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Natural or Organic Food?

Natural or Organic Food?

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

February 20, 2019

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, you encourage us to “eat right,” but that’s not too easy!  For example, I’ve read enough to know I should avoid foods treated with pesticides, but does that mean I should choose “natural” or “organic” groceries? 

A:  That’s a very good question!  Here’s what the February 2019 edition of Consumer Report on Health had to say about it:

“Many consumers think that ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ foods share many of the same attributes,” USDA Organic Seal for foodsays Charlotte Vallaeys, senior policy analyst and food labeling expert at Consumer Reports.  But the terms are not synonymous.  “Organic has strong, comprehensive federal standards that address how foods are farmed and processed, with a lot of requirements and prohibitions for farmers and processors,” Vallaeys says.  For example, organic foods may not be produced with most synthetic pesticides nor with all artificial flavors and colors, antibiotics, or growth hormones.  Natural has only one regulated definition – on meat and poultry, it means the product was minimally processed, according to the Department of Agriculture.  On other foods, the term is meaningless.”

Your best bet, the article concludes, is to look for foods with the USDA Organic seal “if you want foods produced without most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, or all genetically engineered crops, chemical process aids, or artificial ingredients.”

Why bother, you may ask, since organic foods tend to be costlier?  The article cited a new JAMA Internal Medicine study that tracked 70,000 adults for an average of five years.  Researchers found that those who ate organic food most often had a 25 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with cancer than those who rarely ate organic food.


American Heart Health Month

American Heart Health Month


February 13, 2019

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, is it just a coincidence that the month that includes Valentine’s Day also is American Heart Health Month?  Or was that clever marketing?

A:  You have to admit, the “coincidence” makes it easier to remember!  American Heart Health Month - Woman SleepingThe Spry Living magazine insert in the East Bay Times offered these three reminders about heart health (which we have paraphrased):


    You need to be active for at least 30 minutes a day, but it can be divided into three 10-minute sessions, if that fits your schedule better.


    Reduce your stress level by listening to your favorite music or by chatting with friends. (On Saturday mornings, our walk ‘n’ talk sessions combine these first two tips in a fun way.)


    Sleep 7 ¼  hours (or more) every night for the best heart-protecting benefits.

The best Valentine’s Day gift you can give those you care about (and who care about you) is to stay healthy.  That’s why I always encourage you to…


Nearly Half the Adults in the USA Have Some Form of Cardiovascular Disease

Nearly Half the Adults in the USA Have Some Form of Cardiovascular Disease

You may be shocked (as I was) to read that nearly half the adults in the USA have some form of cardiovascular disease.  The reason?  Guidelines have changed for classifying high blood pressure.

At my recent physical exam, I was dismayed to be told that I have high blood pressure.  How common is this condition? 

As reported by Brett Molina in USA Today, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology in 2017 “updated its guidelines to define high blood pressure as a reading higher than 130/80, down from the original 140/90.

“According to the study from the American Heart Association, 121.5 million Americans, digital blood pressure monitor on a white backgroundor about 48.5 percent, dealt with heart or blood vessel disease as of 2016.  The study says that deaths from cardiovascular disease rose from more than 836,000 in 2015 to more than 840,000 in 2016.”

“When cases of high blood pressure are removed, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease among Americans is 9 percent, or 24.3 million Americans.”

It is important that you take your new diagnosis seriously and follow your doctor’s advice in order to avoid a premature, preventable death.  Chances are, the doctor’s advice will include…



What can we do to protect our eyes?

What can we do to protect our eyes?

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, you’ve talked a lot about being active to help prevent Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure but can you tell us what we can do to protect our eyes?

A:  That’s a good question.  Below are some myths and truths about protecting your eyes and while I haven’t read about the role Physical Activity plays in eye health, I have been told in the past that “increased blood flow” is good for your eyes.  See the myths and truths about eye health below from Harvard Medical School.

5 truths about protecting your eyes

Of your five senses, which one are you most afraid of losing? 4 kids with beautiful eyesIf you’re like most people, your answer is your ability to see. Because our eyesight is so precious, it’s no wonder that myths abound about your eye health, what can damage our eyes —, and what can protect them. Here, we debunk five common myths — and tell you how to truly keep your eyes healthy.

Myth: Doing eye exercises will delay the need for glasses.

