Defy old age

THE Bible recorded the oldest living man through these words: ‘When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. And after he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 872 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died” (Genesis5:25-27).

Through the yeas, people are trying to figure out how to live longer, just like Methuselah. In fact, many people in different parts of the globe at different times in history made it their life’s obsession.

Ponce de Leon’s quest for the mysterious fountain of youth led him to discover Florida. With its sunny weather, beautiful beaches, and palm trees, Florida in itself is a kind of fountain of youth. Many Americans today who retire to Florida do seem to recover their youthful energy and vigor.

No one lives forever, for sure. But this fact doesn’t stop doctors and scientists to search for ways how to live longer. “Aging is the progressive accumulation of changes with time associated with or responsible for the ever-increasing likelihood of disease and death which accompanies advancing age.” That statement comes from Denham Harmon, one of the leading experts in the field of anti-aging research.

In recent years, people are living longer — thanks to science. But, on second thought, merely living longer isn’t good enough. What people want these days is not just living longer, but also living healthier lives. Who wants to live longer if it means just existing, unable to enjoy life?

Dr. Steven G. Aldana, of Brigham Young University, recently revealed that a person may be able to add 20 years or more to his or her life by making several health changes. “People don’t have to completely turn their lives around to get significant benefits,” Dr. Aldana said. Example: Someone who exercises for 30 minutes six times a week can gain 2.4 years of life, even if that person doesn’t adequately control his blood pressure.

But not smoking is probably the most important change. “Men who smoke a pack a day lose an average of 13 years of life, while women lose 14 years,” he commented. Every year, there are about 20,000 smoking-related deaths in the Philippines, where about 60 percent of men smoke.

Excess weight greatly increases the risk of cancer, diabetes and hypertension. A person who is 20 pounds over his/her ideal weight is 50 percent more likely to develop heart disease — and the risk increases as weight increases.

In simpler terms, shed those extra pounds by doing regular exercise. People who engage in moderate exercise at least three to five times a week can reduce their blood pressure by an average of 10 points and dramatically lower their risk of diabetes. A study at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, Texas showed that men who ran, walked briskly, swam, jogged, or played tennis lowered their risks of dying early by 64 percent.

For lowering blood pressure, walking — and not running! — may be the better form of exercise. American president Harry S Truman took to walking briskly until the ripe old age of 88. ÿ Astronaut John Glenn credited his celebrated return to orbit at age 77 to his two-mile daily power walk.

But exercise is not enough. There are other things you must do: Eat most meals at home (restaurant food tends to be higher in calories). Drink water instead of soda (the sugar in soft drinks is a main contributor to weight gain — and artificial sweeteners have not been proven safe). Don’t eat in front of the television (studies show that people who engage in “mindless” eating take in far more calories).

Watch what you put into your mouth. Studies show that eating one-quarter cup of nuts five times a week can add 2.5 years to your life. Fruits and vegetables lengthen your life by 2-4 years. People who increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables from two to five servings a day can reduce by half their risk of many cancers — including pancreatic, colorectal and endometrial cancers.

For every 10 grams of fiber you consume per day, your risk of heart attack goes down by 14 percent and risk of death from heart disease drops by 27 percent. People who eat as little as two servings of fiber-rich whole grains daily can reduce their risk of stroke by 36 percent. Fiber-rich foods, which can also reduce colon cancer risk, lengthen life by 2-4 years.

Sleep well. William Shakespeare wrote a long, long time ago: “Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care, the death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath; balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, chief nourishes in life’s feast.”

As you grow older, don’t worry about it. The more you worry, the more you will likely to meet your Creator. In fact, be thankful that you are able to reach the age, which most people have not attained. Perhaps, you can sing Paul Anka’s song: “My friends, I’ll say it clear; I’ll state my case of which I’m certain. I’ve lived a life that’s full. I’ve traveled each and evr’y highway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.”

For comments, write me at henrytacio@gmail.com

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Baldness: Hair is vanishing

By Henrylito D. Tacio

 

“I am losing my hairs,” wrote a close friend recently.  “What can I do about this?  I really don’t know what to do.”

 

He seemed to be worried – and it is understandable.  He is in his early ‘30s and still single.  Some bachelors who have few hairs may find it difficult to engage in a romantic relationship.  Throughout history, abundant hair has symbolized vitality, health, and virility, whereas loss or removal of hair can connote subjugation, loss of individuality, impotency, and/or decrepitude.

