What Is the Best Nutritional Advice Ever Given?

How long has this column recommended a high-fiber diet? Since March 1978 when readers were informed that processed foods create a “slow assembly line” in the bowels. Now some of the world’s most highly regarded nutritional scientists at Imperial College London say dietary fiber is “the best health advice of all time”!

What is it about fiber that is so important? Soluble fiber dissolves in the stomach and can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Insoluble fiber passes through the digestive system, supporting a faster assembly line that moves waste out, reducing the risks for hemorrhoids and colon disease that creep up when hard stools loiter the bowels.

Experts agree that women need about 25-30 grams of fiber daily, and men about 30-35 grams. Children need substantial fiber too. But on average, North Americans are consuming only 15 grams of fiber a day.

Instead, most people are choosing too much processed food – white flour, sugar, low-quality breakfast cereal, chips, pies, processed meat, and ready meals, to name a few. One must shake the head when the benefits of fiber have been known for so long.

Dr. Denis Burkitt, an Irish researcher, reported decades ago that even disadvantaged populations in Africa consumed large amounts of fiber and had healthy bowel movements. Unlike better off Europeans, they did not suffer from constipation, and it was rare to see appendicitis and large bowel problems.

Most people won’t remember the King George V battleship chasing the German battleship Bismarck in World War II. But the British captain was also a medical expert. He brought sacks of bran on board to fight the common ailment at sea of constipation. The bowels of the battleship and the sailors performed very well!

Going back further in history, Hippocrates, who lived from 460-370 BC, told the people of Athens that to keep healthy they should have large bulky bowel movements. He scrutinized the stools of his patients to diagnose problems and recommended bread, fruits and vegetables.

Today we know that whole wheat, fruits and vegetables are high in fiber. Bananas, tomatoes, prunes, celery and roasted almonds are also good choices. Don’t forget the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” The reason? An apple can contain over 3 grams of fiber.

Be sure you’re not fooled by food labels. Look for the words “whole grain” or “whole wheat” on bread. One slice contains about two grams of fiber. Breads that are labelled “multigrain” may contain little or no fiber.

How do you know if you’re getting sufficient fiber? Be like Hippocrates and have a look in the toilet bowl. Small, hard, stools are a problem. A high fiber diet will result in regular soft stools having the texture of bananas.

Fiber also fights obesity. One apple loaded with fiber has a filling effect. Wait a few minutes after eating one to note how it eliminates the hunger reflex.

Get “fiber smart” and begin the day with a bowl of high fiber cereal along with a banana, blueberries, or other fruits and nuts. Then select meals at lunch and dinner that provide more fiber. Pass on the processed options. Desserts don’t need to be loaded with unhealthy calories. Apple crumble is an example of a high fiber dessert.

No one can claim that fiber is bad for your health. But keep in mind that adding too much fiber too quickly could cause a commotion in the bowels in the form of intestinal gas and bloating. Increase fiber in the diet gradually.

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Ecosystem Biodiversity Important to Human Health and Nutrition

The routine of modern-day life for most of us involves regular trips to the grocery store and three meals a day. The regular patterns of our diet can be a source of comfort or a rushed necessity. But is eating the same familiar foods – often the same recipes, products, brands, over and over, day by day – good for us?

As nutritious as a “well-balanced” diet may be, there are good reasons to strive for a more diverse diet.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the acclaimed Nigerian writer, was not referring to plant and animal ecosystems when she wrote, “Diversity is not about feeling included, it’s about feeling valued.” Yet, she’d surely agree. Unless biodiversity is valued, it will lose ground, quite literally.

Now, new research is showing that valuing diversity in the natural world has important implications for human health.

A study in the journal PNAS examines the relationship between aquatic biodiversity and human health. Researchers found that aquatic ecosystems, such as rivers, lakes, and oceans, provide a wide range of nutritional benefits to human populations.

According to the study, consuming a diet that includes a variety of fish, seaweed, and other aquatic foods can help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, these foods are rich in important nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, and iron, which are essential for human health.