Fact: Eye exercises will not improve or preserve vision, help your eye health, or reduce the need for glasses. Your vision depends on many factors, including the shape of your eyeball and the health of the eye tissues, neither of which can be significantly altered with eye exercises.

Myth: Reading in dim light will worsen your vision.

Fact: Dim lighting will not damage your eyesight or eye health. However, it will tire your eyes out more quickly. The best way to position a reading light is to have it shine directly onto the page, not over your shoulder. A desk lamp with an opaque shade pointing directly at the reading material is ideal.

Myth: Carrots are the best food for the eyes.

Fact: Carrots, which contain vitamin A, are indeed good for the eyes. But fresh fruits and dark green leafy vegetables, which contain more antioxidant vitamins such as C and E, are even better for eye health. Antioxidants may even help protect the eyes against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Just don’t expect them to prevent or correct basic vision problems such as nearsightedness or farsightedness.

Myth: It’s best not to wear glasses or contact lenses all the time. Taking a break from them allows your eyes to rest.

Fact: If you need glasses or contacts for distance or reading, use them. Not wearing your glasses will strain your eyes and tire them out instead of resting them. However, it will not worsen your vision or lead to eye disease.

Myth: Staring at a computer screen all day is bad for the eyes.

Fact: Using a computer does not damage your eye’s health. However, staring at a computer screen all day can contribute to eyestrain or tired eyes. People who stare at a computer screen for long periods tend not to blink as often as usual, which can cause the eyes to feel dry and uncomfortable. To help prevent eyestrain, adjust the lighting so it doesn’t create a glare or harsh reflection on the screen, rest your eyes briefly every 20 minutes, and make a conscious effort to blink regularly so that your eyes stay well lubricated.

For more information about keeping your eyes healthy, read The Aging Eye, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

Warning signs of a serious eye problem

Eyes aren’t exempt from the wear and tear of aging. Some of the age-related man with smiling eyeschanges in the eyes are annoying but not serious — for example, it can become difficult to focus on near objects, and eyelashes may thin out a bit. But other changes can be serious eye problems that threaten vision.

With age, the eyes’ ability to stay lubricated starts to wane. This can leave eyes feeling irritated, sticky, dry, or gritty. The lens of the eye can become less elastic. Night vision may also start to suffer, which can pose problems when driving at night. In contrast, cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy can rob you of your sight.

How do you know if an eye problem is a nuisance or the start of something serious? The following signs and symptoms warrant a call to your doctor. Catching serious eye problems early can help preserve your vision. Even non-vision-threatening eye problems can be treated to keep your eyes comfortable and your eyesight as sharp as possible.

Call your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Change in iris color
  • Crossed eyes
  • Dark spot in the center of your field of vision
  • Difficulty focusing on near or distant objects
  • Double vision
  • Dry eyes with itching or burning
  • Episodes of cloudy vision
  • Excess discharge or tearing
  • Eye pain
  • Floaters or flashers
  • Growing bump on the eyelid
  • Halos (colored circles around lights) or glare
  • Hazy or blurred vision
  • Inability to close an eyelid
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Redness around the eye
  • Spots in your field of vision
  • Sudden loss of vision
  • Trouble adjusting to dark rooms
  • Unusual sensitivity to light or glare
  • Veil obstructing vision
  • Wavy or crooked appearance to straight lines

For more information about preventing and treating eye disease, read The Aging Eye, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

Walking to help lower high blood pressure.

Walking to help lower high blood pressure.

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

Jan 16, 2019

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, I know you encourage us all to walk frequently, but I am wondering, will that help those of us with high blood pressure?

A:  An AARP Bulletin reported last January that high blood pressure is just one of half a dozen ailments that can be improved by taking regular walks – but at different speeds and durations.

Here is an excerpt from the article by Sara Altshul, describing what walking can help:

  • HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE – “Shoot for at least 1.75 miles at a moderate rate (3-4.5 miles per hour) most days of the week to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, says Paul T. Williams, a life sciences researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California.”  woman in walking shoes that are orange and teal

  • ARTHRITIS – It may seem counter-intuitive that people with joint pain can feel better if they walk more, but that is what the research shows. Start with 5 minutes and build up to 30 minutes per day of walking at a leisurely pace for 5 days per week, suggests Leigh F. Callahan, assistant director of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center, U. of North Carolina.  “If the pain is worse two hours after the walk than it was before the walk started, take a less intense walk the next time.”