 

Losing hair is called baldness and some people joke that bald people are suffering from HIV (hair is vanishing).  Actually, baldness involves the state of lacking hair where it often grows, especially on the head. The most common form of baldness is a progressive hair thinning condition called medical experts called as androgenic alopecia or “male pattern baldness” that occurs in adult males. 

 

Medical science says that the average human head has about 100,000 hair follicles.   Each follicle will grow an average of about 20 individual hairs in a person’s lifetime.   Average hair loss is about 100 strands a day.  If you are losing more than the average, then you are starting to undergoing baldness.

 

The cause of baldness has remained a mystery for many years. The people in ancient Rome believed that the lack of acidity in the human body results in baldness.  Others also believed that problems in blood circulation cause baldness.

 

Recent findings in science, however, have attributed baldness to genetics.  Hair loss may be experienced three to four months after an illness or surgery and is usually temporary. An overactive or underactive thyroid gland as well as androgen or estrogen imbalance can cause hair loss.

 

Poor nutrition and crash dieting also cause hair fall because adequate protein, vitamins and minerals are essential for proper hair growth and healthy hair. Among women, improper hair care and styling such as wearing your hair in pigtails, in cornrows or using tight hair rollers can cause traction which can eventually lead to scarring and later to permanent hair loss.

 

Can mental stress lead to thinning of hair?  In his regular health column, Dr. Philip S. Chua answers: “Psychological stress has been reported to have caused hair loss but only at times of extreme emotional trauma. The medical community doubts the role of emotional stress as a significant factor in the causation of baldness.”

 

There are several myths about what causes baldness.  Some people claim that thinning of hair is caused by wearing hats.  Dr. Chua clarifies, “Wearing hats does not cause hair loss or baldness.”  Shampooing either does not accelerate balding.  Likewise, “poor circulation” does not cause hair loss.

 

Myths about treating baldness have also evolved.  Dr. Chua shares this information: “Standing on your head to increase blood flow to the head will not cure hair loss or baldness. Scalp massage or brushing won’t save you from hair loss. Rubbing egg yolk or milk, dead flies, or ancient Egyptian fat mixtures from mountain goats, lions, goose, serpents, crocodile or hippopotamus on bald areas of the head will not promote hair growth, in spite of the popular folklore. Toweling off your hair gingerly rather than vigorously will not do the trick either. And the biggest myth is cleaning your scalp of sebum to unclog blocked follicles to prevent hair loss or baldness. This is simply not true.”

 

There are several treatments for hair loss and most of these are drugs with known side effects. Once you stop these medications, hair loss resumes. Surgeries such as scalp reductions and hair transplants are expensive options and not all can afford it.

 

Why should baldness be a special concern, especially among men?  In a study on more than 22, 000 men ages 40 to 84, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the findings suggest that “men with male pattern baldness may be at increased risk for heart disease.”

 

Yes, you read it right!  The study claimed, “Compared to men with no hair loss, those with severe vertex baldness (balding at the crown of the head) had a 36% increased risk of heart disease; men with moderate crown balding had a 32% increased risk, while mild balding on the crown carried a 23% increased risk…. Men with frontal baldness had a 9% increased risk.”

 

Another health risk related to baldness is the increased risk for cancer of the prostate, according to the US National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health Division of Cancer Epidemiology. Their study on 4,421 men with male pattern baldness (ages 25 to 75) without history of cancer of prostate, revealed that the risk for prostatic cancer was significantly elevated among these men, compared to their peers with abundant hair.

 

But bald can be attractive!  Film actors such as Yul Brynner, Telly Savalas, Ben Kingsley and Patrick Stewart have shown us that even without hairs, you can still look handsome and macho!  In the Philippines, actor Bembol Roco comes to mind.

 

One of the best known bald celebrities is Michael Jordan, a retired American professional basketball player.  Who can imagine Jordan with hair?  Actor Vin Diesel is distinguished by his shaved head, athletic physique, deeply textured baritone voice and say-it-like-it-is attitude. Who can argue that the 52-year-old Bruce Willis looks great with that shaved head?  

 

Among women, Natalie Portman leads.  She had to shave her beautiful hair for a role in V for Vendetta.  Demi Moore also shaved her head for G.I. Jane. After removing all hair Demi said: “It feels great! I love it!”

 

Bald really is beautiful!  If you choose to go bald, or genetics has made that choice for you, you are in great company.  If you haven’t committed to living a life without hair, or you know you are loosing it, but haven’t lost it all yet, remember, there are some great looking, talented men that are follicly challenged. — ###

 

Why we need to sleep?

By Henrylito D. Tacio

 

In these days of iPODs, DVDs, mobile phones, text messaging, 24-hour news programs, midnight sales, and call centers, who needs to sleep?

