By Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen

Dr. Mike's hospital issues a 232-page Diversity Tool Kit as a modern, global guide (from "A" for "Aboriginal People" to "Z" for "Zoroastrian") for its health care providers in interacting with patients and their family members. The recognition that health care professionals need to offer appropriately individualized interaction with patients is essential to providing the best care possible.

Unfortunately, pooled cohort equations (PCEs) that are used by doctors to form risk estimations for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) are not so forward-thinking or inclusive. The current 2013 guidelines that help your doc to decide if you need a statin or blood pressure meds or to take daily aspirin use data on people from the 1940s and are woefully non-inclusive of people of color.

A new study led by Stanford University researchers says that by updating the data used to form the 2013 PCEs, approximately 11.8 million U.S. adults previously labeled "high risk" (their 10-year risk of a heart attack, stroke or death from CVD is greater than 7.5 percent) would be identified as a lower risk. That will save patients worry, money and unnecessary exposure to risks associated with aspirin and meds to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

However, "while many Americans were being recommended aggressive treatments that they may not have needed ... some Americans -- particularly African-Americans -- may have been given false reassurance and probably need to start treatment, given our findings," says Stanford's Dr. Sanjay Basu.

So, at your next checkup, ask your doc to re-examine your CVD risk factors and determine if you do in fact need medication to prevent a heart attack or stroke.

Bite these! Four foods to lower cholesterol

On an episode of "The Office," Dwight Schrute gladly switches to a new company health insurance plan, which doesn't cover anything. When asked why, he says: "Never been sick. Superior brain power. Through sheer concentration, I can raise and lower my cholesterol."

"Why would you want to raise your cholesterol?" an officemate asks.

"So I can lower it," Dwight responds.

High LDL cholesterol is not, in fact, a laughing matter. It ups the risk of heart disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease. And no one possesses Dwight's lipid-loopy powers. So be conscientious, and rely on diet -- even when taking statins -- to help keep your lousy LDL cholesterol under 70 milligrams per deciliter and your good HDL above 50 milligrams per deciliter. The best bites? A diet rich in plant protein, viscous fiber, plant sterols and nuts, say researchers in the latest metastudy, published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.

Plant protein comes from whole grains, soy, legumes and a variety of fruits and veggies. Viscous fiber is found in oats, barley, psyllium, eggplant, apples, oranges and berries. In this study, plant sterols came mostly from enriched margarine -- you also can get them from broccoli, Brussels sprouts, apples, avocados, tomatoes and vegetable oils. Nuts, especially walnuts, deliver heart-lovin' omega-3s, and almonds deliver monounsaturated fats.

That plant-centered diet reduced high blood pressure and inflammation, and lowered lousy LDL cholesterol by 5 to 10 percent -- as much as taking 20 mg of lovastatin did! Those folks lowered their 10-year risk of coronary heart disease by 13 percent. So, now you have a heart-protecting power far more reliable than Dwight's!

Finding buddies, becoming healthier

If you Google the word "buddies," you get 412 million responses -- a testimony to just how greatly folks value the concept of a supportive pal. But many of you try to reach your health and wellness goals alone and become frustrated or (can we say it?) lazy.

Multiple studies show that if you're aiming to upgrade your life, doing it with a buddy or in a group makes it more achievable and sustainable, because companionship bolsters motivation. It's the most important choice for starting a healthy routine, according to Dr. Mike.

Whatever healthy-living ambitions you have -- lowering your cholesterol, losing weight, learning to cook a plant-based diet -- there are buddies who can help you succeed in those challenges.

You can enlist your co-workers, family and friends to join your efforts, but sometimes it's more effective to join a large "buddy up" organization where there's someone new to offer you encouragement and fun! Meetup.com offers nationwide support groups (structured, group-

organized events are safest): For example, there are New York and Los Angeles hiking groups with tens of thousands of members. Metro Detroit Workout (4,000+ members) and Women of Color in Atlanta (7,000+ members) provide support for weight loss and physical activity. Local Y's and commercial businesses dedicated to weight loss and fitness also provide group support. You even can have a workout buddy through your computer (check out the challenge groups at www.sharecare.com/static/challenges.) Research shows that having a buddy also increases motivation and enjoyment over exercising alone.

Healthy you equals healthy breast milk

There's one Oregon woman on YouTube who has a condition called hyperlactation and produces 1.75 gallons of milk daily. Over the past few years, she has donated more than 700 gallons to moms and babies in need.

Being breastfed clearly offers benefits: It's linked to a lower risk of teen metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and diabetes; it's protective against weight gain in kids who seem to easily pack on pounds; it helps with immunity; and aids digestive health.

But research also shows that not all breast milk is created equal. One study found that breast milk from obese women contains excess fat (altering an infant's microbiome), and another found that when moms drink sugary beverages, they produce more sugary breast milk (a setup for a child's future health problems).

The lesson? If you're going to breastfeed or are breastfeeding, avoid sugary drinks and try to maintain a healthy weight. If you can, breastfeed for six months or more. Remember, moms should never be demonized for needing to provide an infant with an all-formula diet. (However, a recent study found soy-based formulas cause changes in reproductive cells in infants -- and long-term effects should be studied.)

If, on the other hand, you consider using donated breast milk, call your state health department to find out about local banks that certify the safety of their milk. The Food and Drug Administration warns that unmonitored sources pose "risks for the baby ... [including] exposure to infectious diseases, including HIV, to chemical contaminants [and] ...some illegal ... and ... prescription drugs."

Taking a probiotic if you have IBS can help banish depression

LeBron James, in happier times, recalled: "Warren Buffet told me to always follow your gut ... When you have that gut feeling, you have to go with it." But, if you're bugged by some unpleasant gut feelings, physically and emotionally, we bet you want them to go away (like LeBron right about now)!

Ten to 15 percent of American adults experience persistent intestinal distress associated with irritable bowel syndrome caused by an imbalance of bugs in their guts. A new study demonstrates that when the microbes in the gut are out of balance, it can affect both digestion and emotional equilibrium.

Researchers at McMaster University found that twice as many adults with IBS reported improvements from co-existing depression when they took the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001, as did adults with IBS who took a placebo. The researchers also did imaging that showed that post-probiotic improvement in depression was associated with changes in the areas of the brain that control mood!

This gut-microbiome-brain axis connects your body's central nervous system -- the brain and spinal cord -- with the enteric nervous system in your gastrointestinal tract. The microbiome acts as a middleman between the brain and the gut, helping shuttle hormones, nerve messages and immune system info along the axis.

If you have IBS, try stress-busting techniques like meditation. Also take probiotics and try keeping a diary of your diet to help you dodge foods triggering symptoms (possibly, specific carbohydrates).

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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