Color-Coded Foods Guide Your Immune System and Vitality

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Does this food color panel tell something about your diet and your body?

Are you fully aware how your daily diet contributes to chronic inflammation, which has been proven to be a link to countless chronic diseases?

Check out the food rating from 1 being very healthy to 5, most inflammatory – based on accumulated, comprehensive scientific evidence.

Food Rating1 w-CPD

Food Rating_Cont. w-CPD

 

 

What Cancer Reminds Us of Today

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

The-Topic-of-Cancer_re-CPDCancer, the word and the disease, has no voice but says much. It has destroyed past lives and gravely impacted the lives of those living. It brings tons of emotions—sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, and stress. We all know this about cancer and many have experienced it. It is the story of the painful suffering cancer survivors go through.

But beyond distressing emotions, cancer also reminds us of several other things:

Reality

Cancer reminds us of a troubling reality that is partly captured by a snapshot of sober statistics. Despite cutting-edge cancer therapies and declining cancer mortality, an estimated 1,735,350 new cancer cases will be diagnosed and 609,640 cancer deaths will occur in the U.S. in 2018, based on an American Cancer Society report. It can hit anybody regardless of age, gender or genetic makeup.

Hope

The good news is that cancer is no longer a “death sentence,” because we see new promise and hope in the fight against this terrible disease. Cancer genomic profiling and precision medicine have made remarkable progress on on cancer risk stratification and targeted cancer treatments. There are also other breakthroughs in the field of immune-oncology. For example, CAR-T therapy can improve certain leukemia and lymphoma (such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia), with a survival rate of 80% or higher, by reengineering patients’ immune cells (T cells) in vitro to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and empower immune responses so that, when infused into the body, they effectively fight against cancer cells.

Challenges

We also should be reminded of remaining challenges: there are still severe side effects from promising therapies and drugs, effective early screening tests remain underdeveloped, and more research and clinical trials needed.

Financial Strain

Cancer reminds us of the financial strains it often causes. We all know that cancer treatments are costly. How to pay for treatment, especially for those without health insurance, is a big issue. CAR-T therapy mentioned above was acknowledged as a “miracle cure,” but the whole package (infusion, diagnosis, hospitalization, etc.) costs reportedly more than $500,000. Imagine how much this burden adds to a person and family already dealing with overwhelming stress and illness at hand.

Risks & Concerns

Cancer reminds us of other health concerns. Thirteen million people live with cancer. There are health problems and comorbidities that come with or after cancer treatments. Of significance are cardiovascular conditions, heart attack, and stroke. Proposed explanations for these adverse effects include side effects from anti-cancer drugs or therapies, a by-product of cancer itself, or other as-yet unclear causes. So, it is important to consider the overall health and quality of life of those living with cancer and find ways to make them better.

Action & Prevention

Finally, cancer reminds us of positive critical actions that each individual can take to guard against this terrible disease.

  • Early detection is one action that is a key to successful treatment and saving lives.
  • Getting vaccinated is an action, because available immunizations offer protection from certain viral-infection-caused cancers.
  • Prevention is an action, because about 50% of cancers can be prevented by living a healthy, active lifestyle, quitting tobacco, limiting alcohol, and avoiding exposure to cancer-causing agents or toxins.

These are actions that can be taken now and can make a real difference.

 

Image credit: https://pixabay.com – the-topic-of-cancer

Precision Medicine: From Buzzword to Promise or Reality (Part II)

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Target_Precision Prevention_CPDHappy New Year to All! This article is the continuation (Part Two) of Precision Medicine mini-series, with a focus on Precision Prevention intended to help foster and improve your health in the new year.

So, let’s dive right in.

From Precision Medicine to Precision Prevention

Prevention and medicine work side-by-side, as ancient wisdom signifies “Prevention is better than cure.”

