Wednesday, April 30, 2008


The blog Penguin Food has a fun article about "Three bad foods that are really good" (love that title). Here is what they say about dark chocolate:

"Eating a small amount of dark chocolate every day could be good for you... A study has found that a regular 2oz dose can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke - without any weight gain."

Most of the post's dark-chocolate-good-news seems to be from a Daily Mail article, which says, among other things, that "Blood pressure lowered in this way could reduce the risk of death from a stroke by 8 per cent and from coronary artery disease by 5 per cent, the University of Cologne scientists found. It would also reduce risk of death generally by 4 per cent. A daily diet of a little chocolate had the same effect as more complicated diets designed to lower blood pressure, according to the authors of the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 'Although the magnitude of the blood pressure reduction was small, the effects are clinically noteworthy,' they said. 'Adoption of small amounts of flavanol-rich cocoa into the habitual diet is a dietary modification that is easy to adhere to, and therefore may be a promising behavioural approach to lower blood pressure in individuals with above-optimal blood pressure.'

The Penguin Blog post continues with some tongue-in-cheeky observations:

Of course 'they' try to spoil the fun and emphasise that we can only eat a little bit of chocolate, and besides, fruit and vegetables are better for you - but they forget the little point that fruit and vegetables dont taste as nice as chocolate. Chocolate makes you feel better. If you feel better - you are more relaxed, and therefore your heart is more relaxed and beats more comfortably. You could eat more fruit, but your added miserability will increase the pressure on your heart anyway."

To read the full blog post (you want to know what their OTHER TWO "bad/good" foods are, right?), go to: (the post seems to be authored by a bloke named Graham, the man behind the Penguin Food blog, and this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Well, not really a course, but an overview of useful information, from the government website

What does high cholesterol have to do with heart disease?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all parts of the body. When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries and cause blood clots. Cholesterol can clog your arteries and keep your heart from getting the blood it needs. This can cause a heart attack.

There are two types of cholesterol:

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often called the "bad" type of cholesterol because it can clog the arteries that carry blood to your heart. For LDL, lower numbers are better.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as "good" cholesterol because it takes the bad cholesterol out of your blood and keeps it from building up in your arteries. For HDL, higher numbers are better.

All women age 20 and older should have their blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked at least once every 5 years.

What do my cholesterol and triglyceride numbers mean?

Total cholesterol level - Lower is better. Less than 200 mg/dL is best.

Total Cholesterol Level / Category
Less than 200 mg/dL Desirable
200 - 239 mg/dL Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above High

LDL (bad) cholesterol - Lower is better. Less than 100 mg/dL is best.

LDL Cholesterol Level / Category
Less than 100 mg/dL Optimal
100-129 mg/dL Near optimal/above optimal
130-159 mg/dL Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and above Very high

HDL (good) cholesterol - Higher is better. More than 60 mg/dL is best.

Triglyceride levels - Lower is better. Less than 150mg/dL is best.

How can I lower my cholesterol?

You can lower your cholesterol by taking these steps:

Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your total cholesterol and LDL ("bad cholesterol") levels. Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) to see if you are at a healthy weight. If not, try making small changes like eating an apple instead of potato chips, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from the entrance to your office, the grocery store, or the mall. (But be sure to park in a safe, well-lit spot.)

Eat better. Eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.

Eat more:

Fish, poultry (chicken, turkey -- breast meat or drumstick is best), and lean meats (round, sirloin, loin). Broil, bake, roast, or poach foods. Remove the fat and skin before eating.
Skim (fat-free) or low-fat (1%) milk and cheeses, and low-fat or nonfat yogurt
Fruits and vegetables (try for 5 a day)
Cereals, breads, rice, and pasta made from whole grains (such as "whole-wheat" or "whole-grain" bread and pasta, rye bread, brown rice, and oatmeal)

Eat less:
Organ meats (liver, kidney, brains).
Egg yolks.
Fats (butter, lard) and oils.
Packaged and processed foods.

There are two diets that may help lower your cholesterol:

Heart Healthy Diet

Therapeutic Lifestyles Changes (TLC) Diet

Get moving. Exercise can help lower LDL ("bad cholesterol") and raise HDL ("good cholesterol"). Exercise at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Take a brisk walk on your lunch break or take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Take your medicine. If your doctor has prescribed medicine to lower your cholesterol, take it exactly as you have been told to.

For more FAQs and facts, see the Frequently Asked Questions page at:

Monday, April 28, 2008


A 2003 book by Rowan Jacobsen entitled "Chocolate Unwrapped: The Surprising Health Benefitsof America's Favorite Passion" discusses how chocolate, a treat many were taught causes a host of bad things to happen to our bodies (namely our fat cells and teeth) , may actually be beneficial to our health. Here are highlights of the book description, from its Amazon webpage:

...recent studies [have] revealed ...that [c]hocolate protects you from heart disease... improves cholesterol levels... [and] may even help prevent some cancers. ...Evidence is piling up that chocolate has a list of health benefits few foods can match. We’re all familiar with antioxidants, the compounds found in fruits, vegetables, red wine, and tea that prevent heart disease, cancer, and premature aging. What we don’t hear is that chocolate has the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food on the planet — ten times that of spinach, five times that of blueberries, and four times that of green tea.

