Researchers in Japan measured the angle between the base of the neck and the middle of the back of independent-living 65-year-olds. How slouched a person’s shoulders were predicted if he or she was still going to be self-sufficient five years later. Those who slouched the most were about three and a half times more likely to need assistance for everyday chores than those who stood the straightest.
But young or old, posture matters for everyone: Slouching indicates less than youthful muscle tone from too little physical activity — a known K.O. for long-term health. It also compresses your core and crowds the organs (liver, stomach, pancreas, etc.) so blood may not flow through them as it should, interfering with optimal functioning. And hunching is also associated with development of TMJ, rotator cuff injury and chronic back pain.
To stand taller, follow these guides:
1. When walking (aim for 10,000 steps a day) or sitting (get up and move around every hour) keep your head level and pretend a string is pulling your head skyward all the time; don’t jut out your chin.
2. Keep shoulder blades back and down.
3. Tuck in your stomach. (Practicing yoga postures can help.)
The breakfast rewards program
Recent research shows that a morning meal with plenty of protein (35 grams; standard fare is around 13 grams) makes it easier to control your appetite and reduce your urge to snack on sugary or fatty foods later in the day. The reason? If you don’t eat when you wake up — or if you load up on sugary cereals and muffins instead of protein — your appetite-control hormones, ghrelin and leptin, can’t establish their proper counter-regulatory rhythm: Now I’m hungry; Aahh! Now I’m full. And you end up starving, bingeing and overeating.
But there’s one problem with this new research: It was funded by the Beef Board and the Egg Nutrition Center. So, while the researchers’ conclusions were solid (add protein to your morning meal for optimal appetite control), what they didn’t say, and what we’ll shout from the rooftops, is “You don’t need — and shouldn’t eat — meat or whole eggs to get your protein fix.”
Oatmeal with toasted walnuts, sliced fruit and nonfat yogurt is a perfect start to your day. If you are working out (you do 10,000 steps a day, right?) you’ll have plenty of energy and build muscle. An added bonus: You’ll sleep better, too.
Egg your blood pressure down
Giada De Laurentiis whips up a mean egg-white frittata (all the flavor and protein, none of the egg yolks’ heart-risky cholesterol). Pasteurized liquid egg whites let you concoct a salmonella-free summer fizz (gin or otherwise). And a beauty mask of whipped egg whites tightens pores and soothes acne (some claim).
But most impressive is the fact that egg whites seem to lower elevated blood pressure as effectively as some medications. They act like an ACE inhibitor and encourage dilation of blood vessels and urination of excess salt and water.
High blood pressure affects almost 74 million North Americans, and another 60 million-plus have pre-hypertension. You’re at high risk if you have a genetic predisposition, are obese, smoke, are inactive, eat too much salt, have diabetes or chronic stress, or don’t get enough sleep.
To get your blood pressure down to 110/70, dish up a good dose of egg whites daily, and follow these other smart tips:
• Eat more plant proteins from broccoli, beans, brown rice and oatmeal. Add soybeans to relax blood vessels and help balance sodium levels; have two to three fistfuls of collard greens weekly for their calcium and fiber; enjoy dark chocolate to ease inflammation and relax blood vessels — 30 calories’ worth a day does the trick; and take heart-smart supplements such as 200 mg coenzyme Q10 daily.
• Walk 30 or more minutes a day, and eliminate the five food felons: saturated and trans fats, added sugar and sugar syrups, and any grain that isn’t 100 percent whole. That always takes the pressure off.