Q: I am freaking out because I just read that there is uranium in most of the water systems in the U.S. What can we do about that? — Joey K.
A: You must be referring to a study in the journal Lancet Planetary Health that analyzed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency records for 139,000 public water systems, serving 290 million people a year. Between 2000 and 2011, 2.1% of those water systems had average annual uranium concentrations that exceeded EPA maximums. According to the researchers from Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, that means that two-thirds of U.S. water systems have detectable levels of uranium. Increased uranium exposure ups the risk for high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, kidney damage and, at high levels of exposure, lung cancer. How does uranium get into your drinking water? It’s naturally found in bedrock, and it leaches into water.
Other potentially troublesome substances are also elevated in many water systems, according to the researchers. They include arsenic, chromium and selenium. Mailman School of Public Health provides maps of the whole country that show where trouble spots are. You can see what’s going on in your community water system at https://msph.shinyapps.io/drinking-water-dashboard.
The good news? The Connecticut Department of Health says reverse osmosis water filter systems are very effective at removing uranium. Reverse osmosis works by pushing the water under pressure through a semipermeable membrane. It can remove up to 99% of particles, organics, bacteria, dyes and metals like radium and uranium in water. They’re either whole-house or under-the-sink installations.
Using a water filter jug or on-tap filter? Zero water filters are certified by NSF International to remove 99% of uranium. Many others are less effective, but each company’s website lets you know what their filtration abilities are. So check them out, too. Other sources of information on purifying your water are available from NSF International, which certifies many water treatment devices and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Water Treatment System.”
Q: I know you get this all the time, but I’m 32 and have been diagnosed with prediabetes. I want to make sure it doesn’t slide into diabetes. Help! — Gladys G.
A: You can reverse prediabetes with smart lifestyle choices — and there’s new information on how to do it.
1. A study out of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health shows that eating a diet of plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee and legumes, slashes your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that it’s effective in part because a plant-based diet reduces certain kinds of diabetes-friendly fat molecules stored in adipose tissue. The bottom line: Eat 100% whole grains, five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and drink water, coffee and tea. Stick with small servings of lean proteins like fish and skinless poultry.
2. Exercise is a powerful way to lower elevated glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, burn fat and ease stress-eating. As you build more muscle mass, you increase your body’s use of glucose. Make sure you do resistance training, too — it’s the most powerful way to lose diabetes-provoking belly fat. It also turns out that exercise helps prevent Type 2 diabetes in your kids, if you’re active while you’re pregnant!
3. Research indicates high levels of stress hormones might reduce the amount of insulin the beta cells in your pancreas make, raising glucose levels and increasing your risk for diabetes. Stress-related habits also up your risk: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traditional cigarette smokers are 30% to 40% more likely than nonsmokers to develop Type 2 diabetes. And now a study has found that e-cigarette use also amps up the risk. Exercise, meditation, yoga and tai chi reduce stress and lower your risk for diabetes.
So plan a progressive exercise program, cook tasty, healthy food and manage stress. I hope you take these steps — and step into a healthier future.