Similarly, precision medicine and precision prevention play a joint role in cancer outcome. While precision medicine is targeting the genetic characteristics and genetic changes of each patient’s cancer, precision prevention is aimed at changing an individual’s behavior.

Precision prevention requires a better understanding of the molecular pathways of a particular disease at a level of each individual, which involves mapping out genomic profile, identifying individual’s risk, behavioral, social and environmental interactions. Then tailored interventions can be strategized to modify individual’s physical and biological characteristics.

Impact on Cancer Prevention

Precision medicine, together with precision prevention, has certainly facilitated/improved cancer prevention whether you realize it or not, particularly in early detection.

Colonoscopy screening is a good example. Let me highlight the steps:

First, there is a guideline to identify people at a risk for colon cancer and/or who need to be screened – e.g. starting 40 years old if having a family history, or 50 years old without a family history.

Second, this test can detect a growth in the entire colon through imaging.

Finally, doctors can implement treatments immediately to prevent or slow down cancer progression, e.g. to surgically remove a benign growth (polyp) or premalignant lesion during the screening, or to start an aggressive therapy for a cancerous tumor.

As a result of such a cancer prevention strategy, colon cancer is highly preventable if caught in a precancerous stage.

Meanwhile, additional findings should be taken into consideration. Recent clinical studies found that 80% of people with colorectal cancer have no known family history of this disease, which suggests that other risk factors (environmental, diet or lifestyle) play a role in colon cancer development, and that current colon cancer screening recommendation (mainly based on age and family history) could miss many individuals at risk.

So, next prospective is how to improve precision prevention. Advances in precision risk stratification has done so. To identify who may benefit from preventive measures or early aggressive treatment or alternative therapies, precision risk stratification can separate individuals at a high risk from those at a low risk through innovative technologies, genetic profiling and multiple risk factors reporting. In colon cancer prevention, while those at higher risk benefit from colonoscopy, people at a lower risk can get screened through sigmoidoscopy, a non-colonoscopy screening with clinical value in detecting advanced growth. Subsequently, precision risk stratification-based screening for colorectal cancer will also reduce healthcare cost stemming from unnecessary colonoscopy screening.

Immunoprevention presents other successful examples. It can be demonstrated by hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccination and human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination in preventing related cancers. Immunoprevention can also draw in patients carrying cancer predisposition genes.

In addition, precision prevention may imply identifying novel genomic biomarkers for cancer detection and prevention, applying predictive biomarkers, and analyzing gene-environmental interactions especially associated with modifiable risk factors to develop target preventive strategies.

Precision Prevention beyond Cancer 

Undoubtedly, precision medicine, along with precision prevention, is transforming cancer diagnostics and treatment to reduce cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality in the near future. And one day, the promise of precision prevention for Alzheimer’s disease, metabolic syndromes, or other chronic illnesses can lead us to a remarkable horizon.

Imagine – the beauty alongside benefit of precision nutrition blossoms in your plate of food. As the prevalence of obesity, prediabetes and diabetes increases, tailored nutritional approaches are needed to manage and prevent these conditions. Precision nutritional interventions can be achieved via analyzing and monitoring your dietary habits, food eating behaviors, physical activity, microbiota profile, along with deep phenotyping (i.e. precise and comprehensive analysis of abnormalities in physical and biochemical characteristics).

End Note with Key Numbers

Lifestyle factors (smoking, diet, sedentary, etc.) contribute to over 40% of cancers, and infections, to about 18% of cancers. Thus, many cancers are preventable by lifestyle modification, preventing infections, having balanced diet and regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Remember: Prevention is not a sprint, nor a marathon; is a sustained life-long journey. Prevention is not done through virtual world, but achieved in a real world and requires actions. If precision prevention is aimed at changing individual behaviors, the power of control is within each of us.

Going into 2018, imagine a year with your best well-being!

