Teen Smoking And Alcohol Use Decreasing

When you talk to the teenagers in your life, do you feel like they don’t listen?  That your words go in one ear and out the other (or straight over their head altogether)? Don’t give up – there are positive signs that some kinds of substance use among our teens are on the decline.

FINALLY some good news about our teens!  There is evidence we are seeing teen smoking and alcohol use DECREASE in the USA!

There was a research article published last week in Pediatrics that found that high school seniors in 2014 were five times more likely to report they had never tried cigarettes or alcohol than they were in the mid-1970s.  Similar trends were seen for younger adolescents as well.

Why is this happening?  There are likely a lot of reasons.  First of all, it’s illegal for teens under 18 to buy or use tobacco products.  Granted, whether something is illegal isn’t a great deterrent for either teens or adults, but it does make it more difficult for teens to smoke cigarettes than it was in the 70s.

Same with alcohol.  Penalties for teenage drinking are increasing, as well as for parents who host parties where teens are drinking.

I’m seeing in my office that fewer and fewer teenagers report smoking cigarettes.  Even better, they will often tell me that cigarettes are “gross.”  I love hearing that!  Cigarettes ARE gross!  The social pressure to smoke cigarettes is definitely decreasing among teens.

The downside to this is that smoking hookah (tobacco in a water pipe) and vaping are hugely on the rise.  Both of these are also illegal to sell or provide to minors, but the social pressure seems to favor these behaviors over smoking cigarettes.

What really concerns me is the recent sharp increase in marijuana smoking.  More and more of my teenage patients tell me they smoke pot, and they often don’t see any problem with it.  It seems like high school social pressures have moved away from cigarettes and towards behaviors that seem safer but really aren’t.

Those of us who are parenting or have leadership roles with teens need to be aware of these trends and continue to work to educate our kids.  There is danger in ALL tobacco products, marijuana, alcohol, other recreational drugs, and electronic cigarettes.

QUESTION: Do you spend time with teens?  Would you agree that drinking and smoking are decreasing?


The Best Way To Control Your Blood Sugar

Don’t eat fruit.  Don’t eat meat.  Don’t eat sugar.  Eat before exercising.  Exercise while fasting.  Don’t eat after 7 PM.

If you read books by the popular health gurus or look at Facebook posts you can get completely confused by all the conflicting advice offered for diabetics.  What is the best way for a diabetic to control their blood sugar?

Get To And Maintain A Healthy Weight

The most important thing to do to get blood sugar under control is to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.  Just that one thing will get most of our diabetics to good blood sugar control, even without medication.

It isn’t even all that critical to get to a “normal” weight for blood sugar to improve.  Even losing just 5% of body fat (10 pounds for those starting at 200 pounds) has been shown to improve glycemic control.

I have a lot of patients who ask me what they SHOULD weigh.  I tell them I’m not sure, but let’s start with 5 pounds.  The same skills that get rid of the first 5 pounds will get rid of the first 100 pounds, you just have to stick with it!

For those who are looking for a healthy, effective, simple weight loss program, I always recommend the Shaklee 180 program.  If you’re interested in more information, please click this link to check it out.  If you like to watch videos, here’s one on my YouTube channel that’s very informative.

Eat Real Food

A lot of people are afraid of eating carbohydrates.  So many people want to eat Paleo, keto, low-carb…  The list goes on!  There are a lot of problems with trying so desperately to avoid carbs that you swing the pendulum WAY in the other direction and eat more meat and dairy.  Any diet that gets you to avoid eating processed food is a step in the right direction, but plant foods are much healthier than animal based foods.

The only diet that has been shown to improve health in diabetics (blood sugar control AND heart and vascular health) is the plant-based diet.  That means fruits and veggies, root vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole unprocessed grains.

I always laugh when keto and Paleo people try to say fruit is unhealthy.  Come on, now.  Anyone who tells you steak, bacon, sausage and cheese are healthy but apples will make you fat is either misinformed or outright lying to you!

A word on sweeteners.  Be aware that artificial sweeteners are not a good choice, and all sweeteners that contain calories are pretty much the same.  For instance, high-fructose corn syrup, table sugar, agave syrup and honey all impact the body about the same.  You should reduce ALL of them, and avoid artificial sweeteners altogether.

Smart Supplementation

There are a few nutrients that are helpful for maintaining blood sugar control.  For instance, chromium supplementation is well-known for helping to improve glycemic control.  In fact, there was a smallish study published out of Iran that found about 1/3 of diabetics actually have deficiencies in chromium.  (I think I might have to start testing my patients and prescribing a supplement!)

Other nutrients are helpful for diabetics, like vanadium and zinc.  The amino acid taurine also is protective and improves blood sugar control.  Magnesium is important for everybody but especially those with diabetes, high blood pressure, and increased cardiovascular risk.

