sutter Health & Vascular Institute, one hour a day of exercise -- even walking -- will buy you two extra hours over your lifetime.

How much do you exercise daily? Tell us in the comments below.

Related article: Here's my story on how exercise helps your brain.

May 14, 2013
Heart association 'goes red' for women's heart health

Breast cancer awareness has pink; women's heart health has the color red.

We can thank the American Heart Association's national Go Red for Women movement, which hosted about 450 Sacramentans recently at the Red Lion Woodlake Inn, for their campaign to educate women about risks for developing heart disease:

Turns out, more women than men die from heart attacks. One in three women will die of heart disease. But only one in five women is able to identify heart disease as the No. 1 threat to their health.

For those who think "It can't happen to me," here's a powerful, three-minute video:



About Healthy Choices

Cynthia CraftCynthia H. Craft began her reporting and editing career in Columbus, Ohio, after graduating from Ohio State University. She worked at a Dallas, Texas, newspaper as an editor, and then at the Los Angeles Times, as an editor and Capitol Bureau correspondent. After working as editor in chief at the California Journal, Craft went to Lima, Peru, for three years as a visiting professor of journalism at Peruana Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas. She was a fellow in 2012 at the National Library for Medicine in Washington, D.C. at the National Institute for Health. She's currently The Sacramento Bee's senior writer on health, a position made possible by a grant from The California Endowment.

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Email: ccraft@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1270
On Twitter: @cynthiahcraft.

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