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Drs. Oz and Roizen: To avoid radiation, seek alternatives to CT scans

  • Published Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, at 11:33 p.m.

Though no one knows exactly how much radiation exposure boosts your cancer risk, everyone from NASA to the American Cancer Society is pretty sure that exposure to any has some very small effect, and repeated exposure might be measurably harmful.

But according to a new study in the journal of the American Medical Association, 33 percent of you don’t know that CT scans produce radiation, and only 5 percent of you think a scan would increase your lifetime risk of getting cancer.

Fortunately, there are alternatives: Ultrasound or MRI may be used in place of a CT scan in specific instances – for example, to check for appendicitis (ultrasound) or to look at tendons and ligaments (MRI). What CT scans do best is see the chest and lungs, torn or damaged organs and broken bones. And for those purposes, make sure the benefits you’re getting are greater than the risks. Ask – every time – “Do I need a CT scan, or is there an alternative imaging technique that would work as well?" Be the informed patient.

Real anxiety relief

Instead of de-stressing you, nicotine, excess alcohol and added sugar increase anxiety and inflammation. If you give them up, you’ll become calmer and happier.

Why do so many folks believe these bad-for-your-mind-and-body substances relieve stress? Well, the further you are away from your last dose, the more you crave it, and craving feels like anxiety. Putting it back in your body soothes that withdrawal reaction and seemingly makes you calmer. But in truth, once they’re in your body, these substances wreak havoc on your nerves, hormones and brain.

If you’re seeking relief from anxiety, try rethinking your go-to strategies. For a more even keel, try:

1. Taking up daily mindful meditation (we do it). Sit in a quiet spot with your eyes closed for 10 minutes. Pay attention to each breath – in and out. Then, from your toes to your head, focus on each body part and let it relax, one after the next.

2. Eating 100 percent whole grains and lean protein. That reduces inflammation and gives you sustained energy, which calms you.

3. Defusing built-up tension and stress hormones with exercise. Start with 30 minutes a day of additional walking; aim for 10,000 total steps a day.

Sneaky corn syrup

Expect a sucker punch to your system from high fructose corn syrup when it sneaks into food where you would never expect it, like "healthy" frozen entrees. HFCS messes with your appetite-control hormones, encouraging you to overeat, and it adds body fat, increases your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, and boosts uric acid levels that age your arteries.

HFCS has become so widespread that the Center for Science in the Public Interest estimates that Americans eat 69 pounds of corn-based sweeteners a year, the equivalent of more than 30 teaspoons of HFCS a day. And that’s because it’s turning up in these unexpected places:

• Granola bars. Don’t be fooled by words such as "natural." Read the label.

• Low-calorie frozen meals. Beware of brands that have the words "skinny" or "healthy" on their labels. Read on, and you may find HFCS or corn syrup.

• Pre-packaged kids’ lunches with healthy-sounding contents such as applesauce, flatbread, ham and cheese.

• Off-the-shelf stuffing.

• Low-calorie salad dressings.

• Crackers.

• Condiments such as ketchup, sweet relish and even peanut butter (corn syrup solids).

Your best bet: Read every label every time you buy food, and don’t put it in your cart if it has corn syrup or HFCS in it.

New prostate surgery guidelines

When it comes to prostate cancer, knowing whether surgery is the best treatment or if it’s smarter to opt for radiation, hormone therapy or even watchful waiting is a tough decision.

If you have prostate cancer, doctors will rely on something called the Partin tables to help decide if you’re likely to be cured by prostate removal. (Surgery for localized prostate cancer has a higher survival rate than other treatments.) The table looks at your PSA (prostate specific antigen) level; your Gleason score (an estimation of tumor aggressiveness, based on a biopsy); and how much the tumor can be felt during a digital exam.

Thanks to a revised edition of the table, men with a Gleason score of 8 and a PSA of 10 are now considered good candidates for surgery. So if you and your doctor are discussing your treatment options, we suggest that you:

1. Ask your doc for your rating on the Partin Tables.

2. Discuss all the risks of surgery and what can be done to minimize them. New techniques now make it possible to prevent permanent nerve damage, sexual dysfunction and incontinence in a large percentage of men.

3. Bolster your immune system. Reduce stress with 10 minutes of meditation a day; eat lots of veggies and fruit; stick with 100 percent whole grains; nix all red meat, soda and dairy that’s not fat-free; and stay clear of trans fats, added sugars and sugar syrups.

Walking away from stroke risk

In any given week, 75 percent of Americans don’t walk continuously for even 10 minutes. But the act of putting one foot in front of another has excited scholars, poets and ordinary folks for millennia. St. Augustine declared about any dilemma: “It is solved by walking." Charles Dickens insisted, “If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode."

Here’s more info to motivate you to get out and find your stride: A new study says women who walk briskly for 210 minutes a week have a lower risk of stroke than inactive women (not surprising) – and a lower risk than women who do high-intensity exercise for fewer minutes a week (surprising). It seems that energetic trekking has special benefits that add up the more you walk.

Here are four ways to get more walking in your day:

1. In the morning, head out for a 20-minute walk. Aim to cover a mile.

2. Always park at the far end of the lot. (Saves you on dents and scratches, too.)

3. Use your lunch hour to walk; enlist a buddy.

4. Take a nightly after-dinner stroll with a friend, family member(s) or both.

And get a pedometer. You’ll be amazed at how soon you’re hitting 10,000 steps a day.

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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