Stay hydrated and energized this summer by refreshing yourself with generous amounts of water, nature’s best elixir. Inspire yourself to keep reaching for another sip by infusing water with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs…no sugar or artificial flavoring needed. Have a Plant shares how:
Wash all produce and herbs before slicing and dicing.
Start with a large glass bottle or jar with a lid, add your desired ingredients and fill with cold or room temperature water.
Refrigerate for at least one hour. For a more intense flavor, refrigerate overnight. Some fruits and herbs will infuse more quickly than others. The longer it soaks, the more the flavors are released into the water.
Foster even more concentrated flavor by muddling – the process of mashing ingredients to draw out essential oils in herbs, rinds and fruits.
Extract multiple uses from the ingredients by adding more water and letting it infuse again. Make sure to drink within one day.
Experiment with sparkling, seltzer or unsweetened coconut water as the base.
Try making infused water ice cubes for your beverages with this simple technique: Half fill each section of an ice cube tray with water; add small pieces or slices of desired fruits, vegetables to each section; fill remaining space with water and freeze.
The aching, swollen, stiff joints associated with osteoarthritis (OA) have long been considered a “wear and tear” condition, associated with aging. It was thought that cartilage, the smooth connective tissue on the end of bones that cushion the joints, simply breaks down over a lifetime of walking, exercising and moving. New research shows that it is a disease of the entire joint that also causes bony changes of the joints, deterioration of tendons and ligaments and inflammation of the synovium (lining of the joint). While more prevalent in people over 50, OA can show up in younger patients, especially those who’ve experienced a joint injury such as a torn ACL or meniscus. The promising news is that according to the Arthritis Foundation, “OA is not an inevitable aging disease” and the Cleveland Clinic notes: “Age is a contributing factor, although not all older adults develop osteoarthritis and for those who do, not all develop associated pain.”
Still, currently OA is by far the most prevalent form of arthritis, affecting more than 32.5 million Americans, and primarily targeting knees, hips, hands and spine. A variety of factors contribute to the development of OA, including congenital joint deformity, family history, previous joint injury, and years of physically demanding work or contact sports. However, reducing risk is possible with attention to these modifiable factors:
Obesity adds stress and pressure to joints. Consider that your knees bear a force equivalent to three to six times your body weight with each step, so a lighter weight relieves the burden considerably – losing one pound takes 3 pounds off the knees.
Lifestyle. Being physically active is crucial, as a sedentary lifestyle and obesity are associated with a higher risk of OA. While sports such as football, baseball and soccer may pose a risk because of their impact on joints, most types of regular or moderate exercise can be safely done.
Living with Osteoarthritis
Unfortunately, there is no cure for OA, and managing symptoms such as joint stiffness, tenderness, swelling, and popping or crackling can become increasingly difficult over time. While seeking a pill to alleviate discomfort is a natural reaction, consider trying alternative solutions to help break the cycle of chronic pain.
“The longer the brain processes pain, the more hypersensitive it becomes to pain,” explains Rachel Welbel, MD, a physiatrist who is extensively trained in physical medicine and rehabilitation and sports medicine. “The brain, now constantly on high alert, may respond to non-painful sensations as if they are painful. Poor diets and stress can increase chemicals in the brain that reinforce this response, prolonging the pain cycle.”
Reflecting a more holistic and multi-faceted approach to managing pain, she says: “Opioids are almost never the answer.” Instead, she recommends lifestyle modifications, treatments and medications that help tackle pain in a variety of ways.
Lifestyle Modifications, Treatments and Medications for Osteoarthritis
Weight management. Obesity is not only a leading risk factor for OA, but adds to the pain for those with the condition. Body fat produces proteins called cytokines that cause inflammation, and in the joints, can alter the function of cartilage cells. Shedding even a few pounds can make a difference: losing just 10% of your body weight can cut arthritis pain in half, and losing another 20% can reduce the pain by an additional 25% or more, and may slow or even halt progression of the disease.
