Over 65? Six months of aerobics can save your brain
When the Masters National Indoor Track & Field Championships at LSU was canceled in March due to COVID-19, 104-year-old Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins took it in stride. After all, she’d already earned three records in the four years she’d been competing in the 100-yard dash. She simply turned her attention to her acre-size garden and 50-year-old, indoor bonsai plants.
Never has it been clearer that exercise is an essential part of healthy longevity for body and mind — and that it is never too late to get started! Researchers from the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary have found that when even couch potatoes start getting regular aerobic activity, their thinking and memory improves measurably.
Study participants (average age 65.9) started out doing a three-days-week aerobics routine for 20 minutes and slowly increased to 40 minutes a session. In addition, they were working out on their own once a week. After six months, those folks registered a 5.7 percent improvement in executive function tests (both mental flexibility and self-correction) and verbal fluency went up 2.4 percent.
That’s just in six months and with four, not five or more, days a week of activity. Think of what you can do in a year!
The improvement comes, say the researchers, from increased blood flow to the brain — it went up almost 3 percent, as measured with ultrasound. They say that’s significant since it’s happening at a time in life when, for many people, six months is long enough to notice a decline in cognitive powers.
Do not skip your child’s scheduled vaccinations
Skipping while using a jump rope is a forward motion propelled by a hop or bounce from one foot to the other. It provides a full-body workout. You use your abs to stabilize your torso, your legs for lifting yourself off the ground and your arms to turn the rope. Singer Katy Perry is an enthusiast. So are the actors Michael B. Jordan (“Black Panther”) and Jake Gyllenhaal (“Spider-Man”).
But skipping isn’t always a smart move. And, unfortunately, during the six weeks from April 1 to May 15, parents skipped 75 percent of their kids’ recommended vaccinations. That means that more than 800,000 children have not gotten their vitally needed vaccinations to protect them from brain-damaging and potentially lethal diseases such as measles, whooping cough, tetanus, chickenpox, polio and many more once-prevalent diseases.
The risks that those diseases pose to your child’s health and wellbeing far, far exceed the risk of contracting COVID-19 from a visit to your pediatrician’s office. And while no vaccine is 100 percent safe, the risk of becoming seriously ill from a vaccine compared with the chance of preventing a serious illness is about one in 40,000. That’s odds we would take anytime — and so should you.
Check out the recommended vaccination schedule for kids from birth to age 18 at www.cdc.gov/vaccines and call your pediatrician for an appointment today! P.S. Adults need booster shots and annual flu shots, plus those over 65 need pneumonia and shingles inoculations; go to www.cdc.gov and search for vaccine information for adults.
Acupuncture may ease your indigestion
When A.J. Burnett, an Major League Baseball pitcher for 17 years, negotiated his 2009 contract with the NY Yankees, he made sure it stipulated that the team would provide acupuncture for him. And while we bet he used it to ease sore muscles and tendons, it turns out he also could have used it to ease a very common form of indigestion called PDS (postprandial distress syndrome). PDS causes meal-related symptoms, such as uncomfortable and an oddly quick feeling of fullness, along with localized pain in the upper abdomen, right below the ribs. It’s prevalent and persistent, often affecting relatively young folks.
Well, research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reveals that 12 sessions of acupuncture over four weeks leads to substantial improvement of PDS symptoms — and improvement persists for at least 12 weeks. That’s good news for folks taking PPIs (protein pump inhibitors) to ease the distress, since there’s a lot of emerging info on the damage they can do to cognition, bone strength and gastrointestinal health when taken for a long time.
If you’re interested in trying acupuncture, you want a licensed practitioner with either a master’s degree in acupuncture (MSAC) or traditional Asian medicine (MSTOM) or who is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Insurance coverage varies from state to state and plan to plan, so ask. Some medical centers, like Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, offer acupuncture and can arrange shared medical appointments if your insurance doesn’t cover all the costs of treatment.
Coffee may help you lose weight
Aussie Matthew Dellavedova, the Cleveland Cavaliers point and shooting guard, is a trim 200 pounds at 6 feet, 4 inches tall. He’s also a major coffee fan and had his own line of coffee, “G’Day Mate” from the Cleveland Coffee Company, a few years back. That may be one reason he’s in such good shape.
Researchers looked at data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that men, ages 20 to 44, who drink two to three cups of joe a day have 1.3 percent less total fat and 1.8 percent less trunk fat than those who don’t consume coffee. And women benefited even more.
The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, says women 30 to 44 who drink two to three cups daily have 3.4 percent less body fat than female noncoffee drinkers. And those who are 45 to 69 years old and drink four or more cups daily have 4.1 percent less.
If weight is your main concern, limit intake to six cups. More than that, say researchers from University of South Australia’s Australian Centre for Precision Health can up your risk for obesity! However, folks who don’t get the jitters or a sour stomach from caffeine can benefit from drinking more, because that helps lower your risk of brain dysfunction, fatty liver disease, Parkinson’s disease and more than eight cancers.
Tip: You’ll also pack on pounds if you favor coffee drinks with saturated-fat-loaded dairy and sugar bombs. Opt for black filtered coffee and no sugar. Then enjoy!
Are video games becoming your new social life?
Why were Miami Heat forward Meyers Leonard, the Trail Blazers’ forward Mario Hezonja, and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Larry Nance Jr. hanging out together one day in early April? They were playing in a “Call of Duty: Warzone” video game tournament. Makes sense. Their real games were suspended, and they longed for a good contest. But for some it can become more than a temporary, welcome relief. “I am happy for ‘Warzone,'” Hezonja told the Washington Post. “I would say I’m addicted.”
According to a six-year study out of Brigham Young University that was published in Developmental Psychology, for 10 percent of players, video gaming becomes a problem that interferes with day-to-day life. Players who become addicted may find that constant interaction with the games triggers or increases their problems with depression, aggression, shyness and anxiety.
Signs of addiction include:
■ Excessive time spent playing games and hyped-up anticipation of future contests.
■ Withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, irritability, sadness and boredom when unable to play.
■ Need for increased doses of games that are ever-more complex and time consuming.
■ Risking friendships and family relationships or jobs because of obsessive playing.
If that’s you, start tracking your playing by writing down the time you spend, then try to reduce time spent by 10 percent a week. Consider online or in-person cognitive behavioral therapy for help. And get outside and play a socially distanced game of tennis, take a bike ride or walk. If you’re under age 50, COVID-19 is less likely to harm you than a video addiction will.
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.