two women and a man working in a community garden

Health Benefits of Starting a Garden

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


Don’t you love it when something you’ve always believed to be true is actually proven by research? I’m one of those people who believes outdoor gardening is good for the mind, body, and soul. Now a growing body of evidence supports this notion, too.

I’m not just talking about planting garden vegetables so you can reap all of the nutritional benefits that go with them. Studies show starting a garden is good for you no matter what you grow, or where.

Gardening and Weight Control

The latest study to support my theory was published this month in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers from the University of Utah found people who tended community gardens weighed less than their neighbors, siblings and spouses who didn’t.

Community gardens have already been shown to provide social benefits to those who till them and nutritional benefits to all who eat the harvest. This study confirms that those who get their hands dirty also have lower body mass indexes (BMI) and lower odds of being overweight or obese.

The study only looked at a small community in Utah, so cannot be interpreted to be true for the population at large, but I think we can expect to see similar results when a larger study is conducted.

Another thing the study does not answer is whether lower weight people are drawn to gardening, or whether gardening makes them lighter? What do you think?

Gardening and Mental Health

A study just published in Psychological Sciences, the journal of the Association for Psychological Sciences, made a strong case for the benefits of gardens, even if you don’t til them. It found people who live near parks, gardens or other green space report a greater sense of well-being than city dwellers who don’t get to see much outdoor greenery.

The researchers analyzed data collected from households in the United Kingdom and found individuals who lived in greener areas reported less mental distress and higher satisfaction with life. This more positive outlook held up even across differences in income, employment, marital status, physical health and housing type.

This study did not prove that moving to a greener neighborhood will make you happier, but does support findings from other research that shows short bouts of time in green space can improve mood and cognitive functioning.

Since April is National Garden Month, I can’t think of a better time to get outside and do some gardening. Whether you plant vegetables, flowers, herbs, shrubs, trees or grass, starting garden is good for your health!

Psychological Benefits of Gardening

  • Nurture your natural instincts
  • Cultivate your sense of patience
  • Explore your creativity
  • Relieve your stress
  • Lessen your anxiety
  • Improve your mood

Physical Benefits of Gardening

  • Eat more fresh produce!
  • Strengthen your muscles
  • Burn some calories
  • Breathe in fresh air
  • Make vitamin D from sunshine
  • Sleep more soundly

What’s growing in your garden?

exercising and eating right are part of a healthy lifestyle

10 Ways to Improve Your Health

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


With all the talk about who should pay for healthcare we sometimes forget the most important way to lower healthcare costs is by taking good care of ourselves. While some illnesses are unavoidable, most are preventable. Use these 10 Ways to Improve Your Health as your premium payment for the best health insurance policy money can’t buy.

1. Curb Excesses – If you have an addiction or compulsive behavior, such as smoking or drinking excessively, it will deplete your physical condition and your bank account. Investing in professional help to treat them now will reap returns in improved health and wealth for the rest of your life.

2. Express Yourself – Everyone needs an emotional outlet to relieve the normal stresses of everyday life. Don’t be afraid to cry when you hurt or laugh out loud when something strikes you funny. Some people turn to writing their thoughts in a journal to express themselves, while others use creative outlets like music, art or even cooking.

3. Maintain Your Smile – Not brushing your teeth properly can be as damaging to your health as not brushing at all. Bacteria in the mouth that is not removed by good oral care may contribute to heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. And since the health of your teeth is directly connected to the quality of your diet, the effort pays off in more ways than one.

4. Take Precautions – Accidents are the fifth major cause of death in the United States. Basic safety measures can prevent many of them and reduce the severity of the injuries that may occur. Make sure you always wear a seat belt, drive within the speed limit, wear sun glasses and sun screen when outdoors, use the right sports gear, and are careful around ladders and water.

5. Eat Well – Focusing on health instead of weight when making food choices pays big dividends with every bite since good nutrition is the best preventive medicine there is. Even if you can’t lose all the weight you should, it’s worth eating well to reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including many types of cancer.

6. Make Face Time – Connecting with family and friends on Face Book and other social networks is fine, but should not replace face-to-face meetings. A small but close circle of people you can spend time with is more valuable to your quality of life than having hundreds of friends you never see or talk to.