Exercise and movement. “Exercise is key to living well with OA,” says Welbel. “While resting aching joints may bring temporary relief, lack of movement ultimately leads to more discomfort. The focus is not on weight loss but on minimizing pain and maximizing strength.” Plan on 150 minutes of light to moderate exercise each week. She recommends working with a physical therapist who can analyze your joint biomechanics and suggest exercises to strengthen muscles and improve range of motion while reducing stiffness and pain. “In addition, exercise is a natural mood elevator,” says Welbel. “Walk, swim, or try mindfulness-based, stress-reducing exercise such as yoga and tai chi.”
Anti-inflammatory diet. Increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fish, while reducing consumption of red and processed meats, refined grains, and sugar-containing beverages and foods, may play an important role in reducing pain associated with inflammation from OA, says Welbel. Try incorporating into your diet fatty fish; herbs and spices such as garlic, turmeric and cinnamon; yogurt and other fermented foods; and healthy fats such as avocados, extra virgin olive oil and walnuts.
Supportive devices. A cane or walker can help lighten the load on your joints, decrease pain, and reduce your risk of falling. Intermittent use of a knee brace may be helpful for added stability, especially if walking on uneven surfaces. Foot orthotics such as arch supports and metatarsal pads may reduce foot pain.
Medications. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help joint pain and stiffness for some. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are also used to relieve pain, including OTC medications such as Advil or Aleve, or Celebrex, a prescription medication with a somewhat lower risk of ulcers and upper gastrointestinal bleeding than other NSAIDs. Topical NSAIDS such as Aspercreme and other creams or patches containing ingredients such as capsaicin, menthol or lidocaine can help.
Injections. Corticosteroids injections may provide temporary relief for acute flare-up of OA pain in knees and finger joints, but effectiveness can vary, and you must wait at least 3 to 6 months to repeat an injection in a specific joint if needed. Viscosupplementation involves injection of a gel-like substance containing hyaluronic acid, which acts as a lubricant in the fluid between bony surfaces and is decreased in OA joints. Research results for significant pain reduction or improved function are not yet convincing, but there appear to be a number of patients with mild to moderate knee OA who report symptom relief.
Supplements. Research results are mixed, but we note some of the more well-known supplements with the caution that these are not recommended to be used alone as treatments for OA. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, naturally occurring compounds found in healthy cartilage, may help reduce joint pain and stiffness, and have been available in the U.S. and Europe for several decades. Other supplements such as tart cherry and turmeric may help reduce OA symptoms for some.
Other promising but not yet proven treatments. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections and stem cell therapy have been used to treat pain of mild to moderate knee OA, but evidence of effectiveness is mixed, and these are still considered experimental. Elements of Eastern medicine, including herbs and acupuncture, may help control OA symptoms, but have not yet been confirmed in large clinical studies.
A Generation of Joint Replacements
When diet and exercise modifications, supportive devices, medications and injections no longer sufficiently ease the pain of OA, a hip or knee replacement may be recommended. The number of people opting for this surgery increases each year, now totaling more than 790,000 knee and 450,000 hip replacements annually.
The implants, made of plastic, metal or ceramic, are traditionally kept in place with bone cement, which is gradually being replaced by newer cementless and porous titanium systems to improve bone fixation and durability. Also on the rise is computer-assisted surgery to increase placement accuracy of the prosthetic components, and patient-specific implants using 3D printing technology. The combination of modern materials and advanced surgical techniques have extended the durability of most implants to 20 years, a marked improvement over the previous standard of 10 to 15 years.
Recovery time has also changed for the better. With rehabilitation to regain strength and motion, normal activities can usually be resumed within weeks to months. Most importantly, the majority of patients are highly satisfied with the results, reporting minimal to no pain and significantly improved function and quality of life. However, outcomes can vary and potential complications should be discussed before proceeding.
Additional breakthroughs may be on the horizon: researchers at Duke University start trials this spring of a hydrogel-based cartilage substitute that may prove more durable than natural cartilage…stay tuned!
Every patient is unique…please check with your healthcare provider to discuss recommendations for prevention and treatment based on your individual health situation.
