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You Docs: Cool off with the right foods

  • Published Tuesday, July 16, 2013, at 6:41 a.m.

When Sly and the Family Stone sang “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” we don’t think they were talking about eating habanero peppers on a steamy July afternoon. But there are many places (most near the equator) where folks use spicy foods to cool down.

When your body’s built-in thermostat (in your hypothalamus) senses your core temperature is over 98.6, you sweat. As each drop of moisture evaporates, it cools you. Since spicy foods make you perspire, eating them will provide a cooling sensation.

But if you’re looking to chill out, there are other foods that can lower the heat without the pepper burn. Water-rich foods slow digestion (so your body isn’t working so hard), rehydrate you and — if you pick the right ones — replenish minerals and vitamins lost through perspiration. Our favorites include:

• Watery fruits: Watermelon, 90 percent water, delivers 25 percent of your daily vitamin C, plus artery- and prostate-loving lycopene. Juicy cantaloupe? Every cup contains 17 percent of your daily potassium needs. Great for post-exercise muscle care. Also with a cooling blend of water and nutrients: frozen grapes, oranges and cucumbers.

• Salads: Toss fruits with iceberg (95 percent water and no nutrients) and arugula or red leaf lettuce (less moist, but nutrient-dense).

• Sweet treat: Mashed, frozen banana (lots of potassium) with vanilla flavoring or real chocolate chips. FYI: Two summer favorites that aren’t great for cooling: ice cream (the high fat content stokes your inner flame) and a cold beer (alcohol dehydrates, so you sweat less). Drink about 16 ounces of water for each beer you have.

Healthy life expectancy

A Mayo Clinic report reveals that you — and you and you — may not be doing what it takes to achieve a healthy longer life. Around 70 percent of Americans need to take at least one prescription drug daily, and 20 percent take five or more (25 percent of women 50 to 64 take antidepressants; 22 percent of all Americans 45 and older take a statin). Another zinger: In the past decade, the risk of dying from degenerative brain disease rose 39 percent.

What does it all add up to? In Canada and the U.S., the prospect for a guy (at birth) to achieve a healthy life expectancy is ranked seventh and 32nd respectively compared with all other countries. For women in Canada and the U.S., the prospect for healthy life expectancy ranks 23rd and 35th. To improve your healthy long-life prospects:

1. Walk 10,000 steps daily.

2. Avoid all added sugars and syrups, saturated and trans fats and grains that aren’t 100 percent whole. Food is not “Let’s Make a Deal.”

3. Meditate 12 minutes a day.

4. Volunteer — for anything that helps others.

5. Be affectionate with friends, family, pets. You’ll start to feel younger right away.

Keep up on joint meds

In the past decade, 10 approved biologic medications have become game changers for rheumatoid arthritis. They promise great benefits (with some risks, such as increased infections and some cancers) when other treatments don’t work. This has made doctors and patients more optimistic about slowing joint damage, preserving mobility and even achieving remission.

So why do more than half of RA patients stop taking their medication or grudgingly switch therapies within two years? Almost 40 percent report that their meds aren’t working the way they want them to, and 20 percent say it’s because they are worried about side effects. But having to try a new combination of medications is not failure; with RA that’s the process you have to go through to discover what works best for you. So let your doctor know your concerns and expectations and explain how your meds affect you. Chances are very good you will be rewarded with a new treatment plan that provides big improvements in your quality of life. Don’t stop treatment; find out what works for you.

What’s in that glass?

We’re glad that beer, wine and liquor companies in the U.S. are now allowed to put nutritional labels on their products, identifying ingredients and serving size. (In Canada, there’s no such regulation.) But you still won’t see them on all bottles. So, here’s an overview:

• 1 bottle of beer (12 ounces): 150 calories; 13 grams carbohydrates; 1.6 grams protein; 10 percent of RDV for vitamin B-6 and 5 percent for magnesium.

• 1 glass of wine (5 ounces): 125 calories; 4.1 grams carbohydrates; 0.1 gram protein.

• 1 ounce of vodka (80 proof): 64 calories; 0 carbs; 0 protein; 0 vitamins or minerals.

• 1 ounce of whiskey (86 proof): 70 calories and another big 0 on everything else.

Beware: If you follow the Canadian Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (women, 10 drinks a week; men, 15), you could take in 1,250 to 1,875 extra calories weekly. We say stick with one drink a day (if you’ve got no risk for alcohol or drug abuse); a recent study shows folks who have a nightly drink are thinner than those who have more than one and those who have none.

Dealing with incontinence

There are few things more embarrassing — or, truth be told, more common — than piddling in your pants. But despite the fact that it’s a reported problem for 7 percent of women ages 20 to 39, 17 percent of women ages 40 to 59, 23 percent who are 60 to 69 and 32 percent of those over age 80 (and probably afflicts many more), no one likes to talk about it, even to a doctor.

But at least 80 percent of the time, opening up about it lets you resolve or at least improve the situation. (BTW, guys: 3 percent to 11 percent of young and middle-age men and 15 percent of men 80 or older have to deal with it, so listen up.) Whether you have stress incontinence and leak when you strain, cough or laugh, or urge incontinence and often feel a sudden need to urinate, there are remedies. Talk to your doctor about medications, devices and procedures. And in the meantime, here’s what you can do to ease your discomfort.

• Contract your pelvic (and in women, vaginal) muscles used to stop the flow of urine; don’t move your rear or belly. Hold for three seconds; release for three; repeat 10 to 15 times, three or more times a day, every day.

• Ask your doc about biofeedback. It’s effective in gaining control over muscles in your bladder and your urethra.

• Drink plenty of water; dehydration makes things worse.

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

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