7. Move More – Instead of thinking about all of the exercise you’re supposed to be doing, just try to get up out of your chair to stand, pace or put your body in motion whenever you can. The goal is to decrease the number of hours a day you spend sitting. Medical experts found women who sit more than six hours a day are 94% more likely to die than those who are not inactive for long periods of time.

8. Check-Up + Follow Up – Just like birthdays and anniversaries, routine dental and medical check-ups should be permanent dates on your calendar. If you keep these annual appointments with your primary care physician and dentist you will have fewer unscheduled visits to treat pain and problems that could have been prevented.

9. Stretch Often – The benefits of routine stretching include improved circulation, stress relief, more flexible joints, and better balance so fewer falls. A good time to do some total body stretches is before getting out of bed in the morning or after a shower when the muscles are warmed up.

10. Sleep Enough – Something as basic as sleep is difficult for the millions of Americans who suffer from sleep disorders. Sleep deprivation increases the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, lowered immune response, accidents, depression and early death. Treating sleep as a necessity, not a luxury, is an important way to prevent illness and prolong life.

Healthy living tips for the 50+ brought to by Crest & Oral-B ProHealth For Life.

teenage girl smoking

New Threat for Those With Teenage Smoking Habit

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


Smoking cigarettes is a rite of passage for many teenagers, but can have serious consequences for some. New research indicates people who develop a teenage smoking habit can become hooked for life if they have a certain genetic profile for nicotine addiction. The genes that get them hooked on tobacco also make it harder for them to quit as adults.

The study looked at the effects of nicotine on over 1000 men and women, starting at age 11 and continuing until they were 38 years old. Researchers followed the participants to learn when they first tried smoking, how soon after did they became daily smokers, when did they advance to being heavy smokers, did they became nicotine dependent, and what happened when tried to quit. The findings were published online in JAMA Psychiatry on March 27, 2013

Why It’s Harder For Some People to Quit Smoking Than Others

The data collected showed those with the higher genetic risk profile were:

  • not more likely to initiate smoking as teens than those without the genome
  • more likely to convert to daily smokers as teenagers
  • more likely to be smoking a pack a day by age 18
  • going to make a more rapid progression from smoking initiation to heavy smoking
  • more likely to develop nicotine dependence
  • going to smoke almost 7,300 more cigarettes than the average smoker by the time they were 38
  • more likely to fail at smoking cessation
  • going to have a higher predictability of smoking using than family history
  • not more likely to become heavy smokers if they began smoking as adults rather than as teens

Know Your Risk Before You Start

The researchers concluded that there is a “vulnerable” period during the teen years for those who have this genetic profile that makes them more susceptible to the effects of nicotine. Finding a way to identify these individuals and intervene before they take that first puff on a cigarette may be the public health success story of the 21st century.

Take a Walk While Trying to Quit

For teens who already have a smoking habit, taking a 20 minute walk several times a week while participating in the American Lung Association’s Not-On-Tobacco program may help them quit, says a study published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The study involved 233 teenagers between the ages of 14-19 in West Virginia who reported smoking at least one cigarette in the past 30 days. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Brief intervention (10-15 minutes of advice about the harmful effects of smoking); participation in the Not-On-Tobacco program (N-O-T); or N-O-T plus physical activity (N-O-T+FIT).

The results supported the benefits of more physical activity for all three groups, but the best results were seen with N-O-T+FIT combination. They also found:

  • teens in all 3 groups who increased the number of days in which they had at least 20 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity were more likely to significantly reduce their total number of daily cigarettes
  • teens in the N-O-T+FIT group who increased the number of days in which they exercised for 20 minutes or more were the most likely to reduce their cigarette usage
  • teens in N-O-T+FIT who exercised 30 minutes or more were more likely to quit smoking than those who similarly increased their physical activity in the other two groups
  • in all 3 groups, being active 30 minutes per day did not require a moderate-to-vigorous level to count

Getting Healthy One Step At A Time

The researchers could not tell why the exercise helped the kids reduce their smoking, but did say one healthy behavior often encourages others. They also said that even if a teen doesn’t reduce their smoking, the exercise is still good for their health.

Primary care physicians and medical specialists

It’s National Doctors’ Day: How to Find an MD

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


Have you bought a new refrigerator lately? If so, a national study suggests you spent more time researching that purchase than selecting your medical doctor (MD). That doesn’t sound right to me. After all, your refrigerator just keeps your food fresh; your physician helps keep you alive.

This finding raises some important questions. How can you get a good physician referral? Does everyone need a primary care doctor?

