Stand up for your heart
When the NCAA canceled March Madness it was only a matter of time until one group or another decided to come up with a substitute tournament — brackets and all. But we never could have guessed it would be in the form of the Ultimate Stand-Up Comic Bracket. Their final round put Norm Macdonald up against Dave Chappelle, and Macdonald came out the winner, garnering 53.49 percent of the 18,020 votes cast. We owe a lot to the stand-ups. They deliver laughter that raises our spirits and dispels our stress.
It seems standing up and moving around starting first thing in the morning can do that for you too. A new study in the journal Hypertension reveals that adding a 30 minute morning walk to an otherwise sedentary day helps obese folks age 55 to 80 lower their blood pressure. Over three weeks, the sedentary folks who did the rise-and-shine walk saw their systolic (top) number fall by an average of 3.4 points and their diastolic number by up to 1.6.
Those who added a pattern of standing up every 30 minutes and doing three minutes of light-intensity walking to the morning 30 minute meander saw their top number go down an average of 5.1 points and the lower number decline by up to 1.8. In addition, women saw their levels of the stress hormone epinephrine decline by 12 percent to 13 percent.
Making these small changes to the daily pattern of inactivity can help protect against high blood pressure-related heart attack and stroke. And that’s no laughing matter.
Added sugar is even worse for you than you knew
In “Hansel and Gretel” the kids have an appetite for a house made of cake, with sugar windows and candy decorations, that leads them straight into the clutches of an evil hag. In “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Augustus Gloop nearly drowns in the Chocolate River, and Violet Beauregarde becomes a giant blueberry after chowing down a three-course-dinner gum. But their fates were not nearly as bad as what added sugar intake does to your levels of good HDL cholesterol and potentially harmful triglycerides.
Research based on the Framingham Heart Study found that when folks who are 40 and older drink 12 ounces a day of sugar-sweetened beverages — such as sodas, fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks and presweetened coffees and teas — it causes potentially heart-damaging changes in those blood lipid levels. It isn’t just because added sugar makes you gain weight — although it does and obesity is very hard on the heart — it’s sugar itself that inhibits an enzyme that breaks down triglycerides and lowers your level of healthy HDL, possibly by altering liver function.
Americans are sugar crazed, consuming an average of 57 pounds of added sugar annually! It’s contributing to a roster of health woes, from angina and diabetes to a lousy sex life, increased cancer growth, dementia and depression. So, opt for water, unsweetened tea and coffee, and avoid processed foods. Read ingredient lists and nutritional labels to see if there’s added sugar — it gets added to everything from frozen green beans and pasta sauce to instant oatmeal and coleslaw.
Harnessing protein’s power to preserve muscle mass as you age
LeBron James, a four-time NBA MVP with two Olympic golds and three NBA championships, knows he’ll have the most energy and the best muscle strength if he spreads out his protein consumption over the whole day. A typical breakfast includes egg whites and smoked salmon. Lunch might be whole-wheat pasta and salmon with veggies; before a game there’s PB&J; at halftime almond butter and apple; and after the game, a protein shake.
You can learn a valuable lesson from LeBron’s nutritional regimen, especially as you get older. A new study from the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Birmingham found a good way to preserve muscle mass as you age is not just to make sure you get enough protein, but to make sure you get a good dose of high-quality protein at breakfast and lunch. The recommended daily intake is around 69 to 81 grams a day for a healthy, older, 150 pound woman; 81 to 98 grams for a 180 pound man.
Not only will this high protein diet help you retain muscle mass and tone, but according to another study in the Journal of Gerontology, seniors who eat the most protein are 30 percent less likely to become functionally impaired than those who eat the least amount. Ditch that frozen waffle for an egg white omelet with lox and 100 percent whole-grain toast, and switch your lunchtime drive-thru for broiled chicken breast on a bed of quinoa. It’ll help you rebound from your declining energy and any shrinking muscle tone.
Is one too many?
Dean Martin once said, “You’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.” Turns out that isn’t really true. It doesn’t take a vertigo-inducing amount of alcohol to impair you and make you a danger to yourself and others.
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that around 15 percent of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involve someone whose blood alcohol level is below the legal limit of 0.08 percent. That’s because cognitive impairment can begin at a blood alcohol level as low as 0.03 percent. Among those fatalities, 55 percent are folks other than the drinking driver.
Some states have taken steps to counter this risk by lowering the legal blood alcohol concentration to 0.05 — and there’s been a decrease in these crashes. Now the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have recommended it become the standard nationwide. But each one of you needs to recognize that those couple of glasses of wine at a restaurant or that margarita (or two) after work before your drive home could be enough to make that your last happy hour.
Rely on designated drivers and car services whenever you’ve been drinking. If you cannot do that and you’re unwilling to skip a drink, it might be time to go online to see if you’re a problem drinker (overindulgent) or an alcoholic (addicted). Check out www.alcohol.org and call the National Helpline at 800-662-4357.
Understanding your dogs’ bad behavior
Singer Ariana Grande is very attached to her dogs. To alleviate her well-chronicled struggles with anxiety and depression, she once flew two of them on a private jet to Glasgow so they’d be there when she arrived to get ready for a performance. The 26-year-old even had one of her dogs’ names tattooed on her left foot.
Dogs can do wonders for your mental health, but sometimes it’s the pups who are unhappy and need comfort. A study, published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, looked at 2,757 dogs from 100 breeds and identified four forms of anxiety and distress that are often mistakenly lumped under the heading of separation-related problems. They include a focus on wanting to escape something in the house, wanting to get something outside, reacting to external noises or events and boredom. Between 22.3 percent and 55 percent of dogs are believed to show these signs.
So if your pooch acts out badly when you leave — “He misses me so much he eats the pillows on the bed!” — it’s time to see what’s triggering it and find solutions.
■ Contact a certified professional dog trainer or certified applied animal behaviorist. They’re pros at figuring it all out.
■ Check out wwww.ASPCA.org for Behavioral Tips for Your Pet.
■ Modify your behavior! For example, break your dog’s association of you picking up your car keys with your eminent departure, by doing that and then not leaving.
Don’t ignore or rationalize your dog’s bad behavior; you’ll only make your pet more unhappy and destructive.
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.