Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen

The most memorable version of the song “That’s What Friends Are For” was sung by Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder as a charity single for AIDS research and prevention. That rendition became the No. 1 single of 1986.

For millions (probably billions) of folks, singing — and thinking — about friends creates a feel-good moment. More and more research is showing that the benefits go far beyond temporary joy. In a new study published in Personal Relationships, researchers looked at data on over 270,000 people and found that close family and friend ties were associated with better health and happiness.

Folks without a network of friends/family and buddies that they could rely on were more likely to report high blood pressure; diabetes; cancer; lung disease; coronary heart disease, including heart attacks, angina and congestive heart failure; emotional, nervous or psychiatric problems; arthritis or rheumatism; or stroke.

The researchers also looked into a survey of 75,000 people and found that the quality of friendships matters, too. Those who found that friends/family often let them down or were a source of conflict reported more chronic illness.

So tend to your relationships — be the good friend you want others to be to you. And lean on your friends/family/buddies for support (it turns out people like to be relied on!); carve out time to make fun memories. You won’t just be having a good time; you’ll be boosting your chances of a healthier, happier life and a younger RealAge.

A shot across the bow-wow

The 2012 movie “Duke” is about a critically ill dog that’s left on the doorstep of an animal clinic by a homeless vet. After the staff saves Duke’s life, they mount a campaign to reunite the dog and his former owner. It’s a very happy ending for the dog, his best friend and moviegoers.

But lately dog owners are confronting an illness that may not leave them or their pooch smiling: dog flu. Up to 80 percent of the pooches exposed to the virus develop symptoms, such as coughing, drippy nose, teary eyes, sneezing, lethargy, fever and refusal to eat. It can last for three weeks. Unfortunately, around 10 percent of dogs that contract the respiratory illness die.

Once your dog catches the flu, you have to make sure Fido stays hydrated and eats. Your vet will determine if the animal needs NSAIDs for fever or antimicrobials to combat a secondary bacterial infection. Antiviral drugs aren’t approved for animals, although there are provisions for your vet to try them on your pet.

So here’s the big question: Should you get your dog a flu vaccine? The American Veterinary Medical Association says that even if the shot doesn’t prevent the flu (which it should), it reduces its severity and the chances it’ll spread to other dogs (just like the flu vaccine in humans). Vets recommend that dogs that “participate in activities with many other dogs or are housed in communal facilities” get the vaccine. Consult your vet to determine if it’s a smart shot for your dog.

The rewards of clinical trials
for cancer and other conditions

In 2008, when Magic Johnson advocated increasing minority participation in clinical trials, he shed a light on both the unfortunate lack of data gathered on minorities in most research projects and the enormous benefit to individuals who participate in clinical trials. Now nine years later, minorities still make up less than 10 percent of patients enrolled in trials, according to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

Not a good record. Especially because, according to a new study in JAMA Oncology, SWOG (formerly the Southwest Oncology Group), the clinical trials network funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, has involved more than 200,000 patient volunteers, whose participation has led to approval of 14 new cancer drugs and more than 100 changes to cancer care standards. And most astounding of all, the study found that the clinical trials have gained Americans 2 to 3.34 million years of life. All that comes from 194 phase three clinical trials conducted between 1956 and 2016.

So if you have cancer or any other health condition that is not responding to treatment and your doctor says it’s a good idea, check out the information on the Food and Drug Administration’s clinical trials website by googling “Clinical Trials: What Patients Need to Know.” You will learn about benefits, risks, various types of trials, informed consent and diversity recruitment. For a complete listing of current clinical trials in your area that are recruiting volunteers, check out www.clinicaltrials.gov. Your participation can help you, others and science. That’s a slam dunk!

The fruit, the whole fruit
and nothing but the fruit

“Blueberries for Sal,” “Blueberry Girl,” “Blueberry Muffin Murder,” “The Bobbsey Twins on Blueberry Island” and “Town in a Blueberry Jam” might provide stimulating summer reading for you and your kids. But grab a handful of real blueberries while you’re perusing the pages if you really want to see just how much that tasty fruit can do for your brain and body.

According to a new study in The BMJ, when researchers looked at the health records of thousands of people, they found that eating two or more servings a week of blueberries, as well as grapes, raisins, prunes, apples and pears, can slash your risk for Type 2 diabetes by around 23 percent. And eating those nutrient- and fiber-filled fruits put you way ahead of folks who are more likely to drink fruit juices. Having a daily dose of fruit juice increases your chance of developing Type 2 diabetes by around 21 percent. That’s a pretty big swing from a swig of juice! And steer clear of any berry jams and jellies with added sugar.

It’s likely the fiber and polyphenols in whole fruits are what help control blood glucose levels, keep your gut biome healthy and improve your heart health. Remember, lots of nutrients are packed into the skin and rind, so don’t peel that apple! They provide prebiotics to help your microbiome. The Department of Agriculture says a medium-size apple with its skin serves up 4.4 grams of fiber; without skin, 2.1 grams. Good core values!

Easy weight-control trick: Eat early

In a scene from “Kung Fu Panda,” master Shifu finds Po, the panda who wants to learn the martial arts, in the pantry at dawn, chowing down on cookies. “Look at you,” Shifu remarks. “Ya, I know. I disgust you,” Po replies. “No, no. I mean … how did you get up there?” Shifu asks. “You are 10 feet off the ground and have done a perfect split.” At that moment, Shifu realizes Po’s potential in kung fu.

Not only has Po performed a remarkable kung fu feat, he is doing something else Shifu could have praised: He’s loading up on calories early in the day (although we’re NOT recommending cookies of any kind, anytime of the day). A new study tracked nine healthy adults for eight weeks while they ate all their meals between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., and then assessed the change in their weight, body fat, energy metabolism and hormonal markers when they spent eight weeks eating the same amount, but between noon and 11 p.m.

Turns out, when eating later, people gained weight and their metabolic health deteriorated. Seems their bodies were processing more carbs but burning less fat, and they had higher levels of fasting glucose, insulin and lousy LDL cholesterol. Eating late also negatively affected hormonal markers that control appetite and others that are implicated in heart disease, diabetes and other health problems.

So don’t sabotage your weight-control efforts or your overall health by eating late. Start early, and stop three to four hours before hitting the hay.

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.

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