Chocolate Unwrapped explains the science behind chocolate’s health benefits, then goes on to dispel the myths swirling around chocolate. Chocolate does not cause acne, allergies, migraines, or hyperactivity. Chocolate has much less caffeine than most people think. And tannins in chocolate actually help prevent cavities, making chocolate better for teeth than other sweets. Though there is no proof for chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac ... chocolate has clear effects on the brain and mood. Chocolate contains anandamide, a substance that activates the same receptors in the brain as marijuana, as well as other chemicals that causes feelings of excitement and well-being, explaining the natural craving many people feel for it.

Chocolate Unwrapped not only explains the positive physical and psychological effects of chocolate, but goes on to explore the colorful history, botany, and chemistry of chocolate, so you’ll understand what to look for and what to avoid. A recipe section provides a multitude of healthy ways to eat chocolate, from flourless chocolate cake to Mexican mole, and a comprehensive list of resources tells you where to find the best-quality chocolates in the world.

Here are a few expert comments from the book's inside flap:

"I do recommend a piece of good-quality dark chocolate as a healthy snack . . . it is a source of polyphenols, the same type of antioxidants found in red wine, and the fat it contains is stearic acid, which doesn’t affect cholesterol levels. The latest good news for chocolate lovers comes from a study indicating that flavonoids in chocolate are good for your heart. These compounds reduce the stickiness of platelets, cells that play an important role in blood clotting. By eating a 1.5-ounce milk chocolate bar, you get the same amount of these protective compounds as in a 5-ounce glass of Cabernet Sauvignon." Andrew Weil, M.D.

"Nitric oxide plays such an important role in the maintenance of healthy blood pressure and, in turn, cardiovascular health. If our research results continue to support a link between consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa and nitric oxide synthesis, there could be significant implications for public health." Norman Hollenberg, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School

"Chocolate contains large amounts of the same beneficial plant chemicals that now have burnished the reputation of tea. In fact, just one ounce of chocolate has about as much of these plant chemicals as a cup of brewed black tea. One large, ongoing study of the benefits of exercise found that men who eat chocolate in moderation live longer than those who eat none." University of California-Berkeley Wellness Letter

"We already know that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables results in an increase of antioxidants in our blood. We believe chocolate consumption may have the same effect. We forget that chocolate is derived from cocoa beans—the fruit of the cacao tree—a fruit that is a rich source of these potentially beneficial substances." Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

"Eating chocolate can have significant influences on mood, generally leading to an increase in pleasant feelings and a reduction in tension." Peter Rogers, Ph.D., Institute of Food Research

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Minute Clinic is being offered in two dozen states across the country. Some services require a fee, some are covered by insurance, and some are free of charge (the Minute Clinic website says they are doing FREE cholesterol screenings in Los Angeles until April 20, 2008). More site highlights:

We’re doing what we can to make healthcare a little easier for people with a lot going on. Our board-certified practitioners are trained to diagnose and treat common family illnesses, such as strep throat, bronchitis and ear, eye and sinus infections.
--No appointment necessary
--Open 7 days a week
insurance accepted
--Click here to find a clinic near you.

Check out their website for more info on locations, dates and hours:

Monday, April 14, 2008


John McCain is, of course, the subject of many a late night political reference these days. The GOP nominee-to-be turns 72 this summer, and so a joke referencing both McCain and Life Alert was almost certain to occur. Well, the wait is over. Many websites, especially blogs, have been virally circulating the joke Jay Leno said on a recent Tonight Show (over 800 results come up if you do a combined search on "john mccain" "life alert"). Since we are all about seniors on this blog, here is the line in case you didn't see it:

"John McCain has not been using Secret Service protection. He's the only one. He's not using it. See, apparently, he has Life Alert." -Jay Leno

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Protection against home falls is one of the areas where Life Alert shines; the medical alarm service gets immediate help to its members after a fall, even if they can’t reach a phone

A recent story in USA TODAY discussed home falls and their risks, noting that a few famous folks have recently suffered such accidents. Unfortunately, these falls often require a trip to the hospital. Experts note that falls can happen to anyone, regardless of age, income or gender.

While anyone, anywhere, can indeed suffer a fall, it is also true that the older we get, the more susceptible we become to falls. One of the risks after a fall is not being able to reach a phone to call for help, especially if one lives at home alone. Many people don’t carry cellphones on their person while at home - and even if they do, it may not be able to get a signal, or it may be impossible to use, depending on how one falls and the severity of any injuries one suffers. In short, people (especially senior citizens) need a better solution.

The optimal answer for many seniors is Life Alert, which provides protection in the event of falls in the home. For over 20 years, this personal medical alarm company has been protecting its members from the dangers of home falls, as well as other emergencies. The company’s spokesman (former United States Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop) has pointed out that accidental injury in the home is the main danger faced by Americans 65 and older. In addition, here are some facts about falls from the CDC (the Center for Disease Control): (1) Of the 35 million Americans over age 65, roughly one in three will fall in any given year; (2) Senior citizens are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than they are for injuries from all other causes; (3) Falls are the leading cause of accidental death for seniors.

This obvious need for protection -- no matter where you fall in your home, no matter what hour a fall occurs -- is at the heart of Life Alert’s protection service, and one of the reasons we often talk about Life Alert on this Seniors Blog. We are impressed with the fact that Life Alert handles over a million calls a year, and on average saves a life every 38 minutes, saving over 13,000 lives in 2007 alone. For many seniors, Life Alert is an essential part of their lives.