Does An Apple A Day Really Keep The Doctor Away?

Just as the age-old adage promises, it seems an apple a day really can keep the doctor away.

Apples (along with other fruits and veggies) pack a combination of vitamins and minerals that out-power supplements like artificially made vitamin capsules. These nutrients are critical for our bodies’ health—not only do they keep our immune system strong to fight off germs, but they also reduce our risk for heart disease and cancer.

Doctors believe the reason fruits and vegetables are so much better for our bodies than the bottled stuff is because supplements delve out nutrient one at a time, but the combination of many different nutrients found in natural sources like apples offers added benefits.

So while no amount of apple-eating can guarantee you’ll stay clear of the doctor’s office completely, it’s a great place to start.

The Importance of Doctor’s Check-Ups

Most of us find plenty of reasons to drag our feet when it comes time to get a medical check-up.

After all, if you’re feeling fine, why bother? You’re a busy individual, with plenty on your plate already at work and at home. Maybe the idea of finding something wrong even makes you uncomfortable, which causes you to push off even thinking about it.


Benefits of the Check-Up

While it’s easy to find reasons to push off a check-up, your health is no place to slack off. Studies have shown that being proactive about your health can really pay off. In the long run, you may be buying yourself more time, both in healthy active hours (versus those spent in bed sick or being treated in a hospital), and also in overall life longevity.

On the off chance there is something wrong, catching it early can be life-saving. But even if no health issues are found, a checkup still offers a few important health benefits.

To start, you get the ease of mind of knowing for sure that you have a clean bill of health. You also get important baseline on your health metrics in these appointments, including your weight, height, blood pressure and more, which establishes a record of what is normal for your body. If you suddenly deviate from those metrics without a reason (such as going on a diet), that can serve as a red flag that something is wrong.

A periodic check-in is also an opportunity to build a relationship with your primary physician. If you have questions about your health, this is the time to ask! A doctor can be a great time to get feedback about your diet, exercise or other self-care habits or concerns.


The Annual Check-Up Under Scrutiny

A few years ago, the annual checkup came under fire when a study revealed that recent medical breakthroughs mean the annual checkup was less necessary than it used to be.

But that doesn’t mean a person only needs to see the doctor when they’re feeling ill. Rather, modern technology allows physicians to make more personalized recommendations for individual patients. Based on factors like family history, personal history and test results, one individual may benefit from coming in every six months, while another may be fine to go two years between checkups.

Technology also enables patients to seek medical advice from anywhere, thanks to communication tools like Skype and email that allow doctors to take an initial look and let a patient know if that funny-looking mole on their shoulder is worth a closer look. Studies have shown that regardless of how patients get in touch with their doctors, the health benefits of checking in are the same.


Be Proactive About Your Health

While the annual medical checkup may be on its way out, regular communication with your physician will never be out of style. Be sure to communicate with your physician to determine how frequently you should come in for a checkup, and how to best stay in touch between office visits.

Whether you go for the traditional once-a-year approach, or work out a more customized schedule with your own doctor, be sure to be proactive about your health.

The Health Benefits of Fasting

People have fasted for thousands of years, and for thousands of years, people have held testament to this practice’s health benefits. And it turns out, they were on to something—the latest scientific research shows that the health benefits are real and manifold.

Fasting is the practice of not consuming food for extended periods. There are several different diets that incorporate fasting. The type of fast that is right for you depends on what fits your lifestyle best.


Regardless of the type of fasting you choose, studies have found a number of benefits to fasting, including:

Fat burn—When the body runs out of food to digest, it turns to glucose for energy. When it runs out of glucose, it starts burning fat. This leads to weight loss.

Metabolic boost—When the body has no food in it for a prolonged period, this causes the metabolic to fire up. This can also contribute to weight loss. One study showed fasting led to a 3-8 percent decrease in weight over a period of 3 to 24 weeks.

Preserve muscle—Because fasting causes growth hormone levels to increase in the blood, weight loss through fasting has been proven to preserve muscle better than diets that involve a prolonged reduction in calorie consumptiion.

Immune system—One study showed that longer periods of fasting (2-4 days) can clear out old immune cells and regenerate new ones, which strengthens the immune system. This immunity boost has been shown to help cancer patients reduce side effects during chemotherapy, when they fasted for three days prior to treatment.

Longer life—Two studies have even found evidence of improved longevity in fasting subjects at the molecular and genetic level—signs that fasting and modify your body’s gene expressions and help you life longer.


