What to do for post-COVID nerve pain or numbness
The phrase “long haul” originated around 1873 as a way to determine the cost of transporting goods and people great distances by rail. The longer the haul, the less was charged per mile. That’s the opposite of what many survivors of COVID-19 mean when they use the phrase to describe their residual health challenges after recovering from the virus.
One “long haul” effect of COVID-19 that docs have been struggling to understand is the persistence of chronic pain or numbness in hands and feet. Now a new study, published in the journal Radiology, suggests two causes of this lingering symptom. The body’s own immune response to the virus may trigger widespread inflammation that attacks the nerves, or the sensations may be caused by reaction to blood thinners. In that case, blood collects outside of the blood vessels, forming a hematoma, and puts pressure on the nerves. Knowing these potential causes can allow doctors to more accurately determine which treatments will be most effective.
The researchers, from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, also stress the importance of knowing where in the body the pain originates. That’s possible using advanced imaging technology. They suggest anyone with such post-COVID nerve sensations see about having ultra-high-resolution ultrasound and magnetic resonance neurography (MRI of peripheral nerves). Then your docs will have a shot at knowing the cause and where the sensations originate from (not always where you feel ’em!).
So don’t suffer in silence. Make sure your docs know about these new insights and approaches to treating your COVID-19-related nerve damage.
This is your brain on chocolate
Dave Barry once said: “Your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain.” While that may be witty, we’re sorry, Dave, scientifically speaking, it’s completely wrong.
A study in Scientific Reports reveals that when healthy adults consume flavanol-rich cocoa found in cocoa powder and dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa is best), their brain gets a major boost from increased oxygenation, and they have measurably improved cognition.
For the experiment, researchers served 3 ounces of flavanol-rich cocoa power in 10 ounces of room-temperature water. You could enjoy 3 ounces of dark chocolate or cocoa powder in oat milk. Milk chocolate and cocoa powder that is Dutch-processed or alkalized doesn’t have enough of the flavanols to increase your brainpower.
Participants who consumed the dark cocoa saw three times more oxygen delivered to their brain than those who consumed low-flavanol cocoa. And the well-oxygenated folks correctly solved challenging cognitive tests 11 percent faster than they did before they had the flavanol boost.
So read labels carefully to make sure you’re getting cocoa powder that’s not Dutch-processed or alkalized. And for a great chocolate recipe (that doesn’t take a lot of brainpower) check out Chocolate Espresso Mousse in Dr. Mike’s “What to Eat When Cookbook.”
The latest — and tastiest — wrinkle fighter
Sesame Street’s Telly Monster loves to eat a mango, and his friend Rosita loves to tango. So they sing and dance a daffy duet called “Mango Tango.” Turns out lots of folks like to tango with a mango. More than 40 million metric tons are grown annually — delivering health benefits with every bite. Each 3/4 cup delivers 8 percent of your daily vitamins A and B6, half your daily vitamin C, 7 percent of your daily fiber, 15 percent of your daily folate and 15 percent of your daily copper requirements. Mangoes also contain other bioactive compounds that may have antidiabetes and anticancer benefits.
Until now, however, no one knew what fancy footwork mangoes employ in the fight against wrinkles. Now a pilot study published in Nutrients reveals that when postmenopausal women with skin that sunburns rather than tans eat half a cup of Ataulfo (aka Champagne) mangoes four times a week, they decrease their deep wrinkles by 23 percent after two months. The severity, length and width of fine and emerging wrinkles improve too.
But listen up! More is less when it comes to mangoes. Women who ate a cup and a half of mangoes four times a week for two months saw a measurable increase in wrinkles. The researchers from University of California, Davis, suggest the skin damage from eating more mangoes may be a result of an inflammatory overload of sugar delivered with the higher intake.
So, for a tasty way to improve your health and appearance, make mango salsa and dance the tango!
One more time — it’s never too late to become healthier
The psychotherapist and author Dr. David Richo once wrote, “a healthy person is not perfect but perfectible, not a done deal but a work in progress.” Turns out, that’s true even for folks over 60 who have obesity.
A study published in Clinical Endocrinology found that when folks 60 to 78 enrolled in a hospital-based, weight-loss program, they lost as much — or more — weight and did it more quickly than obese folks under age 60 who followed the same diet, exercise and emotional support routines. Participants who were over 60 lost 7.3 percent of their body weight in around 34 months, while younger folks shed 6.9 percent in 41 months. The average participant had a body mass index of just over 40 (what’s called morbid obesity) to begin with.
This was a hospital-based, weight-loss program, similar to what many hospitals across the country offer. So if you’re one of the more than 40 percent of older folks in the U.S. who are obese, don’t give up on yourself. By losing weight, you can reduce your risk for — or the severity of — many obesity-related health challenges, such as Type 2 diabetes, most cancers, most cardiovascular diseases, asthma, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis and chronic back pain.
Talk to your doctor about taking steps — literally and figuratively — to shed excess pounds through programs that help you make changes to your nutrition and activity level and provide psychological counseling and support groups. You can see great success at any age, and the reward is a younger (and happier) RealAge.
ED and diet: There is a connection
The sitcom “Mister Ed” ran from 1958 to 1966 and told the tale of a talking horse who fully participated in the life of his human keepers and friends. Mister Ed: I’m attending college because I want a Ph.D. Wilbur (his owner): Ph.D.? Mister Ed: Palomino Horse Doctor.
Clearly Ed didn’t see many obstacles before him. And if you guys don’t want ED (that’s erectile dysfunction) to be an obstacle in your life, well, a new study says you should go for a Ph.D. too — that’s a Pretty Healthy Diet!
Researchers recently mined 16 years of data on more than 21,000 healthy men ages 40 to 75. They found that guys who ate a diet that emphasized vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and fish or other sources of omega-3 fats, and avoided red and processed meat lowered their risk of developing ED by about 20 percent.
The study, published in JAMA Open Network, urges men of any age who are concerned about their risk for ED to adopt that healthy eating style. And if you’re already contending with sexual dysfunction, those nutritional choices can help you too. A previous study found that they noticeably improve function in men with ED and metabolic syndrome (a collection of issues such as high blood pressure, elevated LDL cholesterol and glucose regulation problems). So as Mister Ed’s theme song declares, “Go right to the source and ask the horse. He’ll give you the answer that you’ll endorse.” In this case, it’s a plant-based diet with healthy proteins.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.