If you’re binge watching all 12 episodes of “Homeland,” 13 of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” or 10 of “Mozart in the Jungle,” you’re not alone. About 58 percent of Americans have binge watched a show. But bingeing isn’t just for couch potatoes in training. Americans are super-bingers of alcohol and food, too.
One in 6 U.S. adults binge drinks. That’s defined as having four or more drinks if a woman and five or more if a man, within two hours. But when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently examined data on 400,000 adults, they discovered that the average binge drinker does so 53 times annually, downing seven drinks each time!
The toll is profound: Health risks include car crashes, falls, burns and alcohol poisoning; violence, including homicide, suicide and domestic assault; STDs; high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack and liver disease; and cancer of the breast, throat, liver and colon.
And binge eating — overeating compulsively, often in secret and when not hungry — is also more common than previously realized. It affects 2.8 million people in the U.S. The health risks are obesity (two-thirds of bingers are obese), as well as arthritis, sleep apnea, some cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes (much the same as binge drinking).
For binge drinking and binge eating, seek counseling and 12-step programs, work with your doctor to improve your health, and learn mindful meditation to ease depression or anxiety. If you’re binge watching TV, get up and move around every 30 minutes, or only binge watch while on a treadmill or exercise bike. Then, you’ll be the star!
for stroke survivors
When Tiger Woods tied for fifth place at Bay Hill last March, it showed that his two-year-long recovery from knee and back surgeries was paying off. Now Tiger fans expect fewer strokes every time he plays.
That same principle of stroke recovery applies to the 7 million Americans who are stroke survivors. But far too many aren’t getting back in their game because they’ve missed essential post-stroke recovery steps.
According to the American Heart Association, fewer than 1 in 100 stroke survivors is following all the recovery guidelines. They include: not smoking, getting regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet, plus achieving normal body mass index, blood pressure, glucose levels and total cholesterol. And we’d add two more: Learning how to manage stress and getting post-stroke rehab.
Rehab — done as early as possible — boosts quality of life. It involves putting together a team of doctors, family, caregivers, physical and occupational therapists, nutritionists and others. To help figure this out, check out www.strokeassociation.org. Search for “Choosing the Right Stroke Rehab Facility.”
To meet the dietary guidelines: Adopt the MIND Diet (Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) to protect the brain. To reduce the increased post-stroke risks of elevated glucose, BP and LDL cholesterol levels and ease depression and fatigue, boost your physical activity, along with medical management, if needed.
Block out light at night
Chances are you’ve spent more than one night tossing and turning. Up to 70 million U.S. adults have a sleep disorder. But if you’re rapper Eminem and a tour means you’re not in the same time zone for more than a night or two, getting a good night’s sleep is an extra challenge. His solution (odd, but the right impulse) is to put tinfoil on his hotel room windows to make sure not a ray of light gets through.
Studies confirm that darkness is linked to better sleep quality, and to a happier outlook. But in the United States and Europe, 99 percent of the public can’t experience a natural dark night! So, whether you have insomnia or not, you may want to adopt Eminem’s strategy of light-blocking (but use something more permanent than tinfoil).
For a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers measured the bedroom light of over 800 older Japanese people. Participants kept sleep diaries and were followed for two years. At the end of that time, people who were exposed to more than 5 lux of light (a 100-watt lightbulb gives off 60 lux) when trying to sleep at night were more likely to have symptoms of depression than those who slept in total darkness.
Why? Light at night might interfere with your body’s internal clock and release of the sleep hormone melatonin, throwing off your brain chemistry.
Whether you’re a homebody or a world traveler, invest in effective eyeshades and lobby your local government to adjust your town’s illumination to reduce light pollution.
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.