Skip Navigation


GERD Is the Word


In the last few years, more and more people have been “feeling the burn”—and we’re not necessarily talking about exercise. Studies show that the number of people suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, has increased by more than 50 percent over the last decade. Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist Ekta Gupta says our modern dietary choices—too much alcohol and coffee, and a preference for processed foods, which leads to higher rates of obesity—are to blame.

Many people get acid reflux or heartburn—a natural condition in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus—but if you suffer from heartburn more than three times a week, or have a feeling of hoarseness, nausea, trouble swallowing, or frequent cough, you could have GERD, a potentially chronic condition.

Gupta says lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and avoiding certain foods, can help. Acid-reducing medications are the next line of defense. If all else fails, some people have surgery to correct the problem. But before it comes to that, she says, try cutting down on the hot sauce.


Breathing Easy

Respiratory Health

An apple a day isn’t the only thing that keeps the doctor away. It turns out tomatoes do, too.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health followed 650 European adults over 10 years, tracking their dietary choices and lung function. People who ate more than two fresh tomatoes or more than three pieces of fresh fruit—especially apples—each day had a slower decline in lung function. The protective effect, which was observed only in fresh produce and not in processed foods like tomato soup, was most striking among ex-smokers.

The results support the idea that a nutrient-rich diet could be beneficial for those who are at risk of developing respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, according to nutritionist Vanessa Garcia Larsen, the study’s lead author. Nonsmokers should also take note: A diet rich in fruits may slow down the lung’s natural aging process even if you have never smoked.

Acne, Again?


If you’re like a lot of people, you thought all you had to do was get through puberty and you’d be rewarded with smooth, clear skin. It’s a real blow when you’re way past braces but still find yourself battling your skin.

Treating adult acne is similar to dealing with teen acne. Mary Sheu, medical director of the Johns Hopkins Dermatology and Cosmetic Center, advises regular cleansing, twice daily, for removing those layers of old oil and makeup. She also recommends a topical retinoid cream to unclog pores and exfoliate the skin, or a topical anti-inflammatory, like dapsone gel, to reduce outbreaks.

Sheu also says to “avoid excessive sugar, desserts, and sodas,” and instead concentrate on a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C and beta carotene, which have an anti-inflammatory effect.

If topical therapies haven’t been effective, it might be time to consider a systemic treatment, like an antibiotic. After all, there’s no sense in dealing with the problems of puberty twice.


Heart Health in Six Years


They say the diet and exercise habits developed when you’re young can make or break your future health outcomes. But that doesn’t mean it’s too late to turn things around in middle age, especially when it comes to the health of your heart.

In a recent study, researchers from Johns Hopkins examined the role of exercise in the risk of heart failure. They found that people who reported exercising consistently over a six-year period had a 31 percent lower risk of developing heart failure. They also found that the flipside is true, too: Letting your workout routine fall by the wayside in middle age can significantly up your risk of heart failure.

The study was observational (meaning it didn’t examine exactly how staying fit lowered the risk of heart failure), but cardiologists and study authors Roberta Florido and Chiadi Ndumele hypothesize that the six-year exercise streak may help curb “silent” heart damage that shows up in enzyme levels in the blood. “Those who performed guidelinerecommended levels of physical activity”—150 minutes of moderate activity (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (think a full-out jog) each week—“consistently had the greatest health benefits over time,” the authors say.

Pick Your Protein

Eating Well

You’ve gotten the message that protein can help fuel your health goals. Now the question is how to add it to your diet.

First, avoid relying too heavily on protein powders, says Johns Hopkins dietitian Ashli Greenwald. “You’re not getting all the nutrients your body needs from the shake alone,” she says. “Dietary proteins have other nutrients, like iron and calcium, that you might not necessarily find in the protein powders.” On top of that, solid foods take longer to digest, which keeps your metabolism revving longer. For the best whole food proteins, opt for lean grilled chicken, fish, or plant-based sources like nuts, soy, or quinoa.


That doesn’t necessarily mean that protein shakes don’t have a place in your diet— just think of them as supplements to your mainstay meals, Greenwald says.

Take note: Animal-based proteins (both foods and powders) are the only ones that are considered “complete,” meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids your body doesn’t crank out on its own. Don’t stress if you’re vegan or vegetarian, Greenwald says. Combining different plantbased sources can net you the complete package of all nine.

Quality vs. Quantity


What matters more when you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight: the quality or quantity of your food? Some people use apps to track every calorie they ingest. Others say the key is to focus on eating lots of vegetables, fruits, and other healthy foods. And while there’s wisdom in both approaches, weight management is all about calories, says Lawrence J. Cheskin, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center.

“It all comes down to calories in and calories out,” Cheskin says. “Eat 3,000 calories a day of fruits and veggies and you’ll gain weight. Eat 2,000 calories and you’ll maintain your weight. And eat 1,000 calories of junk food each day and you’ll lose weight.”

But there’s an important caveat, Cheskin says. Healthier foods—vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains—are more filling. They take more time to eat and stave off hunger longer. While it’s easy to chow down on 500 calories of French fries, it would take a long time, and a lot of chewing, to eat 500 calories of celery.

So, while managing your weight is ultimately a numbers game, it’s a lot easier to keep those numbers in check when you fill your plate with healthy foods.

quality vs quantity

Other Departments

  • 10 Things
    Healthy food swaps.
  • Book Report
    What you should be reading.
  • Breakthroughs
    News from the cutting edge of research: a new blood test screens for cancer; reversing vision loss; understanding performance under pressure; a diabetes drug for nicotine withdrawal; and the reason why we cough.
  • Experience
    Debilitating arm and neck pain causes a young woman to seek answers.
  • Expert Advice
    What kinds of seafood are “best” to eat?
  • Just Curious
    What happens to an organ donor’s organs after death?
  • MedTech
    Apps, gadgets, and other innovations that are advancing health.
  • Two-Minute Meditation
    This is your invitation to take a short break from whatever you’re doing.