Depression In Pregnancy

Childbirth and the newborn period is supposed to be a joyful time. It’s stressful and overwhelming and sleep is hard to come by, but new moms are increasingly struggling with one more hurdle to enjoying time with their newborn. Depression.

depression, sad pregnant woman
Credit: profmed.co.za

About 25% of women in the United States will have depression bad enough to require treatment at some time in their life. Sadness, feeling that life isn’t worth living, not enjoying things that used to bring you joy, lack of motivation, trouble sleeping, and unusual fatigue are all symptoms of depression. What happens when a woman suffers depression in pregnancy?

An article published recently in Obstetrics & Gynecology looked at rates of depression diagnoses in women hospitalized for childbirth. The authors found that rates of depression increased from 0.41% in 2000 to 2.87% in 2015. That’s a seven-fold increase.

This study wasn’t designed to discover why diagnosis rates went up. It’s possible awareness is increasing so more patients are getting diagnosed, when the rates of illness aren’t actually rising. We do know that depression in pregnancy has serious consequences for both mom and baby, so more accurate diagnosis is important.

There are many possible triggers for depression, in pregnancy and at other times. Family history, stress, complications with the pregnancy or previous pregnancy loss, history of abuse or trauma, and relationship problems can all lead to depression.

Depression in pregnancy can have health consequences for both mom and baby. Poor nutrition, lack of exercise, alcohol and other drug abuse, smoking, poor sleep and social isolation can all stem from depression. Not taking good care of oneself during pregnancy (which includes withdrawing from loved ones who can help provide support) can lead to less robust health once the baby arrives.

Poor nutrition, substance abuse (including smoking) and social isolation can increase the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, bonding problems, and abuse/neglect of the baby once born.

If a pregnant women is feeling sad from time to time, usually all that is needed is to talk about her feelings honestly with her mate or a close friend or other family member. Symptoms that are severe enough to keep her from enjoying life, that last longer than 2 weeks or so, should be discussed with her obstetrician or family doctor.

Treatment can start with some dietary and nutrition changes and talk therapy with a trained counselor. If symptoms are bad enough, medication can definitely be prescribed to help with the mood. Remember, although no medication is perfectly safe in pregnancy (or at any other time, really), the risks of depression in pregnancy can be significant.

Pregnancy, while confusing, overwhelming and sometimes uncomfortable, doesn’t have to be as big a struggle as it is with depression. If you or a woman you know is struggling with depression in pregnancy, please make sure to discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

QUESTION: Have you or someone you know suffered with depression while pregnant? What helped?

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Low Back Pain

You bend over to pick something up off the floor and suddenly feel a sharp pain in the low back.

You have a piece of furniture that REALLY belongs in the other corner of the room but you’re home alone.  It’s not that big, right?  I can move it myself.

You get home from work after 8 hours on your feet and think “I have to do something about my back.  I can’t handle another shift like that, the pain is too much.”

Do you have low back pain?  If so, you’re not alone.  Low back pain is one of the most common problems family doctors see.  From weekend warriors overdoing it at the gym, to sports injuries, to shoveling snow and pulling weeds and moving furniture, there are many ways to injure your back.

In fact, I’m having some trouble with MY low back this weekend!  Since yesterday afternoon I’ve had a sharp, aching pain in my right low back.  Standing up from sitting, rolling over in bed, picking things up off the floor and putting on my shoes have been an adventure today :-/

The most common cause of low back pain is a musculoskeletal injury.  For instance, you might slip on the ice and land on your back.  You also might lift something heavy or twist while carrying a baby. (That’s how I herniated a disc in my back over 10 years ago, bent over and twisted while putting my son in his crib.)

If you have low back pain, what do you do?  Well, of course the first thing to do is to see the doctor, especially if your pain is more than a simple “I overdid it” that goes away in a few days.  The doctor will ask questions about your pain, examine you, and may order tests and prescribe medicine to help you feel better.

