Category Archives: Obesity Prevention

22 Proactive Things You Can Do on World Cancer Day and Beyond

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Mid_Blue Globe Bkg. Red Ribbon for WCDFebruary 4th each year is designated as World Cancer Day. This day is significant because it

  • kicks off a drive to expand awareness of cancer and its prevention;
  • offers a chance to discover risk factors for cancer and take protective measures;
  • provides a time to reflect on what you can do to make a difference in the fight against cancer;
  • embraces people around the globe to fulfill whatever needs to be done to control this deadly disease; and
  • presents an opportunity to spread a message – We Can Save Millions of People from Preventable Deaths Each Year!

Lifestyle-centered cancer prevention is evidence-based and it’s science. It’s no longer a theory or hypothesis, or breaking news. Healthy lifestyle measures provide powerful ways to lower the risk for many types of cancer.

The theme of World Cancer Day for the current three years (2016-2018) is “We Can. I Can.” Surely, each of us can do something, no matter how small. So, I have compiled a list of actions you can take for World Cancer Day and every day after:

  1. Set a “Cancer Patients First” agenda: Whether from a note, gift, prayer, or—best of all—a visit, let your friend battling cancer know you are with him or her in this fight.
  2. Pack a tool kit for cancer awareness or a thoughtful kit for cancer care.
  3. Remind your loved one to get a cancer screening. Early detection saves lives.
  4. Change one unhealthy behavior, e.g., harmful sun exposure, intentional tanning, alcohol abuse, or tobacco smoking (smokeless tobacco causes cancer too). Importantly, stay on the right course.
  5. Do something about early childhood weight management, especially control obesity in childhood cancer survivors.  Unhealthy behaviors and overweight that develop early in life and persist over time can increase not only the risk for some types of cancer but also cancer-related mortality.
  6. Host a Veggies/Vegetarian party or gathering (the size doesn’t matter).  Alternatively, go on a Mediterranean diet. The point is to replace Western diet components, which are rich in refined grains, animal fats, excessive sugar, and processed meat but poor in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole wheat or whole grains. A substantial body of evidence has linked the Mediterranean diet to increased cardiovascular benefits and prevention of some chronic diseases.
  7. Make a “Cancer Prevention” family dinner, or make a “Cancer Prevention Salad.”  Family meals can be a cost-effective intervention for weight management. Evidence suggests that regular family meals protect against unhealthy eating and obesity in children. If time or schedule is challenging, get your teens and/or other family members involved.
  8. Start or improve your weight management plan and actions. Make sure to have a balanced diet and exercise regime.
  9. Enjoy an “Exercise Day” or “Move Day,” and at least, consider taking a 30-minute walk.
  10. Take a “NO JUNK FOOD Day,” and limit red meats. Then do it often.
  11. Drink filtered tap water at home. Drink plenty of filtered water away from home too.
  12. Drink tea to replace sugar-rich beverages.
  13. Better: Have a “Triple Combat” day, by combining three intensive but joyful actions together.
  14. Give your unexplained pain some TLC by paying attention to it, tracking its duration, frequency or pattern, and scheduling a visit to your doctor.
  15. Give cancer caregivers a token of love to honor their labor of love.
  16. Write or speak to your local/national legislator or lawmaker about a policy idea to make food systems safer or make the environment safer.
  17. Speak out or stand up against any external source that potentially promotes cancer.
  18. Volunteer for a cancer fundraising or a cancer care center.
  19. Support the great cause of fighting cancer in any form you can.
  20. Parents and teachers: Advise your girls and boys to vaccinate against HPV. Recommended vaccination starts at age 11 or 12.
  21. Go along with proven strategies to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD). Why?  Because doing whatever is practical or plausible to lower your risk of CVD will enhance your potential to reduce the risk of cancer. For instance, research findings indicate that proven preventive measures for CVD are identical to preventive actions for prostate cancer.
  22. Take pancreatic cancer seriously. Based on the proposed “pancreatic injury−inflammation−cancer” pathway, it’s critical to avoid risk factors such as smoking, chronic pancreatitis, diabetes, and obesity.   Pancreatic cancer remains a complex, lethal malignancy with the worst prognosis, and a lack of early diagnostic symptoms. It’s also resistant to conventional chemo- and radiation therapies. The rate of its incidence is slowly increasing.

