Counting down to Christmas already? Here's what you and everyone on your list would love NOT to get: type 2 diabetes. And here's how to help make it happen. Give yourself and others a whole lotta green, and we're not talking money.
Munching on whatever leafy green veggies you love (whether they're in season or from the freezer) can cut your odds of big blood sugar problems by 14 percent.
What's the diabetes destroyer in spinach, arugula, lettuce mixes, parsley, collards and even Chinese cabbage?
Actually, there are so many energetic do-gooders bopping around in these veggies that they practically need crowd control.
Start with a potent mix of beta-carotene, vitamin C and polyphenols, which help your body fight off the cellular damage that triggers diabetes. Add a blood-sugar-friendly mineral: magnesium.
Factor in the smidge of good fats in those leaves; they help cell walls say "yes!" to sugar-stabilizing insulin. Give thanks that filling up on these superfoods will not fill you out.
It takes just a cup of cooked greens or two cups of salad leaves daily to leave diabetes in the dust. That's as easy as nuking a microwaveable bag of baby spinach leaves or tossing chopped kale into a bubbling pot of soup. In a veggie rut?
Try cooking tangy collard greens with juicy fall apples or slicing pears into a spicy arugula salad.
Is there a bomb in your belly?
Here's a test that could save your life and that's so simple they're doing it at some Kmart stores. Free. You don't even have to take your clothes off.
Just bare your belly (in private, not in aisle 10) while an ultrasound sensor is rubbed over your abdomen. It's checking for an AAA — the first "A" is for "abdominal"; the second, for "aorta," the major artery that carries blood to your lower body; and the third is for "aneurysm," a weak bulge in your aorta.
At least 1.2 million Americans have AAA, mostly men (though not all), mostly in their late 50s and 60s. But here's the thing: More than 1 million of those who have an AAA don't know they do. You need to find this out. Because if there's an AAA in your belly, it must be checked periodically. If that bulge stretches to about 2.5 inches in diameter, it needs repairing before it bursts, which is fatal 75 percent of the time.
If you have ever smoked, and you're a guy aged 65 to 75, you need to be screened. You also may be at high risk if you're a man or woman over 60 with a family history of AAA or circulatory problems (high blood pressure, poor leg circulation).
To find out if a Kmart near you will be one of the few offering the screening late this year, go to www.kmart.com/pharmacy. If not, and you're at risk, talk to your doc and get the test.
Best brew for your blood vessels
Love coffee in the morning? But a little worried that it could make your blood pressure go up? Go ahead, have a second cup. Turns out sipping moderate amounts of joe limbers up stiff arteries, doing your heart a big favor.
Compared with people who skip coffee, those with high blood pressure who enjoy one to two cups daily have better "artery distensibility." Translation: Your blood vessels are better at expanding and contracting. Beneficial compounds in coffee make your blood vessels nearly as flexible as a Cirque du Soleil acrobat.
Researchers discovered this new coffee benefit in Greece, where it's often made simply by tossing finely ground beans into the pot (think cowboy coffee, refined). One snag: unfiltered coffee raises LDL (the lousy kind of) cholesterol. So we recommend two or three tweaks: Choose lightly roasted beans. Go with decaf if regular keeps you awake or you know it raises your blood pressure. And use a paper filter to brew coffee. (By the way, caffeine decreases type 2 diabetes and dementia risks, so choose caffeinated if it doesn't affect you adversely.)
Light roasting preserves more phenols, which keep your blood vessels flexible. Decaf has almost as many phenols, so no worries there. And paper filters remove what raises LDL cholesterol.
Build up your sweat equity
Walking for 30 minutes a day is a nearly perfect exercise. You can do it anytime, anywhere, it's free, it makes your heart and brain blood vessels younger, narrows your waist and cleans (at least partway) your stress slate. So why "nearly"?
Because to be your "youngest," you also need three short weekly sessions of more intense exercise that makes you sweat like Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler." While walking is terrific, pushing yourself harder for 20 minutes, three times a week, is like getting compound interest on a savings account.
Get an OK from your doc, then do 20 minutes of fast cycling, swimming, stair climbing or really fast walking three times a week.
Here's what that daily walk plus hitting your target heart rate — roughly 220 minus your age — for 60 minutes a week does for you:
* Burns more calories and helps dissolve deep belly fat.
* Makes your heart pump more efficiently.
* Dilates blood vessels, making them more elastic.
* Enhances how your body uses oxygen and glucose (sugar), protecting your cells' energy factories (mitochondria).
* Defends your DNA against damage.
* Gets you in cardiovascular shape, making your RealAge at least eight years younger.
The disease of the moment
Remember yeast allergy? How about chronic fatigue syndrome? Like hair styles and hottie bands, medicine has trendy conditions that docs get asked about constantly. Some, like CFS, turn out to be the real thing. Others fade away or exist mainly on the Internet.
Today's hot ailment? Adrenal fatigue, a mash-up of symptoms: sleep problems, digestive upsets, nervousness, aches and pains, sugar or salt cravings, tiredness and more.
True believers say it's what happens when chronic stress exhausts the adrenal glands, which sit atop your kidneys, and the glands can't produce enough hormones to keep your systems ticking.
The alleged cure: desiccated bovine adrenal gland. Yes, they're from cows. While adrenal glands may fail and not respond to stress or not be able to produce enough hormones, endocrinologists recently dismissed common adrenal fatigue as an "Internet disease." We've seen no scientific evidence that chronic stress damages the adrenal glands and certainly no proof that taking dried cow glands cures it.
What is a very real health problem with similar symptoms is adrenal insufficiency, or Addison's disease. It occurs when the glands are damaged (usually by one's own immune system) or when the pituitary gland fails to tell the adrenals to make hormones. Whether stress plays a role isn't clear, but there are tests to detect Addison's and drugs to treat it — and dried cow gland isn't one of them.