Between shopping and the holiday social whirl it’s all too easy to stress out this time of year, losing sight of what truly matters. Many of us are still coping with economic hardship, so lower your expectations. When it comes to gift giving, the thought and care that go into choosing a gift matter more than its intrinsic value.
The winter solstice has been a period of merry making at least since the ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia when the slaves in Rome could freely speak their minds and, in a role reversal, were served a feast by their masters.
Hanukkah came on the scene in 164 BC when after overthrowing the Syrians, the Maccabees rededicated the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by burning a single day’s supply of oil that miraculously lasted eight. The details of the commemoration weren't established until centuries later.
The earliest Christian holiday was Easter not Christmas because in contrast with Jesus' death right after Passover there is no mention in the gospels of the date or season of his birth.
The first birth feast established on December 25 was in 274 AD by the Roman emperor Aurelian. It was set as the birthday of the unconquered sun god, Sol Invictus. The 25th was appropriate because by that date the sun was proving invincible as days were starting to get notably longer.
Christianity first spread in the Roman Empire through the lower classes. Since Saturnalia was already a festival of slave ascendancy, nobody looked askance at early Christians celebrating Jesus’ birth that time of year. Pope Benedict XVI does credit Hippolytus of Rome, a third century theologian, as being the first person to state that Jesus was born on December 25th. The pope also conceded that Christmas was finally established as being on December 25th in the 4th century, when in the newly Christianized empire, the celebration of the birth of the Son replace the one commemorating the birth of the sun.
Kwanzaa is the latest December holiday, established in 1966 by Maulana Karenga as an African American alternative to Christmas. The holiday includes gift giving and is commemorated by a 7 candle kinara that symbolizes seven principles of black self reliance.
Whether you’re celebrating the light of a menorah, a kinara, or the light of the world, remember that the year end holidays should be a time of joy, sharing conviviality with family and friends.
According to Dr. Bradley Willcox, in the anti aging documentary on DVD, "Reverse Aging Now," two major reasons why the Okinawans are the world's longest lived people are their social and spiritual support, factors in healthy aging that all of us can enhance this time of year. May you have a memorable and satisfying Hanukkah beginning the night of December 7th, Christmas on December 25th, or Kwanzaa starting on December 26th.
Last year CNN Health reported that most adults gained about a pound during the holidays, while those who were obese gained an average of five pounds. It doesn't sound like a lot until you learn that for most adults, the weight doesn't come off so after 25 years of not losing that single pound the average 45 year old has a holiday roll s/he now wears.
Keep these two points in mind:
Don't stuff yourself. Make the right food choices and exercise portion control. As just one example, choosing wine over alcohol laden egg nog can cut your calories per drink in half.
Secondly, although you might be tempted to leave the exercise to the football players on TV after your feasting, it's far better to bundle up and take a walk after your meal, or as my family did after one holiday meal, a fun set of doubles tennis in the brisk winter air mixing ages and ability, intent less on scoring than moving, so that the calories didn't stick.
This holiday season, it's all too easy to concentrate on eating as the key to weight control but exercise has a huge role. In the anti aging documentary on DVD, "Reverse Aging Now," experts like Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard Medical School emphasized the salutary effects of exercise including lowering the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.
A new study from the Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark shows that those who got moderate exercise maximized their weight loss over a 13 week, period, including those who engaged in a heavy exercise regimen. Danish scientists recruited a group off flabby, sedentary men in their twenties and thirties, dividing them into three groups, one which would not change its current lifestyle, another which engaged in 30 minutes of daily exercise like jogging or cycling, and a final group that did 60 minutes of comparable exercise each day.
The control group had no metabolic changes as expected. Those who exercised the most lost an average of 5 pounds, but here's the surprise: The men who engaged in moderate exercise lost the most weight, an average of 7 pounds.
Mads Rosenkilde, a PhD candidate at the University of Copenhagen, led the study. He concluded that those who engaged in the moderate exercise routine lost more weight because participants exercising a lot felt the need to eat more. Modest exercise caused the participants “to burn calories without wanting to replace them so much,” Rosenkilde said.
Those who exercised the most were in better shape after 13 weeks, so if you have the time, exercise more, but if you can't spare a full hour from your life for a daily workout, take heart from the fact that even a modest exercise routine can help you control your waist line this holiday season.
A new study in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that in the last three decades a million women have been over diagnosed and over treated for breast cancer due to mammography
“There’s been a dramatic increase in early-stage breast cancers that coincides with an increased use of mammograms,” said study co-author Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute of Health Policy.
The study concluded that close to a third of women diagnosed with breast cancer have tiny, slow growing tumors that wouldn’t cause any problems if left untreated. Because doctors can’t tell in advance whether these tumors are deadly, all get treated, some with harsh regimens like chemotherapy which can lead to complications worse than the tumors themselves.
“It’s not enough to find early-stage breast cancer; it must translate into fewer women being diagnosed at a later stage, and we found this decrease to be remarkably small,” Welch said.
If you're wondering where the American Cancer Society stands in light of the new findings, it hasn’t changed its recommendation that women over 40 get an annual mammogram as part of their annual physicals. “We find that the evidence supports the conclusion that mammography saves lives, and that the benefits of screening mammography outweigh the risks and harms,” said Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.
A new study of 42 countries on four continents concluded that the increasingly widespread consumption of high fructose corn syrup has created a Type-2 Diabetes epidemic. Oxford and University of Southern California researchers found that people who ate or drank the corn sweetener had a 20 percent higher rate of Type-2 diabetes than those in nations that didn’t use it.
The study published this November in the journal Global Public Health concluded that the United States has the highest per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup, about 55 pounds a year. The study is more evidence that the corn sweetener is more harmful than table sugar.
Table sugar is sucrose, two molecules, glucose and fructose, bound tightly together in equal amounts which must be broken down by the enzymes in human digestive systems. High fructose corn syrup is 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose without the molecules being bound together so they are more rapidly absorbed by the blood stream causing spikes in insulin. The fructose goes right to the liver where it triggers the production of triglycerides.
The study pointed out the rise in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in Mexico following the “exponential” rise in high fructose corn syrup consumption in Mexico after US exports increased in 2008 after trade barriers were lifted.
Type-2 diabetes used to be known as adult onset diabetes. It is characterized by high glucose levels in the blood. The disease can develop slowly over years. Symptoms include increased thirst and hunger along with frequent urination. Although obesity is a contributing factor, diabetics may find themselves losing weight despite eating more. Other symptoms include fatigue, blurred vision, slow healing sores, frequent infections and dark patches on the skin. A diabetes test should be part of everybody’s annual physical.
If diet and exercise aren’t enough to turn around the beginning stage of the condition, treatment might take the form of glucose monitoring and insulin injections. According to the National Institute of Health, 27 percent of US residents 65 years and older had diabetes in 2010. In the anti aging documentary "Reverse Aging Now," Dr. Robert Lanza explained, “It’s a horrible disease. It can cause blindness and limb amputation.”
It’s also the leading cause of kidney failure and a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of death in the industrialized world.
High fructose corn syrup is a common ingredient in prepared foods. Be sure to read ingredient lists carefully. It’s time to add the corn sweetener to the additives you’ll never consider eating like hydrogenated fat.
This holiday season, give the gift of health. Whom would you like to keep around for a few more years?
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Reverse Aging News ©2012 Checkmate Pictures - Paul M. J. Suchecki, Editor, photo of Paul Suchecki by Carolisa Pomerantz
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