 

“We’re so busy that we just don’t have sufficient time to get the sleep we need,” deplores Dr. Patrick Gerard Moral, head of the sleep and snore diagnostic and treatment unit of the University of Santo Tomas.  “It’s not just work that makes them cut down on sleep but also their lifestyle.  Simply socializing or surfing the Internet can engage people far beyond their bedtimes.”

 

A recent AC Nielsen poll found that 40 percent of Asians go to bed only after midnight.  In the Philippines, more and more people are sleeping late at night.  In fact, some of them go to bed already when the sun is ready to rise.    

 

When he was still a law student, Kelvin King Lee slept only about five hours a night.  “It’s usually because I’m either studying late or writing and editing,” he said.  At that time, he also edited his university’s law journal and wrote a regular column for Sun Star Davao.  Often, he lied in bed memorizing legal cases or thinking up topics for his weekly column. 

 

What these sleep thieves don’t know that a good night’s sleep is more important to their health than they may realize.  A good night’s sleep means waking up rested and energized.  On average, a healthy adult needs between six and eight hours of sleep a night, according to Dr. Ravi Seshadri, a sleep expert and clinical director of MD Specialist HealthCare at the Paragon Medical Center in Singapore.

 

However, the amount of sleep it takes to achieve rejuvenation varies from person to person.  “It’s not a fixed number,” says Dr. Moral, adding that length is not the only important factor in sleeping but the quality as well.  Also, people who lose sleep every night will suffer from what he calls sleep debt.  “The sleep debt is compounded over a prolonged period and recovery will take much longer than the actual hours lost,” he explained.

 

Some people think that because a person lacks sleep, he will get thinner.  Such is the exact opposite.  According to Dr. Yue-Joe Lee, a physician and professor in the Department of Psychiatry at National Taiwan University, insufficient sleep may affect three hormones that can contribute to obesity.  First, there’s leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone found in our fat and its levels are regulated during sleep, he says.  Then, there’s ghrelin, which triggers appetite and increases with sleep deprivation.  Our bodies then produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases fat storage.

 

Not only do the increased hormones resulting from sleep loss cause us to eat more but most of us also make poor food choices when we’re tired.  “Get sufficient sleep if you don’t want to gain weight,” Dr. Lee advises.

 

Another reason why we need to get more sleep: it could boost our memory.  A Harvard experiment showed that subjects taught complex finger movements such as a piano scale recalled them better after 12 hours’ sleep than 12 hours’ wakefulness.

 

During sleep, brain neurotransmitters – the chemicals that deliver messages between nerve cells in the brain – are replenished.  “Any form of stress, including lack of sleep,” says Dr. Moral, “results in the depletion of the brain chemicals thus causing emotional disturbances,” including depression, anxiety, and general feeling of anger or sadness.

 

If you want to live longer, then you better have enough sleep.  Persistent sleep debt affects carbohydrate metabolism and hormone function in a way that may increase the severity of age-related chronic disorders.  A large-scale study concluded that people who sleep six to seven hours a night lived longer than those sleeping less than 4.5 hours.

 

One reason why good sleepers live longer is that their immune system is not compromised.  “The immune system works best when you’re asleep,” reports professor Stanley Coren, author of Sleep Thieves.  “That’s when your natural killer cells are generated.”  Natural killer cells are produced in the bone marrow and found in the blood and lymph fluid.

 

“Natural killer cells are part of your body’s defense system against external infections,” says Dr. Ong Kian Chung, a consultant respiratory physician at the Mount Elizabeth Medical Center in Singapore.  Melatonin, produced when you sleep, is a cancer-fighting oxidant.  Night-shift workers may have up to 70 times greater risk of breast cancer.  Also, the chemical to repair damage to the stomach lining is secreted during sleep, so staying up all night regularly could raise your risk of ulcers.

 

People whose parents or relatives have suffered from cardiovascular diseases should always get a good night’s sleep.  “Sleep deprivation may potentially increase risk for the development of cardiovascular problems,” says Dr. Rafael Castillo, a consultant cardiologist at the Manila Doctors Hospital.  A study done by Columbia University found that sleeping less than five hours double the risk of high blood pressure.

 

Two most common problems that usually rob a person of a good night’s sleep are insomnia and sleep apnea. 

 

Insomnia – a chronic inability to sleep or to remain asleep through the night — ranks right behind common cold, stomach disorders, and headache as a reason why people seek a doctor’s help.  The condition is caused by a variety of physical and psychological factors.  These include emotional stress, physical pain and discomfort, disorders in brain function, drug abuse and drug dependence, and other problems that produce anxiety and other problems.

