How to ease winter’s indoor allergies
If you have a tickly nose and frequent sneezes when you’re indoors, don’t stifle it. One man in England did just that, and according to the report in the journal BMJ Cases, he tore a hole in his windpipe. A better move: Get rid of the offending allergens. They commonly include dust mites, cockroaches, mold and pets, and can lurk in bedding; carpets and rugs; humidifiers and dehumidifiers; cupboards and corners; even kids’ stuffed animals. To reduce a winter indoor allergy, using an air filter and a vacuum cleaner with small-particle HEPA filters can help; so can allergy shots (immunotherapy). Then:
To counter dust mite allergies:
■ Enclose mattresses, box springs and pillows in allergen-proof covers or zippered plastic covers.
■ Wash bedding weekly in 130 degrees or warmer water; dry on high heat.
■ Have washable or dry-cleanable throw rugs.
■ Dust furniture and clean upholstery regularly.
For pet allergies:
■ Get immunotherapy and remember dander and saliva trigger cat and dog allergies, but urine from rabbits, hamsters, mice and guinea pigs can also be the culprit — so don’t clean the cages yourself.
■ Repair leaks and drips. Keep humidifiers clean.
■ Dehumidify damp areas (keep dehumidifier mold-free too!).
■ 5 percent bleach in water is effective to remove small areas of mold.
■ Seal cracks and openings around pipes, and repair leaks.
■ The Natural Resources Defense Council suggests dusting cracks and crevices with boric acid powder. Important: Use tight-fitting goggles, your N95 mask and rubber gloves. Then, wash off before eating anything and never touch your eyes before washing thoroughly.
Revealing another sour side of sugar
More than 2,500 years ago, refined sugar was developed in India. But it wasn’t until 700 years ago that the exotic flavoring made its way into the Mediterranean area with Cyprus and Sicily becoming centers of production for the rare and expensive spice. That first taste evolved over the centuries into a global obsession. Today every American eats more than 152 pounds of added sugars a year — six full cups a week!
Want to know what that does to your ability to protect and preserve your health? It keeps your body from taking out the trash! And as a result, you get stuck with garbage that accumulates in and around your cells, contributing to a host of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, macular degeneration, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. That’s what researchers from Tufts University’s USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging discovered.
In a lab study published in Aging Cell, they found that the protein that is supposed to be able to clear out cells damaged by eating added sugars are themselves injured so they can’t do their job. Sugar delivers a double whammy that adds up to a buildup of molecules that speed cellular aging and cause you to have an older RealAge. You become prematurely vulnerable to chronic disease, develop more wrinkles earlier and damage your gut biome. So if you’re craving a sweet treat, opt for fresh fruit and 70 percent cacao dark chocolate (an ounce a day). That will make life much sweeter (and healthier) too.
Giving a hug with your words
“HuggieBot 1.0” is a machine that provides a substitute for loving hugs that the world is short on during this pandemic. And despite its inanimate nature, many people enjoy its embrace, according to Alexis Block, the developer at the Max Plank Institute for Intelligent Systems. But if the idea of an automated hug seems kind of nuts (and bolts), there’s good news from Ohio State University’s department of psychology.
In a paper published online in the Journal of Positive Psychology, the researchers found that simply validating someone’s negative emotions (sadness, confusion, anger, boredom, frustration, etc.) can boost their mood and provide the kind of calming reassurance that a hug transmits. Validating: “Of course you’d be confused about that” or “I get that you feel angry.” Invalidating: “Why would that make you angry?” or “Get over it.”
Research shows hugs lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boost the bonding hormone oxytocin, lowering blood pressure and improving your mood. Validation can do the same — offering a way for someone you care about to cool down and feel understood and appreciated. And you reap rewards too: You become part of a caring circle, which is the foundation of good emotional health.
Study after study also has found that people with solid emotional connections have better long-term health. So if you’re stuck with Zoom embraces, be reassured that your understanding and care, even if delivered digitally, can encircle another person with kindness and reassurance and make you both happier and healthier, no HuggieBot needed.
Getting accurate cholesterol and blood pressure readings
Many folks report hearing Jimi Hendrix’s lyric “excuse me while I kiss the sky” as “excuse me while I kiss this guy”! It is funny to get lyrics wrong, but it’s no laughing matter if your cholesterol and blood pressure readings are inaccurate.
So, for an accurate cholesterol blood test:
■ A 2019 study in JAMA Internal Medicine found it isn’t necessary to fast before your blood test to determine if you’re at risk for cardiovascular problems — but it can’t hurt. Ask your doc.
■ Eating, drinking, exercising and med-taking should be the same the day before the test each time you have it, so you’re comparing apples to apples.
■ Tell your doc if you’ve had a fever or felt ill recently and what meds you’re taking. Birth control pills, hormone-replacement therapy, steroids and some anti-hypertensives can raise cholesterol levels and affect cholesterol test results.
For an accurate blood pressure reading:
■ Go to the bathroom first. A full bladder can boot systolic readings by 10-plus points!
■ Uncross your legs and sit up straight. Put feet flat on the floor, not dangling over the edge of the exam table. Make sure your arm is supported on a flat surface and at heart level.
■ No talking.
■ Make sure the cuff isn’t too small or your sleeve isn’t too tight when scooted up your arm.
■ If your blood pressure is elevated, ask for a second reading at the end of your appointment. That minimizes white coat syndrome (that’s blood pressure that’s elevated at the doc’s office, lower at home).
More proof of the dangers of eating ultraprocessed foods
In the 2008 movie “Pineapple Express,” Seth Rogen plays a process server on the run when, during an attempt to notify a drug kingpin of a court appearance, he accidentally witnesses a murder. Seems in that movie, nothing much good comes from serving up a process notice. Just like nothing much good comes from serving up ultraprocessed foods.
We’ve often warned that ultraprocessed foods filled with man-made chemicals, unhealthy fats, added sugars and stripped of healthful nutrients are a ticket to an older RealAge and a roster of chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and obesity. But that doesn’t keep a lot of you from gobbling down mass-produced cookies, lunchmeats or sodas. More than half of American’s calories come from ultraprocessed foods.
So here’s even more evidence that you need to walk away — quickly — from packaged, processed foods and opt for fresh, whole, natural foods as often as possible. Italian researchers published a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that followed more than 22,000 people 35 and older for around eight years. They found folks who ate a high amount of ultraprocessed foods had a 25 percent increased risk of death from any cause and a 58 percent increased risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases. In just eight years!
So, for the New Year — and a new you — start the process of serving yourself seven to nine servings a day of fruits and veggies, lean proteins from fish and poultry; water, tea and coffee for beverages; and only 100 percent whole grains.
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.