When I see a patient with musculoskeletal back pain the first thing I do is to send them to physical therapy.  Most cases of low back pain are caused by two things: mechanical imbalance in the spine, and weak core support.  The therapists will help figure out what the patient is doing that might be making back pain worse (like bending and lifting improperly), teach strengthening exercises to address core weakness, and add treatments to relieve pain like traction, electrostim or ultrasound.

As I discussed in a previous post, chiropractic therapy is very helpful for low back pain as well.  Often manual therapy like massage and osteopathic or chiropractic adjustment can improve or relieve back pain very quickly.

If physical therapy and manual therapy don’t relieve symptoms in a few weeks we may discuss imaging like an Xray or MRI.  More serious problems may be present that need specialist care like injections or even surgery.

What are some of the danger signs that suggest low back pain is an urgent problem?  If you are having trouble emptying your bladder or controlling the bowels you need to see the doctor right away.  So-called “saddle anesthesia” which is numbness in the area between the legs (the part of you that would touch the saddle when riding horseback) may indicate damage to the spinal cord and should be checked out immediately.  Also, if you have a personal history of cancer then back pain could be a sign of a recurrence and should be reported to your doctor right away.

There are a few supplements that are helpful with musculoskeletal back pain.  Magnesium helps to relax muscles and can decrease pain from spasm.  Fish oil is helpful for painful conditions of all sorts, but you have to take a lot of it, as I wrote in a previous post.  Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties.  (This is not an all-inclusive list, of course.)

Millions of people suffer with back pain every year.  Luckily most of the time it goes away without too much muss or fuss, with some simple strengthening exercises and pain-relieving medicines.  Most patients also benefit from some education on how to take good care of their back so the pain doesn’t come back.

Low back pain doesn’t have to take over your life!  It takes some time, work and patience, but straightening out the problems with your back is so worth the effort!

QUESTION: Do you have low back pain?  What have you found that helps?

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Don’t Wash Your Chicken! Do This Instead

Yes, you read that right. If you are in the habit of washing raw chicken before you cook it, STOP. Don’t wash your chicken!

Chicken is the most commonly eaten meat in the United States these days. Whether fried, poached, broiled, baked or added to soups, stews and chili, Americans LOVE to eat chicken.

Many of us learned to rinse or wash raw meat before cooking it. In the case of chicken, this is a bad idea. Raw chicken often carries salmonella, shigella or campylobacter bacteria. If you soak the meat in water, the bacteria get into the water which is easy to spread around your kitchen.

The bacteria commonly found in raw chicken cause food poisoning, also called gastroenteritis. These illnesses cause abdominal pain, fever, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In severe cases people can have intestinal bleeding or become dehydrated, causing them to need hospitalization for antibiotics, IV fluids and symptom control medications.

If you are cooking with raw meat, especially poultry, cleanliness is very important. Keep the raw meat separate and avoid touching it to anything that can’t be thoroughly cleaned. This includes wooden utensils and cutting boards, which tend to absorb juices and are difficult to sanitize. After handling raw meat wash your hands with hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds (long enough to sing the ABC song twice).

Transfer the meat directly from its packaging to the container it will be cooked in. If you will apply breading to the meat make sure you touch the raw meat with only one hand and keep the other hand clean for touching everything else.

Prevention of foodborne illness means cooking meat thoroughly. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F, or until the juices run clear and the meat is opaque all the way through.

Of course, if you really want to be as safe as possible from foodborne illness, just don’t eat meat. At all. In one survey published in 2012, 41% of raw chicken sold in the Alabama was contaminated with Campylobacter. Poultry, fish, shellfish, unpasteurized dairy and eggs are common causes of foodborne illness. Cooking all these foods thoroughly and NOT washing them prior to cooking is essential.

It is true that plant foods are the cause of food poisoning from time to time. Romaine lettuce, anyone? Rice, berries, melon and sprouts are also known to be higher-risk foods. In the case of plant foods, washing them thoroughly before eating them reduces the risk of food-borne infection.

In fact, my first EVER YouTube video was about how to use Shaklee’s Basic H2 nontoxic cleaning solution to wash strawberries. Want to see? Click this link 🙂

We all want to eat healthy. Healthy, safe cooking means knowing what to wash and what NOT to wash. WASH your fruits, veggies and leafy greens. DON’T wash your chicken!

