5 things to do this week that can improve your health

There’s a wealth of health and wellness information available, and this week’s health news highlights provide insights on how you can enhance your well-being.

CONSUME … strawberries for your morning meal

Recent research from the University of Cincinnati suggests that incorporating a daily portion of strawberries into your breakfast may contribute to combating signs of depression and dementia in midlife.

Published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients, the study focused on individuals aged 50 to 65 who were overweight (with a BMI of 25 or greater) and exhibited symptoms of mild cognitive decline. The findings revealed that participants who ingested two servings of freeze-dried, whole-fruit strawberry powder mixed in their water each morning for 12 weeks showed a decrease in depression symptoms, enhanced emotional control, improved problem-solving abilities, and a reduction in “memory interference” during word memorization tests.

The findings affirm the idea that introducing strawberry supplementation in midlife plays a role in reducing the risk of dementia,” noted the study’s authors about the potent berries. They highlighted that each packet of strawberry powder “contained 13 g, providing 36.8 mg anthocyanins derived from 130 g whole fruit and equivalent to about 1 [cup] whole fresh strawberries, which is designated as a standard serving by the California Strawberry Commission.”

So, why limit yourself to breakfast? This antioxidant-rich fruit offers additional benefits, including fortifying your immune system, providing protection against heart disease and stroke, and aiding in the management of blood sugar.

CONNECT … with friends and family

A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Medicine reveals that never being visited by friends or family is linked to an elevated risk of mortality.

Conducted in the United Kingdom and based on data from participants recruited between 2006 and 2010 with an average age of 56.5, the study delved into various aspects. Participants were questioned about the frequency of confiding in someone close, feelings of loneliness, the regularity of visits from friends and family, participation in weekly group activities, and living arrangements. Upon follow-up years later, researchers identified that the strongest associations with mortality were linked to the frequency of weekly group activities and visits from family and friends, as well as whether participants lived alone. Notably, never being visited by friends or family was associated with a 39% increased risk of death.

Loneliness is a global concern, prompting the World Health Organization to initiate “the first global initiative to tackle the epidemic of loneliness.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasizes that social isolation is linked to various health issues, including dementia and heart disease. Interestingly, a study published earlier this year suggests that loneliness could have a more detrimental impact on heart health than a poor diet or smoking.

PURCHASE … an electric toothbrush for your child

Concerned about your child’s brushing habits? Consider making a difference with an electric toothbrush.

Recent research published in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry indicates that oscillating-rotating electric toothbrushes are significantly more effective than manual toothbrushes in reducing plaque and gingivitis in children aged 3 to 10. Following a four-week trial conducted by the Hebrew University-Hadassah Faculty of Dental Medicine in Israel, results showed a 55.7% improvement in whole-mouth plaque reduction and a 34.3% improvement in back-of-the-mouth plaque reduction for children aged 3 to 6. For children aged 7 to 10, the improvements were even more significant, with a 94.5% reduction in whole-mouth plaque and a 108.4% reduction in back-of-the-mouth plaque.

REDUCE … your salt intake

Cutting out just one teaspoon of salt from your daily diet can lead to a significant decrease in blood pressure, comparable to the impact of certain common blood pressure medications, according to a recent study conducted by researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

In the study, participants aged 50 to 70 were assigned to either a high-sodium diet (2,200 mg per day) or a low-sodium diet (500 mg per day, approximately one teaspoon less than the high-sodium diet) for one week. After the initial week, participants switched to the opposite diet for the next week.

Co-principal investigator of the study, Norrina Allen, stated, “We found that 70 to 75% of all people, regardless of whether they are already on blood pressure medications or not, are likely to see a reduction in their blood pressure if they lower the sodium in their diet.”

The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 2,300 mg of sodium per day, with an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. The primary sources of sodium in diets include packaged or processed foods like bread, pizza, and cold cuts, but even natural foods such as cheese and poultry can contribute to above-average sodium intake.

EMBRACE … a positive perspective on aging

A study conducted by researchers at the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging at Rowan University reveals a connection between a positive outlook on aging and increased longevity.

Analyzing data from 2006 to 2008 of 5,483 New Jersey residents aged 50 to 74, the study identified a correlation between scores for subjective successful aging (SSA) — reflecting individuals’ feelings about their aging experience — and the risk of mortality within nine years. Participants with a low SSA score had a 45% chance of dying within nine years, while those with a high SSA score had a less than 10% chance of dying.

Lead researcher Rachel Pruchno commented, “My research provides a new and helpful way to understand the link between how people feel about their aging experience and mortality.”

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