If you’re going to fast for the health benefits, it’s important to be aware of the risks, too. UK’s National Health Service has listed several, including dehydration, increased stress, disrupted sleep, headaches, and even heartburn. Some experts also correlate fasting to an increased risk for eating disorders. For these reasons, start fasting slowly and always listen to your body if you are struggling while fasting.

The Health Benefits of Water

We all know water is important to stay hydrated, but do you know all the ways that water is helping you stay at the top of your game?

With zero calories and a long list of benefits, there are few things that are healthier or more essential for our bodies than water. Check out these lesser-known benefits to keeping your water bottle topped off.


  • Reduce Your Calorie Count
    Some confuse thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated can keep you from reaching for a snack. Substituting water for higher calorie drinks like juice or soda in your everyday diet can add up to a lot, too.
  • Energize Your Muscles
    When muscle cells get low on water, they don’t balance their hydration or electrolyte levels, so it causes you to feel fatigued. To get your muscles primed, start hydrating about two hours before exercising with about 17 ounces of water, and sip early and often throughout your workout.
  • Keep Your Skin Clear
    Water helps to keep your skin moisturized, which can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fights breakouts. 
  • Flush Toxins
    Your kidneys have the job of keeping the body cleansed of toxins. Keeping a good flow of water running through your body helps your kidneys process better. As a nice bonus, this reduces your risk of kidney stones.
  • Keep Yourself Regular
    Water also keeps things moving through your gastrointestinal tract, which helps you stay comfortable and avoid, well, backups.
  • Reduce Pain
    A well-hydrated body can better deal with aching joints, body cramps, and a whole slew of different bodily challenges, which means you’ll feel less pain overall when you drink more water.
  • Fight Infection
    People who are better hydrated tend to get sick less often, because water helps your immune system stay at its best and more efficiently fight germs.
  • Clear Your Thoughts
    Drinking water helps you focus and think better. One study even found a correlation between college students who brought water with them to class and those who got better grades.


The human body is about 60 percent water. So when we don’t have enough, we’re simply not at our best, and that shows itself in a myriad of ways. Fortunately, it’s easy to increase your water intake. Try trading a less healthy drink like beer or soda for a healthier option you like, or substitute a snack with water-dense fruits and veggies.

Whatever you choose, make a swap you can enjoy. You’re more likely to sustain the habit long-term, so don’t punish yourself by drinking tap water if you hate it.

Cancer: What to Ask Your Doctor

A cancer diagnosis can be hard to process at first. You may feel shock, anger, or even disbelief. But as a cancer patient, you are an equal partner with your doctor in your treatment and recovery. The more you understand what your body is going through, the better prepared you are to take care of yourself and make the big decisions necessary for your recovery.

So don’t hesitate to ask your doctor any questions you have about your diagnosis or treatment. Helping you understand your cancer is part of their job. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some recommended questions to ask about your cancer to get you started:


Understand Your Diagnosis

  • What type of cancer do I have?
  • Where is my cancer?
  • Has my cancer spread in my body? Where did it start?
  • What stage of cancer do I have?
  • How do I get a copy of my pathology report?
  • What are my odds for survival, as far as you can tell?
  • How can I reach you if I have questions later?


Understand Your Options

  • What is your experience treating the kind of cancer that I have?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Will I need additional testing before we can determine the best treatment?
  • What treatment do you recommend?
  • What are the advantages and risks of this treatment?
  • Should I consider joining a clinical trial?
  • How can I learn more about clinical trials?


Understand Your Treatment

  • What is the goal for my treatment? Are we curing my cancer or controlling my symptoms?
  • Will additional specialists be involved with my treatment? Who will be in charge of my treatment plan?
  • What drugs will I be on? What will each of them do for me?
  • Will I need any additional drugs or other treatments?
  • What potential risks or side effects are associated with these drugs and/or treatments?
  • What side effects should I report immediately, should I experience them?
  • What should I do to prepare for treatment? Are there foods I should avoid? What about alcohol?
  • What changes should I expect to make to my day-to-day life? Can I exercise during treatment? Can I go to work?
  • How frequently will I need treatments? How long will each treatment last? How long will I need treatments for?
  • How will we know if the treatment is effective?
  • How likely is it that my cancer will recur?
  • How much will my treatment cost? How much will my insurance cover?


As a cancer patient, you play an active role in your fight to recovery. The better you understand your diagnosis and treatment, the better you can care for yourself during this time. So take an active role in your recovery and ask your doctor any question you have—it’s what they’re there for!

Spring Has Sprung: Dealing With Allergies

Spring means sunnier days, warmer weather, blooming flowers … and for some, the unpleasantness of seasonal allergies.

