Health & Fitness

December 6, 2011

You Docs: Call in sick at the first sign of a cold

Busted! We admit it: We can be manic about shooing people home at the first sniffle or sneeze, even if they swear they’re OK to work. Fine, work from home. Don’t spread that virus.

Busted! We admit it: We can be manic about shooing people home at the first sniffle or sneeze, even if they swear they’re OK to work. Fine, work from home. Don’t spread that virus.

Part of it’s selfish: We don’t want to catch a bug or see half the staff get it. Part of it’s on your behalf: The more often you come to work sick now, the more likely you are to get really wiped out not long from now.

The data behind this: Researchers (love their nitty-gritty brains) have figured out that if you come to work sick at least six times during 12 months, you’re 50 percent more likely to be out for weeks within the next 18 months. Why? They think that when you never completely recuperate, you get more and more run-down. Eventually, your immune system cracks, and the next little illness spells big trouble.

What if you plain can’t afford to be sick? Aggressively boost your immunity to try to stay well in the first place:

Get enough ZZZs. Seven and a half to eight hours of shuteye. Every night.

Get enough vitamin D-3: 1,000 IU a day; 1,200 after age 60.

Get your ahhhs. Big stress (the holidays) and quick hits (parking rage) take a toll. Carve out 10 minutes a day for meditation, deep breathing, serene stretching.

Walk. It keeps your body humming and your head clear.

Eat and drink like a smart person. You are.

Wash your hands 100 times a day. OK, 150.

The holiday treat that’s extra healthy

Considering the number of things that don’t live up to their hype – dawn door-buster sales, Congress’s “super committee,” Snooki – you’ve got to give it to pomegranates. It seems like every year or so, another study rolls in reinforcing their rep as a superfood, good for fighting everything from inflammation to tumor growth. Soon they’ll be right up there with blueberries and walnuts.

The latest: If someone you love (you?) has high blood pressure or high heart-threatening triglycerides (over 100), or low heart-protective HDL cholesterol (under 50), put pomegranate juice on your weekly grocery list. Drinking just 10 ounces of it a week for a year could make impressive improvements in all three. We say this because pomegranate juice did exactly that in people who need all the heart help they can get: kidney dialysis patients, who are intensely vulnerable to cardiac trouble.

Never been tempted by pomegranates? We aren’t surprised. Their mottled, leathery outsides have the visual appeal of a red rubber ball the dog buried. And unlike other fruits, where you spit out the seeds, with poms, you devour the seeds and spit out everything else. Plus those red, juicy seeds are stainmeisters, so while pomegranates are messily fun to eat, they’re also a fashion hazard (death on white lab coats).

No wonder the pomegranate juice biz is booming (buy 100 percent pure juice, no sugar added). But this is peak season for poms, so try the real fruit. Just wear black. Then enjoy every anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, heart-protective seeds.

Our secret to successful weight loss

The secret to doing anything hard – losing weight, quitting smoking, getting dressed if you’re Lady Gaga – is not to go it alone. That’s why we are longtime fans of the buddy system. When you’re trying to demolish a bad habit, having a pal who’s slogging through it too is genius: When one person goes off the rails, the other gets you back on.

Your buddy/cheerleader can be a friend, family member, cyber-pal – or your doc. "Reporting in" regularly to an MD is powerful. Mike (aka "The Enforcer") has been coaching smokers and dieters by e-mail and phone for years with remarkable results. Now a new study has looked at how other docs can be more effective in helping people lose pounds.

The answer? Calls and e-mails. (Hmmm.)

This proved true in about 400 obese people with big heart risks who urgently needed to trim down. About 40 percent who got calls and e-mails, including some from docs, lost weight during six months and kept it off for another 18 (when the study ended) – with or without face-time. About 20 percent of those who went without email/phone support did.

So if you need to lose weight, don’t go it alone. Enlist your doc and a buddy – someone you can call in an emergency ("I’m about to devour a cheesecake") and check in with daily ("I walked!" "I’m down a pound!").

It’ll work.

Why you should plan on blowing out at least 90 birthday candles

Wonderful (and we mean that) news: Odds are increasing that you’ll see the other side of 90 – the number of nonagenarians has tripled since the 1980s. Look out, world! We plan to be there beside you, sharp and active. That’s the point, of course. To live a long AND healthy life, staying on your game till almost the last minute. What will do the most to get you there? You probably guessed the top five, but not all of them:

1. Stay active. That daily 30-minute walk (and totaling 10,000 steps every day) is vital for staying young.

2. Get enough of these to keep body and brain humming: whole grains, fruits and veggies; vitamin D-3 (1,000 IU; 1,200 after 60); DHA omega-3s (600-900 mg); low-dose aspirin (talk to your doc).

3. Get next to none of these: saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars

4. Sleep seven and a half to eight hours. Every night.

5. Manage stress: Meditate or take two 15-minute deep-breathing breaks daily.

6. Do. Not. Smoke.

7. Stimulate your brain with fun challenges.

8. Support "village" movements – neighbors-helping-neighbors programs that let people live independently at home.

9. Harass your representatives to get health costs under control and affordable. At some point, you’ll need it.

10. Move to North Dakota, Hawaii or California. These are meccas for 90-year-olds.

Then plan on blowing out 95 candles, not 90. Once you hit 90, your average life expectancy is 95.

Planning a late night tonight? Read this

We know we talk a lot about how important getting enough sleep is and how vital it is to stay active. Here’s another reason why: You can’t get one without the other.

This news didn’t rock our world. We’ve long known that exercise helps you sleep better. But that fact just got highlighted in neon pink, thanks to very specific new data:

If you get more than 20 minutes of exercise a day (go for 30), you won’t just sleep better. You’ll sleep much better, getting 65 percent more restorative REM sleep. You’ll also have energy to burn and be more alert – less likely to zone out during meetings, and more likely to know what your spouse said to you two minutes ago. And if you’re prone to leg cramps at night, there’s a good bet you can kiss those goodbye. Pretty slick for just 20 minutes of walking! (Go for 30. Did we say that already?)

Other big benefits of getting your eight hours every night:

•  You can stop fantasizing about naps (you won’t need them).

You’ll look better. "Beauty sleep" is for real. When you’re sleep-deprived, not only do you ooze fatigue, but you actually look less attractive.

You’ll be younger and healthier. Averaging less than eight hours of ZZZs makes you prone to high C-reactive protein, a marker of aging and inflammation that threatens your heart, brain and arteries, and invites cancer, arthritis and diabetes.

You’ll be slimmer. Sleep shortages stimulate your appetite, so you risk becoming tired and flabby.

Nighty night.

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