 

Treatment may include sedatives, tranquilizers, psychotherapy, and exercise.  “It’s true that you can develop a tolerance to them,” said Dr. Moral of sleeping pills.  “But there are now pills that don’t have any side effects. 

 

Some people say that snoring is a good sign of a sound sleep.  Actually, snoring is one of the symptoms of sleep apnea.  “The person literally stops breathing,” explains Dr. Earl Dunn, a professor of family medicine at the Sunnybrook Medical Center Sleep Laboratory in Toronto.  “People who are heavy snorers, who stop snoring at night, can have episodes where they are not breathing.”

 

Those most people prone to sleep apnea are “overweight, middle-aged men,” said Dr. Philip Smith, director of the John Hopkins University Sleep Disorders Center.  “If you fall into that category, and you snore pretty loudly – that is, loud enough to be heard outside the room – the chances of your having sleep apnea are pretty high.  Go see your doctor.”

 

Mild cases can improve with weight loss; sleeping on your side can also help.  For more severe cases, patients find relief by using a machine that forces air through the nasal passages during sleep. — ###

 

Watch your salt intake!

By Henrylito D. Tacio

 

A salty, mineral-rich fluid constantly bathes the cells of our bodies.  Scientist Claude Bernard made that discovery in the mid-1800s, and he realized the fluid must contain the right amounts of sodium, chloride, and potassium to allow our cells to grow, work, and survive.  One hundred years later, researcher Homer Smith theorized that the cell-bathing fluid contains similar to the salty seas that bathed and nourished the earliest one-celled organisms.

 

In order to keep that cell-bathing fluid in balance, what goes in must come out.  A person takes in sodium and chloride (when these two elements combined, the result is table salt) in his diet and more than 98 percent comes out in his urine.  All creatures, including human beings, have kidneys that strictly regulate the mineral and water balance in the body.

 

A person’s average daily intake of salt is 3,900 milligrams, although some people get a lot more than that.  If you have normal blood pressure, experts recommend that you should limit your sodium intake to 2,400 milligrams (just over one teaspoon of salt) a day. 

 

“Limiting salt may be a good idea,” the editors of Super Life, Super Health point out.  “It could affect your blood pressure someday, and it may affect other parts of your body, like your bones.  But don’t make a huge effort to cut back to less than the recommended limit unless you have high blood pressure.”

 

Recent studies have shown that taking too much salt is not good for your health – especially if you have some health problems.  Sure, you like your French fries covered with salt, but if have hemorrhoids, salt can make it worse.  Excess salt retain fluids in the circulatory system that can cause bulging of the veins in the anus and elsewhere. 

 

High salt intake can also trigger migraine in some people.  Migraine is a throbbing headache, usually occurring on only one side of the head.  (A woman who had suffered with migraines for 16 years finally experienced relief when researchers from Denmark’s Odense University gave her 500 to 600 milligrams of powdered ginger whenever she felt a headache coming on.  Within 30 minutes, her migraine would be gone.)

 

In a study conducted at the Department of Community Medicine of St. Thomas Hospital in London, researchers discovered that salt could have a life-threatening effect on people with asthma.  “A strong correlation was found between table salt purchases and asthma mortality in both men and children,” reported the researchers.  Buying the salt wasn’t killing people; eating it was.

 

Anyone who has passed a kidney stone can verify that this is an experience he never wants to repeat.  Most stones are calcium-based, so it’s essential that you avoid excessive intake of table salt and condiments high in sodium.  Salt restriction will help decrease the concentration of calcium in the urine.  According to US National Kidney Foundation, you should reduce your sodium intake to two to three grams per day.

 

Women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) should avoid salt at all cost.  “People don’t realize that foods with high salt content can contribute to water retention,” says Dr. Susan Clark, medical director of PMS and Menopause Self-Help Center in Los Altos, California.

 

Most snack foods and other processed foods are high in salt – and some fast-food meals can be extremely high.  So, women with PMS should stay away from these foods.   Before buying packaged and processed foods, be sure to read the labels and whenever possible, choose fresh fruits and vegetables.

 

Instead of piling salt on to enhance flavoring of your food, why not try cloves, ginger, garlic and thyme instead?  They’re better for your health.  Cloves, for instance, may relieve asthma and bronchitis, arthritis and rheumatism.  Ginger can ease nausea and may help protect against cancer.