The researchers also found that consuming a diverse range of aquatic foods can have positive impacts on the environment. By promoting the consumption of a wider range of fish and other aquatic foods, fisheries and aquaculture can diversify their operations and reduce pressure on overfished species.

Protecting the biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems is essential for continued access to nutritional benefits. Yet, climate change and human activities have already impacted the health of the world’s water. Conservation and sustainable use simply haven’t been the priority.

Land surfaces, where humans live, haven’t fared any better. Scientists are concerned about the health of the soil, grasses, and forbs that many animal species depend on for their dietary nutrition. 

Dr. Forest Isbell, professor of ecology at the University of Minnesota, notes, “Land use changes and overexploitation are driving changes in biodiversity and ecosystems in many parts of the world.”

Isbell has closely read the research published in PNAS and thinks the findings are likely to be replicated in other ecosystems. He’s involved in studies that test the effects of biodiversity in grasslands that provide essential forage for grazing livestock. “It’s an important question,” he says. “Due to widespread farming and overgrazing by livestock, we have seen significant biodiversity loss in many grasslands.  Just as people benefit from a diverse diet, so too do our livestock. By studying how biodiversity of grasses affects nutritional content of forage for herd animals, for example, we will be better able to inform policies and practices designed to protect land-based ecosystems.”

Human health depends on a diverse diet that delivers vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, water, and carbohydrates. It’s essential to place high value on the availability and quality of these components, as demonstrated by growing evidence of a vital relationship ecosystem biodiversity and human health.

Sadly, a study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that 95 percent of the calories consumed worldwide come from a mere 30 species. Farmers cultivate only about 150 of the 30,000 edible plant species. And 90 percent of the food from domesticated livestock comes from only 14 animals.

What can health-conscious consumers do? In the next trip to the grocery store, think about the choices and try pick out a diverse range of foods, including from aquatic sources.

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What to do when things fall down

The law of gravity means our bodies are pulled down to Earth. This fact inevitably spells trouble over time. But for some women, it causes inconvenient and annoying issues, and sometimes surgery, to address what’s called vaginal prolapse.

Not all women are born equal. Some inherit tougher pelvic tissues and do not experience prolapse, even after bearing several children. But the more pregnancies, the greater the risk in older age of weakened all pelvic structures leading to the sagging of the vagina, urinary bladder and often the rectum.

The most common complaint is the loss of urine on coughing and sneezing. A large survey of women in North America revealed that four percent suffer from this annoying problem.

Apart from pregnancy, what else can contribute to prolapse? Obesity is a factor, causing so many other medical complications too. It is staggering that some women still smoke. If cancer and respiratory diseases aren’t incentives enough to quit, then maybe vaginal prolapse should be more prominently added to the list. Why? A smoker’s cough pushes on the urinary bladder. Prolapse can also be worsened by heavily lifting.

Here’s another concern. Many women continue to suffer needlessly from chronic constipation. Why do they strain their innards and try to solve the problem with laxatives? This harms the bowel over the course of years.

One of the best kept secrets is that vitamin C is a safe, inexpensive, effective, and natural remedy for constipation. But it must be in higher doses than found in most supplements. Start with taking 2,000 milligrams before bed. If no results, increase to 4,000 mg the following night. It invariably works.

Remember, simply because prolapse has developed does not mean it always be treated. This is an important point to stress because many women with prolapse will never know they have the condition. Awareness usually becomes evident when they start to experience troublesome urinary incontinence.

What can be done depends on the severity of prolapse and if it’s causing annoyance. The most frequent treatment is the use of a vaginal pessary which is easy to insert and can be easily removed to be cleaned.

The use of a pessary will help to elevate the urinary prolapse and may stop the loss of urine. But sometimes in elderly women another easy and effective treatment is acceptable. Inserting a large vaginal tampon to push up the bladder can help ease the loss of urine.

Prevention is advantage of those not yet dealing with serious prolapse. So in addition to maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, eating a nutritious diet, and sleeping well, don’t forget moderate exercise for the entire body, including those easy-to-miss pelvic muscles. Develop a habit of doing Kegel exercises several times a day. This is done by concentrating on pulling up the pelvic and rectal muscles. It’s possible to do this seated, standing, or lying down. So identify a consistent place and time each day, and do it. The more you exercise these muscles, the stronger they will become.

