In an era of deficits, we Americans have one surplus: calories. In the U.S., theres enough food in the supply chain to provide every person with 3,800 calories a day but we need only about two-thirds of that (2,350 calories a day). Unfortunately, we chow down those extra calories, especially when we eat out. Guys who eat fast food or at full-service restaurants munch 500 more calories a day than those who eat at home. Young kids take in about 130 additional calories; teens and adult women, 250 to 300 extra. If you eat out four or five times a week, that could boost your weight 12 to 24 pounds a year!
So our recommendation? Cook at home.
1. Steam assorted veggies: Toss with a dash of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a grind of pepper. Add spices (rosemary, garlic, or peppers) for flavor and health.
2. Broil fish: Salmon and trout are loaded with heart-saving omega-3s using a marinade of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and lime juice. Or brush on a mustard coating or a crust of walnuts.
3. Stir up Grandmas chicken soup: Saute a mixture of chopped celery, carrots and onions. Add chicken parts (no skin) and water; boil for 30 or more minutes. Remove chicken and dice; add back to liquid with 100 percent whole-grain pasta and a quarter-cup frozen peas. Cook until done. Yum!
Reversing the tell-tale signs of heart disease
Telltale signs of hard living are unmistakable: Think of 26-year-old Lindsay Lohans once-unlined face. But those of you with less raucous lives also can display physical signs that youre older than your chronological age and are at risk for heart disease.
A new study identifies a receding hairline at the temples, baldness on the top of the head, horizontal earlobe creases and yellow, fatty deposits around the eyes as markers of aging associated with heart disease. Got any three? Your chance of a heart attack goes up 57 percent.
But you can slash your risk by as much as 60 percent and look younger, too, if you adopt some heart-smart habits:
1. Eliminate the five food felons: trans fats, most saturated fats, added sugars, sugar syrups and all grains that are not 100 percent whole. Add heart-friendly food (salmon and trout), or take as much as 900 milligrams a day of omega-3 DHA.
2. Exercise and sleep more: Your goal: 10,000 steps a day; strength training two to three times a week; seven to eight hours of nightly shuteye. (Thirty minutes of exercise a day boosts restorative REM sleep by 65 percent.)
3. Go by the numbers: Blood pressure 115/75; triglycerides 100 or less; HDL 60 or above; LDL under 100; blood glucose 85 upon waking up; and BMI 18.5 to 24.9.
4. Ask your doc about taking two baby aspirins a day (with warm water before and after).
5. After all that, have more fun. People who are more satisfied with their life produce fewer stress hormones, which protects your heart, big-time.
Dodging genital injuries
Despite the awkward laughs that low-brow comedies get from a bonk in the genitals, its really no laughing matter for the 16,000 people a year who end up in the emergency room in serious pain. The most common causes are bicycles (BMX), zipper mishaps (really common), and razor cuts related to shaving pubic hair (which has caused a fivefold increase in incidents among women in the past couple of years). Basketball, baseball, skiing and snowboarding are other common causes. Almost 40 percent of people coming into the hospital are between 18 and 28 years old. When older folks (65+) report such injuries, theyre usually related to falls in the shower or tub.
In the most serious cases, the injuries can cause kidney or urinary tract damage, permanently put testicles offline, cause erection problems in men and trigger genital numbness in both men and women.
Here are a few tips to help you dodge preventable, sport-related genital traumas: Bike crossbars should be well-padded and bike seats well-cushioned, and, in all sports, men must wear protective cups, while women depending on their sport can protect below the belt with a male cup (restrictive and uncomfortable) or female hockey compression-type shorts equipped with a female cup. Women should also wear a protective sports bra.
And, if youre injured, dont be embarrassed to check with your doc or go to the hospital; quick treatment can minimize discomfort and make sure you stay in the game for having future offspring.
Winter health watch
No matter where you live Los Angeles or Boston heart-attack rates increase during the winter, peaking between Christmas and New Years. (Mondays are, year-round, the prime day.) Its not the cold, per se, that gets you; its the dip in local temperatures that constricts blood vessels. Add to that the fact that you exercise less, eat more inflammation-promoting (comfort) foods and have to contend with holiday-linked financial and family stress, and youre vulnerable. Seasonal stress plus inflammation can trigger plaque ruptures and chunks of fatty deposits lining arteries enter the bloodstream, causing heart attack and stroke.
So, we have a package of solutions to the mental and physical stresses you may face:
GENERAL HEALTH: Get that flu shot. It saves lives. Stay hydrated (hard to remember when youre not hot and sweaty). Dehydration affects your energy level, brainpower and heart health. Drink five to eight glasses of water a day.
OUTSIDE? Warm up with stretches before outdoor activity. And when the outdoor air is cold, cover your mouth with a scarf so that as you breathe in, you warm the air before it hits your lungs.
STRESSED or DISTRESSED: Focus on holiday pleasures (not commercialism), keep gift-giving simple, and volunteer to help others. Its de-stressing to give.
More than half a million people are diagnosed annually with gastric (stomach) and duodenal (small intestine) ulcers. In 80 percent to 90 percent of the cases, bacteria called H. pylori are to blame. These bugs nestle into the lining of the stomach or intestines and damage the mucous coating, causing an open sore.
But a lot of people infected with these bacteria never develop an ulcer, so the exact cause remains a mystery. What do we know? These bugs can be transmitted by kissing or other close contact with an infected person. And you can weaken your stomachs defenses against infection by smoking, consuming excess alcohol and regularly taking aspirin and other NSAIDs without adequate water.
Still, the bacteria arent all bad; they seem to protect kids from asthma. We also know that a balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut promotes robust health, so maybe its an overgrowth of H. pylori in your intestines that causes trouble.
If you get an ulcer, you may take bismuth and antibiotics such as clarithromycin, amoxicillin or tetracycline to knock out H. pylori. (Your spouse also should get treated so you dont Ping-Pong the bacteria back and forth.) If youd rather try some home remedies, Dr. Oz likes a drink that combines ground flaxseed and lemons (its the vitamin C) to fight the infection, and a combination of cranberries and oregano is reported to kill off H. pylori, too.