Monday, November 21, 2016

Dealing Effectively with Diabetes

by Darra McMullen,
Women’s Health Network Writer/Researcher

The disease, diabetes, is a scourge proliferating around the world at alarming rates.  The results of diabetes bring blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, weight gain or loss, limb amputation, skin ulcers, constipation, and nausea.
            In a nutshell, diabetes is a condition of long-term, chronic high blood sugar that slowly destroys the body’s tissues.  There are various drugs, both oral and by injection, that can lower blood sugar and extend life.  Although these drugs can be helpful, and are life extending, they are not “cures”, and many of these drugs have significant side effects.
            The best way to deal with diabetes is to avoid getting it in the first place, or if already afflicted with the ailment, one should take a hands-on management style to the condition and not rely solely on prescription drugs.  Do what you can to help yourself.
            Diabetes comes as either type 1 or type 2.  Type 1 victims are born with an inability to produce sufficient insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar.  Type II diabetes is a condition that comes on gradually over a long period of time and typically appears in middle aged or older adults, although recently, more youthful patients have been being diagnosed.
            Type 2 diabetes is thought to develop as the body’s pancreas becomes worn out, exhausted, and/or confused and can no longer make or release insulin appropriately; to complicate matters further, throughout the body, cells become less attentive to insulin’s presence, resulting in insulin resistance.  Pancreatic exhaustion and insulin resistance are thought to result largely from diets too high in sugars and carbohydrates.  Not only does the pancreas become “tired” over time from having to deal with so many sugars, but the body’s cells system-wide become less responsive to the ever-present insulin to the point that they quit being able to usher sugars into the cells efficiently.  When sugars don’t make it into the cells, sugar levels in the blood rise, wreaking havoc all over the body’s various parts.
            So, what can be done to help prevent or treat diabetes effectively?  Below are a few important suggestions:

            •  Eat a well balanced diet that goes light on sugars, simple carbohydrates, and sugar substitutes.  For a while, about 20 to 30 years ago, diabetics were urged to use sugar substitutes to replace regular table sugar as a “healthier” option.  Years of the public’s experience and more recently, scientific research, has shown most of these sweeteners to have significant drawbacks of various sorts, and some substitutes may be equally, if not more, disturbing to the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels than table sugar itself.
            Stevia is a rare exception.  This naturally derived sweetener will actually lower blood sugar, which can be good for diabetics.  However, diabetics should monitor blood sugar levels carefully to be sure their glucose levels don’t go too low if using stevia extensively while taking prescription sugar lowering drugs.

            •  Exercise is also an excellent antidote to high blood glucose.  Not only does the exercise itself help to burn calories and temporarily lower blood sugar levels, but exercise also assists with lowering inflammation levels throughout the body, which are thought to contribute to the development of diabetes.  Exercise also helps to reduce excess body fat and emotional stress, both of which are additional contributors to the onset of diabetes.

            •  Stress reduction is very critical to avoiding, or successfully treating, diabetes.  The human body produces a much higher rate of cortisol than normal when under chronic stress.  Cortisol raises blood sugar levels; therefore, chronic unrelenting stress and its accompanying high cortisol levels will result in elevated blood sugar rates compared to those of a person in a normal, relaxed state of being.
            Seek any way practical to your individual lifestyle to reduce stress; whether you choose long walks outdoors, yoga, chatting with a friend, watching a favorite T.V. show, going on vacation, or whatever you find relaxing, be sure to make time for down time.  Your pancreas, heart, adrenal glands, and body in general will thank you.

            •  Any time you’re choosing to eat something sugary, exercise conscious portion control and pair the sugary food with something that has protein, fat, or fiber.  Any of these three nutrient types will slow the body’s reaction to the presence of simple sugars and reduce glucose spikes (and dips).

            •  Think about adding cinnamon to your diet occasionally to lower blood sugar naturally.  Cinnamon adds a pleasant little kick to many foods, and it has been scientifically shown to lower blood sugar.
            If you wish to include cinnamon in your regimen regularly, look for cinnamon capsule supplements at health food stores.  Large, regular doses of “table” cinnamon used for seasoning can cause a toxic overload of certain cinnamon compounds in the body.  Capsule supplements that are designed for regular consumption are generally free of (or low in) these compounds and are therefore safer than taking a lot of “table” cinnamon.