 

Image credit: CanStockPhoto & CPD

 

 

Precision Medicine: From Buzzword to Promise or Reality (Part I)

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Target for Precision Med_CPDIn a cheering spirit of the season, an amazing gift for each of us, in a perspective of health and future healthcare, is Precision Medicine. Precision medicine is no longer just a buzzword, its remarkable ability to impact detection, treatment and prevention has extended beyond cancer, and advanced clinical care for cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders, and other acute or chronic illnesses.

This is an exciting era that treating a disease is transformed from following standard guidelines or the conventional “one-size-fits-all” approach to tailoring of medical treatment to individual characteristics of each patient.

So, what does it mean to cancer treatment and cancer prevention? I’ll provide some remarkable findings for you.

First, Let’s Clarify Precision Medicine vs Personalized Medicine

According to NIH, precision medicine refers to the tailoring of medical treatment to the individual characteristics of each patient, i.e. to identify what approaches will be effective for which patients based on their genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

Precision medicine and “personalized medicine” are interchangeable sometimes. However, the term “personalized medicine” tends to be misinterpreted or misunderstood as the practice that treatments are uniquely designed for each individual. This is not always the case with precision medicine, and I’ll elaborate upon it more in cancer treatment later to help you understand better, so read on.

How Can Precision Medicine Steer Cancer Treatment Precisely?

Cancer is essentially a genetic disease. Errors, defects and malfunctions in the sequence of DNA or changes in the ways how genes are regulated can overthrow a cell’s apparatus, triggering uncontrolled cell growth, and eventually, tumor development.

The cause of these changes can be lifestyle – such as smoking, environmental – such as exposure to toxins, and/or spontaneous – such as a result of mutations in genes or inherited genetic alterations. Furthermore, research findings show that the changes that occur in one person’s cancer may not occur in others who have the same type, and the same cancer-causing changes may be displayed in different types of cancer.

These genetic changes in cancer can be examined using extraordinary technologies such as DNA sequencing, genomic testing and tumor molecular profiling. Samples can be collected by biopsies from tumors or in some cases, circulating DNA from patients with premalignant lesions. Cancer molecular profiling can uncover patients’ genetic variations, transcriptomic or proteomic profiling, tumor metabolism and microenvironment, and tumor immunity.

Considerable evidence indicates that a specific sequence of acquired genomic events over many years characterizes the transition from a normal cell to invasive carcinoma, and that specific “driver” events, developed in a particular order, enable cells to progress from benign growth to a malignant cancer.

Traditionally, tumors from the same organ or anatomical site are treated as one tumor entity. With breakthrough advances in genomics and technology, molecular tumor profiling may identify cancer “drivers” that are shared among different cancer types, prompting an approach to target driver’s pathways across anatomical sites, and clinical trials (so-called umbrella trials) to test whether molecular alterations in one tumor entity can be extrapolated to all other cancers.

For example, an inflammatory signature proved to be shared by seven cancer types including breast, prostate, colon, gastric, pancreatic, oral and lung.  Karyopherin alpha 2, a protein that plays a vital role in causing cancer, is uniformly up-regulated across these cancer types. Hence, a cancer-related molecular inflammatory pattern may position this protein as a uniform marker for poor prognostic cancers. Alternatively, oncologists can use specific drugs that target this protein to stop cancer growth.

Take a look at traditional chemotherapy, it works by killing cells that multiply quickly whether they are normal or cancerous. Precision medicine works differently. Because cancer cells need specific proteins or cancer-causing genes to survive, grow and spread, targeted therapies are designed to go after specific cancer-causing genes or proteins, leading to stopping or slowing down cancer progression.

Collectively, precision medicine can improve diagnostics, treatment, early detection and prevention. The goal of precision cancer medicine is to identify which mutation that drives a tumor, and to target therapies on what and how cancer-causing genetic changes occur in a tumor, no matter where the tumor develops in the body.