Except for dedicated thespians, saying “break a leg” is most definitely not a harbinger of good luck. More than 10 million Americans are living with osteoporosis, a condition of low bone mass that results in increased risk of bone fracture, sometimes even from a minor fall or pressure from a big hug. Over 1.5 million osteoporotic fractures occur annually, and 1/3 of women and 1/5 of men over 50 will experience an osteoporotic bone fracture in their lifetime. The good news is that reliable diagnostic testing and treatments are available, which we share below.
Who’s at Risk for Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is sometimes referred to as a “silent disease” because it is painless unless a fracture occurs, so people often are unaware they have it until that happens. Post-menopausal women are at highest risk, in part due to the decline in estrogen levels. Estrogen, and to an even greater extent, testosterone, are hormones that help ward off osteoporosis, which is why it is not as common in men. Others at risk include those with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease, those with high parathyroid or thyroid levels and certain other chronic diseases.
Medications including corticosteroids, proton pump inhibitors and certain antidepressants and anti-seizure medications may increase risk of bone thinning. Inherited factors may affect risk, such as race (more common in Caucasians and Asians), body shape and size (smaller/thinner individuals more at risk) and family history of osteoporosis. Physical activity level and diet play a role, placing those who are sedentary and/or have a diet low in calcium at higher risk. Cigarette smoking and higher alcohol intake are also risk factors.
How Osteoporosis is Diagnosed
A bone density measurement test is the best way to diagnose osteoporosis, using the DEXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) scan of hip and spine. The severity of decrease in bone mass is determined by your T-score: Between -1.0 and -2.5 is defined as osteopenia, when bones are weaker than normal, while -2.5 or less indicates osteoporosis.
A number of medications are available to treat osteoporosis.
Bisphosphonates to slow the breakdown and removal of bone are typically tried first. Fosamax, used most, is a weekly pill often taken for 5 years followed by a “drug holiday.” The IV bisphosphonate Reclast is generally continued for three years.
Evista is a daily pill for post-menopausal osteoporosis that protects against bone loss and also reduces the risk of breast cancer in high-risk women.
Prolia is injected every 6 months to slow breakdown and removal of bone and help increase bone density. It should not be discontinued once started or must be followed by another medication if stopped.
Evenity is injected once a month for a year to increase new bone and reduce breakdown and removal of bone.
Forteo and Tymlos are drugs that help build bone for people at high risk of fracture. These are injected daily for two years.
Peak bone mass is achieved by age 25-30 years, but at any age, a healthy lifestyle can aid in strengthening bones. Focus on eating a balanced diet rich in vitamin D and calcium (see sidebar), and remember that exposing the body to natural sunlight increases production of vitamin D. Eliminating tobacco use and limiting alcohol is strongly recommended to promote maximum absorption of calcium and vitamin D. Taking fall prevention measures is crucial: consider that 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls.
Aim for 30 minutes of weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercises on most days:
Walk or run on level ground or a treadmill
Lift weights without straining your back
Sit-to-stand exercises: start with an elevated seat height, and progress to a lower chair as you get stronger
Strengthen thighs: stand against a wall and slide down into a slight knee bend, hold for 10 seconds and repeat a few times
Tai Chi: combines slow movements, breathing exercises, and meditation
Nourishment Know-How for Bone Health
For optimal bone health, a daily intake of 1200-1500 mg of calcium and 400-800 IU (international units) of Vitamin D is recommended for adults. In many cases, supplementation may be appropriate.
Selected sources with calcium and/or Vitamin D:
Calcium- and vitamin D-fortified foods and beverages (soy or almond milks, cereals, cheese)
Dark green, leafy vegetables
Fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, sardines
Sesame or chia seeds, figs, almonds
Fall Prevention Measures for Those with Osteoporosis Include:
Avoid ladders, step-stools and roof work
Eliminate tripping hazards like throw rugs, obstacles or cords on the floor
Be careful around pets and leashes
Use good lighting, night lights, update glasses and eye care to optimize vision
Stay fit with regular strengthening and balance exercises
Wear non-slip shoes
Install handrails and grab bars in the bathroom
Every patient is unique…please check with your healthcare provider to discuss recommendations for prevention and treatment based on your individual health situation.