            •  Many people, especially diabetics, benefit from taking supplemental alpha-lipoic acid, chromium picolinate, and/or magnesium to help lower and stabilize blood sugar and to help strengthen their bodies against some of the ravages of diabetes.
            As always, before taking any dietary supplement(s), check with your doctor to avoid any “contra-indications” between your prescription drugs and dietary supplements.  Also, a chat with your physician may help reveal any likely sensitivities, allergies, or other specific reasons pertaining to your individual health that would point toward taking or not taking a particular supplement.

            In conclusion, when facing the possibility of (or certainty of) the old foe, diabetes, take a thoughtful, proactive approach; weigh your options carefully and don’t be afraid to change course if things aren’t working out as you’d hoped.  There are many helpful ways to attack this nemesis.  Use all the weapons in the arsenal that are right for your situation.  Good luck!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Restaurant Review: America’s Wine Dinner

America’s Wine Dinner

Manager, James Tohill
Dining at America’s River Oaks transforms you into the tastes and feeling of adventure that the original explorers experienced when discovering new worlds.  Contemporary art gives tribute to earthy seeds, beans and corn.  The uniqueness of each fabric light fixture mimics a field of flowers and the smooth dark booths are giant curls carved from blocks of chocolate.  Even the sleek design of the chairs resembles Peruvian llama legs.
Paella Mariscada

The Everyday 4 – 7 Happy Hour (and All Day Thursdays) attracts 75 percent women
by providing an intimate atmosphere with a selection of small plates featuring lobster corndogs, tiritas – a potato crusted calamari with JalapeƱo remoulade or Ahi Tuna. 
A recent wine dinner started with an Ahi Tuna Tostada dressed with romaine, garlic, blue cheese and sesame followed by Paella

Turtle Cheesecake

Mariscada, a blend of achiote Shrimp, lump crab, green mussels, chorizo and saffron rice.   The main course of Chuletas de Cordero (smoked lamb chops) was by far the best lamb I have ever been served.  All courses were paired with the perfect Marques de Caceres wines.   The finale featured turtle cheesecake laced with oreo, almond praline, chocolate and salted toffee.   This unique experience made me question why I had not visited America’s since it moved

Eclectic mirror in the 

ladies' room flirts back

at you
from the Galleria.  And ladies, there are not many places you can find a mirror that flirts back with you.  The evening was a great new re-connection with distinctive old favorite.

October, 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Helpful Advice for Breast Cancer Prevention and Screening

by Darra McMullen,
Women’s Health Network Writer/Researcher

The subject of breast cancer is so broad that it deserves several in-depth articles covering different aspects of the condition, its prevention, and treatment.  Although such an endeavor is not possible within the confines of this relatively brief web article, some major highlights of breast cancer prevention and screening will be discussed.
            Let’s look first at breast cancer prevention.  To begin, we’ll examine some of the American Cancer Society’s best advice for breast (or any) cancer prevention.  Preferring to generate original material, this writer rarely ever includes large passages of a source’s words verbatim; however, in this particular case, I felt that the American Cancer Society did a particularly good and succinct job of providing useful information in its printed materials.  The next following twelve paragraphs are words taken directly from American Cancer Society pamphlets and booklets.  A brief note will be made in the article when American Cancer Society words end, and this writer resumes original material.

Maintain a healthy weight throughout life.
            • Balance caloric intake with physical activity.
            • Avoid excessive weight gain throughout your life.
            • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight if currently overweight or obese.

Adopt a physically active lifestyle.
            • Adults should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, above your usual daily activities, on five days or more a week; 45 to 60 minutes of intentional physical activity is preferable if you want to reduce the risk of colon and breast cancer.
            • Children and adolescents should get at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least five days a week.

Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant sources.
            • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that will help you maintain a healthy weight.
            • Eat at least five servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
            • Choose whole grains instead of refined grains and sugars.
            • Limit your consumption of processed and red meats.

If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit consumption.
            • For men, limit alcohol to two drinks a day, for women, 1 drink a day.
            • A drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or one and one-half ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
            • The risk of breast cancer increases with just a few drinks per week.  Women at high risk for breast cancer may consider not consuming alcohol at all.  Reducing alcohol consumption is a good way for women who drink regularly to reduce their risk of breast cancer.

