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Eat More Fish and Less Vegetable Oil

The Japanese have the lowest incidence of heart attack in the world, yet they have the same rates of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, and they smoke as much as Americans do. It's not because of their genes because Japanese who move to Hawaii and the continental United States have a significant rise in their heart attack rates and the same amount of plaques in their arteries as Americans (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, August 5, 2008).

On the average, Japanese in Japan eat fish eight times a week and they add far less vegetable oils to their prepared foods. This study shows that Japanese living in Japan have twice as much long-chain omega-3s in their blood as those who left Japan. They also have lower blood levels of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and fewer plaques in their arteries.

Fats are classified by their chemical structure into saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated. Polyunsaturated fats are further sub-classified into omega-3, omega'6 and omega-9. Increasing the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s increases heart attack risk. For two million years, the typical human diet contained a ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s of about two to one. Today we take in large amounts of omega- 6s in the form of extracted vegetable oils and not enough omega-3s from fish, shellfish and some seeds. Now our ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s has risen beyond 12 to one.

We now think that heart attacks are caused to a large extent by an overactive immunity called inflamation. Your immunity is supposed to protect you from infection. However, if your immunity stays active all the time, it attacks you and starts to destroy every tissue in your body, particularly your blood vessels. Omega-3s form certain chemicals in your body called prostaglandins that turn off your immunity. Omega-6s form prostaglandins that turn on your immunity. The activity of your immunity changes with the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. For a heart-healthy diet, add more seafood and whole seeds, and eat less of the foods made with polyunsaturated vegetable oils.

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Health alert for exercisers:

If you have chronic muscle injuries, have your doctor check for diabetes. All athletes and regular exercisers suffer from occasional muscle injuries, but some people suffer one muscle injury after the other. Researchers at Campus University in Rome Italy showed that exercisers with chronic shoulder injuries have significantly higher blood sugar levels than those without shoulder problems (British Journal of Sports Medicine, September 2008). They are at very high risk for diabetes. This implies that diabetes damages muscles just as it damages every other tissue in your body.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What causes exercise-induced asthma?

We have known for more than 25 years that exercise-induced asthma is caused by breathing dry, cold air, but for the first time we may know why this happens. Researchers at the Naval Medical Center-San Diego have just shown that exercise-induced asthma is associated with diminished secretion of lung mucous (Chest, September 2008). These same people also produce far less saliva, sweat and tears.

So when certain susceptible people breathe hard and fast, in air that is cold and dry, the bronchial tubes are not protected by an adequate supply of mucous in their lungs. This irritates the bronchial tubes to cause wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. People who are least likely to suffer exercise-induce asthma would therefore be those who produce large amounts of lung mucous, sweat, saliva and tears.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Is it true that less intelligent people die earlier than their smarter peers?

A study from University College in London shows that having a low IQ is a greater risk factor for heart attacks and death than high blood sugar, low HDL (good) cholesterol levels or an elevated pulse rate (Heart, September 2008). However, smoking, high total cholesterol, high blood pressure and overweight were still more important risk factors than IQ.

People with low IQs are less likely to exercise and are more likely to smoke and to be overweight. They are unlikely to restrict refined carbohydrates, saturated fats or partially hydrogenated oils. They are also likely to have lower incomes, be less well-informed on the latest health issues and have limited access to quality health care.

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Recipe of the Week

Mediterranean Seafood Stew

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

June 22nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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