QUESTION: What do you do to avoid food borne infections?

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The Unhealthiest Professions

How does someone’s job make them unhealthy? Does it force them to sit for long times? Do they have to go without easy access to a bathroom? Does it make it hard for them to exercise or get good quality sleep? What are the unhealthiest professions among my patients?

Now, I haven’t made a study of this, haven’t gone to the primary literature to find research articles or anything. And some professions, like personal trainers, physical therapists, dietitians and religious clergy seem to be very healthy in general.

But there are definitely professions that seem to have the “perfect storm” of unhealthy lifestyles.

Bus Driver

Bus drivers (whether school or city or long-distance coaches) have many lifestyle challenges that impact their health. In my experience school bus drivers have the most problems, usually because they don’t recognize how much their work is impacting their health.

If I were locked into a chair for 2-3 hours at a time and unable to access a bathroom, I would avoid drinking fluids for those hours. If I had no access to a refrigerator to keep fresh foods cold, I might feel I had to eat takeout or fast food for lunch every day.

Add to these challenges the enforced inactivity and high level of stress of being responsible for bus-loads of children and you’ve got a pretty toxic mess in many respects.

Truck Driver

Short-haul truck drivers have many of the same challenges as bus drivers do. Long-distance drivers, ironically, often have less problems because they KNOW they are behaving in ways that are unhealthy. Awareness is growing among trucking companies that prolonged sitting increases health risk, and driving hours restrictions are helping.

However, long-haul and short-distance truck drivers both have issues with prolonged sitting, unhealthy food choices and lack of exercise. It is just very hard for people in these professions to make healthy choices over the long run.

Night Shift Worker

If you work at night, you are fighting an uphill battle to stay healthy. I work in a 24-7-365 profession myself, so I know what I’m talking about. There are professions that MUST have night shift workers but working nights is incredibly hard on the body.

We are a daytime species. Our brains are hard-wired to sleep in the cool, quiet dark and to be awake in the bright, warm, noisy day. Even our livers know we should not eat at night.

Even for those of us who work in the daytime, have access to refrigerators and bathrooms and aren’t forced to sit for long periods, staying healthy is a challenge. Add work constraints and things can get really tough.

If you have a work environment that makes it difficult to practice good habits, please take stock and change what you can. Meal prepping and taking meals to work, even if you have to take a small cooler (click here to see my new lunch bag!), is worth the time and effort and saves money. Tracking your steps with a pedometer will help you be mindful of your activity level.

Drinking plenty of water helps keep your energy up. Making a point to get out in the fresh air and nature, practicing your faith, and spending time with loved ones helps to mitigate the effects of a job that is physically and mentally stressful.

YOU are important! Sacrificing your health in pursuit of money will only work for so long – eventually that will backfire. Take care of YOU, you’re the only one who can!

QUESTION: What other professions do you feel make it difficult to stay healthy? Do you have any ideas about how to make healthy choices in spite of your job?

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Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day everyone!  Well, I’m a few days early, as it’s not until Monday, but I thought I’d talk a little about the history of Earth Day, as well as some things you can do to help protect the environment.

Earth Day was begun in 1970 in response to an oil spill off Santa Barbara, California.  It was created by Senator Gaylord Nelson who wanted a day to teach people about the impact of environmental change and educate about how our choices make an impact on the natural world.  There are Earth Day events all around the world nowadays, with the day commemorated in some way in nearly every small town and big city in America.

Many of the Earth Day events focus on the interrelatedness of humans with other species.  Everyone agrees that what happens to the Earth’s ecosystems impacts our species eventually.  It’s easy to see that overfishing will decrease our access to fish in our food supply, but subtle downstream effects may be more difficult to assess.  We all agree that using less fossil fuels is good in the abstract, but people disagree (often fairly violently) over what should be done about it.

Protecting unique ecosystems and unique species is a worthy goal, but sometimes it’s not clear what an individual can do to protect the environment.  Here’s a few things you CAN do:

1.  Reduce, reuse and recycle the packaging on products you buy.  Buy concentrated products that are later diluted with water.  Buy products that are packaged in pouches rather than bottles (less plastic) and in larger packages rather than smaller (less packaging per unit of product).  Use a tabletop water filter instead of buying bottled water.

