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Drs. Oz and Roizen: New treatments ease chronic fatigue syndrome for some

  • Published Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, at 11:24 p.m.

An estimated 1 million North Americans, mostly women ages 40 to 60, have chronic fatigue syndrome.

Only between 5 percent and 10 percent of people with chronic fatigue syndrome recover from the wide range of symptoms that include fatigue, brain fog and everything from digestive woes to peripheral neuropathy and emotional problems.

But new research shows that around 20 percent can recover when ongoing treatment from a medical specialist is combined with graded exercise therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy.

Graded exercise therapy starts with basic, low-intensity activity, like walking and/or stretching, and builds endurance gradually and progressively — never doing so much that it increases fatigue or worsens other symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy offers goal-oriented guidance to change behaviors that may make chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms worse.

Even more people might find relief if they used both treatments along with seeing a specialist, or if they continued those therapies for longer than the 14 weeks that the study did. Other ways to manage symptoms: Opt for an anti-inflammatory diet with lots of 100 percent whole grains and veggies, and make sure to take 900 mg a day of DHA omega-3 from algal oil and 420 mg of purified omega-7 daily.

Thank your Valentine for a healthier heart

Being married to, or living with, one Valentine slashes your risk of cardiac events (heart attack, stroke, etc.) by more than 60 percent for men and women.

And if you have a heart attack and true love, you’re up to 170 percent less likely to die from it than the unattached. What’s so healthy about enduring love? Everything from stress reduction and pleasant reminders (“take your vitamins, dear”) to having someone there to help if you get into trouble.

So, what can you take from this, whether you’re married or not, to benefit you?

• Make reducing stress a priority. If you get daily physical activity (walking 10,000 steps is a great goal), have someone to cuddle with, meditate for 10 minutes daily and work on being a more generous person (it lowers levels of stress hormones), you make your heart years younger.

• Get a buddy to work out with; call each other daily to keep your nutrition on track; and offer support through times good and bad.

Revving up your willpower

Want to motor up your willpower and supercharge your self-control? Here’s what to focus on:

• Strengthen your desire to feel better and look great. Try meditating 10 minutes a day using a mantra to guide you. Your mantra might be: “Food does not stress me; I eat for health.” Then sit comfortably in a quiet space and repeat that to yourself (silently or out loud) as you let your breath move in and out in a peaceful rhythm.

• Do willpower exercises: If you have the urge to eat something that’s not healthy, decide to flex your willpower muscles instead. Pump up the power and give yourself a pep talk: “Today, I choose fresh veggies and fruit.” As you use those muscles, they grow stronger and stronger. Soon you won’t have to challenge yourself; you’ll naturally opt for the healthier choices.

• Bonus tip: Flex your muscles — any muscles — as you tell yourself you will do the best, right thing. Just that act, done simultaneously with exerting your willpower, reinforces it and makes it easier to reach your goal.

Getting a leg up on 10,000 steps a day

We really like hearing from those of you who’ve taken up the heart-healthy, stress-relieving, wrinkle-banishing, brain-boosting benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day. But some of you tell us that getting 10,000 steps seems almost impossible. Well, it isn’t, and that’s because it’s 10,000 steps total — including walking the dog and walking downstairs to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer. Every step counts and improves your health, so you’re already on your way to hitting 10,000.

But don’t believe us. Get a pedometer and wear it from the time you get up until you hit the sack (it’s good to have two, so you can leave one in the car in case you forget to bring it with you). Then you’ll get an accurate picture of the whole enchilada.

Wearing a pedometer may make you want to be more active; you’ll want to see the total add up. You already know getting movin’ can improve blood pressure, boost good HDL and lower lousy LDL cholesterol levels, reduce stress and improve your love life. So, keeping track of your steps might get you to do that project in the yard or the basement (there’s another 500 steps, easy). And if you plan on a 30-minute walk at lunchtime, you may already be halfway there. Step out for an hour after work, you’ve done it.

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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