If all this fails, doctors will suggest surgery. There are several methods. One is to stitch up the position of the bladder. Your surgeon may also advise an artificial support for extra strength. Or the prolapse can be repaired during a hysterectomy.

Do men develop prolapse? Yes, but much less often and it’s usually a prolapse of the rectal area.

Marilyn Monroe famously said, “I defy gravity.” But such fortunes elude most people. Talk with your doctor and see if treatment can get the annoyance resolved.

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Don’t Let Food Safety in the Kitchen Lapse

It’s an age-old problem, but not one that should come with age. Yet, compared to younger culinary novices, elderly people may be more prone to making mistakes in food preparation that can lead to food poisoning.

Kitchens can be a dangerous place. So no harm in having a refresher to make sure food safety in the kitchen doesn’t lapse. You know why. Recall that occasion when it seemed like a good meal – until later, when cramps, nausea and diarrhea had you vowing never to eat again.  Unless you’ve been visiting uncared for places or you are victim to an outbreak of foodborne illness, there’s no excuse for food poisoning other than an unfortunate mistake.

Unfortunately, mistakes happen, and with some frequency in the kitchens of seniors. For example, a study published in the Journal of Food Protection found that older adults were less likely to use food thermometers when cooking meat, increasing the risk of undercooked meat.

Another study found that elderly people were more likely to store food at unsafe temperatures, such as leaving perishable foods out at room temperature for too long or storing them in the refrigerator at temperatures above 40°F (4°C). This could increase the risk of bacterial growth.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that older adults are more likely to develop severe complications from foodborne illnesses, such as kidney failure or sepsis, due to age-related changes in the immune system and underlying health conditions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that contaminated food is one of the most serious health problems in the world. It’s usually due to an organism called E. coli. And for infants, pregnant women and the elderly the consequences of consuming it can be fatal.

The good news is that food safety in the kitchen is straightforward and largely unchanging.

One – Wash your hands repeatedly. Your fingers are excellent at transmitting infection.

Two – Keep kitchen surfaces meticulously clean. Bacteria always win if you become careless.

Three – Protect food from insects and rodents in cupboards and drawers. Animals often carry pathogenic organisms that cause foodborne disease. Store food in closed containers.

Four – Many foods such as fruits and vegetables are better in their natural state. But others are not safe unless they’re processed. For instance, lettuce needs thorough washing and pasteurized milk is safer than raw milk.

Five – Cook food thoroughly. Many raw foods such as poultry, meats and eggs may be contaminated with disease causing organisms. Thorough cooking will kill the pathogens. So if cooked chicken is raw near the bone put it back in the oven until it’s done.

Six – Eat cooked foods immediately. When cooked foods cool to room temperature, bacteria begin to multiply. The longer the wait the greater the risk.

Seven – Store cooked foods carefully. A common error is putting too large a quantity of warm food in the refrigerator. In an overburdened refrigerator, food remains warm too long allowing bacteria to proliferate.

Eight – Reheat cooked foods thoroughly. This is your best protection against bacteria that may have developed during storage.

Nine – Avoid contact between raw foods and cooked foods. For instance, safely cooked foods can become contaminated by even the slightest contact with raw food. So don’t prepare a raw chicken and then use the same unwashed cutting board and knife to carve a cooked bird.

Ten – Add a pinch of common sense. If something seems “off”, then don’t eat it. If food is past it’s expiry date, throw it out.

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Fire the Canons! It’s Daylight Savings Time!

In a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris in 1784, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” In his advocacy for people to wake up and leverage the day, Franklin joked there should be a tax on window shutters, candles should be rationed, and canons should be fired at sunrise!But it was the small town of Port Arthur in northern Ontario that first changed the clocks by enactment on July 1, 1908.In recent times, one of the main arguments for shifting the time to align with the sun focuses on energy savings during evening hours. But dozens of studies have shown the effect to be negligible.