 

Garlic, on the other hand, may lower cholesterol and help prevent cancer.  You may use it in stews, soups, stir-fries and pasta sauce.  Thyme, which can treat colds, coughs, and bronchitis, can be use in vegetable dishes, meat, poultry, fish, stews, and tomato-based sauces.

 

Experts warn that no one should try to cut out salt completely from his or her diet.  That would be dangerous!  In fact, there are also good things about salt, health-wise.   For instance, if you are suffering from stuffy nose, why not try saline solution?  Here’s how to do it: Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a pint of water, and then use a nosedropper to drop it in your nose.  Gently blow your nose on a tissue.

 

Having a gum pain?  Try a warm saltwater rinse.  “Take a few swigs of warm salt water and swish it between your teeth and gums,” advises Dr. Leslie Salkin, director of post-graduate periodontics at the Temple University of School of Dentistry in Philadelphia.  “It has a general soothing effect.  If you have an abscess, the salts will help draw it out and drain it.”  He recommends one teaspoon of salt in a glass of lukewarm water. 

 

Salt can also be used as a first line of defense against sore throat.  While gargling won’t kill off the germs causing sore throat, it will moisturize and temporarily soothe the upper throat.  While there are many possible gargles on the market, salt water is as good as any, and it’s cheap.

 

Dr. Michael Benninger, chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, instructs: Mix one teaspoon of salt (no more or you’ll dry out your throat!) in a pint of warm (never hot) water.  To gargle, start by taking in a deep breath.  Pour a small amount of salt water into your mouth and tilt your head back.  Let stir bubble out slowly to create the gargling effect.  If it’s noisy, it’s right.  Gargle as often as you like.

 

Warm salt water is also good for those suffering from toothache.  Hot or cold water will only aggravate an already sensitive tooth, but swishing some warm salt water will relieve a lot of the pain, says Dr. William P. Maher, assistant professor of endodontics at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry. 

 

Here’s what you should do: Mix two to three teaspoons of salt in a glass of water.  The salt draws out some of the fluids causing the swelling and has a general soothing effect.  The saltwater rinse also cleans the area around the infected tooth.  Even unsalted lukewarm water (about body temperature) can flush out an irritating piece of rotting food and provide some relief.

 

By the way, be sure to consult your doctor before doing what have been stated here.

 

For comments, write me at henrytacio@gmail.com

 

Life is a box of chocolates

By Henrylito D. Tacio

 

If life could be compared to something sweet, then chocolate would be more like it.  As Forrest Gump (played by award-winning Tom Hanks) said, “Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re gonna get.”

 

Chocolates are very popular around the world.  Every time I am in the airport waiting for my plane, you can find me eating a chocolate.  They come in different forms and sizes and the boxes are always beautiful.

 

There’s more to chocolate than just for eating.  “If you are not feeling well, if you have not slept, chocolate will revive you. But you have no chocolate! I think of that again and again! My dear, how will you ever manage?” French writer Marquise de Sévigné wondered.

 

Any sane person loves chocolate,” declared Bob Greene.  In fact, “nine out of ten people like chocolate.  And the tenth person lies,” said John Q. Tullius.  Charles M. Schulz, creator of Peanuts, believed that what people really need is love.  “But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt,” he added.

 

Oftentimes, chocolates have been equated with love and romance.  John Milton wrote, “Love is just like eating large amounts of chocolate.” Miranda Ingram argued, “It’s not that chocolates are a substitute for love. Love is a substitute for chocolate. Chocolate is, let’s face it, far more reliable than a man.”

 

Chemically speaking, “chocolate really is the world’s perfect food,” to quote the words of Michael Levine, the author of The Emperors of Chocolate.  As Geronimo Piperni puts it: “Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine.” 

 

Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said chocolates are “helpful to people who must do a great deal of mental work.”  Baron Justus von Liebig considered this beneficent restorer of exhausted power as “the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.”

 

Some years back, I was touring a group of American kids at the farm in Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur.  While walking, an eight-year-old boy inquired, “What is that?” as he pointed the cacao tree.  “That’s where chocolates come from,” I replied.  Almost immediately, every stopped.  “How do you get chocolates from that tree?” they chorused.

 

Cacao has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Central America and Mexico.   Although Christopher Columbus came to know the beans, it was Hernando Cortes who brought it to Spain.  “The divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits man to walk for a whole day without food,” he wrote.

 

In the Philippines, it has been cultivated since the 17th century when Spanish mariner Pedro Bravo de Lagunas planted the crop in San Jose, Batangas.  Since then, cacao growing flourished in the different parts of the country.

 

The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavor. After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground and liquefied, resulting in pure chocolate in fluid form: chocolate liquor.  The liquor can be further processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

 

Pure, unsweetened chocolate contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining chocolate with sugar.  Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk.