The list can go on and on…

By now, you likely see a clearly centered theme—prevention, which is the most cost-effective implement to fight cancer.

Remember: Cancer doesn’t develop overnight. It’s vitally essential to stick to a healthy lifestyle. Take protective measures such as enjoying a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and a healthy weight now and far beyond World Cancer Day.

And yes, every single small step counts! It’s a life-course approach.

 

Image credit: Designer at <a href=”http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/medical”>Medical vector designed by Ibrandify – Freepik.com</a>

Links between Obesity, Diabetes, and Colon Cancer

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Links 3 conditions_CPDColorectal cancer remains the 3rd most common cancer and is the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

The causes of colon cancer are multi-factorial. They include cellular, molecular, and genetic factors, as well as dietary and lifestyle factors. Today, I’m going to focus on one significant yet modifiable risk factor, obesity.

We start with a glimpse at the numbers.

The incidence rate of obesity is alarmingly high among U.S. adults based on CDC data. Rates for different age groups include middle-aged (40.2%), older (37.0%), and younger (32.3%). Also, about 17% of children and adolescents (age 2-19) are obese.

More than 29 million adults and children in the U.S. have diabetes. 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes, a condition that can lead to type-2 diabetes. Note that an estimated one in two seniors has pre-diabetes.

Obesity may be a factor in approximately 300,000 deaths each year. Diabetes will cause an estimated 75,578 deaths and colorectal cancer, an expected 49,190 deaths in 2016.

A look beyond the numbers

Obesity is a leading cause of diabetes, a disease for which the body fails to control blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels are characteristic of both obesity and diabetes. What is less well known is that diabetes and obesity are also linked to an increase in cancer risk.

In fact, obesity is linked to many types of cancer (colon, esophageal, thyroid, breast, prostate, uterine, kidney, pancreas, gallbladder and non-Hodgkins lymphoma) and, needless to say, heart disease, stroke, and other chronic illnesses.

Research shows that obesity and diabetes are associated with an increased risk of developing colon cancer.

Intrinsic links between obesity, diabetes, and colon cancer are vastly complicated. One clear tie is sugar. High levels of blood sugar are a characteristic in both obesity and diabetes. High blood sugar also makes us predisposed to cancer by increasing the activity of a gene involved in cancer progression. Apparently, dietary sugar is a link tying together obesity, diabetes, and colon cancer, and thus excess sugar has an impact on our risk for cancer.

Certainly, other links play a causal role. For instance, chronic inflammation is a central process that likely leads obese individuals to an elevated risk of diabetes and colon cancer, which all three conditions share a common inflammatory loop participated by multiple cell signaling molecules, growth and nuclear factors.

Highlighted Call for Actions

1. Colon Cancer screening

If you or your loved ones turn 50, you all should begin screening for colorectal cancer and then continue getting screened at regular intervals. This is because colorectal cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Colorectal polyps can be found by screening and then removed before they develop into cancers. Plus, any developing cancer can be found earlier by screening when treatment works best.

2. Diabetes Control

Early intervention is critical to preventing or delaying the onset of type-2 diabetes. Good news for our nation’s seniors is that Medicare will extend coverage for pre-diabetes care. Check out the National Diabetes Prevention Program, a preventive health initiative via the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation.

3. Healthy Weight Management

Nutrition and balance diet, weight loss, daily physical activity and healthy lifestyle are all beneficial for keeping weight down. Look for further details in CancerPreventionDaily earlier posts.

In brief, obese people are at a higher risk for developing cancer. Also, an obese condition is often resistant to chemotherapy regimens. The bottom line is that obesity prevention is a key life-saving approach.

 

Image source: CancerPreventionDaily

How do you integrate vascular health and cancer prevention?

PAD_leg artery_by CDCBy Hui Xie-Zukauskas

For those who may be unaware of what cancer and heart disease share in common, today I wish to remind you of why I talk about cardiovascular diseases. When I started this website, with its focus on cancer prevention, I had a well thought-out approach to maximize your benefits for heart health as well. To put it simply, there are many practices that will help you “kill two birds with one stone”—both cancer and heart disease.

