Have you heard about the ketogenic diet? This increasingly mainstream means of losing weight involves drastically reducing your intake of carbohydrates and replacing them with fats, which puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. While some people swear by the ketogenic diet, medical professionals and dietitians have concerns about whether it’s a healthy and sustainable way to lose weight.
How the ketogenic diet works
A ketogenic diet forces your body to burn fat for fuel instead of glucose. When you stop eating carbohydrates and glucose is no longer available, your energy needs get fulfilled by converting fat into ketone bodies. Ketosis begins when your body must turn the fat stored in your muscles as glycogen into ketones.
To keep your body in ketosis, you have to eat a diet that’s about 70 percent fats, 20 percent proteins and 10 percent carbohydrates. Approved foods include meat, eggs, non-root vegetables, nuts, oils and some dairy products like cheese and butter. Prohibited foods include bread, pasta, fruit, potatoes, beans and sweets.
What are the risks?
The ketogenic diet was developed for a specific medical purpose—to help control seizures in children with epilepsy. However, it’s unclear whether it’s safe to use for weight loss over long periods of time.
There are also numerous side effects that dieters may come up against. Many people experience nausea, cramps, headaches, constipation and light-headedness—symptoms sometimes collectively known as the “keto flu”— after their body goes into ketosis.
What’s more, the diet involves eating large amounts of saturated fats, which increases your risk of heart disease. It may also lead to nutritional deficiencies in vitamins and minerals that you usually get from fruits and legumes.
Extreme diets like the ketogenic diet rarely yield good long-term results. If you fall off the wagon (as is easy to do with extreme diets), you’ll start to gain weight back again. It’s safer and more effective to lose weight gradually with a balanced diet that’s easier to stick to over time.
Avoiding back pain as you get older
It sometimes seems inevitable: as you get older, things ache more — most noticeably, your back. But does it need to be that way? Can you avoid back problems as you age?
For a lot of common aches and pains, the answer is often yes (injury and degenerative issues or disease are a different animal). You should of course consult with an expert regarding your specific questions, as the spine is a complex structure. But there’s hope for those of us who may have assumed that back pain is unavoidable.
The back includes the 24 vertebrae of the spine along with discs and joints as well as a host of supporting muscles and ligaments. The key, according to many chiropractic experts, is to keep these parts in balance.
In other words, a lot of preventative measures come down to diet and exercise.
“Motion is lotion for the spine,” according to Cleveland Clinic, which recommends staying active. Movement can also help keep joints lubricated, which helps offset stiffness and creakiness. Other experts advise you to strengthen your core muscles to better support the spine.
Chiropractors and athletic trainers alike point to muscle imbalances as the cause of much back pain, whether it’s the lower, middle, or upper region. With an imbalance, proper posture is compromised and the load is unevenly distributed, creating strain.
A movement specialist can help identify whether your gait, posture, or other activity is creating an imbalance that you can correct.
Bottom line: aging is inevitable, but there appear to be more options than ever before for warding off the aches and pains that plagued our parents and grandparents. That’s great news for you and your back.
Cancer survival: then and now
Thanks to increased awareness and major advances in medical research over the last 30 years, cancer survival rates have drastically improved. Let’s keep doing our part to fund organizations working hard to find cures and share information so that the number of deaths from cancer in the United States continues to decrease.
Prostate cancer mortality rates among men decreased by 52% between 1993 and 2015, thanks to the introduction of routine prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screenings.
The leading cancer killer in the United States, lung cancer mortality rates decreased by 45% from 1990 to 2015 among men and 19% from 2002 to 2015 among women. The decline can be attributed to greater public awareness about the dangers of smoking tobacco.
Breast cancer mortality rates decreased by 39% between 1989 and 2015. This progress is due to increased emphasis on early detection and advances in mammography.
Tips for improving your sleep
Do you regularly have trouble sleeping? You’re not alone, in fact, this is a common problem among seniors. Fortunately, there are a number of things you
can do to catch more Z’s.
Habits to adopt
• Creating a bedtime routine. A sensible going-to-bed routine is essential for getting a good night’s rest. A period of relaxation allows your body to prepare for sleep.
• Reserving your bedroom exclusively for sleeping. Only head to your bedroom when you feel tired.
• Implementing a healthy lifestyle. Be sure to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise and engage in mentally stimulating activities.
