Don’t tune out your kids when you turn on your phone

07/14/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:25 AM

When crazed LSD advocate Timothy Leary said, “Turn on, tune in, drop out,” he never dreamed that 50 years later those words would apply perfectly to our obsession with cellphones, HDTV and other digital devices. But 1.4 billion smartphones later, it’s clear that techno-intensity is making people drop out – of conversations, relationships and their own lives.

On sites like, people are documenting kids starved for parental attention while mom or dad texts or chats without any acknowledgment of the child’s existence. Talk about sending messages.

Recent studies confirm just how careless folks have become with their devices. Researchers discovered that 75 percent of parents engage in distracted behavior, including texting or talking on their cellphone with kids in the car. And the Journal of Children and Media reports children 2 and younger are exposed to five and a half hours of background TV a day. That can stunt development of a child’s communication skills. Seems parents, distracted by the show (even if only watching it casually), use fewer words and introduce fewer new words when talking with their children.

What does this all mean? You don’t have to be focused on your child 24/7; that’s helicopter parenting, and micromanagement of a kid’s life has its own negative repercussions. But when you’re spending time together, pay attention to your child. Focus on the interaction, talk to your child using descriptive language, and send the message that you are interested in what your offspring is up to. Hugs now?

Overestimating exercise

Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, claimed he’d finished a marathon in the “high twos.” Hours, that is. That put him in an ultra-elite running club with Canada’s Brendan Lunty, who finished the 2013 New York City marathon in 2:36:17 and America’s Ryan Vail who crossed that finish line in 2:13:23 (top finishers that year for those countries). Unfortunately, Ryan vastly overestimated his performance and underestimated his time; 20 years earlier he’d completed a marathon in over four hours. But, even if you’re skeptical about any politician’s ability to tell the truth, the fact is people typically overestimate how intensely they’re exercising.

In a recent study, folks walked or jogged on a treadmill and then were asked if they’d achieved levels of moderate and vigorous exercise. Moderate activity allows you to talk comfortably, but not sing; vigorous activity only allows you to say a few words without pausing for a breath. Three-quarters of folks thought they were putting out moderate effort, but fell far short of it. Folks overestimated vigorous output, too.

To make sure you’re getting an effective workout, talk with your doc about establishing a daily walking routine (aiming for 10,000 steps a day) that you then amp up. The drill: Two to three times a week, warm up for five minutes; walk at your regular pace for one minute; walk as fast as you can for 20-30 seconds; then go back to your regular pace for another minute. Repeat that cycle for 20 minutes. Now, that’s truly something to brag about.

Brushing up your immune system

In “Lethal Weapon 2,” the bad guys use their (diplomatic) immunity to dodge the consequences of their evil actions – including trying to blow up LAPD’s Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover). But here in the real world, your powers of immunity can be used for good (to fight off the bad guys of infection and other conditions). You just have to make sure you avoid periodontal or advanced gum disease.

This new info comes on top of what you already know about the importance of preventing periodontal disease: Unchecked, it can boost levels of lousy (LDL) cholesterol and increase risk for heart problems. Now researchers are mouthing off about how it causes an imbalance in good and bad oral bacteria, and that harms your immune system. (We know you’ve just gotten used to thinking that it’s a good thing trillions of bacteria live in your guts. Now, it’s time to meet another world of gotta-have-’em bacteria living in your mouth.)

Seems when your gums become inflamed and infected, that boosts “bad” oral bacteria. They then interfere with your immune system’s warriors, so they’re less able to defeat all kinds of nasty invaders, from the common cold to more serious conditions, even cancers.

So, make sure you get to a dentist at least twice a year for checkups and cleanings – more if you have a predisposition for plaque buildup or cavities, or already have gum disease or a weakened immune system. And daily, brush at least twice and floss at least once. That’s your lethal weapon against disease.

Good and grilled

Eating a lot of grilled protein amps up the risk of pancreatic cancer, and some studies point to increased risk for stomach and rectal cancers. It turns out that potentially harmful carcinogens latch on to charred animal protein when dripping fat flames up. They’re the same bad-guy carcinogens found in car exhaust and cigarette smoke. Other toxins that grilling creates on meats, poultry and fish come from high-temperature cooking of amino acids and sugars (barbecue sauce just makes it worse). So before you put that shrimp on the barbie, reduce your risks – and increase the flavor.

1. Marinate, marinate, marinate – that’s our summertime cooking mantra. If you do that for 30 minutes before grilling, it reduces the harmful stuff by more than 90 percent. Try using a combo of healthy oils and citrus: Salmon is tasty marinated in a lime, olive oil, fresh herb mixture; add a dash of Sriracha for fun.

2. Pre-cook (skinless) chicken in the oven; finish it on the grill. That cuts grill time by 75 percent and reduces charring (cut off black bits before serving).

3. Clean your grill to remove harmful residue. And turn down the flame; aim for a cooking temperature below 325 F.

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