So today, let me elaborate on cardiovascular risk factors that a cancer-prevention lifestyle can help allay.

First, let me ask you, Do you know if you have peripheral vascular diseases (PVD) or not? About 20 million of people in the United States are suffering from PVD, yet they don’t even know it. What does that have to do with cancer prevention? Please read on.

What is PVD, and what is PAD?

Almost everyone knows about atherosclerosis. Well, PVD is one of the major clinical complications of atherosclerosis. It affects blood vessels outside of the heart and brain, e.g. those of your body’s extremities.

When PVD only develops in the arteries, it is usually called peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which results in reduced blood flow to the lower extremities. PAD is predominantly caused by the buildup of fatty plaque in small arteries, resulting in the narrowing of those arteries, blocking blood flow from the heart to the legs. Consequently, the hallmark of PAD is extreme pain or painful cramping in the legs.

However, many folks with PAD experience no symptoms. That is why it is important to raise public awareness.

PAD and aging

PAD is neither a men’s nor a women’s disease—it is more of an aging disease. According to the NIH and CDC, one in every 20 Americans over age 50 has PAD, and approximately 12-20% of people older than age 60 have it. By age 80, 20-25% of Americans have PAD.

What are the risk factors for PAD?

So far, we have covered two already:

  •      Atherosclerosis
  •      Aging

Other risk factors include:

  •     Smoking
  •     Diabetes
  •     High blood pressure
  •     High cholesterol or abnormal cholesterol – too much “bad” LDL cholesterol and too little “good” HDL cholesterol
  •     Being overweight or obese
  •     Family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or cardiovascular disease (stroke, coronary artery disease, or PVD).
  •     Stress

What does learning about PAD have to do with cancer prevention?

The table below shows the risk factors that cancer and PAD have in common.

Risk Factors

Cancer

PAD

 Aging

 Tobacco use / Smoking

 Obesity

 Being physically inactive

 Inflammation

indirectly, because it’s linked to atherosclerosis

 Stress

 Diabetes

 Junk diet (high fats, high sugar, excessive salt)

may lead to other risk factors above

 Hormonal imbalance

Without distracting from today’s focus, I have addressed each of risk factors in previous CancerPreventionDaily Summer Health Education Series, and you can learn more by visiting CancerPreventionDaily.com

What’s the take-away message?

  1. PAD is under-diagnosed and lacking in public awareness, yet its incidence increases with age disturbingly.
  2. Make a cancer-prevention lifestyle your priority. Lifestyle modification is one of the keys to controlling and preventing PAD as well as cancer.
  3. Take action using the “Five Seconds Rule”—meaning that whether you consult with your physician or change one unhealthy lifestyle habit, take one small step at a time and do it now!

 

Image credit: CDC

Cutting Sugar for Cancer Prevention

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Sugar in a teaspoon_DreamstimeIt’s easy to say “Sugar is bad for you,” but just how bad is it?

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) is reducing its sugar intake recommendations from 10 percent of your daily calorie intake to 5 percent. To put this in a more measurable way, consuming 5% daily would be about 25 grams of sugar intake. This recommendation refers to all sugar – manually added and naturally occurring.

So, what does this translate for you? Adults with a healthy weight (a normal body mass index or BMI) are recommended to have less than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day from added or natural sources, given that 1 teaspoon = 4 grams.

The WHO warned the public that much of the sugar consumed today is “hidden” in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets. This is alarming. Sure, you probably know a can of regular soda contains 40 grams of sugar, equivalent to 10 teaspoons. However, do you realize that a tablespoon of ketchup contains 1 teaspoon of sugar (4 grams)?

How about your frozen pizza? Or cereal, bread, soup, yogurt, and even mayonnaise? They all contain sugar. So it’s not just soft drinks, juice drinks, desserts, and other foods we think of as “sweet,” but many other common food items, especially processed ones.

Why is cutting sugar crucial to fighting cancer?

Candies in stop-sign -1025007-mEvery cell in our bodies needs sugar to promote a positive energy balance. Cancer cells are no exception, and they love sugar because it feeds them. Growing research evidence has shown how, though complicated mechanisms, increased blood sugar plays a significant role in cancer development.

