Maurice Sendak’s 1963 children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” is a tale about a boy who is sent to his room for acting up and then imagines himself going to an island inhabited by beasts, the Wild Things. He becomes king and has a great time romping around with his beasty subjects, until he has to go home for dinner.
If you want to have a great time romping around with wild things that are super-good for you (and just about any beast you hang with), we have a tip: Eat wild blueberries! They’re found mainly in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, and unless you live near a blueberry bush (in season), you can pick them from your grocery’s frozen-food section.
You’ll be amazed at their flavor and nutritional power. The Wild Blueberry Association of North America says: “Plants in the wild are ... the most exposed to environmental stresses. Stress is the trigger that switches on phytochemical production in a plant [so they] re-allocate their limited resources towards accumulation of internal phytochemicals.” And according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis from 2010, gram for gram, raw, wild blueberries contain more than twice the antioxidants as their farm-grown cousins. A Cornell University study rated wild blueberries No. 1 in antioxidant activity using their CAA (cellular antioxidant activity) test.
By the way, farm-raised blueberries are also great for you and help you achieve a younger RealAge! So toss them in a smoothie, a salad or a hot bowl of oatmeal. You’ll become a true-blue believer.
Mindfulness can slim you down
How can you lose weight and keep it off in this overcaloric, fat-and-sugar-laden food culture? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. What do you practice? You practice throwing that brownie in the trash and having an apple instead.
That’s no joke! Recently, researchers reported that it’s one of the first steps in what’s called acceptance-based behavioral therapy. Their study, published in Obesity, found that “weight loss with ABT is among the largest ever reported in the behavioral treatment literature without use of an aggressive diet or medication.” After a year of twice-monthly counseling, participants who received ABT lost 13.3 percent of their initial weight compared to 9.8 percent weight loss for participants who received standard behavioral therapy only.
What’s ABT’s secret? It teaches you to have increased mindfulness about what you’re eating and to accept that learning new eating behaviors is tough, but worth it. Also, ABT associates motivation with personal values, keeping you focused on what matters to you.
You can join an ABT weight-loss program at a wellness center like Dr. Mike’s at the Cleveland Clinic. But you can integrate one of the powerful principals of ABT into your life starting today: Take a moment to look at what you’re eating before you put it in your mouth. Acknowledge that you want it; then ask yourself, “Does this food measure up to the quality I deserve?” You’ll be surprised at how this helps you make healthier choices, attain a healthier weight and reach a younger RealAge.
SMOKE — It’s bad to the bone
The series “Mad Men” was all too accurate on one count: In 1955 almost 57 percent of men and 30 percent of women smoked cigarettes! Fortunately, those numbers are down to around 18 percent of the population these days; fewer and fewer kids and teens are even trying cigars or cigarettes, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. (However, Big Tobacco, which owns many e-cig companies, is trying to hook teens on vaping.)
For folks who smoke cigarettes, the news about the damage it does is ever more alarming. Not only does smoking trigger COPD and lung cancer, lead to heart attack, stroke and increase chronic back pain, it doubles the risk of osteoporosis-related bone fractures. And older smokers tumble more often than nonsmokers (poorer neuromuscular control), which causes breaks, too. For women, there’s a fivefold and for men an eightfold increase in the risk of death from any cause during the three months post-break.
As if that weren’t upsetting enough, according to a new study in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, smoking alters your DNA — some of it for up to 30 years after you stop smoking. And those changes continue your increased risk for heart disease and cancer.
But even though some risks persist, quitting smoking will make you healthier immediately. Some smoking-altered DNA returns to “never smoked” levels in five years! So, for help quitting, visit www.smokefree.gov or call the American Cancer Society’s Quitline at 800-227-2345.
Putting you on the spot
for the measles vaccine
Here’s one for the you-can’t-believe-it-until-you-see-it department: There’s a children’s book called “Melanie’s Marvelous Measles” produced by an anti-vaccination activist who tells kids that they should look forward to contracting this potentially fatal disease. Really!? Let’s go back in time.
From 1958 to 1962, the U.S. averaged 503,282 cases and 432 deaths from measles complications annually -- children were dying from pneumonia, croup and encephalitis!
After the vaccine was introduced, measles became so rare that it was declared eradicated in 2000. But resistance to inoculation, a 5 percent vaccine failure rate and travel by unvaccinated folks to places where measles still exists reversed the trend. In 2014, there were 634 cases in the U.S.!
New insights into post-measles complications are again worrying public health officials and parents of newborns (infants can’t get vaccinated until they’re 12-15 months old). Recent research has shown that an always-fatal complication of measles -- the neurological disorder subacute sclerosing panencephalitis -- is far more common than previously thought. It affects about one in 600 of those who get measles as infants, before being vaccinated. And SSPE doesn’t necessarily appear immediately; it can stay dormant and strike a person years later!
So if you or your children haven’t been vaccinated, talk to your doc (the risk of a serious side effect from the vaccine is 40,000 times less than the risk of a serious complication from measles itself). Measles is so contagious that 95 percent of people need to be vaccinated with two doses to protect those who aren’t. Currently in the U.S., we’re only at 92 percent.
Get a grip (on good health)
“Get a grip on yourself!” snaps Victoria Brisbane (Madeline Kahn) to Dr. Richard Thorndyke (Mel Brooks) in “High Anxiety,” Brooks’ 1977 riotous parody of Alfred Hitchcock movies. Seems the doc is becoming seriously unraveled, and he might just expire if he can’t hold it together.
But losing one’s grip isn’t always funny, according to a study in The Lancet that looked at the relationship between grip strength, overall health and your risk of death from all causes and heart woes. The researchers found that the chance of premature death increases 16 percent for every 11 pounds weaker your measured grip is.
Grip strength can be measured using a dynamometer; most physical therapists have one. But you probably know if your grip and arm strength are weaker than they used to be or never were very good, and chances are that’s a sign your overall muscle tone is lacking, something that increases your risk of chronic disease and frailty.
So to get a grip on good health, check out Dr. Mike’s NuttyRiceBucket.org challenge and then try this four-step, strength-building routine from Dr. Roizen’s book “The RealAge Workout”:
• Walk a minimum 30 minutes a day -- all at once or in 10-minute increments.
• Do 7-10 minutes of strength training of foundation muscles (abs, back, buttocks, quadriceps, hamstring and rotators) every other day.
• Do 8-10 minutes of strength training of non-foundation muscles (chest, shoulder, biceps, triceps and forearms) every other day.
• Do 21 minutes of aerobic exercise three days a week.
You’ll build your grip on great health!
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.