 

If you care to know, the word “chocolate” comes from the Mexico’s Aztecs and is derived from the Nahuatl word xocolatl, which is a combination of the words, xocolli, meaning “bitter,” and atl, which is “water.”

 

While chocolate is regularly eaten for pleasure, there are potential beneficial health effects of eating chocolate. Cocoa or dark chocolate reportedly benefits the circulatory system. Other beneficial effects suggested include anticancer, brain stimulator, cough preventor, and antidiarrheal effects.  As an aphrodisiac, its effect is yet unproven.

 

Recent studies have suggested that cocoa or dark chocolate may possess certain beneficial effects on human health. Cocoa possesses a significant antioxidant action.  Some studies have also observed a modest reduction in blood pressure and flow-mediated dilation after consuming dark chocolate daily.

 

There has even been a fad diet, named “Chocolate diet,” that emphasizes eating chocolate and cocoa powder in capsules. However, consuming milk chocolate or white chocolate, or drinking fat-containing milk with dark chocolate, appears largely to negate the health benefit.

 

A study reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation indicated that melting chocolate in one’s mouth produced an increase in brain activity and heart rate that was more intense than that associated with passionate kissing, and also lasted four times as long after the activity had ended.

 

People having headache are advised not to eat chocolates.  The reason: chocolates contain tyramine, a chief suspect in causing headaches.  However, many young people outgrow this chemical reaction.  “The body appears to build up a tolerance,” says Dr. Seymour Diamond, who has co-written several books on headaches.

 

If you have heartburn, you should avoid eating chocolates, too.  The sweet confection deals heartburn sufferers a double whammy.  It is nearly all fat and it contains caffeine (which may irritate an already inflamed esophagus).

 

Other things are just food. But chocolate’s chocolate,” said Patrick Skene Catling.  That’s why Brillat-Savarin advises, “If any man has drunk a little too deeply from the cup of physical pleasure; if he has spent too much time at his desk that should have been spent asleep; if his fine spirits have become temporarily dulled; if he finds the air too damp, the minutes too slow, and the atmosphere too heavy to withstand; if he is obsessed by a fixed idea which bars him from any freedom of thought: if he is any of these poor creatures, we say, let him be given a good pint of chocolate – and marvels will be performed.”

 

For comments, write me at henrytacio@gmail.com

 

Defy old age: Live longer

By Henrylito D. Tacio

 

The Bible recorded the oldest living man through these words: ‘When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech.  And after he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 872 years and had other sons and daughters.  Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died” (Genesis5:25-27).

 

Through the yeas, people are trying to figure out how to live longer, just like Methuselah.  In fact, many people in different parts of the globe at different times in history made it their life’s obsession. 

 

Ponce de Leon’s quest for the mysterious fountain of youth led him to discover Florida.  With its sunny weather, beautiful beaches, and palm trees, Florida in itself is a kind of fountain of youth.  Many Americans today who retire to Florida do seem to recover their youthful energy and vigor.

 

In 1808, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote of a 14th century alchemist, Faust, who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for a youth-restoring potion.  As expected, Faust came to an unpleasant end.

 

No one lives forever, for sure.  But this fact doesn’t stop doctors and scientists to search for ways how to live longer.  “Aging is the progressive accumulation of changes with time associated with or responsible for the ever-increasing likelihood of disease and death which accompanies advancing age.”  That statement comes from Denham Harmon, one of the leading experts in the field of anti-aging research.

 

In recent years, people are living longer – thanks to science.  But, on second thought, merely living longer isn’t good enough.  What people want these days is not just living longer, but also living healthier lives.  Who wants to live longer if it means just existing, unable to enjoy life?

 

“A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses,” wrote Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, centuries ago.

 

Dr. Steven G. Aldana, of Brigham Young University, recently revealed that a person may be able to add 20 years or more to his or her life by making several health changes.  “People don’t have to completely turn their lives around to get significant benefits,” Dr. Aldana said.  Example: Someone who exercises for 30 minutes six times a week can gain 2.4 years of life, even if that person doesn’t adequately control his blood pressure.

 

But not smoking is probably the most important change. “Men who smoke a pack a day lose an average of 13 years of life, while women lose 14 years,” he commented.   Every year, there are about 20,000 smoking-related deaths in the Philippines, where about 60 percent of men smoke.

 

Excess weight greatly increases the risk of cancer, diabetes and hypertension. A person who is 20 pounds over his/her ideal weight is 50% more likely to develop heart disease — and the risk increases as weight increases.