From stuffy noses to coughing to sore throats, allergy symptoms can have a significant impact on your quality of life. If you’re among those with springtime allergies, you don’t have suffer through the entire season. Follow these five tips for a more enjoyable, less sniffly spring.

Pick your protection
There are many medication options available to ease allergy symptoms. Antihistamines are the most commonly recommended medication to treat allergies, and many effective options are available over-the-counter. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness, so always read the label

For stronger allergies, a doctor may recommend a nasal spray. These can be very effective, but because side effects can include more serious things like nosebleeds, burning or dryness, always go for the lowest effective dose.

A doctor might also recommend allergy shots if medication is not enough to relieve symptoms. It may take as much as a shot a month for three to five years, but these work by slowly building up the body’s resistance to pollen, so it’s a long-term solution.


Prepare Early
Don’t wait until you’re suffering to start treating your allergies. For those who suffer from the same allergies every season, it’s best to be proactive and start taking an allergy medication at least one to two weeks before the allergy season starts.

This allows the medicine to get into your system, which can not only keep symptoms at bay as the season starts, but also help reduce the severity of symptoms throughout the whole season.


Limit Time Outdoors
It may be hard to resist the beautiful weather, but limiting your time outside can significantly reduce your symptoms—after all, outside is where the allergens are. This can be especially helpful in the midday and afternoon hours, which is when allergens tend to be heaviest in the air.

When you do go outside, protect your eyes by wearing glasses or sunglasses, and use a face mask when performing activities likely to aggravate allergies, such as mowing the lawn. For exercise, opt for the gym instead of a trail at the park.

When you go back inside, avoid carrying allergens around with you by taking a shower,a washing your hair right away, and changing your clothes.


Stay Informed
For a heads-up on just how important it is to protect yourself on any given day, pay attention to the local weather report to stay informed abut the pollen and mold counts in your area. The higher the count, the more aggravated your symptoms are bound to be.


Protect Your House
During allergy season, take steps to keep the house clear of the allergens outside. To start, take off your shoes before walking through the house to avoid trekking pollen through the house, and make sure others do, too. Keep your windows closed, and run the air conditioner.

Additionally, use a HEPA filter in your vacuum cleaner—they trap 99.97 percent of microscopic particles in the air.


Fight Back Against Allergies

Don’t let allergies hold you back this spring. Take a pass on the sniffly noses, the sneezing, and the sore throats.

If you are proactive and take these five steps to protect yourself from the allergens in the environment, you can reduce and even avoid your allergy symptoms all season long.

Medication Safety

Medications can help us stay healthy, live more fully, and even extend our lives. But when safety measures aren’t followed or they are used inappropriately, they can do a lot of damage.

Following medication safety guidelines can keep you and your loved ones safe. Review and consider these top 10 rules for medication management to help stay safe while using prescriptions:

  1. Always take medications exactly as prescribed; don’t deviate, self-medicate, or change the dosage.
  1. Do not use a medication past its expiration date—they may be ineffective or even toxic. Even better, dispose of medications when their expiration date arrives to eliminate the risk of taking them by mistake.
  1. Create a list of the medications you take regularly, including over-the-counter pills and vitamins. Keep it with you, update it when necessary, and show it to your doctors at appointments.
  1. As much as possible, go to the same pharmacy for all of your prescriptions. This helps the pharmacy look out for you by keeping tracking of what you’re taking, and alert you to any potential interactions between medications.
  1. Store medications in a secure place out of reach from children or pets—ideally, in a locked cabinet.
  1. When traveling, leave medications in their original containers. Do not store pills in baggies or other unlabeled containers. This leaves you vulnerable to confusing medications, leaving pills easily accessible to children or others, or having pills get crushed or otherwise altered during travel.
  1. Medications should also be stored in a cool place that is not subject to significant changes in temperature or humidity (not the bathroom).
  1. Never take a medication prescribed to someone else, as this can lead to unexpected interactions between medications.
  1. Never crush or remove a medication from its capsules. This can alter how a medication breaks down inside your body (especially time-release or long-lasting medications).
  1. If you aren’t sure of something, ask! Doctors, nurses and pharmacists are all able to address questions about your prescriptions. Never take a medication without being sure you understand your doctor’s directions, or what it will do for you.

Medications important for many of us to maintain our best quality of life, but when something goes wrong, medications can quickly become a serious risk. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe by following these important medicine safety tips.