Shaklee’s Glucose Regulation Complex is based on solid scientific research and formulated to promote healthy blood sugar levels.  If you’re interested, you can check this link to learn more about it.

Diabetes is getting more and more prevalent.  Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, which seriously increases their risk of diabetes.  Losing weight, eating real food and smart supplementation are things you can do to improve blood sugar control.

QUESTION: Are you diabetic? What do you find helpful in controlling your blood sugar?


Is Drinking Coffee Healthy?

Are you a tea drinker or a coffee drinker?  Both?  Neither?  I love both, depending on my mood.  One or two cups of coffee in the morning, one in the afternoon and usually tea in the evening.

A lot of people think coffee isn’t healthy to drink.  It’s acidic, it has caffeine, it stains your teeth.  Is drinking coffee healthy?

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

There’s a lot of evidence that drinking coffee is associated with a lower rate of early death.  Most of those studies are smallish, but an absolutely massive research study was just published out of the UK.  Over a half million people were asked about their coffee drinking habits.  What did they find?

In short, the researchers found that the more coffee a person drank the lower their risk of death over the course of the study.  Now this study was not designed to assess CAUSE, but when you look at such a large group of people for 10 years, it suggests pretty reliable patterns.

It was also very exciting to find that drinking coffee lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes.  Similar to the death rate, more coffee intake was associated with lower risk.  Since we in the US are having an absolute epidemic of diabetes, any little thing we can do to decrease the risk is very welcome!

Even more interestingly, it didn’t matter whether people drank caffeinated coffee or decaf.  The researchers took caffeine into account because there are genes that make it hard for people to metabolize that stimulant.  Even if you don’t like the buzz of caffeine that you can get from coffee, you can still benefit.

Why is coffee healthy?  Coffee is made by roasting coffee beans, then grinding them, then steeping them in boiling water.  Healthy plant compounds like polyphenols and antioxidants are probably the cause, although more research is needed to be sure.

Be careful what you put in your coffee, though.  Sugary syrups, artificial flavors and sweeteners aren’t good options.  Choose more natural flavorings and sweeteners like cinnamon, ground nuts, honey or a little table sugar.  One of my favorite treats when I’m not in the mood to drink my coffee black is a little brown sugar.  The molasses and caramel flavor is delicious!

If you have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular problems be careful how much caffeine you’re taking in – it can be hard on the heart.  One of the great things about this study is that it showed decaf coffee is just as beneficial as regular.

If you enjoy drinking coffee there’s no reason to stop.  There is plenty of research showing coffee to be healthy to drink.

QUESTION: Do you like coffee?  Will this study change how much you drink?


Vision and Memory Loss

Imagine that you’re a 75-year-old woman living in a small house with your 78-year-old husband.  You’ve been keeping the house for your husband all your married lives while he worked to support your family.  Now you’re retired and while you traveled some in your early retirement, both of you are tiring more easily and generally stay closer to home now.

Recently you’ve noticed your husband hasn’t been interested in doing the morning crossword or reading his beloved mystery novels, and you have to work harder to coax him to go out for your evening walk.  He used to like puttering in the yard but this year the shrubs are a bit overgrown and he forgets to put out the birdseed and shoo the squirrels away from the feeder.  What’s going on?

If you said he is depressed, you might be right.  He may also have early dementia.  However, when you take him to the doctor to address these concerns, please make sure the doctor does a quick vision and hearing screen too.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that vision loss is associated with a 2-3 times increased risk of cognitive dysfunction or dementia.

We know that children have trouble learning if they can’t see properly.  One important thing we as parents can do is make sure our children get their vision checked regularly.  Turns out it’s as important for us to make sure our PARENTS are getting to the eye doctor too!

Vision loss is unfortunately quite common in older adults.  Macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma become more common with older age.  Vision loss can come on gradually and be difficult to identify without regular eye exam.

Vision loss contributes to cognitive dysfunction by decreasing stimulation to the brain.  Adults with vision loss may be more cautious about (or frankly afraid of) travel or participating in more adventurous activities.  Also, vision loss makes activities known to protect cognitive function (like reading, doing puzzles and working with the hands) less enjoyable.

There are also nutrients that can help protect vision.  First, it is important to eat leafy green vegetables regularly.  These are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin which may protect against the development of macular degeneration. 

Taking an eye health supplement in addition to a multivitamin may be helpful if a doctor identifies early signs of macular degeneration on exam.  A specific brand may be recommended by the doctor.

If you have older adults in your life, please make sure they are seeing the eye doctor regularly and maintaining their vision.  It makes a huge difference in quality of life and is likely to protect them from memory loss.

QUESTION: Do you have an older adult in your life with vision loss?  How has it affected them?