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Today, about 1.25 billion people smoke cigarettes, and one billion deaths from tobacco-related illness are expected this century, ten times more compared to the toll in the 20th century. The deadly habit accounts for one in five (or, 1.4 million)  cancer deaths all over the world annually. Each year, around the world, 10.9 million tobacco-related cancer of the lungs are diagnosed. This does not even include other pulmonary, gynecological and cardiovascular disabilities and death tolls as a consequence of smoking.

"We know with cancer, if we take action now, we can save 2 million lives a year by 2020 and 6.5 million by 2040," said Dr. Judith Mackay, a World Health Organization senior policy adviser.

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New studies have shown that even light activities in and around the house, like daily mundane endeavors of daily living (climbing stairs, cleaning the house, cooking, running after the kids, garden works, etc) help prolong life. Especially the ones that make you perspire. Of course, daily regimented exercises will do a lot more. But simple household chores have a positive health effect on longevity as well.

“Elderly couch potatoes were much more likely to die within about six years than those whose lives included regular activity no more strenuous than washing dishes, vacuuming, gardening and climbing stairs”, according to the study of adults aged 72 to 80 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in old age can be prevented by eating a diet rich in fish, according to two new studies in the US Archives of Ophthalmology. Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) abundant in fish are already proven to protect the heart and the brain, to reduce the risk of developing heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s.

“A study of 681 elderly American men showed that those who ate fish twice a week had a 36 percent lower risk of macular degeneration…In the other study, which followed 2,335 Australian men and women over five years, people who ate fish just once a week reduced their risk by 40 percent,” according to the report. The American study also revealed that smokers double their risk of developing macular degeneration and blindness. Those who do not like fish may take good quality fish oil capsules. Check with your physician if this is right for you.

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The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that “probiotic yogurt --Lactobacillus- and Bifidobacterium-containing yogurt (AB-yogurt) -- enhances the effectiveness of quadruple therapy for eradicating residual Helicobacter pylori (stomach) infection.” This bug is the cause of gastric ulcers, which used to be treated with surgery, but since the discovery that gastric ulcer is caused by Helicobacter pylori, it is now a medical disease, treated with pills. A big boon to better quality evidence-based patient care.

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Exercise-induced muscle damage, which happens to most athletes, can be minimized to a great extent by drinking tart cherry juice, reports the British Journal of Sports Medicine. For those who exercise at home, drinking tart cherry juice will certainly not hurt. This is, indeed, a welcome new to those who  exercise. 

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Soft drinks, which I call liquid candies, are toxic to the body, especially to children. All of them -- cola or uncola, regular or diet, caffeinated of decaffeinated -- increase the risk for metabolic diseases. The harm to our body does not manifest immediately; it takes years to develop. By then, the damages would have been done. Prevention is obviously the key.

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To prevent cardiovascular illnesses, metabolic diseases and cancer, diet alone is not enough. Daily exercise, abstinence from tobacco and moderation in alcohol intake are a must. The American Heart Association has revised its former decades-old recommendation that stressed mainly healthy diet as the regimen to prevent these illnesses. 

"The previous recommendations mainly stressed the importance of a healthy diet; the new (revised) ones broaden that concept to include the importance of a healthy lifestyle pattern”, lead author and chair of the AHA's Nutrition Committee Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, from Tufts University in Boston, Mass, said in a news release. "The two go together — they should be inseparable."

A simple walk around the block (or brisk-walking if tolerated) for about 30 minutes does wonders to our cardiovascular, pulmonary, and immune systems, warding off not only cardiovascular and metabolic diseases but also deadly cancers.

Warning: Processed foods increase the risk for cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Sample of these are hot dogs, sausages and other deli meats, and other food items that have gone though processing. Fresh is better and healthier than processed food items.

The AHA 2006 detailed recommendations are as follows:

  • Consume an overall healthy diet. 
  • To maintain a healthy body weight, balance calories consumed with calories burned. 
  • Increase awareness of calorie content of foods for portions typically consumed and of daily caloric requirements. 
  • Set a goal of at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. 
  • Consume a diet rich in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables (not fruit juices), especially those that are deeply colored (spinach, carrots, peaches, and berries). 
  • Prepare fruits and vegetables, minimizing saturated fats from red meats and transfats.
  • Choose nuts and high-fiber foods. 
  • Consume 2 servings of fish, especially those relatively high in omega-3 fatty-acids (eg, salmon, trout, and herring) at least twice weekly. 
  • Children and pregnant women should follow Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for avoiding mercury-contaminated fish (eg, shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish). 
  • Limit intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol by choosing lean meats, vegetable alternatives, and fat-free (skim) and low-fat (1% fat) dairy products and minimize intake of partially hydrogenated fats. 
  • Minimize intake of beverages and foods with added sugars. 
  • To consume NO more than 2300 mg of sodium daily, choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Middle-aged and older adults, African Americans, and those with hypertension should consume no more than 1500 mg of sodium daily. 
  • Limit alcohol intake to not more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men (1 drink = 12 oz of beer, 4 oz of wine, 1.5 oz of 80-proof distilled spirits, or 1 oz of 100-proof spirits). 
  • When eating out, be aware of portion size; select vegetables and fruits; and avoid foods prepared with added saturated or trans fat, salt, and sugar. Eating fruits first before the meal is better than eating them after the meal for physiologic reason.

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