Other important dietary tips from the American Cancer Society include:

            • Canned and frozen vegetables and fruits can be just as nutritious as fresh and, depending on the season, may be cheaper.  Watch out for canned fruits packed in heavy syrup and for vegetables high in sodium.  Choose frozen fruits without added sugar and frozen vegetables without high-fat sauces.

            • Packed with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber, beans are a great addition to your cancer-fighting diet.  Try them in salads, in soups, as a side dish, or even as a main course.  Try serving main-course bean dishes at least once a week as a low-fat, high fiber alternative to meat.  In a hurry?  Use canned beans instead of dried.

            • Look for “whole grain” as the first ingredient on labels for bread, cereal, and crackers.  Choose whole grains over processed (white) grains when possible.

            • Choose fish, poultry, or beans as an alternative to beef, pork, and lamb.

            • When you eat meat, select lean cuts and smaller portions.

            • Prepare meat by baking, broiling, or poaching, rather than by frying or charbroiling.

            • Frying or charbroiling meats at very high temperatures creates chemicals that might increase cancer risk.  Although these chemicals cause cancer in animal experiments, it’s not clear if they actually cause cancer in people.  Best advice: limit how often you grill meats; don’t eat any charred parts, and precook meats a little before you put them on the grill to limit their time being grilled.

Writer’s note:  American Cancer Society information ends with the above paragraph.
            This writer’s original material proceeds from this point forward, unless otherwise noted.

There are several dietary supplements that show good evidence of helping to avoid breast cancer and/or to help the person fighting breast cancer to survive their condition more successfully.
            The book, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC has a fascinating, thorough, and well-written nine and one-half page section devoted to breast cancer prevention, screening, and nutritional support for women seeking to avoid breast cancer or treat it more effectively.
            The following dietary supplement suggestions are recommended in Balch’s book, and these same supplements have been widely discussed and recommended in other media.  Of course, as always, check with your personal physician before taking supplements, especially if you are presently under treatment for breast cancer or take prescription drugs for any ailment.

            Below is a brief listing of each supplement and its benefits:

•  CoQ10 – This substance improves cellular oxygenation and is available widely for improving heart health.  Increasing evidence supports the theory that coenzyme Q10 reduces the risk of breast cancer.

•  Colostrum – Boosts the immune system to protect against infections and is known to promote accelerated healing.

•  Garlic – It has been used for ages to maintain wellness and has been scientifically shown to enhance immune function.

•  Melatonin – This substance is known to block estrogen-receptor sites on breast cancer cells; if you’ve ever suffered from seizures, talk to your doctor before using this product.

•  Multivitamin and Multi-mineral – Overall nutritional balance is needed to keep cells functioning properly.  Multis can help fill in dietary nutritional gaps and help stressed human bodies cope better with disease and treatment.

•  Vitamin E – Deficiency has been linked to breast cancer.  Vitamin E also helps with hormone production and immune function.

•  Vitamin C – This vitamin has a long history of improving immune response to any invaders, including cancer cells.

•  Natural carotenoid complex – The carotenoid complex works as a powerful antioxidant that destroys free radicals, thereby protecting cells from damage.

•  Omega 3 fatty acids – They improve any inflammatory problems and lower cancer risk.

•  Curcumin – Is another powerful anti-inflammatory agent and immune enhancer.

•  Rosemary extract – It is an excellent anti-oxidant that helps remove estrogens from the body; and therefore, may help inhibit breast cancer development.

Screenings are very important for breast health!

            Depending on which group of experts you refer to for advice, mammograms should become yearly events at age 40, 45, or 50.  Generally, women younger than 40 are urged to talk with their doctors about an appropriate screening schedule based on individual factors.  Of course, high-risk women of any age may need more frequent screenings and/or screenings with added dimensions of testing, such as ultrasound.  Women of any age with dense breast tissue are in particular need of ultrasound or MRI testing in addition to mammograms because mammograms cannot always detect small tumors in dense breasts.
            Yearly manual breast exams by a doctor or nurse are a good idea for all women of all ages.  Young women may be able to extend to an every two or three year testing schedule, but do so only after consulting with a doctor for guidance.
Self-exams of the breast on a frequent (often monthly) schedule are a good idea and can help the individual woman familiarize herself with what’s normal for her particular body.  Self- exams have led many a woman to discover a problem (sometimes cancer, sometimes another condition) with her breasts.  Early treatment of any problem – cancer, benign tumors, bacterial or fungal infections, etc. – generally leads to a more successful outcome and quicker resolution of the situation.
            When it comes to screenings, the most important thing to do is open up a comfortable channel of communication with your doctor about your breast health.  Discuss your individual risk factors, any breast related concerns you have, and any fears you may have about your health, the screenings themselves, and if needed, treatment options.
            When it comes to preventing, detecting, and treating breast cancer, thoughtful, calm, deliberate action is the best path to follow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Suggested Reading - Four Executives on Succeeding in Business as a Woman

