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Heart Attack Risk for Diabetics

A study from the University of Dundee in Scotland shows that neither antioxidants nor aspirin pills prevent heart attacks in diabetics (British Medical Journal, October 2008). Heart attacks occur when a plaque breaks off from the walls of a coronary artery and travels down an ever-narrowing artery to form a clot and block the flow of blood to the heart muscle. Aspirin helps to prevent clotting and therefore prevents heart attacks. Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal pain medications block aspirin so they can increase clotting and heart attack risk in susceptible individuals.

One of the strongest risk factors for a heart attack is diabetes; 80 percent of diabetics die of heart disease. Diabetes could be such a strong risk factor for heart attacks that aspirin does not prevent it, or it may be that aspirin should be prescribed only for people with established symptomatic heart disease.

Other studies show that taking antioxidant vitamins (500 milligrams of vitamin C every day, 600 units of vitamin E every other day or 50 milligrams of beta carotene every other day) does not prevent heart attacks (Archives of Internal Medicine, August 2007). As of today, there is no evidence that taking antioxidant pills helps to prevent heart attacks. Now many scientists think that you should aim to prevent your mitochondria from making excessive amounts of oxidants. The cells of your body have tiny chambers in them called mitochondria that help convert food to energy. When they do this, they knock of electrons from nutrients, and these extra electrons can eventually end up attached to oxygen. Electron-charged oxygen, called reactive oxygen species or free radicals, then attach to the DNA in cells to damage them and shorten life.

At this time, the only practical ways to reduce the amount of oxidants produced by mitochondria are exercise or calorie restriction with adequate nutrients. Both help the mitochondria burn food to produce fewer oxidants. In the future the same effect may be accomplished with chemicals, such as resveratrol or dichloroacetate, but studies of these substances in animals have not yet been successfully applied to humans.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What causes side stitches when I run?

Side stitches are caused by a stretching of the ligaments that run downward from the diaphragm to hold up the liver. You breathe once for each two strides. You breathe out when one foot, usually the right, strikes the ground. So, your diaphragm goes up when the force of your foot strike causes your liver to go down. This stretches the ligaments to cause pain. You can relieve the discomfort by stopping running and pressing your fingers deep into your liver to raise it up toward your diaphragm. At the same time, purse your lips and blow out as hard as you can against the tightly held lips. Pushing the liver up releases the stretched ligaments. Breathing out hard against resistance lowers your diaphragm. The pain usually goes away immediately and you can resume running.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Which vegetables and fruits are most healthful?

All edible plants contain beneficial substances (phytochemicals) so the best strategy is to eat as wide a variety as possible. Many studies have been done to isolate specific phytochemicals and their related health benefits, but there are probably thousands more that we have not yet identified. One recent study with 472,081 participants, aged 50–71 years, in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study shows that people who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables from the rosaceae, convolvulaceae and umbelliferae families are at significantly reduced risk for lung cancer (American Journal of Epidemiology, September 12, 2008).

Rosaceae (the rose family) include raspberries, strawberries and most other berries; apples, cherries, peaches, plums and many other tree fruits. Convolvulaceae (morning glory family) include sweet potatoes, while umbelliferae (parsley family) include carrots, parsnips, celery, and many of the seasoning seeds such as caraway, anise, fennel, coriander and dill.

In this study, total intake of fruits and vegetables did not appear to be associated with reduced lung cancer risk. This supports the cofactor theory of disease. Many different behaviors increase risk for lung cancer. Combining smoking with lack of vegetables increases your risk beyond that of just smoking. Other factors include eating meat, lack of vitamin D, obesity and lack of exercise. More on phytochemicals (the beneficial substances in plants)

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Favorite Sweet Potato Recipes

Sweet Potato Bisque
Sweet Potato Curry
Baked Sweet Potatoes and Onions
Sweet Potato Salad with Pineapple

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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