Bread, Rice, Pasta: Why Brown is Better

Many people love pasta and rice. However, most of us prefer the white versions of these foods over the brown because they look much tastier. However, where nutrition is concerned, brown bread, rice and pasta are much better for you. If you want to include more brown bread, rice and pasta in your diet, or if you are just curious about the nutritional benefits, then read on. Also, bear in mind that white rice and pasta, before they were processed looked just like their brown counterparts.


Processing Out the Nutrients

When brown rice and the wheat that later will be processed into white flour for pasta and bread are processed, the grains are damaged. Their hulls and outer shells are stripped away. With the stripping away of their outer coatings, the nutrients in those coatings are lost. This may not seem like a big deal, but it really is. Along with the nutrients from the coatings, the grains lose the protection their coatings provided. This means that the bleaching that makes wheat and rice white will leech more nutrients out of the grains than the loss of the coatings did. By the time brown rice and wheat have been processed fully, much of their nutrient value and flavor are gone. Some manufacturers go through the trouble of adding vitamins back in, but these products are not as good as eating whole-grain foods in the first place.


Losing the Fiber

One of the nutrients commonly lost due to processing is fiber. Fiber is a very important nutrient, one that all of us need. Fiber helps keep the digestive tract clear. It is very difficult for the body to digest, so when it travels through our bowels, it gathers up other waste products along the way, carrying them out of the body. It also tends to regulate the function of the digestive tract. Brown rice, as well as unprocessed wheat, still contain all the fiber present in the raw grains and are an excellent way to get your daily allowance.


Lower the Risk of Chronic Diseases

Whole grain foods, like brown rice, pasta and bread can lower the risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes when eaten as part of a healthy diet. The benefits of whole grain consumption are not only for diabetics. Eating whole grain cuts your risk of strokes thirty to thirty-six per cent. It can also cut the risk of heart disease, the number one killer in the United States by twenty to twenty-five per cent. That is an amazing drop in numbers for one simple dietary choice.


Whole grains such as brown rice and the wheat used to make the darker breads like whole wheat lose most of their nutrients when processed, leaving them mainly starch with no fiber, and even though some bread manufacturers put back some of the lost nutrients, it is still not enough. Therefore, eating whole grain foods is an important health decision. Processed grains also have a lack of fiber, which our bodies use to balance the digestive tract. Whole grains have a number of amazing chronic disease-reducing benefits. That is why looks are not everything and brown really is better than white when it comes to your health.

Fats: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Stop! Put down that donut. Unhand that candy bar. Before you take another bite, there are some things about fats you need to know. Did you realize that not all fats are bad for you? Some fats, eaten in the proper proportions can help keep your body healthy. If you did not know this small but important fact, do not worry. Many people do not know. It is far easier to think of all fat as evil that needs eradicating, but this article will disprove that notion. We will discuss the difference between good fats and bad fats, and the ways both affect your body, as well as steps to help you make better choices in what types of fats you eat. We will also clarify some of the tricky terminology surrounding the subject of fat, giving you a road map forward. If you are curious, then please keep reading. Oh, and you can pick up the donut now.


The Good

It is a common misconception that all fats are bad for you and go straight to your hips. This is completely untrue. Some fats, in healthy quantities pose a benefit to the body and are actually necessary for good heart health as well as other bodily functions. However, not all fats are created equal. Unsaturated fats are known as good fats, and they come in two types, mono unsaturated and poly unsaturated, based on their chemical composition. These types of fats help protect your heart, lower blood cholesterol and help insulin work more efficiently, which is particularly useful if you have Type II diabetes. As a bonus, unsaturated fats are really easy to add into your diet. Chances are good that you already get your recommended daily allotment of these fats, especially if you like any of the following foods: avocado, olives, peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, natural peanut butter, fatty fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel and pumpkin seeds. There are also unsaturated oils. However, be careful with these. There are two types of unsaturated oils. The first type are cold-pressed oils such as peanut, sesamae and extra-virgin olive oil. These oils have been used in Asian cooking for hundreds of years and support your good health. The other type are more recently developed industrially manufactured oils such as soybean, corn, canola and safflower. These oils are manufactured generally using genetically modified crops and in a way that damages the fats, turning them into dangerous trans fats.


The Bad

As we have discussed before, not all fats are created equal. Just as there are good fats, there are also bad fats. These fats are saturated fats and trans-fats. These are the fats which do all the bad things that people have attributed to fats in general for so many years. They clog your arteries, add to your waistline and cause heart disease. Perhaps surprisingly, even a good fat can become a bad fat if it is damaged. Some fats, such as flax seed oil, must be stored in the refrigerator in an opaque container. If they are not properly stored, they will turn into saturated fats, and nobody wants that. Also, if you are going to use nuts and seeds, please be careful. Never eat or cook with nuts or seeds after they start smelling rank or tasting bitter.