Cancer hallmarks include accumulated mutations of DNA, increased proliferation, and the invasion and migration of cancerous cells. Higher blood sugar has both direct effects on cancer’s cellular events and indirect effects on rewiring cancer-related signaling pathways through other factors. This may also provide insight into the extensive findings that the diabetic population is at higher risk of site-specific cancers (e.g., breast, colorectal, pancreatic, and stomach cancer).

One of several modifiable risk factors for cancer is poor diet, which is also a risk factor for obesity. What’s more, obesity is an independent risk factor for cancer and for many other common chronic diseases. There is a variety of ways to lower your sugar intake, including:

  •     Keep a healthy, nutritious diet.
  •     Eat a plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits.
  •     Avoid processed foods.
  •     Avoid artificial sweeteners.
  •     Drink water instead of sugar-loaded soft drinks.
  •     Read food labels attentively.

For more strategies and tips, see our cancer prevention blog.

The bottom line:

Cutting back sugar will help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity-related health problems, and cancer.

 

Image credits: By www.dreamstime.com and nazreth

Seven Novel Strategies for Spring or Anytime Cleaning to Prevent Cancer

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Spring flowers-fly-garden_PexelsFlowers are blooming and birds are singing as spring arrives after a long winter. Spring cleaning is a buzzword now. Some people are excited about cleaning for fresh and renewed homes; in contrast, others see spring cleaning as a daunting task and feel overwhelmed even just running down a long checklist. Either way is understandable.

Here is the point: spring cleaning doesn’t have to be one-size-fits-all, and you can gain cancer prevention benefits out of different kinds of spring cleaning. You will know why after reading the novel yet actionable ideas and strategies I outline here.

1.     Manage spring cleaning with a workable goal.

It’s desirable all rooms and corners of your house spotless, but it’s not a must. So, setting a priority (e.g., the kitchen or bedroom) can be very workable, especially when time is not on your side. Furthermore, your goal is more achievable when you make spring cleaning a family function. A bonus is that working together as a family helps foster responsibility for kids. It’s of course important to do chemical-free cleaning (e.g., e-cloths, baking soda, and vinegar) if you can.

2.     Clean out junk foods to optimize your heart health and for cancer prevention.

Go to your refrigerator and your pantry and you will likely find foods or drinks containing some cancer-causing ingredients such as:

  • Trans fat: it increases your bad cholesterol (LDL) and at the same time lowers your good cholesterol (HDL). Therefore, it is not only a double whammy on your heart, but also a fireball for inflammatory diseases such as cancer.
  • Sweeteners: commonly used aspartame causes various illnesses from birth defects to cancer.
  • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or refined sugar: cancer cells have sweet teeth!
  • Genetically-modified organisms (GMOs): both GMOs and the chemicals used to grow them have been shown to promote tumor growth.
  • Processed meats: they contain cancer-promoting agents like sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate.
  • Canned food containing BPA.

3.     Clean mental clutter to lower stress and enhance immunity.

  • Get rid of stress.
  • Get rid of negative thoughts, worries, and self-doubts.
  • Take a yoga class, a bath, or a walk; treat yourself to a massage or go out for lunch or dinner with a friend; whatever works best as a stress reliever for you, just do it.

4.     Clean your mouth to reduce oral cancer risk.

  •  Quit smoking.
  •  Avoid alcohol.
  •  Make a daily habit of brushing and flossing your teeth.
  •  Schedule a dental cleaning and oral cancer screening.

5.     Clean the fat in your body to gain long-term health.

Obesity is a risk factor for certain cancers, in addition to increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. So, by promoting fat breakdown, you may compensate certain aspects of obesity that cause diabetes. Certainly, you cannot gain a healthy weight overnight, but you do have options to modify your diet and lifestyle starting with cleaning out junk foods and taking actions such as:

  • Stay away from high-fat and high-sugar foods.
  • Start or continue a balanced diet rich in fresh veggies, fruits, proteins, and fiber.
  • Burn some fat by exercising and being more physically active.
  • Drink more water or tea instead of sugar- or sweetener-rich drinks.

