Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

Health Benefits of Pears

Photo by Mateusz Feliksik

The first weekend of December marks World Pear Day which kicks off National Pear Month and gives us all of December to honor those pears!

Nutritional facts of 1 medium-sized pear:

  • Calories- 101 calories
  • Protein-1 gram
  • Cholesterol-0 gram
  • Fat-0.2 gram
  • Fiber-6 grams(about 22% of the fiber you need daily)
  • Carobohydrates-27 grams
  • Sugar-17 grams
  • Vitamin C- 12% of recommended daily value
  • Copper-16% of recommended daily value
  • Potassium-4% of recommended daily value
  • Vitamin K-6% of recommended daily value

So how do these nutritional facts translate to benefits for you?

  • Good source of fiber will promotes digestive health. High fiber levels can also slow down absorption of food so that the rise in blood sugar is controlled. A great amount of the fiber is in the pear skin, so don’t skip the skin!
  • Contains pectin which is an essential water-soluble fiber that helps bind to cholesterol and remove it from the body
  • Contains copper which is useful for maintaining the health of nerve cells
  • Contain flavonoid antioxidants that fight chronic inflammation and improve immunity
  • Contain anthocyanin and cinnamic acid which has anti-cancer properties
  • Contains potassium which supports muscle function and nervous tissue communication
  • Helps maintain heart health as potassium works in lowering blood pressure which improves body blood flow and also has high flavonoid with anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Help to maintain weight as pears are high in fiber and water and low in calories

We often don’t think about the nutrition we are getting when we eat something. Part of intentional eating is putting thought into your meals to get the most nutritional punch while also savoring your meals. When it comes to pears, there are so many ways to incorporate this juicy sweet fruit into your diet… them sliced raw, in salads, baked in pies, in smoothies or cocktails, roasted/grilled with your veggies…..or something else.

What Is Movember?

Photo by Alan Hardman

Movember or No-Shave November was initially started by Australians combining the terms “moustache” and “November” together. Movember is when men around the world grow a moustache in the month of November to bring awareness to men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health, etc.

On an average, women live about 6 years longer than men, making it important for men to make their health a priority and for women to support this.

It is a good time to reflect on some aspects of your life that you need to change for the betterment of your health. There are daily steps you can make to lead a healthy lifestyle:

  • Eat healthy-lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grain, home cooked meals, limit the two vices(sugar and salt)
  • Regular exercise-come up with a plan to start incorporating activity/exercise into your day
  • Keep up with your medical appointments and take your medications as prescribed
  • Be aware of your numbers-be it blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI, glucose, so you know what you need to work at
  • Maintain a healthy weight-remember being overweight will increase your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke
  • Work on stress management
  • Get enough sleep
  • Stay safe-seatbelts, helmets, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors
  • Self care-make sure you do things to take care of yourself, getting “me” time in, reading, using sunscreen, etc

22 Minutes of Exercise Can Combat Sitting Disease

Per Linda Carroll in NBC News “Around 20 minutes of exercise a day may balance out the harms of sitting, study finds”.

“Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, finds that about 22 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity may provide an antidote to the ills of prolonged sitting. What’s more, the researchers found that, as a person’s activity level increases, the risk of dying prematurely from any cause goes down.

In the study, researchers looked at information from nearly 12,000 people ages 50 and older in four datasets from Norway, Sweden and the United States. In those datasets, the participants wore movement detection devices on their hips for 10 hours a day for at least four days. All of the individuals included in the new study were tracked for at least two years.

Sitting for more than 12 hours a day, the researchers found, was associated with a 38% increased risk of death as compared to eight hours, but only among those who managed to get less than 22 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day.

The risk of death went down with increasing amounts of physical activity. An extra 10 minutes a day translated into a 15% lower risk of death among those spending fewer than 10 ½ hours seated and a 35% lower risk among those who spent more than 10 ½ hours sedentary each day."

In this study, the group was split equally between men and women. It was found that daily exercise can be carried out all at once or in exercise “snacks” throughout the day. However you choose, just remember to move around. WHO recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per week or at least of 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of both.

Sitting disease is associated with many health ailments. This study reiterates the fact that a little bit of activity can go a long way.

Micro Acts of Kindness Can Bring Joy and Increase Well-being

Per Richard Pretorius in Wealth of Geeks, “Scientists Find That Daily ‘Micro Acts’ of Kindness Increase Joy, Well-Being”.

“Who benefits from your little acts of kindness? Obviously, the person on the receiving end. But you, the giver, do, too, research shows.

An analysis of a study called the BIG JOY Project finds that people who commit daily “micro-acts” of joy experience about a 25% increase in emotional well-being over the course of a week.