• Journaling before you go to bed. If your thoughts tend to run amok as you lay in bed at night, try jotting them down on paper. This helps to clear your mind and ward off anxiety.
Habits to avoid
• Excessive napping. Don’t extend your daytime naps past 20 minutes, and don’t take naps after three o’clock.
• Consuming too much caffeine. Particularly in the evening, avoid foods and drinks that over-stimulate the senses such as coffee, cola and chocolate.
• Oversleeping. If you wake up early, don’t remain in bed too long. It’s natural to assume that more sleep equals more rest but in reality, sleeping in tends to increase fatigue.
Still short on Z’s despite adopting these habits? Then consult with a medical professional. In particular, you may want to ask your pharmacist if the medication you’re taking could be affecting your sleep.
Guarding against malnutrition
Seniors are at risk for malnutrition. Though their need for nutrients remains largely the same as when they were younger, their need for energy, and therefore their appetite, decreases with age. Here are a few things seniors can do to fend off malnutrition.
• Have regular weigh-ins. Weight gain or loss can be difficult to notice, as it typically happens gradually. Seniors should make a habit of weighing themselves at least once a month. Any weight loss of more than five percent of their body weight during a period of six months or less needs attention.
• Watch for red flags. Besides weight loss, malnutrition can cause tiredness and irritability, slow healing of wounds and the feeling of always being cold.
• Understand the side effects of medications. Many drugs affect appetite, digestion and nutrient absorption.
Remedies for malnutrition include exercising regularly to stimulate the appetite, adding more herbs and spices to meals to enhance flavor and taking supplements (if recommended by a doctor).
If you think you or a loved one is suffering from malnutrition, see a physician right away. Malnutrition has a number of serious consequences, including a weakened immune system (increasing the possibility for contracting infections) and a heightened risk for falling and getting fractures due to muscle weakness and decreased bone mass. A doctor will help you form an appropriate care plan to get your health back on track.
Cancer myths versus facts
April is National Cancer Control Month, a time for raising awareness about the prevention and treatment of cancer. In honor of the annual event, here’s the truth about four common cancer myths.
Myth: Cancer is contagious
Fact: Since your immune system automatically destroys foreign cells, cancer can’t spread from person to person, either through the air or through direct contact. However, certain bacteria and viruses that increase the risk for cancer are contagious — for example, human papillomavirus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted, can cause cervical cancer.
Myth: Antiperspirants cause cancer
Myth: Eating sugar makes cancer worse
Fact: While eating lots of sugar isn’t good for you, it won’t cause your cancer to develop more rapidly, as is sometimes claimed. Likewise, cutting sugar out of your diet won’t cause your cancer growth to slow.
Myth: You won’t get cancer if no one in your family has it
Fact: Only a very small percentage of cancer cases are inherited (about five to 10 percent). You’re more likely to develop cancer because of age, environmental factors or life-style choices.
Three misconceptions about cognitive aging
Cognitive aging refers to the changes a person undergoes in their ability to think, sense and reason as they get older. It seems simple enough, but in fact, it’s a subject that’s rife with misconceptions. Here are three of them:
1. Cognitive aging is synonymous with cognitive decline
Health professionals judge that it’s incorrect to speak of a decline, given that cognitive aging is a natural process and one characterized by enormous variability. It’s true that a person’s memory tends to become less sharp as they age and their mental processes tend to slow. However, this isn’t the same thing as a change in intelligence. In fact, there’s no reason cognitive aging should interfere with a person continuing to learn new skills as they get older.
2. Cognitive aging is connected to Alzheimer’s disease
3. Nothing can be done about age-related cognitive changes.
Cognitive aging may be a natural process, but the extent to which one’s ability to think, sense and reason will change over the years can be controlled. You can be mentally sharp at any age. To attend to your cognitive health, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends the following:
• Be physically active. Physical health goes hand-in-hand with mental health.
• Be socially and intellectually active. Seek out new experiences and new learning opportunities.
• Make sure you’re sleeping well. The quality of your sleep directly impacts your cognitive functioning. Consult a health professional if you’re having trouble sleeping.
• Manage your medications. Certain medications can negatively affect one’s cognitive functions.
Consult with your doctor if you’re concerned about the effect of your medications, or if you want to learn more about maintaining your cognitive health.