6.     Clean the air to remove pollutants that cause cancer and allergies.

  • Check for and remove asbestos, a lung cancer-causing agent.
  • Test for radon level while increasing ventilation in your house. Radon is a radioactive but colorless, odorless gas.
  • Install an air freshener, which is a great aid to cleaning indoor pollutants.

7.     How about “digital cleaning”?

In this digital age, our lives are influenced by digital devices in many ways. “Digital hazards” can affect your health more than you may realize. You can help detox yourself from them simply by doing the following:

  • Clean your inbox. This can be a jump start of a “digital detox.” Eliminate all junk mail, and if possible stop those pesky unwanted emails from arriving in the first place. Delete old and useless email, and organize your inbox in more efficient ways.
  • Clean out all electronic wastes, such as old cell phones or other electronic devices, and take them to a safe disposal location designated by your local government. Donate your old computer to a cause if it’s still functional.
  • Clean viruses, spyware, and malware that may be in your computer. Backup your files and organize your passwords – whatever you do to make your computer run faster and less vulnerable to cyber threats, it will make your stress level lower and your life easier.
  • Keep your bedroom free of iPads, iPhones, and other digital devices as much as you can, because they are hazards to your snoozing, and consequently your health.

Of course, you can do more beyond these lists, but you get the idea.

I hope these strategies provide valuable insight into some small, easy, and quick steps you can take towards lowering your cancer risk. Spring or anytime cleaning of the areas outlined here can be a great strategy for cancer prevention and other health benefits.

 

Image credit: by Pexels

Foods to Stop Abdominal Obesity and Inflammation

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Big Belly-and-diet-1349596-mAre you a woman with a waist measurement of over 35 inches or a man with a waist of over 40 inches?

If so, you need to keep reading and engaging in this topic. There is an increasing concern about abdominal obesity, which has been identified as a risk factor of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

How bad is it?

Abdominal obesity, so-called “big tummy”, is the accumulation of excess intra-abdominal fat tissue, which promotes the release of inflammation-causing chemicals and subsequently causes inflammation. On top of that, chronic inflammation is harmful to your body and a root for many chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. So, “big tummy” should not be taken lightly.

Several factors might contribute to increased abdominal fat, including sex hormones, growth hormone, and local production of cortisol, a “stress hormone”. Dietary fructose is involved too. So, you cannot shrink your waist size overnight, and there is no a magic pill for it. However, you can simply start with modifying your diet.

How can you do it?

Is there any food that can improve your belly towards a healthy, active anti-inflammatory way? Yes. Here are the topmost eight approaches you can focus on:

1.      Oily fish: salmon or tuna

Fatty fish like salmon, tuna and sardines, are not only good proteins but high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation. To rip most benefits, eat these fish a few times a week, and cook them in healthy ways, such as grilled or baked, not deep fried, dried or salted.

2.      Healthy fats: olive oil and avocado

Let’s face it. Fat adds delicious taste, but not all fats are created equal. So, sprinkle olive oil and avocado over your salad, or mix them with your dishes.

 3.      High fiber foods: whole grain, oatmeal

A diet study on nearly 90,000 people in 2010 found that those consuming at least 10 grams of fiber daily (especially the kind in whole grains) had waists about three inches smaller than those eating very little fiber.

4.      Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamin C and lycopene, known to reduce inflammation throughout the body, along with supporting the immune system. Cooked tomatoes contain even more lycopene than raw ones, so does tomato sauce.

5.      Kale and other green leafy vegetables.

Kale is one of the stars among green leafy veggies, which can make up key components in an anti-inflammatory diet. More than forty-five individual flavonoid antioxidants have been identified in kale, including quercetin and kaempferol. Quercetin has been shown to possess a strong anti-inflammatory property. Moreover, kale facilitates the body’s detoxification processes, which are crucial in flushing out inflammatory substances, such as those built up from processed foods.

6.      Nuts and nuts-based fiber bars

Nuts such as almonds and walnuts, are wonderful snacks, and a great source of inflammation-fighting fats and antioxidants. There are so many good things about them — rich in fiber, calcium, vitamin E, and alpha-linolenic acid (a type of omega-3 fat).

7.      Low-fructose food: lemon, prune, and cranberries

These fruits contain little fructose. Research findings demonstrate that reduction in fructose improves several risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. In addition, low-fructose diet may be an effective intervention in cancer development.