Harkening back to ancient civilizations, the concept of food as medicine represents one of today’s most cutting-edge approaches to prevention and disease management. Inspired by the intricate connection of mind and body wellness, a small, special group of diets have made their way into the mainstream offering benefits far beyond short-term weight loss. Among them are DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), a low-sodium diet that encourages consumption of foods rich in nutrients such as potassium and calcium and magnesium; the Mediterranean diet for heart health, emphasizing fish, fruits, and vegetables, with olive oil as the main source of fat; and combining both, the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which shows real promise in helping its adherents preserve cognition and reduce the risk of dementia.
Launched in 2015 by researchers at Rush University Medical Center, the MIND diet encourages selecting foods from categories that include leafy greens and vegetables, legumes, fish and seafood, poultry, nuts and berries, while limiting high fat, high sugar and processed foods. Longitudinal observational studies showed the rewards of shifting to this healthier way of eating, with a 53% reduction in the risk of dementia for seniors who rigorously followed the diet, and somewhat surprisingly, a 35% risk reduction even for those who followed it only moderately well.
“This is my favorite feature,” says Jennifer Ventrelle, MS, RD, lead dietitian for the MIND Diet Intervention to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease at Rush, “you don’t have to be perfect! It’s not necessary to eat from every preferred category to achieve your goals.”
Although it’s not intended as a reducing diet, Ventrelle says people who follow it naturally lose weight by focusing on the preferred categories of foods. “It’s too difficult for many people to consider banishing all sweets or giving up red meat forever, so we haven’t eliminated these foods but allow them with limited frequency and close attention to portion sizes,” she explains.
Additional research pointed to a host of other benefits associated with eating MINDfully for older adults: slower cognitive decline and progression of Parkinsonian signs in aging, and reduced risk of functional disability, depressive symptoms, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. “The literature continues to grow, with new studies that point to the key role diet plays in preventing cognitive decline,” says Puja Agarwal, PhD, nutritional epidemiologist and assistant professor of internal medicine at Rush.
But it is the gold-standard randomized controlled trial begun several years ago by Rush and Harvard School of Public Health that may ultimately establish a causal relationship between diet and dementia. More than 600 participants at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease – overweight, suboptimal diets and a history of dementia in the family – were enrolled in the study designed to directly measure whether following the MIND diet versus a low-fat diet can prevent neurodegenerative ills – results are expected by the end of 2022. According to Agarwal, who is fully aware of its significance at a time when more than 6 million people in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s disease, a number expected to double in the coming decades. “We don’t have a cure for these diseases, so prevention strategies are essential. We’re hoping for intervention trial results for the effect of MIND diet in protecting the brain to further establish the role of diet in healthy aging.”
What a day of meals on the MIND diet might include*:
BREAKFAST Greek Yogurt Parfait: ½ cup whole grain, high fiber cereal, ½ cup berries, ½ cup low-fat Greek yogurt, 2 tbsps (raw, unsalted) walnuts, almonds or pecans.
LUNCH Whole Wheat Turkey Wrap: 1 tortilla wrap + 3-5 oz turkey breast lunchmeat or carved white meat + 1 slice reduced fat cheese + lettuce, tomato and veggies of choice.
3-Bean Salad: Mixture of kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, red onions + 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil + 1 tsp balsamic vinegar + Italian seasoning mix such as oregano, parsley, basil, etc.
A seasonal bounty of fruits and vegetables is in bloom everywhere from your grocery’s fresh foods section to local farmers’ markets, and in your own backyard garden. The following is advice from experts on how to purchase summer fruits and veggies at its peak, and store them safely, until ready to enjoy.
Berries and Cherries. Look for plump, unblemished fruits with no dark spots or fuzzy white mold; raspberries, blackberries and strawberries should be fragrant. All are shiny when ripe – except for blueberries, which will have a dull matte finish. While most berries can be refrigerated for up to a week, raspberries can start fading more quickly; when that occurs, The Spruce Eats recommends freezing them for use in smoothies and other recipes. To extend their life, do not wash fruit when you unpack your groceries; wait until right before you eat them.