The BIG JOY Project is a collaboration between the Greater Good Science Center and other research institutions. Researchers say they have the preliminary results of their study from more than 70,000 participants in over 200 countries."

The analysis of the BIG JOY Project not only showed an increase in emotional well-being, but also an increase in positive emotions(hope,optimism), feeling happier, improvement in relationships, and better sleep. The BIG JOY project is ongoing, free, and still available to sign up for.

There are health benefits of being thoughtful and kind and small acts are not hard to do. Micro-acts included being kind, making a gratitude list, listening/reading a book about contributing good into the world, watching an awe-inspiring video, celebrating another’s joy, helping an elderly neighbor, etc.

The Benefits of Using a Stationary Bike

Photo by Marc-Antoine Dubé

A stationary bike, or exercise bike, has gained popularity as it it is something that can be utilized year round, rain or shine, can be set up at home or used at a local gym, and has many benefits.

  • Improves endurance
  • Benefits the heart-it is an aerobic exercise which strengthens the heart and lungs and improves flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body. This in turn can lead to lower blood pressure, improved brain functioning, lower stress levels, more energy, and better sleep.
  • Helps to maintain your weight and may help with weight loss as it burns calories(you can burn about 40-80 calories in just 10 minutes)
  • Strengthens the lower body muscles such as hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and gluteal muscles. It also helps the core muscles as abs and lower back muscles are contracted during work-outs.
  • Improves joint mobility of knees, ankles, and hips. Protects your joints and ligaments which helps to strengthen your muscles and bones without injuring them and can help to recover from surgery.
  • Reduces risk of diabetes as while working out, your muscles will use glucose that would otherwise spike in your blood
  • Improves mood as any exercise will increase endorphins and serotonin(make you feel happy) and dopamine(gives a feeling of accomplishment)
  • Improves balance, coordination, and gait

A stationary bike is a low-impact excercise which is kind on your joints, helps with burning fat, losing weight, and improving muscle strength. So, why not try to incorporate it into your work-out routine?

Don't Waste Food

Per Katie Camero, in The Washington Post, “Why it’s better for your health to stop wasting food”.

“Soon we’ll be heading into the eating season, stuffing ourselves with holiday fare. But how much of it will end up in the garbage?

Plenty, say food waste experts. Over a third of all food in the United States goes uneaten. Much of that is commercial food waste — crops left in fields and foods spoiled in transport or tossed by retailers. But about 40 percent of food waste happens in the home, according to Feeding America, a nonprofit working to end hunger in the United States.

The problem is much of the food we waste is healthy food — fruits, vegetables and proteins that we let spoil. Wasting food increases the odds that you’ll reach for packaged and ultraprocessed food that is less healthful.

And while it’s counterintuitive, studies have shown that people waste more food during difficult financial times. The reason: People buy in bulk to save money, only to end up tossing a lot of spoiled food. The average family of four spends $1,500 annually on wasted food, according to the Environmental Protection Agency."

We all have to be thankful of the food we have and prevent food wastage.

  • Don’t take more than you plan to eat on your plate
  • Check out what you already have in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer before heading out to get groceries
  • Try to organize your pantry and refrigerator so it is not overcrowded and you can see what you have so it gets consumed before it spoils
  • Buy only what you need for your meals for the week to prevent fresh fruits and vegetables from spoiling
  • Remember to check expiration dates on food items before purchasing
  • Use your leftovers-you can repurpose by making something new like sandwiches/soups, or can freeze your leftovers to use on a rainy day

Climbing 5 Flights of Stairs Can Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

Per Kristen Fischer, in Health, “Climbing Just 50 Stairs a Day Can Help Reduce Heart Disease Risk”.

“If you’re paying attention to how many steps you take a day, you may want to make sure about 50 of them are on a set of stairs.

Climbing at least five flights of stairs a day—which equates to about 50 stairs—may slash your risk for cardiovascular disease by about 20%, according to a new study published in the journal Atherosclerosis.

The research shows that regular, heart-healthy exercise does not have to be expensive or time-consuming—and that something as simple and publicly available as a set of stairs can have a large impact on health."

Setting a goal to live a heart healthy lifestyle can often be difficult but small changes can make an impact. There are many benefits of taking the stairs and as little as 5 flights of stairs can make a difference. Don’t shy away from taking the stairs when you are at work, out and about, or even just at home.

Ways to Minimize Jet Lag

Photo by Eva Darron

It is always exciting to go to a new country and see and experience new things. However, it can be difficult to make the most of a short trip when that jet lag kicks in. Jet lag is a constellation of symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, daytime drowsiness, problem concentrating, stomach/digestive problems, which occur when traveling across different zones. Jet lag occurs when your internal circadian rhythm does not match the local day-night cycle. Jet lag can last for days to weeks. On an average, it takes about one day to adjust to 1 to 1.5 hours of time change. For example, taking an 8 hour flight from Chicago to London will take you around 8 days to fully acclimatize to the new time zone.