Lunchmeats are often sold in reusable plastic containers that are nice for packing lunches.  Use washable dishrags rather than paper towels, and cloth napkins rather than paper ones.  Use real silverware and china instead of paper and plastic.  Use washable water bottles rather than buying bottled water in single-serving containers.

Find out what classes of materials your local recycling center accepts (they all take glass and aluminum/steel cans, but they vary on what class of plastics are accepted).  The type of plastic (signified by a number) is stamped on the package in the triangle-shaped recycle symbol.  Choose products packaged in plastics that you can recycle, if possible.  Here’s an example:

Plastic recycling symbol2. Eat mostly or exclusively plants.  Animal agriculture is one of the biggest identifiable threats to our environment.  The vast majority of corn grown in the United States is grown to feed livestock.  It takes immense amounts of land, water and energy to raise livestock for food.  Let’s not even talk about the cruel and inhumane treatment animals raised for food suffer.  And people who eat mostly or exclusively plants are healthier than those who eat animal based foods in large amounts.  Eating plants is better for people and for the environment.

3. Buy organic foods, and spend your money in ways that support environmentally responsible solutions.  Vote with your dollars.  The more demand there is for food that is raised in a way that is gentle with our planet, the more available and less expensive it will become.  This goes for renewable energy like solar and wind power.  Unlike some, I don’t believe that fossil fuels or animal agriculture should be outlawed.  This will damage our economy and hurt those who depend on them for their livelihood.  A gradual shift away as education and innovation increases demand for other alternatives is better.

Most of you know that I’ve been working with the Shaklee Corporation for the last 10 years.  I wanted to say a few things as well about Shaklee’s efforts to help the environment.  Right from the first day, Dr. Forrest Shaklee’s motto was “Living In Harmony With Nature.”  He believed that his company’s goal should be to develop products that improve the health of both people and the planet.

In the 1960s Shaklee produced one of the very first biodegradable vegetable-based nontoxic cleaning solutions, Basic H.  It is still available today, and a 16-oz bottle costing $12.15 retail makes 48 gallons of regular-strength cleaning solution.  It will clean windows and mirrors, fruits and vegetables, cars and boats and degrease your car’s engine.  I’ve used it nearly every way you can use it, and it works great.  The whole line of Get Clean products is nontoxic and safe for you, your family and your pets.

Shaklee provides support and nontoxic cleaning (and other) products to environmental research projects such as the Cousteau Society and the Whale Conservation Institute.  The company has organized and supported the planting of over 1 million trees.  Shaklee was the first company in the world to be certified Climate Neutral in 2000, offsetting carbon emissions by using renewable energy (solar, wind, etc) and planting trees.  The company has received numerous honors and awards for its leadership in environmental activism.

I’m very proud to partner with Shaklee to improve both the lives of my patients and the health of the planet.  Shaklee is offering free shipping on orders containing a Get Clean Starter Kit from now through April 26th, and will partner with American Forests to plant one tree for every starter kit purchased!  Here is a video that talks about the Get Clean Starter Kit.

Earth Day may be April 22, but we should be conscious of our impact on our planet every day, all year long.  One person alone can’t do much, but if we all pitch in and do a little every day (like reducing, reusing, recycling, eating more plants, eating organic and choosing environmentally-friendly products) we can make a big change together!

QUESTION:  What do you do to protect our planet?

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3 Ways To Stay Healthy While Traveling

BIG doings in our house this weekend!  My older son is taking a big trip – he’s going to Europe TOMORROW for Spring Break with a school group.  This mama is excited and nervous and…  did I already say nervous?  I did, didn’t I?

Earlier this week I had asked myself what I should write about this weekend.  Since my guy will be on the road I thought I would write about ways to stay healthy while traveling.  It’s not easy to keep your routines up while on vacation!  Getting OUT of your normal routine is a stressor, and as you know stress lowers your immune system and makes you more prone to pick up germs.