Now, the health implications of Daylight Savings Time (DST) are becoming the hot topic, with researchers investigating its impact on everything from sleep patterns to heart health.

The effect of DST on sleep is significant. Numerous studies have found the time change can disrupt our sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation and increased fatigue. This is particularly true in Spring, when we lose an hour of sleep and our bodies struggle to adjust to the new schedule.

The time change and associated disruption to sleep patterns can have more serious health consequences. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the risk of heart attacks increased by 25% on the Monday following the springtime change. This is powerful evidence that disturbed sleep patterns can be highly stressful on the cardiovascular system.

Mental health can be another victim. One study published in Sleep Medicine found the springtime change was associated with increased symptoms of depression, particularly in people who already had a history of depression. The study’s findings further suggested that the disruption to sleep patterns might even trigger the onset of depressive symptoms.

One strategy to mitigate these problems is to adjust sleep patterns leading up to the time change. For those observing a regular nighttime routine, this means going to bed and waking up 15 minutes earlier each day in the week leading up to the change. Even for those without a firm pattern, making the effort to shift forward in advance – both physically and mentally – should help.

Another strategy is to prioritize good sleep. Create a comfortable sleep environment, establish a regular sleep schedule, and avoid caffeine and alcohol in the hours leading up to bedtime.

Are you tired of the debate about DST? Worse, are you “tired all the time”? You may need to take a closer look at the benefits of getting a good sleep. Sleep scientists can present compelling evidence showing how being tired leads to increased risk of traffic accidents, for example. Studies also link poor sleep with obesity, diabetes, cancer and dementia. Abnormal sleep and psychiatric conditions go hand in glove.

Don’t forget the function of sleep as a sort of garbage collection system. During sleep, the body rejuvenates the brain by sorting “keeper” information from “trash”. Sleep also helps the body clear out and clean up waste in the cardiovascular system while refueling immune function.

If there is a good argument in favour of DST, it might be Franklin’s suggestion to fire a canon each morning at sunrise. That would surely get people on their feet and outside to take a look. An early morning experience in the outdoors – whether it be a walk or even just a few moments of quiet contemplate about the new day – is an excellent step to good health.

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100th Trip Around the Sun

People often ask me, what’s my secret to a long and healthy life? This week, I start my 100th trip around the sun. So I must acknowledge that Lady Luck has been on my side. But it’s not just good luck, or good genes.

As a medical doctor, I learned early that the best way to stay healthy is to avoid getting sick. Doctors can occasionally work miracles. But these are rare, and you should not count on them as a strategy for a long and healthy life.

Your physical body is your only vehicle on this journey of life. It’s been said, “If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?”

So take this to heart. Rule #1 for good health and longevity is to follow a sound lifestyle starting early in life. And Rule #2 is, never forget rule #1.

Even so, problems can creep up.

Over many years now, I’ve told readers to be wary of pharmaceutical drugs. When I suffered a heart attack at 74-years of age, I chose a high dose vitamin C regimen to combat build up of plaque in coronary arteries. Twenty-five years later, my ticker and cardiovascular system are still going.

Doctors advised me to take statins. They said I wouldn’t live 5 years without them.

But I prefer to focus on the fundamentals, not to treat the symptoms. So here are a sample of the common-sense ingredients for good health:

  1. Get regular exercise including aerobic and strength training to maintain physical and mental health.
  2. Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Avoid processed foods, sugar, salt, and excess alcohol.
  3. Manage stress using techniques that ease your mind, whether it be meditation and mindfulness, a workout, or a favourite comedy show.
  4. Sleep well, enabling the body and mind to rest and recharge.
  5. Schedule regular medical check-ups, especially to get access to screening tests that help identify and treat heath issues early on.

I have expressed frustration at times when people fail to do these simple things to protect their health. But I’ve also acknowledged that changing behaviours can be difficult.

So I’ve argued that people should build simple and regular habits that promote good health. One of them is stepping on the bathroom scale everyday. It never lies.