 

Image credit: CanStockPhoto & CPD

Key Takeaways for CMS Oncology Care Model

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

For cancer patients, living a life with and beyond cancer faces various challenges. Consider physical illness, emotional pain, financial cost, and psychological burden, etc.

Here is good news for those who are not aware of new cancer treatment program.

To improve cancer care and reduce the cost, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), particularly its Innovation Center (CMMI), developed Oncology Care Model, which are participated by over 190 health care providers and some insurance companies.

Oncology Care Model_CPDThis map shows the locations where oncology practice groups participate in Oncology Care Model. An interactive version that provides names of the practices or clinics is available on the CMMI site at this link.

This new five-year payment and practice reform initiative for cancer patients started July 1, 2016. Here are 5 key takeaways for cancer patients who use Medicare to receive chemotherapy:

  1. You don’t need to do anything, just seek the treatment at the practice of your choice.
  2. It’s an episode based approach – an episode starts when your chemotherapy starts, and each one lasts six months. If you need more treatment at the end of six months, start a new episode.
  3. Your Medicare payment will be either the same or lowered.
  4. Have 24/7 access to an oncologist or specialist. A patient navigator will be a consistent point person for each patent to help with patient support throughout their care.
  5. Physicians are paid by two ways or parts, but receive federal reimbursement by quality of care and performance of service they provide.

The Oncology Care Model aims at enhancing patient experience, by providing comprehensive care planning, shared decision-making, regular assessments for pain, distress and quality of life, and palliative care consultation, just to name a few among many other benefits.

Overall, CMS hope to achieve better health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries not only through better coordinated, high-quality care with electronic health records sharing between practices, but also by shifting the provider’s compensation from quantity of services to quality of outcomes.

 

Emerging New Evidence on Pancreatic Cancer Risks

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Risk_assessThis is a key topic on my editorial calendar this year due to the striking statistics of the increasing incidence and lethality of pancreatic cancer. For 2017, an estimated 53,670 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and over 43,000 deaths resulting from it are expected in the U.S. alone (source: American Cancer Society).

Pancreatic cancer still has a very poor prognosis, with an overall survival of 5% over five years. The disease is remarkably aggressive, rarely diagnosed at an early stage, and difficult to treat due to its resistance to radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Therefore, the cancer’s cruelty creates a tremendous emotional burden for both patients and their loved ones. Even for survivors, the battles and treatments are brutal.

This does not mean we can do nothing.

To treat this horrible disease early and save more lives, identifying risk factors of pancreatic cancer and targeting high-risk people for effective screening are crucial. Therefore, steps to help prevent pancreatic cancer need everybody’s attention. A better understanding of the factors associated with pancreatic cancer can pinpoint preventive strategies to reduce its incidence.

Through literature review, I’ve compiled a list of risk factors for pancreatic cancer from research findings and emerging new evidence over the last 10 years. Here I share them with you in three categories.

First – Established risk factors

  1. Cigarette smoking: It is consistently associated with a two-fold increase in pancreatic cancer risk. Cancer-causing agents (i.e., carcinogens) existing in tobacco products cause DNA damage, which lead to abnormal cell growth.
  2. Obesity: Obesity produces an inflammatory state. Specifically, visceral obesity (i.e. belly fat) is linked to an increased risk for pancreatic and other cancers, independent of general obesity measured by body mass index (BMI).
  3. Chronic inflammatory conditions: such as chronic pancreatitis, liver cirrhosis.
  4. Diabetes: Particularly, type 2 diabetes is among a cluster of metabolic syndromes including hypertension, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, and obesity.
  5. Age (55+): The risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases with age.
  6. Gender: Men are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
  7. Inherited genetic mutation: Genetic factors accounts for ~10% pancreatic cancer. 