So how do you keep your immune system strong while traveling?  There are 3 major ways to stay healthy while traveling.

Get enough rest

Yep.  We tend to burn the candle at both ends while traveling.  Especially when we’re on a sightseeing trip, trying to cram as much as possible into a short time, we skimp on the downtime.  This is normal and natural, but you have to make sure to leave enough time for healthy rest.

You should ideally try to stay on your normal sleep schedule while traveling.  For those with kids, that means doing your best to stick to their normal wake-up times, naptimes and bedtimes.  You know your kids, and you know how flexible they are.  My own kids can sleep anywhere, anytime.  (They are related to their Aunt Becky who once slept through the whole car ride from Cincinnati to Hilton Head, only emerging for meals and rest stops.)

Traveling to Europe makes me think a little about jetlag.  Europe is too far to try to stay on home time, especially with tour activities.  After arriving home, getting extra sleep is very important to catch up.

Eat and drink healthy

When you’re traveling it’s easy to eat crap.  Fast food, junk food and unhealthy restaurant fare are quick and convenient.  Some of us overindulge in alcohol if we don’t have to drive or get up for work the next day.  (Not a problem for Chris and his fellow teenage tour mates!)  And often if you’re going to be trapped in an airplane seat you don’t want to drink as much water as you should.  Trust me, I get it!  Airplane lavatories are NOT where I want to spend my whole plane flight.

If you’re honest with yourself, you have to admit that you don’t FEEL well when you don’t EAT well.  And it’s not hard nowadays to find healthy alternatives.  Even at airports it is possible to find healthy foods to eat.  Salads, fruit, whole-grain breads, and unprocessed foods are not too hard to find, you just have to look for them, and ask if you don’t see them.

Depending on where you’re going and what you’re doing, make sure to adjust your water intake accordingly.  If I were going on a hike, walking a lot or doing something physically challenging I would be sure to drink more water.  Dehydration contributes to fatigue, can make motion sickness (like seasickness on cruise ships) worse, and can make you prone to mistakes.  Making avoidable errors while in a foreign country with unfamiliar customs and language is NOT ideal!

Take supplements

This is not nearly as important as the other two!  However, even though it is a distant third I felt I should mention it because it.  This can definitely contribute to feeling well and keeping your immune system strong.

You should pack and take your high-quality multivitamins, of course.  You wouldn’t leave home without your prescription medication, right?  Well you should bring along your normal supplement regimen too.  Vitamin C and echinacea are two supplements that help to support the immune system.

There are a number of supplements I use to stay healthy while traveling, and will send along with Chris.  Of course he will take his Vitalizer daily, and Vitalized Immunity will help support his immune system.

It’s easy to get out of your routine when traveling.  Burning the candle at both ends with fun activities, not sleeping enough, eating the wrong foods, overindulging in alcohol, skimping on water, and forgetting your supplements are common enough and can put you and your family at risk of getting sick.  With a little discipline and foresight, though, you can arrive back home after your trip with only great memories and WITHOUT any unwanted souvenirs!

Fun fact – “souvenir” is the French word for memory.  I’m praying hard for Chris to only bring home GOOD memories of his first trip to Europe!

QUESTION:  Is there anything else you do to stay healthy while traveling?

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Fatty Liver Disease And Dietary Factors

I have a LOT of patients who have fatty liver disease. It is a huge epidemic in the USA and is the number-one cause of liver transplant now that hepatitis C has such successful treatments available.

New research is shedding more light on the causes of fatty liver disease, and giving clues to dietary factors that may be protective. I found a recent article with some very exciting findings that will help me guide my patients who are dealing with fatty liver disease.

Credit: indigobiosciences.com

It is becoming increasingly clear that fatty liver disease is a consequence of diets high in saturated fat and sucrose, fructose and other simple sugars. (Fruit doesn’t seem to carry the same risk; it is thought that the fiber in fruit is protective. Also most fruits don’t impact the blood sugar and raise insulin the way processed sweets and simple sugars do.)