8.      Spice like garlic, ginger and onions

Garlic and ginger have been used since ancient times, as powerful punches to combat inflammation. Garlic can help ward off a range of chronic illnesses, attributing to its antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory nature. Ginger is rich in antioxidants too. Onions are loaded with antioxidants, particularly quercetin. Many people tend to ignore them, but these foods do add an appreciable taste to your dishes.

Overall, diet can play an important role in lowering the risk of various cancers, and in reducing the hazard of chronic inflammation. A diet with the above beneficial foods helps shrink your waist size; in the long run, it can boost your anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer force.

What else can you do to speed up the progress?

Regular exercises, drinking more water or tea instead of coca and sweet beverages, reducing stress level, and a good night sleep as well, can all add up to burn your abdominal fat.

 

Image credit: By julosstock

How to Love Your Heart

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

pink-ribbon-1380887-mFebruary is the month we celebrate and show our love, whether it’s to our sweetheart, a favorite football team at the Super Bowl, or someone else we care about.

But don’t forget to love your own heart, because February is American Heart Month and we still face a sober reality – that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States.

You have only one heart. The following 8 practices can help you keep it healthy and young.

  1. Quit smoking. Never start smoking or using any other tobacco product if you are not a smoker. Tobacco smoke can harm not only anyone who smokes but also others who breathe it.
  2. Know your critical numbers. Get screened or tested for your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar. Don’t wait until any symptoms show up.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight. Your weight is one of the important risk factors for heart disease. You need to calculate your body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height). A BMI under 25 is healthy; a value between 25 and 29.9 is overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher means obesity. There are several online resources you can use.
  4. Keep a heart-healthy diet. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits and other plant-based food, along with a balance of lean meat, especially poultry and fish.
  5. Exercise, exercise, and exercise. Being physically active is doable and enjoyable, and it leads to many health benefits.
  6. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats; limit sugar and sodium/salt intake.
  7. Know your family history and other risk factors. While you cannot control your race, age, or family history, you do have control over your lifestyle and other important risk factors.
  8. Recognize common signals of heart trouble and do not ignore these warnings. Ask for a ride to a local hospital and get checked if you experience pain in your chest, back, shoulders or arms; shortness of breath; irregular heartbeat; or any other signs of heart trouble. Also be aware that the symptoms of a heart attack can vary from person to person.

Fortunately, lifestyle factors are mostly modifiable. Although it’s optimal to start building healthy habits and a healthy cardiovascular system at an early age, it’s never too late or too early to love your heart and safeguard it.

As a final point, the greater your risk for heart disease, the greater risk you likely have for cancer, because both diseases share several common risk factors. Protecting your heart can help you prevent cancer, which is a double-gain!

Let’s go RED, wear RED today, and spread the word!

 

Image credit: By Gioradi

Drug Overdose: When a Painkiller Can Become a Life-Killer

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

medicine-1-1034028-mIt happens often. Someone gets a headache, a back pain, or a muscular ache that seems non-stoppable and they head for the medicine chest for some Tylenol. But this person also starts suffering from a cold and, having already taken the Tylenol, then adds the popular over-the-counter (OTC) medicine NyQuil. However, what they don’t know is that NyQuil contains 650 mg of acetaminophen, which is the active pain reliever in Tylenol. In other words, they have unknowingly greatly increased their dose of the drug acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen is the generic name of Tylenol, and an active ingredient found in more than 600 drugs (both OTC and prescribed). In prescription drugs, acetaminophen may be labeled as APAP. Not being aware of how much to take this drug or not being aware of the presence of the drug in other medications being taken can lead to overdose and even a life-threatening situation. In the above example, Tylenol pills taken along with NyQuil could result in a deadly combination!

Today I’m going to help you understand how a painkiller might be a potential life-killer and will provide some overdose-prevention tips for your safety when taking medications, especially painkillers.

First, what is the safe dosage of acetaminophen?

Recently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning for acetaminophen dosage in prescription combinations of higher than 325 mg. The statement said, “There are no available data to show that taking more than 325 mg of acetaminophen per dosage unit provides additional benefit that outweighs the added risks for liver injury.”