In honor of National Doctors’ Day, (March 30th), I’d like to review the features that may help you find an MD.

Start with questions. If all of the physicians on a list are equally qualified, what are the features that would matter to you beyond their credentials and experience? Only you can decide if the age or gender of your doctor provides some added measure of competence. Other questions you may want to consider are: Do you want a doctor who has electronic medical records and accepts emails from patients? Are you looking for a physician who will tell you what to do or let you be a partner in your own care? How close are the offices and in what hospitals do they have admitting privileges? How easy is it to get an appointment?

Ask around. Friends and family who have a doctor they like will be able to tell you about their doctor’s personality and how well their office is run based on personal experience. That’s valuable information you won’t find on a resume.

Pick the right primary. If you are in good health and just need a doctor for routine exams and treatments, a family-practice physician or general internist can meet your needs. But if you have a chronic medical condition that must be managed, such as diabetes, you may be better served by a specialist, such as an endocrinologist, with a diversified staff to meet your primary care needs. Similarly, women going through menopause may want a gynecologist as their primary-care giver, and those over 65 may prefer a geriatrician who can deal with multiple age-related issues.

Add some specialists. Once you have a trusted primary care doctor, that is the first person you should turn to when you need a physician referral to other specialists or surgeons. You may then ask friends and family about the specialists they use, and why, to see if any of the same names show up.

Check credentials. No matter how favorable a recommendation may be for a particular specialist, it is important to check whether they are certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties. There are 24 medical specialties and you want a practitioner who has completed an approved residency program and passed the written exam for their specialty. You should also verify that all your physicians have current licenses in the state in which the practice. This is available from the American Medical Association.

Know who’s covered. Depending on the type of health insurance policy you have, you will either be able to use the physicians and specialists of your choice or have to select from the approved providers in your plan. If you see a doctor outside of your plan, there will be extra charges.

Once you find an MD you’re happy with, you may want to show him or her how much appreciate all that they do for you as we celebrate National Doctor’s Day. One if the best ways is follow their instructions and take good care of yourself!

Surgery being performed on a properly prepped patient

Lower Risks of Surgery With Pre-surgery Diet

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


Although some surgical procedures are called “elective,” I have a hard time believing anyone ever really elects to have their body cut open so repairs can be made inside. What people are really choosing is when to have their surgery. No matter when you schedule it, it’s still pretty scary.

Even if you pick a date and get through the procedure, the risks of surgery don’t end when you’re all stitched up. The chances of an infection after surgery and other post-operative complications, such as hemorrhaging, blood clots, and pain, are very high.

Knowing how to reduce those complications is definitely an option I would elect. And a new study suggests that our pre-surgery diet may hold the key to a better recovery.

Reducing Surgical Stress

As important as surgery is to repairing the body, it is also a form of trauma. The more surgeons know about how to minimize surgical trauma, the better the recovery process is for their patients. Most of their attention has been focused on protecting vital organs and blood vessels, but now scientists are looking at how fat responds to stress.

Fat is a major component of the body and contrary to popular opinion, is viable, active tissue. Cutting through it during surgery is a source of trauma, or stress. Early evidence suggests that the trauma to fatty tissue in the body results in a change in the chemical balance of our fat cells that can negatively impact recovery time after surgery.

The Pre-Surgical Diet

In a study using mice, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found surgical trauma rapidly affected the fat tissues located both close to and distant from the surgical site. By changing the diets of the mice before surgery, they were able to affect inflammation, infection and wound healing in the mice.

A high fat diet before surgery produced the worst outcomes, while mild food restriction produced the best results. The researchers concluded that changing the pre-surgery diet may be an effective and inexpensive way to reduce the stress of surgery. The next step is to test their hypothesis on human subjects.

The study was published in the April 2013 issue of Surgery.

Problems with Hypothyroidism Run in the Family

Problems with Hypothyroidism Run in the Family

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can see it here.


Back in the days when the majority of American adults were not overweight, those who were would often blame it on a “sluggish thyroid.” While it is true that weight gain is a symptom of an underactive thyroid, I don’t hear that excuse much anymore.

Could it be that now that two-thirds of the population is carrying extra pounds, people have decided they don’t have problems with hypothyroidism?

In an odd twist of fate, they just might be wrong! It is estimated that 1.5 million Americans over the age of 12 have do not produce enough thyroid hormone, with half of the cases undiagnosed. The chances of developing hypothyroidism increase with age and women are five times more likely than men to suffer from it.

