Moderate Drinking Linked With Better Health as Women Age
A drink a day may keep women healthy as they age, a new study suggests. Harvard researchers analyzed more than 30 years of data on the drinking habits of nearly 14,000 women who were mostly in their 50s at the study's onset. They found that moderate alcohol consumption was associated with better overall health at age 70, including an absence of heart problems, diabetes, or other chronic diseases, as well as no substantial cognitive decline, mental impairment, or physical limitations. Women who had one drink a day about five times a week were up to 50 percent less likely to develop a disease than those who didn't imbibe, according to findings published Tuesday in PLoS Medicine. But women who exceeded two drinks a day or more than four at a time did not benefit, The Washington Post reports. Researchers speculate that moderate alcohol consumption can reduce inflammation, promote healthy cholesterol levels, help blood vessels function properly, and improve insulin resistance—a precursor to diabetes.
6 Warning Signs of a Bad Diet
These days there's a new diet almost weekly, and it's easy to find their glittering promises alluring. "People are sick of their old habits and being overweight, and they're looking for something new," says registered dietitian Jessica Crandall, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). But embark on a bad diet and you could pay a price beyond fleeting results. Some diets can cause a range of side effects, from bad breath and frequent urination, to fatigue and slowed metabolism.
That's why it's important to choose your diet wisely. For a diet that's going to yield long-term, healthy results, steer clear of these attributes:
1. It's too restrictive. Diets are supposed to be restrictive, right? Well, yes and no. A healthy diet does entail some calorie cutting and self-discipline. But a diet that has too many rules spells trouble, Crandall says. "Extreme food restrictions are hallmark signs of a quick-fix plan," she says, adding that you shouldn't have to cut out your favorite foods completely—and doing so can intensify cravings. That's one reason diets that strictly limit food options, such as the Atkins and raw food diets, tend to have higher drop-out rates than, say, the Mediterranean diet, whose general guidelines leave room for variety.
2. It bans whole food groups. Removing food groups—or worse, entire macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins)—can catch up with you quickly. These diets eliminate nutrients the body needs to function optimally. "The brain and muscles need carbohydrates," says registered dietitian Andrea Giancoli, a nationally known nutrition expert and nutrition policy consultant for the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which helps cities develop and adopt healthful food and beverage polices. That's why low-carb, high-protein diets often cause weakness, irritability and fuzzy-headedness, she explains. And short-term fasts and detox diets, like the popular Master Cleanse diet (a hot water with lemon and maple syrup variation), can have lasting side effects, including slowed metabolism and lower bone density from calcium loss. "Diets that allow you to incorporate all foods in healthy portions are the ones people stick with long term," says Giancoli, who is one of 22 members of a panel assembled by U.S. News to rate diets. [Read more: 6 Warning Signs of a Bad Diet.]
Don't Just Diet—Exercise to Lose Weight, Too
What you eat is only one part of the weight-loss equation. Diet alone may help you drop pounds, but you'll have trouble keeping them off if you don't exercise. And that's not to mention the added benefits you'll miss out on, from improved mood, to better sleep, to disease prevention. "The exercise has to be there," says Jim White, a registered dietitian and personal trainer certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.
Most experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, most or all days of the week. Typically, 30 minutes a day offers disease-prevention benefits, while 60 minutes helps with weight maintenance. Working out for 90 minutes a day helps on both fronts—and melts additional pounds. Regular exercise also cuts the risk of heart disease and diabetes, improves blood pressure and cholesterol levels, promotes better sleep, and builds healthy bones, muscles, and joints.
Some diets offer specific exercise routines—Jenny Craig members get programs tailored to their individual fitness level, for example—while other diets do no more than recommend it. If that's the case, remember that exercise need not be drudgery. Take a Zumba dance class, go hiking, jump rope, or bounce on a trampoline. Try kayaking, pilates, or swimming; vigorous household chores and yard work count, too. For the best conditioning, switch up your routine every 12 weeks, including frequency, intensity, and type. And avoid an all-or-nothing mentality: It's better to take a 30-minute walk five times a week than to run half a marathon on just one day. [Read more: Don't Just Diet—Exercise to Lose Weight, Too.]
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