October Healthy Living: Germs @ Airports, Does Cheese Lower Risk of Disease? & Lowering Your Risk of Dementia

Plus3's monthly health tips are brought to you by Amy Bertram, a Wellness Specialist in North Carolina. Learn more about Amy on LinkedIn and on her blog. 


Most Germs in the Airport Lurk Where? 

In the security line on those bins that everybody touches. They harbor viruses from all of our phones, bags, shoes, and hands. In 2016 scientists had the privilege of swabbing down all kinds of fun places at an airport in Finland (1). But it wasn't the kiosks, elevator buttons, toilets, or handrails that had the most viral germs, but the security line bins. Unfortunately, we cannot escape those lines or bins.


Another study suggests that the most contaminated aspect of flying isn't simply breathing the air on your plane (2). Here are some recommendations for staying healthy during your next flight:

  • Sit by the window. Less exposure to the all of the other folks moving up and down the aisle.

  • Stay in your seat. Same as above: less exposure to others. Your biggest risk of becoming ill is sitting within two seats and two rows of someone who is contagious.

  • There is still a risk of sitting still for more than two hours, due to potential complications of blood clotting with the air pressure.

  • Wipe everything with a cleansing wipe, including your tray, arm rests, restroom door handle, toilet flusher, sink handle, etc. 

  • Drink plenty of water, rest when you can, and enjoy your time away from the earth

1) Ikonen et al, BMC Infectious Diseases, August 29, 2018

2) Hertzberg et alPNAS, March 19, 2018


Can Eating Cheese Lower Your Risk of Disease?

The debate about whether or not dairy is good for us continues. The most recent evidence (1) indicates that cheese, and to a lesser extent yogurt, may be healthier than milk. Yay! Who wants to give up cheese, anyway? I am sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the ice cream study. 


Here is the current evidence: A meta-analysis of 29 separate studies showed that there was no association between dairy consumption and cardiovascular disease or death from any cause. Yet, another very large study, which lasted 20 years, saw that a higher intake of milk doubled mortality risk (2). Where does that leave us?


A major and well-respected study by the US Centers for Disease Control (NHANES) indicated a 2% lower risk of death from consuming all dairy products, with an 8% lower risk of death from consuming cheese.


Wait, there's more. Stay with me. Another meta-analysis of 12 studies showed a 4% higher cardiovascular death risk with milk intake, but a 3% lower cardiovascular death risk with yogurt and other fermented products.


Do you see the pattern? When milk is isolated from "dairy" it appears to increase the death risk. At least for death from heart disease. Though these studies cannot prove causality that consuming dairy increases or decreases death, they certainly show correlation.


What makes some dairy seemingly healthy? Researchers have some theories, including that casein, the protein in dairy products, digests more slowly than other proteins. There is another milk fat theory that is entirely too clinical for me to explain here (3), but suggests the fat in cheese is different from the fat in milk, and doesn't raise LDL cholesterol.


The takeaway from all of this medical research is to continue your cheese and yogurt consumption, and moderate milk consumption, especially full-fat versions. But keep in mind that cheese tends to be consumed with other high-calorie foods, and in large portions. Think pizza, cheese sticks, dips, etc. So be aware of your total food intake. But yay for more cheese and yogurt research! (And stay tuned for the ice cream research. I may have to do that one myself.)


1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28374228

2) https://www.escardio.org/The-ESC/Press-Office/Press-releases/Current-advice-to-limit-dairy-intake-should-be-reconsidered 

3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26016870


Do This and Lower Your Risk of Dementia

A seven-question metric by the American Heart Association was able to determine who would have a lower incidence of dementia. Of the almost 7,000 French adults over the age of 65 who took this metric, those with the best scores were the least likely to get dementia (1). Here are the seven elements of the metric:

  1. Not smoking

  2. Body mass index (BMI) under 25

  3. Eating fish at least twice a week and consuming vegetables or fruits at least 3 times/day.  

  4. Regular physical activity

  5. Total cholesterol under 200 mg/dL

  6. Fasting blood sugar under 100 mg/dL

  7. Blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg

If this indicates my likelihood of maintaining brain function, I am happy to oblige! Alzheimer's and dementia are very difficult diseases to prevent, and there is no known cure. 


For more information on eating and living to prevent age-related dementia, google the MIND Diet, on which I have written extensively in earlier newsletters.


1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2697696

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