It’s worth knowing all of the symptoms caused by a low thyroxin level since unexplained weight gain is not the only issue linked to thyroid health. Heart disease, infertility and osteoporosis are also on the list, along with diabetes, arthritis and anemia.

Symptoms of an Underactive Thyroid

All of these symptoms are not experienced by everyone with an underactive thyroid, but these the most common ones.

  • Persistent Fatigue, Drowsiness
  • Weight Gain, Water Retention
  • Cold Intolerance, Low Body Temperature
  • Constipation
  • Thinning or Loss of Hair
  • Depression, Moodiness
  • Joint and Muscle Pain
  • Heavy or Irregular Menstrual Periods
  • Dry Skin, Brittle Nails
  • Puffy Face and Eyes

Diagnosing Problems with Hypothyroidism

Many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are the same as those for other diseases, so a diagnosis cannot be based on symptoms alone. Your physician will need to review your personal medical history to look for other signs of thyroid dysfunction and ask about your family history since thyroid problems are familial.

TSH Test – This test detects the amount of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) in the blood and is the most accurate way to measure thyroid function. TSH levels rise and fall based on how much thyroid hormone is being produced to meet your body’s needs. A result showing TSH above normal levels indicates hypothyroidism and a reading below normal means hyperthyroidism, or over-active thyroid.

T4 Test – This test measures the actual amount of circulating thyroid hormone in the blood. In hypothyroidism, the T4 levels are lower than normal.

Restoring Thyroid Health

Hypothyroidism can be almost completely controlled by taking a synthetic form of the hormone thyroxin. The hitch is getting the dose right, taking the medication properly and avoiding interference from other medications.

That means you’ll need to have your TSH level checked every 6-8 weeks after beginning treatment so adjustment can be made in the dosage until it is right for you. Once the TSH levels are stable, you will need to have them monitored the rest of your life since your condition can, and will, change with age and other changes in your health status.

There is no special diet for treating hypothyroidism. As for the excess weight, once you’re on the right medication, your metabolism will start working properly again and the weight should come off. You’ll also feel more energetic so can resume regular exercise.

Shingles pain can last for months after the initial outbreak.

Living in Fear of Shingles Pain

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read it here.


If, like me, you have a low pain threshold, then shingles is on your radar. It’s described as one of the most painful conditions you can be cursed with, often accompanied by the word “excruciating.” As if that weren’t bad enough, there is no cure. Some people experience “severe” pain that can last for years. Being a wimp, I made a point to learn everything I could about shingles.

Risk of Getting Shingles

The biggest factor that raises your risk of developing shingles is having had chicken pox. With it comes a 10% to 30% lifetime chance you’ll get shingles because the varicella-zoster virus that causes chicken pox remains dormant in the body after chicken pox have healed.

As we age, the risk increases due, in part, to a weakening of the immune system. By age 85 the risk increases to 50%.

About 1 million cases of shingles are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Half of them are in people over the age of 60.

Diseases that weaken the immune system, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, make us more vulnerable, along with immune-blocking treatments, such as chemotherapy and the anti-rejection drugs used after organ transplants.

The only good news here is that you cannot catch shingles from someone who has it, but if you never had chicken pox, you can get them from being around someone with shingles.

Signs and Symptoms of Shingles

The first sign is a tingling or burning sensation on the skin, much like a mild sunburn that makes the skin sensitive to touch. Within a few days a red rash will appear on one side of the body, the neck or face. A few days later the rash will be covered with fluid-filled blisters. After 3-4 days the blisters dry up and crust over, but the redness remains.

The whole episode can last from 3-5 weeks from when the rash first appears.

Prevention and Treatment of Shingles

The CDC recommends those age 60 and older get the shingles vaccine, called Zostavax. It is given as an injection and can protect the body from reactivation of the virus, much like getting a tetanus booster.

It is still possible to develop shingles once you’ve had the vaccine, but your case may not last as long or be as severe compared to people who were not vaccinated.

If a rash does appear on your body and there is no other logical explanation for it, see your doctor immediately so you can be diagnosed and begin treatment, if it is shingles, before the blisters appear. Early use of anti-viral medication, such as acyclovir or valacyclovir, can help prevent the shingles from multiplying, speed the drying of the blisters, and reduce some of the pain.