 

In simpler terms, shed those extra pounds by doing regular exercise.  People who engage in moderate exercise at least three to five times a week can reduce their blood pressure by an average of 10 points and dramatically lower their risk of diabetes. A study at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, Texas showed that men who ran, walked briskly, swam, jogged, or played tennis lowered their risks of dying early by 64 percent.

 

For lowering blood pressure, walking – and not running! — may be the better form of exercise.   American president Harry S Truman took to walking briskly until the ripe old age of 88.   Astronaut John Glenn credited his celebrated return to orbit at age 77 to his two-mile daily power walk.  

 

But exercise is not enough.  There are other things you must do:  Eat most meals at home (restaurant food tends to be higher in calories). Drink water instead of soda (the sugar in soft drinks is a main contributor to weight gain — and artificial sweeteners have not been proven safe). Don’t eat in front of the television (studies show that people who engage in “mindless” eating take in far more calories).

 

Watch what you put into your mouth.  Studies show that eating one-quarter cup of nuts five times a week can add 2.5 years to your life. Fruits and vegetables lengthen your life by 2-4 years. People who increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables from two to five servings a day can reduce by half their risk of many cancers — including pancreatic, colorectal and endometrial cancers.

 

For every 10 grams of fiber you consume per day, your risk of heart attack goes down by 14% and risk of death from heart disease drops by 27%. People who eat as little as two servings of fiber-rich whole grains daily can reduce their risk of stroke by 36%. Fiber-rich foods, which can also reduce colon cancer risk, lengthen life by 2-4 years.

 

Sleep well.  William Shakespeare wrote a long, long time ago: “Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care, the death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath; balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, chief nourishes in life’s feast.”

 

Wrote the editors of Super Life, Super Health: “The secret of staying young could simply be a good night’s sleep.  Sleep rejuvenates and revitalizes your body.  Human growth hormone (HGH) is produced only during deep sleep.  The amount of deep sleep you get, and the amount of growth hormone you make, decreases with age.  If you could get more deep sleep and, therefore, produce more HGH, you might be able to slow down the aging process.”

 

As you grow older, don’t worry about it.  The more you worry, the more you will likely to meet your Creator.  In fact, be thankful that you are able to reach the age which most people have not attained.  Perhaps, you can sing Paul Anka’s song: “My friends, I’ll say it clear; I’ll state my case of which I’m certain.  I’ve lived a life that’s full.   I’ve traveled each and evr’y highway.  And more, much more than this, I did it my way.”

 

For comments, write me at henrytacio@gmail.com

What is Christmas without these decorations?

By Henrylito D. Tacio

 

The origin of Christmas differs as the precise date of the birth and historicity of Jesus are much debated. Christmas, literally meaning the Mass of Christ, is a traditional holiday in the Christian calendar.

 

It is referred that during the 4th century, the celebration of Christ’s birth on December 25 was gradually adopted by most Eastern churches. In Jerusalem, opposition to Christmas lasted longer as according to them the exact date of birth of Jesus Christ is unknown. It is said that December 17-24th was the period of Saturnalia, a well-known festival in pagan, Rome. December 25th was the birthday of Mithra, the Iranian god of light. This day was adopted by the church as Christmas to counteract the effects of these festivals.

Today, Christmas has turned out to be one of the most popular festivals that fill joy, happiness and love in people’s life. The festival of Christmas has absorbed various customs and traditions of world and 25th December has emerged as the most important day for Christians, irrespective of its roots. It is taken as a day that reflects the power, glory and salvation of Jesus Christ and his message of hope to the world.

 

In the Philippines, Christmas would not be complete without those season’s symbols and decorations.  Some of them were copied from other countries, although there are some that are truly Filipinos.

 

Almost every Christmas season, Filipino homes and buildings are adorned with beautiful star lanterns, called parol (from the Spanish word “farol,” which means lantern or lamp. Parol reminds the Filipino Christians of the star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Wise Men (or Tatlong Hari as they call them) on their way in search of Baby Jesus.

 

The earliest parols were traditionally made from simple materials like bamboo sticks, Japanese rice paper (known as papel de Hapon) or crepe paper, and a candle or coconut oil-lamp for illumination; although the present day parol can take many different shapes and forms.

 

As early as November, parols are hang on windows or door of every Filipino homes, offices, schools, shopping malls and even streets are adorned with these multi-colored lanterns. You will even find mini parols hanging on buses and jeepneys and cars.