On matters of another scale, it confounds me greatly that humankind can be so cruel and misguided. War, pollution, and poverty are among the features of our social landscape that will condemn the chances of many people to reach a healthy old age. But I don’t know how to stop the madness.

In light of it all, there’s little chance of a healthy, long life if you are not happy. Enjoyable social connections with family and friends are undervalued among the determinants of health. The effects of laughter on physical and mental health haven’t been studied enough. But a life of laughter is good practice for old age, when for all its benefits, you also need coping mechanisms – and there is none better than a good laugh.

As I journey for my 100th trip around the sun, I would like to thank all my readers for your birthday greetings and especially for the feedback regarding how this column has occasionally been helpful to you. I always aim to write in a way that is both informative and thought-provoking. And I am not done yet!

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Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin


Vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”. This is because it is synthesized in our skin in response to sunlight. The beauty of Vitamin D is that it’s free – a great model for “all things in moderation” too.

There are two main forms of vitamin D: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is the form that is synthesized in the skin, while vitamin D2 is found in some plant-based foods and supplements.

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in maintaining bone health by promoting the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the diet. It also helps to regulate the immune system and may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, such as colon, breast, and prostate cancer.

Despite the importance of vitamin D, many people are deficient in this essential nutrient. In fact, studies suggest that up to 50% of the global population may have insufficient or deficient levels of vitamin D!

Symptoms of deficiency can vary, including fatigue, depression, cognitive decline and dementia. Bone density loss increases the risk of fractures and falls in older people. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Why does a deficiency develop? It can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from sunlight, especially during the winter months. Additionally, vitamin D is found in relatively few foods, so it can be challenging to get enough vitamin D from the diet.

Scientific studies have found income, gender and ethnicity differences in vitamin D status globally. One study looked at the vitamin D status of over 1,000 healthy Japanese adults and found that 40% of women and 26% of men had vitamin D deficiency and that individuals of non-Japanese ethnicity were more likely to have vitamin D deficiency than those of Japanese ethnicity. A study in the US found that people with higher incomes were more likely to be using supplements, and therefore less likely to suffer deficiencies. Consumer choices and food prices may also be important. Studies have found that consumption of fortified milk and mild products, or example, has a major effect on likelihood of deficiency.

If you need to know your vitamin D level, a blood test will determine it. But as the philosopher Voltaire once said, “the best is the enemy of the good.” Getting regular intake of Vitamin D should be the goal, not trying to measure daily levels.

Make it a habit to get some vitamin D everyday. The most effective way is to get sunlight directly on your skin. Spending 10-15 minutes outside in the sun each day with your arms and legs exposed will help your vitamin D levels, plus sunshine is a “feel good” prescription in general. Be sure to protect your skin with sunscreen if enjoying longer exposure.

But getting outside without layers of clothes can be difficult during the winter months, especially in northern latitudes. So don’t forget you also get vitamin D from certain foods include fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel), egg yolks, and fortified foods (such as milk, orange juice, and cereal).

If you’re not one for being in the sun and concerned the Vitamin D is your diet is insufficient, a daily supplement can help. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D varies depending on age, sex, and other factors, but in general, adults need between 600 and 800 international units (IU) per day.

The upper limit for vitamin D intake is 4,000 IU per day for adults, and it’s important not to exceed this amount unless under medical supervision.

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The promise of 3D printing in healthcare


In healthcare, it’s the elusive breakthrough to a cure for diseases like cancer that has us all hoping. But sometimes it’s the bit-by-bit advancements, rarely getting headings, that make for greater impact. An example is the field of 3D printing, not even a medical technology by inception, but now a major disruptive force in the healthcare industry.

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing allows the construction of physical objects based on three-dimensional digital models. A futuristic notion until recently, such printers are now commonly found in high schools, university libraries and labs, and also in a fabulous array of high-tech companies producing medical devices, and yes, body parts of all kinds.

Hearing aid manufacturers were early adopters of 3D printing technology. From a silicone mold of the ear canal, a 3D scanner creates a digital model, a 3D printer produces it, then hearing aid components are inserted. The entire process takes less than a day.