Prescription pain medication may also be needed and antibiotics if blisters become infected.

Complications From Shingles

Post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a serious complication that strikes about 1 in 5 people with shingles. It causes debilitating pain that can linger for months or even years in the area where the rash first appeared. The unrelenting pain of PHN can lead to depression, sleeplessness and an inability to carry on normal daily activities. In these cases, other medications may be needed to more aggressively treat the pain and disability that goes with it.

There is a risk of the blisters becoming infected, so it is important to keep that area clean and free from exposure to irritants.

Shingles that develops on the face can be critical if it spreads near the eyes, and may cause blindness.

Hearing loss, pneumonia, and inflammation of the brain are also dangerous complications.

If you have pockmarks from your childhood case of chickenpox, let them be a reminder to keep your immune system strong and get vaccinated to prevent shingles.

Willard Scott celebrates centenarians on The Today Show.

Longevity vs Healthy Aging

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can see the post here.


After a certain age, birthdays become a cruel reminder that the time we have in front of us is shorter than the time we have behind us. Euphemisms for growing old start to pepper our vocabulary. Aging gracefully, successful aging and active aging have actually crossed my lips already.

As I celebrate another birthday, I am once again reflecting on the aging process.

Lessons On Aging From The Century Club

I’ve learned a lot about healthy aging from the centenarians Willard Scott pays tribute to in his segments on The Today Show. (By the way, Willard turns 79 this month.) I’ve never heard a single one say they credit their longevity to following the Mediterranean Diet. Not only that, not a single one has ever admitted living anywhere near the Mediterranean Sea.

None of the smiling seniors Scott has featured in his morning interviews has ever said they did Pilates every day, or yoga, or crunches. In fact, I can’t recall any fitness tips from any of them.

No one who has celebrated their 100th birthday with The Today Show has bothered to mention that they ate only organic food their entire life or lived it without sugar, salt and white flour. To the contrary, the one thing they all had in common was eating plenty of birthday cake!

Making Healthy Aging a Way of Life

When I looked for evidence of an anti-aging formula in the scientific literature there was only one thing that was 100 percent guaranteed: It’s big business.

Sales of things that promise to slow the aging process probably jumped with the release of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It informs us that we are all going to live longer thanks to modern medicine and new technology that can keep us alive in spite of our bad habits, but we’re not necessarily going to enjoy those added years. The irony is we’ll be having more birthdays, but may be too weak, sick, or in pain to go to our own parties.

That is unless we take up the fitness alternative.

One thing that does help people cross the finish line on their own two feet is being active. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine last year found those who are the most fit in midlife – that’s means in their 30s, 40s, 50s – not only delay the onset of chronic diseases, they also shorten the amount of time suffering from them after the age of 65.

A key finding was that higher levels of midlife fitness don’t necessarily increase longevity, but they do reduce the number of years we might spend living with congestive heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, or colon and lung cancers. Another study published in January of this year titled, Years of Life Gained Due to Leisure-Time Physical Activity in the U.S., came to similar conclusions.

I know genetics and environment have a say in how long I’ll live and how well, but they don’t have the final word. So I’m going to pad my odds by having more fun. There are endless ways to stay fit, and as long as you’re having fun while doing them, it’s a great way to grow old.

Here are some other thoughts on longevity you might enjoy:

  • How to Predict Longevity in Women
  • Factors That Affect Life Expectancy
Campaign raises heart disease awareness in woman using red dress symbol and helps them prevent heart disease by learning heart facts

Red Dress Symbol Helps Prevent Heart Disease in Women

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.


As we all know by now, Michelle Obama wore a red dress to the inaugural ball. When she made her appearance it answered the biggest question since the election, “Who designed her gown?” I’m sure no one was thinking about her choice as a symbol for heart disease awareness in women.

But if seeing that Jason Wu gown was a reminder to women to learn our risk factors to prevent heart disease, it may have saved many lives. One woman out of every four in the United States will die from heart disease this year. Knowing the heart facts represented by that red dress is important for us all, but even more so for African American women whose rates of heart disease are twice those of white women.

What Is Heart Disease?

Any disease affecting the heart or the blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen and nutrients to it is a form of heart disease. It includes hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke (loss of blood to the brain), dysrhythmias (abnormalities in heart rhythm), cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), congestive heart failure (inability to pump sufficient blood), inflammatory heart disease (inflammation of the heart muscle) and rheumatic heart disease (infection in the heart).

