Positively Living: Leisure and Changing Habits

Two notable articles touching on matters of wellness recently ran in the New York Times – in the Business section, of all places. Both are brief, pointed and worth checking out.

The first is Why Leisure Matters in a Busy World,  a short interview with Alison Link on the need for leisure and its role in maintaining good mental and physical health. When asked to define leisure, Link says, that it “has many different definitions – some involving time, some relating to an activity being done, some relating to state of mind. Personally, I am most at leisure when I feel free, present and integrated. I like this definition for myself because it allows me to experience lesiure at any moment, even in just a few minutes.” She goes on to give examples of working leisure into one’s life, as well as the benefits of doing so (and some of the costs of not doing so).

Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?, on the other hand, looks at strategies for leaving old habits behind – not by quitting them but by creating new ones. With old habits, writes Janet Rae-Dupree, “once those ruts of procedure are worn into the hippocampus, they’re there to stay. Instead, the new habits we deliberately ingrain into ourselves create parallel pathways that can bypass those old roads.” And how can we create those pathways? Click on over to the Times to find out.

The State of American Teeth

Best Teeth

Madison, WI

Image from Wisconsin Historical Society, via Flickr (CC)

Worst Teeth

Texas Map Showing Lubbock

Ranks of Northern California cities in survey:
San Francisco – 21 (B)
Fremont – 26 (B)
San Jose – 32 (B-)
Modesto – 49 (C+)
Oakland – 55 (C)
Sacramento – 73 (D+)

Numbers crunched by Men’s Health using CDC data “on the number of people who visit their dentists for annual check-ups, the number of no-shows whose choppers are dropping out, and the number of households with fluoride on tap.” (Not a good sign on that last point, but the data come from the world of industrial medicine, after all!)

Read the full story here.

Video: 10 Investigates – Lead in Dental Work

WBNS 10TV in Columbus, OH, reports on lead being found in outsourced dental restorations:

Know that all restorations used in our practice (Gary M. Verigin, DDS, inc.) are made by Creative Arts Dental Lab in Sacramento, which never outsources work. All crowns, bridges and other restorations are made on site. Creative Arts recommends visiting What’s In Your Mouth?, a consumer site created and maintained by the National Association of Dental Labs, to keep up with developments on the issues raised in the above clip.

Quick Links: Plasma Needles, Drugs, Nitrates, Junk Foods

Cold Plasma Needles for Dentists Edge Closer (New Scientist)

Drugmakers Need to Rein in Ads, Hearing Told (Reuters)

Psychiatry Handbook Linked to Drug Industry (NY Times)

Nitrates in Vegetables Protect Against Gastric Ulcers, Study Shows (Science Daily)

Top 10 Junk Foods in Disguise (Mark’s Daily Apple)

How Much Sugar Do You Consume? (Diet Blog)

Water, Wealth, Contentment…Fast Food?

Driving through California’s Central Valley, despite all the commercial development that’s paved over land once given to agriculture, you can’t help but be at least a little awed by the amount of food grown here. And yet our local counties – San Joaquin and Stanislaus – are junk food paradises.

Fast food dead end

The Modesto Bee recently reported on a study by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy showing that Stanislaus County has 5 1/2 times more fast food and convenience stores than outlets for fresh produce – second only to San Bernadino County. San Joaquin isn’t far behind, with 4 1/2 more fast food outlets. The result? In Stanislaus, a 32% obesity rate – tops amongst California’s 24 most populous counties, and among them, the third highest in diabetes rates. San Joaquin can boast a 29% obesity rate and ranks right behind Stanislaus in diabetes. According to the report, areas so packed with fast food eateries are literally “designed for disease.”

The problems don’t end just with obesity and diabetes. Heart disease rates are also elevated, no doubt at least partly due to a newly understood mechanism of trans fat – an abundant substance in industrial foods of all sorts. (Check out this article at A Calorie Counter on the worst fast food offenders.) In vitro studies done by researchers from Methodist Research Institute at Clarian Health in Indianapolis and Indiana University suggest that trans fats “play a role in the induction of pro-inflammatory responses and endothelial cell dysfunction” that contribute to cardiovascular disease. They may also be implicated in at least one type of cancer.

Diets high in fast food contribute to a number of other problems, as well, including liver damage (memorably depicted in Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 documentary Super Size Me). Fortunately, such damage is reversable, as was recently confirmed by Brent Tetri, MD, at St. Louis University, who has studied the metabolic effects of fast food type diets on mice, a study animal metabolically similar to humans. In an article on Science Daily, Tetri is quoted as saying, “The good news is that most people can undo this damage if they change their diet and they keep physically active….If they don’t, however, they are asking for trouble.”

(Need even more motivation to ditch the fast food? Check out the images of Fast Food Ads vs. Reality.)

Of course, fast foods aren’t the only villain here, and a new study on the health status of Central Valley residents just released by the Great Valley Center bears this out. Elevated levels of smoking and heavy drinking, amongst other risk factors, exacerbate all manner of health problems in our region. The report, part of an ongoing series assessing the quality of life in the Central Valley, is available from the Center’s website, as is a brief video highlighting the findings.

The Irony: Bone Death in the Jaw after Osteoporosis Drugs

Science Daily reports on the latest research on the link between taking biophosphonates – drugs like Fosamax and Boniva used to treat osteoporosis – and jaw infections leading to osteonecrosis:

Microbial biofilms, a mix of bacteria and sticky extracellular material, are causing jaw tissue infections in patients taking bisphosphonate drugs, said Parish Sedghizadeh, lead researcher and assistant clinical professor at the USC School of Dentistry.

* * *

Sedghizadeh said there have been increasing reports of osteonecrosis (bone death) of the jaw in patients who have been taking the drugs for osteoporosis or for treatment from the bone-wasting effects of cancer.

Read the full story here.