Second – Emerging risk factors

  1. Environmental risk: Exposure to mutagenic nitrosamines, organ-chlorinated compounds, or heavy metals is involved in the initiating phase of pancreatic cancer.
  2. Gut microbiota: The role of the microbiota in the development of pancreatic diseases is increasingly accepted. Gut bacteria translocation and small intestine bacterial overgrowth have been found in acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis, respectively.
  3. Infection: Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection.
  4. Ionizing radiation: Most relevant evidence comes from studies done on workers due to occupational exposure. 

Let me add a bit more on invisible microbiota. Imbalance in gut microbiota is also related to other risk factors for pancreatic cancer (such as smoking, diabetes, and obesity). Furthermore, oral microbiota change in periodontitis is associated with an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Third – Preventable or modifiable risk factors

  1. Sedentary behavior: Physical inactivity is directly and independently linked to multiple types of cancer.
  2. Smoking: Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of cancer.
  3. Excess alcohol intake
  4. Dietary factors: A diet high in red and processed meats, fat, calories, and fructose may increase cancer risk.  In contrast, a diet rich in whole wheat or whole grains, fiber, vegetables, and fruits is associated with reduced cancer risk.
  5. Obesity: Obesity is a significant risk factor for more than 10 types of cancer, severe morbidities, and premature death; it is also considered the major modifiable risk factor for multiple cancers and chronic diseases.

Each cancer is different. Sadly, pancreatic cancer has struck individuals who were healthy, non-smokers, athletes, or as young as age 30-40.

In summary

Fighting against pancreatic cancer starts with learning about its risk factors so as to save preventable deaths in the larger population.

Meanwhile, there is hope – thanks to advanced research and technology that deliver better treatments or promising therapeutic options. So, let’s also remember HOPE.

 

Image credit: http://fatfplatform.org/risk-assessment/

Floodwater May Be Muddy but Health Threats Are Clear

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Flood danger_chbdc.govt.nz w-CPDFirst of all, our hearts go out to the victims and people suffering from Hurricane Harvey.

What can we learn from this catastrophic storm – especially for residents living in flood-prone areas?

I address this question, because the danger of flooding is not just drowning. Health hazards under seemingly calm floodwater cannot be taken lightly, and they will persist, in some cases, for a long time.

Therefore, I’m going to highlight what health hazards come with flooding and how your preparedness can help avoid them.

Let’s start with – Types of Health Hazards and Risks

  1. Bacteria and infections: Bacteria can cause infectious diseases. Exposure to contaminated water (e.g. from pathogens, chemicals or wastes) can result in infection and put a risk for other health problems.
  2. Injury: Cuts and harm result from invisible sharp glass or metal fragments.
  3. Stress: Tension is overwhelming, from devastated loss, upset, anxiety, exhaustion and sleep deprivation, etc. Stress may progress to mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Inevitably, the emergency responders experience stress as well.
  4. Mosquitoes: Warm, stagnant water is their breeding bed, which increase the prevalence of mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, West Nile and dengue.
  5. Mold: Mold from water-soaked homes/walls can be harmful because it not only causes allergic reactions but also may worsen other existing health problems.

Next, Strategies and Actions You Can Take (in acronym P.I.C.)

#1 Prepare and Plan prior to flood

The key to effective preparedness is to plan ahead, protect assets, and get everything ready. Never wait till the last minute then act. Here are things you can do:

For care of vulnerable populations

  • Make sure to take care of necessities for babies and pregnant women.
  • Have enough back-up medications for folks with chronic diseases or health problems, and ensure the medications kept in a safe, water- and heat-proof place (e.g. cooler). Likewise, watch over personal medical device safety.
  • Make sure elderly, fragile folks stay in a dependable home/facility. 

For general population

  • Keep a prevention-mindset. Your health is your most valuable asset, as you cannot expect to take all your possessions with you.
  • Have your family’s emergency package/kit ready-to-go.
  • While securing some belongings is essential, it’s important to guard some critical documents such as insurance, health and immunization records.
  • If possible, consider getting the vaccine for TDAP – tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis in case of unforeseen injury.