Given that the arguments surrounding work-life balance have been so fully voiced, here is a different track, adding more insights to the discussion of leadership challenges that women face at work, apart from the juggling act.

Read the article here

Friday, June 24, 2016

June Leadership Luncheon

Challenge Yourself to be a Courageous Leader
06/21/2016, Westin Galleria Houston

The Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce hosted a powerful leadership luncheon at the Westin Galleria that challenged GHWCC luncheon attendees to be courageous leaders. Bambi McCullough of Chrysalis Partners, continued the discussion from GHWCC's NO LIMITS Conference for Women regarding leadership and continuing breaking glass ceilings. Each table was facilitated by Houston's leading women in different industries. Facilitators include Former City of Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Bambi McCullough, Council Member Amanda Edwards, Loretta Cross, Caroline Fant, Samina Farid, Valerie Gibbs, Ora Gibson, Marsha Murray, Rhonda Arnold, and other dynamic leaders.
Kate Good, Bambi McCullough (Keynote Speaker)

Former City of Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Suzan Deison
(GHWCC CEO/President/Founder)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Restaurant Review: Peska Seafood Culture

Peska Seafood Culture

Helmed by star Executive Chef Omar Pereney, Peska delivers some of the most unique and delicious seafood dishes in Houston. Fresh, flavorful and well-executed dishes with beautiful presentation are what guests can expect to discover at Peska.

Chef Omar Pereney
Born in Venezuela, Pereney has been making waves in the culinary world since the age of 12. Now 21 years old, Pereney is a highly recognized chef throughout South America and Mexico. He is one of the youngest chefs in the United States to have reached the position of Executive Chef.

Pereney’s talent is undeniable, and his menu is sure to please the most demanding palette. On my most recent visit to the restaurant, I had the Ceviche Peruano, Lobster Cappuccino, and the brunch pancakes.

The Ceviche Peruano is a colorful combination of textures and flavors, and includes mahi mahi, octopus, yellow peppers, cancha (corn) and sweet potatoes. The contrast of citrus with corn and sweet potato make this one of my favorite ceviche dishes.

The Lobster Cappuccino is a lobster bisque with white truffle foam, lobster and brie crostini. That may sound like a dish that leans toward the heavy side, but it was surprisingly light and filling, not to mention beautifully presented.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Take Charge of Your Health with Medical Screenings

by Darra McMullen,
GHWCC and Women’s Health Network writer/researcher

With the observance of National Women’s Health Week (May 8th. – 14th.) in our very recent rear view mirror, now is the perfect time to make a personal health plan and implement it into our everyday lives.

            During National Women’s Health Week, most of us probably read or heard, in a piecemeal fashion, about various health issues effecting women, but we may not have sat down and tried to coalesce our tidbits of information into a cohesive body of information from which to make a plan of action. Because we at the GHWCC encourage all women to care for their whole selves, the information that follows is intended as a quick checklist of overall health basics to help us focus our attentions on improving overall health – including in areas that we may often gloss over or ignore completely.

To begin, we’ll start with the more commonly discussed issues surrounding women’s health, but we’ll move quickly to areas frequently overlooked.

  “Know your numbers” – weight, height, blood pressure, cholesterol (LDL, HDL, triglycerides, overall total cholesterol), blood glucose, A1C.

These figures can give you important clues to your overall risk for major killer diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, or other cardiovascular problems, as well as clues to the presence of other conditions, such as osteoporosis.

  Make sure your female parts are examined and screened for disease.  Breasts, ovaries, uteruses, and vaginas have on-going issues and needs throughout life, even if child bearing is long over.  Younger women who still have child bearing in the picture have even greater need for being sure their female parts are healthy.  Whatever your age and stage of life, make sure you’ve been screened recently for cancer and other health problems.  Talk with your doctor about a screening regimen that’s right for you and your personal needs.