St Louis is a great American city filled with midwestern charm and youthful energy. The Cathedral Basilica (a portion of which is shown in the first frame) is one of America’s most beautiful Catholic churches and the Gateway Arch, the world’s tallest stainless steel monument (height=width), represents U.S. expansion from East to West. St. Louis is also home to Washington University (WashU), one of America’s premier institutions of higher learning.
As I watch the 2018 World Series, I can’t help but reminisce about one of baseball’s most storied franchises, the St. Louis Cardinals. After all, the redbirds (not the Dodgers or the Red Sox) are second only to the Yankees in winning the most World Series championships. And among the greatest Cardinals to ever play the game (my all-time favorite) was 3rd baseman Ken Boyer. His clutch grand slam home run in the 1964 World Series turned the tide in favor of St. Louis as the Cardinals upended the Yankees (and their all-star trio of Mantle, Maris and Ford). Check out the recent book on Ken Boyer that provides a compelling argument in support of Boyer’s induction into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA.
Dietary supplements are a multibillion dollar industry that for many years have been promoted to improve your health. After all, why wouldn’t you want to take a vitamin that is “guaranteed” to boost mood, energy and vitality, while reducing all types of maladies? Companies supporting these products have convincingly sold the public that unproven supplements are the “be-all-end-all” and it is not uncommon for a patient to rely on supplements rather than proven remedies for treating a variety of ailments,
Listed below are several reasons why you should be skeptical with regard to the use dietary supplements and why their use is hard to swallow.
- Supplements may contain toxic compounds. Believe it or not, dietary supplements are considered as a category of food and considered “safe until proven otherwise”. This is vastly different from OTC (over the counter) pills that are strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. In other words, if you purchase an OTC product like ibuprofen 200 mg, you will receive ibuprofen 200 mg. But if you purchase a supplement, you may be receiving more than you bargained for. In fact, a large study found that supplements can contain toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and lead.
- Supplements are not proven to benefit health. Vitamin supplements, that have tested Vitamins A, B, C and E have failed in large clinical trials to reduce the risk of heart disease or malignancy. Even Vitamin D supplements have not been shown to improve bone health. And what about those omega-3 and krill capsules that have been heavily promoted? Well once again, there is no evidence that these supplements work either!
- Some supplements may cause more harm than good: Vitamin A supplements have been linked to increased risk of cancer as have herbal supplements containing guang fang ji.
- Supplements are a waste of money: Supplements are expensive, unregulated and unproven, so why take them? Well, the one exception would be if you are deficient in a specific vitamin, such as vitamin B12 or D that cannot be adequately driven up through dietary sources. In these instances, it is reasonable to take the supplement to raise levels to normal and avoid the potential problems associated with low levels. However, if your levels are within the normal range, then no proven benefit exists. Nevertheless, because taking a vitamin sounds better than taking a medication, I tell my patients to consider their medications as their “vitamins”. This is a win-win because vitamins sound better but medications work better.
- Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA. His book: “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease” focuses on natural ways to improve health without supplements!
Over the past several years, Monday nights have become a favorite of mine as we gather together at a neighbor’s house to play poker. Now, if I am going to lose on a regular basis, I couldn’t think of more deserving men to give away my hard earned cash than to 4 heroes: 3 World War II Veterans and retired police officer. As pictured from left to right, Mel: a former Marine who fought in the Battle of Okinawa, Bruce: who served to protect the citizens of Baltimore during his years on patrol, Carmen: who won a Purple Heart for his bravery during the Battle of Anzio, and Rene: who fought in the Battle of Dunkirk, (the subject of a recent motion picture).
Below are several observations learned in my poker games with these heroes.
- Heroes don’t talk about themselves & shy away from the spotlight. (During poker games, it took a lot of prodding for each of these men to talk about their heroic acts).
- Heroes are brutally honest. (Each of these players ensures that the game is played above board and no cheating occurs).
- Heroes are kind & empathetic. (When I customarily “lose my shirt” after playing poker, these heroes are genuinely kind and offer solace & comfort).
- Heroes have incredible poker faces. (That’s probably why I always lose)! Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA. He has conducted numerous research studies aimed at improving heart health and covered in his book: “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease“.
The expression, “a dog is a man’s (& girl’s) best friend” is especially meaningful when it comes to heart health. Studies conducted in recent years have reinforced the concept that pets in general (and dogs in particular) impact major risk factors affecting cardiovascular health. Listed below are several reasons why you should consider owning a pet (if you don’t already have one).
- Hugging your pet releases oxytocin. As shown in the picture taken of my son and pet cockapoo, when he was just a puppy. Oxytocin acts as an anti-stress hormone that not only boosts mood but also possesses blood pressure and heart rate lowering properties and may even assist in the regeneration of damaged heart cells.
- Owning a dog lowers cholesterol & triglyceride levels. Increased activity levels through walking, jogging and playing with your dog can help to reduce levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. In addition to LDL (the bad cholesterol), high levels of blood triglycerides (especially above 200 mg/dL or 2.3 mmol/L) have become increasingly recognized as an important contributor to adverse heart health.
- Stress reducing properties of pet ownership improves survival. Beyond increased physical activity levels and touching/hugging your pet, owning dogs or cats is associated with reduced risk of stroke.
- Improves recovery time after illness. After a serious illness, having a pet helps to improve overall recovery time. This may be particularly important if the person who is recovering has otherwise limited emotional support.
- Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA. His pet dog “George Herman” is 10 years old and continues to learn new tricks! Dr. Miller discusses other ways to boost heart health in his highly acclaimed book “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease“.