The end of the year always prompts thoughts about the start of the next one—and most often, those thoughts include ways we can change and better ourselves. It’s vital, then, to understand what is healthy and good for our bodies: What should we consume? What procedures will help us maintain our youth? What practices will ease our minds? We’ve compiled key information to give you the answers, all to create a better you.
coffee & wine: the facts
Wine was a cultural staple by 7000 B.C., and coffee came along much later, domesticated in Ethiopia by the 15th century. Our morning and evening buzzes support huge industries. Each year, consumers sip 6.5 billion gallons of wine and brew 20.9 billion pounds of coffee, according to trade association statistics. And current medical evidence tells us moderate doses of both are safe and possibly beneficial, although it’s not all good news.
alcohol & cancer
Links between alcohol consumption and cancer, particularly of the breast, have become more certain through recent research. “The American Society of Clinical Oncology just released a consensus statement,” says Dr. Theresa Schwartz, a SLUCare oncological surgeon specializing in breast cancer. “It says for women, the maximum amount of alcohol that should be ingested in a day is less than one drink, and men are allowed an average of two drinks a day without having an increased cancer risk.”
The society reports an estimated 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S. are attributed to alcohol, about 88,000 deaths from 2006 through 2010. “Even modest use of alcohol may increase cancer risks, but the greatest risks are observed with heavy, long-term use,” Schwartz says. There is convincing evidence that alcohol is a cause of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, colon and rectum, and alcohol is a probable cause of increased risk of liver cancer.
Alcohol-linked cancer risks vary by type of cancer and heredity. “The strongest associations were observed for upper aerodigestive tract cancers (i.e., larynx, esophagus and oral cavity/pharynx), which involve tissues that come into direct contact with ingested alcohol,” the statement explains. “Genetic predisposition may amplify the toxic and mutagenic effects of alcohol consumption.”
Many factors link excessive alcohol consumption to cancers, Schwartz says. The mechanisms are most pronounced in the development of breast cancer. “The liver has to metabolize alcohol, which changes the way the liver breaks down estrogen. In post-menopausal women, who generally have estrogen-driven breast cancers, that is one of the factors that increases overall risk. It also has to do with nutritional status. The more fatty tissue you have, the more estrogen your body makes, therefore putting you at a higher risk for breast cancers.”
Heavy drinking impairs health generally, Schwartz adds. “If you are taking in a lot of alcohol-related calories, you are not consuming healthy foods that your body needs in order to fight off abnormalities. You need to get the right nutrients and not waste calories.”
your evening cocktail
Red wine long has been touted for reducing heart disease risks, but Dr. Kevin Konzen, a Washington University Physicians primary care physician, says all forms of alcohol are now believed to offer similar benefits.
Excessive drinking is associated with:
» Decreased coordination, which leads to falls, accidents and trauma
» Domestic violence
» Poor work performance
» Decreased memory
» Certain forms of heart disease, neurological disease and diabetes
how much is recommended?
» One drink a day for females
» Two drinks for males
One drink is usually 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
the morning picker-upper
“Caffeine also has been studied in all forms—coffee, tea, cola drinks, energy drinks and tablets,” Konzen says. “The consensus is that 300 to 400 milligrams (three to four standard cups of coffee) per day can be considered of no harm to a healthy person.”
» Improvement in memory
» Reductions in the risks of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and colon and liver cancer
Excessive amounts of caffeine have been associated with:
» Rises in blood pressure
» Elevated blood sugar
» Diabetes or bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis
» Fluid loss and mild dehydration since it’s a diuretic
In little nips rather than big bites, the ‘tigers within’ stalk our health and happiness. How to tame them? Simple, peaceful, directed thought. “Everybody is affected by stress,” says Diane Sanford, a psychologist who practices at the Midwest Mind Body and Health Center in Webster Groves. “Research has found that the normal person experiences up to 50 stress triggers daily. In Buddhism, they call these the ‘tigers within.’ Other research indicates that we spend about 80 percent of our time worrying about the future, and 20 percent regretting the past.”