  • DEPRESSION – Walking fast “increases the production of serotonin, dopamine, and other brain chemicals that lift your mood, says John B. Arden, author of The Brain Bible. “Start with 10 minutes of strolling, then walk briskly to 75 percent of your maximum effort – a pace that makes talking difficult.  Keep that up for 2-3 minutes, then resume a strolling pace.  Repeat these intervals for 20-30 minutes.”

  • INSOMNIA – Exposure to daylight can help. “Bright light inhibits the body’s secretion of melatonin, our natural sleep agent,” says Donald W. Greenblatt, M.D., director of the Medicine Sleep Center at the U. of Rochester, New York. “When you block melatonin in the morning by walking outside, it then bounces back later in the day, helping to promote sleep.”  Late afternoon walks also can be effective.  Try for daily walks at a comfortable pace for 15-30 minute, finishing your walk at least 3 hours before bedtime.  “Be patient:  some evidence suggests that it can take a couple of weeks to get the full benefit of exercise, so don’t be disappointed if you are not experiencing an immediate effect, Greenblatt says.”

  • OSTEOPOROSIS – Did you know that walking helps preserve bone? Walking 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, can make a difference.  “Three 10-minute walks a day are as bone-strengthening as one 30-minute walk,” says Andrea Singer, M.D., of the national Osteoporosis Foundation.

  • TYPE 2 DIABETES – “Walking after eating sweets can prevent a blood sugar spike. Walk for 15 minutes at an easy pace about a half-hour after breakfast, lunch and dinner.…Because people with diabetes can develop foot infections due to reduced blood flow to the feet, it’s important to get properly fitted for walking shoes.”

So, you see, that’s even more reason why you should…





10 Steps to a Healthier New Year

10 Steps to a Healthier New Year

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

Q: Mr. Pedometer, it’s January 2019 and I know I need to make some changes in my life to get healthy this year. I just don’t know where to start. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Since most of our health changes have to do with nutrition and exercise, start with this great article by Shereen Lehman, MS, found on the Very Well Fit website. Go through the questionnaire and be honest with yourself. Then instead of trying to change everything at once, pick one thing to change, i.e. decide to get up a half hour earlier each morning and go for a walk before diving into your day. Once you have established one change, go on to another one. Change 1 Thing at a time so that you don’t get overwhelmed and give up.

See the “Change 1 Thing” article below for the steps that will help you to make changes more possible.

10 Steps to a Healthier New Year

1. Take a look at what your diet and health have been like for the last 12 months. Think about these questions and write down your answers in a notebook so that you can look back at them again a year from now:

  • How does your weight compare with a year ago?Notebook for New Year's resolutions
  • Do you feel healthy and have a lot of energy or are you tired all the time?
  • Do you take vitamins or other nutritional supplements?
  • Do you eat at home most of the time? If so, what types of foods? Whole fresh foods, boxed foods, or TV dinners?
  • Do you dine out frequently? What types of restaurants do you like and what kinds of foods do you choose?
  • How physically active are you? Do you exercise regularly?
  • Do you eat healthy portions, or do you stuff yourself with every meal?
  • Do you smoke?
  • How much alcohol do you drink each week?

It’s important to take an honest look at your health and dietary habits so you can set goals for the next year.

Set Your Goals

Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to be able to run up and down the stairs without getting winded? Do you want to reduce cholesterol or lower your blood pressure? Decide what you want to achieve over the next month, and over the next year.

One possible goal for your first month could be a resolution to take your lunch to work four days per week for each week this month instead of eating lunch in restaurants every day. Another example of a monthly goal would be to walk for 30 minutes four days per week each week this month.

Start with your statistics. Take body composition measurements and make your goals. Then write down your goals in a notebook or in the food diary you are going to create in step seven.

Determine Your Dietary Needs

  • Check your weight.

Here are some ideas you might want to consider:

  • Do you have high blood pressure? If so you may wish to reduce sodium in your diet by avoiding canned and packaged foods.
  • Are you overweight? You need to decrease your calorie intake or increase your amount of physical exercise. You can choose a low-carb diet or a low-fat diet, just be sure to watch your calories and portion sizes.
  • Do you have diabetes? If so, then you need to reduce your sugar intake.
  • Do you have high cholesterol? Increase your intake of soluble fiber like the fiber found in oatmeal. It will help lower your cholesterol levels.

Reduce your intake of saturated fats and increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish, flax, walnuts, and canola oil.