#2 Implement during and post flood

  • Execute your plan, and ensure vital items at hand when evacuation.
  • Turn off power to avoid any incident from getting electrocuted.
  • Take good care of open wounds to prevent infection, esp. avoid direct contact in water.
  • Pay attention to folks in poor health, because they are at a great risk of heat-related death due to power outage and resultant lack of air conditioning.
  • Always make sure that your drinking water is safe.
  • Maintain hygiene and food safety. Discard any moldy, rotten or illness-risky foods.
  • When cleaning up floodwater, avoid injury. And clean everything in direct contact with water.
  • Clean mold thoroughly, but take caution to the cleaning chemicals because of their potential harm to your body. If necessary, ask for professional help.

#3 Communicate for management and support

Be informed. Follow the instructions or updates on mass flooding from federal or state government and communities. Keep your families and friends posted about your well-being. Support each other in every way possible. 

Final point:

To my knowledge, there is no direct evidence whether Hurricane Harvey is caused by climate change. However, as we all understand, global warming can add to warmer or hotter air, build up more humidity and more moisture, which will increase the intensity of hurricane and consequential damage. Hence, climate change does play a role in deadly storms or weather-related natural disasters.

So, let’s face the reality, take responsible actions to protect the earth and future generations.

 

Image credit: Chbdc.govt.nz and CPD

The Steep Price of Overlooking Prediabetes Risk Factors

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Stop Prediabetes_CPDWhen you have diabetes, self-managing this condition through a list of tasks can be very challenging in your daily life.

However, whether you live with or without diabetes, your days will be happier and your life, simpler, if you cut off or minimize, improve or prevent a few of 11 risk factors for prediabetes.

Prediabetes is a condition where blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to meet the criteria as diabetes. About 86 million of Americans adults have prediabetes, and 90 percent of people with the condition don’t know they have it, based on the CDC’s data.

So, it’s urgent to know your risk. Why? Because prediabetes may develop to type 2 diabetes, the progression can lead to several health consequences. Among these is an association of prediabetes with the development of cancer. Research reveals that prediabetes is significantly linked to an increased risk for cancer of stomach, liver, pancreas, colon, breast and endometrium.

Here I’ll help you learn 11 risk factors of prediabetes, which type 2 diabetes also shares.

  1. Overweight or obesity: Obesity is an epidemic, and of our greatest concern is that it has spread to our children. The fatty tissue makes the cells become less sensitive to glucose, leaving a higher level of sugar in the blood. One more note – overweight/obesity may cause insulin resistance, which is a condition where the cells do not respond to insulin properly; and to meet the body’s demand, the pancreatic beta cells produce more insulin to help cells absorb glucose from the blood stream. Excess insulin and insulin resistance are a hallmark of type 2 diabetes, and make weight loss more difficult.
  2. Abdominal obesity: Extra fat around your abdominal region is considered a risk. A waist size over 35 inches for women or over 40 inches for men may post a higher prevalence of prediabetes. “Belly fat” is associated with high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
  3. “SAD” diet:Standard American Diet features high in sugar, fat, and red or processed meats, and excess carbohydrates. An inadequate diet can impair insulin sensitivity over time. Additionally, portion control is also a key player. To help manage, I’d suggest you start with a smaller-size plate, rather than a regular dinner plate.
  4.  Physical inactivity: If you are not physically active or regularly exercising, you may experience weight gain over time, and you’re more likely to develop prediabetes.
  5.  Long-term stress: Under stress, the body releases the hormone cortisol into the blood stream, raising blood glucose levels, which can cause diabetes.
  6.  Metabolic syndrome: Metabolic syndrome is a group of three or more conditions that take place together and influence metabolism. When an impact of obesity, dyslipidemia (abnormal levels of “good” and “bad” cholesterol) and high blood pressure compounds, insulin resistance can occur.
  7.  Family history: Having an immediate family member or relative with type 2 diabetes considerably increases the risk of prediabetes.
  8.  Age: After the age of 45, the risk of prediabetes goes up, despite the fact that prediabetes can develop in anyone of any age. Aging alone contributes to decline in beta cell function of the pancreas. Aging could also let one easily get into inactivity, a poor diet, and a loss of muscle mass.
  9.  Ethnicity/Race: African-American, Native American, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have a higher risk of developing prediabetes.
  10.  Gestational diabetes: Women who give birth to babies weighing over 9 pounds may be at a higher risk for prediabetes. Women previously diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy and their children have a higher risk too.
  11.  Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Women with PCOS are more susceptible to insulin resistance, thereby leading to prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, activities contributing to chronic inflammation, such as tobacco smoking, excessive alcohol, and poor sleep quality, also post an increased risk of prediabetes and diabetes.

