Flossing can save you from heart disease—but your dentist may not have time to tell you. A daily dose of walnuts could keep cancer away, and cocoa may be the way to keep your heart strong—did you ever think about asking your doctor about the small things that can help you keep diseases at bay?
These and other bits of research often don’t make it to your doctor’s list of dos and don’ts—mostly because he or she is focusing on medication. But when it comes to your well-being, every little detail can be put to good use.
Here is a list of 10 things that can help you find health and happiness.
A cup of cocoa…to care for your heart
In a study published in the November issue of the ‘American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’, Spanish researchers divided study subjects (both men and women) into two groups: One group was given a daily drink of 40g unsweetened cocoa powder mixed with skimmed milk and the other group drank plain skimmed milk. After one month, those who had the cocoa drink had lower levels of the inflammatory markers associated with heart disease.
Other studies have also shown that hot cocoa has more protective antioxidants than the better-known options of tea or red wine.
An earlier study published in the 3 June 2008 issue of the ‘Journal of the American College of Cardiology’ found that after diabetic patients drank a specially formulated cocoa—high in the antioxidant flavanol—for one month, blood vessel function went from severely impaired to normal.
Ditch the fruit drink...to steer clear of diabetes
Apparently fruit juice is worse than sugary soda if you’re worried about developing Type 2 diabetes, according to a study that appeared in the 28 July 2008 issue of the ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’. Researchers from Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center found that two or more soft drinks per day increased diabetes risk by 24%—and orange juice had the same effect. But two or more fruit drinks per day meant a 31% increased risk.
“We need to be aware that juice drinks are not a healthy alternative to soft drinks with regard to risk of Type 2 diabetes. Canned juices tend to have a lot of sugar added. And they immediately increase the blood sugar level,” says Dr Ashok Jhingan, chairman and consultant physician and diabetologist, Delhi Diabetes Research Centre, New Delhi.
A glass of wine...for a slimmer waistline
Surprised? An antioxidant found in red wine and grapes, known as resveratrol, not only helps to ward off cancer but may also turn out to be a fat fighter, according to research presented by Martin Wabitsch, a researcher from the University of Ulm in Ulm, Germany, at ENDO 08, the US-based Endocrine Society’s 90th annual meeting in San Francisco last year. Sounds like the hormonal effect of resveratrol can make grapes, grape juice and wine a chic addition to your diet plan.
Take your green tea with lemon…for extra antioxidants
A study published in the ‘Molecular Nutrition and Food Research Journal’ in November 2007 showed that citrus juices (including lemon, lime, orange and
grapefruit) boosted the benefits of green tea. Normally, some of the natural antioxidants in green tea, called catechins, are broken down during digestion and therefore can’t be useful to you. But citrus juices apparently stabilize the catechins, making more of them available for absorption.
In the study, researchers at Purdue University combined green tea with either one of the citrus juices or with vitamin C, and found more catechins became available for absorption in each case. The juice that worked best was lemon juice, which helped to retain 80% of the catechins. The others, in diminishing order of effectiveness, were orange, lime and grapefruit. “This is actually a great idea, especially for people who don’t like the taste of green tea and like to mask it with something,” says Jyoti Arora, team leader, nutrition and dietetics, Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon.
Walnuts each day… to keep cancer at bay
Walnuts contain an antioxidant compound called ellagic acid that supports the immune system and has anticarcinogenic properties. “(Walnuts) also contain multiple ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytosterols that, individually, have been shown to slow cancer growth,” says Arora of Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon.
Half a metre of floss…to keep clear of cancer, diabetes and heart disease
“Besides protecting against gingivitis (gum disease) by removing plaque and food particles, flossing has been shown to protect the heart, keep diabetes away and also, some researchers believe, prevent cancer too as periodontal disease seems to have a direct co-relation with all three,” says Neeraj Verma, senior consultant, dental surgery, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi.
Flossing is crucial for basic dental hygiene too; simply brushing isn’t enough. “Flossing cleans between teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach those hard-to-reach areas under the gum line and also helps control bad breath,” says Dr Verma.