Corn. Choose uncut silks coming out of tightly closed, bright green husks that smell slightly grassy, advises Martha Stewart; and peel back a tad to make sure the kernels look plump and healthy. Refrigerate corn with husks on and use as soon as possible.
Cucumbers and Peppers. Look for firm, shiny vegetables without blemishes, wrinkles or soft spots. According to Have a Plant, cucumbers and peppers can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to one week.
Grapes. Choose firm, plump grapes with green healthy stems. They can last up to two weeks when refrigerated. Or try an easy frozen treat: Place on a baking sheet; freeze until firm, and enjoy. Store leftovers in a freezer-safe bag for up to 12 months.
Lettuces. Eliminate those with wilted or broken leaves. Lettuce can be stored for up to four days when refrigerated; darker lettuces tend to last longer than pale, tender varieties. Wash all lettuces just before using.
Melons. Select watermelons without flat sides or dents, and choose ones with a heavy weight for optimal juiciness. Cantaloupe and honeydew melons are best when they have a pale yellow rind and flowery smell at the stem. Harvest to Table recommends storing whole ripe melons in the refrigerator for up to a week to avoid spoiling; cut melons will keep for up to three days.
Plums, Nectarines, Peaches. Opt for vibrant colors, a firm feel, and beautifully fragrant aroma for nectarines and peaches. Store unripe plums, nectarines and peaches in a paper bag until ripe. When ripe, peaches and nectarines can be stored at room temperature for use within a few days; plums can be kept fresh for up to five days in the refrigerator.
Tomatoes. Pick vividly colored, medium-firm tomatoes with smooth, shiny skin. To preserve the freshness and natural flavor of unripe tomatoes, Master Class recommends storing them on a countertop away from direct sunlight. They will last a week on countertops and up to two weeks if stored in the refrigerator.
Zucchini and Summer Squash. Look for smooth-skinned, small to medium size vegetables. Eating Well advises storing zucchini in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, in either a plastic or paper bag with one end open to ensure good ventilation.
Eating Your Fruits and Veggies May Help Reduce the Risk of Chronic Disease
Fill your plate with a vibrant, colorful array of fruits and vegetables for a naturally delicious way to meet your daily requirement of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Plant foods contain thousands of natural compounds called phytonutrients, which may have anti-inflammatory benefits that can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Every color has a contribution to make – aim for a few different ones each day, and enjoy the entire spectrum.
Red and pink:
These fruits and vegetables are an abundant source of the carotenoid lycopene, which may help balance free radical activity in the body, offering protection against prostate cancer and heart and lung disease. Additional picks: red onions, persimmons and raspberries.
Orange and yellow:
Enjoy an extra boost of beta cryptoxanthin, which supports intracellular communication and may help prevent heart disease. Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables also contain vitamin C and carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which is associated with promoting healthy vision and cell growth. Additional picks: pomelos, turmeric root and star fruit.
These are some of the healthiest fruits and vegetables, rich in chemicals like sulforaphane, isothiocyanates and indoles, which may inhibit the action of carcinogens. Dark green and leafy vegetables have the highest concentration of both antioxidants and fiber. They’re also packed with potassium, lutein, isothiocyanates, isoflavones and vitamin K, which can be important for vision, bone and blood health. Greens like kale have as much calcium as milk. Additional picks: Swiss chard, arugula, zucchini, edamame, alfalfa sprouts and green herbs (mint, rosemary, sage, thyme and basil).
sugar snap peas
Blue and purple:
Anthocyanins – powerful antioxidants that may help delay cellular aging, block the formation of blood clots and boost urinary tract health – abound in these fruits and veggies. Additional picks: beetroot, radishes and purple cabbage.
These foods may not be as brightly hued as the others, but they shine with valuable phytonutrients. These include the potentially anti-tumor properties of allicin and quercetin, found in garlic and onions; the healthy compound sulforaphane in the cruciferous cauliflower; and immune-supporting selenium in mushrooms. Additional picks: leeks, white beans (cannellini, navy beans, lima beans, soybeans), lychees, white peaches and daikon radish.