Medical professionals address common health concerns

The old adage goes, “If you have your health, you have everything.” But with conflicting opinions, countless studies and mounting medical knowledge, it’s not always easy to determine what constitutes a healthy lifestyle.

Jmore recently consulted with some of Baltimore’s leading physicians and health and fitness professionals to shed light on some of our most pressing medical and health questions. Here’s what they had to say:                                                                                                           

Red wine

Red wine (Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons)

1. Is red wine good for us?

Moderate red wine (or any wine) consumption is fine for many people. Wine could increase your good cholesterol, and it’s said to have antioxidants and resveratrol that may benefit heart health. However, women should not have more than one glass of wine per day as higher alcohol consumption is linked to breast cancer. Women who have had breast cancer should avoid alcohol most times though an occasional toast or holiday drink should be OK. Likewise, people with liver disease, high triglycerides or those who take particular medications may have to steer clear. Too much wine can raise a person’s triglycerides as alcohol acts similarly to sugars on the metabolism. Alcohol also adds empty calories. — Dr. Alice L. Wilkenfeld, internist, Park Medical Associates 


Drinking water

Drinking water (Photo courtesy Jose Jaf, Flickr Creative Commons)

2. Do we need to drink eight glasses of water daily?

Staying well hydrated is indeed key to good health. Sixty to 90 ounces of fluid, mostly water, is ideal. I tell my patients to picture a 16-ounce water bottle and they need to drink the equivalent of three to four bottles per day. Keeping up with hydration is good for the kidneys, blood pressure, diabetes, muscle and joint function, fever, congestion, pregnancy, etc. – Dr. Randi Braman, doctor of osteopathic medicine, BW Primary Care, LifeBridge Health 




Weight training

Weight training (Photo courtesy Fieldwork, Inc., Flickr Creative Commons)

3. Is daily exercise healthier than exercising three times a week?

It is healthiest to engage in 20 to 60 minutes of vigorous activity daily. Also, make sure to add in several less intense bouts of general movement throughout the day. Three exercise sessions are inadequate if you do nothing the rest of the week. Walking, hiking, biking, going to the playground with your kids and working on proper movement patterns and mobility all play a huge role in your overall wellness. — Justin Dominick, senior director of fitness, JCC of Greater Baltimore




Vitamin D

Vitamin D (Photo courtesy Jefferson Clark, Flickr Creative Commons)

4. Do we need to take vitamins?

Since our bodies don’t make vitamins, we do need to consume them. Only vitamin D can be produced in our skin from sun exposure, but most Americans are deficient in this vitamin. Generally speaking, it’s better to get vitamins from food than from supplements that are produced in a lab. The vitamins we get from food are methylated, which means they are in a form that our bodies can use. Fortunately, if patients are eating a diet rich in fish, fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds, chances are they are getting plenty of vitamins and don’t need supplements. However, certain populations that eliminate whole categories of food — vegans, for instance — may need to supplement with vitamins. If supplements are needed, the best types are called “whole food” vitamins (not after the store), and there are many brands. These vitamins provide vitamins in the same way nature does — in the methylated form.  You can buy methylated vitamins like B12, B6 and others online or at a vitamin store. —Dr. Louis B. Malinow, internist, MDVIP


Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate (Photo courtesy John Lodder, Flickr Creative Commons)

5. Is dark chocolate really healthy?

Yes! Dark chocolate is made from cacao beans, and like most plant foods, it contains beneficial antioxidants that reduce inflammation and protect your cells from damage. Dark chocolate intake has been associated with many health benefits including improved blood pressure and circulation, improved cognitive function, reduced stress and improved athletic performance. The higher a chocolate’s cacao content, the more beneficial compounds it has. So to get health benefits, aim for chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao. Please note, however, that chocolate can be a trigger for some people who have migraines and gastroesophageal reflux disease. — Diane Vizthum, research nutritionist, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine 



Black coffee

Black coffee (Photo courtesy Jonathan Rubio H., Flickr Creative Commons)

6. What are the risks and benefits associated with coffee?

In low to moderate doses (two to four 8-ounce cups a day) without sugary additives and creams, coffee — some observational studies show — may lead to improved insulin sensitivity, which may be beneficial to diabetics. Coffee may also protect against heart attacks and may prevent constipation. In moderate doses, coffee has even been shown to prolong life. On the flip side, however, high doses of coffee can lead to tremors, sleep disturbances, rebound or withdrawal headaches and arrhythmias. — Dr. Jonathan D. Rich, doctor of osteopathy, Mercy Medical Center





Vaping (Photo courtesy, Flickr Creative Commons)

7. Is vaping safe?

There are many toxic compounds that have been found in the aerosol that vapers inhale. In our [research] group, we focus on metals. We investigated electronic cigarettes of 56 vapers and found toxic metals in all of them. Many metals were found in concentrations that were concerning for health. For example, we found 57 percent of samples above the CDC-recommended inhalation limit for nickel, a recognized inhalation carcinogen, and we found lead in 47 percent of aerosol samples that were above the EPA-recommended inhalation limit. Lead is a major neurotoxicant both for children and the elderly and is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular and kidney disease. We also found concerning concentrations of chromium, another inhalation carcinogen, and manganese, which is also a neurotoxicant, as well as iron, copper and zinc, all of which can produce respiratory irritation. — Dr. Ana M. Rule, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health