Consider Dietary Supplements

  • Supplements in bottles

A healthy diet should give you all of the vitamins and minerals you need, but many people take vitamins just to make sure. There are several formulations available, but all you need is a simple multivitamin and multi-mineral supplement. Speak with your health care provider before you take any additional supplements or if you have any health conditions.

Design Your Healthy New Diet

  • Eat more healthy salads.

Here’s what you need to know to design your new diet:

  • How many calories do you need to eat each day to reach your weight gain or weight loss goal?
  • How do your eating patterns fit your lifestyle?
  • Do you feel better with three large meals per day or five smaller meals per day?
  • Will you continue to eat in restaurants often?
  • What types of fruits and vegetables do you like?

A healthy diet should give you five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day, 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day, five or six ounces of protein per day, and a small amount of omega-3 essential fatty acids. To stick with your new diet, you’ll want to include foods you enjoy. If you love hamburgers, that’s OK. Make them at home with whole grain rolls and cut down the size of the burger patty, or use ground turkey. Add lots of lettuce, onion, and tomato. Serve your burger with a salad instead of fries.

More Tips:

  • Choose crunchy raw green beans instead of chips and serve them with a little of your favorite dip.
  • Replace high fat hot dogs with soy dogs.
  • Choose whole grain bread and pasta instead of white bread and white pasta.
  • Skip the sugary desserts and have a small dish of fresh berries with a dab of whipped cream or non-fat whipped topping, then add a sprinkling of chopped walnuts.
  • Use lemon juice instead of oil for a salad dressing.
  • Choose low-fat ground turkey instead of high-fat ground beef to cut back on saturated fat. (But remember to read the label—not all ground turkey is low in fat.)
  • Use these tips for finding healthful foods on a restaurant menu.

 Shop and Cook

  1. Couple cooking in kitchen
  2. Make a grocery list before you go shopping. Stay away from the snack food aisles and the prepackaged foods aisles when you shop. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, lean meats, fish, and legumes. Avoid foods high in saturated fats, sodium, trans-fats and sugar.
  3. The best cooking methods are essential for healthy nutrition, too:
  4. Sautéing is better than deep-frying. Frying foods adds fats and calories and doesn’t add any nutrition.
  5. Steam your vegetables instead of boiling them to mush. Steaming will preserve the vitamins found in the vegetables.
  6. When you cook your healthy meals at home, be sure to make extra to take to work or school the next day

Keep a Food Diary

If you’re serious about changing your diet, losing (or gaining) weight, and improving your health, you’ll find that keeping track of things is key to your success in a simple food and exercise diary. This will help keep you motivated and help you get back on your diet if you have a temporary setback.

Be sure to note the portion sizes and write down the calories you eat every day. Add up the number of calories per day and your total for the week. If you need to lose weight, decrease the number of calories you need to eat each week by 500. For most people, that adds up to one pound per week.

You can make your own food diary or keep track of your healthy new diet online.

Get Fit

  • Join an exercise class.
  • Mr. Pedometer includes getting outside in the fresh air and taking a walk.

Good nutrition is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Another component of health and fitness is exercise. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you need to get out and get moving. If you want to lose weight, it is important to increase aerobic activity like walking or running. If you need to increase your strength, then you need to start resistance training such as lifting weights.

  • There are health clubs, gyms, and personal trainers, as well as at-home equipment to get you fit and healthy.
  • Do you smoke? If so, you’ll do yourself a favor by quitting. Smoking has been connected to many chronic diseases, plus you will save a lot of money over the next year if you quit smoking.
  • How much alcohol do you drink? One drink per day has been shown to be beneficial. More than one drink per day can be detrimental to your health, however. If you find yourself drinking more than four ounces of wine, two ounces of liquor, or 12 ounces of beer each day, then you may need to decrease your consumption of alcohol

Reduce Your Stress

  • Stress relief is important for your health.

Stress is detrimental to your health. Stress includes daily events like constant deadlines at work; long drive times with excess traffic; more activities than time to do them; and emotional trauma like death or divorce.

Stay Motivated

  • Counting calories diary

Sometimes getting started with a new healthy diet and fitness plan is the easy part. Many of us hit occasional roadblocks due to busy schedules, loss of motivation, or weight loss plateaus.

Those are the times when we feel like we do everything right, but the scale doesn’t seem to budge. When this happens, don’t give up. Think back to why you made the goal in the first place and find the inspiration you need to get back on track. Be sure to celebrate your small successes too!