When people eat diets high in saturated fat (like that found in meat, dairy, coconut oil and palm oil) and sugar, it causes hormonal changes that damage the liver and cause droplets of fat to accumulate in the liver cells. It can progress to permanent liver damage and even to cirrhosis and liver failure, requiring transplant.

Turns out two different foods have been found to be protective against the development of fatty liver disease. They are even powerful enough to reverse it once it has set in. I have NO medication to do this. Food is medicine!

Soy

β-Conglycinin, a protein that makes up about 30% of the protein in soybeans, has been shown to reduce intra-abdominal obesity and serum triglycerides and lower insulin levels. It took a LOT of this protein, 5 grams daily, to produce this effect, which corresponds to 15-20 grams of soy protein daily.

In both mice and humans, β-Conglycinin was shown to prevent the development of fatty liver disease and to improve the condition once it is present.

I have known soy to be a healthy food for a long time. Soy protein supplementation helps me maintain my weight and provides a lot of my protein needs, since I don’t eat meat, dairy or eggs. Want a safe, non-GMO, delicious soy protein shake to use for breakfast or lunch? Check out Shaklee’s Life Shake – you’ll love it, I guarantee it 🙂

Fish Oil

Fish oil has been a bit controversial in the treatment of fatty liver disease. It has been shown, in doses equivalent to 1000-4000 mg daily in humans, to prevent the development of fatty liver disease in mice and to improve fatty liver disease in humans.

I advise people who choose to take fish oil to take one that provides at least 300 mg EPA per gram of fish oil. This ensures you are getting the “good stuff” as EPA and DHA are the omega-3 fats responsible for fish oil’s good effects. Shaklee’s OmegaGuard is highly concentrated and free of contaminants. It’s the one I trust for my and my family’s use.

If you have been told you have fatty liver disease, please take steps to reduce your intake of added sugar and saturated fat. Consider adding soy to your diet, preferably as a protein shake or smoothie as it takes a LOT of soy protein to affect this disease. Also consider adding a high quality fish oil supplement.

QUESTION: Do you know anyone with fatty liver disease?

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Cardiovascular AND Dementia Risk Factors

As a family doctor I tell people regularly that changing their lifestyle will decrease their risk of a heart attack or stroke. Turns out the same risk factors for cardiovascular disease are also dementia risk factors.

There are few things more heartbreaking than watching a parent or spouse slowly lose their memory and ability to care for themselves. Many people are rightly afraid of developing dementia, especially if their parent was affected.

A new study was published recently that looked at structural changes in the brain that are associated with dementia. The authors found that vascular risk factors like smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, body mass index, and waist–hip ratio were associated with more brain changes.

This study wasn’t designed to prove causation – that these risk factors CAUSE the brain abnormalities. However, they did see that the more risk factors the patient had the more likely they were to have these changes.

Smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes had the strongest association. What’s most interesting is that middle-aged people with these risk factors had measurable changes in their brains. This was long BEFORE the memory loss started. The seeds of dementia are being planted, the damage is being done, long before the patient starts showing signs.

If you are a smoker, do whatever you need to do to quit. Now. Not tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. Smoking is not only hurting your heart and vascular system, it is hurting your brain too.

If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, work with your doctor to control them. Work on your diet and add some daily exercise. Add more fresh whole colorful plant foods and cut back on animal foods, fast food, junk food and added sugars. Take your medication as prescribed.

Smoking, obesity (especially around your middle), high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes aren’t just bad for your cardiovascular system. They are bad for you brain and significantly increase your risk of dementia as you age. Get serious, and stay healthy and sharp!

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Screening Children For Cardiovascular Risk

I’m a family doctor. I take care of children. When I think of patients with high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, I think of my ADULT patients, not my kids.

But there’s a good reason for screening children for cardiovascular risk. A new study published in Pediatrics showed up to 40% of children may have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even diabetes.

We’ve known for a long time that kids are having more and more problems with overweight and obesity. Poor food choices (and limited availability of fresh whole plant foods, in many cases), decreasing levels of physical activity and increasing time spent in front of computers both in school and at home have contributed to this trend.