What is the consequence of a drug overdose?

Liver damage is a major outcome. Do you know that more than 900 drugs have been implicated in causing liver injury? As the FDA stressed, “limiting the amount of acetaminophen per dosage unit will reduce the risk of severe liver injury from inadvertent acetaminophen overdose, which can lead to liver failure, liver transplant, and death.”

The liver, which is located under the rib cage on the right side of your body, is your second largest organ. It is one of vital organs for essential metabolism and survival. Because detoxification takes place there by metabolizing and eliminating toxins from the body, the liver can be exposed to high concentrations of toxic chemicals and drugs. If it has to deal with too much or too many toxins, the result can be serious damage to the liver.

In general, liver diseases are linked to drugs and alcohol, and damage to the liver can occur ranging from cirrhosis (i.e., scarring of the liver) and other liver injury to liver failure or liver cancer.

What are risk factors for liver cancer?

  • Cirrhosis: Chronic alcoholism and hepatitis are the leading causes of cirrhosis.
  • Hepatitis B and hepatitis C infection: These chronic infections are linked to liver cancer because they often directly or indirectly lead to cirrhosis.
  • Obesity: Too much eating is associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition where more than 5 percent of liver cells contain abnormally high concentrations of fat. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease may lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
  • Diabetes: This can increase the risk of liver cancer, especially in those who drink heavily or have viral hepatitis.

What can you do to prevent acetaminophen and other drug overdose?

  1. Consult your physician first when taking any medication including OTC drugs.
  2. Read the label and instructions before taking any drug. Keep yourself informed.
  3. Avoid drinking alcohol when you take any medication.
  4. If you’ve reached your daily intake limit of acetaminophen-containing drug(s), use natural remedies to ease your pain.
  5. If you have any liver problems or a history of liver disease (e.g., hepatitis), use extreme caution about taking any medication or supplement.

Also, for those who are animal-liver-lovers, minimize the consumption of animal liver to avoid possible accumulation of toxicity in your own liver.

Remember, safety in medication is crucial because it helps avoid serious liver injury or illness and saves lives!

If you consider this post is helpful, please share. Thanks!

 

Image credit: by srbichara

How Can Sedentary Behavior Hurt You

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

sedentary1_nationalnursingreviewDo you know — Approximately 25% of all cancers worldwide can be attributed to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle?

In my last post, I show you how to stay physically active — an approach to keep your New Year’s Health Resolution alive. Today, I’d like to emphasize why sedentary lifestyle has deleterious health consequences; particularly, it increases your risk for several cancers.

Sedentary lifestyle_comboHow do you define sedentary behavior?

Sedentary behavior is characterized by spending a majority of one’s waking hours sitting or lying down. Sedentary activities are increasingly seen in our daily lives in modern society, ranging from leisure (e.g. watching TV, lying down to read, playing video or online games, and parking your body in the car for a long commute to work or road trip) to occupation, such as sitting all day in the office or working on a computer for several hours.

Distinctly speaking, just because you meet or even exceed physical activity recommendations, it doesn’t mean that you are “sedentary-behavior-free”. For example, if you exercise for 30-45 minutes a day but spend the rest of day in sedentary activities, only ~3% of your day is physically active. As recent studies suggest, sedentary behavior may be a novel health risk factor independent of moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Also see Physically Active, Physically Inactive, or “Active Sitting Potato”: Where Do You Fit in? 

How does sedentary lifestyle increase cancer risk?

Emerging evidence points to a link between sedentary behavior and risk for several cancers. Scientific research has shown that sedentary behavior is associated with an increased risk for colorectal, gastric, breast, ovarian, endometrial, and prostate cancer.

Sedentary behavior can cause changes at the cellular and metabolic levels, which may contribute to the development of cancer. These changes include:

  1. Overweight or obesity, which is linked to several cancers. Obesity is also viewed as a condition of systemic inflammation.
  2. Altered production of sex hormones, which plays a role in breast and prostate cancer.
  3. Higher blood sugar, which cancer cells use as a fuel to grow and proliferate.
  4. Lower vitamin D, which may increase a risk for some cancers.
  5. Increased chronic inflammation, which may contribute to some cancers. Specifically, increased inflammation-causing factors and decreased anti-inflammatory factors may lead to a higher cancer risk.