Don’t shy away from globetrotting and seeing new and exciting places. Be prepared for the associated jet lag. There is really not way to prevent jet lag but there are some tips to minimize jet lag.

Before traveling:

  • Schedule first few days of activities in new time zone knowing you will be jet lagged-don’t overdo it
  • Minimize stress by preparing early(get packed, get documents in order)
  • Get good quality sleep for few nights before travel so you are going in rested and not in sleep debt

In the plane:

  • As soon as you get on plane, change your clock face to new time on phone, watch, and computer
  • Try to sleep when it is nighttime in the time zone you are going to
  • Keep hydrated-mild dehydration is common when traveling by air and will worsen physical symptoms of jet lag
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol as both promote dehydration and both also disturb your sleep
  • Move around-walking in cabin, standing up, gentle stretching-prevents muscle stiffness and blood clots

At new destination:

  • Adjust to the sleeping and eating pattern of the new time zone as soon as you arrive
  • Get sunlight in the daytime hours to jump start alertness
  • Exercise in the morning if possible and in the daylight
  • Avoid using sunglasses initially in the first day or so as sunlight will reduce the melatonin your body is producing making your daylight activity hours more productive
  • Drink lots of water as anticipate dehydration from the flight
  • Eat smaller meals that are easy to digest, especially for first few days
  • If you are sleepy during the daytime, take short naps only(less than 30 minutes) so you can sleep at night and get your internal clock synced with new time zone

A Car-free Walkable Community in the United States

Per Oliver Milman, in The Guardian, “People are happier in a walkable neighborhood’: the US community that banned cars”.

“If you were to imagine the first car-free neighborhood built from scratch in the modern US, it would be difficult to conceive such a thing sprouting from the environs of Phoenix, Arizona – a sprawling, concrete incursion into a brutal desert environment that is sometimes derided as the least sustainable city in the country.

But it is here that such a neighborhood, called Culdesac, has taken root. On a 17-acre site that once contained a car body shop and some largely derelict buildings, an unusual experiment has emerged that invites Americans to live in a way that is rare outside of fleeting experiences of college, Disneyland or trips to Europe: a walkable, human-scale community devoid of cars.

Culdesac ushered in its first 36 residents earlier this year and will eventually house around 1,000 people when the full 760 units, arranged in two and three-story buildings, are completed by 2025. In an almost startling departure from the US norm, residents are provided no parking for cars and are encouraged to get rid of them. The apartments are also mixed in with amenities, such as a grocery store, restaurant, yoga studio and bicycle shop, that are usually separated from housing by strict city zoning laws."

Driving to places has become a norm in this country unless you live in a major city downtown such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco. However, the cost of living there is up the roof. This new community is being bolserted as a “5 minute city”(meaning residents can reach all of their daily needs-stores, work, school, dining within 5 minutes by bike, on foot, or personal mobility device). It will be interesting to see how the health of the residents over the next few decades will compare to the rest of the country. This community will be encouraging walking, biking, and everyday social interactions.

Being Vegetarian May Be Linked to Your Genes

Per Kristin Samuelson, in Northwestern Now, “Being a vegetarian may be partly in your genes”.

“From the Impossible Burger to “Meatless Mondays,” going meat-free is certainly in vogue. But a person’s genetic makeup plays a role in determining whether they can stick to a strict vegetarian diet, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study….

To determine whether genetics contribute to one’s ability to adhere to a vegetarian diet, the scientists compared UK Biobank genetic data from 5,324 strict vegetarians (consuming no fish, poultry or red meat) to 329,455 controls. All study participants were white Caucasian to attain a homogeneous sample and avoid confounding by ethnicity. The study identified three genes that are significantly associated with vegetarianism and another 31 genes that are potentially associated. Several of these genes, including two of the top three (NPC1 and RMC1), are involved in lipid (fat) metabolism and/or brain function, the study found….

Religious and moral considerations have been major motivations behind adopting a vegetarian diet, and recent research has provided evidence for its health benefits. And although vegetarianism is increasing in popularity, vegetarians remain a small minority of people worldwide. For example, in the U.S., vegetarians comprise approximately 3 to 4% of the population. In the U.K., 2.3% of adults and 1.9% of children are vegetarian."

This study was published in PLOS and is limited to white Caucasian participants so more research is needed to take other ethnicities in consideration. It would be interesting to include people from India where 38% of the total population is vegetarian. We know from recent studies that implementing a plant based diet at any age has been linked to lower cardiovascular risk and despite that the rate of vegetarianism is low. If being vegetarian is not an option, we can all at least try to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains into our diets. After all, that is the diet linked to longevity.