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Catching Up on Your Health: Three Important Stories

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 07/27/2011
Last Updated: 10/16/2012

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My inbox is constantly full of all sorts of breaking and unique news on health, fitness, nutrition and other matters of the body. I used to feel compelled to read each one, feverishly running through e-mails at night, after my work was done. (But that is still work, isn't it?)

But it's impossible to get through them all. On most days the number of e-mails easily climbs into the triple digits. Besides, the light from the computer screen and all the mental stimulation that followed began to interfere with my sleep rhythms, not to mention hubby's ire at being constantly ignored and my "um-hums" to all his statements getting tiresome. As much as I insist that I can easily , I can't.

So I've been forced to hit the "delete" key a bit more than I'd like.

But once in awhile there are stories that are just too good to pass up—news items that catch my attention and stick with me. For all of you who are equally overwhelmed with trying to keep up with everything (or if you are in need of cocktail-party banter), I am happy to share some interesting health goodies:
 
Does Height Increase Your Cancer Risk?

British researchers say that the taller among us might be more susceptible to certain types of cancer, among them breast, ovarian, uterine, bowel, leukemia or melanoma. For every four inches, the risk appears to go up about 16 percent. The link was seen to affect men and women equally. The data used in the research comes from a British study called the Million Women Study, which was conducted between 1996 and 2001. Close to 1.3 million middle-aged women who were enrolled in this study received routine breast-screening exams and filled out a simple questionnaire including their height and weight. Women were divided into six categories of height, from less than 5 feet 1 inch to  5 feet 9 and taller.

The taller women were found to be significantly more likely to develop most cancers. And when the researchers looked at other studies from other areas of the world that were done before this one, they found the same connection between height and cancer.
 
Obviously, we can't change our height. A spokesperson for the American Cancer Society says that this does not mean tall people should get additional cancer screening, nor should the more statuesque among us panic. Some possibilities for the connection could be the higher levels of growth-related hormones coursing through the body and other factors that influence height such as childhood diet, health, genes and hormone levels, say the study's authors.
You might want to read:

Can Optimism Lower Your Stroke Risk?

Major risk factors—like smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure—are all culprits in raising your stroke risk. But did you ever consider pessimism to be one of them?

Researchers studied data from the Health and Retirement Study (a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults aged 50 and older) and looked at standard optimism tests for over 6,000 men and women who were all stroke-free when the study began. At the end of the two-year follow-up period, 88 people suffered strokes. What researchers found, when they studied the self-reported health questionnaire and adjusted it for age and other health factors, was that with each increase in optimism score came a decrease in stroke risk.

For more reading on the relationship between emotions and your health, consider these links:


Restaurant Calorie Counts May Not Be All That Accurate


I for one was happy when restaurants starting adding calorie counts to their menus or websites. For me, it's like a trusted friend whispering in my ear, "Do you really want to eat that?"—even though research suggests that most people don't eat less despite these explicit warnings. Taste, price and location were all more important in their choice of what to put in their mouths.

But even if you're one who pays attention to the numbers and is grateful for their existence, beware: nutrition researchers at Tufts University found that about one out of five restaurant dishes are misrepresented, underestimating the calorie counts by at least 100 calories. Among the culprits were Outback Steakhouse, Boston Market and Olive Garden.

On average the counts were accurate; but 19 percent of the foods the Tufts' lab tested were misrepresented by at least 100 calories. One even had 1,000 more calories than it was listed as containing.

Here's one specific example found by the lab at Tufts: Chipotle's burrito bowl. This dish with rice, black beans, peppers, onions, lettuce, green tomatillo salsa and cheese had 249 more calories than was stated on the restaurant's website.

No wonder so many people, despite their vigilance when it comes to dining out, are putting on weight. Unfortunately, you can't believe everything you read. All those extra—and unknown—calories do add up.

Hungry for more reading?

Comments

Well I feel optimist about my stroke risk now:) The connection between height and cancer is a weird one, but what I'm not understanding is at what height does the risk start to go up? If you're 4 feet tall you don't need to worry, but does this apply to people of average height?

Easy to digest and low-calorie :-)

I am intrigued by the first study, as I cannot figure out why this would be so. Now I guess tall women will be more active in requesting screenings for different types of cancer and mammograms.

Hopefully the study on height and cancer risk will lend some insight into how cancers develop, too.

A 100 calorie difference is bad enough, but 1000? That is inexcusable!

Wow! I can see how calorie counts could be off by 100 points, but 1,000? Whew!

That calorie-count story was especially interesting, esp after all the restaurant chains had to publish official calorie counts. I think that every serving is likely different. Still, I really see how humungous servings are here in the states. Scary!

Yes, the huge servings are really skewing our perception on "normal" portions.

I saw the report on the height-cancer risk too. Since my husband is fairly tall, and my kids seem to be growing in the same upward direction, I wonder about that. The connection to more active growth hormones seems to make sense but sometimes these studies are more curious than conclusive--

I agree completely that you have to pick and choose which studies are relevant to your personal health and interests. We are WAY overstimulated by all this stuff! The key, as you suggest, is to do our best to eat healthy, exercise, reduce stress, wear sunscreen, and pay attention to our bodies. Beyond that, our health fate is largely out of our control and up to our genes and environmental influences.

Who knew there might be a reason to be short? Too bad I'm such a crab and will end up having a stroke instead (smile). Thanks for these updates...

At 4 foot 11 inches, I guess I have nothing to worry about? Or less so? I think diet, environmental factors, genetics and weight must also play a part in this as well.

I really appreciate your straightforward, no-nonsense approach to the deluge of studies around about health. It can be confusing -- and you always help me sort out the good stuff from the bad, Sheryl.

Thank you, Ruth. Glad to be of service ;-)ye

Interesting about the restaurant calorie counts. I wonder if it has to do with inconsistencies in portion size? Then again, employees at chains like Olive Garden are probably trained to use the same amount of cheese or cream wherever they are in the country.

Well thank you for this! Short people unite, and I'm one of them. And I'm passing this piece along to my daughter, who's always complaining about being the shortest person in her group. Little did she know she's got the healthy edge.

What I learned is that for each 4-inch increase Im height over 5'1" the risk increased by about 16 percent.

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