Breast cancer care that includes integrative therapies saves lives
More than half of physicians’ offices in the U.S. have recommended at least one complementary health intervention, such as Alexander technique, acupuncture, aromatherapy or yoga, to their patients, according to a January 2020 survey. The goal is to help reduce stress and/or anxiety, ease depression, lessen pain, improve balance and posture, decrease weight and strengthen bones and muscles.
The use of integrative therapies to complement traditional Western medicine has even expanded into cancer care, and patients are benefiting enormously. A study in the Journal of Oncology looked at breast cancer patients and their five-year outcomes depending on whether or not their cancer care center offered any of 12 forms of complementary support.
The researchers found that when traditional cancer care was combined with medium or high levels of integrative therapies, breast cancer patients were at least three times more likely to survive than patients who went to centers with little or no integrative programs and support. The cancer care institutions with the most integrative offerings (and best results for their patients) focused on nutrition and exercise consultation, patient support groups, spiritual services, meditation/mindfulness and psycho-oncology support.
So, if you have a choice about where to get cancer care (no matter what type of cancer you have), opt for a center that offers you info on and access to integrative therapies. If that’s not possible, talk with your oncologist about what kinds of integrative programs might help you physically and emotionally, and who in your area you could go to receive the added support.
This week’s roundup: You truly are what you eat — or don’t eat
In the late 1800s, a spring cattle roundup out West might have brought together 200 cowboys and 500 to 800 horses, working to collect their wandering herd. The roundup, here, of nutrition news is less exhausting and far better for your health.
1. Boosting your vitamin D level can help prevent a severe case of COVID-19. A study in the journal PLOS One found that COVID-19 patients with a vitamin D deficiency were 14 times more likely to have a severe or critical infection — and the mortality rate for those with insufficient vitamin D levels was 25.6 percent, compared with 2.3 percent for those with adequate levels.
2. If you have cardiovascular disease, eating ultraprocessed foods, stripped of nutrients and loaded with artificial ingredients, unhealthy fats and sugars, increases your risk of death. A study found that over a 10-year period, folks who get around 11 percent of their total food intake from UPFs were almost 14 percent more likely to die from all causes compared with folks whose intake of UPFs is less than 5 percent of their total diet.
3. At age 20, adopting a diet loaded with legumes, whole grains, fish, fruits, vegetables and a daily handful of nuts, can add almost 11 years of lifespan for women and 13 for men, according to another study in PLOS One. This change in length of life corresponds closely to the RealAge data I published about 23 years ago. Truly, you can live younger for longer by eating healthier food.
For royally good health, don’t eat like a king!
At Versailles, King Louis the XIV (1638-1715) — aka the Sun King — didn’t eat dinner until 10 p.m., and it was a massive meal. Then at 11:30 p.m., not long after completing the feast, he headed to his bed chamber, where his going-to-bed ceremony was a public ritual. He developed debilitating gout as an adult, because his royal habits did him few favors. He ultimately died at 77 of gangrene, having been king for 72 years.
Although Louis XIV endured for decades, he was miserable physically and emotionally — and we now know that his habit of eating too close to retiring contributed to that. Some Sun King!
A study in Diabetes Care reveals that eating (especially carbs) close to bedtime, when your level of the hormone melatonin is high, interferes with insulin secretion and elevates your glucose levels significantly. The researchers found that blood levels of melatonin are 350 percent higher late in the day and if a meal is eaten when the hormone is pumped up, insulin levels fall by almost 7 percent and glucose levels go up more than 8 percent. That sends diabetes out of control.
What is melatonin? It’s a hormone your brain produces in response to darkness. It helps with the timing of your circadian rhythms (24-hour internal clock) and with your sleep-wake cycle — and perhaps much more.
The study findings reinforce what I’ve been saying: Eat when the sun shines, take in most of your calories before 3 p.m. and limit your food intake to an eight-to-10-hour window.
Get up-to-date on home monitoring to diagnose sleep apnea
No, bu shi, nej. From the U.S. to China and Sweden, when a diagnosis is negative, “no” is understood to mean you’re in the clear. But when it comes to an at-home diagnostic test for sleep apnea — “no” does not always mean “You don’t have that potentially life-shortening condition.”
A positive result from an at-home sleep monitoring test is reliable: Yes means yes. But a negative result? One huge international study published in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that when a single night of at-home testing is done (that’s standard clinical practice), 23 percent of the time it misses folks with severe sleep apnea and is able to classify folks with mild or moderate sleep apnea correctly only around half of the time.
The health problems associated with uncontrolled sleep apnea are significant: It’s a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, having a stroke or heart attack, and even premature death.
If you have a negative at-home sleep apnea test, and you’re still a nighttime snorer, you gasp for breath or you regularly wake up feeling exhausted and lousy (dry mouth and headache, for example), the smart move is to either try the at-home test on three nights (more accurate) or go to a sleep center to be tested. There, you’ll get an analysis of your breathing, air flow, snoring, muscle movements and brain activity. Once you’re correctly diagnosed, you can determine the type of nighttime apparatus (some are even mask-free) that will help you get peaceful, life-saving sleep.
More coffee magic: This time it’s cholesterol-lowering powers
Sofia Vergara, Gloria on “Modern Family,” is a serious coffee lover. “I grew up with a South American family, and if there is one thing I strictly remember learning from a young age, it is the power of coffee. I like it black. I like it strong, I don’t put sugar or anything in it.”
Vergara is smart in so many ways — especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Not only is it heart-friendly to avoid adding inflammatory sugar and saturated-fat-rich milk to your cuppa Joe, the caffeine in coffee is actually good for your cardiovascular system.
Research published in Nature Communications shows that caffeine (as found in filtered coffee) lowers lousy LDL cholesterol by blocking the effects of a specific protein (CSK9). When left unchecked, that protein reduces the liver’s ability to process excess LDL. But without its interference, more LDL cholesterol can be quickly removed from the bloodstream via an LDL receptor that’s on the surface of liver cells. The result — a heart that’s less likely to suffer dysfunction.
This comes on the heels of studies that show drinking around two to three cups of coffee a day — and getting 400 to 600 milligrams of caffeine — reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and drinking six cups decreases your risk of dementia and slows the rate of progression of existing dementia. So enjoy black tea and coffee. FYI: If that’s easy for you like it is for me, that’s because you have a gene that makes bitter flavors actually pleasing.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.