Researchers went to Norwood, Ohio (very close to where I grew up, actually) and studied kids in middle school. With parental permission they checked height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. 42% of the children were overweight or obese, and 34% had blood sugar or cholesterol out of the normal range.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening children for blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol at age 9-11, and again at age 17-21. It is more urgent if children are overweight or obese, or if they have a family history of high cholesterol.

If you have children, make sure to model good habits for them. Don’t tell them to eat their veggies while you are eating pizza and wings. Don’t tell them to exercise while you sit on the couch. Make fitness a family affair by choosing activities all family members can enjoy. Some examples are hiking, cycling, swimming, martial arts, dance, sports, etc.

As your children are growing, ask their doctor whether they need to be screened for heart risk factors. Especially ask about screening if their doctor expresses concern about their weight. Also ask if there is a family history of high cholesterol or early heart attacks. “Early” means before age 55 in men and age 65 in women).

There is an epidemic of overweight and obesity happening in the US and around the world. We must be alert and start screening children for cardiovascular risk factors earlier than we might think.

QUESTION: Do you have kids? Have they had their cholesterol and blood sugar checked?

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Multivitamin Benefits: Are They Good For You?

What do YOU think?

Anyone who knows me knows what my opinion is, but it’s been awhile since I sat down to review what the scientific research says about multivitamin benefits.

Many people believe that if they just eat healthy they will get all the nutrition they need.  Worse, health professionals like doctors and dietitians perpetuate this myth.  The research is very clear that people do NOT get all the nutrition they need from the food they eat.  Whether or not they SHOULD, they DON’T.

So if people are going around deficient in one or more nutrient every day, does supplementation help?  Can you get the nutrition you need from pills?

vitaminbottlesIn a word, no.  You can’t get all the nutrition you need from pills.  You need to eat healthy.  This is basically because we need to know that you need a nutrient before we can put it into a pill.  And whole-foods supplements (where they basically juice a food and dehydrate it and package what’s left into a pill) aren’t adequate because you’d have to take huge numbers of pills daily in order to get the content of a single piece of fruit or a vegetable.  You still need to eat healthy balanced meals and sensible portions of food.

So what’s a person to do?  The short answer is to eat healthy AND take a high-quality supplement.  I did a literature review and here are five studies from the 1980s to today.

1.  In 1985, a study was published examining blood nutrient levels in female college students living on-campus and eating a diet specifically designed for them by the college dietician.  These young women’s blood nutrient levels were significantly improved by taking a multivitamin.

2.  A study of healthy adults over age 60 showed that those who took a multivitamin-mineral supplement spent one-third as many days sick with infection-related illness as those who did not take the supplement.  (My friend Amanda knows this is true.  Her kids don’t share nearly as many colds with her since she started taking Shaklee supplements!)

3.  Calcium and vitamin D supplementation have been shown to decrease the rate of bone loss in postmenopausal women (many studies demonstrate this).

4.  Use of an herbal supplement (marketed by the Shaklee Corporation under the trade name NutriFeron) was associated with  significantly decreased menopausal symptoms, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and plasma triglycerides and LDL-cholesterol.  Researchers also found lower plasma hepatitis C viral levels in patients with chronic active hepatitis C and improved symptoms as well in study participants who used NutriFeron.

5.  Long-term users of a number of supplements produced by the Shaklee Corporation were shown to have lower blood pressure, better cholesterol profiles, lower levels of certain inflammatory markers, lower risk of diabetes and were more likely to rate their health as “good” or “excellent.”  Here is the study link.

There are many more studies I can cite, but I think you’ll agree that the evidence is clear that taking a carefully designed program of supplements including a high-quality multivitamin is an important ingredient in a healthy lifestyle.

I should add that all the research I discussed above was supported and published by Shaklee.  There are over 100 research studies published in peer-reviewed journals supported by Shaklee, which you can check out at the Shaklee Health Resource.  How many studies has your supplement company published?

If you’d like more information about what supplements would be appropriate for you, please fill out a HealthPrint assessment or email me at drjen@jenniferwurstmd.com.

Question:  Do you take a multivitamin?  Do you think it makes you healthier?

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