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Drs. Oz and Roizen: Stress can alter your genes

  • Published Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, at 7:58 p.m.

Chronic tension is an inflammation trigger that contributes to cancer, cardio and gut problems, and skin disruptions, and it amps up tension in relationships at work and home.

Now we find out stress actually can alter your genes, and that can set off a series of reactions that end up interfering with oxytocin — the stress-busting, love and bonding hormone. So, here’s our stress-relief, oxytocin-boosting plan:

1. Meditate 10 minutes twice a day (morning and evening), every day, no excuses. Yogic deep breathing, mindfulness or progressive relaxation will work.

2. Get touched. A massage, a cuddle-fest or intimacy with your partner is a primo way to stimulate oxytocin.

3. Eat to relax. High in saturated fat, processed foods stress your body. So indulge in the odd omegas (3 from salmon, 9 from olive oil), fiber- and nutrient-rich veggies, fruit and grains and plenty of water.

4. Get smarter. New info reveals that brain neurons generated through exercise are built to withstand stress better than brain cells that have lived in a couch-potato environment. Start walking at least 30 minutes a day, with a goal of 10,000 steps a day. The more you move, the better equipped you’ll be to stroll right by a lot of life’s stressers.

Botox does more than erase wrinkles

Research has uncovered many uses for Botox, a toxin that acts as a micro-muscle paralyzer.

• People who suffer from chronic migraines can see their headaches disappear along with their wrinkles; shots are administered every 12 weeks.

• Teeth grinding that’s bad enough to cause pain, headache and damage to the teeth can be eased by injecting Botox into the jaw muscles.

• Tremors caused by multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s diminish after a series of injections.

• People with overactive bladder problems associated with neurological conditions stop feeling like they gotta go.

• Muscle spasms and jerkiness after a stroke seem quieted with Botox. Eyelid twitches (blepharospasm) and crossed or misaligned eyes (strabismus) are remedied. Injections cool down excessive sweating. Painful, uncontrollable neck-muscle contractions (cervical dystonia) also are relieved.

One caution: Botox must be administered by a skilled health care provider (who tells you how many times he or she’s done the procedure for your specific purpose). No storefront Botox mills for these medical (or any other) procedures.

Back to school with food allergies?

Now that twice as many kids as ever have food allergies (8 percent, according to the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology), reports of being bullied about it also have increased. In school, where 80 percent of food bullying happens, more than 25 percent of kids with food allergies say they’ve been taunted or, for example, pelted with food that triggers the allergy. This is not only psychologically damaging, it’s life-threatening; anaphylactic shock — the most extreme reaction to a food allergen — can be deadly.

So, if your child has a food allergy, here’s what we suggest you do to make sure there’s no bullying and no serious health risk:

1. Kids are reluctant to mention being bullied. Look for signs, such as bringing home a full lunchbox (they’re skipping lunch), changes in eating and sleeping habits, fear of going to school and depression.

2. If you suspect a problem, get your child talking; then talk to the school. Insist on a no-tolerance policy for bullying. Suggest a school assembly to teach kids about the dangers of food allergies.

3. Arm your child’s teachers with the knowledge they need to keep your kid safe. And give your kid the tools, too — an EpiPen to stop an allergic reaction, and the words and confidence he or she needs to stand up to not-so-invincible bullies.

Calm mealtimes equal fewer calories

The ambiance that defines the decor of beef-to-go dining rooms gets people to eat faster and down more calories than they would in a dimly lit room with soothing music.

We want to help you avoid the same hazards at work and at home. You will look better, weigh less and dodge a host of ailments from poor digestion to heart disease. So we ask you: Are you eating at your desk under fluorescent lights, stressing out about a deadline? At home, do you eat standing up at the kitchen counter, or munch down chips, soda and who-knows-what while watching TV?

Well, we’ve got the solution — and you’ll notice how much better your tummy feels.

1. Turn off digital devices (TV, too). Set places with moderate-size dishes at a table with comfortable chairs. Turn off the overhead light. Play some soft music.

2. Prepare a salad (a dash of healthy olive oil and balsamic vinegar), steamed fresh veggies (flavored with chili sauce, mustard, basil or dill) and broiled fish (salmon or trout).

3. Now settle in for a good conversation with your kids or partner, and calmly enjoy every forkful. Repeat, at least daily.

Down with chronic high blood pressure

A brisk walk or pumping iron can make your systolic blood pressure rise — temporarily. But if you have chronic high blood pressure, you want to know it now. New stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that 65 million Americans have high blood pressure; about 35 million of them don’t do anything to control it; and about 16 million of those folks don’t even know they have it.

So for everyone, whether you know if your blood pressure is up or not, here’s what to do:

Step No. 1: Get your blood pressure tested; 85 percent of people with undiagnosed high blood pressure have health insurance. So, no excuses — see your doc. No insurance? Most pharmacy chains do a blood pressure check for free. Just ask.

Your numbers? 120/80 is good; 115/76 is optimal (it slashes your risk for heart attacks and strokes in half).

Step No. 2: If your numbers are up, try the DASH diet — whole grains, vegetables and fruit; 30 minutes of exercise daily (walking is our favorite); and if you have salt-sensitive high blood pressure, limit salt intake to 1,500 milligrams a day. You’ll slash your numbers by 8 to 14 points.

Step No. 3: Take everything down a notch. Stress leads to overeating, bad food choices and lousy sleep habits — all risk factors for high blood pressure. So make time for yourself, and try meditation to chill.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.

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