Healthy Diet: What Really Causes Cardiovascular Disease

Americans are increasingly concerned with eating healthy. Over the past two decades, there has been a myriad of changes in the public’s perception of what is and isn’t healthy. Initially, it was generally agreed upon and understood that a diet consisting mainly of greasy food and too much sweets was unhealthy. However, the consensus on what foods are to be considered healthy versus harmful has become complex and the subject of much debate. For instance, it was once considered unhealthy to eat eggs, though the medical consensus has changed— it turns out that eggs are not as high in cholesterol as once thought—many people still maintain that the yolks should be removed, and that egg whites are healthier.

Much of the focus on health has revolved around a single nutrient, food, or food group. For example, whole wheat  became preferred over bleached flour, then eventually, eating any wheat at all became controversial and wheat-free diets were promoted. The same happened with rice: white rice gave way to brown rice, which then gave way to quinoa. Super foods like soy, kale, and chia seeds became popular, along with fad diets, like the Atkins diet which emphasized low carbohydrate intake, and the Southbeach diet. Most recently,  health gurus promoted health concepts which lead to the  alkaline diet, out of which came alkaline water. Now, sensationalized documentaries are leading people to abandon meat and dairy all together.

As a result, many are unfortunately left confounded when it comes to what they should or should not eat. There is much fear surrounding food safety and health, due impart to a lack of understanding of nutritional requirements and technological advancements in food production, leaving many weary that meat and dairy, in particular, can lead to the development of Cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes. However, focusing on the beneficial effects of a single nutrient, food, or food group does not comprise a healthy diet. What is more important is dietary pattern; the amounts, frequency, and variety of nutrients and foods that are consumed habitually, coupled with other lifestyle factors, are the greatest determinants in the association of diet and health, as Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes are consequences of leading a sedentary lifestyle while being overweight or obese. Continue reading

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Hello Hookah

You’ve probably noticed the obnoxious smell of contraband in the air, your hair and your clothes while visiting a club, bar, or lounge has been suddenly replaced with the sweet smoldering scent of Hookah. Gone are the days of the disk jockey abruptly stopping the music to announce that management will shut down the party if, the owner of some offensive ganga smoke doesn’t extinguish his ‘spliff” immediately. So how did this come to be, how did Shisha replace Maryjane on the dance floor? Is she the new slimmer sexier safer cigarette or something more sinister and insidious?

Hookah also known  as shisha, and commonly referred to as waterpipe smoking is a combination of tobacco, water, and charcoal smoked through a waterpipe. Although novel, mysterious, and exotic to many in the U.S.A. is has been smoked for centuries primarily by men in the Middle East, eastern Mediterranean , and parts of Asia like India. During the 1990’s fancy flavored tobacco was introduced and the hookah experience began to explode. All sorts of exotic fruity flavors, and sultry perfumed fragrances captured the senses of young women, and collage aged adolescents and young adults.

I still remember when my roommates would go down to the Village in Manhattan to secluded hookah lounges where they could be hip and trendy. Now hookah is at any and every venue imaginable. It’s now the accepted and expected thing to do while on the scene these days. It’s commonly perceived as being a safe and noncriminal alternative to smoking cigarettes or weed People say “it’s just flavored water vapor” or that “the water filters out the bad stuff”. Is this true though? Why buzz would you get from smoking mist anyway?

In actuality, hookah contains the same harmful chemicals as cigarettes such as nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde. Just like with traditional smoking, it carries a risk of cancer, but with the added risks of infectious disease. Sharing a mouthpiece or pipe can transmit tuberculosis and other respiratory infections. In habitual users, research has shown an increase  in heart rate  blood pressure, and bronchitis. Long term use can result in cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, because  of the tar, nicotine, and fine particulate matter released from the burning coal and tobacco.

Hookah has not been regulated by the FDA in the U.S. so there are no warnings labeled at sale. Due to the current lack of government regulation many people assume it is safe. The EPA and National Toxicology Program warn against the adverse affects of hookah, its second-hand smoke, and addictive propensity. Organizations like the Society of Toxicology are working to education the public and push for more research and government control. The reality is that a rose by any other name is still a rose. Hookah is the new cigarette in a sexier dress and better perfume.