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Health Information Discover Rush Fall 2008

Four Quick Tips for Your Everyday Health

Your grandmother may have been on to something: Eating an apple a day may, in fact, keep the doctor away. Apples contain cholesterol-fighting antioxidants, fiber and bone-strengthening boron. They may even reduce the incidence of lung cancer.

If something as simple as eating a daily apple has these kinds of health benefits, it might make you wonder what else you can do on a regular basis to improve your health.

A sweet way to protect your heart. Recent research indicates that a daily sliver of dark chocolate lowers blood pressure. Like green tea and grape skins, dark chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonoids. Flavonoids keep cholesterol from collecting in blood vessels and reduce the risk of blood clots. They also relax arteries to promote blood flow. Along with the benefits, though, come calories and fat.

“Keep portions small — an ounce or less — and offset the calories with exercise,” says Lynne T. Braun, PhD, RN, nurse practitioner at the Rush Heart Center for Women.

Sleep on it. People in other countries have long touted the rejuvenating benefits of daily naps. Now there’s research to back them up. A recent study found that, over a six-year period, people who took regular 30-minute naps were 37 percent less likely to die of heart disease than those who never napped. Researchers caution that the findings are too preliminary to warrant a national napping craze, but they do support what sleep researchers have known for years:

“Sleep supports many critical body functions, from processing of information into long-term memory to repair and restoration of the body and brain,” says James Wyatt, PhD, sleep specialist and researcher at Rush University Medical Center.

Bulk up on fiber. One of the reasons apples are so good for you is that they are high in fiber, which absorbs water in the bowels, making stools softer and easier to pass. The American Dietetic Association recommends 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day. A high-fiber diet not only keeps you regular, it also helps protect against heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

“The bulk of our daily fiber should come from food — fruits, vegetables and grains — rather than supplements,” says Carline Quander, MD, a gastroenterologist at Rush. “Otherwise, you’re missing the other healthy things found in fiber-rich foods, such as antioxidants.”

Active mind, healthy mind. A study by researchers at Rush has found that frequent participation in mentally stimulating activities is associated with a more than 50 percent reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s-like dementia in older adults. The reasons are still unclear, but experts believe that by reading, attending plays or playing chess daily, older adults can protect their brain power.

“Regardless of how mentally active people have been prior to old age, a higher level of mental activity in old age may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s-like dementia and memory impairment,” says Robert Wilson, PhD, an Alzheimer’s disease researcher at Rush.

For more health-related dos — and some surprising don’ts — visit


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