Immune-strengthening tip: avoid excess salt
The Great Salt Lake on the Utah-Nevada border registers 30 percent salinity in the northern reaches and 6 percent to 27 percent in the southern areas. Only brine shrimp and some algae thrive. The Dead Sea is so salty that it doesn’t feel like water — some say it’s more like olive oil mixed with sand. Its only inhabitants are minuscule quantities of bacteria and microbial fungi.
These natural wonders are a testimony to how hard excess salt can be on plants and animals. And a new study in the journal Science Translational Medicine offers more evidence. The researchers found that people who took in an extra 6 grams of salt (that’s 1 teaspoon daily) showed pronounced immune deficiencies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults limit sodium intake to a total of 2.3 g (the same as 2,300 mg) daily, but the average American takes in 3.4 g (3,400 mg) — and many people eat far more.
But hold on! Sodium levels are listed on nutrition labels (70 percent of the sodium you consume is from packaged, prepared and restaurant foods). Is that the same as salt? Nope: The recommendation of 2,300 mg sodium daily comes out to about a third of a teaspoon of salt!
So, along with making sure you get 30 minutes of physical activity daily, eat a plant-centric diet, take a multivitamin and get seven to eight hours of quality sleep nightly, reducing excess salt intake is one more way to keep your immune system strong. That’s something you want to do as you protect yourself and others from the spread of COVID-19.
Acupuncture for migraine
Pop singer Gwen Stefani was plagued with debilitating migraines during each of her pregnancies. The mother of three wanted to avoid medications, and so she gave the time-honored Chinese medicine treatment acupuncture a try, often daily.
It turns out Stefani was onto something. A new study published in BMJ suggests acupuncture can reduce migraines. The researchers looked at 147 people, average age 37, who had two to eight migraines (without auras) a month and had never had acupuncture. One group underwent 20 sessions of 30-minute manual acupuncture at real acupuncture points over eight weeks; another had the same number of sessions over eight weeks, but with sham acupuncture. A third group tried standard care, which included lifestyle adjustments.
After the eight weeks of treatment, the researchers followed the participants for 12 more weeks. People who received real acupuncture had 1.4 fewer migraine days in weeks 13 to 16, and 2.1 fewer migraine days in weeks 17 to 20.
That’s a lot of relief. And it’s not surprising, since acupuncture is often used to ease chronic pain conditions, including lower back and joint pain, and to alleviate stress and manage depression.
If you’re a frequent migraine sufferer (more than 1 billion people in the world are!), then ask your doctor about trying this therapy, which may be covered by health insurance, especially if the practitioner works out of a physician’s office. In combination with medications that prevent migraine or ease symptoms, you may find you are able to reduce the frequency significantly.
Step away from the alarming increase in HBP-related deaths
Former model Christy Turlington was one of the first people in the world to own an Apple Watch. Unlike other celebrities who showed them off for status or fashion, Turlington used her wearable tech while she ran the 2015 Kilimanjaro Half Marathon in Tanzania.
Fortunately, you don’t have to put your smartwatch to such exotic (and taxing) use to gain its benefits. Researchers used a smartwatch to track step counts of 638 adults enrolled in the ongoing Framingham Heart Study and found that folks who took 10,000 steps a day had meaningfully lower blood pressure compared with those taking fewer steps. That’s important since research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology finds that rates of death related to high blood pressure escalated by 72 percent in rural areas and 20 percent in urban areas of the U.S. between 2007 and 2017.
Walkers in the Framingham Study who got in 10,000 steps daily had a systolic blood pressure that was 2.25 points lower than those walking only 5,000 steps. And that can help decrease your risk of stroke or heart attack.
So, if you’re one of the 78 million U.S. adults with high blood pressure, step up to the challenge of using a smartwatch or pedometer to help you meet your daily goal of 10,000 steps or the equivalent. Combine that with a plant-based diet (no red or processed meat or added sugars) and 10 minutes of daily meditation. Who knows, you might just hike up Kilimanjaro one day after all.
Set up a virtual health spa with your friends or classmates
Instagram has more than 8 million posts for #plussizefashion that include young people of many shapes and sizes. It’s a welcome change from the ultra-thin images long favored on the platform. Acceptance of all body types reduces fat-shaming. But kindness toward yourself or others who are carrying extra pounds shouldn’t make you blind to the health risks associated with obesity.
That may be easier said than done. A study published in JAMA had 400 teens look at images of various human body types and asked them to identify their ideal. Those living in areas where obesity is more prevalent gravitated toward heavier figures — and that, suggest the researchers, makes overweight/obesity contagious.
So, if you’re a teen living in a community where a lot of folks are overweight, and you want to avoid or reverse health problems related to obesity, such as sore joints, depression and prediabetes or diabetes, catch this!
Set up a virtual health spa with friends using videoconferencing. Establish seven goals/contests each week. Here’s a few to get started:
■ Monday: See who can eat the greatest variety of veggies. Take pics, post info. Compare and compete.
■ Tuesday: How many stairs in your home or apartment building can you go up and down in three minutes? Post the videos.
■ Wednesday: Who can make the best soup? Set up a “Chopped” contest in which you all have the same ingredients. Have family members vote. (Recipes to try are in Dr. Mike’s new book, “The What to Eat When Cookbook”).
You can take it from here!
Overcoming vitamin D deficiency in indoor athletes
It’s astounding that Wilt Chamberlain scored 50 points in each of 118 games; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar racked up 38,387 points in 20 seasons; and Michael Jordan scored an average of 40.1 points per game.
With so much talent and stamina, it’s hard to imagine that those powerhouses were deficient in vitamin D, which is essential for everything from bone strength to immune system health. But that’s what researchers from the Mayo Clinic and George Mason University suggest. They looked at the vitamin D levels in the university’s NCAA basketball team. It seems those athletes are especially likely to have D-ficiencies, say the researchers, because like pro players, they spend as many as 40-60 hours a week indoors to practice, review films and for individual training and games — not to mention time spent in airports, buses and hotel rooms.
In the study, published in Nutrition, 65 percent of 20 university players were vitamin D deficient, especially those who were African Americans. And the researchers found that taking 10,000 IU of D3 a day over five months eased the deficiency, but did not (except for one player) get D up to healthy levels.
So if you are a competitive basketball player, indoor swimmer, or squash or ping pong player, or, hey, if you do hours of mall walking, ask your doctor for a blood test to check your D levels. You want 20 ng dL or higher, but not above 50. Aim to take in 600 IUs daily of vitamin D through food (mushrooms, D-enriched cereals and low-fat dairy, and fatty fish like salmon and ocean trout) and discuss supplement levels with your doctor.
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.