A spoonful of spice…to clear your sinuses
Spicy food can give you a runny nose. For the same reason, spices help to clear the sinuses. This is one case where a pinch of a slightly bad thing becomes good! “(Pungent spices) produce more nasal secretions because (they) irritate the inner lining of the nose, which helps clear up things, definitely,” explains Ashok Vaid, consultant, ENT, at Max Hospital, Pitampura, New Delhi. If you’re all plugged up, “add hot peppers (such as cayenne powder, curry powder and chillies) and other spices to your diet to help clear things up,” says Arora of Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon. “Adding ‘kali mirch’ (black pepper) to tea is a good idea, specially as winter is upon us already,” adds Arora. However, too much can obviously lead to excessive irritation, so practise moderation: A pinch more than your usual intake is enough.
Walk away from your workstation...and from dangerous blood clots
So you thought deep-vein thrombosis (DVT)—a blood clot in the long leg veins that can prove deadly if part of the clot breaks off and blocks a smaller blood vessel
happens only to frequent flyers? In a study led by Prof. Richard Beasley of New Zealand’s Medical Research Institute, published in April 2007 in the ‘New Zealand Medical Journal’researchers found that office workers who stay glued to their computer screens are at greater risk of blood clots forming in their legs than long-distance air travellers. The study reported findings that only 21% of patients admitted to hospital with dangerous blood clots had recently been on lengthy aeroplane flights—but 34% had spent more than 8 hours a day at their desks the previous month, not getting up at all for at least 3 hours or more. To avoid problems, stand up and stretch your legs every 30-60 minutes as this is important for good circulation,” says Vaishya, senior consultant, orthopaedic and joint replacement surgeon, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi.
Also Read DVT: It could happen to you
5 minutes of Scrabble and crosswords, twice a day…to boost your immunity
“Studies indicate that people who do crossword puzzles, math calculations and brain-teasers under time constraints keep their minds activated, besides boosting their immune responses,” says P.N. Renjen, senior consultant, neurology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi.
Listen to music… to improve your immunity
Winter’s worth of flus and sniffles are here already. Scientists from Sussex University and the Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany have found in a 2008 study that listening to just 50 minutes of uplifting dance music increases levels of antibodies (particularly immunoglobin A, the immune system’s first line of defence), as well as decreasing stress levels (which, when high, can weaken the immune system). The researchers said music led to physiological changes that eventually induced both stress reduction and direct immune enhancement.
Neeraj Verma, senior consultant, dental surgery, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, talks about the right way to floss:
• Cut an 18-inch piece of floss. Wind most of it on the middle finger of one hand. Wind the rest around the other middle finger, leaving an inch to hold between index fingers and thumbs.
• Wrap the floss around the back of the last tooth in your jaw. Gently slide into the space between tooth and gum until you feel resistance, then bend it into a C-shape around the tooth. Use a gentle sawing motion to clean.
• Unroll clean floss from one hand and wind up on the other. Curve the fresh length of floss around the next tooth and repeat.
World Diabetes Day: get yourself tested
14 November is World Diabetes Day. In an ongoing study, Ashutosh Shukla, head, internal medicine, Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon, found simple lifestyle adjustments can prevent people with pre-diabetic symptoms from developing full-blown diabetes. Of 300 people who got an executive health check-up at the hospital in 2008, the study found 45 were pre-diabetic. These individuals were advised lifestyle and diet changes. Two years later, all of them were controlling their condition well. The study will continue to track them (earlier studies show a majority of pre-diabetics get Type 2 diabetes in 10 years). But based on the study, Dr Shukla recommends more stringent screening for pre-diabetes: “Screening should start at 30 years and be repeated every two years. If either of your parents are diabetic, get tested once a year.”
Injustice at work can be detrimental to health
The Whitehall studies have been investigating social determinants of health since 1967. As part of the Whitehall II study (begun in 1985), David Gimeno of the department of epidemiology and public health, University College London, and colleagues found that injustice at work is detrimental to health—if you are a man! Women don’t seem to be affected. In the article published online in the ‘BMJ’ journal in October, a perception of a high organizational justice was associated with a low risk of metabolic syndrome (a cluster of characteristics making cardiovascular disease and diabetes more likely)—a condition Indians are prone to.