These are not just diseases that happen to men or old people.

Heart disease occurs in women at the same rate as men, and at any age, but women are much less likely to pay attention to the early warning signs. That’s a problem because there is no cure for it. No pills, no procedures, no surgery can make heart disease go away. Once you have it you’ll always have it. Early intervention is the only way to minimize the damage and extend the quality of one’s life.

So what are we waiting for ladies?

What Can We Do To Prevent Heart Disease?

The risks for heart disease fall into two simple categories: Risks you can’t change and those you can. Age and family history fall into the first category. Smoking, being inactive or overweight are in the second.

I love this handy wallet card that lists the questions you should ask your doctor to find out your personal risk of heart disease. It provides a place to record the all-important “numbers” that help determine your risk, explains what the goals are for improving those numbers, and suggests things you can do to lower them. One recommendation is to adopt a heart-healthy diet, which is good for the entire family.

Are you ready to get started? With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there will be plenty of red dresses to remind you. Once you know how to prevent heart disease, be sure to share the red dress story to raise heart disease awareness in your daughters, sisters, nieces, aunts, mothers, and other women in your life so they can lower their risk, too.

Heart disease research shows eggs unfairly blamed for clogged arteries in cardiovascular disorders

Clogged Arteries Are Not Due to Eggs

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.


One of the first things I remember learning about cardiovascular disorders as a student dietitian was that clogged arteries was the common cause. I vividly recall the illustration in my textbook of a heart attack triggered by a blockage in the flow of blood. The heart disease research available at the time hinted that it was the cholesterol in eggs that was responsible for that blockage.

I’d like to revisit the subject of eggs, cholesterol and heart disease as we celebrate American Heart Month.

Eggs were first linked to the rising rates of cardiovascular disorders in this country back in the 1970s. As a result, dietary guidelines started recommending that we limit our consumption of egg yolks to no more than 3 per week.

That triggered a lot of diners to add egg white omelets to their menus, but it didn’t slow down the rates of heart disease. It is the number one cause of death for men and women alike, and has held that distinction for over 60 years. More Americans will die of heart disease this year than all forms of cancer combined.

600,000 deaths a year can’t possibly be due to eggs.

What’s Do You Like With Your Eggs?

Some of the earliest evidence used to blame eggs for heart disease was based on research that showed the people who ate the most eggs had a greater incidence of heart attacks than those who ate few eggs. But as we should all know by now, that kind of data does not prove causation.

A closer look on the plates of the egg eaters revealed they liked their eggs with bacon or sausage, fried potatoes, buttered toast and cream in their coffee, followed by a cigarette. When more diligent researchers took a look at what else the big breakfast crowd was eating, they found plenty of other incriminating evidence. Their diets were filled with meats high in saturated fats and low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, yet eggs took all the blame for their chest pain.

Then there was the research that showed heart disease was caused by clogged arteries, and the plaque clogging our arteries was formed by cholesterol, and eggs were high in cholesterol. The advice that followed was to eat fewer eggs to stop plaque formation. But the dots hadn’t been connected yet that could prove the cholesterol in eggs was the same cholesterol that found in heart-stopping plaque.

As it turned out, those dots didn’t connect. The dietary cholesterol we get from egg yolks, liver and lobster is not the same cholesterol that ends up causing clogged arteries. Instead, we make our own custom cholesterol, mostly from saturated fat, and eggs are low in saturated fat.

Vindication of the Egg

A large scale study published this month in the British Medical Journal provides a much-needed defense of the egg. Scientists did a meta-analysis of 17 previously published reports on egg consumption and the incidence of heart disease or stroke. The analysis included over 12,000 cases of either heart disease or stroke and follow up that covered more than 7 million “person years.” The conclusion was that consuming up to an egg a day was not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke among non-diabetic people.

Getting to The Heart Truth About Heart Disease

Just like eating eggs does not cause heart disease, wearing red doesn’t stop it. The Heart Truth campaign uses the red dress to promote awareness of the risk factors for heart disease in women so we will take action to lower our risk. The first step is to know these numbers:

  • Blood pressure
  • Blood cholesterol
  • Blood glucose
  • Body Mass Index (based on height and weight)
  • Waist circumference

If your numbers are too high, work with your health care team to lower them. At least you won’t have to worry about giving up eggs to do it!