What is more?

Sedentary behavior (too much sitting) is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, obesity, type-2 diabetes, and for death due to other illnesses, leading to shorter life expectancy. On the whole, physical inactivity is one of important causes of most chronic diseases including cancer.

In contrast, physical activity can reduce the risk and progression of several cancers. Staying physically active primarily prevents and/or postpones many chronic illnesses, and gain longer life expectancy.

Related topic: 10 Strategies to Keep a New Year’s Resolution for Staying Active

What’s your practice for “sit less and move more”? Thanks for sharing!

 

Reference from B.M. Lynch: Sedentary Behavior and Cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010;19:2691-2709.

Image credit: by nationalnursingreview.com; dailymail.co.uk; healthcureview.com; and howtoplaza.com

Physically Active, Physically Inactive, or “Active Sitting Potato”: Where Do You Fit in?

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Too much sittingImagine your day: After 8 hours of sleep, you get up and exercise for 30 minutes first thing in the morning. After 45 minutes of preparing to meet the day and having breakfast, you drive to work for 1 hr. Then you spend a total 8.5 hours sitting at your desk, working on a computer before and after lunch, and then you drive back home for 1 hr. After having dinner for 1 hour, you watch TV, surf the Internet, or read for another 3 hrs or so before bedtime. Then the cycle starts again.

If something like this is your schedule, do you realize that you actually spend only about 3% of your daily waking hours being physically active? Would the term “active sitting potato” describe you more properly?

You are not alone. Recent research shows that about 25% US adults spend ~70% of their waking hours sitting, 30% in light activities, and little or no time in exercise. The modern technologies in our lives—watching TV, using computers, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and engaging in social media—offer us a more sedentary lifestyle than at any time in human history. Consequently, we move less and sit more.

Evidence has emerged that sedentary behavior (prolonged sitting) is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, obesity, type-2 diabetes, and some cancers, as well as for all-cause mortality. Notably, these health consequences that result from too much sitting can be separated from those that are simply due to the lack of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (too little exercise).

So, what does prolonged sitting do to our bodies? Well, first we know that exercise improves the metabolism of muscles and prevents the loss of muscle mass, provides health gains for the heart and blood vessels, and improves immunity and overall well-being. Sedentary behavior, on the other hand, has a deleterious effect on the cardiovascular system and can lead to developing metabolic syndrome, which is primarily associated with metabolic function in the skeletal muscle. With prolonged sitting, reduced muscle contractions may result in decreased enzymatic activity for lipoproteins, decreased clearance of triglycerides and/or sugar load, and decreased glucose-stimulated insulin secretion.

To help prevent multiple chronic conditions, current public health recommendations emphasize that US adults should participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day for 5 days a week; or vigorous exercise for 20 minutes each day on 3 days per week. Surprisingly, recent surveys show that about 79% of adults do not meet these physical activity guidelines.

Today, I challenge everyone reading this, including myself, to make frequent and purposeful efforts to get out of the chair and engage more in daily activities, i.e. those things we do routinely but are not included in prescriptive exercise guidelines. Here are some suggestions for getting physically active:

1.      Do it first. Do your exercise in the morning. Set it as a priority, and get it over with if you consider it a task. Morning exercises, which can be as simple as walking, also invigorate and increase your mental sharpness.
2.      Do it creatively and strategically. For example, purposely walk more by parking your car farther away from the stores you shop at or your workplace.
3.      Do it more. Little bits add up. Doing house chores, running up and down the stairs, playing with the kids, gardening, yoga, jogging, hiking—some and often many of these ways of exercising are usually available to us every day. And you can probably identify even more. The more activities you can find to do each day, even if some of them are only for one or a few minutes, the greater the additive health effect.
4.      Try something new. Excitement or at least reduced boredom makes you more likely to stick with it.

Finally, let me conclude this post with the wisdom from Lao Tzu: “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small,” and, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

These quotes emphasize how a great thing starts with single little steps, and advise a practical approach to breaking big projects into small, easy, and durable tasks for execution. I hope the quotes and this blog inspire you to find ways to get up out of the chair and move more on a daily basis.