 

The most spectacular exhibition and parade of parol is held every year in San Fernando Pampanga, famous for the most unique star lanterns in shapes, colors and sizes made from all kinds of material.  The town becomes the center of Christmas activities, every year spectators get to marvel the amazing lights of the giant lanterns.

 

Another traditional Filipino Christmas symbol is the belen (also called a crib or manger in the United Kingdom and crèche in France).  A tableau representing the Nativity scene, it depicts the infant Jesus Christ in the manger, surrounded by the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the shepherds, their flock, the three Wise Men and some stable animals and angels.  Belens can be seen in homes, churches, schools and even office buildings.

 

This traditional Christmas decoration combines two different events in the Gospels.  The first one was when the shepherds are informed by angels that “for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Matthew 2:10-11).   The second was “when [the Wise Men] saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him” (Luke 2:11).

 

Tarlac, known as the “Belen Capital of the Philippines holds the annual Belenismo sa Tarlac. It is a belen making contest which is participated by establishments and residents in Tarlac. Giant belens with different themes are displayed in front of the establishments and roads of Tarlac for the rest of the Christmas season.

 

The story of the origin of the Christmas belen rests with the very holy man, St. Francis of Assisi.  In the year 1223, St. Francis, a deacon, was visiting the town of Grecio to celebrate Christmas. Grecio was a small town built on a mountainside overlooking a beautiful valley. The people had cultivated the fertile area with vineyards. St. Francis realized that the chapel of the Franciscan hermitage would be too small to hold the congregation for Midnight Mass. So he found a niche in the rock near the town square and set up the altar, which became the first Nativity scene.

 

One very popular Christmas decorations is the poinsettia.  In nature, poinsettias are perennial flowering shrubs that can grow to ten feet tall.  The showy colored parts of poinsettias that most people think are the flowers are actually colored bracts (modified leaves).  The flowers of the poinsettia are in the center of the colorful bracts.

 

All over the world, it is known as a flower that symbolizes Christmas, the day when Jesus Christ was born.  Its association with the Nativity happened in Mexico during the 16th century.  According to a legend, a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday was told by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar.  Crimson “blossoms” sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias.

Another legend has it that the poinsettia became associated with Christmas because the Mexicans regarded it as symbolic of the Star of Bethlehem.   From the 17th century, Franciscan monks in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations.

The name “poinsettia” is named after Joel Robert Poinsett, the first American ambassador to Mexico, who introduced the plant into the United States in 1825.  Scientifically, it is known as Euphorbia pulcherrima.

 

A Christmas without the Christmas tree is incoherent. The fragrance and essence of the Christmas trees have been an integral part of the celebrations as well as of the family unit since time immemorial. Gifts are placed under the tree, as family and friends gather around to celebrate the birth of Christ.

 

Many legends exist about the origin of the Christmas tree. One is the story of Saint Boniface, an English monk who organized the Christian Church in France and Germany. One day, as he traveled about, he came upon a group of pagans gathered around a great oak tree about to sacrifice a child to the god Thor. To stop the sacrifice and save the child’s life Boniface felled the tree with one mighty blow of his fist. In its place grew a small fir tree. The saint told the pagan worshipers that the tiny fir was the Tree of Life and stood the eternal life of Christ.

Another legend holds that Martin Luther, a founder of the Protestant faith, was walking through the forest one Christmas Eve. As he walked he was awed by the beauty of millions of stars glimmering through the branches of the evergreen trees. So taken was he by this beautiful sight that he cut a small tree and took it home to his family. To recreate that same starlight beauty he saw in the wood, he placed candles on all its branches.

 

Perhaps the most popular symbol of Christmas is Santa Claus.  On Christmas eve, he rides in his flying sleigh, pulled by reindeer from house to house to give presents to children. During the rest of the year he lives at the North Pole.  The names of his reindeer are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. Rudolph, “the red-nosed reindeer,” has featured in many modern aspects of the Santa Claus myth.

 

The modern Santa Claus is a composite character made up from the merging of two quite separate figures. The first of these is Saint Nicholas of Myra, a bishop of Byzantine Anatolia, now in modern day Turkey famous for his generous gifts to the poor. The second character is Father Christmas, which remains the British name for Santa Claus. Father Christmas dates back at least as far as the 17th century in Britain, and pictures of him survive from that era, portraying him as a well-nourished bearded man dressed in a long, green, fur-lined robe.

 

The modern depiction of Santa Claus as a fat, jolly man wearing a red coat and trousers with white cuffs and collar, and black leather belt and boots, became popular in the United States in the 19th century due to the significant influence of caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast.

 

Christmas is not Christmas without these decorations and symbols. — ###