April 1, 2008 [Volume 2, Issue 9]
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In this issue of To Your Health:
Aging Is Not Inevitable
Face the Facts
Tea Time

Aging Is Not Inevitable

Every day, 330 American baby boomers turn age 60. Each of them desires to live a long and fulfilling life, full of productivity and vitality, and absent of disease and disability. This quest is why thousands of people just like you are becoming interested in anti-aging medicine.

Simply put, anti-aging medicine is advanced preventive health care based on the early detection, prevention, treatment and reversal of age-related dysfunction, disorders and diseases. The goal of anti-aging medicine is not merely to prolong the total years of an individual's life, but to ensure that those years are enjoyed in a productive and vital fashion.

Some of the "secrets" to anti-aging aren't really secrets at all, and they don't require drugs or surgery. For example, abundant clinical and research evidence suggests consistent physical activity plays a key role in maintaining health and vitality as we age. Exercise is one of the most valuable forms of anti-aging medicine. Substantial health benefits occur with regular physical activity that is aerobic in nature (such as 30-60 minutes of brisk walking, five or more days a week). Additional health benefits can be gained through greater amounts of physical activity, but even small amounts of activity are healthier than a sedentary lifestyle. A number of recent studies reinforce this basic concept.

Men and women age 60-plus with higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness live longer than unfit adults, and this correlation is independent of levels of body fat. Researchers at the University of South Carolina examined the associations between cardiovascular fitness, clinical measures of body fat, and death in older adults. The researchers studied more than 2,600 adults for a 12-year period, during which there were 450 deaths. The team found that those who died were older, had lower fitness levels, and had more cardiovascular risk factors than survivors. However, there were no significant differences in body fat measures.

Across a wide variance of body-fat levels (excluding the most obese), fit study subjects were found to have lower death rates than unfit subjects. Higher levels of fitness also corresponded to lower incidence of death from all causes. In their published report, the researchers comment: "The results add to the existing evidence that promoting physical activity in older adults provides substantial health benefits, even in the oldest old."

The size of a man's waistline and the muscle mass of his biceps provide s snapshot of mortality risk in aging men. S. Goya Wannamethee and colleagues from the Royal Free and University College Medical School (London) studied more than 4,100 men ages 60 to 79, and found that those with a waist circumference of less than 40 inches and above-average muscle mass in their upper arms were up to 36 percent less likely to die over a six-year period compared to those with bigger waists and smaller arm muscles. The researchers also found that the combination of waist size and arm muscle mass provided a far more accurate gauge of death risk compared to body mass index (BMI) measurements, which the team found was linked to mortality only among very thin men.

According to Dr. Shripad Tuljapurkar of Stanford University, "[W]e are on the brink of being able to extend human lifespan significantly, because we've got most of the technologies we need to do it." Dr. Tuljapurkar estimates that between 2010 and 2030, the average age of death will increase 20 years if anti-aging therapies come into widespread use. This would increase the average lifespan in industrialized countries from approximately 80 years to 100 years.

Remember to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

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Dangerous Curve

The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act defines cosmetics as items intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness or altering one's appearance without affecting the body's structure or functions. This definition includes skin-care creams, lotions, powders and sprays, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail polishes, eye and facial makeup, permanent waves, hair colors, deodorants, baby products, bath oils, bubble baths, and mouthwashes, as well as any material intended for use as a component of a cosmetic product.

As you can imagine, we are exposed to hundreds of these products each day. How do we know if what we are using is harmful? Well, just like the names of the thousands of chemicals that make up most of these items, it's not that simple. Several ingredients in our personal care products have come under fire recently thanks to the work of avid watchdog groups such as the Environmental Work Group (www.ewg.org). One chemical in particular comes from the family of "phthalates" (pronounced THAY-lates). This one has prompted the state of California to ban its use in toys and baby products beginning in 2009. This is important to you because it can be hidden in your personal care products, too. Yes, hidden.

In general, phthalates are known as plasticizers. There are eight members of this family and they are used in just about every industry in the world to make plastic pliable. Things like garbage bags, garden hoses and such are pliable thanks, in part, to the phthalates. Another important thing they do is to make the scent last longer in products. This feature puts them in our personal care products: makeup, nail polish, body washes, laundry soap, dryer sheets and shampoo, just to name a few.

But here's the catch – you won't see phthalates listed as an ingredient. They will be listed as a part of the fragrance ingredient which is exempt from the same labeling laws. Full disclosure of "fragrance" may jeopardize company trade secrets, so the company doesn't have to divulge that information. The real problem here is that this loophole can be used to "hide" other potentially harmful ingredients. Reproductive and birth defects are a concern for people who are highly exposed. Some advocates are trying to get phthalates removed from all cosmetics, and the loophole is under investigation.

The Centers for Disease Control ran tests to examine the extent of phthalates exposure in humans. Metabolites used to gauge exposure were present in 75 percent of the cases tested – a much higher incidence than previously thought. Visit www.cdc.gov for further information and details of the study on phthalates.

Another area of concern is the use of preservatives such as "methylparaben" and "proylparaben" in cosmetics. The same preservatives often are used in foods. If you eat a lot of processed foods, you could be increasing your exposure. According to most scientists, we just don't know what the long-term effects are of many chemicals. While there still is no concrete evidence they pose a health threat, there is some supportive evidence that they can elicit an allergic response in some people.

Parabens are no longer used in Japan and the U.K., so some manufacturers are reformulating to have them removed from products. However, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Board (CIR) Expert Panel issued an amended final report on parabens in 2006, concluding that "methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, and benzylparaben are safe as used in cosmetics." The CIR provides information on the safety of chemical ingredients and issues safe recommended percentages of each chemical it tests. Some chemicals will be banned altogether while others must be used only within certain levels. Formulating chemists use these guidelines when they make products.

So, what's a body to do? Here are some tips to help minimize your exposure to chemicals in the products you and your family us:

Learn to Read Labels
Watch for "Greenwashing"
Check Out Other Sources
Get and Stay Healthy

Make healthier choices about the foods you eat. Get plenty of exercise. Reduce your use of perfumed laundry soaps. Use dryer balls instead of dyer sheets. Wear less makeup. Become aware of the chemicals in your home and work to reduce their impact on you, your family and the environment. We may not be able to control what goes in products – but we can control what products we use.

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Preventing Food Allergies

Recent studies praising the many health benefits of tea – reduced rates of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and some cancers – have increased its popularity and consumption. Additional research now suggests tea can help focus a scattered mind.

Much of the current research has examined the healthful properties of tea: antioxidants, flavonols, catechins and lignans. These elements can help the body fight off disease, improve blood vessel dilation and lower the risk of aortic atherosclerosis.

New research suggests components in the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant could help people focus and pay more attention to certain tasks. The purported mechanism for this action is an amino acid called theanine, which is found in green, black and oolong teas.

As more and more properties are studied, tea could prove to be a great ally in the fight against other major diseases including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. In fact, a study done on mice at the National Parkinson Foundation Centers in Israel found that the main antioxidant in tea showed an ability to slow brain cell death and encourage neurons to repair themselves.

So, next time you're at your local coffee hangout, don't order a cup of joe – try a soothing cup of tea instead. Give your body and mind a boost.

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The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. MPA Media is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.