Sounds impressive? That’s just the start. Here are a few of the truly amazing stories of 3D printing in medicine.

In 2012, a 20-month-old baby received the surgical implant of a 3D-printed biodegradable windpipe to resolve a rare condition of weak and collapsing airway walls.

Use of the technology to repair damage to the skull is remarkable enough. But in 2014, a 22-year-old woman in the Netherlands suffering from a bone disorder had the entire top part of her skull replaced with a 3D-printed implant. Three months after the 23-hour surgery, she was symptom free and back to work!

Not just for the young, an 83-year-old woman with a chronic jaw infection was the recipient of the first titanium 3D-printed jaw. Using reconstructive surgery would have taken 20 hours and entailed too many risks at her age. But her doctors needed only four hours to conduct the implant and reported that she was able to speak and swallow normally the day after surgery and to go home after four days.

Treatments for heart defects and heart disease are on the horizon. Using precise bioprinting technology, customized heart valves are a medical marvel.

Printing entire organs is not a wild dream. Nearly ten years ago, they became a reality when the first livers and kidneys were produced. To date, these devices are only used for testing purposes. But an important step towards fully functional organs is the production of 3D-printed viable blood vessels, and these have now been produced and successfully implanted in animals.

Given the long lists of people waiting for organ transplants and the ethical issues of animal testing, advancements cannot come fast enough.

In other areas of medicine, amazing innovations are in the works. For example, 3D-printed skin tissue infused with stem cells is a possible new treatment for severe burns. Among the tiniest of printed innovations, researchers have created microscopic objects that can be tracked as they travel in blood vessels, the gut biome, or reproductive systems, helping advance the field of drug delivery, for instance.

It won’t be long before we see 3D printers spitting out exact replicas of teeth, leaving drills and fillings to the history books.

3D printing is even getting stylish. Building prosthetic limbs used to be about delivering functionality to someone who has lost an arm or leg. Now a digital model can replicate the exact shape of the lost limb. How long until the mechanics can be embedded in a natural-looking casing with the touch and sensory characteristics of skin?

3D printing is not a cure for cancer, but the technology is a reminder that solutions sometimes come from unexpected places.

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OPINION TEASER: The promise of 3D printing
In healthcare, it’s the elusive breakthrough to a cure for diseases like cancer that has us all hoping. But sometimes it’s the bit-by-bit advancements, rarely getting headings, that make for greater impact.

Millennials Opting Out of Having Children


W. Gifford Jones, MD and Diana Gifford Jones
Common Sense Health

A Moroccan proverb claims, “If a man leaves little children behind him, it is as if he did not die.” A Sanskrit saying translates as, “A house without children is only a cemetery.” Having children may be central to sustained human life. But over the past several years, there has been a crescendo of voices arguing for restraint. The most fervent views are expressed by women concerned about climate change.

We know some couples decide on a childless marriage in exchange for personal freedom. Others worry about the risk of a difficult child or the effect of a child on an unhappy marriage. And there are other reasons people opt out of parenthood. As Napoleon Bonaparte concluded while in exile on the island of St. Helena, “Children are always ungrateful.”

The BirthStrike Movement is an activist group choosing to forgo having children to protect them from worsening social, economic, and environmental conditions. They may be right that deciding not to have children is possibly one of the most effective way individuals can cut their own carbon emissions. According to analysts at Morgan Stanley, “Having a child is 7-times worse for the climate in CO2 emissions annually than the next 10 most discussed mitigants that individuals can do.”

There does seem to be a trend among Millennials away from having children. But aside from the activists, do young people have a generalized concern about the consequences of climate change, enough to change the urge for children? Or has something else happened?

It is undoubtedly a great injustice to subject innocent children to the hazards of a polluted, poisonous planet. Can you blame would-be parents for opting out when scientists raise alarms that their children will encounter more floods, droughts, fires, tornadoes, and famine, fight wars over water, land and other resources, and that economic crises will lead to social chaos?