In the end, consider this price tag – The lowest cost of prediabetes or diabetes for individual health and our healthcare system is prevention, early detection, and timely treatment.

Nobody can control age, ethnicity, race or family history. But you can control those modifiable risk factors by changing lifestyle, especially having a balanced diet, exercise and healthy weight. Lifestyle modification can not only lower your risk of prediabetes or diabetes, but also that of cancer significantly.

 

Image credit: Clipart and CPD

Lifestyle Interventions in the Midst of Three Health Crises

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas Healthy Lifestyle in Right direction_CPD-Clipart combo

As a nation, we are facing three health crises: (1) Chronic diseases, (2) Obesity, and (3) Opioid epidemic.

The facts and figures below tell a sad story.

Impact of three health crises in the U.S. (estimated in 2016)

 

 

Morbidity

 

Mortality

% of All Death

Chronic diseases 25% of adults had two/more chronic health conditions. 595,690 deaths (cancer);  610,000~ deaths (heart disease) 48%
Obesity epidemic 36.5% of adults were obese; 35.6%, overweight. 300,000+ deaths (obesity attributable) 18%
Opioid overdose   59,000 – 60,000 deaths  

*Data compiled from CDC, NIH and other health institutes.

Chronic diseases not only affect health and quality of life, they also add economical and social burdens. Specifically, about 86 percent of all health care spending goes towards treating individuals with one or more chronic conditions.

On the bright side, just eliminating three risk factors – poor diet, inactivity, and smoking – would prevent: 80% of heart disease and stroke, 80% of type 2 diabetes, and 40% of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It’s clear that poor lifestyle choices are key contributors in developing preventable chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, several types of cancer, and obesity. Lifestyle modification or intervention is not something new. However, it’s quite challenging to achieve and sustain success. So, here I will emphasize some key strategies and points you can use to fight these health crises personally.  

1. Keep a healthy diet. Intake a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, beans, whole grains, nuts and other nutrients.

-          Reduce fats, sugar and salt in your diet, which may be packed as hidden ingredients in processed foods.

-          Reduce red meat, animal meats consumption too.

2. Participate in physical activity. Aim for a minimum of 150 minute exercise each week.

A combination of diet and exercise is effective in maintaining healthy weight. Take advantage of summer outdoor activities (e.g. swimming, walking, or playing at beach).

3. Quit or avoid addictive behavior such as tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use.

-          Tobacco smoking takes more than 480,000 lives each year.

-          Rather than seeking substances as a mean for momentary pleasure, living a healthy lifestyle is an excellent regimen for meeting one’s physical, emotional, and social needs.

4. Maintain healthy weight. Weight control is about energy balance, i.e. Energy In = Energy Out. When energy intake exceeds energy expenditure, weight gain occurs.

-          Do eat good breakfast, and consume enough fibers and proteins.

-          Avoid emotional eating.

-          Yes, it’s not easy to make a big change. One step at a time. Don’t go it alone, lock arms for support and motivation.

5. Manage stress. There are many techniques to relieve stress, but the best ones are enjoyable, self-help ways that work for you.