The Ugly

We have briefly touched on the effects of bad fats, like the ones found in a lot of donuts, candy bars,  and potato chips, but we feel it is a good idea to discuss these effects in greater detail. Saturated fats and trans fats can cause plaques to build up in the arteries. These plaques are sticky like super glue, and they actively haul in proteins, more fats, and other types of molecules. Eventually, a plaque could even rupture, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke as the blood vessel holding the plaque will be blocked. These bad fats can also lead to fat deposits around the waistline. These fat deposits, in turn decrease the efficiency of insulin which may lead to Type II diabetes or worsen it in those who already have it. In short, saturated fats and trans fats can make your health vastly worse than it would otherwise be.


Fats are very important to your health. However, they are not equally healthy. Unsaturated fats can benefit the body in a number of ways such as improving the health of your heart as well as increasing insulin efficiency for Type II diabetics. Saturated fats, however, will damage your body in various ways and can undo your healthy choices. Think of that before you eat your next donut.

Cholesterol: Fact and Fiction

If you ask a random person on the street if they have heard of cholesterol, chances are they have. It is also highly likely that they hold some common ideas concerning this vital compound, its role in the human body, and the damage elevated levels can cause. These ideas are spread so frequently that many people consider them truth. But are they? If you are a person who is concerned about your heart health it can be very important to get informed. Keep reading as I shine a light on what cholesterol is, how high LDL can damage your health and how to lower your cholesterol. I will even debunk some myths along the way.


What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance found in nearly every cell of the human body. Your body uses this compound to make vitamin D and some hormones as well as substances to help you digest the food you eat. It is not necessary to get cholesterol from food. Your body makes its own. But that does not mean cholesterol is not present in foods you eat. Cholesterol travels through your body in small packages called lipoproteins which are made of fat or lipid on the inside and protein on the outside. There are two types of lipoproteins, High-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) Having healthy levels of both types of cholesterol is important for your body’s continued functioning, but high levels of LDL can be a large problem.


The Effects of High LDL Cholesterol

High LDL cholesterol is a condition whereby you have too much cholesterol in your blood. By itself, it usually has no symptoms so most people do not realize when their cholesterol is high. High cholesterol silently causes plaque build-up in the coronary arteries. This build-up can be very dangerous as it can lead to atherosclerosis, the hardening of the coronary arteries, those closest to the heart. Plaque build-up narrows the arteries, restricting the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart. Eventually, a plaque can rupture, forming a blood clot on the surface. This clot, if it grows big enough may cut off the blood supply to a section of the heart muscle. This is called a heart attack, and if blood flow is not restored quickly, the section of muscle will soon die. Untreated heart attacks can lead to serious problems or even death. Plaque can also build up in other arteries as well, leading to such problems as strokes and peripheral artery disease.


Lowering Your Cholesterol

If you have high cholesterol, do not fret. Though it is a risk factor for heart disease, it is something which can be controlled. Avoid trans fats, found in baked goods, fried foods, and even frozen pizza crusts. Read food labels and look for partially hydrogenated in the name. That is a fancy word for trans-fat. Losing weight is another way to lower cholesterol. Losing just ten pounds will lower your LDL by eight per cent. And make sure to fill up on fiber. People who ate just ten more grams of fiber than they normally would lowered their LDL cholesterol drastically, and raised their HDL as well.


Cholesterol Myths

As you continue your research into cholesterol, you are bound to come across some very insidious myths. Here are a few of them, so that you do not fall prey to misinformation. It is often thought that eating eggs will make your cholesterol rise. While it is true that eggs do contain a lot of dietary cholesterol, not all of that makes it into your bloodstream. If your level of dietary cholesterol rises, your body simply compensates by making less cholesterol of its own. As an added note, it is often thought that children cannot have high cholesterol. Sadly, this is untrue. With the increasing rate of childhood obesity in America, more and more children have high cholesterol and may develop heart disease. That is why it is important to practice good health habits, not just for you but for your entire family as well.


Being a savvy consumer is very important. One step toward that goal is education, especially where your health is concerned. Now you know what exactly cholesterol is, what it does in the body, how high blood cholesterol can affect your health, and even how to lower it. Perhaps the next time you see a person on the street or in a diner spreading misinformation about cholesterol and its risks you can shed some light on the subject and help them in turn.