Sanford, who has practiced and taught psychology for 30 years, is known for her study and writings about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Her fourth book, Stress Less, Live Better: 5 Simple Steps to Ease Anxiety, Worry and Self-Criticism, offers a personal mindfulness program.
“We are triggered by circumstances,” she explains. “We have become increasingly bombarded by physical stimulation, especially in the digital age. The inner reactivity to stress can trigger more easily and become stronger because there is no opportunity to rest.” To turn down the world’s ‘volume,’ she recommends that mindfulness be adopted as another basic health practice. “I define mindfulness as paying attention to the present moment purposefully, without judgment and with self-compassion,” she says. “It teaches us how to direct our attention intentionally. The four pillars of health are nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress reduction.”
The benefits of stress relief are proven by research, Sanford says. “Every major psychotherapy approach developed in the last 20 years incorporates mindfulness in some way,” she notes. “This set of skills has been found to effectively alleviate physical conditions like chronic pain, headaches and irritable bowel syndrome. It has been shown to help mood and reduce depression and anxiety. It helps us ease self-criticism and worry.”
Sanford suggests a daily commitment to keep her program attainable. “I recommend that people take five minutes twice a day,” she says. “Start early in the morning and do five minutes of breathing and noticing sensory experiences. At the end of the day, spend five minutes tuning into your body, petting your dog or cat, or simply sitting outside.”
She says the most important thing about mindfulness is practicing consistently. “Over time, it becomes a part of your routine and goes from being a skill set to being a mindset,” she says.
the five steps
1. Focus on breathing.
2. Hold a comfort stone.
Hold a stone or something that has meaning to you in your hands. Instead of letting your mind wander, imagine something present or positive. If you can’t get that far, do something neutral like counting to 100 or reciting your ABCs.
3. Savor your sensory experiences.
If you are going for a walk, instead of rehearsing your to-do list or worrying about something, be in the moment. What are you feeling? What are you hearing? What are you seeing?
4. Become aware of negative thoughts.
Sanford says to learn that thoughts pass like clouds. Don’t let yourself get hung up on what you’re thinking rather than responding to an experience.
5. Have self-compassion.
Instead of being self-rejecting and self-critical, be compassionate toward yourself and don’t judge yourself against others.
The bright lights and busyness of the holidays are followed by the dark and calmness of winter. Those weeks of hibernation can be put to use by taking care of cosmetic procedures that need downtime, avoidance of sunlight and loose clothing.
“Any facial laser treatments are well tolerated in the winter since there are fewer sunny days and the longer rays of the winter sun are not as damaging,” says Dr. Michele Koo, a plastic surgeon in Kirkwood. “And it’s more comfortable and easier to hide swelling and compressive garments in bigger clothing after body contouring.”
Compression garments are required for about two weeks following invasive procedures, notes Dr. Richard Moore, a cosmetic surgeon and medical director of The Lifestyle Center in Ladue. And it is preferable to avoid sunlight before and following some procedures, especially those involving lasers, like hair removal, skin resurfacing and photofacials, he notes. “We can be a little more aggressive if somebody isn’t tan and can avoid hyperpigmentation from sun exposure following treatment,” he says. “Doing it in the winter is ideal.”
Koo adds, “Winter procedures allow adequate time for recovery by springtime and beach and pool weather.”
laser skin resurfacing
Heats skin tissue to reduce wrinkles, scars and blemishes
Downtime: 2 weeks
Cost: $1,031 to $2,330*
Heats tissue to stimulate collagen production. Smoothes wrinkles and sagging skin
Downtime: 3 to 5 days
Restores relaxation and looseness of skin and fat
Downtime: 2 weeks
j-plasma facial lift
Cold helium gas and radiofrequency energy heats and cools tissues. Tightens skin and creates new collagen
Downtime: 2 weeks
Surgical removal of excess fat
Downtime: 4 days to 2 weeks
Surgical placement of implants or fat transfers
Downtime: 2 to 4 weeks
Surgical removal of excess fat and skin
Downtime: 2 to 4 weeks
* Average 2016 national cost from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons
** Dr. Richard Moore