-          Importantly, keep counting your blessings, because gratitude is a secret to happiness.

6. Get a good night’s sleep. Many people overlook this issue.

-          Lack of sleep for a long time may increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

-          Sleep hygiene is essential to getting sound sleep (see previous article)

All of above healthy habits will effectively reduce triglyceride levels, cut blood sugar levels, minimize waist circumference, and lower blood pressure. As a result, most chronic conditions and obesity are preventable, and some can even be reversed.

So, go for a healthy, vibrant lifestyle!

 

Image credits: https://openclipart.org/; CPD

New on How Critical Your Sleep Is and How to Optimize It

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

5 Sleeping babies_comboDo you toss and turn at night? Do you have difficulties in getting to sleep or staying asleep or both?

If the answer is “YES”, you are a part of the statistics as to an estimated 60 million adults in the US suffering from a sleep disorder. But, taking it lightly is risky.

Previously, I discussed about how sleep disorders may increase a risk to cancer by weakening or disrupting the immune functions and promoting inflammation (see CancerPreventionDaily.com). In this post, I’d like to share some intriguing updates emerged from a new perspective.

Notably, I’m also providing a “Sleep Regimen” in ROOM that is memorable and actionable for a better sleep.

First, let’s dive into recent interesting discovery on serious sleep disorder.

As you may know, sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder with trouble breathing during sleep; in particular, a halt/stop to breathing may last 10 to 30 seconds and numerous episodes a night. So, it’s potentially life-threatening if left undiagnosed or untreated.

Sleep-disordered breathing, e.g. sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome (SAHS), contributed to cancer development – based on the animal studies simulating SAHS’ characters, i.e. nocturnal irregular hypoxia (deprivation of oxygen to the tissue) and sleep breakup. Repetitive hypoxia and reoxygenation influenced tumor generation by fueling new blood vessel formation and cancer cell growth. Furthermore, human studies found that higher cancer incidence and mortality are observed in patients with severe sleep-disordered breathing.

Sleep disorders (varied from chronic insomnia to obstructive sleep apnea) have also been linked to many chronic conditions, such as stroke, heart failure, lung diseases, neurological disease, kidney disease, and depression, just to cite some, in both adults and pediatric populations.

Overall, insufficient/poor sleep can impact your health, happiness, safety, career, and quality of life.

Next, how to optimize your sleep

There are multiple ways to enhance the quality of your sleep, e.g. healthy lifestyle, exercise, stress-relief, pain management, etc. However, “sleep hygiene” is one of the top fundamentals, and you can gain direct benefit.

That’s why I’d prefer a non-pharmacological management, and recommend specifically a “Sleep Regimen” in a simple, memorable ROOM to assist you optimize your sleep. Here is how it works.

R: Rest, Relax, and have a Ritual to unwind before your bedtime.

O: O=0 Zero distractions. Distractions range from electronic/mobile devices, TV/radio, bright lights, noises, air, plus Temperature (an important factor – not too hot or too cold), so eliminate or minimize them from your night environment.

O: O=0 Zero food or stimulant drinks, including alcohol, coffee, sugary drinks and/or stimulant medications. Limit water intake too. No meal intake 2 hours prior to your bedtime.

M: Mandate the time and mattress. It is critical to ensure your premier sleep time (7-8 hours per night); go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time every day, and stick with it even during the weekend. Remember: Invest a really good, comfortable mattress.

Let me recap itDesign or create and utilize the R.O.O.M. consistently.

In addition, find out the cause of your sleeping problem(s), and don’t rely on “sleeping pills”, unless drug intervention is absolutely necessary.

At the end, I wish you sleep like a baby, and smile like a baby too, for your well-being and vitality.

 

Image Credits: Oseias Ferreira at FreeImages.com;

Claire57100, Zinz25, Esudroff, PubicDomainPictures at Pixabay.com