There are other considerations that affect fertility rates. For instance, having a child can send a woman’s career into the abyss. A study from the University of Massachusetts examining data from 1979 to 2006 found that, on average, men earn 6 percent more when they had children (and lived with them), while women earn 4 percent less for every child. More recent studies show the same. In 2019, a study using data from the US census found mothers earned 71 cents for every dollar earned by fathers. Women have a justified right to complain.

Friendships can also take a hit. A survey of 1000 parents revealed almost half of moms and dads had fewer friends after children were born. In addition, there was less marital satisfaction.

CivicScience, a polling platform, adds another depressing note. They analyzed one million responses and concluded that non-parents lead healthier lifestyles, sleep longer, exercise more, drink less coffee, smoke less, avoid fast food restaurants, and were less overweight.

But what about the health benefits of parenthood. There is good news for women, including decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding lowers the chance of type 2 diabetes. And a University of California study reports that for children born to mothers over age 25, there’s an 11 percent greater chance of living to 90.

Finally, does having children mean parents are happier and less lonely later in life? Researchers in Germany found that parents tend to be happier than non-parents in old age, but this only holds if their kids have moved out! Older people without children get similar rewards to those having children, it seems, by maintaining any close social connections that share their issues and concerns.

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Think twice before shoveling the snow


What should we conclude when health experts say people over 45 should not shovel snow? That’s a young age! What could be so threatening about clearing the snow to people in the prime of life?

A winter storm may inspire some to curl up under a blanket. But for others, it’s a call to arms. Driveways must be cleared. Sidewalks too. And there’s no point in doing only half the job.

But caution is the order. Shoveling snow can be a dangerous activity. Several years ago, the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported on the link between heart attack and snowfall. Researchers matched weather data against hospital data for the 65,000 heart attacks in Quebec between 1981 and 2014. Among men, who tend to do more shoveling than women, they found a heavy snowfall of 20 cm was associated with a 34 per cent relative increased risk of death!

In the United States, between 1990 and 2006, almost 200,000 individuals made emergency department visits for snow shovel–related incidents, averaging about 11,500 individuals annually. Cardiac arrest was the deadly result of shovelling for 1,647 people. Other hazardous results included soft tissue and lower back injuries. The exertion of shoveling was not the only concern. Slips and falls while shovelling accounted for one of five patients. A further 15 percent of patients had been hit by a shovel!

Heavy snowfall does make for uncommon risks, even among northern dwellers. In Finland, in 2010, quite astonishingly, there was an epidemic of accidental falls from rooftops by people attempting to clear snow. During a three-month period, just one hospital saw 46 victims.

In Japan’s northern Akita prefecture too, between December 2009 to March 2012, 352 people required emergency department visits because of falls from heights while clearing snow, and of these 16 died.

Even after a public service campaign about the hazards, between December 2015 and March 2018, another 168 people fell from heights while clearing snow. Seven of them died.

Most people don’t stop to consider the risks before setting out to clear snow. But an explanation might get them thinking.

Dusting off the deck after a light snow is probably not going to cause a cardiac event. But shovelling heavy snow even for a short time is akin to a hard workout. To do it on a single occasion, without gradually working up to that heavy level of exertion, is inviting trouble.

People with high blood pressure should be especially cautious, as should those who are overweight, smoke or have an inactive lifestyle. Why? Because shovelling will raise both blood pressure and heart rate. These are the conditions that invite plaque build-up in the arteries to rupture, forming a blood clot that causes a heart attack.

What’s the solution? Common sense and moderation.

Don’t shovel after eating or drinking alcohol, just as you wouldn’t go for a heavy workout at such times. Would you workout in a snowsuit? Probably not, so be ready to take layers off as your body heats up. Unless you’ve prepared for a heavy workout, approach the task in smaller pieces. Take breaks and drink water.

Experts also recommend another lifesaving measure – everyone should learn CPR. When heart attack occurs, bystanders can significantly improve the chance of survival by starting CPR quickly.

One final recommendation might be the most sensible one. Make arrangements with someone under 45 to shovel your snow! The youthful age limit relates to research showing that 85 percent of U.S. adults aged 50-plus already have underlying coronary artery disease.

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