“If I were a ranch, they would have named me Bar-Nothing” (Rita Hayworth); “Just one more thing” (Pete Falk); and “Book him, Danno” (Jack Lord): Those may be unforgettable lines from three early film and TV stars, but they faded from their memories when all three suffered from dementia before they passed away.
Today? Although over 5 million folks in the U.S. contend with dementia, the rates are declining! The Framingham Study recently revealed a 44 percent drop in incidence since the late ‘70s. And a new JAMA Internal Medicine study found that the rate declined by 24 percent from 2002 to 2012!
It looks like better heart health may be one reason dementia rates are falling. Folks are taking statins and reducing intake of red meat (still too high, but down from more than 130 pounds per person annually to 106!) and sugary sodas (down 25 percent).
How can you get with this trend?
1. Keep your mind challenged and stay socially connected. Take a class; volunteer; learn a new language; play the game Double-Decision (it increases your brain’s processing speed and has been shown to cut the risk for dementia by 48 percent over 10 years).
2. Keep your cardiovascular system in tip-top shape: Ask your doc about taking a daily low-dose aspirin and a statin if you have stubborn elevated levels of LDL cholesterol; take sugar and syrups, any refined grain and all trans and most sat fats off your plate; walk 10,000 steps a day or the equivalent; and don’t smoke! It works.
Fight diabetes with DASH diet and probiotics
By the time New Year’s comes around, “Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh” may be the elevator music that makes you take the stairs. But it turns out a bit of DASH-ing combined with a dose of probiotics may deliver the holiday present you truly are hoping for: better health!
At the American Heart Association’s annual meeting, researchers presented preliminary findings that showed combining the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet with probiotics-packed foods can reduce fasting blood sugar and A1C levels (an average of your blood glucose levels over two to three months). Around 40 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes have high blood pressure (it’s 79 percent among folks with diabetic kidney complications); adopting a nutrition plan that benefits both conditions is a one-two punch.
Some study participants with high blood pressure followed the DASH diet with added probiotics: A 2,000-calories-a-day DASH plan includes three kinds of whole grains daily in 7-8 servings (some with probiotic granola); 4-5 servings each of fruits and veggies; 2-3 servings of low-fat or nonfat probiotic-rich yogurt and drinks; 2 or fewer servings of meat and poultry; 4-5 of nuts, seeds and legumes weekly; and limited fats.
So if you’re battling high blood pressure and have prediabetes or diabetes, dash to the store for probiotic-rich foods to add to your DASH diet. For oral probiotics, opt for those that make it through to your guts, such as hard-shelled Digestive Advantage and Culturelle, which is activated by stomach acid.
Keep up core strength
In the 1979 film “The China Syndrome,” reporters (Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas) discover the cover-up of a potential nuclear plant disaster -- or China syndrome; a term for a core meltdown that threatens the very stability of Earth itself.
But core meltdowns aren’t just fodder for scary movies; if your core sags, you’re looking at some pretty serious health risks that can destabilize your body, too.
Core muscles include all your abdominal, back, hip and butt muscles; they support your spine and keep you balanced. Weak core muscles can lead to falls, bad posture and back pain -- not to mention a bulging belly.
Four Ways to Strengthen Your Core
1. Crawl, like a baby (knee pads allowed). Engaging hips, thighs, shoulders, arms and abdominal muscles, this complete workout is the latest in core-building exercises.
2. Plank. Lie on your stomach; raise yourself up onto your forearms and tips of your toes. Hold for three deep breaths. Rest; repeat as many times as you can.
3. Bridge. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, arms on floor along your sides. Lift your butt in the air as high as possible; hold. Try clasping hands together on the floor under your arched back. Repeat.
4. Eat flat-belly foods. Fat around your midsection weakens your core and boosts inflammation so you’re at increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and some cancers! Go for 5-9 servings daily of produce, only 100 percent whole grains and healthy fats found in salmon, olive oil and walnuts.
The pessimism cure
might spare your heart
It’s not clear who said that a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, while an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. But the difference between those two POVs may clearly explain why Finnish researchers discovered, after tracking 3,000 men and women ages 52 to 76 for 11 years, that the most pessimistic folks were twice as likely to die of heart disease as those who were least pessimistic. And why other studies have found that pessimists are more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes and shortened telomeres (shortened telomeres predict a shortened lifespan). It seems that gloom and doom trigger chronically high levels of stress hormones associated with bodywide inflammation. Chronic inflammation ups your risk for peripheral artery disease, vascular dementia and some strokes.
So, if your glass is always half-empty, try these steps to raise your spirits and protect your heart.
1. Eat a handful of walnuts daily! A University of New Mexico study found that eating walnuts (baked into banana bread) daily for eight weeks boosted males’ moods by a significant 28 percent (females, not so much)! Maybe the guys needed anti-inflammatory ALA omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients (magnesium, potassium, vitamin B-6 and iron) that walnuts contain.
2. Eat smart and sleep well: You can reduce bodywide inflammation by eating 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies and walking 10,000 steps daily, plus getting 7-8 hours of restful sleep nightly.
3. Consider an online stress-management program and/or cognitive behavioral or other talk therapy to help reshape your take on the world.
The dangers of yo-yo dieting
The first depiction of a yo-yo is found in a painting of a young boy on a Greek vase from 500 B.C. The Mayans had their version around 700 A.D.! Napoleon used one in the early 1800s to ease stress.
Yo-yo dieting, however, is a more recent phenomenon and, it turns out, a dangerous one. For a new study, researchers tracked 158,063 postmenopausal women over 11.4 years and found that women who were a normal weight when the study started and then lost and regained 10 pounds or more had a 66 percent increase in death risk from coronary heart disease and were three and a half times more likely to experience sudden cardiac death than women whose weight remained stable.
Interestingly, no increase in either type of death occurred among overweight or obese women who reported that kind of yo-yo weight cycling (perhaps because their risks were already increased) or among women who gained or lost weight and then remained stable (stability turns out to be key for health).
So if you’re trying to take off excess weight, take your eyes off the scale and set your sights on lifestyle changes that will get you to a healthy weight and let you STAY there: Exercise regularly (10,000 steps a day or the equivalent); don’t smoke; eat 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies daily, only 100 percent whole grains, and no added sugar and sugar syrups. You also can try some yo-yo tricks: Walking the dog is great exercise!
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.