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Fit Older Women Live Longer

The strongest, best-coordinated, fastest older women with the most endurance live the longest. French women over the age of 75 were tested to see how fast they could walk (speed), how many chair stands they could do (endurance), how well they could balance themselves (coordination), and the pressure of their handgrip (strength). Women at the low end of scores for the total of the four tests and for each test were at increased risk for dying in the next four years (European Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 21, 2006).

Strength, speed, endurance and coordination are measures of fitness, determined by how active you are and how much exercise you get. What you do now is more important than what you did in your younger years. More than fifty years ago, a study showed that college football players die younger than their non-athletic classmates. Data acquired many years later showed that some hormones, such as insulin-like growth factor-1, help muscles and bones to grow and make a person a better athlete. However, these same hormones cause fat cells to fill with fat which increases a person’s chances of suffering diabetes and heart attacks. Obesity is a major risk factor for premature death. If athletes continue to exercise and do not become overweight in their later years, they probably are not at increased risk for premature death.

Any type of exercise can help to control your weight and protect your health. However, out-of-shape people are the ones at highest risk for sudden death during exercise. If you are out of shape, ask your doctor to give you a nuclear stress test to determine your susceptibility to heart damage during exercise. If you pass the test, you should start a supervised exercise program today.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What’s the latest on whether soybeans are healthful or harmful?

A study from Tulane was widely reported in the news media to show that eating soybeans prevents heart attacks. That’s not what the study showed. The authors reviewed 41 recent articles on soybeans and blood cholesterol levels (American Journal of Cardiology, September 2006). They found that soybeans were unquestionably associated with lowering total cholesterol, the bad low-density cholesterol, and triglycerides, and increasing the good high-density cholesterol, and the more soybeans a person takes in, the greater the reduction in bad cholesterol. But no one has shown whether the benefits come from the soybeans themselves or from replacing other foods with soy products, which would reduce the amount of saturated fat, partially hydrogenated oils and cholesterol taken in. You might get the same results just by removing meat, chicken, full fat dairy products and so forth from your diet, even without eating any soybeans.

All plants contain chemicals that are healthful and chemicals that can harm us. Fortunately for us, our ancestors learned which plants are edible and healthful, and taught us to avoid those that are poisonous. However, if you eat very large amounts of one food, you can poison yourself, even though reasonable amounts are harmless or beneficial. For example, soybeans contain a plant estrogen called genistein, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, all substances with known health benefits. But they also contain small amounts of trypsin inhibitors that could damage the pancreas; hemagglutinins that could cause clots to form; goitrogens that could block thyroid function; and phytates that can block the absorption of minerals. You would need to eat very large amounts of soy products to get any of these negative effects. Enjoy a moderate amount of soy foods, but do not let health claims lead you to eat huge amounts of soy to the exclusion of other foods. A healthful diet is a varied diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and other seeds.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Do you recommend taking vitamin D if a person takes calcium supplements?

Yes, if you are not getting plenty of sunshine. Calcium uses up vitamin D, so if you are taking calcium in pills you should probably also take a vitamin D supplement. If you are not sure that you are getting enough vitamin D from sunlight or food, ask your doctor to do a blood test to check your vitamin D level. Vitamin D deficiency is being recognized as a growing problem in people who are at risk for osteoporosis. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, over 60 million Americans, 41 million of them women, will have either osteoporosis or low bone mass by the year 2020. Vitamin D deficiency also appears to be linked to certain cancers, periodontal disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (Nutrition Action, November 2007). More ***************************************************

Recipes of the Week
The Oyster months are here . . . enjoy!

Oyster Stew
Louisiana Oysters and Shrimp

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

June 26th, 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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